Month: January 2015

Lower Your Divorce Costs

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Attorneys’ Fees on Tuesday, January 27, 2015.

A post on lowering legal fees by a lawyer may seem contradictory, but not if your attorney is looking out you. Unless your divorce is a friendly ‘conscious uncoupling’, it can be costly. But there are a few things you can do to keep legal fees down.

The Huffington Post recently ran an article on this topic that rings true:

Shop around for an attorney.

Most states have a Board Certification process to recognize expert lawyers. Using an expert, as opposed to someone who also handles criminal defense cases, bankruptcies and slip and falls, will save money over time. Also, many attorneys offer free initial consultations. I do, and encourage people to take advantage of a face to face meeting with your attorney.

Pick Your Battles.

If you intend to argue over every sponge, plant, and towel in your possession, be prepared for an expensive bill. Fight the battles that really matter, like custody and alimony or the house.

Think Before Calling Your Attorney.

Attorneys bill by the hour. If your attorney charges $350 an hour, and you’re constantly calling, you are going to have sticker shock – Those 15-minute phone calls add up, so write down questions and make one call. You may discover you have the answer you need and avoid a call altogether.

Your Attorney is Not Your Therapist.

I recommend seeing a therapist while going through a divorce. Most insurance will cover at least a portion of that cost. Using your attorney or the paralegal doesn’t get you the help you really need and is far more expensive.

Check Your Invoices.

You should be receiving monthly invoices from your attorney. If not, ask for one. Know where your money is being spent, and if there is a mistake on your bill, don’t be afraid to discuss it.

Watch Out for Advice from Friends.

Everyone knows someone who went through a divorce. People want to share what they know. Attorneys hate that. We hate it because no two cases are alike, and people have biases. For instance, people seem to remember what they want to, forgetting the bad parts.

Control Your Emotions

I’ve written before about this common mistake before. When it comes to meetings, mediations, and court, time is money. Be prepared when it comes to mediation, and don’t get angry because you don’t like the offer made. Anger is expensive.

The Huffington Post article can be read here.

Prenups Are Not Only for One Percenters

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Agreements on Friday, January 23, 2015.

Most people think of prenuptial agreements as contracts for the rich and famous. Most people are wrong though. Prenups can deal with non-monetary issues too, making them a good idea for anyone marrying.

As USA Today recently reported:

Prenuptial agreements, or “prenups,” are contracts entered into before marriage that outline the division of assets in case of divorce. They may touch on things like spousal support (alimony), ownership of businesses and properties, and even financial duties and responsibilities during the marriage.

“Since getting into the business and seeing what can happen to family relationships in a divorce, I’m not sure there is an instance where a prenup would be a bad thing,” says financial adviser Jeffery Cortright, president of Phase 2 Investment Advisers in Jenison, Mich.

While most people think prenuptial agreements deal with assets and alimony, there are a lot of other concerns that can be handled:

– Will you have to care for an older parent

– Who pays or supports the house when going back to school

– Agreeing to spending habits

– Who pays for what credit card debt

– Who handles the costs of a business

– Who pays the taxes

– What happens if someone dies or becomes disabled

I’ve written about this issue before. Prenups aren’t only for the super-rich, but having a lot of assets is an excellent reason to have one. Even when couples have less than they want, the effort that goes into a prenuptial agreement can have benefits far beyond the financial.

There are cases when a prenuptial agreement is a no-brainer. If one person is entering the marriage with significantly more money or assets than the other, or if one or both individuals have family money or inheritances, a prenup is necessary.

Additionally, if you plan on keeping your finances separate, keeping separate bank accounts, or if you want one joint account for paying household bills, a prenuptial agreement is a great way to confirm it.

One of the cardinal rules of a prenuptial agreement though, is following the agreement by keeping accounts separate after getting married. Generally, once you have moved to joint ownership and mix up accounts, dividing the account after separation could be tricky.

If arguments about money are a top predictor of divorce, agreeing on the terms of a prenuptial agreement, and having the conversations about major issues you’re concerned about now, will lessen the chances of financial arguments and misunderstandings later.

The USA Today article can be found here.

Same-Sex Marriage Update: The Supreme Court Takes Over

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Same Sex Marriage & Divorce on Monday, January 19, 2015.

It’s on! Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court decided to hear DeBoer v. Snyder – the only one of five U.S. Court of Appeals cases won by the anti-gay marriage side. Same-sex marriage and divorce law is in chaos. That is about to end.

In November, after the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the bans on same-sex marriages in DeBoer v. Snyder, I noted that the other circuit courts had come out the other way.

That created a circuit split in our country, a necessary element to invoke U.S. Supreme Court jurisdiction. I predicted we could have a U.S. Supreme Court decision this summer. Friday the high court said:


The cases are consolidated and the petitions for writs of certiorari are granted limited to the following questions:

1) Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex?

2) Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state?

The briefs of petitioners are to be filed on or before February 27, 2015, so the briefing schedule indicates that the Court will hear oral argument and decide the cases by the end of June – this Term.

The decision to grant certiorari will finally end the uncertainty of status, and the interstate chaos, that the current differences in state laws created.

With Florida’s inability to extend the stay banning same-sex marriages, and a combination of other judicial decisions and legislative changes in other states, there are now 36 states that recognize same-sex marriage.

But, we will have to wait until this summer to see which of the various Constitutional arguments the justices agree on.

The U.S. Supreme Court Order is here.

Chris Rock, Divorce and Privacy

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Divorce on Thursday, January 15, 2015.

Comedian Chris Rock filed for divorce. E! News obtained papers alleging his wife has kept his two daughters away from him! Celebrities, professionals and the wealthy have a hard time keeping their court papers private.

As a recent Forbes magazine article notes, for celebrities and wealthy clients, protecting children in divorce often means preserving the family’s good name and legacy for future generations.

“Celebrity clients nearly always arrive at a settlement rather than going to trial. After legal costs, privacy concerns are probably the biggest reason why”

In New York, there is an expectation of privacy in court filings. New York and other states grant document access to court filings only to litigants and counsel.

But this create a false sense of confidence. There is a thriving market for salacious information on high-profile families which makes it difficult to prevent leaks.

I’ve written before about Florida’s policy regarding the privacy and confidentiality of court records. Court records don’t just mean the contents of the court file. They also include transcripts, exhibits, videotapes and stenographic deposition tapes.

In an effort to protect privacy and prevent identity theft, Florida 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.

For the past ten years, there has been a lot of effort put into developing safeguards, policies, and infrastructure needed to authorize public access to non-confidential electronic court records.

For instance, the Florida Supreme Court adopted a rule to define confidential court records and limit the public’s access to them. At the same time, there are divorce rules which require you to identify confidential information in court papers.

Even when documents are supposed to be confidential though, private information has a pesky way of becoming public.

Tort claims are often added to divorce complaints. These can include allegations of assault or sexually transmitted diseases.

Even if unfounded these accusations can be harmful to your personal and professional relationships. In filing for divorce, you have to understand the expectation in your jurisdiction regarding how the filings are kept private.

Even if records are protected, there has to be the “reality” check of whether in fact the information can and will remain private.

“Chris Rock has filed for divorce from his wife, Malaak,” the actor’s rep told E! News Monday. “This is a personal matter and Chris requests privacy as he and Malaak work through this process and focus on their family.”

Good luck with that Chris. The Forbes article can be read here.

Statutory Rape & Child Support

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Child Support on Monday, January 12, 2015.

Everyone knows a mother can sue the father of her child for child support. But did you know she can also sue him if she raped the father to get pregnant. It just happened to an Arizona high school student.

Nick became a father at 14, a fact he wouldn’t learn for eight years. While in high school, Nick had sex with a 20-year-old woman. As he sees it now, she took advantage of a lonely kid going through a rough patch at home.

Arizona law says a child younger than 15 cannot consent to sex with an adult under any circumstance, making Nick a rape victim. Nick didn’t press charges and didn’t realize he could.

Now Nick’s a 24-year-old medical assistant, and Arizona seized money from his bank account and garnished his wages. Nick says he owes about $15,000 in back child support and medical bills, along with interest.

Before a custodial parent may seek public assistance through Arizona’s welfare program, they are required to pursue child support to help reimburse the state for assistance payments, which the mother did.

Arizona doesn’t seek child support when the parent seeking the money has been convicted of sexual assault with a minor or sexual assault, the Arizona Republic says. But its policy is to seek child support from those in Nicks’ situation.

Florida law is consistent with Arizona’s and other states which have addressed the issue. The issue of consent is important to the crime of statutory rape, but is largely irrelevant in a civil action to determine paternity and child support.

As the Colorado Supreme Court noted in a similar case:

Certain it is that his assent to the illicit act does not exclude commission of the statutory crime, but it has nothing to do with assent as relating to progeny. His youth is basic to the crime; it is not a factor in the question of whether he is the father.

Nick tells the Arizona Republic he’s willing to pay future child support, but he doesn’t think the state should be able to charge him child support for the years he was a juvenile or when he didn’t know he was a father. And he would like to see his daughter.

The USA Today article is here.

Why Would Halle Berry Want to Reduce Her Support?

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Child Support on Friday, January 9, 2015.

A parent wants to reduce the child-support paid to the other parent. Sound familiar, but there’s a twist. The paying parent is the mother, and the collecting parent is the father. Welcome to the gender equality frontlines.

As the Los Angeles Times reports, actress Halle Berry has asked a Los Angeles judge in the couple’s custody case to reduce her monthly child-support payments to $3,000 a month from $16,000 a month.

Halle Berry, 48, and Gabriel Aubry, 39, dated for two years before separating in 2010. A court awarded joint custody of their daughter, and they have been embroiled in bitter court – and even physical – battles ever since.

Berry reportedly moved to reduce her child-support payments to the unemployed model to motivate him to get a job. Halle alleges that Aubry is refusing to get a job, driving up his need for support.

Is there a double standard when it comes to a perception of men “living off” women? Think of it in reverse, would a woman collecting a lot of child support from her wealthy celebrity ex-husband be called lazy?

Currently, about 40% of mothers in the United States are their family’s primary earners. This includes nearly a quarter of married mothers – and nearly a third of Americans agree that it is best when the man provides for his family.

How does Halle Berry reduce her support payments when the father is unemployed? If his income is zero, wouldn’t the father have a better chance of increasing the amount of support he pay? The answer is ‘imputation of income.’

A court in Florida may “impute” income to an unemployed or underemployed parent if their unemployment or underemployment is found to be voluntary on that parent’s part. However, the statute has restraints on imputation.

Besides imputation, and gender equality, Halle Berry’s case raises other matters. For instance, paying the ex-boyfriend $16,000 a month is a lot of money to spend on a 6-year-old who only spends half her time with her dad.

Court records show some extravagant lifestyles for the children of the wealthy. For example, actress Kirstie Alley’s ex-husband argued he and Alley provided their children with a $10,000 rocking horse and threw annual Halloween parties costing between $20,000-25,000.

I recently published an article in the Florida Bar Journal on Florida’s child support guidelines. Calculating support for wealthy parents is an area that the child support guidelines don’t handle very well.

Halle Berry’s cases raises interesting issues: the right amount of child support, is child support a subsidy for parents who can work and gender equality.

The Los Angeles Times article can be read here.

Florida Same-Sex Marriage Update

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Same Sex Marriage & Divorce on Tuesday, January 6, 2015.

Yesterday, Florida became the 36th state to allow same-sex marriages . . . sort of. Judge Sarah Zabel authorized the Dade County Clerk to start issuing marriage licenses forthwith to same gender couples.

I’ve written about the same-sex marriage and divorce legal changes in Florida often. Harvey Ruvin, the Dade County Clerk, asked Judge Zabel to clarify and expedite the earlier order delaying marriages.

Lawyers for same-sex couples had also asked the judge to let marriage licensing begin. The state offered no resistance. Judge Zabel then personally performed some of the first weddings at the courthouse.

Elsewhere, a judge in Key West ruled that licenses could be issued in Monroe County after midnight Monday. Judge Luis M. Garcia lifted an earlier postponement order, as of midnight Monday – the point at which a similar order by U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle was due to expire.

Judge Garcia noted that both the U.S. Supreme Court and the 11th Circuit previously turned down requests by state officials to keep same-sex marriage licensing on hold pending appeal.

The law of the land in Florida is that the ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional and cannot be enforced further.

Without the prospect of any further pleas to higher courts for delay, the issue appeared to be settled – at least in terms of marriage licensing and actual marriage ceremonies – in Florida.

Licenses are expected to be issued by other clerks across the state this morning, under an order by a federal trial judge.

Same-sex marriages already are legal in California and New York. But Florida is the first state that will allow same-sex marriages even though there is no state-wide binding ruling by either a federal or state court.

There is still a pending appeal filed by the State of Florida with the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, and they are still considering the appeal filed in a pair of federal cases. The briefing has been completed, but no hearing date has been set.

The Florida Attorney General, who first tried to delay licensing for same-sex prospective spouses, announced she would no longer prevent Florida’s county clerks from issuing the licenses.

The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to consider five new cases at its private conference this week. But as Scotusblog reports, it is not yet clear whether the Court will announce any actions on Friday on cases considered at that Conference, or will instead wait until the following Monday, when it returns to public sittings following a winter recess.

More can be read here.