Month: December 2015

Tips if Divorce Is Your New Year’s Resolution

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Divorce on Thursday, December 31, 2015.

If you are thinking about divorce next year, you aren’t alone. The month of January is sometimes called “Divorce Month.” We typically see an increase in consultations the week after New Year’s.

Whatever the reason, there are a few things that anyone looking into divorce for the first time needs to know to help them through the process and protect their rights.


It’s easy to overlook, but the discipline, routine, and act of regular exercise helps you. If nothing else, exercise triggers your brain to release endorphins and serotonin; which makes you feel happy. Studies continually show the emotional and health benefits of regular exercise.


Line up your priorities for life after the divorce. Is it finding a home? Is it retiring? Getting a job? Managing your special-needs child? Consider writing down your most important goals.


As the current Vice Chair of the Florida Bar Journal, I’ve written and published a significant number of articles in professional journals in the area of marital and family law. Try to learn a little about the issues you may potentially face.


Even if you aren’t certain you need to hire an attorney, or filing for divorce at all, it is a good idea to meet with an expert in Florida’s divorce and family laws. Who better than someone certified by Florida as an expert in marital and family law? We offer free consultations, but even when there is a charge, it is well worth the fee to get accurate information.


Litigation is something to avoid. It’s time-consuming, contentious and expensive. The majority of divorces end up settling. There are many forms of alternative dispute resolution out there, including collaborative divorce, mediation, and informal settlement conferences.


You want to complete your divorce quickly, if you started it last year. If your case has been dragging, the new year is an opportunity to settle your differences and start your new life.


Making the choice to divorce is hard, and not everyone will be by your side to help you. Start to touch base with your contacts, and go to networking events. Ask colleagues to take a look at your updated résumé.


Consider updating your will, trusts, insurance policies, and any other estate plans.

2016 is going to be a roller coaster. This is especially so if divorce is on your calendar. You can manage this crisis.

Do You Have to Take or Keep Your Spouse’s Name?

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Name Changes on Monday, December 28, 2015.

What’s in a name? A lot. Last week the Supreme Court of Japan upheld the constitutionality of a law requiring married couples to use the same last name after marriage. What about after divorce?

A statute requiring Japanese spouses to choose which single family name – the husband’s or the wife’s – to adopt in legally registering their marriage. The family law dates from the Meiji Era (1868-1912).

96% of couples in Japan choose the Husband’s last name

The plaintiffs argued this amounts to gender discrimination because being forced to choose a single surname infringes on personal dignity and the freedom to marry.

Presiding Justice Itsuro Terada said sharing a single family name is a system “deeply rooted in our society” and is meaningful in that it “enables people to identify themselves as part of a family in the eyes of others.”

Although admitting that being pressured to forfeit a maiden name often works to women’s disadvantage professionally, Terada said such hardships can be mitigated, since women are free to use their maiden names in daily life.

Noting that the law gives couples the freedom to decide which surname to adopt, Terada said it is not discriminatory in itself.

Florida is different.

Just because you’ve married, and decided to change your name, doesn’t mean you’ve officially changed your name, or have to by law.

Before you can change your name after you’re married, you’ll need the original (or certified copy) marriage license with the raised seal and your new last name on it.

In order to change your name after you marry, you will then need to update your name with the Social Security Administration first, and then with the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

Changing your name after a dissolution of your marriage is a little different.

Rather than a marriage license, after a divorce you’ll need a certified copy of your divorce final judgment. Make sure it includes a provision that grants your name change.

If it does, this document will serve as your legal proof of name change. If it is missing, you may need to amend your final judgment or possibly file a petition for a change in your name.

Like a marriage license, your divorce decree lets you change your name, but you will need to notify SSA and the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

The Japan Times article is here.

Relocations: Domestic & International

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Relocation on Thursday, December 24, 2015.

A Mother needs to move away with her child. Do courts apply a different standard if the mother’s relocation is to a different country? A British court just answered that question.

In London, the Court of Appeal handed down an important judgment which makes it clear that there is no reason to differentiate between cases of domestic child relocation and international relocations.

Her Majesty’s Court of Appeal in England, commonly known as the Court of Appeal, is the second most senior court in the English legal system, with only the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom above it.

In the recent case, the Court of Appeal had to consider the proper standards to be applied in cases involving a child relocating within Britain, as opposed to another country.

In the case, the mother wished to move from London to Cumbria, taking her 10-year old daughter with her. Cumbria is about a five hour drive from London, so the move would have a big impact.

The father, who has always had a considerable involvement, opposed the relocation. The CAFCASS officer (sort of a social investigator) assigned to the case recommended against relocation.

The trial court granted relocation, placing a lot of emphasis on the 10-year old’s preference. The court ordered timesharing with the father on alternate weekends between Cumbria and London, plus daily contact by phone, and holidays were divided equally.

Domestic relocation cases and international relocation cases have historically been kept separate in Britain, and the courts approach them differently.

In this case, the court held that the same welfare principles dictate the same result in internal relocation cases as it does in international relocation cases.

In the appeal, one parent argued that should not be the binding legal principle, but the best interests of the child should, irrespective of whether the relocation is internal or external.

Although the problems may be worse in cases of external relocation, serious disruption can be caused to established arrangements in situations of moves within the UK.

I’ve written about relocation many times. Florida’s relocation laws are slightly different. Florida has a multi-factor test the court considers to determine the best interest of the child.

There is no longer a legal presumption in favor or against relocations. Instead, Florida courts have to evaluate several factors such as:

The age of the child

The child’s preference

The reasons for moving

History of drug abuse or domestic violence

Whether they are domestic or international, relocation cases are very emotional, fact intensive, require a lot of work, and are very high stakes.

The court decision In Re C is available here.

Divorce Gambling: How to Best Hedge Your Bet

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Divorce on Monday, December 21, 2015.

A new startup will pay for your wedding. But there’s a catch: If you divorce, you pay them back with interest. Can you protect yourself from divorce?

According to Census Bureau statistics. Roughly 40% of first marriages in the United States end in divorce, nearly 66% of second marriages and 75% of third marriages are dissolved in court.

But there are a few options out there for those worried they’ll end up on the wrong side of those statistics.

Divorce Betting

Swanluv is a company that will fund your wedding. The cost of walking down the aisle surges. A survey of 16,000 brides by, found that the average cost of a wedding was $31,213.

Swanluv reviews your relationship, and sets an interest rate based on your compatibility. Swanluv won’t directly profit from the breakup. Cash from divorces cover someone else’s future wedding. Swanluv plans to sell advertisements to generate revenue.

Divorce Insurance

SafeGuard Guaranty Corp., is selling one of the first world’s first divorce insurance product. Here’s how its WedLock product works.

The insurance provides cash for the legal proceedings, or the cost of a new apartment or house. It is sold in “units of protection.” Each unit costs $15.99 per month and provides $1,250 in coverage. So, if you bought 10 units, your initial coverage would be $12,500 and you’d be paying $15.99 per month for each of those units.

Prenuptial Agreements

Professionally, there is only one way to truly hedge your bet. Postnuptial and Prenuptial agreements are an issue I frequently write about. These kind of agreements protect your assets and income from a claim by your spouse in the event of death or divorce.

In the event of your death, even if you don’t make a provision in your will for your spouse, Florida law may give your spouse certain rights to a share of your estate.

If your premarital assets are significant, you can ensure that your spouse will share in it only as much as you wish should you divorce or die. This protects you and the inheritance of your children from a prior relationship.

Agreements protect your income earned during the marriage. For instance, without a prenuptial agreement, you could have to pay alimony to your ex-spouse. An agreement can set that amount – or eliminate it.

Danielle Paquette’s article on Swanluv can be found here.

Reason to Settle #128,543,28… The judge may punch you

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Agreements on Thursday, December 17, 2015.

If you can settle your divorce, you may save thousands in fees and emotional aggravation. There are other reasons to settle. For instance, the judge might get mad and punch you in the head.

The Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog reported about a fight that broke out in a Florida courtroom between the Judge and criminal defense attorney. Today, the Florida Supreme Court rendered its own decision.

I’ve written about disorder in the court before. The moments leading up to the altercation were caught on video in which the judge could be heard threatening to beat up the lawyer.

“If you want to fight, let’s go out back, and I’ll just beat your ass,” Judge Murphy, a retired U.S. Army Reserve colonel, warned Mr. Weinstock before the two headed into a hallway off-camera behind the courtroom, at which point a violent scuffle could be heard.

For divorcing parties, the mediation process is a way to avoid having your own courtroom brawl. Mediation involves a neutral third-party mediator that meets with the lawyers and divorcing couple to reach an agreement on the issues in their divorce.

In addition to having angry judges decide your case, mediation offers a lot of flexibility, in terms of making your own decisions about what works best for your family.

Mediation, however, is not appropriate for all couples. For example, if one spouse is hiding assets or income, you may have to head to court where a judge can ‘take him or her to the woodshed’ so to speak.

Unfortunately for Judge Murphy, his courtroom antics landed him in front of Florida’s Judicial Qualifications Commission, which investigates and hears allegations of misconduct by Florida judges.

The JQC recommended the judge get a public reprimand, be suspended without pay, pay $50,000, get mental health therapy and complete a Judicial Education Courses.

That recommendation did not fly with the Florida Supreme Court. The Florida Supreme Court can accept, reject, or modify the JQC’s recommendations.

One witness, Suzanne Carter, saw Judge Murphy grab Mr. Weinstock’s collar with his left hand and raise his right arm as if he were going to punch Mr. Weinstock. Ms. Carter heard “a bunch of punch, punch,” and Judge Murphy using expletives.

The Supreme Court removed the judge from office:

Because of Judge Murphy’s appalling behavior, we conclude that there is clear and convincing evidence that Judge Murphy engaged in “conduct unbecoming a member of the judiciary demonstrating a present unfitness to hold office.”

Today’s Florida Supreme Court Opinion is here.

Is Florida’s New Expert Witness Rule In Jeopardy?

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Divorce on Monday, December 14, 2015.

Few people know that Florida passed a new law about expert witnesses. There are a couple of Florida cases, it impacts every divorce trial, and we’re all waiting for the Florida Supreme Court to weigh in.

I recently published an article giving a little history about the new Florida statute, along with a review on the three big U.S. Supreme Court cases where the new rule was forged. In the article, I wrote about the possible Constitutional problems with the way the law was passed.

Generally, legislation which encroaches on the Supreme Court’s power to regulate courtroom practice and procedure is unconstitutional, but the Legislature can enact substantive law.

When one branch of government encroaches on another branch, Florida traditionally applies a “strict separation of powers doctrine.” Given that the Evidence Code contains both substantive and procedural provisions, there is a question whether the Legislature violated the separation of powers doctrine.

However, the Constitutional issue will not be known until a case is presented to the Supreme Court. However, the Florida Bar Board of Governors last week voted to reject the new rule, and keep the old rule announced in Frye.

The Board voted 33-9 to reject Daubert, the new rule, accepting the recommendation of the Bar’s Code and Rules of Evidence Committee. The Florida Supreme Court will make the final decision, setting up a possible conflict between the court and the lawmakers, who passed the law in 2013 to adopt Daubert.

The issue has been hotly debated in the legal community, with 688 lawyers and legal groups sending comments to the Bar. The overwhelming majority of respondents favored keeping Frye.

Florida’s amendment of Rule 702 is similar to the way Arizona tossed the Frye standard. After the Arizona legislature enacted a similar Daubert bill, the statute was declared unconstitutional under a separation of powers argument.16 However, the bill pressured the Arizona Supreme Court to amend Rule 702 itself, which it later did.

Until the Florida Supreme Court weighs in on the Constitutionality of the amendment to the expert witness rule, no one is really sure of its future.

An article on the Bar’s vote can be read here.

Surrogacy Contracts: Can You Return the Baby?

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Assisted Reproductive Technology on Thursday, December 10, 2015.

The View’s Sherri Shepherd had trouble conceiving, and hired a surrogate to carry her child. Then Sherri decided she didn’t want it. This holiday season people are asking: “Are babies returnable?”

This should be the kind of case Sherri Shepherd, and her co-hosts on The View, might have discussed on the air with righteous indignation and inflammatory tones!

Who walks away from a baby they paid very big money to bring into the world?

Sherri Shepherd and Lamar Sally married in 2011. They tried to have a child, but after difficulties, contacted Reproductive Possibilities, a company that facilitates surrogacy arrangements.

In Sherri’s surrogacy arrangement, a surrogate carrier was artificially inseminated with sperm from Lamar. Sherri provided no genetic material, but was the intended mother and a party to the contract.

Sherri’s surrogacy contract provided:

Intended Parents may terminate this Agreement in writing at any time for any reason, provided the Gestational Carrier has not undergone the IVF/Embryo Transfer. If the Gestational Carrier has already undergone the IVF/Embryo Transfer and Intended Parents wish to terminate this Agreement, they may only do so once it is confirmed that Gestational Carrier is NOT pregnant.

The contract also directed her to compensate the surrogate for certain expenses, and she paid over $100,000.00 to cover those expenses.

Five months into the pregnancy, Sherri refused to sign the relevant paperwork because she and Lamar were having marital difficulties.

The baby was born on August 5, 2014, and the surrogate went to court to have Sherri be declared the mother of the child. But Sherri responded that her surrogacy contract was against Pennsylvania public policy and unenforceable.

She lost her fight to have her name removed from the birth certificate of the son she had via surrogate, and she must continue paying child support for the 1-year-old boy being raised by her ex-husband.

This is a sad case in an otherwise happy area of law. Infertile parents have an unprecedented opportunity to enjoy the rewards of parenting where before they couldn’t.

I’ve written about assisted reproductive technology before. Florida has set itself apart as a haven for Artificial Reproductive Technology, as our laws make the process less prone to legal problems. Florida is also one of the few states that permits intended parents to establish the parental status to a child born through assisted reproduction without a paternity/adoption process.

However, Florida statutes make detailed provisions that must be followed for a contract for it to be enforceable.

The People magazine article is available here.

Florida Alimony Reform & Working Women

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Alimony on Monday, December 7, 2015.

Alimony reform is a nationwide phenomenon. If alimony reform comes to Florida, it may be too late for a 65-year-old woman ordered to pay her ex-husband $7,000 a month.

Currently, there are a few bills Florida has tried to pass to amend our alimony statute. I’ve written before about the previous attempts, including the current Senate Bill 250.

But Florida is not new. A few states have already limited alimony judgments, especially in cases where the marriage is less than 20 years. However, many state bills, like Florida’s, are in progress, or are constantly evolving.

As Time magazine explains:

Alimony, otherwise known as spousal support or maintenance, is an ongoing payment by the higher-earning spouse to the lower-earning one. It has changed and shifted over the 40 years since the Supreme Court ruled that it had to be applied equally to both genders.

Yet it is still heavily weighted toward men paying women. Only 3% of around 400,000 alimony recipients are male, according to the 2010 census, up 0.5% since 2000. Recipients claimed $9.2 million in payments in 2013 on their tax returns.

Unlike child support, which is common when divorcing couple has kids, alimony awards have always been very rare, going from about 25% of cases in the 1960s to about 10% today, said Judith McMullen, a professor of law at Marquette University. In one study of Wisconsin cases, she found it was only 8.6%.

A more recent phenomenon is the notion of women paying the ex-husbands alimony for life. Now that women are paying alimony more often, they are getting involved in advocating for change.

“It’s unfair for men to pay it, and unfair for women to pay it. But women are much more outraged by it,” said Ken Neumann, a founder of the Academy of Professional Family Mediators.

Tanya Williams, who has been sending a check to her ex-husband for 13 years, is among those who do not understand the concept of “permanent” alimony – when one spouse pays the other indefinitely – and has joined the cause against it.

“There’s no other contract where the liability continues after the contract ends,” said the 52-year-old dentist who got divorced in Florida but now lives in Florida. “You can’t leave your job and say, ‘I still have a need so you have to continue to pay me.’ “

A few states, Massachusetts, Texas and Kansas, limit alimony to helping lower-earning spouses get back on their feet or get further education. The general consensus is that everyone should work, and the only individuals likely to get a longer-term award are those who are disabled or are in retirement.

In New York, for instance, new rules go into effect in January 2016 which further limit alimony based on the duration of the marriage. The rules also restrict the way you can project the future earnings of professionals like doctors.

The Time magazine article is here.

Autism & Custody

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

A father lost custody of his children, in part, because he refused to stop trying to cure autism through homeopathy. What happens when parents disagree over medical care?

As Canada’s National Post reports: the two children suffer from “severe and profound” autism spectrum disorder. They do not speak, are not toilet-trained or able to dress or feed themselves.

In October, the mother asked a court to stop the father from administering homeopathic treatments because he was “looking for a ‘cure’ for autism rather than trying to find a method of managing autism.”

Homeopathy is an alternative therapy that holds that diseases can be cured by giving patients remedies that cause the same symptoms as the original illness.

The Court found:

“Not only were these treatments not effective, but they had negative effects.”

The court also found that the father refused to administer prescribed antibiotics, and kept the child from his mother while attempting to treat the infection with homeopathic remedies. The child’s infection worsened.

The refusal to administer prescribed medication is serious. I’ve written about custody and medical decisions before. Often times it happens in the area of vaccinations.

In Florida, most parents enjoy shared parental responsibility, a relationship in which both parents retain their full parental rights and responsibilities. Parents are required to make major decisions jointly.

Issues relating to a child’s physical health and medical treatment, including administering medication, are major decisions affecting the welfare of a child.

When parents can’t agree, the dispute is resolved in court using the best interests of the child test. Determining the best interests of a child is based on an evaluation of statutory factors affecting the welfare and interests of the child and the circumstances of the family.

The National Post article is here.