Monday, April 30, 2007

What is Rehabilitative Alimony?

Here in the 5th Circuit there are only three types of alimony which may be awarded in a divorce case. The first is permanent alimony, which needs no further explanation, and the second is rehabilitative alimony. There is also temporary alimony, which is alimony which is awarded to someone during the pendency of the divorce. Many of my clients have questions about what rehabilitative alimony is and whether or not it applies in their case. Rehabilitative alimony is intended to provide assistance to a spouse while he/she regains the ability for self support which may have been interrupted by marriage. In order to be awarded rehabilitative alimony, one needs to show that you have a rehabilitative plan, and that the marriage affected one's ability to be self-supporting which deems the need for support for a certain period of time to allow for the ability to be self-supporting. Without a rehabilitative plan, a party cannot be awarded rehabilitative alimony. The party seeking the support for retraining has the burden of proof as to the retraining plan, the object of rehabilitation, the cost of the plan, and how the plan is workable to make the party self-supporting.

To read more about how alimony is awarded in Florida, visit our website at:

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Money and Marriage

With wedding season upon us, there are plenty of articles and news items being published right now about how to make a successful marriage. One of the biggest issues that couples fight about is money. Whether a couple is wealthy or poor, money can be a major contributing factor in most divorces. The best advice when it comes to money is make sure that there aren't any secrets. If all your money issues and concerns are on the table from the beginning, there are no surprises. Sometimes there is one party to the marriage who racks up credit card debt and fails to tell their spouse about it. This debt is always revealed at some point, and hiding the debt causes more friction and problems then letting the other spouse know about its existence. There are many other tips that can help you avoid some of the money pitfalls that drive a couple to divorce. If you would like to read more about how discussing money with your spouse can assist in the longevity of your marriage, see:

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Think Before Jumping Into Another Marriage

First marriages have a divorce rate of about 50% and second marriages have a divorce rate of about 60%. Generally speaking, 2nd marriages are more likely to fail than first marriages. Most 2nd marriages occur within 3 years of the finalization of the divorce of a first marriage. These statistics are staggering and discouraging. Before jumping into a new marriage after getting out of one, it is a good idea to make sure that all your issues and insecurities that arose out of the first marriage are resolved and you should also make sure that you don't make the same mistakes that led to the demise of your first marriage. The following article talks about how to insure that your 2nd marriage is a success:

Friday, April 27, 2007

How To Deal With Debt After A Divorce

After a divorce is said and done, there are financial issues that always arise that can put a person into a downward spiral to financial ruin. Once the divorce petition is filed, it is important to start thinking of the future and determining what your financial needs are going to be once you are no longer married. Many people think about these issues when its too late and are stuck with outrageous car payments, mortgages, or rents that leave them with a negative balance in their checking accounts at the end of the month. No matter what, after a couple is divorced, one household is split into two, and everyone needs to make adjustments accordingly. In order to insure that a divorce doesn't ruin you financially, here are a few tips:

1. Do not be emotionally attached to your assets. Do not lobby to keep a piece of real estate that you will not be able to carry the mortgage for on your own. It is better to have your interest bought out by the other party, or to sell the property and split the proceeds then end up keeping property because you are emotionally attached to it. If you are solely responsible for the mortgage and are unable to sell the property, if you are having trouble making the mortgage payments, you could end up in foreclosure.

2. Keep the spending on your credit cards to a minimum. The less debt you accumulate during the pendency of a divorce, the less debt you will carry into your new life.

3. Start making lifestyle adjustments from the moment you file your Petition. Do not wait until the Judge signs off on your Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage.

4. Create a budget and stick to it.

5. Keep good records of all expenditures that are joint expenditures so that you can be properly credited for them at the time of Final Judgment.

If you would like to read more tips on how to stay financially savvy in the event of a divorce, see:

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Cyber-Dating and Divorce

Over the past ten years there has been an increasing number of people who met their significant other through the Internet. At first, people were meeting each other in chat rooms and a few were brave enough to meet their chat buddy face to face. For the past couple of years, there are numerous Internet dating sites that are popping up all over the place that insist they are able to weed out people who are incompatible before either party puts any effort into a real relationship. More and more people are willing to admit that they subscribe to these dating websites, and there are more than a few people, including some people from my own group of friends and family, who proudly state that they met their ideal mate through the Internet. Some of these cyber-relationships end up with a trip down the aisle. The question then becomes, are people who met over the Internet more or less likely to stay married? With the boom of Internet dating still in its infancy, I'm not sure that any real research is out there to determine whether the 50% divorce rate here in America will decrease as the number of people who meet online increases. No matter what, relationships are work, and even though a computer screening process may say that you are compatible with a person, until you are actually living together under the same real house rather than a virtual one, there is no telling whether those compatibility tests are a good indicator of a successful marriage.

If you would like to read the ABC article that this blog is based upon, see:

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

How To Be A Good Wife

Back in the 1950s, Good Housekeeping published an article entitled "How To Be A Good Wife". This article is something that every "bride-to-be" receives in her email inbox at some point prior to her marriage. In today's day and age, this article is comical, given the fact that most of the advice is straight out of the June Clever handbook. However, the goal of the article was to give women the tools to make their husbands happy. While retrieving slippers and making sure that the kids are clean and quiet when the man comes home from work may not be the recipe for a happy marriage, in order to insure the health and longevity of a marriage, a couple needs to nurture their relationship. Couples today are busy nurturing careers and their children and often times, a husband/wife comes a distant third on the priority list. The role of a wife has evolved and changed over the past 50 years and the dynamics between husbands and wives has evolved. In order to make a marriage work long term and avoid issues and pitfalls which lead to divorce, a couple needs to nurture their relationship with each other. This doesn't need to be in a 1950s style, but a 2000s style. A family is only as strong as the couple who is at the helm, therefore, remember to take care of one another.

If you would like to read the article that this blog is based, see:

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Grounds for an Annulment in Florida

There are many reasons why a couple or party would prefer to annul their marriage rather than dissolve it. However, there are strict regulations as to which types of marriages are allowed to be annulled.

Florida has no special rule or statute which governs annulment. The proceeding may be brought by the innocent party, and may be brought at any time. In some situations, the courts might allow parents to seek annulment of the marriage of an underage child, when in the best interest of the child, since some other contracts made by under age children may be set aside upon the initiative of their parents or guardians.

Annulment is an appropriate method of termination of the marriage where one of the parties lacked the capacity to contract; either because of a prior existing marriage, extreme intoxication or lack of the requisite mental capacity. A lack of physical capacity to consummate the marriage may also be sufficient grounds for annulment.

If the lack of intent to contract or to fulfill the contract can be proven, the marriage can be annulled. A marriage induced by fraud and deceit can be annulled where the marriage has not been consummated. Misrepresentation of pregnancy, alone, has been held an insufficient reason for annulment. It appears, however, that sexual intercourse operates as a complete ratification of a marriage otherwise voidable.

A marriage entered into under duress may be annulled if the duress dominated throughout the relationship of the parties to the extent that one party was prevented from acting as a free agent.

Despite the fact that the contesting party may prove some of the previously mentioned defects in the marriage, annulment may not be allowed, where that party has ratified the marriage. If the person seeking annulment is aware of the defects and nevertheless confirms the marriage, it is deemed ratified and not later subject to annulment. In effect, the complaining party has waived his right to contest the contract, unless it can be shown that the person ratifying the agreement was not aware of all of the material facts and therefore could not have knowingly waived his rights. See Lambertini v. Lambertini, where the Third District Court of Appeal reversed the granting of an annulment where the parties co-habitated for thirty years, held themselves out as husband and wife, bought property as tenants by the entireties, bore and raised two children and the testimony showed the parties reasonably relied on the marriage.

This information can be found in its entirety at:

Monday, April 23, 2007

Florida Parenting Course

There are many things that have to be filed before a couple can obtain a divorce, whether the divorce is contested or uncontested. In the event the couple has children, pursuant to Florida Statute 61.21, both parties must complete a Florida certified parenting course. This can be done online or at a variety of locations throughout the state. This course is designed to educate, train and assist parents in ways to minimize the emotional impact on you and your children. Each parent must independently take and complete the course before the Court will grant the dissolution of marriage. The following are a list of sites that offer an approved Florida Parenting Course:


Sunday, April 22, 2007

What Is a Health Care Directive?

Its important for a couple after they get married to have a will, especially in the event a Premarital Agreement is executed and the couples are waiving their rights to any inheritance by virtue of a State's Intestacy Laws. When a will is executed, a person should also determine whether they want to execute a Health Care Directive.

A Health Care Directive, also known as a “living will”, usually covers specific directives as to the course of treatment that is to be taken by caregivers, or, in particular, in some cases forbidding treatment and sometimes also food and water, should you be unable to give informed consent due to incapacity. This is a legal document, which is signed, in the presence of a notary, and witnessed. It will be enforceable in the event you are unable to make decisions about your course of treatment due to incapacity.

A Health Care Surrogate is the person whom you name as the person who will carry out your health care wishes pursuant to your Health Care Directive. Additionally, this person will have the power to make health care decisions for you in the event you become incapacitated. A Health Care Surrogate will be designated in writing, and this document will be notarized and witnessed.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Wrong Call

Hollywood is always a mecca for good stories that demonstrate what you shouldn't do during a divorce and custody battle. The latest bizarre story involves a nasty phone message that Alec Baldwin left for his 11 year old daughter. The phone call was brought to a judge and because of the content, a Judge temporarily terminated his visitation rights. There are many issues involved in this case starting with the inability of the parties to get along and foster a loving relationship between their daughter and the other party. The second issue is that a child is just that, a child, and they should not be spoken to in a way that can be hurtful and demeaning, especially when the fate of your visitation rights rests in the hands of a judge. The last issue is that of the leak of the phone message to the public which I see as nothing more than a hurtful deliberate act to kick someone when they are already down. Child custody disputes are private, unique and delicate and need to be handed in such a way by the parties so that the child does not feel the need to choose sides and will not ever put in the middle of whatever issues the couple has with one another. I am only speculating about what may have caused such an outburst by Mr. Baldwin, but I suspect it had a lot to do with his feelings towards his ex-wife and not his daughter.

If you would like to read the story about the phone call that has caused all this trouble for Mr. Baldwin, see:

Friday, April 20, 2007

Grandparent's Rights

I'm often asked whether grandparents have any rights to visitation under any circumstances. The answer to that question is most often no, but there are some rare exceptions here in Florida and a grandparent seeking visitation must show harm to the child. The article below taken from is a good explanation of how grandparent's visitation rights work in Florida.

In 1996, the Supreme Court of Florida ruled that a Florida statute that allowed grandparents to petition a court for visitation with grandchildren, whose parents had denied such visitation, was an unconstitutional deprivation of the parents' right to be free of governmental intrusion into the family. Now, the court has extended that rule to the portion of the statute that would allow visitation petitions when one of the parents has died,
In VonEiff vs. Azieri (Fla. Nov. 12, 1998) the court ruled that the maternal grandparents of a child whose mother had died could not be granted independent visitation rights with their grandchild over the objection of the child's father, where the father was otherwise a "loving, nurturing and fit parent."
Although the father had since remarried and his wife had adopted the child, making for all legal purposes an "Intact" family similar to that of the family in the 1996 case, the court emphasized that their decision was not at all dependent on that fact. Rather, the court ruled that the surviving parent retains all of the authority that the parents originally enjoyed. The decision turned in part on the Constitutional right of privacy set forth in the Florida Constitution. Parents enjoy a right to be free of governmental intrusion into parenting decisions unless a complainant can demonstrate threatened harm to the child. On this point the court said~
Neither the legislature nor the courts may properly intervene in parental decision making absent significant to the child threatened by or resulting from those decisions…This threshold requirement thus ensures that focus will not be on the perceived benefits of a grandparent-grandchild relationship before the need for government intervention is assessed.
The court emphasized that the statute had required courts to grant grandparent visitation if one parent was deceased, without regard to any showing of harm to the child by the denial of visitation, as long as the visitation was in the child's best interests,
The court summarized as follows-,
We recognize that the death of a biological parent may be a traumatic event for a child and that a family may deal with that tragic event in many different ways. Some parents may decide that counseling is beneficial for the Child; others may disagree, Some parents may decide that the child should spend more time with the deceased biological parent's grandparents, siblings or close friends, Others may restrict those relationships. Interaction with the grandparents may help case the pain of loss for both grandparent and child and, thus, be beneficial to the child. However, . - - it is irrelevant, to this constitutional analysis, that it might in many instances be 'better’ or 'desirable' for a child to maintain contact with a grandparent. [reference to quoted phrase omitted]
Although a news report on the case describes advocates for grandparents' rights as "outraged" by the court decision, I would expect that in cases where grandparents already maintain a solid relationship with the grandchildren at the time of a tragedy, then showing harm to the children by attempting to end that relationship would not be difficult. Social service and mental health experts will favor maintaining extended family relationships where they already exist,
In essence, this shifts the burden of persuasion from the neutral "best interests of the child" test, to the grandparents, who now must show a specific harm in the denial of visitation in their particular case, It perhaps shifts the burden of expense as well.
Just what level of harm the courts will require remains to be seen.

To read this article in its entirety, see:

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Preparing for a Custody Evaluation

Often times, a couple will hire an independent third party to prepare and conduct a custody evaluation that will be presented to the Court to help determine who should be awarded primary residential responsibility of minor child(ren). Although this can be an effective tool to assist you in showing that you or your client is the person best suited to be primary residential parent, its important to properly prepare for this evaluation. Here are some tips to help you insure that you or your client puts their best foot forward in a custody evaluation.

1. Always be truthful and honest. A custody evaluator will be able to tell if you aren't being truthful and when you offer up information that is false, if the truth later comes out, this will only hurt you.

2. Be cooperative with the Evaluator. The Evaluator is often seen as the enemy, but they are there to help make a determination as to what is best for your child(ren) and being cooperative shows that you have your child's best interests at heart.

3. Prepare your home prior to any home visits. Before an Evaluator comes to your home, make sure it is free from any safety issues, is clean and make sure to have fresh healthy foods in your refrigerator and pantry. Evaluators want to see that the home environment that you can provide is healthy and safe for the child(ren).

4. Don't prep your child or tell them what to say or talk about with the Evaluator. One of the red flags that comes up during an evaluation is if the Evaluator can tell that a child has been coached as to what to say and what not to say. Explain to the children that there is someone coming over to speak with them about their home, their thoughts about the divorce and feelings for their parents and they should feel free to be open and honest with that person. Coaching is definitely not a good thing and any good Evaluator will read right through a coached child.

5. Be appropriately dressed and well groomed. This goes without saying, but still a good tip to remember.

If you would like to read more about how to prepare yourself for a custody evaluation, visit:

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Pay Your Temporary Support

Babette vs. Bernie: battling over bucks
Courtroom blitz: Babette Kosar, estranged wife of former University of Miami and NFL star Bernie Kosar, filed more papers in their divorce case. She says he has ''refused to provide temporary support'' for her and their four kids, ages 6 to 15, while blowing big bucks. Babette also alleges Bernie was ''addicted'' to unspecified drugs ''for a six-year period,'' adding she fears she didn't get a fair shake from trial judge Lawrence Korda, based on Korda's recent pot smoking arrest.
Babette, who wed Bernie in 1990, petitioned to end the marriage in '05. Bernie says he gives her plenty of money and has no drug problem.
In the emergency motion for support, filed by attorney Terry Ellen Fixel, Babette, 42, says Bernie, 43, ''has expended many millions of dollars in the last year or so'' and has ''given away monies, corporate interests and other assets.'' Yet, she alleges, he travels by private jet, takes expensive vacations and bought a $4 million house near hers in Weston.
Bernie says he plays fair. ''Just this year alone, in the first three months, I've given her over $100,000 in cash and I've paid over $100,000 in bills.'' He adds: ``My friends think I'm an idiot because I'm so generous.''
Babette says she asked Korda in March '06 to order drug testing for Bernie. Korda ''dismissed the wife's concerns, stating that if [Kosar] looks impaired when he goes to pick up the kids, don't let him drive,'' attorney Jacqueline Valdespino says in a motion to disqualify Korda. Babette claims Korda was ``extremely insensitive.''
As for Babette's drug allegations, people ''create brush fires to deflect from their own issues,'' Bernie says.
Korda, 59, benched himself April 11 -- leave of absence from Broward circuit court. He could not be reached for comment. New judge is Larry Seidlin, ringmaster in the legal dispute over AnnaNicole Smith's body.

This article can be read in its entirety at:

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Divorce Support Groups

In the wake of the tragedy at Virginia Tech, I am reminded that devastating events create the need for people to reach out to one another and for our communities to create a safe place for people to go in order to talk about their issues and figure out ways to deal with their stress, anger, terror and fears. My heart goes out to all those people who were directly and indirectly effected by the happenings on the Virginia Tech campus on April 16, 2007 and hope that they can find peace and comfort during this terrible time.

Divorce can also be devastating for people and there is definitely a need for divorce support groups. While friends and family may be able to listen, a support group is a wonderful place to listen to other people who are dealing with problems similar to what you may be dealing with in your own life. The following places provide divorce support groups in the Orlando area:

First Baptist Church 300 North Main Street Windermere , Florida 34786 Phone: 407-876-2234 Contact: Mr. Alan Corry
First Baptist Church of Orlando 3701 L.B. McLeod Road Orlando , Florida 32805 Phone: 407-425-2555 Contact: Dr. Charles Bell
St Luke's United Methodist Church 4851 South Apopka Vineland Road Orlando , Florida 32819 Phone: 407-876-4991 Contact: Ms. Marabeth Dexheimer
Vista Community Church 816 North Broadway Avenue Orlando , Florida 32803 Phone: 407-841-1555 Contact: Ms. Nancy Slay

Monday, April 16, 2007

Most Expensive Celebrity Divorces

There is no greater Hollywood news story than the big celebrity split. Often times, the item that makes the top of the headlines is how much one celebrity pays his/her spouse in form of a settlement. These amounts are often times staggering and cause talk around the water cooler for years. If you are wondering whose divorce cost them the most, Forbes has compiled a list of the 10 most expensive Hollywood divorces and they are as follows:

10. Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall (estimated settlement $15-$25 million)
9. Lionel Richie and Diane Richie (estimated settlement $20 million)
8. Michael and Diandra Douglas (estimated settlement $45 million)
7. James Cameron and Linda Hamilton (estimated settlement $50 million)
6. Paul McCartney and Heather Mills McCartney (settlement possibly $60 million)
5. Kevin Costner and Cindy Silva (estimated settlement $80 million)
4. Harrison Ford and Melissa Mathison (estimated settlement $85 million)
3. Stephen Speilberg and Amy Irving (estimated settlement $100 million)
2. Neil Diamond and Marcia Murphey (estimated settlement $150 million)
1. Michael Jordan and Juanita Jordan (settlement possibly more than $150 million).

If you would like to read the Forbes article about the expense of celebrity divorce, see:

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Enforcement of Your Child Support Award

Many people are stumped as to what to do if the father/mother of their child(ren) is not paying his/her Court Ordered child support. There are various ways to enforce a child support award, and they are as follows:

Whenever one party to a support order is not in compliance, the other party may file a Complaint for Contempt in the same court that issued the support order. The party not in compliance with the court order must come back to that court to defend the action, even if they have moved away. The court has continuing jurisdiction to enforce its own order. If the party who is supposed to be providing the support comes to Court and does not show that he/she had an inability to pay their support, they can be placed in jail until they bring their arrears current, or could face fines and other related charges including having to pay your attorneys’ fees and costs for having to bring such a motion.

Income Deduction Order
Under many circumstances, a Judge may enter an Income Deduction Order against the party who is to provide support. This Income Deduction Order is forwarded to the obligor’s employee and his/her court ordered support will be removed directly from his/her paycheck. Such income interception can be used to seize Internal Revenue Service refund checks, unemployment benefits, insurance settlements, lottery winnings and workers’ compensation benefits.

Suspension of Licenses
One of the most effective tools in enforcing a support order is obtaining a Court Order suspending driver’s license, occupational licenses, passports, or other recreational licenses. Typically, a suspension will not be lifted until all arrears are brought current. Generally speaking, if there is an inconvenience brought upon the person who is not in compliance with a Court Order, they will cure the defective in order to lift that inconvenience.

For more information on how to enforce your child support order, visit

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Grandparent's Rights to Custody

Yet another twist in the Anna Nicole Smith case has arisen in that her mother is now arguing that she should have custody of Anna Nicole Smith's daughter. Whether or not she is motivated by money, fame or actual love for her daughter or granddaughter is up for debate. The real question is whether she has any right to custody if the natural father, is ready, willing and able to step in to be the custodial parent. I don't know whether its in the best interests of the minor child to hand over custody to a man she has hardly any contact with, however, I am unclear as to why Anna Nicole's mother feels she has the standing to be the custodial parent, given the fact that she was estranged from her daughter. I guess we'll await the conclusion of the final chapter in this Hollywood drama. It just makes me wonder and hope that fathers and/or grandparents would step up to the plate to take care of a minor child in cases where there isn't fame and fortune in their favor if they obtain custody.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Separating the Emotional from the Practical In Divorce

There are two things going on when a couple is getting divorced, the emotional aspect and the legal aspect. Sometimes the emotional aspect gets in the way of seeing the reality of the legal aspect of divorce. Since Florida is a no fault state, marital fault does not enter into play when determining equitable division of marital property. Therefore, when someone committed an affair or is "responsible" for the demise of the marriage it has no bearing on equitable distribution or alimony. However, often times, a party believes that they should be "compensated" for whatever harm was caused by the other party. This mistaken belief can cause settlement discussions to crumble and can ultimately force a party into a financially imprudent decision. Its important for your client to attempt to take emotion out of the settlement discussions and think from a rational standpoint. Prior to mediation, enforce what the law is to your client so that when they get into the mediation room, they are fully prepared to enter into a reasonable settlement. Its impossible to separate the emotional from the practical/logical when a couple is divorcing, but whatever steps you can take to encourage your client not to let emotions factor into whether or not to accept a settlement award, the better off financially your client will be.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Necessity of Focusing on the Future

One of the hardest parts of settling a divorce case is getting clients to focus on the future and that the goal of mediation is to come to an agreement that focuses on what both parties need in the future. When communications focus on past behaviors and hurts, its important for the lawyers, and the mediators, to refocus the parties to think about the future because its much more productive. This is a constant problem because of the very nature of family law matters, there is hurt and emotions that sometimes make it tough for the parties to focus on the future. After a divorce, especially when there are children involved, there will be future issues and problems which will need to be addressed and discussing what will happen on holidays, and in the event of remarriage keeps the parties focused on what they want in the future. Additionally, focusing on the future helps the parties possibly take some of the emotion out of the process, which may help them reach a settlement. At the end of the day, the parties both want to come out the other side of a divorce in one piece. A successful mediation can make that possible.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Hindu Traditional Wedding Disaster

In Hollywood, the truth is always more bizarre than fiction. It seems that Elizabeth Hurley may be facing jail time in India for failing to abide by Hindu traditions at her recent wedding in India. A suit has been filed whereby she is accused of making an "outrage" of a group's religion with a malicious intent. Apparently, Ms. Hurley wore leather shoes in a country that believes cows are sacred, and had alcohol prior to the sacred religious rites, among other things. I'm unsure whether Ms. Hurley meant anything malicious when she didn't follow Hindu tradition 100% when she had her marriage, but it seems the failure to follow protocol may cause her not only bad press, but jail time. Just another reason why its important to know all the facts before getting married.

If you would like to read the story about Ms. Hurley's Hindu wedding issues, see:

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Your Divorce, Public Record

Often times couples are distraught to learn that everything they file, and everything that is said in the Courtroom is public record unless those proceedings are sealed by the Court. If one party does not wish to have the proceedings sealed, it will take a hearing and a Court order to seal a case. Often times, one party wants the divorce proceeding to be sealed, while the other party wishes for the information to be public. This could be for leverage in the event someone had an affair, has a drug or gambling problem, or has been financially irresponsible and doesn't want the IRS to find out what has been going on. While I believe that some court proceedings should not be privy to the public, I feel unless the issue is properly before and decided by the Court, all matters should be public.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Its Good to Have a Prenuptial Agreement

There is no secret that 50% of all marriages end in divorce and for celebrity couples, those statistics can be even higher. I encourage the use of marital settlement agreements for those couples who may stand to lose substantial amounts of money or assets in the event they are to get a divorce. A good prenuptial agreement can save you time, money and headaches, if there is a divorce. The divorce between Britney Spears and Kevin Federline is a good example of why its important to have a prenuptial agreement, and the divorce between Paul McCartney and Heather Mills is a good example of how not having a prenuptial agreement can be disastrous. A couple will still need to figure out what is going to happen with their children, but without the bickering and fighting that goes on concerning how to divide assets, the chance of a fast and reasonable settlement is much more likely if you have a Prenuptial Agreement.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Abuse Prevention Month

There is no question that child abuse and neglect is still a prevalent problem in our society. There are many things that an individual can do to stop abuse, from reporting behavior to taking the time to babysit for a friend when they feel that they may be at their breaking point with their children. Children are the future of our country and its important to make a conscience effort to protect them. April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and there is no time like the present to do your part to protect children.

If you want to read more about how you can help put a stop to child abuse and neglect, see the following:

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Sex Change Alimony Case Ruling

On March 28, 2007, I blogged about the request of a Man to have his alimony award suspended because of his wife's sex change operation. Today a Pinellas County Circuit Court Judge rejected his request and stated that the alimony award would remain in place. The reasoning was that Florida law regards post-operative transgendered persons as maintaining the same sex that they were born with, therefore the reassignment surgery changed nothing. The Judge stated, "Despite the surgery and the fact that the Respondent holds herself out to be a male, Florida recognizes the immutable female traits determined at birth," St. Arnold wrote. "Whether advances in medical science support a change in the meaning commonly attributed to the terms 'male' and 'female' as they are used in Florida, is a question that raises issues of public policy that should be addressed by the Legislature, not the Florida courts." I think that the Judge got the ruling right, but I'm sure this isn't the last we hear of cases such as this one.

If you would like to read the story in its entirety, you can find it at:

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Military Divorce Rates Rising

Unfortunately, the war in Iraq has taken a toll on military families. Often times the strain of a husband or wife being shipped off to a foreign country for long period of times can lead to divorce. Additionally, many soldiers are effected by the events they saw and participated in while serving our country which makes them a different person once they return to American soil. This too can have an effect on marriages. Many military couples fail to arrange formal marriage counseling to address the special issues that arise in military marriages because they fear that this will cause problems with military promotions. However, failing to address the unique problems that are a result of being "married to the military" can ultimately cause the failure of the marriage. The military has developed unique ways in which families can seek out advice in an anonymous way in order to help them with their marriage woes. One such device is a column written by a soldier's wife that can be found on the Fort Campbell Courier Website. Ms. Vicki's advice and counsel is often sought out by people who want to know how to cope with certain situations in an anonymous fashion. While formal counseling may be a better way to deal with marital issues and problems, the fact that the military is addressing the fact that their divorce rates are up and providing some new alternatives for families in distress is a positive step.

If you would like to read about Ms. Vicki, visit:

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

The Feminine Mistake

Gone are the days when a divorced woman only married for a short period of time could collect alimony payments until her remarriage or death. Its much more common for alimony awards to be limited in scope, based on the short term length of the marriage, and the woman's ability to be self-sufficient. I often encourage my female clients who have taken time away from a career in order to take care of their children, to get back into the work force as soon as possible. Many judges will not award a young woman any alimony if she is capable of being financially self-sufficient, but is choosing not to as a result of wanting to care for her children. Therefore, I think its important for all woman to understand the need to be self-supporting so in the event of a divorce, or injury/death of their spouse, they will be in a position to take care of themselves financially. A recent book called "The Feminine Mistake" chronicles this very issue and is sure to create debate and controversy for all women. If you would like to read an excerpt from this book, you can do so at:,,bfw4zv4p,00.html?par=todaypp

Monday, April 2, 2007

Outrageous Attorneys' Fees

There is nothing that gives an attorney a bad reputation more than an unreasonable attorneys' fees bill. I definitely do not believe that you should give your services away, and also feel that if a client is not paying their bill, you should be allowed to fire them without any further question or debate. However, I believe that an attorney's bill should always be reasonable considering the special circumstances of each and every case and I also believe that if there is any question concerning a charge on a bill, a client should be given the opportunity to dispute that charge. Larry Birkhead, one of a number of different men claiming paternity over Anna Nicole Smith's daughter, is currently in a dispute with his former attorney who charged him over $600,000.00 for legal fees. Mind you, the DNA testing has not yet come back, and we have yet to know who the putative father is, yet Ms. Opri, has charged Mr. Birkhead an outrageous amount of money for her fees. Whether or not these fees are reasonable will be up to a judge to decide if Larry Birkhead chooses to litigate the contents and line items for the bill. If you are faced with what you believe to be an unreasonable attorney's bill, it must be understood that the determination of reasonable attorneys' fees will use the following criteria:

1. What is a customary fee for similar matters;
2. Experience and reputation of the lawyer;
3. likelihood that the case will preclude the attorney from other employment;
4. time, novelty and complexity of the issues; and
5. Results obtained.

These criteria are generally referred to as the "Lodestar" criteria and can be found in greater detail at Rosen v. Rosen, 696 So.2d 697 (Fla. 1997). Most attorneys' fees are reasonable and fair, however, if you feel that your bill is rather high taking into account all the factors set forth above, speak with your attorney to have your concerns addressed.