Tag: Alimony Modification

Modification of Alimony and Support, and some great Coronavirus information

More and more of my clients are asking about modification of alimony and child support because they or their Ex has lost jobs or seen their incomes slashed. There is also a wealth of information about the coronavirus, and one video in particular is a standout.

Alimony Modification

Life in the Coronavirus Economy

We didn’t just pass a $2 Trillion aid package for no reason. Markets have suffered, restaurants, bars and other businesses across the country have closed or are limping along until the market returns.

Employers have furloughed employees or reduced staffing in order to prevent the spread of the cornavirus and manage the economic impact it has created. For many people, this impacts their bottom line.

What if you or your ex-spouse or co-parent has alimony or child support obligations that can no longer be paid as a result of reduced income? Or what if you have lost your job and need additional support?

The time to act may be now in order to get the right information, preserve your legal rights, even while you are trying to work cooperatively with your Ex for the benefit of everyone in the family.

Florida Alimony and Child Support Modification

I recently spoke at the Florida Bar Family Law Section/AAML Certification Review Course in Orlando on the topic of Modifications. There are a few reasons why alimony and child support can be modified.

Dramatic changes brought on by the Coronavirus in people’s health, inability to go back to work, substantial drops and rises in pay, big gifts or lottery winnings, loss of jobs, furloughing, and early retirement are the major forces behind alimony and child support modification.

In Florida, to modify alimony and child support, you have to show three fundamental things: a substantial change in circumstances, the change was not contemplated at the time of the final judgment of dissolution, and that the change is sufficient, material, involuntary and permanent in nature.

Florida courts have discretion to modify alimony and child support retroactively to the date of the original filing of the action to modify, or supplemental action for modification depending on the cause.

It is important to keep in mind that you have to take the initiative, a court will not increase or reduce or terminate your alimony and child support payments if you have not filed the appropriate pleadings.

Simply not paying alimony and child support could cause the court to issue sanctions, pay the other side’s attorney’s fees, have your driver’s license suspended, or possibly even jail.

Great Coronavirus Information

There’s an excellent and instructive video from Dr. David Price of the Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City who is treating COVID-19 patients. Dr. Price shares information in a Zoom call with his family and friends on protecting yourself during the COVID-19 pandemic. Well worth a look. Some important take aways:

  • Clean your hands.
  • Wear a mask outside – not to prevent breathing in the coronavirus – but because your less likely to touch your face.
  • Stay away from people. Distance yourself from other people outside of your quarantine. Stand a 3-6 feet back.
  • Shrink your social circle. Find your isolation group and keep. It is the people maintaining large social circles who are catching and spreading COVID-19.
  • What if you catch COVID-19?

Throughout the world, the way the COVID-19 disease has been transmitted is primarily through family and your close contacts: dads and sons, husbands and wives, romantic partners, etc. If you develop a fever, isolate yourself from your family and the same rules apply: no-sustained contact to avoid picking it up. Ideally, the sick should have their own bathroom, their own bedroom, one medical mask is needed . . . on the person who is sick.

The video is here.

 

Modifications and Other Divorce Trends for 2020

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, there were in excess of 787,000 divorces in the United States in their last report. If you’re planning on filing for divorce in 2020, or have other family law issues forcing you into family court, here are some recent trends you should know about.

Divorce trends

How We Changed

When a Massachusetts woman, Elizabeth Luxford, found out her husband James already had a wife, she went straight to court, and then got the first-ever American divorce in December 1639. Her husband James was sentenced to forfeit all of his assets, pay a fine, and faced stocks and pillory.

In the colonies during the 17th century, there was on average one divorce a year. Over time, petitions for divorce grew, with 229 in the Massachusetts Bay colony alone between 1692 and 1785.

The Puritans rejected Anglican and Catholic views of marriage as a sacrament, and defined marriage as a civil matter. If a marriage partner violated the marriage agreement, the injured party could escape the chains of matrimony with a divorce.

Since torture was eliminated in family law, there have been some other noticeable trends in divorces and separations.

Increased Time-sharing

With more two-income families, there has been a recent trend toward increasingly shared time-sharing schedules. In Florida, every year there are always rumblings in Tallahassee to mandate equal time-sharing in all cases, but no bills have been signed into law yet.

Florida has had a long-standing public policy which states that each minor child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents separate or the marriage of the parties is dissolved and to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities, and joys, of childrearing.

There is also no presumption for or against the father or mother of the child, or for or against any specific time-sharing schedule, when creating or modifying a parenting plan for the child.

Today, neither parent has a leg up in a custody dispute, which has led to more resolutions that include substantial and even equal parenting time for each party. But while many people want equal time-sharing, a 50/50 time-sharing schedule simply is not practical in many cases.

After a separation or divorce, it is common for parents to live apart, nesting is rare, and some former couples can live more than a few hours apart from each other with traffic. It could be impossible for them to get a child to school and home again every day.

Divorce over 50: The gray divorce

A gray divorce” is a recent term referring to later-in-life divorces where both parties are over age 50. There are unique challenges — legally, financially, and emotionally — for those who divorce when they’re older.

In a gray divorce there may be less time to recover from financial hits such as dividing up the assets, debts and especially retirement benefits. That’s what makes investment management especially critical as the parties face the uncertainties of getting older.

Often, people must retire sooner than they may want to due to health issues or layoffs, which adds to the complexity of older divorces. We are also living longer, and the marital assets must provide for a longer time.

Health care funding also becomes a big issue in older divorces because there is often a time gap between the divorce and when individuals are eligible for Medicare. Medical costs can become a larger portion of the overall budget later in life.

Estate planning issues also come into play. For example, there are new medical directives and powers of attorney which may need to be drafted, new beneficiaries on life insurance, annuities and retirement accounts need to be considered.

The need for trusts and the establishment of other estate planning strategies may change when a couple is no longer together, so those issues need to be addressed too.

Mediation

A growing trend everywhere in the United States, and especially in Florida, is the trend towards alternative dispute resolution. This includes mediation, arbitration and collaborative family law.

The alternative dispute resolution process, such as mediation, arbitration, and collaborative law, are designed to help couples discuss their issues and come to an agreement that is beneficial to everyone, without having to go through a long costly court battle.

The prospect of saving time, money, and minimizing the level of stress involved is perhaps the biggest incentive for people to pursue alternative dispute resolution.

Unlike mediation, arbitration is where a neutral third person or panel considers the facts and arguments presented by the parties and renders a decision. An arbitration can be binding or non-binding. The primary advantage of binding arbitration in non-child family law cases is the conclusiveness which attaches to an arbitration award, which can avoid the expense and delay of litigation.

Modifications of Custody, Alimony, and Support

You might think when a final divorce decree is entered, the case is done. But there is a trend involving more post-judgment filings in family court. In Florida, asking to change something in the final decree or agreement is known as a “modification.” Actions for modifications are supplemental to the original divorce or family law case.

Modifications include cases where parents try to change the time-sharing schedule, argue that alimony should be increased or decreased or terminated because of a substantial change in circumstances.

I recently spoke at the Florida Bar Family Law Section and American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyer’s co-sponsored Certification Review Course in Orlando about modifications. This year’s ‘Cert Review’ course attracted over 1,800 family law attorneys and judges from around the state of Florida.

Is Facebook to blame for the increase in modifications? Some say social media may be a reason for the increase in modifications because it’s a lot easier to see how your former spouse or significant other is doing.

Anyone with a Facebook or Instagram account can spy on the lives of their Ex to see if they are driving around in fancy new cars, eating in expensive restaurants, or if they are involved in a supportive relationship.

The New Jersey article is here.

 

Alimony and Cohabitation

Actress, Alicia Silverstone, is on the hook for large monthly alimony payments following the finalization of her divorce from ex-husband Christopher Jarecki. What’s different is that alimony can end if he cohabitates with someone. What is Florida law on alimony and cohabitation?

Alimony cohabitation

The Wonder Years

According to media sources, the Clueless star is responsible for paying $12,000 per month in spousal support until Jan. 31, 2024, with the due date being the first of every month, according to court documents obtained by ET.

While the 42-year-old actress is required to pay the substantial spousal support sum for the next five years, the agreement provides that if Jarecki, also 42, lives with a “romantic partner” for at least five months out of a 12-month period, Silverstone’s financial obligation “shall immediately terminate.”

The couple also agreed to share joint physical custody of their 7-year old sone, with an equal and fair custody schedule to be agreed upon by both parents.

Florida Alimony & Cohabitation

I’ve written about alimony issues before. An early end to alimony because of cohabitation can be a clause anyone who pays alimony would want. As Silverstone’s divorce shows, very often it can be women paying alimony to men.

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.

The Crush

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

  • The period of time that the obligee has resided with the other person in a permanent place of abode.
  • The extent to which the obligee or the other person has supported the other, in whole or in part.
  • The extent to which the obligee or the other person has performed valuable services for the other.
  • Whether the obligee and the other person have jointly contributed to the purchase of any real or personal property.
  • Evidence in support of a claim that the obligee and the other person have an express agreement regarding property sharing or support.
  • 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. Also, 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.

Clueless

The Silverstone agreement also has a clause stating that if his “housing costs” are reduced by at least 50 percent as a result of sharing a residence with any unrelated adult for five months out of a 12-month span, Silverstone would also be free from her support payments.

The pair started dating in 1997 and tied the knot in 2005. They later welcomed their son in May 2011. When Silverstone filed for divorce earlier this year, the actress’ rep released a statement to ET addressing the nature of their split.

According to court documents obtained by ET at the time, Silverstone cited “irreconcilable differences” as the grounds for the termination of their 13-year marriage.

The ET article is available here.

 

Alimony Modification

Florida law allows you to lower what you pay in alimony each month, increase your alimony payments, or terminate alimony payments altogether. A recent Florida case is an interesting example why alimony modification is a hot issue.

Alimony modification

Florida Alimony Modification

There are a few reasons why alimony can be modified. Dramatic changes in health, inability to go back to work (due to disability, injury, etc.), substantial raise in pay, big gifts or lottery winnings, loss of job, and of course, retirement are the major forces behind alimony modification.

I’ve written about alimony modification before. In Florida, to modify alimony, the payor has to show three fundamental things: a substantial change in circumstances, the change was not contemplated at the time of the final judgment of dissolution, and that the change is sufficient, material, involuntary and permanent in nature.

The Supreme Court of Florida has addressed the impact of retirement on support obligations in Florida. To determine whether a voluntary retirement is reasonable, courts must consider, in part, the payor’s age, health, and motivation for retirement, the type of work, and the age at which others engaged in that line of work normally retire.

In Florida there’s been a debate about whether these reasons for modifying alimony have to be “unanticipated” or can they be reasons everyone knew about. That dispute was recently settled here.

Retirement Accounts

In a recent Florida case, the trial judge and the spouses did not take into consideration the eventual income that the former wife would receive from her retirement and annuity accounts without penalty, once she reached retirement age when they drafted their settlement agreement more than 10 years ago.

Her former husband asked the court for an alimony modification – even though he had not retired and had the ability to pay the required alimony – because the former wife’s retirement accounts had appreciated, and she had reached the age of 59 ½, so she could take distributions without penalty.

The family court judge agreed to grant an alimony modification, and the former wife appealed. The former wife argued that her ability to access the retirement accounts without penalty was not an unanticipated change in circumstances, and alimony may not be modified in Florida for anticipated changes in circumstances.

The appellate court, agreed with the former husband, and sustained the alimony modification. Given that their agreement was silent as to what would happen once the former wife could access the funds in retirement accounts, the retirement accounts had not been taken into consideration to determine the former wife’s income.

The appellate decision is here.

 

Alimony and The Parent Trap

Actor Dennis Quaid and his former wife Kimberly Buffington-Quaid are Breaking Away and are officially divorced. However, reports show that the multi-millionaire actor may not be paying alimony to his former Enemy Mine. Why not?

The Big Easy

According to People, Buffington-Quaid, who filed for divorce in 2016, will receive $2 million in a lump sum payment, another million for property settlements, and $13,750 a month in child support.

According to further reports, her child support payment could increase if Quaid pulls in more than $1.3 million in a year. However, there are no reports that he is paying alimony, other than the cryptic reference to a “lump sum payment”.

The Quaids case may be one in which alimony is not needed.

Florida Alimony

I’ve written about alimony and alimony reform in Florida often. In every dissolution of marriage case, the court can grant alimony to either party – husband or wife.

There are several types of alimony in Florida: bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, durational, or permanent alimony. The court can also award a combination of alimony types.

Alimony awards are normally paid in periodic payments, but sometimes the payments of alimony can be in a lump sum or both lump sum and periodic payments.

In determining whether to award alimony or not, the court has to first make a determination as to whether a party, like Buffington-Quaid, has an actual need for alimony, and whether the other party has the ability to pay alimony.

Once a court determines there is a need and ability to pay alimony, it has to decide the proper type and amount of alimony. In doing so, the court considers several factors, some of which can include:

  • The standard of living established during the marriage.
  • The duration of the marriage.
  • The age and the physical and emotional condition of each party.
  • The financial resources of each party, including the nonmarital and the marital assets and liabilities distributed to each.
  • The earning capacities, educational levels, vocational skills, and employability of the parties and, when applicable, the time necessary for either party to acquire sufficient education or training to enable such party to find appropriate employment.

In the Quaid case, Buffington-Quaid seems to have been awarded a very handsome property settlement, in addition to over $13,000 per month in child support payments.

The Right Stuff

While the Quaids are sharing joint physical custody of their children, Buffington-Quaid was awarded 75% of their time.

From Quaid’s Vantage Point, he made out ok, and is reportedly keeping most of the cars — a 2007 Land Rover, 2012 Mercedes and 2013 Honda.

His ex-wife will also have Something to Talk About, she will keep her 2014 Mercedes. Additionally, the actor will keep their home in Austin, Texas, and they’ll split the sale price of their family home.

The People article is here.

 

The Hoff is Modifying Alimony

The Final Judgment for divorce is not always the end of the case. After the final decree has been signed by the judge, there can be disagreements over custody for instance, and people’s fortunes can change for the worse, leading to alimony modification.

The Hoff

Modifying alimony because of a change in circumstances is a matter actor David Hasselhoff knows well. I wrote before on the actor and his ex-wife, Pamela Bach, reaching a post-judgment agreement lowering his alimony payments to $10,000 a month in alimony, almost half of what he paid her previously.

The Baywatch actor originally filed legal documents in April 2016 to either completely cut off or significantly reduce spousal support to his ex-wife, whom he divorced after 16 years of marriage in 2006.

The Hoff’s request for alimony modification is based on financial reasons. In a later filing, he claimed he had “less than $4,000 in liquid assets” to his name, and that he “recently had to withdraw additional funds from my retirement plan in order to pay for my living expenses.”

The actor had also claimed he’d paid in excess of $2.3 million to his ex-wife since they divorced 10 years ago, not including the money he has spent supporting his daughters, who were teenagers at the time of the split.

Florida Alimony Modification

In Florida, in order to modify alimony, the paying party requesting alimony modification must show three fundamental prerequisites: (1) a substantial change in circumstances, (2) the change was not contemplated at the time of the final judgment of dissolution, and (3) that the change is sufficient, material, involuntary and permanent in nature.

There are many reasons for seeking an alimony modification in your payments: loss of a job, injury and retirement. The Supreme Court of Florida has addressed the impact of retirement on support obligations in Florida.

To determine whether a voluntary retirement is reasonable, courts must consider, in part, the payor’s age, health, and motivation for retirement, as well as the type of work the payor performs and the age at which others engaged in that line of work normally retire. There are additional criteria a court must consider as well.

Back to the Hoff

TMZ reports that Pamela Bach may be seeking alimony modification, only in the other direction: up. According to the article, a rep for Hasselhoff’s ex reports that she worked hard on David’s behalf during their marriage, which is more than enough reason to continue supporting her now.

Pam contributed a number of services toward his career — everything from consulting, accounting and handling administrative duties to keeping up with the house and kids … whom she still considers under her parental care, even at 25 and 27.

The TMZ article is here.

 

Is the Length of Your Marriage Important?

Meryl Streep and Don Gummer were married in 1978, and they’re still together after 39 years. But, Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries broke up after 72 days. What is the impact of the duration of your marriage on divorce?

Quickest Hollywood Marriages

After only one month of marriage, Golnes “GG” Gharachedaghi decided to end her marriage because “certain facts have come to GG’s attention that have made her realize her marriage can no longer continue, and, in fact, should never have happened.”

Britney Spears and Jason Alexander lasted for a whopping 55 hours in January 2004.

Drew Barrymore and Jeremy Thomas were married when she was only 19 after only 6 weeks of dating. They filed for divorce after less than two months of marriage.

Florida and Length of Marriage

In Florida, the duration of marriage plays a very important role in divorce cases. I’ve written about the types of alimony awards available in Florida before. For instance, Florida Statutes dealing with alimony specifically limit the type of alimony awards based on the duration of the marriage.

So, for determining alimony, there is a rebuttable presumption that a short-term marriage is a marriage less than 7-years, a moderate-term marriage is greater than 7-years but less than 17-years, and long-term marriage is 17-years or greater.

Florida defines the duration of marriage as the period of time from the date of marriage until the date of filing of an action for dissolution of marriage.

The duration of marriage is also a factor in property divisions. When a court distributes the marital assets and liabilities between the parties, the court begins with the premise of an equal split.

However, there are times and cases which justify an unequal distribution based on several relevant factors. One of the factors a court can consider is the duration of marriage, in addition to other factors.

Celebrity Marriages

Given how important the duration of marriage can be for awarding alimony, and considering an unequal distribution of property, the marriage between Nicolas Cage and Lisa Marie Presley – in which Cage filed for divorce a mere 108 days later – would have a very different result than the marriage between Kevin Bacon & Kyra Sedgwick, which is going on 26-years.

The eonline article is here.

 

Alimony Modifications & The Hoff

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Modifications on Thursday, May 26, 2016.

Divorce is not the end of the case. After divorce there are disagreements over custody and alimony modification that even David Hasselhoff can’t run away from.

Actor David Hasselhoff is asking a court to modify his alimony order that requires him to pay $21,000 a month in alimony to his ex-wife.

In 2006, Hasselhoff divorced actress Pamela Bach, his wife of 16 years. The couple has two daughters, whose support is above and beyond the monthly alimony payments.

He recently filed a modification request, asking the judge to do away with the required payments, or at least order a substantial reduction. He claims his former wife has done almost nothing to pursue employment since their divorce.

The Hoff also argues that he is now 63 years old, and wants to start making plans for his retirement. He worries that he will not be able to stop working if he is forced to continue paying alimony to his former spouse.

Retirement of a spouse is one of the many reasons people ask courts to modify their alimony obligations. I’ve written about the recent attempt to change the alimony laws to address this issue.

Under the proposed alimony bill, which was recently vetoed by the Governor, retirement would be a substantial change in circumstance if the payor reached the age for eligibility to receive full retirement benefits, or the customary retirement age for his or her occupation and has retired from that occupation; or retires early and the court determines that the retirement is reasonable based upon the obligor’s age, health, motivation for retirement, and impact on the obligee.

In Florida, in order to modify alimony, the obligor must show three fundamental prerequisites: a substantial change in circumstances, the change was not contemplated at the time of the final judgment of dissolution, and that the change is sufficient, material, involuntary and permanent in nature.

The Supreme Court of Florida has addressed the impact of retirement on support obligations in Florida. To determine whether a voluntary retirement is reasonable, courts must consider, in part, the payor’s age, health, and motivation for retirement, as well as the type of work the payor performs and the age at which others engaged in that line of work normally retire. There are additional criteria a court must consider as well.

The People magazine article on David Hasselhoff is here.