Tag: Collaborative Law Agreements

Validity of Prenuptial Agreements

Courts which uphold the validity of prenuptial agreements have singer, Kelly Clarkson, singing a happy tune. A family court judge recently declared her prenup was valid. The ruling means Clarkson holds the reins to a $10.4 million Montana ranch where her former husband, Brandon Blackstock, has been living and refusing to leave.

Prenuptial Agreement

Stronger in the Treasure State

Singer, songwriter, and The Voice coach, Kelly Clarkson, gave her fans a sneak peek of her ranch in rural Montana, where she was sheltering-in-place with her family amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier this year, before ruling on ownership of the ranch, the judge ruled that her music manager and ex-husband, Brandon Blackstock, would have to pay $81,000 per month for the upkeep for the Montana ranch where he was then residing.

Although court papers show that he is only making about $10,000 per month – a far cry from his ex’s $1.5 million monthly income – Clarkson was then paying him $150,000 in spousal support and another $45,000 in child support each month.

Recently the family court rejected Blackstock’s argument that the Montana ranch is marital property and should be shared equally by both exes, according to the Sept. 30 order obtained by E! News. Instead, the judge upheld their premarital agreement, and found that the Montana ranch was Clarkson’s non-marital property identified in the prenup.

The family judge’s ruling means Clarkson takes control of the ranch:

“The Court further finds that the Montana Ranch and the other two Montana properties are not titled in both of the Parties’ names either as joint tenants with right of survivorship or as tenants by the entireties, as required under the PMA to create marital property,” reads the decision. “The Court therefore rejects Respondent’s position that the Montana Ranch and other Montana properties are marital property owned 50/50 by the Parties.”

The situation appears to be complicated for the pair: While Clarkson owns the property, her ex-husband is the one living there.

Florida Prenuptial Agreements

I’ve written about prenuptial agreements before. Prenuptial agreements are not just for celebrity singers and songwriters, and they are about much more than just resolving expensive Montana ranches acquired during a marriage.

Any couple who brings any personal or business assets to their marriage can benefit from a prenuptial agreement. They are important to have in place before a couple starts investing in businesses, properties, and other investments.

But prenups are frequently challenged in court.

Florida has both case law and a statute to help lawyers, judges and the parties determine if a prenuptial agreement is enforceable. For example, Florida adopted the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act. The Act requires that all premarital agreements be in writing and signed by both parties. It is enforceable without consideration other than the marriage itself.

Couples wanting to sign one can enter into a premarital agreement with respect to their rights and obligations in any of their property, whenever and wherever acquired or located; their right to buy, sell, use, transfer, or otherwise manage and control their property and the disposition of their property if they separate, divorce, die, or any other event.

Prenuptial agreements may be challenged in court, as Kelly Clarkson’s former husband tried. When ruling on the validity of a prenup, Florida courts must consider things such as fraud, duress, coercion, in addition to the unfairness of the agreement, and whether there was any financial disclosure.

Mr. Know It All

In order to beef up his claim to marital property, after their separation, Blackstock made a “deliberate choice” to “change his life” and become a full-time rancher, according to an August filing obtained by E! News. At the time, he was “exclusively using” the Montana ranch as his “residence and business.”

Clarkson previously requested permission to sell the ranch because of the “financial burden” of maintaining a property that was only being used by her ex-husband. The costs of maintaining the ranch are $81,000 per month, the court determined.

However, the judge initially rejected her request to sell the Montana site. Blackstock was ordered to pay the hefty property fees beginning in April 2021. For her part, Clarkson was required to pay nearly $200,000 per month to Blackstock, a former music manager, in spousal and child support. He is responsible for “100% of the cost” of transporting their two children (River, 7, and Remington, 5) to and from Montana. He has a 25 percent custodial timeshare.

After the ruling on the prenuptial agreement, Clarkson now has the right to sell the Montana ranch as she is the one who purchased it, according to the report. The ex couple’s divorce has been ‘bifurcated’ meaning the end of the marriage has officially been declared and some financial issues were reserved on.

The NBC Chicago news 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.

 

Happy “Good Divorce Week”?

Well it is the holiday season. According to the Financial Times, it’s “Good Divorce Week” (that’s really a thing). In Britain the aim is to help resolve a divorce in a constructive way and minimize the impact on children. The idea may work well here too.

Divorce

The Long and Winding Road

For most people — especially those going through a separation — a “good divorce” sounds like an oxymoron. Contentious splits are common, and likely to involve a lot of wasted time, anger and money.

But going to court is not the best way to resolve family issues. Mediation and negotiation can be cheaper, quicker and less stressful.

Increasingly, the collaborative process is becoming more widely requested by clients and helps keep costs and anger down.

Why do people in the UK divorce? According to the article, unreasonable behavior is the most common basis for divorce — accounting for 52% of divorce petitions brought by women, and 37% of those by men. However, research says adultery is the most common reason for divorce, followed by couples growing apart, struggling with money issues, abuse and addiction.

Let it Be: Florida Divorce

I’ve written about divorces before, and the “good divorce” too. Historically in Florida, in order to obtain a divorce, one had to prove the existence of legal grounds such as adultery. This often-required additional expenses on behalf of the aggrieved party, only serving to make the divorce process more expensive and cumbersome than it already was.

Florida Statutes actually still provide that these things may be considered under certain circumstances in the award of alimony, equitable distribution of marital assets and liabilities, and determination of parental responsibility. However, case authority shows little consideration from a legal perspective, relegating them to more of an emotional appeal.

In the years leading up to the enactment of “no-fault” divorce, courts often granted divorces on bases that were easier to prove, the most common being “mental cruelty.”

In Florida, 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 before filing the petition, and the marriage is irretrievably broken.

Back in the UK

Sarah Coles, has been researching the costs of divorce in the UK, and how a good divorce can reduce these. For starters, fighting in court can be expensive, so you need to ask yourself whether you really need to fight over who gets the pots and pans.

Mediation can dramatically cut costs of a divorce. If you have a reasonably good and equal relationship with your ex, this brings you together in a room with a single lawyer to hammer out the details.

To enable this, separating couples need to keep the channels of communication open.

Unsurprisingly, it is the financial settlement that causes huge stress. The article advises couples to decide their priorities when it comes to finances and matters relating to their children.

Remember that a bad credit record can affect you both, and that if you move out of the family home, but are still named on the mortgage, you are still jointly liable for the monthly repayments.

The Financial Times article is here.

 

Florida Collaborative Family Law Process

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Agreements on Monday, May 16, 2016.

Divorce is not easy. Fortunately, Florida has joined several other states adopting the Collaborative Law Process, an alternative to traditional notions that divorce must be a war. Here’s what is involved.

I’ve written about various types of alternatives to traditional divorce cases. Under the new collaborative law, the following issues are subject to resolution through the collaborative law process:

-Marriage, divorce, dissolution, annulment, and marital property distribution;

-Child custody, visitation, parenting plans, and parenting time;

-Alimony, maintenance, child support;

-Parental relocation with a child;

-Premarital, marital, and post-marital agreements; and

-Paternity.

There was a recent article in the Tampa Bay Times about the collaborative process and the new law. The Collaborative Law Process Act creates a pathway toward a more civil and less contentious way for couples to change the status of their relationships.

Essentially, each spouse retains a specially trained collaborative attorney. Then, both parties would hire a mental health professional – to guide both of them toward an emotional outcome – and an independent financial adviser.

Then, everyone – the spouses, their attorneys, and the retained professionals – sit down and examine all the relevant issues. Everyone shares documents and information.

This process is private and confidential in stark contrast to a litigated divorce, where testimony and evidence may be considered to be in the public domain.

It is a voluntary process, and all issues are explored and settled via negotiation. Either party can put an end to the collaborative process at any time, but there are consequences to that; if litigation follows a failed collaborative process, neither lawyer can represent their client in the litigation, and the professionals cannot be deposed or testify in that action.

Therefore, unlike any other alternative dispute resolution process, the lawyers “have skin” in working toward resolution versus conflict.

Collaborative law is a new way of doing business for everyone involved. But, there are a few steps that remain before the statutes created by the Collaborative Law Process Act become effective.

The Florida Bar must submit the collaborative rules of procedure and rules of professional conduct that lawyers in the state must follow in order to practice collaborative law, to the Florida Supreme Court for approval and implementation, making the collaborative process more accessible for Florida families.

The Tampa Bay Times article is here.

Collaborative Divorce: Florida Law Update

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Agreements on Thursday, March 10, 2016.

If you wish you could collaborate to reach agreement in parenting and financial issues, now you can. Florida just passed the Collaborative Law Bill. What’s the collaborative process all about?

I’ve written extensively on all types of alternatives to court to end your divorce and paternity disputes. The Collaborative Law Process is a voluntary way to resolve your case by agreement – and without the threat of litigation.

It starts when both sides and their lawyers sign a “collaborative participation agreement,” committing to a cooperative process.

The lawyers must withdraw if the process fails, so lawyers are motivated to resolve your case. It also costs less, takes less time, causes less stress, opens up new possibilities and should be considered by every couple separating.

Last week, the Florida Legislature passed the Collaborative Law Bill. The bill created Florida’s new Collaborative Law Process Act. The Act is based on the Uniform Collaborative Law Rules, which were created by the by the Uniform Law Commission in 2009.

The rules have already been adopted in 12 states, the District of Columbia and three sections of the American Bar Association. Passage of the Collaborative Law Bill puts Florida at the forefront of family law again.

The new law will provide much needed law for beginning, concluding, and terminating a collaborative law process. It also provides statutory privileges and confidentiality of communications to facilitate the process.

The collaborative law movement started in 1990. Today, collaborative law lawyers like myself are helping resolve disputes in every state of the United States, and in every English-speaking country.

Under the new law, the following issues are subject to resolution through the collaborative law process:

-Marriage, divorce, dissolution, annulment, and marital property distribution;

-Child custody, visitation, parenting plans, and parenting time;

-Alimony, maintenance, child support;

-Parental relocation with a child;

-Premarital, marital, and post-marital agreements; and

-Paternity.

In the collaborative process, the spouses and lawyers meet in a series of sessions at one location which is attended, if necessary, by a forensic accountant and mental health professional who are mutually chosen by the lawyers.

Everyone is tasked with discussing a wide range of possible resolutions for both parties; much more than are ever available in litigation.

Because you are designing your own solution, parties to the collaborative process are more pleased with the results and future compliance than those who have to litigate.

Collaborative Law has been available in Florida for years, and now it will be protected by statute. The Effective Date of the new law will be July 1, 2016, but you can start your Collaborative case right now.