Tag: Alimony

Florida Alimony Reform 2021

Florida Alimony Reform 2021 is back in the news as the Legislature once again takes up how alimony and child sharing are handled in family law courtrooms. This year’s bills in the House and Senate have many changes, including the elimination of permanent alimony and an equal timesharing presumption.

The Sausage Factory

As  WLRN reports:

“I was married for 17 years to a man who quit working the minute we were married. I supported about seven different businesses that he ran into the ground. He abused drugs and alcohol. And he was abusive to me and our two children.”

Shultz says she was ordered by the court to pay her ex-husband $5,250 per month for the rest of her life. I cannot retire because I have alimony payments to pay every 30 days,” Shultz says. House Bill 1559 would also allow payments to end when the person providing the alimony reaches full retirement age as determined by the U.S. Social Security Administration—with exceptions.

Under existing case law, someone paying alimony can apply to have their alimony adjusted or terminated upon reaching the normal retirement age for their job or profession.

Florida Alimony

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

Not many people realize there are several types of alimony in Florida: temporary, bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, durational, and permanent. In determining the type, amount, duration, and later modification or termination of an alimony award, the court has broad discretion but may only award alimony after initially determining that one spouse needs alimony and the other spouse is able to pay alimony.

If a court awards or denies an alimony request, it must consider enumerated factors and may consider the adultery of either spouse or any other factor it finds necessary to achieve equity and justice between the parties. An alimony award may be modified or terminated when the circumstances or financial ability of either party changes, including changes due to a receiving spouse’s supportive relationship or a paying spouse’s retirement.

Florida courts can also award a combination of alimony types in a divorce. Alimony awards are normally paid in periodic payments, but sometimes the payments 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 wife or a husband, has an actual need for alimony, and whether the other party has the ability to pay alimony.

Typically, courts consider any type of earned income or compensation — that is, income resulting from employment or other efforts — along with recurring passive income, such as dividends on your investments, in establishing the amount of support you will be responsible to pay.

In Florida, once a court determines there is a need and the income available to pay alimony – sometimes referred to as the 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.

Other factors, such as 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 are also considered.

No Time Like Equal Time?

A very strange component of the Florida alimony bills is that the bills deal with parenting time with children. The proposed bills would create a presumption that 50/50 time-sharing of children would be in the child’s best interest — meaning both parents would have equal time with their child.

Right now, timesharing is analyzed in detail. The existing law requires judges to evaluate several different factors in determining an appropriate parenting plan for a child. Rep. Emily Slosberg (D-Delray Beach) questioned the change during a meeting on the bill:

“So, under your bill, if there is hypothetically one parent who is drug-addicted and another parent who has really been caring for the child—under your bill, this would create a presumption that 50/50 is in the best interest in the child.”

“Absolutely not,” bill sponsor Miami Republican Rep. Anthony Rodriguez (R-Miami) said in response. “I mean, you walk into the courtroom, and there is a presumption of 50/50 time-sharing, but, in that scenario, specifically in the scenario representative, it is obvious that the judge would not grant 50/50 time-sharing to a drug-addicted parent.”

“There is a clear nexus between alimony and time-sharing, and we believe that when you walk into the courtroom, the focus of the divorce should be the children. And there should be an equal time-sharing of such, and if for whatever reason that should not be the case, then the judge can decide that,” Rodriguez says. Rodriguez says his bill allows for the presumption of 50/50 time-sharing to be rebutted by a judge.

Obvious? Philip Schipani is a family law attorney who represents clients who have special needs children. He says judges don’t always have a full understanding of a family’s situation. He worries the presumption created under Rodriguez’s bill will put an extra burden on his clients.

“And right now, I have a pending case—a child with special needs—this presumption if they put a 50/50—the father hasn’t seen the child for four years. Not only [does] the child [have] severe special needs, the husband’s a recovering drug addict who hasn’t seen the child in years. So, then you slap this presumption on, and then I have an extra burden to overcome. Not only do I have to explain the child’s condition, explain the drug addiction, I have to overcome this presumption as well,” Schipani says.

The WLRN article is here.

 

Can Men Get Alimony?

Many spouses wonder whether men are entitled to alimony in a divorce. This is especially true for Dancing With the Stars’ Gleb Savchenko, who responded to his estranged wife, Elena Samodanova’s, alimony demand with an alimony request of his own.

Alimony Reform 2

Dancing with the Lawyers

According to news reports, in three court documents, the Dancing With the Stars pro, 37, asked for joint legal and physical custody of their children.

Additionally, he requested that his wife, Samodanova, 36, provide him with alimony and that she pays his attorney’s fees. He’s seeking to terminate the court’s ability to provide Samodanova with financial assistance as well.

Savchenko and Samodanova announced their separation in November 2020 after 14 years of marriage. Samodanova, the choreographer of So You Think You Can Dance, is seeking primary custody of their children and child support. She also requested that her estranged husband provide spousal support and take care of her legal fees.

Florida Alimony

I’ve written about subject of alimony in Florida. In every Florida dissolution of marriage case, the court can grant alimony to either party – husband or wife. Not many people realize there are several types of alimony in Florida: bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, durational, or for the moment, permanent alimony.

Florida courts can also award a combination of alimony types in a divorce. Alimony awards are normally paid in periodic payments, but sometimes the payments 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 decide as to whether a wife or a husband, has an actual need for alimony, and whether the other party has the ability to pay alimony.

As Savchenko and Samodanova will discover, proving the ability to pay is one of the central issues in their competing claims for alimony.

Typically, courts consider any type of earned income or compensation — that is, income resulting from employment or other efforts — along with recurring passive income, such as dividends on your investments, in establishing the amount of support you will be responsible to pay.

In Florida, once a court determines there is a need and the income available to pay alimony – sometimes referred to as the 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 things like: the standard of living established during the marriage; the duration of the marriage, the age and the physical and emotional condition of each party and the financial resources of each party, including the nonmarital and the marital assets and liabilities distributed to each.

Paying to the Stars

More news reports show the parties attended mediation in an effort to resolve the issues prior to the filing of this action and reached an agreement on several issues.

The controversy, Samodanova believes her estranged husband is capable of paying her alimony because he earns approximately $406,614 a year.

The businesswoman claimed that she is unemployed and stated her only source of income comes from the dance studio she co-owns with the reality star, which brings in $37,250 annually — or $3,105 per month — but has been closed since February 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Samodanova stated that Savchenko’s financial assistance would allow for their children to continue having “a high standard of living.”

Florida Alimony Reform

Meanwhile, two new bills were introduced into the Florida Legislature this week which dramatically impact alimony in Florida.

The bills prioritize certain forms of alimony; bridge-the-gap alimony followed by rehabilitative alimony, over any other form of alimony. The court cannot grant permanent alimony unless, and only if, the parties enter into an agreement for permanent alimony.

The US article is here.

 

2021 Alimony Reform and Equal Timesharing

Two new bills which reform alimony and create an equal timesharing presumption were introduced into the Florida House and Senate after the Legislature opened this week. This is big news for all parents and spouses as the proposals make sweeping changes.

Alimony Reform

New Senate Alimony Bill

Sen. Joe Gruters and Rep. Anthony Rodriguez filed wide-ranging bills (SB 1922 and HB 1559) on Monday that would include eliminating the award of what is known as “permanent” alimony. Lawmakers have repeatedly considered alimony overhauls in recent years, with proposals dying during the 2020 session.

Former Gov. Rick Scott, who is now a U.S. senator, twice vetoed alimony proposals. In his second veto in 2016, Scott blamed an even more-contentious child custody component included in that year’s version of the bill. In 2013, Scott vetoed a different version, objecting that alimony changes could have applied retroactively.

Florida Alimony

In Florida, alimony is awarded to a spouse when there is a need for it, and the other spouse has the ability to pay for alimony.

Currently, Permanent Alimony is awarded to provide for your needs and necessities of life a they were established during your marriage, if you lack the financial ability to meet your needs and necessities of life following a divorce

As I have written before, alimony and equal timesharing reform bill have been filed for many years. Alimony can take various forms. Alimony can be awarded to “bridge the gap” between married and single life. This is usually a short-term form of alimony, and in fact, can’t exceed two years.

Alimony can be rehabilitative – to help a party in establishing the capacity for self-support by developing skills or credentials; or acquiring education, training, or work experience.

Durational Alimony is awarded when permanent periodic alimony is inappropriate. The purpose of durational alimony is to provide you with economic assistance for a time after a short or moderate term marriage, or even long marriages, if there is no ongoing need for support on a permanent basis.

Florida Time-Sharing

Florida has a public policy that each child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents separate or divorce and tries to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities, and joys, of childrearing.

However, there is 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 of the child.

Instead, Florida law considers the best interest of the child, taking into account several factors such as the capacity and disposition of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship, to honor the time-sharing schedule, and to be reasonable when changes are required. Other factors look to the geographic viability of any parenting plan, the moral fitness and mental and physical health of the parents.

Other factors focus on the child, such as the home, school, and community record of the child, or the reasonable preference of the child, if the child is of sufficient intelligence, understanding, and experience to express a preference, and the developmental stages and needs of the child.

New Senate Timesharing Bill

The new Senate bill would dramatically alter the law. Although the bill purports to make the best interest of the child the test for determining all matters relating to parenting and time-sharing, the proposed bill would make it Florida law to presume that equal time-sharing with a minor child by both parents is in the best interest of the child.

Unless otherwise agreed to by the parties, there is a presumption that equal time-sharing is in the best interests of a minor child common to both parties. This subparagraph applies to all actions filed on or after July 1, 2021.

The Senate Bill is here.

 

The Force of Bifurcation in Divorce

The force of bifurcation proceedings in divorce rises again as Star Wars actor, Ewan McGregor and his wife of 22 years, Eve Mavrakis, asked for bifurcation before finalizing their divorce last week. Being declared unmarried in the eyes of the state before signing the final divorce papers is becoming the hottest move in Hollywood.

Bifurcation

The Divorce Menace

The actor filed for divorce in January 2018. But in November 2019, McGregor asked a judge to declare himself and Mavrakis single before they’d finalized their divorce in a move known as bifurcation.

The court must not have kept the details of McGregor and Mavrakis’s proceedings under lock and key, as People magazine has obtained the settlement.

The settlement details obtained by People are pretty revealing: Mavrajus received roughly $14,934 per month in child support for their youngest child, the only one of the four who is under 18. Mavrakis also reportedly receives an alimony amount of $35,868 each month.

Florida Bifurcation

I’ve written about various family law issues before. One of those issues is bifurcation. Sometimes, people need a divorce, and like all members of the Jedi Order (which prohibits marriage), need a divorce fast. But can you get an immediate divorce?

Put another way, when can a family law judge enter a dissolution of marriage final judgment, but reserve jurisdiction to determine all of the other issues in a divorce relating to custody, support, and property rights for later?

In a highly unusual procedure, there’s also a trifurcated dissolution. The family law court first dissolves the marriage. Then separates the remainder of the financial issues, and reserves on timesharing and child support for the children.

The real issue is bifurcation, and it is a split procedure of entering a final judgment to divorce and keep power over the case to determine all the other issues. The practice is rare and limited to special cases.

In general, family law judges try to avoid this kind of split procedure. The law is designed for one final judgment and one appeal of divorce. Splitting the process can cause a lot of legal and procedural problems which result in delay and additional expense to people.

So, in Florida this split procedure is really only used when it is clearly necessary for the best interests of the parties or their children. The convenience of two law professors to remarry would not justify its use.

The Dark Side

McGregor and Mavrakis, who’s a French-born production designer, separated in 2017, so there was an argument that anything McGregor made after that point would not be subject to the division of assets. However, the judge designated his 2018 Disney film, Christopher Robin, for which he earned $3,000,000, community property—meaning that Mavrakis would be entitled to her share of the earnings.

in a judgement purportedly obtained by People, McGregor, 49, and Mavrakis’ divorce was finalized o with a judge appointing both of them joint legal and physical custody of their youngest child.

The two have agreed to continue to “have a flexible custodial schedule to accommodate” their daughter’s schedule, according to the documents.

The two have also split their assets, although any earned income from films or TV series McGregor has starred in the past — such as Fargo, the Star Wars prequels, the Trainspotting films, Big Fish, Moulin Rouge, Emma and Now You See It, among others — are considered community property and all residuals and royalties will be split with Mavrakis.

McGregor and Mavrakis met on the set of the British TV crime series Kavanagh QC, and they were married in 1995. Mavrakis is a production designer who was born in France and raised in China. She also served as a production interpreter on the Chinese set of Steven Spielberg’s 1987 movie Empire of the Sun.

A family source confirmed the two had separated in May 2017 amid news McGregor was spotted kissing his Fargo costar, actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead.

After winning the Golden Globe for best performance by an actor in a limited series or motion picture for television in 2018, McGregor thanked Mavrakis and Winstead, 35, in his acceptance speech, saying, “I’ve always loved being an actor and hanging out with actors and I got amazing actors to work with on this and it wouldn’t be any Emmett or Stassi without David, Michael, Carrie Coon and there would be no Rey without Mary Elizabeth Winstead so thank you very much.”

McGregor pointedly thanked his ex during his acceptance speech, saying, “I want to take a moment to thank Ev, who always stood beside me for 22 years and my four children, I love you.”

The Vanity Fair article is here.

 

Calculating Alimony with De Niro’s Dinero

Calculating alimony with Robert DeNiro’s dinero is what is turning up the heat in his divorce. His wife, Grace Hightower, is seeking temporary alimony and has asked for an emergency order to raise her monthly credit card limit from $50,000 to $100,000 – which De Niro halved.

Alimony Calculation

Raging Bull?

In their response, De Niro’s lawyers claimed that the actor’s financial status had been significantly damaged by Covid-19 after restaurants Nobu and Greenwich Hotel, which he owns stakes in, were forced to close.

The judge was told that, as well as sushi restaurant Nobu losing $4.87m between April and May, De Niro had been forced to borrow from business partners to pay investors ($500,000) because “he doesn’t have the cash”.

The actor’s lawyers said: “He is going to be lucky if he makes $7.5m this year,” adding that he would likely make $2.5m in 2020 and 2021!

Addressing Hightower, they said: “These people, in spite of his robust earnings, have always spent more than he has earned so this 76-year-old robust man couldn’t retire even if he wanted to because he can’t afford to keep up with his lifestyle expense”.

Hightower’s lawyer is calling it raging bull: “I’m not a believer that a man who has an admitted worth of $500m and makes $30m a year, all of a sudden in March he needs to cut down by 50% and ban her from the house.

Florida Alimony

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

Not many people realize there are several types of alimony in Florida: bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, durational, or permanent alimony.

Florida courts can also award a combination of alimony types in a divorce. Alimony awards are normally paid in periodic payments, but sometimes the payments 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 wife or a husband, has an actual need for alimony, and whether the other party has the ability to pay alimony.

As DeNiro’s wife is discovering, proving the ability to pay is one of the central issues in her divorce right now because DeNiro’s income, it is claimed, dropped significantly due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Typically, courts consider any type of earned income or compensation — that is, income resulting from employment or other efforts — along with recurring passive income, such as dividends on your investments, in establishing the amount of support you will be responsible to pay.

In Florida, once a court determines there is a need and the income available to pay alimony – sometimes referred to as the 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.

But, after establishing Hightower’s need for alimony, how much dinero is there to determine De Niro’s ability to pay?

Analyze This…

The Supreme Court justice ruled that De Niro should keep the lower credit card limit while paying Hightower $75,000 to find a summer home for their children. De Niro filed from divorce from Hightower in 2018.

Robert De Niro’s attorneys said that the actor’s finances have taken a huge hit over the course of the coronavirus pandemic. The actor is battling a divorce case against Grace Hightower, his ex-wife who he was with for 21 years, in Manhattan Supreme Court.

De Niro appeared via Skype at an emergency hearing, which was called after De Niro cut Hightower’s American Express credit card limit from $100,000 to $50,000 a month.

According to the Daily Mail, Hightower’s lawyer told the judge that she and her two children with De Niro, Harvey (8) and Elliot (21), had been banned from his New York compound, which is where De Niro has been staying during the pandemic.

However, De Niro’s lawyer, Caroline Krauss, reportedly told the judge that De Niro was forced to make this cut to Hightower’s credit card limit because his finances have been so badly affected by the pandemic.

Krauss told the judge that Nobu and The Greenwich Hotel, the restaurant chain and hotel that De Niro owns, have both been badly hit by the pandemic as they have been closed or partially closed for months with next to no income.

Krauss said that the 2004 prenuptial agreement between De Niro and Hightower means that De Niro is only required to pay $1 million a year to Hightower as long as he is making at least $15 million a year. The terms, Krauss said, state that if his income falls, hers will proportionately fall too.

Krauss said that the money De Niro has earned from last year’s “The Irishman” has largely already been paid out, meaning he will only receive $2.5 million this year.

“These people, in spite of his robust earnings, have always spent more than he has earned so this 76-year-old robust man couldn’t retire even if he wanted to because he can’t afford to keep up with his lifestyle expense.

In response, Page Six reported that Hightower’s lawyer, Kevin McDonough, told the judge: “Mr. De Niro has used the COVID pandemic, my words would be, to stick it to his wife financially.

“I’m not a believer that a man who has an admitted worth of $500 million and makes $30 million a year, all of a sudden in March he needs to cut down [spousal support] by 50 percent and ban her from the house.”

McDonough said that “the idea that Mr. De Niro is tightening his belt is nonsense.” The judge issued a temporary ruling that the credit card limit is kept at $50,000 a month, but that De Niro pays Hightower a $75,000 lump sum so she can find a summer home for her and their two children, while De Niro stays in his compound with his other three children.

De Niro and Hightower were married in 1997 but filed for divorce two years later. However, their divorce never finalized, and they patched things up and renewed their vows in 2004. They officially separated in 2018.

The Insider article is here.

Photo credit: David Shankbone – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

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.

 

Alimony Reform, Marriage Length, and Permanent Alimony

Does the length of your marriage matter for alimony anymore? Some people are asking that after a recent decision by a Florida appeals court re-wrote the rules for measuring what a long-term marriage is. The Regular Session of the Florida legislature convened in January, and alimony reform is a hot topic in Tallahassee.

Trouble in Tallahassee

The Florida House of Representatives is currently convening in Tallahassee to debate House Bill 843 on Dissolution of Marriage. The bill makes a few changes to the divorce statutes, especially alimony.

The bill also redefines the amount and duration for bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, and durational alimony, prohibits ordering a spouse who retired prior to a divorce to pay any alimony, except temporary alimony, unless the court determines otherwise and allows payors to modify alimony up to 12 months before his or her anticipated retirement.

The bill removes presumptions about the length of a short, moderate, or long-term marriage, eliminating permanent alimony (but allowing it if agreed to), prioritizing bridge-the-gap alimony, followed by rehabilitative alimony, before any other form.

Meanwhile, across town in Tallahassee, a recent appeals case from the First District Court of Appeal may throw fuel on the fire. After 16 years and 11 months of marriage, a husband asked for dissolution of the marriage.

The judge granted permanent alimony to the wife. The husband appealed saying the trial court should not have awarded permanent alimony, and should instead have given her durational alimony.

Why? The husband argued they were only married 16 years and 11 months — that’s just one-month shy of the statutory presumption of a “long-term” marriage under Florida statutes. But the trial court treated his marriage as if it were a long-term marriage of 17-years or more – even though it clearly was less.

Florida and the Length of Marriage

In Florida, the duration of a marriage always played 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.

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.

In addition to alimony, 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.

Changes to Alimony?

The appellate court ruled that despite the statute, being one month shy of the statutory definition of “long-term” was a de minimis period given the length of the marriage, and that the family law judge was allowed to overcome the presumption as to the length of the marriage to qualify it as a long-term marriage.

In Florida, we have a rebuttable presumption that a long-term marriage warrants an award of permanent alimony. This court argued that even if the parties’ marriage falls into the “grey area” between a long and a short-term marriage, the family judge can consider other factors beyond the duration of the marriage.

Other factors can include the earning capacity of the recipient of alimony. For instance, there was evidence that the wife’s health precludes employment. While she was just 53 years of age at the time of the divorce, her age was not a valid basis to deny permanent alimony absent evidence her relative youth would allow her to earn income sufficient to support a lifestyle consistent with that she enjoyed during the marriage.

What impact will this decision have on the Legislature, since they are considering scrapping permanent alimony altogether, and re-writing the rules around what the duration of a marriage is?

The new bill will require courts to consider the standard of living established during the marriage, and make specific consideration of the needs and necessities of life for each party after the marriage is dissolved, including a rebuttable presumption that both parties will inevitably have a lower standard of living than that which they enjoyed during the marriage.

The court of appeals opinion is here.

 

Speaking at Marital & Family Law Review Course

Honored to be asked to speak to over 1800 divorce lawyers, judges, hearing officers and other professionals at the prestigious Marital & Family Law Review Course in Orlando from January 31st to February 1st. I will be discussing modifications of parenting plans, settlement agreements, alimony and support. The event is co-sponsored by the Florida Bar Family Law Section and the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.

Cert Review Speech

Modifications

Life happens. When it does, we often have to make changes to our parenting plans, agreements, the alimony we pay or receive, and the amount of support being paid. What do you need to modify any aspect of your divorce agreement or order?

In Florida, a substantial change is what must be proven in court when a parent wishes to modify a previous court order or divorce or separation agreement. It may be the person who must pay alimony or support and recently retired, lost their job, or received a significant pay cut.

A change may come from a whose job now allows them to spend more time at home and would like to spend that extra time with their children. Whenever there has been a substantial change in your circumstances you may be able to ask for a modification of your court order or agreement

Certification Review Course

It is a privilege to be invited to speak again at the annual Marital and Family Law Certification Review course again.

The annual seminar is the largest, and most prestigious advanced family law course in the state. Last year’s audience included over 1,800 attorneys and judges from around the state.

The review course is co-presented by the Family Law Section of The Florida Bar, and the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.

Registration information is available here.

A Slice of Equitable Distribution and Alimony

The wife of Papa John’s founder John Schnatter filed for divorce, claiming her marriage with the unemployed pizza executive is “irretrievably broken,” according to court papers filed in Kentucky. If there is no prenuptial agreement, how big a slice of equitable distribution of the stock and any alimony is Annette entitled to?

Slice of Equitable Distribution

When the Moon Hits Your Eye

Papa John’s is an American pizza restaurant franchise. It runs the fourth largest pizza delivery restaurant chain in the United States, with headquarters in Jeffersontown, Kentucky, a suburb of Louisville.

Papa John’s was founded in 1984 when “Papa” John Schnatter knocked out a broom closet in the back of his father’s tavern, Mick’s Lounge, in Jeffersonville, Indiana. He then sold his 1971 Camaro Z28 to purchase US$1,600 worth of used pizza equipment and began selling pizzas to the tavern’s customers out of the converted closet.

John’s pizzas became so popular he moved into the adjoining space. The company went public in 1993 and a year later it had 500 stores. By 1997 it had 1,500 stores. And in 2009, John got his Camaro Z28 back after offering a $250,000 reward.

Schnatter and Annette Cox, 59, had been married since April 11, 1987, and separated on April 1 of this year, the wife’s attorney Melanie Straw-Boone writer in papers filed in Oldham Circuit Court. Cox called Schnatter a 57-year-old Louisville resident who “is not employed,” according to the boilerplate, three-page petition.

“The marriage between petitioner and respondent is irretrievably broken”.

The couple have two children and share unspecified real estate holdings, the filing said. Schnatter stepped down as CEO in late 2017 after reports surfaced that he uttered a racial slur during a conference call.

Alimony, Equitable Distribution, and the Length of Marriage

In Florida, the duration of marriage is an important topping 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 can also be a large slice of the property division. 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.

Dividing assets between spouses – especially large companies such as Papa John’s – is not as simple as taking a pizza cutter to a hot pie; even with agreements. Very often assets have appreciated over the course of several years. The longer the marriage is, the more a business interest can appreciate. When property appreciates, you need to distinguish between passive and active appreciation. A passive asset could be an investment account which is never traded.

A business, on the other hand, is an active investment, and the percentage a spouse is entitled to may depend on different things. Even with the most sophisticated couples, such as the Schnatter/Cox family, unless you clairvoyant, issues will arise that no one considered in earlier agreements, and are prime for negotiation.

Pizza Ready?

Separate from the divorce case, Schnatter filed a lawsuit Thursday against an advertising firm which was at the center of the racial slur incident.

Schnatter allegedly uttered the slur during a call with advertising firm Laundry Service, which the pizza executive accused of recording him without his consent. The lawsuit claims that Laundry Service leaked excerpts of the conference call, which broke a nondisclosure agreement.

Two weeks ago, Schnatter accused his former company of making substandard pizza. He said his former company has failed in keeping up with its long-time slogan: “Better Ingredients, Better Pizza.”

“I’ve had over 40 pizzas in the last 30 days, and it’s not the same pizza,” Schnatter told WDRB, a Fox affiliate in Louisville, Kentucky. “It’s not the same product. It just doesn’t taste as good.

The NBC News article is here.

 

Proving Income for Alimony in the Big Apple

Former New York City Mayor, Rudolph W. Giuliani, filed for divorce and set off a rancorous battle, in part, over how much income the former Mayor actually makes. Proving his income is important for determining her alimony and can be a tough question in the Big Apple.

income divorce big apple

It’s up to you New York

In caustic legal proceedings the couple has battled over many things like kitchen renovations, splurges of $7,131 on fountain pens and $12,012 on cigars. But the primary issue is Mr. Giuliani’s current income.

His wife believes that Mr. Giuliani left his law firm, Greenberg Traurig, in 2018, a month after the divorce was filed, and chose to work for President Trump pro bono in order to reduce any future alimony.

Mr. Giuliani earned $7.9 million in 2016 and $9.5 million in 2017, funding the couple’s roughly $230,000 a month lifestyle. In 2018, the year he began working for the president, Mr. Giuliani’s earnings dipped to $6.8 million, and he has suggested that this year’s income will be well below that.

Mr. Giuliani now gives his wife $42,000 a month, as well as covering other bills, including the carrying costs for their properties, as ordered by Judge Katz in February. Mrs. Giuliani must pay for the landscaping at their home in Southampton.

Mrs. Giuliani says she had no choice but to take him to court, to prove what he is actually worth financially and to get what she believes she is fairly entitled to.

Florida Alimony

I’ve written about the very public circus-like Giuliani divorce before, and on the subject of alimony in Florida. In every Florida dissolution of marriage case, the court can grant alimony to either party – husband or wife.

Not many people realize there are several types of alimony in Florida: bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, durational, or permanent alimony.

Florida courts can also award a combination of alimony types in a divorce. Alimony awards are normally paid in periodic payments, but sometimes the payments 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 wife or a husband, has an actual need for alimony, and whether the other party has the ability to pay alimony.

Proving the ability to pay is one of the central issues in the Giuliani divorce right now because his income dropped right before he filed for divorce. Typically, courts consider any type of earned income or compensation — that is, income resulting from employment or other efforts — along with recurring passive income, such as dividends on your investments, in establishing the amount of support you will be responsible to pay.

In Florida, once a court determines there is a need and the income available to pay alimony – sometimes referred to as the 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.

But, after establishing a need for alimony, how much income is there to determine ability to pay?

Life in the Big Apple

Mrs. Giuliani said in an interview.

“I feel betrayed by a man that I supported in every way for more than 20 years, I’m sad to know that the hero of 9/11 has become a liar.”

But to hear Mr. Giuliani’s circle and his legal team tell it, Mrs. Giuliani’s endgame tactics are merely an extension of her personality, which they have not and do not describe kindly.

They portray her as being a social climber through marriage, someone who rose from her background as a nurse by marrying twice, before meeting the mayor of New York City.

And once she found her third husband, Mrs. Giuliani was accused of pushing her new husband’s children and many of his nearest friends away in an effort to control him.

“She has put 20 years into this relationship,” said her friend Andrea Ackerman, a real estate agent from whom she has purchased six homes. “She is not folding. Not this time, uh-uh.”

If there is one regret for Mr. Giuliani as his life once again upends in public, it is that his personal problems end up ensnaring the people around him, he said in an interview:

“Everybody’s life around you is being disrupted. You get the pain of that, but also you get the satisfaction of what it means to be in public office — they don’t. There is a certain amount of guilt in that.”

The New York Times article is here.