Month: April 2013

Should You Date During the Divorce?

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Divorce on Monday, April 29, 2013.

Are you allowed to date before your divorce is final?

Many clients want to date during their divorce. And, more and more people are creating online profiles on various dating sites, like, eHarmony, and AARP Dating, to shape their image. Making an online image is great, as long as you don’t lie about it.

Let’s be realistic, everyone is guilty of wanting to make themself appear a little more attractive. Little white lies, exaggerations and deceptions in your online profile may seem innocent enough, but they can lead to big problems. I’m not talking about the generalized lie you might give to avoid being lonely: “I love poetry”, “I look 29”, “I’m skinny”. I’m talking about bigger lies that can damage your divorce case.

Exaggerations and deceptions in your online dating profile can become evidence in a divorce trial. What may seem like a harmless way to get a date when you post it, can morph into a damaging impeachment during your cross-examination. Worse still, your future date – who responds to your dating site – may be dragged into court as witness.

According to a recent survey of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 59% of respondents said they have seen an increase in the number of divorce cases using evidence taken from dating websites during the past three years. 64% of respondents have seen evidence taken specifically from Of the type of information being taken from these sites, 57% of lawyers have seen relationship status used, followed by salary and occupation at 15% and parental status at 7%.

I advise clients to stay away from social media and dating websites until the divorce is over. In addition to the risks of your personal information being dragged into court, there is the impact dating can have on your current spouse. Flaunting a new relationship could create anger and resentment. Settling your case becomes harder, and your case will last longer and cost more.

5 Hidden Divorce Costs

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Divorce on Thursday, April 25, 2013.

The costs of a divorce can be high. This is especially true if you have no idea of what to expect, or have no experience with finances.

Most people think you lose your money in divorce through alimony or child support paymets. And of course, dividing up your assets will also take a chunk. But there are other ways that divorce impacts your finances, and many people don’t think about them. Here are five of them:

Legal fees: Even if you have an amicable divorce, legal fees can be high. If you and your spouse go to court to contest an issue, the legal fees can rise quickly.

Childcare costs: Divorced parents typically need to pay for childcare, daycare or aftercare more often than they expected to because the child’s other parent is not around as much.

Taxes: Filing single, after years filing married jointly, can increase your taxes.

Retirement: Because you are single, and don’t have a partner making contributions you share, your contributions to your pension, IRA and 401(k) will usually be comparatively lower, and you may have to work longer.

Insurance: Married people don’t have to spend money on long-term care insurance because they have a partner. After a divorce, single people may need to purchase such a policy.

“Most people don’t realize the depths of what divorce can do when it comes to their finances,” Fraelich said. “It is usually a matter of much more than a loss of salary or income.”

You can read more about it in this article in the LA Times.

Florida Alimony Changes: The Latest

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Alimony on Monday, April 22, 2013.

alimony changes are on our horizon. As the Miami Herald reports, the Florida House adopted the Florida Senate’s version of the alimony reform bill, SB 718, and passed it overwhelmingly by a vote of 85 to 31. The bill will now go to Governor Rick Scott for his signature on its way to becoming law. The effective date of the new law, if signed by the Governor, will be July 1, 2013.

Remember, this law may be retroactive. That means that even if your divorce has been over for a few years, the new law could impact you. I have alimony paying clients who can’t wait to modify their alimony awards.

So, what are some of the changes in store for Floridians? Highlights of SB 718 include:

  • The “standard of living enjoyed during a marriage” factor in alimony is gone.
  • There will be percentage caps on a paying spouse’s income which can be awarded as alimony.
  • Permanent alimony is eliminated in Florida.
  • The court may not award alimony for longer than half the length of the marriage, unless need is established.
  • A court must reduce or end alimony if the receiving spouse is in a supportive relationship.
  • There are also a couple of non-alimony changes which were slipped into the bill:
  • Florida’s new public policy is that equal time-sharing for parents is in the best interests of the children.

The law creates formulas for calculating the marital portion of non-marital real estate. For instance, in some cases people have used their salary to pay down the mortgage on their pre-marital house. Does the other spouse get some interest in that non-marital property? If so, how much?

The text of Senate bill SB 718 can be read here.

Florida Alimony Changes: Update

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Alimony on Wednesday, April 17, 2013.

Today is ANOTHER big day for Florida alimony changes. Last week I posted about the Florida Senate passing Senate bill (SB 718), which fundamentally changes alimony in Florida.

Yesterday the House adopted the Senate version of the bill, SB 718. Today, the Florida House bill, HB 231, is scheduled for its third reading and possible House floor vote. It is on today’s Special Session, April 18, 2013 at 10:30. You can watch all the legislative action here.

Coincidentally, the Wall Street Journal has a timely article about the big changes to Florida’s alimony laws, and looks at how other states, like Massachusetts and Michigan, are changing their laws too. Floridians should take note that this is not a movement unique to our state, but reflects societal changes across the country.

Florida is one of a growing number of states where proponents of alimony-law changes are making an aggressive push. A similar measure took effect in Massachusetts last year, and comparable bills are pending in New Jersey, Connecticut, Colorado and Oregon.

The proposals have triggered contentious debate, pitting payers who decry what they call unjust awards against family-law attorneys who say the measures are punitive to women.

Supporters say alimony laws in many states tether former spouses indefinitely and are outdated at a time when women make up 47% of the labor force. They also complain that judges have too much leeway to fashion awards, yielding wildly disparate judgments.

  • Briefly, the House bill (HB 231) does the following:
  • Revises factors to be considered in alimony awards;
  • Automatically terminates alimony in certain circumstances;
  • Requires the imputation of income in some cases;
  • May allow an offset of or other consideration of alimony in determining equitable distribution or child support;
  • Creates a presumption in favor of equal time-sharing by parents;
  • Allows for attorney fees if obligee unnecessarily seeks modification or termination;
  • Makes retirement age a reason to modify alimony.

Can A Divorce Court Block Facebook Contact with your Kids?

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Child Custody on Friday, April 12, 2013.

child custody proceedings can bring out the worst in people. I wrote an article, published in the Florida Bar Family Law Section Commentator, on the use of Facebook in divorce trials. Recently, an appellate court in Georgia upheld a trial order prohibiting parents from interacting and contacting their children through Facebook. Essentially, a court blocked posting on their Facebook accounts.

The Georgia divorce case of Lacy v. Lacy shows the conflict between our First Amendment rights to free speech and a court’s authority in child custody cases to protect children from the harmful comments and actions of their parents going through a bitter divorce dispute.

In the high conflict custody Lacy case, a trial judge prohibited the father from having any contact with his children. Specifically, the judge entered an order which:

“restrained and enjoined [the parties] from posting matters about each other or their current litigation on Facebook or other social networking sites.”

The appellate court allowed the Facebook injunction to stand, essentially disabling or blocking Mr. Lacy’s account. The appellate court found that Georgia courts had previously required parties in divorce proceedings: “to refrain from making derogatory remarks about the other before the children.”

Additionally, Georgia courts have previously found parents in contempt of court for violating court orders restraining telephone calls to the other spouse’s workplace. To the Lacy appellate court, retricting Facebook communication was not such a stretch from previous Georgia decisions.

There are three good lessons to be learned from Lacy v. Lacy.

First, the courts can prohibit you from using electronic communications in a way which can harm children. If parents in a divorce are discussing their divorce proceedings, and making derogatory and disparaging comments about each other on Facebook, there is now authority for a court to stop that kind of conduct whether it is by telephone or Facebook.

Second, posting derogatory comments about your family members on Facebook can hurt your family.

And third, it’s never a good idea to anger the judges about to decide your case. You know you’re your appeal is in trouble when the first finding of fact by the appellate court is:

“As an initial matter, we note that the father’s briefs are rife with discourteous and disparaging comments regarding the Ocmulgee Circuit judiciary in general . . . “

Major News About Florida Alimony Changes

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Alimony on Friday, April 5, 2013.

It looks like Florida alimony law will dramatically change again! The Florida Senate just passed Senate bill (SB 718), which makes drastic changes to Florida’s alimony statute. There is a similar bill floating around the Florida House floor. House bill (HB 231) passed easily in the House Judiciary Committee by a vote of 14 to 4, and will now go to the House floor later this month for a final vote. Once Governor Scott signs the bills into law, Florida Statutes and the way courts can award alimony will change dramatically.

Here are some of the big changes coming our way:

  • Courts must impute income to an unemployed spouse.
  • There would be a presumption against alimony for short-term marriages.
  • Permanent alimony is eliminated.
  • A court couldn’t award alimony for more than half the length of the marriage without clear and convincing evidence.
  • The retirement of the paying spouse would become a substantial change in circumstances.
  • Alimony must be reduced or terminated if the payee spouse is in a supportive relationship.
  • The new law would apply to all orders entered before the bill became law, so the bill itself would be grounds for modifying or terminating alimony.
  • The bill would create a presumption in favor of equal time-sharing.

As the Associated Press reports:

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — The Florida Senate has passed a bill that would put an end to permanent alimony in the Sunshine State.

It’s the latest attempt by Florida lawmakers to set new guidelines for the emotional issue of spousal support after marriages dissolve. A similar bill died in the Legislature last year.

The version that cleared the Senate on a 29-11 vote Thursday would replace permanent alimony with spousal support that has a foreseeable end.

It also would make it harder to get alimony in short-term marriages.

The Florida House is considering similar legislation.

Divorce and the Pregnant Man

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Divorce on Monday, April 1, 2013.

With all of the talk about marriage, divorce and the U.S. Supreme Court oral argument in the Defense of Marriage Act case, there is a timely decision out of Phoenix, Arizona about the Thomas Beatie divorce, a matter I blogged about a while ago. Do you remember Tom?

To recap, Tom was born Tracy Lehuanani Lagondino in Oahu, Hawaii. She began undergoing testosterone therapy, and after psychological testing, her first surgeries were performed in 2002. After that Tracy’s birth certificate and driver’s license changed. Six months later, Tracy became Tom.

Tom married his girlfriend Nancy in 2003, and because Nancy couldn’t have children, Tom had the child. Tom conceived – with donated sperm – and gave birth to children who are now 4, 3 and 2 years old. The couple eventually moved to Arizona.

When news leaked out of the pregnancy, Tom became an instant hint as “The Pregnant Man,” appearing on Oprah, Barbara Walters, Letterman etc. He also wrote a book, and is a motivational speaker for transgender rights.

Now Tom wants to end his marriage to Nancy, and filed in Phoenix, Arizona. Arizona, like Florida, bans same-sex marriages, which prevents Tom’s nine-year union with Nancy from being recognized as a valid marriage. So, Tom’s divorce plans stalled last summer when a judge said he was unable to find legal authority defining a man as someone who can give birth. However, the case has been left in legal limbo for a while.

Last week Maricopa County Family Court Judge Douglas Gerlach ruled that Arizona’s ban on same-sex marriages prevents Thomas Beatie’s nine-year union from being recognized as valid. Gerlach said he had no jurisdiction to approve a divorce because there’s insufficient evidence that Beatie was a man when he married Nancy Beatie in Hawaii. As USA Today reports:

“The decision here is not based on the conclusion that this case involves a same-sex marriage merely because one of the parties is a transsexual male, but instead, the decision is compelled by the fact that the parties failed to prove that (Thomas Beatie) was a transsexual male when they were issued their marriage license,” he wrote in Friday’s ruling.

The judge’s ruling also said it didn’t address whether Arizona law allows a person who was born female to marry another female after undergoing a sex change operation. Gerlach’s ruling also noted that Thomas Beatie halted the testosterone treatments and that he didn’t provide documentation for any additional non-surgical efforts.