Life insurance is a powerful companion to alimony

Many Florida spouses expect to receive spousal support as part of their divorce. Having this source of additional income can make a huge difference in the financial bottom line for divorced spouses. While alimony is part of many divorce settlements, it is important to understand that this resource only exists during the lifetime of the paying party. Once that former spouse passes away, so do the payments. The best way to ensure continuation of spousal support after the death of an ex is to obtain a life insurance policy.

Life insurance as a topic should be included during the negotiation process. The receiving party can and should insist that a policy is purchased that will provide the same value as the anticipated spousal support payments. The agreement can specify that the paying spouse is responsible for procuring this policy, or the recipient can obtain his or her own insurance coverage for the other party.  If the spouse tasked with paying alimony purchases the life insurance policy, it’s important to make sure that the recipient is listed as the technical owner of the policy.

Simply being named as the beneficiary of a life insurance policy does not provide adequate coverage. No matter what is decided during negotiations, or what appears in the final divorce settlement, if the receiving spouse is not the designated owner of the policy, then the other party can make changes down the line. Maintaining “ownership” of a life insurance policy is the only way to guarantee that benefits will be made available when the time comes.

Obtaining life insurance coverage on a spouse who is expected to pay alimony or child support is an important component of a well drafted divorce settlement. This is an issue that many in Florida fail to consider when addressing the topic of spousal support, but it’s a detail or deserves close attention. The sole purpose of spousal support is to provide a base of financial stability for a dependent spouse, and life insurance is an important tool in achieving that goal.

Source: U.S. News & World Report, “Gray Divorce: What Women Who Divorce Later in Life Need to Know“, Debbie Carlson, July 21, 2016

Collaborative law and the resulting divorce agreement

For those in Florida who have chosen to work together to resolve the details of their divorce, an assumption is often made that the road ahead will be paved with similar good intentions. In reality, however, that is not always the case. Even couples who choose collaborative law as a divorce option can encounter difficulties once the divorce agreement has been signed, sealed and delivered.

The single best way to avoid excessive infringements of a divorce agreement is to know that document inside and out. In many cases, former spouses will stray from the agreement from time to time. This is especially true in cases where parents are sharing custody of their children, and when circumstances call for a degree of flexibility. However, there are many situations where one spouse takes advantage of the good nature of the other, and makes a habit of ignoring the provisions laid out within the divorce agreement.

When that takes place, the party that is being wronged must decide whether to force the issue. Understanding the ins and outs of the divorce agreement can make it far easier to put one’s foot down and insist that things return to the agreed-upon conditions. The other party may not be pleased with such a turn of events, but it will be very difficult to refuse to comply.

Some ex spouses believe that when a pattern of non-compliance with a divorce agreement has been established, a precedent has been set that will be allowed to continue. This, however, is not the case. The courts will uphold the terms of a divorce agreement if called upon to do so. That is the last resort for most Florida residents, especially those who choose collaborative law as a divorce approach. If there is no other option, however, returning to court can restore the terms of the initial agreement.

Source: The Huffington Post, “You & Your Divorce Settlement Agreement- BFFs“, Al Corona, July 12, 2016

Daughter of Elvis Presley headed for high asset divorce

Many in Florida remember Elvis Presley with fondness. The performer had a very successful career that spanned music and film, and he was among the most popular entertainers in the world before his untimely death. He left behind a wife and daughter, as well as a musical legacy that continues today. His daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, is headed for a high asset divorce from her husband of 10 years.

Lisa Marie has been married three previous times, once to actor Nicolas Cage, then to performer Michael Jackson and then to musician Danny Keough. The grounds for seeking the most recent divorce were listed as “irreconcilable differences,” and she is not asking for spousal support. The couple have twin daughters together, and Presley is not seeking child support. She is, however, asking for full custody of the girls and supervised visitation.

There are also rumors that her current husband, musician Michael Lockwood, mismanaged Presley’s money and took financial advantage of her during the course of their marriage. It is alleged that Lockwood ran up more than $100,000 in charges on the couple’s American Express card. That creditor had to pursue Presley through a lawsuit to gain payment for those charges  

Some details of the high asset divorce may be settled by way of the postnuptial agreement, which was signed by both parties. There is no word on whether Lockwood will try to challenge that agreement. In fact, as of the time of this report, Presley has been unable to locate her husband to serve him with the divorce paperwork. After filing for divorce, Presley’s legal team asked that the status be changed to a legal separation, which demonstrates that the couple is still married, but living separately and moving toward a dissolution of that union. As things progress, it is likely that Florida readers will gain greater insight into the life led by the daughter of one of America’s greatest music legends.

Source:, “Lisa Marie Presley Files for Divorce After Husband Mismanaged Her Money“, Jacob Maslow, July 6, 2016

What is collaborative divorce?

In a traditional divorce, each party retains a lawyer, who takes control of the legal process on behalf of his or her client. This usually results in repeated trips to court, claims and counter-claims, and a conveyer belt of litigation that ends only when the two sides are emotionally exhausted and out of money.

There is an alternative. Collaborative law is a process in which the two parties and their lawyers agree to focus on problem-solving, not fighting.

An alternative to a litigated divorce

In a collaborative divorce, each side hires an attorney who is trained in the collaborative law process. The attorneys are there to help you reach a settlement – not to foster litigation. If you and your spouse are unable to reach an agreement, the two attorneys are disqualified from the case and cannot represent you in litigation.

The collaborative law process allows you to resolve your case out of court. You and your spouse are in control of the process. Your attorney advises you about the law and helps you reach an agreement.

The collaborative process allows for engagement of experts such as mental health professionals, child specialists and financial professionals. The professionals are there to give you the information you need to make good decisions.

Ultimately, it is up to the two sides to reach an agreement. However, both have an incentive to do so. There is a huge risk in allowing a judge, who is a stranger to your family, to have absolute control over how your divorce will be resolved.

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.

Collaborative law could have helped this family

Few legal matters are more contentious than child custody cases. The care and custody of a child raises a number of emotions in Florida parents, and it can be easy to let emotion overrule reason in fighting for parenting time. Unfortunately, the outcome of a lengthy and bitter child custody case can be negative for all involved. An example is found in an unusual case that is making headlines across the nation. Had these parents taken a collaborative law approach, the outcome could have been far easier to accept.

The matter centers on a 10-year-old girl who shows signs of being a golf prodigy. The little girl has won more than 20 of the 33 tournaments that she has played in over the past two years. Golf experts who have seen her play believe that she is on track to receive a college scholarship for the sport, even though she is not yet out of elementary school. The girl’s parents have been fighting over custody for some time.

In an unusual ruling, the judge in the case recently ordered that the little girl cannot play in any golf tournaments for the next year. Restrictions were also placed on how much time can be spent playing golf, with a maximum of either one round or five hours of play. For a child who has set her sights on a scholarship or career path in golf, that time off could be disastrous.

The child’s mother has full legal and physical custody, while the father has visitation rights. The father has been behind his daughter’s involvement in the sport, giving her a set of plastic golf clubs when she was just 3 years old. There has been little information provided by the child’s mother on the matter, and it is unclear whether she asked the court to place such strict limitations on the girl’s golfing. Just as in Florida cases, both parties will be expected to adhere to the ruling, even if the mother, father and the girl herself want to continue on a path of rigorous training.  Had these parents made use of collaborative law practices, they could have reached an agreement that worked for both sides, while also allowing their daughter the chance to expand on her gifts and talents.

Source: ABC News, “10-Year-Old Golf Prodigy Ordered to Stop Playing Tournaments Amid Parents’ Custody Battle“, July 4, 2016