Month: July 2015

Losing Your Alimony by Cohabitation

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Alimony on Friday, July 31, 2015.

After a divorce, alimony may be awarded. The amount of alimony is based on a variety of factors. But when an alimony recipient cohabitates with someone special, alimony can be modified. Here’s how.

Cohabitation is very frustrating to the person who pays alimony – and these days it can be women paying alimony too – because the alimony recipient may be either:

(1) using the money to support their girlfriend or boyfriend, or

(2) they may be receiving money from their new partner.

I’ve written about alimony, and especially the annual attempt to change Florida’s alimony laws before. In Florida, cohabitation is referred to as a “supportive relationship.”

In Florida, our statute allows a court to reduce or terminate an award of alimony if a supportive relationship exists between the recipient of alimony and the person the alimony recipient resides with.

In determining whether a supportive relationship exists, the court considers the following:

a. The extent to which the obligee and the other person have held themselves out as a married couple.

b. The period of time that the obligee has resided with the other person in a permanent place of abode.

c. The extent to which the obligee and the other person have pooled their assets or income or otherwise exhibited financial interdependence.

d. The extent to which the obligee or the other person has supported the other, in whole or in part.

e. The extent to which the obligee or the other person has performed valuable services for the other.

f. The extent to which the obligee or the other person has performed valuable services for the other’s company or employer.

g. Whether the obligee and the other person have worked together to create or enhance anything of value.

h. Whether the obligee and the other person have jointly contributed to the purchase of any real or personal property.

i. Evidence in support of a claim that the obligee and the other person have an express agreement regarding property sharing or support.

j. Evidence in support of a claim that the obligee and the other person have an implied agreement regarding property sharing or support.

k. Whether the obligee and the other person have provided support to the children of one another, regardless of any legal duty to do so.

But simply proving a supportive relationship is not enough. People can waive their right to seek modification of alimony in a settlement agreement.

Cohabitation is not as easy to prove as you might think. Even if you can prove a supportive relationship, you must check your agreement to see if you can even modify alimony.

Avoiding Divorce: The Perfect Age to Marry

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Marriage on Tuesday, July 28, 2015.

This post asks if there is a right time to marry. Is it true that if you get married too early or too late, the chances are you’ll end up in divorce court? One professor says the late 20s and early 30s are perfect.

I’ve written about the right time to divorce. But is there a right time to marry? Relying on data from the 2006-2010 National Survey of Family Growth, a professor from Utah states that the age of marriage now has a U-shaped relationship to divorce risk.

The odds of divorce decline as you age from your teenage years through your late twenties and early thirties. Then, the chances of divorce go up again as you move into your late thirties and early forties.

This is a marked departure from the way people used to think of it, when the relationship was relatively linear: the older you are when you first marry, the lower the odds of divorce.

The new study suggests that people should get married between the ages of 28 and 32 if they don’t want to get divorced, at least in the first five years.

These are just statistics, so do not accept these figures as your own wedding or engagement announcement gets sent out. There are many reasons why starting a marriage in your late 20s or early 30s makes sense:

people are old enough to understand if they really get along with someone or are just blinded by hormones. They’ve already made significant life choices and taken on some responsibilities. And they may be just financially solvent enough to be able to contemplate supporting someone should the need arise.

Others sociologists say the perfect age to get married if you don’t want to get divorced is 45 to 49, which, is why people shouldn’t make life decisions based on statistical analyses on the Internet.

The new study can be found here.

Divorce & Social Media . . . in China!

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Divorce on Friday, July 24, 2015.

With prosperity comes social problems. The divorce rate in China has risen along with the country’s new wealth. China’s divorce rate climbed by 3.9%, the 12th consecutive annual increase.

Forbes reports on what’s driving the increase. To learn more, they discussed the divorce problem with Liu Lin, a divorce lawyer at Beijing Shuangli Law Firm.

One big factor, he said, is the growing use of social media such as Alibaba-backed Weibo and Tencent’s WeChat. “Social media is a catalyst for divorce,” Liu said.

In the 1980s, divorces were mainly caused by liaisons at settings like dance halls and public squares. Social media is a catalyst for divorce. Through social media, people can get a better understanding of what kind of love they want, but that discovery often happens outside of their marriage.

For example, in the Fengtai District Court in Beijing, the wife had an affair with someone she met on QQ. They lived together and the marriage ended. In another case, a man met a woman through Weibo. He then left his home in Beijing to live with the woman in Hunan.

The one that has an affair usually initiates the divorce, no matter if it’s wife or husband. Normally, assets are split 50-50, with consideration of the wife’s interest as stipulated under relevant law.

Whether one side or the other had an affair isn’t considered in the split of assets. Even though property is split by half, women are disadvantaged in the proceedings.

In China, men’s capacity to earn is much greater than women’s, and they have a lot of private assets that are not known to the wife. Usually, what women win in court is only part a husband’s true assets.

I wrote an article about the impact of social media on divorces in the Florida Bar Commentator. Personal details, they type of evidence we find on social media sites, are important.

Consider the following example:

Husband denies anger management issues but posts on Facebook . . . : “If you have the balls to get in my face, I’ll kick your ass into submission.”

Or this:

Mom denies in court that she smokes marijuana but posts partying, pot-smoking photos of herself on Facebook.

Going through a divorce causes you to be placed under a magnifying glass. If you post things on social media sites that could help your estranged spouse’s case, an attorney will likely make use of that as evidence.

The Forbes article is available here.

Hard Time-sharing: Visiting the Parent in Prison

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Timesharing/Visitation on Monday, July 20, 2015.

Here in the freest country in the world, we have over 2.2 million people behind bars, the highest rate in the world. For children timesharing with an incarcerated parent, it’s not all “cupcakes and lollipops”. A new study is looking at the problem.

The purpose of the study was to better understand the factors associated with, and effects of, prison visitation for children during maternal and paternal incarceration.

As gatekeepers, caregivers play a pivotal role in the facilitation of parent-child prison visitation. Yet, some caregivers may be more likely to take children to visit than others.

The study, “It’s Not All Cupcakes and Lollipops:’ An Investigation of the Predictors and Effects of Prison Visitation for Children during Maternal and Paternal Incarceration.”

The study found that 65% of children reacted negatively to prison visitation, resulting in crying, emotional outbursts, depressive symptoms, poor attitudes, acting out, and developmental regression, according to interviews with caregivers who have a parent incarcerated in the Arizona Department of Corrections.

One-third of children were reported to have had a positive experience, which included excitement and improved attitudes and behaviors.

“In-prison visitation may be considered a ‘reset’ button for prisoners, caregivers, and children as they attempt to settle the past, discuss the present and plan for the future,” Tasca said.

“At the same time, however, prison visitation can be an arduous undertaking emotionally, physically, and economically for children and caregivers.”

Two primary factors shaped how children responded to visits with an incarcerated mother or father: the institutional environment and the parent-child relationship.

“The punitive nature of corrections often extends to the family, including intrusive search procedures, poor treatment by staff and visiting rooms not conducive to family interactions,” Tasca said.

“Levels of parental attachment also were in issue, with some highly strained because of limited prior involvement and criminal activities.”

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in 2013 there were about two million children with an incarcerated parent, predominately from poor, minority families. About one-quarter to two-thirds of children visit a parent in prison.

For incarcerated mothers, children were accompanied most frequently by a grandmother; for incarcerated fathers, it was the child’s mother who often escorted the child to prison.

Most families of prisoners are fiscally and emotionally overburdened, the study found. More than half of the caretakers of the children of imprisoned parents were on public assistance and lived more than 100 miles from the facility where prisoners were housed.

The study should add to the collateral consequences of incarceration literature by providing greater insight into the imprisonment experience for vulnerable families.

The study is available here.

Does Cohabitation Increase the Risk of Divorce?

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

Child custody is not limited to divorce cases. Cohabitation, couples living together before marriage, has increased by more than 1,500% in the United States over the last 50 years. The rise of cohabitation, presumed to better your chances of staying married, may actually increase the risk of divorce.

In a nationwide survey conducted in 2001 by the National Marriage Project, then at Rutgers and now at the University of Virginia, nearly half of 20-somethings agreed with the statement, “You would only marry someone if he or she agreed to live together with you first, so that you could find out whether you really get along.” About two-thirds said they believed that moving in together before marriage was a good way to avoid divorce.

However, a new study shows that couples who cohabit before marriage – before an engagement or other clear commitment – tend to be less satisfied with their marriages, and are more likely to divorce than couples who do not. The negative outcomes in these relationships are called the cohabitation effect.

The article can be found in the New York Times.

Whether you are ending a long term relationship – or marriage – complicated issues arise. This is especially so if children are involved, and one parent wants to move to another state. There is an alphabet soup of state and federal statutes – UCCJEA, FFCCSOA, and UIFSA – which can significantly impact where you can file or modify interstate child custody and child support orders.

Whether you are divorcing, or ending a long-term relationship, it is important you get expert advice on federal and state laws impacting these complicated interstate issues.

Tips if you’re Divorcing and over 50

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Divorce on Friday, July 10, 2015.

Blame it on the Baby Boomers (why not?) but U.S. News reports that the divorce rate for those over 50 has doubled. There are 7 important things to know about if you are divorcing in your 50s.

I’ve written about the issue of divorces by people over the age of 50 before. A study out of Bowling Green State University published their results in The Journals of Gerontology. Interestingly,48% of the divorcees were in their first marriage.

The U.S. News article mentioned seven things to consider:

1. Alimony.

While younger couples may have alimony ordered to provide financial support for their ex, it is often only long enough for lower earning spouses to get back on their feet. But in long-term marriages, courts will more likely consider longer terms of alimony payments, and even permanent alimony.

2. Your retirement money.

All of your marital assets are equitably distributed in a divorce. Many people overlook the fact that their retirement funds may be marital assets. To the extent your retirement funds are marital, they will likely be split evenly.

3. If you keep the house . . .

No one wants to give up their marital home, it provides security during a stressful period, and has a lot of emotional significance. However, selling the home sometimes makes the most sense. If you decide to keep the house, your spouse is going to get something in his or her column in return.

4. Your kids may still be a factor.

If there is a silver lining in a gray divorce, it is that children’s issues do not play a central role. Custody, visitation, and child support issues are usually out of the picture. But not always.

Many adult children live in the home after college, and parents may want to agree to maintani them. Additionally, many parents provide financial support to adult children who may suffer from disabilities. In Florida, child support can be awarded beyond the age of 18 if a child suffers from a disability.

5. Being bitter benefits no one.

The transitional stage of divorce means that emotions are running high. Try to keep conversations neutral. “Be polite, be civil, but keep it businesslike.”

6. Make new friends.

Getting a divorce can have an impact on relationships beyond the marriage. It can polarize friends and leave some ex-spouses feeling alone and defensive.

Possible outlets for social interaction could be taking up your earlier hobbies, finishing that degree, volunteering, or even getting involved in politics.

7. Get a prenuptial agreement.

If you are even considering another marriage, you must get a prenuptial agreement. Without one, a second divorce can take retirement savings – that have already been split once – and divide them even further.

The U.S. News article can be found here.

Alimony Reform . . . In the Big Apple

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Alimony on Monday, July 6, 2015.

Alimony reform is not just a Florida issue, it’s nation-wide. Recently, New York passed sweeping revisions to its alimony laws. Florida’s dueling alimony reform bills died this year. Is New York a sign of what’s to come?

As the Wall Street Journal reports, the New York Senate’s action came five years after the state adopted legislation on alimony that eventually drew criticism from a wide range of bar associations and matrimonial lawyers.

The law introduces a formula to determine temporary alimony that is paid out between the filing of a divorce and its completion. It was intended to protect low-income New Yorkers by providing predictability and consistency in awards.

It worked well for that group, but drew increasing opposition because it applied to people making more than $500,000 a year. Critics said it failed to account for complicated financial situations, and there were extreme cases of spouses being asked to pay more in child support, alimony and other expenses than their monthly incomes.

The new bill preserves the temporary maintenance guidelines and extends them to post-divorce alimony, but now the formula will apply to income up to $175,000, down from $543,000.

It also provides judges with suggested ranges for the length of alimony awards, including proposing 7 to 10 years for marriages lasting 20 years, and changes the formula if child support is involved.

Formerly, money was awarded for a percentage of the lifetime value of a license or professional degree earned during the marriage. The money was awarded regardless of whether the person ended up switching careers or suffered an injury that prevented him or her from working.

I’ve written extensively on Florida’s efforts to adopt new alimony laws. The most recent effort, after a year of wheeling-and-dealing by lawyers, lawmakers and others, died when the Senate refused to take up the House’s version of the bill.

The Wall Street Journal article is here.

Vaccines & Custody: An Update

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Child Custody on Thursday, July 2, 2015.

Parents argue over vaccinating their kids. This has led to bitter custody battles because Florida allows exemptions from vaccines. California is now different. California has a strict new law on school vaccinations – it eliminates all religious exemptions.

As National Public Radio reports:

“The science is clear that vaccines dramatically protect against a number of infectious and dangerous diseases,” Governor Brown said in a signing statement. “While it’s true that no medical intervention is without risk, the evidence shows that immunization powerfully benefits and protects the community.

Starting July 1, 2016, all children enrolled in California public or private schools or day cares must be vaccinated against whooping cough, measles and other diseases, regardless of parents’ religious and other personal beliefs.

I wrote an article last year about custody rights and vaccinations in Florida. The issue is the intersection of parental rights and religion. Unlike the new California rule, Florida still provides for a religious exemption if vaccinations are in conflict with the religious tenets and practices of the child’s parent or guardian.

In California, it is being reported that “those who opt out will have to be home-schooled or enroll in an independent study program off school grounds.” KQED’s April Dembosky reported last week on the long history behind the anti-vaccination movement:

“From the moment the very first vaccine came on the scene, which was the smallpox vaccine, there has been resistance to vaccines and vaccination,’ says Elena Conis, a history professor at Emory University and author of Vaccine Nation: America’s Changing Relationship with Immunization.

Vaccine disputes are high stakes cases because of the public health issues involved. Americans are again getting sick and dying from vaccine preventable diseases which were once a thing of the past – including measles, mumps and whooping cough.

The CDC is reporting that during 2012, 48,277 cases of pertussis were reported to CDC, including 20 pertussis-related deaths. This was the most reported cases since 1955. The majority of deaths occurred among infants younger than 3 months of age.

There are only two vaccination opinions in Florida, and the facts in each are strikingly similar. In both cases, the parents shared parental responsibility. Both involved chiropractors as parents who were involved in their children’s health care.

Moreover, in both cases the health care professional parent opposed vaccinations. Ironically, the outcomes in the two cases were very different.

Vaccination disputes are interesting and high-stakes cases to watch for as the new school year approaches