Month: July 2016

Hurt Locker: Private School & Support

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Child Support on Wednesday, July 27, 2016.

Can courts order payment of private school tuition as support? “Hurt Locker” star, Jeremy Renner, is finding out. His Ex says it’s mission impossible to get him to pay.

Renner’s ex-wife claims he is behind more than $48,000 in child support for the couple’s daughter Ava, according to court documents obtained by TMZ. The documents also allege the “Mission: Impossible” star refuses to pay Ava’s $1,600 per month preschool tuition, TMZ reports.

However, the actor adamantly denies the accusations, calling them “baseless and completely erroneous,” his rep told the Daily News.

Renner and Pacheco finalized their divorce in 2015 after eight months of marriage. In December, Renner was ordered by a judge to pay $13,000 per month in child support. The pair has joint custody of the little girl.

I’ve written about private school tuition and college expenses, as a form of support before. In Florida, an award of a child’s private school expenses is in the judge’s discretion, and has to be requested in pleadings.

Generally, a Florida court may order a parent to pay for private educational expenses if the court finds that the parent has the ability to pay for private school, the private school expenses are in accordance with the family’s customary standard of living, and it is in the child’s best interest.

If parents are unable to reach an agreement with respect to the payment of private school tuition, a judge will review the evidence you present, and make a decision.

If going to court becomes necessary, the judge will review all of the financial aspects of the case, including each parent’s income, the history of paying certain expenses and the schools themselves.

The New York Daily News article is available here.

Israel’s Divorce Revolution

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Agreements on Monday, July 25, 2016.

Israel passed a law that requires divorcing couples to first try to hammer out agreements through mediation before they can file divorce legal proceedings.

The new law is formally referred to as the “Resolution of Family Disputes Law”, and more commonly known as the “Divorce Revolution” and was enacted on Sunday.

Israel’s Justice Minister, Ayelet Shaked, pushed for the resolution, which aims to settle divorce cases in a peaceful and amicable manner. To this end, both parties will be given four mandatory mediation meetings free of charge.

I’ve written about foreign divorce dispute resolution attempts before. Mediation is another of the methods of alternative dispute resolution available to divorcing couples.

Mediation is essentially a negotiation facilitated by a neutral mediator, to resolve disputes. The mediator supervises, helps find common ground, deal with unrealistic expectations, and offer creative solutions.

Under Israel’s proposal, the first meeting will be held in a therapeutic environment without legal representation. The makeup of the remaining three meetings will be decided based on the initial meeting’s general atmosphere, in accordance with the mediation team’s assessment.

As long as the mediation meetings continue to be carried out amicably, the parties’ lawyers will not be asked to join in. If, however, legal matters arise or if either party requests their presence, they will be asked to take part in them. In cases of involving emergency relief, lawyers will be allowed to participate in all the mediation sessions.

Following the law’s enactment, Justice Minister Shaked issued a statement saying that:

“The new situation will offer an efficient alternative to litigation meetings over such sensitive and complex matters as family disputes. I am confident that this is what parents want most. At the end of the day, they continue to be their parents, even if they are no longer a couple.”

In Florida, most divorces are resolved through the mediation process, and it is usually ordered in most cases filed here. In some counties, it is required.

The Ynet article is available here.

Dividing Premarital Property

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Equitable Distribution on Friday, July 22, 2016.

Bought your home before your marriage, it’s yours right? Not necessarily. Florida has some peculiar property division laws you should be aware of.

Most people believe that if you bought your home before you got married, the property is separate property, and therefore cannot be equitably distributed by a family court.

Florida has some unique rules about premarital property that clouds that general rule. Your spouse may have a right to some of the home’s equity upon divorce despite it being separate property.

Florida’s General Rule

A court must set apart to each spouse that spouse’s nonmarital assets and liabilities. Nonmarital assets include assets acquired prior to the marriage. That is the general rule in Florida, but there may be exceptions.

Appreciation in Value Exception

In dividing marital assets, Florida courts take into account the active appreciation of nonmarital assets during the marriage. Appreciation could have been caused by spending marital funds or management of a property.

Courts can take into account passive appreciation on nonmarital assets, such as inflation, which is not subject to division. But, Florida courts have long agreed that paying down of a mortgage with marital funds on nonmarital property during a marriage is a marital asset.

In Florida, “marital assets” includes the “enhancement and appreciation of nonmarital assets resulting either from the efforts of either party during the marriage or from the contribution to or expenditure thereon of marital funds or other forms of marital assets, or both.”

The Supreme Court of Florida has pronounced that “the trial court must make a finding that the non-owner spouse made contributions to the nonmarital property during the course of the marriage.”

There are certain steps a trial court should employ to determine whether a non-owner spouse is entitled to a share of the passive appreciation of property:

1) Determine the overall fair market value of the home;

2) Determine whether there has been a passive appreciation of the property;

3) Determine that marital funds were used to pay the mortgage, that the non-owner spouse made contributions to the property, and “to what extent the contributions of the non-owner spouse affected the appreciation of the property”;

4) Determine the value of the passive appreciation; and

5) Determine the share of appreciation deemed “marital.”

Prenuptial Agreement Exception

If a couple entered into a valid prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, and the agreement makes a provision for a spouse to obtain an equitable interest in the house over time, a court can consider this in any equitable distribution.

I’ve written about property divisions before. Equitable distribution can be tricky, even when you have clear-cut, nonmarital assets.

Divorce or Long Term Separation?

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Divorce on Monday, July 18, 2016.

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver have been dragging their feet about divorcing for about four years after filing for divorce. Is there any danger in a long term separation?

The Schwarzeneggers separated in 2011, and Maria filed in court for divorce that May. But, more than four year later, the couple has still not signed the divorce documents, according to a TMZ report Saturday.

It’s not known why the couple is not ready to formally quit the marriage even though it’s believed the former couple has agreed a straight split of their estimated $400 million fortune.

They have four children together – Katherine, 25, Christina, 24, Patrick, 22, and Christopher, 18, and have remained friends. Recently, they were seen together at their son’s Patrick college graduation.

I’ve written about some of the problems with long term separations vs divorce before. Some of these may not apply, if as in the Schwarzenegger’s case, there is a written settlement agreement. But don’t be fooled by the ease of a long term separation, it hides some real dangers:

Less Control of Assets. If you are separated, you could be out of the loop financially, and not know what the other spouse is earning, spending, investing, selling or buying.

Opportunity to Hide Assets. Many times one spouse uses separation periods to make assets disappear and increase debt.

Changed Circumstances. When we draft divorce agreements and orders we are usually trying to ‘present value’ assets and liabilities. In a long separation, people lose jobs, change jobs, become ill, retire and these changed circumstances could lower your expected alimony or support payment.

Relocation. Laws vary from state to state. Over times, as circumstances change, new job requirements and new relationships may mean that one of the spouses has to relocate to another state. Your simple divorce can morph into a major battle over the ability to relocate with your children.

Alimony Reform. Alimony change is in the air, and it is only a matter of time before alimony reform changes Florida Statutes. We dodged the bullet after the last few legislative sessions. However, alimony reform seems more like a “when” question, rather than an “if” question.

It is easy to get into the rhythm of a long term separation. People don’t choose ‘separation limbo’, they fall into it because it is easier than confrontation. However, there are some good reasons to be cautious of long term separations.

The TMZ article is here.

How Not to Act During a Divorce

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Divorce on Wednesday, July 13, 2016.

It takes two to make a good marriage, but one to make a bad divorce. Johnny Depp altered his tattoos of his wife to insult her because he’s angry. Does it matter?

Amber Heard went public with allegations that her husband Johnny Depp had abused her during their marriage. The story created some discussion about domestic abuse, victim-shaming and the cult of celebrity.

But how should Depp respond when faced with, what he claims, are groundless, domestic violence allegations: take the high road or insult his Wife in front of the children and in a very public way?

The actor chose the latter of course! Depp just showed off a new altered knuckle tattoo that reads: “SCUM” in place of previous one that read “SLIM”, his wife Amber’s nickname. He has also had his previous bicep tattoo of her, which looked like a pinup girl, blackened out.

The actor has not commented about the ink-job, but what does it matter? After all, tattoos on your knuckles and arms are meant to be seen, and are a constant billboard of what you were thinking, and if you’re an actor it makes world news.

Many people have also commented that this isn’t the first time. Winona Ryder, Depp’s previous love interest, also had a tattoo of honor dedicated to her on his body. But Depp had:

“Winona Forever changed to “Wino Forever”

Funny and classy!

But does altering your tattoos to insult your spouse matter in a divorce?

I’ve written about how to properly behave during the divorce process, and even how good relations with your Ex could save your life. Whether you’re in court or outside of court, how you treat yourself and spouse matters.

Something you should NOT do, for instance, is to attend a court hearing in your full Nazi uniform showing off your Swastika neck tattoo. Some people may find that offensive.


Something you should do is try to start better relations with your spouse. That could save your life. The divorce process forces you to view your spouse as an enemy. It is easy to let those feelings take over, and cause you to say things in front of your children that they should be protected from.

Steps you don’t want to take but should are things like: not yelling in front of your children, taking the high road when dealing with problems, and respecting your soon to be ex-spouse.

The E-news Online article is here.

Heat and Bull in Post-Judgment Agreements

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Agreements on Monday, July 11, 2016.

Dwyane Wade’s ex-wife isn’t over the divorce. She wants to throw out the settlement agreement, and get part of his new Chicago Bull’s contract. When you pull more bull, you can catch more heat.

After the basketball superstar signed a two-year, $47 million deal with his hometown Chicago Bulls, Wade’s ex-wife reportedly said she wants to re-open her divorce settlement.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Siohvaughn Funches asked a judge to throw out her settlement agreement with Wade, and give her a larger portion of his basketball earnings, including part of his new contract.

I’ve written about post-judgment divorce issues in the past. Now that Dwyane Wade is newly remarried, there may be an opportunity for Funches to request financial information from the new spouse.

Funches and Wade settled their divorce back in 2013 with a settlement exceeding $5 million. Now she wants more after learning that Dwyane signed a $47 million deal with the Chicago Bulls.

The two married in 2002 when Wade filed for divorce in 2007 and the court made the split official in 2010. Wade, who grew up with Funches in south suburban Robbins, won sole custody of their two children, Zaire and Zion.

That 2011 custody decision upset Funches, who staged a bizarre sit-in protest in Daley Plaza claiming Wade had left her “homeless.” A non-disparagement clause in the settlement prevents both sides from trading further insults about each other.

According to Funches’ website, she recently completed a self-published autobiography that includes details of how she says she survived the “turmoils of injustice and corruption in the legal system in America.”

The Chicago WGNTV has the story here.

About a Guitar: Wedding Gifts & Divorce

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Equitable Distribution on Thursday, July 7, 2016.

Kurt Cobain’s acoustic guitar from MTV Unplugged is legendary. Equitable distribution of the iconic guitar is at issue between Kurt’s daughter and her husband.

‘MTV Unplugged in New York’ is a live acoustic performance album by Nirvana. The album debuted at number one, was Nirvana’s most successful posthumous release, went 5x platinum, and won a Grammy Award.

If you don’t know Nirvana or the unplugged concert, stop reading and click here. You won’t be sorry.

Frances Bean Cobain, the daughter of Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love, is currently estranged from her husband of 21 months, Isaiah Silva, the frontman for The Eeries.

Isaiah is claiming he owns Kurt’s former Martin D-18E guitar from the famed MTV performance. The guitar is a very rare; only 300 were made. However, the guitar’s sentimental value is immeasurable, as it was the last guitar played by Kurt before his suicide.

Silva is claiming he owns it because it was given to him by his wife as a wedding present, though she denies gifting it to him. Courtney Love takes her daughter’s side, and has said:

“It’s not his to take. It’s a treasured heirloom of the family’s”

I’ve written about equitable distribution in Florida before. Let’s assume that the guitar was in fact a wedding gift from Frances to Isaiah. What happens? In all likelihood, the guitar would be considered marital property, not just Isaiah’s, and would have to be equitably distributed.

Equitable distribution of the rare guitar could involve: selling it to an outside buyer, distributing it to either Isaiah or Frances, or simply sawing it in half for each of them to enjoy.

In Florida, “Marital assets and liabilities” include interspousal gifts during the marriage. In divorce proceedings, the court must divide the marital assets between the parties, and begins with the premise that the distribution should be equal, unless there is a justification for an unequal distribution based on certain relevant factors.

If a judge were to determine that Kurt’s guitar was not a wedding gift from Frances – and given its multi-million dollar and sentimental value, a Cobain family heirloom – it would be Frances’. That’s because courts have to set apart to each spouse that spouse’s nonmarital assets.

Last week, Silva alleged that Sam Lutfi, a former manager of Love as well as Britney Spears, kidnapped him and stole his cellphone. The plot thickens.

The Spin magazine article is here.

Is There a Trump-nup Prenup?

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Agreements on Monday, July 4, 2016.

As a certain presidential candidate might say, “prenuptial agreements are yuuuuuuuuge”. If you’re marrying this summer, you should build a fantastic wall around your assets.

Many people don’t realize that prenuptial agreements serve many purposes; some of them are surprising. The New York Magazine reports on “lifestyle” clauses in prenups. Lifestyle provisions are clauses which can include things like:

– a “no-diaper” rule,

– a clause that specifies no children, or

– “fling fees” for infidelity.

But clauses can also get excruciatingly specific: whether the children will be raised vegetarian; how often a couple should have sex; how much time a couple will spend at their in-laws’ house; which nights a husband can watch football with his friends; how many hours a spouse will work during the week; how long a husband is expected to work before he retires; and, of course, how much weight a wife can gain.

You should know that these kinds of clauses are nearly impossible to enforce in court. They are added to prenuptial agreements to add an aspirational sense to the agreement; a sort of a declaration of what you expect in the marriage.

I’ve written about the need for prenups before. There are many other kinds of clauses in prenups that can be enforced. Prenuptial agreements are often used to limit or eliminate alimony and spousal maintenance awards, to protect assets that are titled in one spouse’s name, or protect you before premarital money becomes mixed.

Donald Trump, reportedly says that his prenuptial agreement with Melania Knauss has made his marriage stronger.

“It’s a hard, painful, ugly tool. Believe me, there’s nothing fun about it. But there comes a time when you have to say, Darling, I think you’re magnificent, and I care for you deeply, but if things don’t work out, this is what you’re going to get.”

The New York magazine article is here.