Florida-Adultery-300x223Infidelity is a heartbreaking reality for many marriages.    The spouse who discovers the infidelity often goes through a spectrum of emotions, but at the bottom of all of them feels betrayed by their partner.   This break of trust makes many spouses angry or skeptical of believing anything from the other spouse and causes there to be walls to communication that are difficult to overcome.

In Florida, we are a “no fault” state, when courts consider dissolutions of marriage.   Each spouse will come before the court with their requests for how life should look post-dissolution, but the court rarely gets into why the parties are divorcing.   This is difficult for many “cheated on” spouses to understand who have felt a true sense of loss in dealing with divorce.

In Florida, there are some instances, however, when the court does look at the impact of infidelity, though they are few and very limited.   If the spouse has used marital funds in furtherance of the extra-marital affair, the court will consider this “waste of marital funds” as a component in determining whether alimony is appropriate and how much to award.  In order to prove that marital funds have been used, it is imperative that actual evidence shows transactions that indicate the spending.   An experienced Florida family law attorney can help you obtain access to your spouse’s accounts, credit cards, and other means by which these transactions can be shown.   Looking for florist purchases, jewelry stores, hotel charges, or high meal expenses, over periods of time, may show patterns of infidelity.  Further, in many instances, dating apps and other social media, may be ways to discover whether your spouse is involved in an extra-marital affair.  In many instances, hiring a private investigator to take photographs, track your spouse, or search for financial holdings that you may not know about is helpful and can be used as clear evidence for the court’s consideration.   While this can be another expense, if it has the likelihood of awarding more alimony or timesharing, it may be well worth it.   Discussing this with an attorney, before you file for divorce, is key, as once the filing for divorce occurs, typically spouses are more careful in their actions, and proving relationships after the date that you file do not indicate infidelity, but rather that your spouse is commencing to moving on.

Florida-Alimony-300x213Many people stay in marriages that they would otherwise leave, because they are afraid of the financial strain that divorce presents.  For many, the question of whether an alimony award is required by Florida law is an obstacle that seems insurmountable when considering going it alone after many years of marriage.

For the spouse who has stayed home to raise children or has sacrificed their career by moving for the higher paid spouse, the reality of how this spouse will afford to pay the bills, keep the marital home, or have any sense of security is terrifying, and in many instances, they have relied heavily on the higher paid spouse to take care of the finances while they have taken care of the household.   Alimony in the State of Florida is meant as a means of making that transition a more normal consideration, because the court will consider whether the lesser paid spouse has a work history, and what their needs actually look like, and how the higher paid spouse can continue to provide financial stability to both spouses while going from married to single.

On the other hand, the higher paid spouse in many instances, may recognize that his or her higher income has been able to afford a level of comfort when providing for the family under one roof, but the likelihood of the same level of financial freedom while providing for two households seems impossible.  In these cases, it is important to recognize that Florida family law courts have to balance the need and ability of both spouses to contribute to the transition of being married to single for both spouses. Alimony may be presumed in long term marriages, in Florida, meaning over 17 years of marriage, but it is not guaranteed and the court will consider whether an actual need for financial assistance between spouses is required. Factors that the court will consider not only include how much money each spouse makes, but also what the lifestyle of the marriage included, what each contributed to the marriage, and also the overall asset and debt liability that exists for each spouse after the marriage has ended.

https://www.jacksonvilledivorcelawyerblog.com/files/2020/01/Permanent-Alimony.001-300x171.jpegThe concept of permanent alimony is a frightening proposition for many breadwinning spouses who are getting divorced from a long time spouse.  In fact, it can be a reason or deterrent for people filing for divorce, who have been the higher earning spouse in a marriage.  Permanent alimony in Florida is a rebuttable presumption in divorces for marriages when the spouses have been married more than 17 years, which means that the court is more likely than not, assume that in cases where two spouses have been married for at least 17 years, that the spouse that has earned less or stayed home may be entitled to support for the remainder of his or her life, if the spouse can show that they have a need for alimony.  What it does NOT mean is that if you are married for 17 years that a spouse is entitled to alimony, regardless of the facts and circumstances.

In determining whether to award alimony, the court must first consider if the party requesting shows a need for alimony, after considering not only the incomes of the parties, but also in how the debt and assets from the marriage are being divided between the parties. If the court does find that one spouse has a need for alimony, the court next examines whether the higher paid spouse has the ability to pay alimony, considering their income, expenses, and also the division of assets and liabilities in the marriage.

If the court finds that there is a need and ability to pay, next the court will examine the statutory factors to determine an alimony amount, which include:


In most Florida family law matters, especially those concerning the long term care of shared children, judges prefer to have individuals reach their own agreements about how the divorce is going to structured, including how to share time with their children, divide their property, and decision making about raising their children.   Clients routinely ask, “do we have to go to mediation? If we don’t get along, how on earth will we agree on anything?”   Simply put, mediation is magic in many but certainly not all cases.

Over the years and hundreds of cases, we have seen even the most difficult cases and parties find resolution with their spouse or former spouse through the process of mediation.  Mediation is where the spouses meet with a neutral third party, who acts as a go-between in order to find solutions to the parties’ disputes over their dissolution of marriage, modification, or other issues that may be worked out.  Typically, parties remain separated in two rooms, and may never see one another, or may briefly at the onset of mediation for the mediator to explain the process and the rules.

While getting to an agreement may seem like an insurmountable task, using a trained mediator and having an experienced family law attorney at your side makes mediation an excellent opportunity to have control and input in deciding the most important components of your family law case.  Not only that, mediation discussions are prohibited from coming into court for the judge to consider if your case goes to trial, therefore, people feel more willing to discuss their concerns and also to be open to creative solutions that may not be available should a judge decide your case.

Marital-Home-Florida-Family-LawAs experienced family law attorneys, we get many questions from prospective and current clients about moving out of their shared home and their concerns about “abandoning” the home.  As with any relationship, the answer is usually “it depends” but in reality, it’s important to realize that certain circumstances make the answer very simple, and courts quickly step in to help parties to deal with the temporary “split up” in the face of divorce.

Under Florida law, if you are married and residing in home that you purchased together, the marital home is a shared asset.  Simply moving out of the house does not mean that you have abandoned the property. In instances where your ex spouse or potential ex spouse has been violent or threatened  you with accusations (even false) of domestic violence that could have devastating impacts on your life, leaving the marital home is with good reason and would not result in you being viewed as an “abandoner.” In addition, courts recognize that when parties are going through a split up and tensions are high, getting out of the shared residence may be the best way for people to start working together to either co-parent or start the process of dividing to lead to resolution.

You do not lose your legal or property interest in the marital home, and while you should continue to make sure that the residence is continuing to be maintained, you can come to agreements with your separated spouse to divide the associated expenses to maintain the property.  If you are “breadwinner” spouse or the spouse who traditionally has paid for the home, ensuring that you are maintaining the financial status quo while occupying another place to live, is a reasonable approach to continue consistency and showing your ongoing interest in the marital home.

Court-House-300x274In the State of Florida and other states,  domestic violence injunctions can negatively impact your life in several different ways, including the inability to carry or have firearms, exclusion from consideration for jobs (or fired from jobs you may already have), and negatively impacting your timesharing with your children.

The injunction process begins by filing for a Petition for Temporary Injunction, which remains in place for 15 days until a hearing is held, where both parties are given the opportunity to be present. The Temporary Injunction can require the Respondent to have no contact with the Petitioner and to stay away from specific locations in which the Petitioner frequents including the shared home.  The contact includes direct contact like via phone, text, email, or other means, including through third parties, like friends or family.  A temporary injunction can also create a temporary parenting plan for the parties’ children.  Further, it can also establish child support for the care of the minor children during the timesharing.  Rights as far as a shared residence, and other considerations may be customized based on the needs of the case.  At the hearing, the judge will hold a hearing, where evidence, such as text messages, photos, testimony of the witnesses and parties, will be considered in weighing whether the court will order that a final injunction will be in place regarding the parties, the children, and the property at issue.

As part of an Injunction for Domestic Violence, the Court will also limit the Respondent to possessing firearms and ammunition.  Further, the Court may also order an anger management class, substance abuse evaluation, mental health evaluation, or any other tool that the court may feel is in the best interest of maintaining the safety of the parties.  The required tasks that are ordered are then monitored by the court to make sure that the ordered party has complied.  In some cases, parents may have supervised visits with their children, if the court feels that there is a risk of harm to the children.  In those cases, visitation can occur at a visitation center or with a mutually approved supervisor.  In cases where a supervision center is used, the visitation between you and your children will be observed by an unbiased adult who records notes and interactions that may be used later in court.   Further, in some cases, where children have been in the home during an incident of domestic violence, the Department of Children and Families may also become involved in your case to not only put a safety plan in place, but also offer services to the victim and the children.

Spy-Snoop-Florida-Family-Law-300x225Divorce makes married people do amazing things to one another.  In many cases, spouses both realize that a relationship is broken and need to move forward.  Some cases, however, present where one spouse is blissfully unaware that the other spouse is having an affair or hiding assets. That is, of course, until reality strikes and the truth comes out.

In those situations, many unaware spouses begin to go down a path to uncover the entire truth.  Soon, the possibility of hacking emails, hiring private investigators, and following your spouse on social media becomes a temptation few are able to ignore. But is it worth it?

For many spouses, so long as they do not break privacy laws, this is a short lived exercise where they try to find out information that they do not already know, and quickly realize that they have the facts, or that information has been so blocked it will be impossible for them to find out the truth.   Conversely, there are times where some spouses flaunt their new paramour on social media or around the children, already fueling the fires of resentment and pushing the drive for more information to its apex.

Smart-Home-300x265The age of the “smart home” is undoubtedly upon us, and devices control our room temperature, change our television channels, and even tell our children stories.  We have come to not only rely on their safety measures, but also embraced how they make our lives easier. At the same time, the smart home devices are keeping tabs on what we do, say, and where we are. Could Amazon’s Alexa help or hurt you in a family case?

Most of the smart home devices, like Google Home, are activated upon a “wake word,” or action like approaching a front door, which causes them to not only respond, but also record their surroundings.  The recordings are stored remotely, and can be reviewed at a later date. Recently, a murder case in Arkansas brought the question of whether Amazon would be forced to release the smart home device information to determine if the recordings would shed light on who committed the murder.  Currently, the question of whether Amazon will have to release remains unresolved, but if so, it will then become a question if the recordings may be considered by the court in determining the case.

Clients routinely ask if evidence that they have gathered can be used in court, and many times the answer is yes.  Conversely, while the recording or evidence may be kept out of court, they can still be considered by counselors, therapists, or other experts, whose opinions will be heard by the court. Regardless of whether the recordings could be used in court, the impact of the smart home on a family law case is far reaching.  Perhaps, a cheating spouse could be caught because the cheater  is not home when the cheater states that he / she is home.  A conversation about a spouse’s actions and plans could also be captured by a smart home device. In many instances, the device recordings are kept on apps that the other spouse can either watch or listen in, and know what is going on.

Copurt-Order-300x242Dissolving your marriage in the State of Florida , in many cases, is a lengthy process.   Issues of property division and child timesharing cause couples to have conflicts without a great deal of guidance when they are attempting to finalize their plans moving forward. If you are divorcing in Florida, and specifically in the Jacksonville area, courts enter a standing family law order, once a divorce is filed with the clerk of court. This order provides some guidance on how couples should conduct themselves during the pendency of a divorce.

First, these orders prohibit one spouse from selling or hiding property, owned either individually or as a couple.   This order will typically hold off a spouse from cleaning out the bank accounts, selling off personal or real property, or hiding assets that ultimately need to be divided in the divorce. One tip that is essential to moving forward is to take a copy of this order to your bank upon receiving it, so that your financial institution is aware of the current status of your marriage, and protections can be put in place for your money.

One exception to this provision to the taking of assets is when a spouse needs to sell an asset for usual household expenses or attorney’s fees. In these cases, your spouse may be able to sell an asset without your consent in order to make financial obligations. This is another area that may cause continuing conflict, and could be avoided through communication or representation by an experienced family law attorney.

Marital-Home-300x205A question that commonly comes up in Florida Divorce consultations and cases is whether a client should move out of the marital home once one of the parties has filed for divorce. While many times spouses recognize that if there has been a divorce filing, eventually the time will come where they will no longer live together, this is a decision that should be made with planning and careful consideration.

The marital home is often the largest asset that the parties share, and its division in extremely important when considering how assets and debt will be allocated in a divorce case. In some cases, a spouse bought the house years prior to the marriage, or before even knowing the other spouse, in those cases, the house may be considered a non-marital asset. Conversely, many times, a home is purchased either right before or during a marriage, with the anticipation that the parties will live together as a married couple and ultimately a family, which would then make the house a marital asset.  In Florida, when a married couple buys a home, the property is held in a “tenancy by the entireties”. Only married couples can hold property in this manner, and the deed will reflect that the parties are married at the time of purchase, and that is how the property is deeded to the couple. Being married is a prerequisite to the property being held in this manner. When the parties divorce, the “tenancy by the entireties” is destroyed, and both parties are joint tenants of the property. In both cases, the parties own 100% of the property, but when the house is sold, equity is divided in half, unless special circumstances permit that a party is awarded a more significant share of the proceeds.

A Florida Family Law Lawyer can advise you as to your legal rights prior to and during a divorce proceeding.  Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A. based in Jacksonville Florida has represented parties in divorce and post divorce proceedings since 1957.  At Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A., we are On Your Side – At Your Side.

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