Spouses can use Bitcoin to hide assets from property division

There are many different ways that Florida spouses can take steps to hide assets, some of which are simple while others are quite complex. For those who stay abreast of technological advancements, there are even more ways to deceive both the court and one’s spouse. Bitcoin is one of the fastest growing options for spouses who are seeking a way to shield their wealth from the property division process, and it is important for all spouses to be aware of the methods by which these actions occur.

Bitcoin is best described as an online currency, similar to a bank but far more suited for anonymous transactions. Consumers can open a Bitcoin account and deposit funds. From that point forward, it is very difficult for an individual or the government to determine who owns a Bitcoin account. Users access their funds by way of a key code, but the identity of account holders is shielded.

For spouses who fear that their partner may be hiding money during a divorce, it is important to take an aggressive stance in the matter. A forensic accountant can work to determine if there are suspicious patterns in the family’s finances. If a discrepancy is found, the accountant can work to try and track down where the funds went and how to recover those assets.

It should be noted that if a spouse makes false statements during a Florida divorce, the outcome could be dire. There have been cases where judges have punished spouses who tried to hide assets by awarding a greater share of those assets to the other party. Making false statements concerning property division is also considered perjury, and is punishable under state law.

Source: cointelegraph.com, “With Bitcoin, Hiding Assets in Divorce Is Risky, But It Pays“, Charlie McCombie, May 11, 2016

What is a cooperative divorce?

The person who argues the loudest does not always win. This is often the case in divorce, where cooperation can pay off for both sides.

In divorce, an adversarial approach can lead to a drawn-out court proceeding that is costly both financially and emotionally. It can also lead to unwanted court involvement in your life.

By choosing an aggressive lawyer to handle your divorce, you could end up hurting yourself in the long run. An aggressive lawyer may present overreaching arguments that are embellished with exaggeration and distorted facts. The aggressive lawyer may try to make his or her side look good as possible and the other side look as bad as possible. This approach seldom works with family law judges, especially when children are involved.

A cooperative approach often works better. A cooperative approach:

  • Offers the judge a realistic and practical view of the case
  • Is not critical of the other side
  • Offers the judge as much objective information as possible
  • Gives the judge options with respect to a particular issue
  • Allows the judge to form his or her own conclusions as what makes the most sense

Through cooperative divorce, you and your spouse can preserve your relationship and your finances. In the cooperative divorce model, the clients determine their outcome through interests-based negotiation. The two sides do not dig into positions. Instead, each side pursues goals and outcomes that are not incompatible with the other side’s goals and outcomes. Neither side issues ultimatums or demands.

Sheldon E. Finman, P.A., is a family law attorney in Fort Myers who helps his clients seek less adversarial ways to dissolve a marriage.

Alimony laws differ from one state to another

The topic of spousal support is one of the most contentious areas in family law. Many Florida residents feel strongly about the issue, and there are people who stand firmly on one side or the other. The matter has become something of a national conversation, with some states taking action to limit the length of time that alimony should be paid, while others consider legislation that would alter how spousal support is allocated, determined and eventually stopped. For those who are preparing to divorce, it is crucial that the language in a divorce agreement addressing spousal support is clear.

One issue that can lead to eventual litigation involves the conditions under which alimony could be terminated. Most agreements state that if the recipient of alimony remarries, the payments immediately cease. Most agreements do not, however, address what will happen if the recipient enters into a relationship that includes cohabitation and a commitment to live as a couple but does not cross the threshold into a legal marriage.

The following is a scenario that occurs frequently. A person who receives alimony begins a new relationship, and that union progresses into a serious, long-term commitment. However, the couple agrees not to wed because one party is still receiving financial support from a former spouse. Because the divorce agreement does not specifically address cohabitation, the payments must continue.

Several cases involving alimony and cohabitation have come before courts across the nation with differing outcomes. Things can become even more complicated when a receiving spouse moves to a state with different laws than the one where the divorce took place. There are efforts to create legislation to deal with the issue, but the nation is far from coming to any form of consensus on how to handle these cases. For now, spouses in Florida should take a very close look at the language in their divorce agreement that addresses alimony prior to signing it.

Source: The Huffington Post, “Does Alimony ‘Until Remarriage’ Address Nonmarital Cohabitation?“, Brad Reid, May 17, 2016

Man finds unusual relief from alimony payments

A man has been relieved of his obligation to pay spousal support to his former wife, a scenario that some in Florida may fantasize about. The reasoning behind the decision is somewhat unusual. The couple divorced in 2008, and the man agreed to pay the woman alimony for a period of eight years. In 2014, he filed suit asking that those payments be stopped.

The reason he wanted to cease those payments is based on a provision set out within the divorce agreement. The agreement clearly stated that in the event that the former wife should enter into marriage or a marriage-like pattern of cohabitation, then the spousal support would end. The former husband took the matter to court because he found that his ex was living with another woman in a romantic relationship.

Two lower courts ruled that the agreement did not apply to the living arrangement between the two women. A law defining cohabitation in the state specifies that the parties must live together as husband or wife. That led the original court and an appellate court to rule in favor of the ex-wife.

Under appeal, however, the higher court found that a change in the language of the law in 1997 used gender-neutral language. The ruling went on to state that the lower courts had erred in interpreting the law to mean that only heterosexual unions could be considered as cohabitation. That led to a reversal of the alimony order, which relieved the former husband of any obligation to provide continued financial support. For Florida residents who are facing similar circumstances, it may be worth a call to a family law attorney to discuss whether alimony should end.  

Source: The Washington Times, “Va. man gets out of paying spousal support after ex-wife enters into a lesbian relationship“, Bradford Richardson, May 2, 2016

Sometimes, pet ownership is decided during property division

When a Florida couple has pets, the love and care that is provided is often similar to the love of a child. People spend enormous volumes of time, effort and money to care for their animals and often become incredibly attached. When a union ends in divorce, spouses can become deeply bitter over having to determine which party should retain “custody” of the pets. The matter falls outside the scope of traditional divorce issues such as property division or child custody.

Courts are not always willing to address disputes concerning pets. In many cases, family court judges who are faced with such arguments will simply tell the parties to go and work the matter out on their own. When judges are willing to discuss the issue, they resort to the rules that govern property division.

In this way, the party who can prove that he or she paid for an animal, covered the cost of veterinary care or purchased the bulk of food and toys will often prevail in court. That approach does not address which party would be better suited to actually care for the pets. While many people feel that pet “custody” should be approached in a manner similar to child custody, it is the rare judge who will entertain such arguments.

This leaves Florida pet owners with little recourse other than to try and work through the issue of pet ownership on their own. In some cases, divorcing spouses are able to work out a type of shared custody, where each party will have time with the animal and where expenses are shared. Often, however, the better solution is to look at the living arrangements of both parties and to make an objective decision about which household is better suited to provide for the needs of the pet. That approach is likely to yield a far better outcome than including the issue within the scope of property division.

Source: The Charlotte Observer, “In divorce, who gets to keep the family dog?“, Ben Steverman, May 1, 2016