Month: July 2012

Your Home’s Value and Divorce

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Equitable Distribution on Tuesday, July 31, 2012.

Your house is usually one of the largest assets to divide in a divorce. That being said, there is good news and bad news about the value of one of your biggest assets.

First, USA Today reports some good news:

Data through May 2012, released today by S&P Dow Jones Indices for its S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, the leading measure of U.S. home prices, showed that average home prices increased by 2.2% in May over April for both the 10- and 20-City Composites.

This increase was better than the consensus forecast, and hopefully prices will turn positive year-over-year in June. Tampa and Miami are each up about 3% in the last year.

The bad news is that housing prices have dropped about 35% from their peak, and forecasts say housing prices will be close to flat this year and next, with mid-single-digit nationwide gains emerging by mid-decade.

In 2008, the Florida Constitution was amended to allow homeowners to keep a portion of their tax assessment differential after their home is sold. Because many homes in Florida are in negative equity, clients often overlook the hidden tax advantages their homestead can provide during and after a divorce.

I wrote an article in the Florida Bar Journal examining the equitable distribution of the tax assessment differential in divorce, and how the Constitutional Amendment impacts non-married couples selling their homestead after a breakup. I have lectured, and continue to receive calls about the impact of this constitutional change from clients and attorneys alike. Hopefully the article will give something to think about.

Occupation as a Predictor of Divorce

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Divorce on Monday, July 30, 2012.

If you marry your favorite massage therapist, are you more likely to divorce than if you’d picked a matrimonial lawyer?

That is the question answered in a study published in the Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology.

It is a common belief that the divorce rate for police officers is higher than that of the general population. This belief is commonly held in spite of the fact that there is no empirical research supporting such a belief. To compare the divorce rate of law enforcement personnel with the rates for other occupations, we analyzed data from the 2000 U.S. Census. The results of this analysis indicate that the divorce rate for law enforcement personnel is lower than that of the general population, even after controlling for demographic and other job-related variables.

The numbers don’t paint the whole picture. If a person divorced and remarried by the time of the Census, they would be counted as married. So it could be that spouses in some jobs are just quicker to jump into the next marriage than others. Also, the data don’t reveal whether it’s the nature of the jobs that lead to divorce, or if people prone to unstable relationships are drawn to certain professions.

So, here are five jobs with the highest relative divorce rates:

1. Massage therapists

2. Bartenders

3. Dancers and choreographers

4. Health diagnosing and treating practitioners

5. Physicians and surgeons

And, here are five jobs with some of the lowest relative divorce rates:

1. Media and communication equipment workers

2. Agricultural engineers

3. Directors, religious activities and education

4. Transit and railroad police

5. Clergy

Do I Need Divorce Therapy?

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Child Custody on Saturday, July 28, 2012.

Negotiating child custody, support, and the division of assets is strongly tied to emotions, and if your head is not in the game – because you are still overcome by swirling emotions – your attempts at settlement may fail. I see this happen frequently: a client, or their spouse, cannot make a rational decision because their anger, sadness or suspicion is too much to overcome. When that happens, the only alternative is to go to court.

You may have heard that therapy can help couples save a marriage. But, did you know more and more people are relying on therapists to help guide them through the grueling process of a divorce? I suggest to clients early on in my representation to seek out a good therapist to help them through the divorce process. They can help you overcome your emotions, as well as create timesharing schedules and more.

I remember reading about Elana Katz, the director of the Family and Divorce Mediation Program at the Ackerman Institute for the Family, in a New York Times article.

We used mediation, so we did not go through the adversarial nightmare and did a lot that set up a structure that was going to make us both highly involved parents. There was not going to be winner-take-all.

Katz discussed how therapy helped her through her own divorce. Let’s face it, if professionals in the business know to hire a good therapist, shouldn’t you? It is important for couples to find post-divorce parenting roles and be able to predict finances. Having a professional therapist go through each stage of the process carefully can help you develop new relationships, and understand future goals.

Are Breast Implants Marital Property?

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Equitable Distribution on Wednesday, July 25, 2012.

Division of property, the dividing up of marital assets and debts, can be big problems in a divorce. Often, attorneys bring complicated business valuations and other complex assets to a court for decision . . . but not always.

What about the value of breast augmentation surgery – paid for with marital funds – can they be considered a marital asset subject to division?

The Florida Supreme Court has never really tackled this giant issue, but other states have. So, are a wife’s breast implants really marital assets subject to be equitably divided in by a court? Well wait no longer, the North Dakota Supreme Court has finally ruled on the issue for all of us, and you can read the decision yourself:

“Do we have any lines to be drawn? Is dental work a marital asset? Is a hip replacement a marital asset?” Justice Daniel Crothers asked attorney Christina Sambor during Supreme Court arguments on Thursday.

Citing cases from Hawaii, Delaware and Kentucky, Erik Isaacson invites us to hold that breast implants are a marital asset, the value of which are subject to distribution in the division of the marital estate. We decline . . .

Luckily for Mrs. Isaacson, she was saved from a very painful distribution. Was Isaacson v. Isaacson the most important decision in matrimonial law ever? Hardly, but equitable distribution does raise a number of interesting questions. Statutory factors, such as when the assets were acquired, or when the debts were incurred, and the reasonable necessity of acquiring and incurring them can all come into play.

Katie Homes & Tom Cruise: Can Court’s Choose a Child’s Religion?

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Child Support on Wednesday, July 18, 2012.

Child custody cases always raise interesting issues. One of the questions in the Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise divorce is what religion will the child be raised in after the divorce. Tom Cruise is a Scientologist, and Katie Holmes is reportedly a Catholic. TomKat are not alone, about 27% of Americans were in interfaith marriages according to the Religious Landscape Survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

Happily for them – but not so much for the media – Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise have reached a settlement in their divorce. But, when divorcing parents can’t agree about religion, can it be a factor in a custody case?

Whenever a court decides custody, the sine qua non is the best interests of the child. But, deciding the religious upbringing of a child puts the court in a tough position. There is nothing in our custody statute allowing a court to consider religion as a factor in custody, and a court’s choosing one parent’s religious beliefs over another’s, probably violates the Constitution. So, unless there is actual harm being done to the child by the religious upbringing, it would seem that deciding the child’s faith is out of bounds for a judge.

Ironically, that may not be the rule all over Florida. Different appellate courts in Florida have slightly different takes on the issue, and the question of whether a trial court can consider a parent’s religious beliefs as a factor in determining custody has been allowed. For this reason, it is best to speak to an attorney experienced in child custody matters.

Separations and Divorce

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Equitable Distribution on Sunday, July 15, 2012.

Equitable distribution, the dividing up of marital property, should be done equally. But there are reasons for a court to treat assets differently. One reason is a lengthy separation. A new study shows that about 79% of married couples who separate, end up getting divorced.

“Separation is very common and is more common than immediate divorce,” said researcher Dmitry Tumin of Ohio State University at a presentation at the annual meeting of the Population Association of America, which ended Sunday. “Most separations last one year or less, but a few drag on a decade or more before ending in divorce. Other separations stay unresolved.”

Lengthy separations can have a significant impact on equitable distribution, and for good reasons. In separations which last several years, your house or business may have appreciated in value significantly (or depreciated) or you may have accumulated stock and other assets. While the general rule is that marital property should be distributed equally, trial courts can consider various factors to distribute properties differently.

Dividing marital property seems simple enough, just divide by two! However, the more knowledgeable you become, the better prepared you will be to resolve your case fairly and amicably. For this, and other reasons, it is always recommended to consult with an experienced, board certified attorney in these matters.

The Tom Cruise Divorce: Why Did Katie File In New York?

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Divorce on Saturday, July 14, 2012.

The state of filing can have a big impact on the outcome of your divorce. Many people don’t have a choice. But if one party moves to another state, there may be a choice as to where to file.

Is one state better than another? Child support awards in California are typically higher than Florida, and Texas is rumored to be tough on alimony. Last year Bloomberg ranked all 50 states on the ease of divorce. You can read the ranking in: The Best and Worst States for Getting Divorced.

Which brings me back to the Tom Cruise divorce. Katie could have filed in New York or California, assuming she satisfied either state’s residency requirements. So, why New York over California?

I don’t think the reason has to do with the grounds for divorce, or any economic advantage. After all, New York and California, like Florida, are no-fault states, and Tom and Katie are believed to have a prenuptial agreement anyway.

I suspect one of the reasons is privacy. Unlike California or Florida, divorce filings in New York are not open to the public, so only the parties and their attorneys have access to documents filed with the court.

In an effort to protect the privacy of parties to a divorce, and prevent identity theft, Florida recently adopted a confidentiality rule to better protect social security and bank account numbers for instance. But Florida court filings are not private. Privacy – and confidentiality of court filings – are easily overlooked issues when filing for divorce, and something you should be aware of in deciding in which state to file.

In Child Custody Cases, Stay-At-Home Dads Are Here to Stay

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Child Custody on Thursday, July 12, 2012.

Parenting Plans, and specifically timesharing, is increasingly more complex as parenting roles reverse. Time magazine reports that the proportion of stay-at-home dads has doubled in the past decade, and not because fathers got laid off and had nothing better to do:

“The percentage of stay-at-home fellas has doubled in the past decade, though it’s still tiny: just 3.4% of stay-at-home parents are fathers. But man, are those guys happy. Perhaps the joy they take in doling out Cheerios and doing loads of baby laundry is merely additional evidence of the inordinate pleasure that men take in parenting, a phenomenon discussed on Thursday on Healthland.”

“It’s clear to us that men strongly identify with this as a role,” says Brad Harrington, executive director of the Boston College Center for Work and Family and lead author of the stay-at-home dads report. “They don’t have a feeling of ambivalence of, What am I doing, I’m a man. There is no sense of angst. These guys strongly identified with being a SAHD. They are proud of it.”

Marital Debt: The Divorce Minefield

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Marital Debt on Thursday, July 12, 2012.

A lot could be said about divorce, but “easy” is not one of them. First there is the emotional trauma of ending a marriage, but that’s only the start of it. You also have to work out timesharing with the children, the property division of the marital assets and marital debts, paying child support (and possibly supporting your soon-to-be ex) paying for the process, and of course, taxes.

This is a short post about the hidden minefield of divorce: the dreaded marital debt.

Marital debt is a danger you may not be aware of until you’ve stepped into it. But, when you hire a lawyer and accountant to help, you ensure that you not only take on the debt you are legally obligated to pay, but learn which debts are the most advantageous to take – if given a choice. You also learn how your debt service impacts the property division, and the support you pay or receive.

If, as they say, “knowledge is power”, then in addition to your lawyer you should take the time to speak to an account or financial advisor to prepare for your divorce. This knowledge will help you take charge (pun intended) of your debt issues. You will then be prepared to work out a settlement, or learn what to request in court, with confidence. At my office we work with several accountants and financial advisors to help guide you through this minefield.

More Women Are Paying Alimony

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Alimony on Thursday, July 12, 2012.

The tables are turning on alimony and child support. As more women climb higher up the career ladder, and outpace their husbands in salary and title, they are finding that they are the ones having to support their ex-spouses after the divorce.

Many women are finding that breaking through the glass ceiling comes with financial responsibilities. Just as many of my male clients grumble about paying alimony to their former wives, more and more of my female clients arrive at our consultations worried about having to support their soon-to-be former husbands.

Whether you are concerned about your ability to pay, or interested in knowing whether your needs justify receiving support, you should know that Florida’s alimony statute has recently (and dramatically) changed. Everyone is concerned about the recent changes to the law, and the looming threats to amend the statute in upcoming legislative sessions in the years to come.

Reuters reports:

“As women climb higher up the career ladder and outpace their exes in salary, when love goes wrong and marriages break up they are being compelled to contribute to the livelihood of their former spouses.

More than half, 56 percent, of divorce lawyers across the United States have seen an increase in mothers paying child support in the last three years and 47 percent have noted a hike in the number of women paying alimony, according to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.”