Tag: Best Family Divorce Attorney

Child Custody and Timesharing Problems, and Good News on Coronavirus

The need to quarantine has not stopped child custody and timesharing problems from surfacing. In fact, it aggravates these problems as parents grapple with sharing custody and protecting themselves and their children. The Supreme Court of Texas recently resolved one issue, and there is even more good news about the coronavirus.

Child Custody Problems

Solving Child Custody Problems is Big in Texas

The coronavirus outbreak has caused urgent disputes among divorced and separated parents over exchanging the children during school closures. This forces attorneys to file emergency motions.

Many parents following their agreements about exchanging their children during and after spring break discovered a problem: this year school never re-started after spring break, so when do you return the children?

I have been working remotely during the coronavirus crisis, and resolving these problems daily. I have also been fielding a lot of calls from clients and potential clients asking about whether they were going to get their children back from the other parent, and whether they should exchange the children as agreed and ordered.

Many states handle things differently. Recently, the Texas Supreme Court weighed in. The Texas Supreme Court settled the issue of when to exchange when there is no start to school after spring break in an emergency order of the pandemic, ruling:

“For purposes of determining a person’s right to possession of and access to a child under a court-ordered possession schedule, the original published school schedule shall control in all instances. Possession and access shall not be affected by the school’s closure that arises from an epidemic or pandemic, including what is commonly referred to as the COVID19 pandemic.”

Justice Debra Lehrmann said the court agreed on the solution during a teleconference to relieve a source of stress during the outbreak.

Florida Child Custody Problems

I’ve been involved in resolving and have written about child custody problems in Florida before. Here are a few tips for parents to lower or prevent your divorce or separation from ruining your holidays or draining your bank account:

Look at the timesharing schedule in your agreement or final judgment. Become familiar with exchanging children on specific holidays, dates and the times the kids are supposed to be with you, or the other parent.

Make your plans in advance and send a nicely worded confirmation email of the exchange schedule to the other parent to avoid disagreements early on.

Be flexible. Fighting during a time of great stress will only make matters worse, while fostering relationships with extended family is considered in the children’s best interest.

A little pre-planning and communication can save you a lot of emotional and financial expense. This is a national emergency and our children are exposed to the stress from those around them. Don’t make things worse. With that said, there is also . . .

Good News on Coronavirus

There is always good news, even during a pandemic.

  • The IRS has announced that the April 15, 2020 deadline for filing and payment of your individual income taxes has been extended to July 15, 2020.
  • Strangely, your second quarter estimated income tax payments are still due on June 15, 2020.
  • The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) passed. The last Senate version of the bill I read had a small business loan program allowing maximum loan amounts calculated as the lesser of the product of average total monthly payments by the applicant for payroll, mortgage payments, rent payments, and payments on any other debt obligations incurred during the 1 year period before the date on which the loan is made, or $10,000,000.
  • SCIENCE Magazine released an article it published on May 30, 1919 after the Spanish Flu pandemic about lessons learned. Very interesting reading throughout.
  • A potential universal flu vaccine has passed an important set of clinical trials.
  • A patient has been declared ‘cured’ of HIV – and it’s not even the first time, with no trace of infection in his blood 30 months after undergoing a specialized type of stem cell therapy.

The Supreme Court of Texas order is here.

 

Happy Valentine’s Day: See You in Court

Valentine’s Day is known for spending big money on flowers and gifts for wives and girlfriends. But as the Wall Street Journal reports, some people are spending big money to sue their Ex – and not just for divorce.

valentines-day

My Achy Breaky Heart

If someone stole your love away from you this Valentine’s Day, can you sue over it? In a few states, you still can.

These “homewrecker” or “heart balm” laws started in scandal. Unscrupulous women used to try to blackmail wealthy men out of large sums of money, helped along by a law allowing people to sue their Ex after a broken engagement. These ladies were “gold-diggers,” “schemers” and “adventuresses,” and what they were doing was nothing short of a racket.

Today, claims like alienation of affections are cases of wrongful acts which deprive a married person of the affections of his or her spouse — love, society, companionship and comfort of the other spouse.

Alienation of affection lawsuits these days arise when an outsider interferes with a marriage. Defendants in these cases are often an adulterous spouse’s lover, but family members, counselors, therapists, and religious members who have encouraged a spouse to get a divorce have also been sued for these matters.

To win an alienation of affection case, you have to prove (1) that the spouses were happily married and a genuine love and affection existed between them; (2) the love and affection was alienated and destroyed; and (3) the defendant caused the destruction of that marital love and affection.

Florida Heart Balm Laws

I’ve written about heart balm statutes before, especially as they relate to engagement rings.

These common law torts are commonly referred to as “heart balm” statutes, because they permitted the former lovers’ heartaches to heal without recourse to the courts.

The purpose of the heart balm statutes was originally to prevent the perpetration of fraud by litigants who would use the threat of a breach of promise of marriage to force defendants to make lucrative settlements in order to avoid embarrassing publicity.

The Florida heart balm statute, originally passed in 1941, abolishes common law actions for alienation of affections, criminal conversation, seduction, and breach of contract to marry.

The Florida Legislature found that those who break engagements may be “free of any wrongdoing … [and may be] merely the victims of circumstances.”

The preamble declares it to be Florida public policy that the best interests of the people of the state are served by the abolition of the breach of promise action.

Someone that I Used to Know

Nowadays, the right to sue for money as damage for the alienation of affections, criminal conversation, seduction, or breach of contract to marry are abolished in Florida.

But this common law tort is still a viable law in a few states in the United States which still allow alienation of affection lawsuits. These states include Hawaii, Illinois, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Dakota, and Utah.

Does that mean all similar lawsuits are over here? Even though Florida’s heart balm causes of action are abolished, that does not mean you can’t sue for replevin of the engagement ring you bought.

That’s because the giving of an engagement ring is a conditional gift in Florida that is dependent “on a voyage on the sea of matrimony.” If the voyage never gets underway, then the gift is never perfected, and the jilted suitor may seek its return by the traditional legal remedy of replevin. Replevin is still a legal remedy.

The Wall Street Journal article is here.

 

Will the Philippines Legalize Divorce

We sometimes take it for granted that a toxic marriage, which can destroy your life and the lives of your children, can be amicably resolved here. That’s not true everywhere. There’s a new bill to legalize divorce in the Philippines — the only remaining state aside from Vatican City that has no divorce law.

Legalize Divorce

‘Thrilla’ in Manila

Many in the Philippines have been advocating for the passage of a divorce bill.

“Divorce is not a monster that will destroy marriages and wreck marital relationships. Let us be clear about this — the monsters that lead to the demise of a marriage are infidelity, abuse, financial problems, lack of intimacy and communication, and inequality.”

Despite this development, religious groups, pro-family advocates who were present in the hearing, and even fellow lawmakers expressed their disapproval of the measure.

Florida Divorce

I’ve written about attempts to criminalize divorce before. Divorce, of course, is legal in the United States. However, traditionally it was made difficult by having to prove “fault.” This required spouses to prove either adultery; abandonment for a certain length of time; prison confinement; a spouse is physically unable to have sexual intercourse; or that the other spouse has inflicted emotional or physical pain (cruelty).

Florida abolished fault as grounds for filing a divorce. The only ground you need to file for divorce in Florida is to prove your marriage is “irretrievably broken.”

After divorce became legal, the concept of proving fault gave way to no-fault laws to change the way divorces played out in court. No fault laws have reduced the number of feuding couples who felt the need to resort to distorted facts, lies, and the need to focus the trial on who did what to whom. “Reduced” the need, not eliminated the need.

Dragged into the 21st Century

A Philippine church official has expressed surprise over the speedy acceptance of the bill in that would legalize divorce.

“I was surprised at the speed at which the committee accepted the bill. I was expecting exhaustive deliberations and discussions would be conducted on the measure.”

Bishop Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon described the acceptance of the proposed measure as alarming. Earlier, the Catholic Council of the Laity of the Philippines issued a statement expressing opposition to the divorce bill.

The group said the Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly provides that divorce is “immoral” because it introduces disorder into the family and into society.

The CNN article is here.

 

Four Essential Divorce Tips You Might be Missing

Many know that January is a popular month for couples to start consulting with divorce attorneys about dissolutions of marriage. This January is turning out to be no different than in the past. In New Jersey, an online magazine is offering up some essential divorce tips you might be missing.

Divorce Courts

Divorce Planning

Divorce is one of the most consequential decisions you will ever make — in both emotional and financial terms — it’s essential your interests are protected. New Jersey’s online magazine has four essential tips you may be missing if you’re planning a divorce and have already started the research.

Don’t compare yourself to everyone else

One of the biggest mistakes people make when pursuing a divorce is seeking information about the divorce process — or the likely outcome of their own divorce — by comparing themselves to divorced family members and friends.

Even worse, many people look online and compare themselves to what they read from anonymous online sources. It is often difficult to undo the preliminary `research’ clients conduct, as each divorce is different from the outcome of that of a friend.

Comparing your divorce to your friend’s divorce can result in a skewed perception of how a divorce matter will proceed and could result in unrealistic expectations.

Don’t wait to get a lawyer

People often become their own worst enemies, especially if they decide to count on their online research skills or do it yourself divorce experts.

There is no limit to the information you can learn about divorce, custody, alimony and support on the internet. Be aware that some of this information can be sound, and some is just plain wrong.

One of the hardest situations any divorce attorney has seen is that potential client who has scheduled a consultation after they already signed a marital settlement agreement resolving all issues, and it is clear that they signed a terrible deal.

Although not always the case, many of these unfortunate people are then faced with some tough advice that what they did may not be able to be undone.

Make sure your rights are protected and hire an attorney to guide you through the process.

Florida Divorce Planning

I’ve written on many divorce issues and divorce planning. In Florida, a divorce is called a “dissolution of marriage.” Florida is one of the many states that have abolished fault as a ground for dissolution of marriage.

The only requirement to dissolve a marriage is for one of the parties to prove that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.” Either spouse can file for the dissolution of marriage.

You must prove that a marriage exists, one party has been a Florida resident for six months immediately preceding the filing of the petition, and the marriage is irretrievably broken.

The reason for the irretrievable breakdown, however, may be considered under certain limited circumstances in the determination of alimony, equitable distribution of marital assets and debts, and the development of the parenting plan.

The divorce process can be very emotional and traumatic for couples as well as their kids. Spouses often do not know their legal rights and obligations. Court clerks and judges can answer some basic questions but cannot give legal advice.

Only an attorney can provide legal advice. Statutory requirements and court rules must be strictly followed, or you may lose certain rights permanently. Be careful to seek expert advice early in the process and hopefully not after you signed an agreement or went to court on your own.

It’s important to only take legal and financial advice from a lawyer and a trusted financial professional. They will be able to objectively help you through your particular situation with the most effective and beneficial advice and strategies.

Consider other professionals, too

While a family law attorney is essential to protect your interests, other professionals can help with the process.

Consider bringing in a forensic accountant who is familiar with Florida divorces, property divisions, how alimony is arrived at, and how child support is calculated. Also consider that many people use financial advisers in addition to forensic accountants.

Knowing both the financial and tax implications of divorce are extremely important as the decisions you make can impact your financial goals for a lifetime. Financial professionals aren’t the only ones who can help.

In collaborative family law cases we always use a neutral divorce facilitator who is a trained psychologist, and I encourage clients to work with a therapist to get through an emotional process.

Don’t let emotions take over

Resolving a divorce can be an important business decision and emotions can ruin the best deal. Indeed, it’s easy to make emotional decisions during the divorce process.

Clients should try hard to put their emotions aside, which can sometimes be easier said than done, and view the choices they have to make as part of the divorce process as business decisions.

Seeing divorce as a business transaction is a good strategy, but if someone is consumed by anger, guilt or other emotions, they can’t focus on the numbers and is not prepared to negotiate.

The New Jersey article is here.

 

International Academy of Family Lawyers

I am honored to announce my admission as a Fellow in the International Academy of Family Lawyers. The International Academy of Family Lawyers is a worldwide association of practicing lawyers who are recognized by their peers as the most experienced and expert family law specialists in their respective countries.

IAFL

International family law has become predominant in our work as our firm increasingly focuses on complex divorce and jurisdictional issues, interstate and international family law, child relocation, and Hague international child abduction cases.

The primary objective of the IAFL is to improve international family law practice throughout the world. It pursues that objective in a number of ways: creating a network of expertise in international family law around the world providing its fellows with information about both international and national developments in the law; offering advice and assistance to the wider public; promoting law reform and, where possible, harmonization of law.

Fellowship into the IAFL is by invitation only. The process is a rigorous one, designed to ensure that the high level of expertise within IAFL is maintained. Membership has grown steadily, and the number of countries now represented is 60 and IAFL has over 860 Fellows.

More information about the IAFL is available from their website here.

 

Young Folks and Divorce

It’s June, one of the most popular months of the year to marry. So, let’s talk about young folks and divorce. In 2017, around one million couples in the U.S. called it quits. That may seem like a lot of divorced couples, however the rate of divorce — just like the rate of marriage — is down. But is it really?

divorce and marriage

We don’t care about the young folks

What is happening today is that younger married couples are less likely to split up than they once were, driving the trend. But, at the same time, the rate of divorce for older generations has increased in a phenomenon known as “gray” divorce.

Divorces hit a historical high point in 1979, when 22.6 marriages out of every 1,000 broke up, according to researchers at the National Center for Family and Marriage Research at Bowling Green University.

By 2017, the rate had dropped to 16.1 divorces for every 1,000 marriages. That’s a decrease of 29% from the high point and the lowest the divorce rate has been in 40 years.

One cause, researchers believe, is that people are delaying marriage.

“There’s a fear of divorce or a specter of divorce looming large in people’s mind. They don’t want to make a mistake. They’re waiting longer to get married to divorce-proof their marriage.”

In 1963, the average woman married at around age 20, but by 2017, the median age at marriage was 27 for women and 29 for men. Using data collected by the National Center for Health Statistics and the American Community Survey, Bowling Green researchers calculated annual rates of divorce for girls and women ages 15 and older by dividing the number divorced in the past 12 months by the number divorced in the past 12 months plus the number currently married and then multiplying the result by 1,000.

We don’t care about the old folks

When couples choose to divorce in their 30s or 40s, they still have time to recover financially, because adults at that age have several years, if not decades, left in their careers.

But when divorce occurs when a couple is in their 50s or later, careers may either be coming to a close or are completed, and spouses are often living on fixed incomes provided through Social Security or retirement benefits.

I’ve written about this subject before. Here are some things to consider:

Valuing the Marital Estate – By the time a couple enters the golden years, they may have gold to divide, including businesses, retirement funds, and vacation homes. Valuing these assets can be difficult. The value of a business may not be apparent from balance sheets, and the sale or transfer of assets may have tax consequences. As a result, a financial advisor may be an important component in the divorce.

Medical Care – Health insurance is often tied to the employment of one spouse. With aging comes diminishing health, and declining cognitive ability. Courts may need to intervene if one party has dwindling capacity to handle their own affairs.

Long-Term Arrangements – Legal arrangements, such as wills and trusts, need to be reviewed to make sure they reflect post-divorce wishes. The same is true for long-term care, such as medical directives, living wills and trusts.

Retirement Plans – After 20 years of marriage, retirement plans can be substantial . . . and complex. Retirement plans vary in kind, and they all have different restrictions, tax consequences, distribution and vesting rules.

Lifestyle adjustment – Younger couples have time to re-accumulate wealth after divorce, but in Gray Divorces, the spouses have less time to re-establish themselves financially. One or both may be close to or in retirement, and face living on half of what they earmarked for retirement.

Talking only me and you

Researchers also examined the trends by age group and found that the drop in divorces has been driven by younger people. The greatest decrease they observed was among 15- to 24-year-olds, whose divorce rate dropped by 43%. The rate for 25- to 34-year-olds also dropped substantially, a decrease of about 30%.

After that, the rates of “gray divorce” more than doubled. For 55- to 64-year-olds, it climbed from 5 divorces per 1,000 marriages to 15 divorces per 1,000 marriages, and for those 65 and older, it rose from 1.8 to 5.

For comparison, the researchers also calculated marriage rates. In 1970, nearly a decade before the divorce peak, there were 76.5 marriages for every 1,000 unmarried women. In 2017, the rate had dropped to 32.2 marriages for every 1,000 unmarried women, a decrease of 58%.

 “The script was high school, maybe the military or college, and then you settle down,” Dr. Jordan said. “Now, it’s high school, maybe the military or college, maybe some period of self-discovery.”

That doesn’t mean fewer people have been pairing up or even delaying entering into romantic partnerships. But instead of marrying right after high school or college, more couples have simply moved in together, usurping marriage as the most common relationship experience in young adulthood.

Forty percent of women who wedded for the first time between 1980 and 1984 lived with their husband before they married, according to the Bowling Green researchers. From 2010 through 2014, 70% did.

That suggests for more couples, “I do” has morphed into, “I might.” But when they finally pledge “till death do us part,” they mean it.

The Wall Street Journal article is here.

 

American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers

I am honored to announce my admission as a Fellow in the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. Among divorce and family law practitioners, Academy Fellows represent highly skilled negotiators and litigators who represent individuals in all facets of family law.

AAML

The areas of representation include divorce, annulment, prenuptial agreements, marital settlement agreements, child custody and visitation, business valuations, property valuations and division, alimony, child support and other family law issues.

There are currently more than 1650 Fellows in 50 states. To be represented by a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers is to be represented by a leading practitioner in the field of family law.

The 1650 AAML Fellows across the United States are generally recognized by judges and attorneys as preeminent family law practitioners with a high level of knowledge, skill and integrity. Academy Fellows enjoy a reputation for professionalism, competence and integrity.

From my professional and personal experience, I’ve discovered that members of the AAML represent some of the finest attorneys I’ve worked with. I look forward to being active in this prestigious group.

Information about the Academy’s annual Institute, webinars, and the Marital and Family Law Review Course is available at the Florida Chapter’s website here.

The history and more information about the AAML is available on the national site here.

 

Why is this Divorce Different?: Passover Divorces

It’s common knowledge that divorce filings increase after the holiday period from November through New Year’s. We are not alone. In Israel, the rate of people filing for divorce before Passover is three times as high as during the rest of the year.

The Bitter Herbs of Passover Divorces

According to the Jerusalem Post, the reason for this increase in Passover divorces is the number of stresses that surface around the holidays. For example, there could be a question of where a family will hold its Seder.

The stress of the Passover season will sound familiar to anyone who deals with the stress during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

There is a lot of sensitivity around relationships with extended family. Additionally, there is too much to do and greater financial demands during the holidays.

To help alleviate these stressors, it is important to plan in advance.

Having a Sweet Florida Divorce

I’ve written about divorces and their causes before. Passover divorces are similar to any other religious holiday in which you are cooped up in a house with your in-laws during the holidays, when your marriage is having problems. The holidays can take a toll on the best couples.

During the holidays, people try to put on a happy face for the kids and visiting relatives. And after seeing other families on Facebook and Instagram – the idea of perfect looking families haunts many couples who wonder why their lives don’t look as happy.

“Beware that the holiday period invites many hours that couples are together, which can lead to conflicts arising. Don’t make impulsive decisions on ending a connection during the holidays. Persevere until afterwards and then look at the situation with a new perspective.

Is there a way to make Passover divorces sweet like charoset? Whatever the reason for your problems, there are a few things that anyone looking into divorce for the first time needs to know to help them through the process.

Prioritize

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.

Consult

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?

Alternatives

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.

Is there a shank bone in a Vegan Passover?

Back in Israel, in addition to the increase in new applications for Passover divorces, there is often an increase in the number of religious Jewish divorces – called “Gets” – that are finalized.

This is because of “the feeling that the holiday time’s a time to finish things and start fresh. It affects the state of mind.

A wife and a husband hold different religious standards and deciding where the kids should be can push them over the edge. The Jerusalem Post reported how last year a woman insisted on having a vegan Seder and her husband would not agree. This led to divorce.

The Jerusalem Post article is here.

Residency for Divorce

Ireland is currently working on the wording of what the Irish electorate will be asked to vote on in the upcoming divorce referendum. Residency for divorce is an issue about the amount of time a person has to live in a state, and in some cases, live apart from their spouse, before they can file for divorce.

residency for divorce

Luck of the Irish

If the luck of the Irish holds out and the referendum is passed, the government would introduce primary legislation on the time period before you can get a divorce, rather than having it in the Constitution which must be put to a public vote when changes are proposed.

Under the current system, married couples need to have lived apart for at least four years during the previous five years. The new proposals would see that reduced to two years, with the Irish Legislature, the Oireachtas, providing the legislation for this.

The referendum is due to take place on 24 May, the same day as the local and European elections.

Florida Divorce Residency Requirement

Ireland is not alone in having a residency for divorce requirement before spouses can file a case. Most U.S. states for example, have some kind of a durational residency requirement for the plaintiff in a divorce and others add to that a requirement you live apart first.

I’ve written about things to consider when planning for divorce before. Residency for divorce is a very important jurisdictional requirement in every case.

Generally, the non-filing party need not be a resident in the state in order for the court to divorce the parties under the divisible divorce doctrine. The court’s personal jurisdiction over the non-filing spouse is necessary only if the court enters personal orders regarding the spouse.

The durational domicile or residency requirement goes to the heart of the court’s ability to divorce the parties, because the residency of a party to a divorce creates a relationship with the state to justify its exercise of power over the marriage.

What are some of the time limits in the United States? For example, Florida has a six-month requirement for residency before you can file for divorce here.

By contrast, Iowa has a one-year residency requirement for all spouses filing in the state. The same is true for Maryland, which requires that at least one spouse be a Maryland resident for at least one-year before filing for divorce. Maryland law also requires the couple to live apart for at least 12-months before filing for divorce.

The rule sounds easy enough, but failure to adhere to the rule may cause the court to enter a divorce decree without having the proper jurisdiction. In that event the divorce decree could be called into question.

The Irish Journal article is here.

 

Set Up a Divorce Plan

USA Today reports that few people marry and then plan for divorce or death. But based on recent statistics, that is precisely what we should do. What are some things you should do to set up a divorce plan?

Set Up a Divorce Plan

The Statistics

Consider this: The average age of a widow in the U.S. is 59 and women divorce for the first time at age 30 (on average). Add to those statistics the fact that men tend to die five years before their spouses (76 for men versus 81 for women).

Most people have heard the statistic that “50 percent of marriages end in divorce.” That statistic seems to have originated in the 1980’s. Today, it is thought approximately 42-45% of marriages in the United States end in divorce (this does not include legal separations).

But when you break that down by number of marriages, you get some interesting additional facts. For example, while 42-45% percent of first marriages end in divorce, for second marriages around 60% end in divorce. Third marriages? Roughly 73% of third marriages end in divorce.

Planning

I’ve written about things to consider when planning for divorce before. The divorce statistics mentioned above really call for you to set up a divorce plan. A divorce plan should reflect goals, and the USA Today article has some excellent things to consider.

Get a planner

While most people run to a marriage counselor, what you may really need is a financial planner. Research shows that when the “money spouse” dies (typically the male partner), the “non-money spouse” ends up firing her investment manager over two-thirds of the time.

Review your Documents

Review your trust agreement every few years; if you don’t have a trust, get one. You may quickly realize your trust is outdated and go through a costly revision at just the time when you don’t need the added headache and hassle.

Keep 401(k) and IRA beneficiary forms. The bank may lose your beneficiary forms through the passage of time and through mergers and acquisitions.

Use a virtual binder

Consolidate your financial life on an aggregator.  Think of an aggregator as a virtual binder with a vault. All of your assets and liabilities feed into this software, and you have a real-time picture of your net worth and income from all sources.

Get a Postnup

These days, the postnup has become more important than ever. People are marrying when they are older, and better informed about the implications of marriage. Many people have married before. Because the divorce statistics for second and third marriages shown above are so high, more people are looking to sign postnuptial agreements.

The USA Today article on how to set up a divorce plan is here.