The world of, “do it yourself,” has become far easier over the years with the invention of the internet. People now walk into doctors’ offices and tell the doctor what their diagnosis is and what medication to prescribe. The same is true for divorces, wills and the like. In a Florida divorce there can be many moving parts to figure out, for example, whether alimony should be paid; how long it should be paid; who will take what bank accounts and debts; etc. The reality is that dealing with a divorce is similar to a company dissolving and if each item is not accounted for, then the consequences to each party can be expensive and financially devastating.
In a Florida divorce, alimony is based on a number of factors, including but not limited to, length of the marriage, contribution of each spouse to the marriage, the standard of living of the parties, the needs of the requesting spouse (i.e. whether she/he has earning potential), and the ability for a spouse to pay alimony. Understanding these factors can be complicated because instead of looking at a need as a monthly amount we have a tendency to think through our bills and say, “You pay x, y and z bills.” In a divorce involving alimony, having a spouse pay such bills can be a challenge financially to the party receiving the benefit and the party paying. Alimony is income for tax purposes to the receiving party and a deduction for the party paying, not knowing the amount paid can be detrimental to filing taxes correctly.
Also, not knowing how long alimony should last can cause future complications if the parties reach an agreement, without legal help, and agree that the alimony is going to be non-modifiable over time. Non-modifiable alimony actually means that neither party can ask for more money or to pay less money each month. And often, when I see parties have reached their own agreement, this is a factor that they put into the agreement. The downfall, if the paying party wants to retire s/he must do so with a continued ability to provide alimony for whatever duration was agreed upon by the parties.
The other difficulty is that if the parties reach an agreement, then they cannot go back later to the court and state that s/he was not treated fairly if both parties provided financial disclosure. The only time that the court may hear a case to the contrary would be if it can be shown that a party withheld financial information from the other that may have made a difference to the outcome of the agreement. For example, if there is an account with $100,000 that’s owned by the party requesting alimony.
The challenge is, when you take on your divorce case by yourself you risk many things coming back to haunt you. Ultimately, the money you spend trying to correct the mistakes may be much greater than what you would have spent in the original divorce had you hired someone to do it correctly.
If you are going through a divorce, you should speak with an experienced divorce attorney to find out your rights and options. Understanding the challenges in your case is vital to any outcome that you may have.