Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Long Term Marriage and Alimony Reform

If you are paying alimony, about to be paying alimony, or receiving alimony, I am sure that you have read all the latest on alimony reform in Florida. Everyone is talking about these wonderful calculations that will help put surety into the alimony system so that we can give clients floors and ceilings when determining an alimony amount. I am happy that we have floors and ceilings because as lawyers it helps us better predict what will happen in a court room. I have concern that we are moving towards someone’s actual need NOT being the basis for an alimony award. While there will be end dates for alimony which is nice, if you are married for over 20 years and are a high income spouse, your alimony is going to be quite high and could be up to 55% of your net income.
Here is an Example of the floors and ceilings for a 20 year marriage where one spouse earns $30,000.00 and the other spouse earns $200,000.00 would be as follows:

Low End- Alimony for 5 years at a rate of $3,500.00 per month (21% of payor's income)
High End- Alimony for 15 years at a rate of $5,600.00 per month (33.4% of payor's income)

Every year these amounts go up. Under the same scenario the floor and ceiling in a 21 year marriage is $3,700.00 and $5,900.00 per month. Basically, every year that you are married you can expect to be paying an additional 9.5% than divorcing a year earlier. That does not happen with the current alimony statute. The current alimony statute is strictly based upon need versus ability to pay. While I agree with most that that the current statute provides great discretion with judges, it also does not create a situation where a person is entitled to an extraordinary amount of alimony strictly based on their years of marriage. So, the moral of the story is if you are contemplating divorce and you have any alimony exposure, it does not help you to wait to file for divorce. Run do not walk to your nearest attorney’s office to file.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Same Sex Marriage In Florida!!!

Florida on Monday became the thirty-sixth state to allow same-sex marriages, as a state court judge in Miami ordered a Dade County clerk to start issuing licenses to same-sex couples. This is something that Floridians have been waiting a long time for and it has become a reality. While there are still a great deal of people who are opposed to the idea of same sex couples being allowed to marry, the vast majority of Floridians were in favor of lifting the ban on gay marriage. Licenses are expected to be issued by other clerks across the state Tuesday morning, under an order by a federal trial judge. Orange County has started issuing licenses and a Circuit Court Judge has already started conducting ceremonies. Gay couples are now allowed to marry in civil ceremonies and those marriages will be recognized by the State of Florida. With marriage......comes divorce and it is just a matter of time before the Court hears the first "gay divorce". While the reasons for divorce are vast, many people get married too quickly and without really thinking it through and that seems to be a common theme in marriages that are less than 5 years. So..... my gay and lesbian friends I will give you the same advice I have been giving heterosexual couples for years............Think Before You Marry!!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Florida Most Expensive State to File Divorce

I read online recently that Florida is the most expensive State to File for Divorce in. Here are the top ten:

10. Tennessee, $302

9. Utah, $310

8. Pennsylvania, $317

7. Arizona, $321

6. Louisiana, $324

5. New York, $335

4. Illinois, $337

3. California, $395

2. Minnesota, $402

1. Florida, $409

The price is actually higher than that because everything is electronically filed now and if you pay with a credit card, there is a built in "convenience fee". If it is a contested divorce, you are also charged $10.00 for the Court to issue a summons, which means that a contested divorce in Florida actually costs $430.00 to file. Meanwhile, Judges' dockets are more full, clerk's offices are staffed less and attorneys' are charging more per hour for their services. Divorce is definitely expensive, and when you tack on more and more clerk's fees and filing costs, even without a lawyer, a divorce can cost you $1,000.00 or more. I don't think that the cost of the filing of a divorce will stop people from doing it, but its definitely good to know what the costs are before you decide to move forward with a divorce. When consulting with an attorney and they quote you a price for a retainer, make sure that you ask whether the filing fee is included.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Same Sex Divorce Not Granted in Tampa, Florida

In March I blogged about a case in Tampa, Florida wherein a gay couple was wishing to have a divorce granted by a Judge. The couple was married in Massachusetts and had a valid marriage in Massachusetts. They moved to Florida and are now residents of the State of Florida. They came to settlement terms and simply requested that the Judge ratify their agreement and grant them their divorce. The Tampa Judge declined to grant them a divorce based upon the premise that Florida does not recognize their marriage, therefore, a divorce is an impossibility. Therefore, because of different state residency laws as it relates to obtaining a divorce, unless the parties were to establish residency in a State that recognizes their marriage, they will still be married. The decision of the trial court will, of course, be appealed. I will continue to follow this case and provide my readers with updates about the case, but I presume that if at some point the appellate court, or the State Supreme Court overturn the ruling of the trial court, this will open many doors for gay couples in Florida to dissolve their marriages if they so choose. There is no question that laws are different from state to state, and what may good law in one state, may not be good law in another. How is this particular issue resolved when under most circumstances, you most be a resident of the State in which you are seeking a divorce to be granted a divorce? I'm sure this couple is not the only couple within the United States to have this issue and I'm interesting to know how other states have handled it. I guess we'll stay tuned. The reality is that if the appellate process overturns the result of the trial court there will be precedence that Florida recognizes same sex marriages that were solemnized in a state that allows same sex unions.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Same Sex Marriage and Divorce in Florida?

Every now and then I come across an article that I think is interesting to the masses and not only to those people who believe that a divorce or separation is imminent. Today in Hillsborough County a same sex couple is attempting to dissolve their union that was solemnized in Massachusetts a few years ago. They have come to an agreement and are seeking an uncontested dissolution of their marriage. This is difficult and ground breaking because Florida does not recognize same sex marriages.

There is a real problem in this country when some states allow same sex marriages or unions and the couple then relocates to another state that does not recognize their union. They would not be able to get divorced in the State in which they were married because they are no longer residents of that state and they will not be allowed to divorce in their new state because the new state doesn't recognize their marriage. This is a very real logistical problem that Florida and other states that do not recognize same sex marriage are going to be faced with if they haven't faced this issue already. It'll be interesting to see what happens in Hillsborough County and whether or not this issue gets all the way to the Supreme Court of Florida. While there is a ban on same sex unions, there is a question about recognizing those unions that were created in other states. We live in a very transient society and as people move around, this issue is going to come up more and more and sooner rather than later the legislature and the courts are going to have to figure out what to do.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

5 things that will drive divorcees nuts

I Recently came across an article about the things that drive divorce people crazy. I find that the five things that his writer finds to be annoying about their own divorce to be truly universal with most of the people and cases that I deal with on a daily basis. I am constantly telling my clients to take the high road, to not get bogged down in the little stuff and that they should in all circumstances try to shield their children from their divorce and never start an argument in front of them. This is easy to do if you have an ex spouse who is willing to do the same thing. This becomes difficult when the other parent/ex spouse is never seems to do the right thing and is constantly creating issues and problems. When dealing with your ex, its important to remember that hatred and resentment do not help you move on. I'm interested to hear from my readers what drives them crazy about their own divorces.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Designation for other Legal Purposes v. School Designation

Florida is a progressive state in that it does not recognize a primary parent or even a majority parent. We have time-sharing of children and in most cases, except those very unique cases, the parties also share parental responsibility. Because Florida is a progressive state, and because other State and Federal Laws have not caught up to the laws here in Florida, there is a requirement that parenting plans have a parent named as the legal custodian for other legal purposes. The language usually stated in parenting plans is as follows:

"Designation for other legal purposes. The children named in this agreement are scheduled to reside the majority of the time with the father. This majority designation is solely for purposes of all other state & federal laws which require such a designation. This designation does not affect either parents rights & responsibilities under this agreement."

I used to believe that this was a benign provision that was only needed for purposes of Federal laws and other State Laws that require a designation. What I am finding is that there are many people, including attorneys and county schools, who read this provision in a not so benign fashion. They read it to mean that the person who is named for legal purposes is allowed to make decisions related to where a child is to go to school and whose address will be used for school designation purposes regardless of whether there is a provision in the parenting plan regarding school. This is not such a big when there truly is a person who has the majority of the time with the children and is doing the majority of the school-related heavy lifting. This becomes an issue when there is 50/50 or 60/40 time-sharing and someone chooses to move less than 50 miles away rendering a time-sharing schedule virtually impossible because someone believes that their address is what should be used for school designation purposes because they are named as the Legal Custodian in this provision of a parenting plan.

To avoid this, the best thing to do is to designate an address for school designation purposes and say that this is provided that the person remains living within 15 miles of their current residence. Further indicate that in the Legal Custodian Section that this does not apply to address designation for school purposes. I hate to believe that people always have ulterior motives when they are drafting and agreeing to certain provisions in parenting plans, but you have to protect yourself so that in the future, your kids don't automatically end up in a different school because of this supposedly "benign" provision. If you are not a majority time-sharing parent, it may be additionally smart to place a relocation restriction in your parenting plan to avoid your ex from moving far enough away from you to make your parenting plan difficult. Right now, the way that the current statute reads, there is only a restriction from moving more than a 50 mile radius. With the changes that have occurred in our state with time-sharing and moving more towards a situation where in most cases the parties enjoy 50/50 time-sharing, I suspect the geographical restriction will be smaller.