Thursday, November 18, 2010

Divorce, Holidays and the Kids

The holiday season is upon us and many people are beginning the fight regarding who gets the kids, for how long and when. In Florida, if you have a court ordered holiday schedule, the holiday schedule will trump your regular schedule. Additionally, "holiday" contact is usually defined as the day the children are released from school until the day they return to school at the conclusion of the break from school. If you don't have an agreement at this time, here are some tips to help you through the holiday season with as little stress and fighting as possible:

1. Be Willing to Compromise. Its rare that you will get both Thanksgiving and Christmas. If you want Thanksgiving this year, understand that you are probably going to have to give up Christmas Day this year.
2. Make Plans for Yourself. If you don't have Thanksgiving this year, you will have it next year. That's the way that it works and is what is fair to the other parent. There is no time like the present to figure out what you are going to do on the holiday when you don't have the kids. Don't give your kids a guilt trip, they should be able to spend time with their father/mother without feeling guilty.
3. More than one celebration is not a bad thing. Kids never complain about having two (2) Christmases so if you don't get to see your children on Christmas this year, you can celebrate with them on the day/days that you do have them.
4. Don't agree in writing to share holidays. You never know what is going to happen in the future and your new wife/husband may not understand why they have to have your ex-wife/ex-husband at their Thanksgiving table. If you decide to share a holiday that's great, but if you put it in writing, you are stuck with that indefinitely.
5. Don't make assumptions. If you are travelling for a holiday and there is no agreement as to who gets the holiday this year, make sure you speak with your children's mother/father before booking flights or hotel rooms. Never assume that the holiday is yours. You will have much better success at getting a particular holiday if you speak with the other parent first and ask them whether you can have the kids rather than just making plans without consulting the other parent.
6. Plan ahead. The sooner you can come to an agreement about the holiday schedule, the smoother the season will go. With the crowding of courts, if you wait until the last minute there will be little chance that you will be able to get to see a judge before the holiday if an agreement can't be reached.
7. Don't take the holiday schedule too seriously. If you agree not to have a holiday this year, all that means is that you get that particular holiday next year. Fighting over holidays does not make sense and ultimately will have a negative effect on your children.
8. Create new traditions with your children to make the holiday season special. Life is not going to look the same once you and your spouse decide to split, but that doesn't mean you can't create new and meaningful traditions.
9. Focus on the Positive. Divorce is difficult on everyone and can be even more difficult if you are going through one during the holiday season. Focusing on the positive can help you get through the season.
10. Be Flexible- If your ex-spouse has a holiday this year, wants to travel and stay a day later which means that will cut into your time, if you don't have other plans, be okay with this, because you never know when you are going to need the same flexibility.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Questions and Answers

I recently blogged about changes to the Florida Child Support Guidelines that are going to be effective in January of 2011. This particular subject has hit a nerve with many of my readers and also generated quite a few questions. As a result, here are some answers to some of the questions that were posted as a result of the new law regarding child support and what constitutes substantial contact for purposes of credits in a child support calculation.

1. Many people questioned whether or not this law is something that will help or hurt children. To answer this question, I think that we don't have enough data to know whether this law is going to have a negative impact on children. As a practicing attorney with many clients going through divorce, I have seen first hand issues with respect to time-sharing that are specifically related to whether or not someone is going to get the substantial contact credit. I see both sides of the agrument and don't know whether or not this is going to have a big impact on cases settling or people coming out of the woodwork asking for their statutory reductions. True, someone is going to get less child support as a result of this change in the law, but my hope would be that the payor parent will be more willing to help out in other financial ways like school supplies, clothing, and extra-curricular activities as a result of this reduction.

2. The statute does not specifically address extracurricular activities, however, there is a trend, at least in Central Florida to make all agreed upon extracurricular activities shared between the parties and that no party can unreasonably withhold their consent for monetary reasons. I suggest that all parties request that this be put in their Final Judgments and certainly address it in your parenting plan if you and your spouse are coming to a full agreement.

3. Daycare and summer camp expenses should always be a part of child support and addressed by a judge. One of the other changes that is going to go into effect is that childcare is no longer reduced by 25%. If you are paying 100% of the daycare, this will be factored into your child support award or obligation.

4. If you want to get this substantial contact reduction, you need to file the appropriate paperwork with the Court, which
I believe would be a Supplemental Petition to Modify. It is something that you can do on your own by getting the appropriate papers online or from your local courthouse.

If you would like more information or have a specific question, please feel free to email me at

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Country Concerns

I was reading an article recently about a father whose daughter was taken out of the country by his ex-wife and his efforts to have his daughter returned to him here in Florida. What was staggering to me in that article was a statistic from The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children which stated that in 2009 there were 1621 children that were wrongfully taken out of United States by a parent and of those 1621 children, only 436 were returned. I have had clients in the past that had legitimate concerns about a spouse taking their children out of the country without their permission. If a child is taken to a foreign country, it seems that there is less than a 30% chance that the child will make his/her way back to America. That is a scary statistic. Therefore, if you have a spouse who is from another country and you have legitimate fears that he/she may make an effort to remove your child from the United States, make sure that you have possession of your child's passport and don't give the other parent permission to take your child out of the country. While it is unlikely that a parent would have success getting the child out of the country without the other parent's consent, if the parent wishing to move to another country with the child is successful, the likelihood of getting the child back is very low. In many cases, its better to be safe than sorry when it comes to issues such as these.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Summer Time-Sharing

Summer in Florida, like in many other states, affords divorced parents the opportunity to spend blocks of quality time with their children. Most of my clients equally divide up the summer with the children spending half of their time with each parent. This is usually a time for summer trips, bonding and giving a parent who has the children primarily during the school year a much needed break. However, often what you decide to do when your children are younger, may not always work when they get to be teenagers when their life and schedules are more important than spending quality time with mom and/or dad. While I agree that teenagers should always get a say, but they shouldn't always get their way, its important to recognize that a teenager's needs and wants when it comes to summertime time-sharing. Don't take offense if your teenager would rather stay close to home to be near a boyfriend/girlfriend or summer job. Be flexible with them and find ways that you can spend time with them and still accommodate some of their own wishes and desires. Work with your ex-spouse to ensure that a summer time schedule makes sense for everyone. Planning ahead and scheduling out the summer in April or May is a good way to avoid confusion and to provide your teenager with a realistic expectation of what they are and are not going to be able to do with their summer.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Special Needs Children, Divorce, And A Race for a Cure

There is plenty of research out there that sets forth very disappointing statistics about couples with special needs children and divorce. Children put strains on even the happiest of marriages. Couples have a much higher likelihood of divorce if they have a special needs child, whether that is a child with mental or emotional special needs or a child that has been diagnosed with a disease such as cancer. There is no question about the devastating effects that the stress involved with caring for a child that has needs above and beyond what is considered "normal" can have on a marriage. Trying to keep things together emotionally and financially when caring for a special needs child can break the proverbial matrimonial back. Perhaps one of the ways that we can focus on keeping families together is getting to the root of diseases such as autism and cancer and doing proactive things to find cures. Perhaps if less pediatric diseases existed, less couples will end up in divorce court. That's why foundations such as Noah's Light Foundation are an essential part of keeping families together. The focus of Noah's Light Foundation is finding a cure for pediatric brain and spinal tumors. Finding a cure for such diseases can have a ripple effect which reduces the divorce rate in this country. While some couples may still end up in divorce court regardless of whether or not their children are healthy, I truly believe that reducing stress in people's lives does increase happiness which ultimately leads to less divorce.

To read more about Noah's Light Foundation, see:

Friday, July 2, 2010

Child Support Changes

A new approach to calculating child support was signed into law in Florida in June and will effect most, if not all, of the cases that are currently pending before the courts. The law goes into effect either in October 1, 2010 or January 1, 2011 and in short, it drastically changes the way in which child support is calculated. It used to be that unless you had your child or children for 40% of the overnights, you did not receive any type of substantial contact credit. That has changed significantly. Once this law goes into effect, anyone who has their child or children for at least 20% of the overnights (every other weekend from Friday to Monday, alternating holidays and 1/2 the summer) will get a substantial contact credit. Additionally, the following changes will be made:

1. A child support order will have to have a specific termination date and have step down child support specified. This means if you have more than one child there will have to be a termination date inserted for after the first child reaches the age of majority, and then a changed amount and a termination date for each child thereafter. (i.e., child support shall be $1,200 per month for three children terminating June 10, 2012, then $900.00 for two children terminating on August 1, 2014 and then $600.00 ending June 10, 2016).
2. Daycare expenses are no longer discounted by 25%. You now will get credit for 100% of your daycare costs, however, the childcare tax credit will be taken into consideration when determining child support.
3. The courts may have the ability to impute income to someone if they don't provide "adequate" financial information in order to calculate child support. What income they can impute is the change, in that, they can automatically impute income to that party to have the income equivalent to the median income of year-round full-time workers as derived from the current population reports or replacement reports published by the United States Bureau of the Census. (If you can figure out what that means, call me.)

In a nutshell, I believe that the legislature is trying to cure the problem of people demanding extra overnights during the week in order to get a substantial contact credit. We'll see if that still makes a difference, but for now, it appears that the way that we calculate child support is going to make some people very happy.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Staying In A Bad Relationship For The Kids

There are many studies that talk about the negative effects that divorce has on children. A new study has just been released that states that staying in a hostile and volatile relationship "for the kids" can be much more damaging than divorce itself. I have long since believed that this is the case, and I have heard time and time again that once a couple separates they are able to be better people and parents. However, what couples who are going through a divorce need to understand is----how they treat one another after the divorce will dictate how well their children deal with the divorce. No matter what couples who have children need to put their own issue and problems to the side and learn how to co-parent their children without the hostility and anger that may have led to their divorce. This study shows that staying in a bad relationship is worse than divorce, but it does not address whether or not a relationship that is bad during the marriage and remains bad after the divorce has more or less of a negative effect on children.

To read the article upon which this blog is based, see:

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Money Woes Leads to Divorce

I think that most people know that one of the leading causes for divorce is money. What exactly is it about money that causes tension in relationships? The following article talks about the seven (7) money issues that are most likely to lead a couple to divorce. What I found most interesting is that one of the seven (7) things is issues that arise when a woman makes more than her husband. I find it funny that after all the strives that we have made as a society and the continuing role reversals in the traditional American family, experts still believe that men traditionally want to be the primary wage earners in a relationship.

To read the article about money woes see:

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

If They Can't Make, How Can We?

Al and Tipper Gore are the latest "celebrity" couple to be headed for divorce court. They were chastised for their overt display of affection towards one another while on the campaign trail and for outsiders there was no indication that their marriage was in any type of trouble. There are plenty of baby boomers who for a variety of different reasons end their long term marriages and there are questions about what this says about our society and the state of long term marriages in general. While it is unclear whether the same types of actions or inaction in a short term marriage cause the ultimate demise of a long term marriage, there is no question that divorce in long term marriages will change a tremendous amount of things, including what constitutes a "long term marriage". The following article addresses the questions raised by divorce late in life and how some people calling it quits cause other couples to question their own relationships.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Till Death Us Do Part?

I often pass over the opportunity to discuss celebrity divorce on this blog, however, Dennis Hopper's passing has brought up an interesting question about what happens if you have filed for divorce, but that divorce is not yet final when you or your spouse dies. Does your soon to be ex-spouse get more of your estate because you are still considered "married"? Dennis Hopper had a prenuptial agreement which states that his current wife, whom he filed for divorce from in January, will only be allowed to inherit any of his estate if they were married and living together at the time of his death. Therefore, the question in the probate court with respect to Hopper's estate will be whether the couple was living together at the time of Mr. Hopper's death. Every state is different when they are dealing with this issue, therefore, if you are in the process of a divorce, make sure that you update your will accordingly. Additionally, if you have concerns that your death may occur prior to the finalization of your divorce, motion the court to bifurcate your case to grant your divorce but reserve on the other issues so that your divorce can be granted. That way, if you were to die, you will die without a spouse and your former spouse will not inadvertently be entitled to more of your estate under probate/estate law rather than divorce/matrimonial law.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Caught Red Handed!!!

If you are caught having an affair and it ends up being the demise of your marriage, who is to blame? Can you sue the person or persons who revealed your secret to your spouse? What if the person who revealed your secret was actually a corporation? That is exactly what a Toronto woman is doing as a result of a cell phone company wrongfully combining the woman's private cell phone bill that was in her maiden name with that of her husband's. She is suing for breach of contract among other things and blames the cell phone company's wrongful act for her divorce and loss of job. While I believe that the breach of contract claim has merit due to the cell phone company's unilateral termination of her cell phone contract, I am not sure whether her claim that the cell phone company is responsible for her divorce has any merit at all. If you committed adultery and someone inadvertently reveals this to your spouse, should you be able to have any monetary recovery from that person or company that revealed your secret? What about personal accountability for your actions? Where do we draw the line? I am interested to hear any one's thoughts on this subject.

To read the article for which this blog is based, please see:

Monday, May 10, 2010

Daddy has a new girlfriend?

I sometimes come across issues when my clients' are going through a divorce that I have no legal remedy for. The biggest non-legal issue that comes up when dealing with children is when is it appropriate to introduce children to a new girlfriend/boyfriend and whether or not there is anything legally you can do to stop that from happening. Unless this new person is a sexual offender, child abuser or somehow a danger to your children, you have to come to terms with the fact that the courts cannot do anything to stop your ex-spouse from introducing whomever they feel appropriate to spend time with your children. However, many psychologists and experts would agree that there are many reasons why you should wait before introducing your children to your new girlfriend or boyfriend. When going through a divorce, its important to separate your feelings about your your ex's new friend from your children's feelings and do your best, no matter how angry you are, to co-parent your children with your ex. Your children will thank you for it in the future.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Do I Need To Get An Attorney For My Divorce?

Lately I have been doing a lot of consultations simply providing people with preliminary information and advice, however I have also been helping people fix some of the problems that were created in their initial divorce. Sometimes the problems are created by lack of legal counsel in the initial divorce proceeding. Often times people ask me whether they actually need to have an attorney represent them in their divorce, and the simple answer is that you never really "need" an attorney and there are some cases which simply don't warrant the cost. If you are asking yourself whether or not you need an attorney here are five simple things to ask yourself before you go ahead with the divorce proceedings on your own:

1. Do I understand all the forms that I need to file in order to proceed without an attorney.
2. Do my spouse and I have children?
3. Do my spouse and I have large assets, pensions, 401(K)s and/or liabilities that need to be divided?
4. Are my spouse and I going to be fighting over any aspects of our divorce that may require Court intervention and guidance?
5. Do I have questions about whether I am agreeing to do something that I'm not legally obligated to do or waiving something that I may be legally entitled to?

If you answered yes to any of the questions above, it is in your best interests to at the very least consult with an attorney. Sometimes you end up spending a lot more money on attorneys' fees and costs trying to fix something that happened in the initial divorce proceeding than paying for the attorney to start off with. I often times send people off with divorce forms if I feel that they don't need the assistance of an attorney and the following are common characteristics of a person who does not need an attorney to assist them in a divorce:

1. The parties have no children or large assets that need to be divided and/or have already divided all of their assets and liabilities;
2. The person understands all of the divorce documents and is perfectly capable of filing them out without the assistance of an attorney;
3. The person and their spouse are in no hurry and have no specific time line that they are looking for to finalize their divorce;
4. The money that it would take to hire an attorney is more than the value of the assets or debts the parties are fighting over; and
5. Alimony and child support is not at issue.

In a case as stated above, I send these people on their way and tell them that they don't need my assistance. Having an attorney is not always necessary but may be nice to have to insure that everything is done legally and properly.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Surviving Divorce

Divorce is a scary thing and often times people feel alone in the process. It can be emotionally, financially and mentally draining and knowing that there are other people out there that are going through the same thing as you can be tremendously comforting. There are many memoirs out there written by people who have gone through a divorce and have gotten through to the other side in one piece. I've always been an avid reader and encourage people to escape their own worlds into another person's world for a period of time. A new book written by Stacy Morrison is one woman's story about her own divorce and how she was able to go through it in one piece and live to tell the story. You can read about Ms. Morrison's book at the following link:

Please share your own stories of survival with our readers.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Can Divorce Make You Fat?

There is no question that divorce is emotional and often times the emotional part of divorce can have physical implications, whether that is anxiety, high blood pressure, stress headaches or weight gain/loss. It seems that even pseudo celebrities are blaming their divorce for weight gain. This just goes to show you that no one is immune to the emotional aspects of divorce. If you are feeling any physical effects from your divorce, its important to get help if these symptoms are causing your quality of life to suffer. Exercise, proper diet, good sleeping habits and having a good support group can help insure that this physical manifestations of divorce do not spiral out of control.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Things I Learned From My Divorce

I was listening to the radio the other day and they were talking about a Cosmopolitan Magazine article that addressed positive things that people learned from their divorce. So much about divorce is negative, but there are positive things that are learned and after searching the web, I found that there is a lot of information out there about the positive things that come from divorce. Here are just a few of the positive things that I found people saying about their divorce.

1. You can face anything, meaning that divorce was really difficult and after knowing that you could get through something that difficult, you had confidence in yourself that you could face difficult things in life and be able to get through them.

2. Positive things can come out of something so negative. No matter how awful something is, there is always something good that has come out of it.

3. You can't control everything, so sometimes you have to let go. Divorce teaches you that soften times things are out of your control. Learning how to let go of things and allow some things to run their course can be quite liberating.

4. Looking forward rather than backwards can solve a lot of problems. In order for you to move on in a divorce, which includes letting go of your anger towards your cheating spouse in order to co-parent your children, helps you heal and move on. Looking backwards does not solve problems, looking forward does.

5. You are never too old to start over. Embracing change no matter how old you are is a good thing and can open doors that you may have thought were closed forever, whether that is going back to school, venturing into the work place for the first time or moving to a new home.

Please let me and others know what positive things have come out of your divorce.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Death and Divorce

As a family lawyer we often say that we get to see good people at their worst while criminal attorneys get to see bad people at their best. Unfortunately, in some cases, divorce not only brings out the worst in people, it sometimes leads to unspeakable crimes. There was a case in California in the early 1990s about a woman who killed her ex-husband and his new wife out of rage. She was tried and convicted of two counts of second-degree murder with back to back sentences of 15 years to life. Ms. Broderick is now seeking parole. I don't know all the facts of this case, but it seems that she broke into her ex-husband's house and may very well have had the intention of killing him. I never think that hurt feelings or trying to wrong a right that occurred in your marriage is justification for violence. I encourage all of you out there who are feeling out of control anger and the need to hurt your ex-spouse, please get help and do not act on those feelings. While anger, disappointment and sometimes rage can be normal feelings in a divorce, getting help when those feelings cannot be controlled is in every one's best interest, including your own.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Website for Adultery?

It has been a while since I blogged and its been hard to find any article that doesn't have Tiger Woods in the title. However, I did happen to stumble upon something that I had to post here in this blog. There is a website that exists for dating that is exclusively for married people. Yes, that is right, married people. What is even more shocking is that the site boasts more than five million users. I read some of the articles on the website and a curious statistic jumped out at me that stated that 70% of all marriages survive an extra-marital affair. I believe that this number has got to be false as more than 50% of the people who come to my office seeking a divorce involve someone being unfaithful. Now, I'm sure that there are a lot of marriages that survive one extra-marital affair, but its been my experience that once there is one affair, there are going to be more to follow which eventually will lead to the demise of a marriage. I find it hard to believe that any marriage can survive an affair especially when one party is actively seeking out a relationship with another person on the Internet. I'm curious to know what others think about this site and whether they believe that marriages can survive affairs.