7 topics to discuss with your lawyer when planning for a divorce

Many couples don’t want to take the bitter approach to a divorce. The marriage is over, and they just want to divide up property and work out a parenting plan to move on with their lives. If you’re looking at a collaborative divorce, you should still talk to an attorney before signing any papers. A collaborative divorce is where both parties work with unbiased experts, such as mediators, who can help them through the resolution process without fighting and bitterness. According to the American Bar Association, divorce mediation is often 40 to 60 percent lower than divorce litigation. Here are seven items that should be discussed with your own attorney when you’re planning a divorce to ensure your rights are protected.

1. Financial status – You can’t only think about income, bank accounts and assets. You have to dig deeper and make sure you’ve covered all the loans you’ve taken out. It would be a good idea to run a credit check to make sure you’ve remembered all your financial holdings and debts. Don’t forget stocks and bonds that were bought during the marriage. If you and your spouse are named in a civil lawsuit, this should be on your list, too.

2. Retirement – Even if the retirement account is privately owned by one spouse, it should be discussed during an attorney session. A professional actuary may need to value the plan or work out what was earned before the marriage and after.

3. Vehicles – If only one spouse’s name is on the title, or if the vehicle was purchased during the marriage, it falls under marital property.

4. Real estate – The home is probably one of the biggest assets in the marriage. As with vehicles, if it was purchased during the marriage, it should be included in the divorce settlement as marital property. You should consider having real estate appraised for a current valuation. Discuss all properties with your attorney.

5. Children’s assets – Any financial property owned by children must also be addressed in a divorce settlement. College savings plans, CDs, 529 plans and savings accounts should be discussed with your attorney to protect their assets.

6. Going back to college – If you’re planning on taking out student loans to get your education, you should talk about this to your attorney just to make sure there are no barriers to taking on this debt or getting the loans.

7. Taxes – Don’t forget to work out how federal, state and local taxes are handled in your mediation settlement. Understand the IRS regulations for handling child support and which person can claim the children on their end-of-the-year tax forms.

We understand that many people going through a divorce want to be in control of their own destiny instead of relying on a judge to split the assets and determine child custody and support. Our divorce lawyers routinely handle divorce mediation and collaboration to save you stress, time and inconvenience. Call us today to discuss your case and your concerns.

Addressing alimony dishonesty with the court

Many Florida residents are required to pay spousal support to former husbands or wives. While very few people enjoy the practice of handing over a portion of their income, most accept the fact that the payments must be made. There are certain cases, however, in which the recipients of alimony have acted in dishonest manners and violated court orders pertaining to spousal support. In such cases, the spouses making the payments can reapproach the court to ask for modifications or terminations.

In most divorce settlements there are stipulations pertaining to the conditions under which alimony may be ceased. One of the most common is when the receiving party remarries. At that time, he or she waves the right to continue receiving spousal support.

The problem arises when spouses no longer communicate after their divorce, and the receiving party remarries without notifying his or her former spouse. Such an action can mean months or even years of continued alimony payments, even when those payments are no longer required. Once the paying party realizes that the recipient has remarried, it is possible to go back to court and have the payments ceased.

It should be noted that even after a case has been filed, the payments should continue in order to avoid violating the existing divorce agreement. If it can be proved that the recipient has in fact remarried, a Florida court is very likely to call a stop to any future alimony payments. It is also possible for the paying spouse to pursue restitution for all payments made after the recipient remarried.

Source: bostonherald.com, “Divorce 101: Ex took alimony for years after remarrying“, Gerald Nissenbaum, Oct. 23, 2016

Wrongful conviction settlement subject to property division

During the course of a Florida divorce, a great deal of focus is placed on the process of dividing marital wealth. In many cases, spouses do not see eye to eye on certain aspects of the property division process. However, there are some instances in which a property division claim makes national headlines. An example is found in the case of a man who is struggling to protect a legal settlement obtained during the course of his marriage.

The case centers on a man who was wrongfully convicted for the murder of an 11-year-old girl. When DNA evidence led to his exoneration, he was released from prison. He sued for wrongful conviction, which resulted in a settlement of nearly $20 million.

While in prison, the man married a woman who visited him while he was behind bars. The couple divorced just a few years after he was released, and the wife claims that she was entitled to a share of the wrongful conviction settlement payout. The matter went to court, and a recent appellate decision states that the settlement should be considered marital property.

The man will continue to fight through the next level of appeals. His attorney released a statement suggesting that the appellate ruling was yet another source of injustice inflicted upon his client. The man’s wife, however, feels that the ruling underscores her right to share in her husband’s settlement payout, and goes on to say that she was there for her husband at a time when few others believed in his innocence. Many Florida readers will continue to follow the property division case to see how the issue is ultimately resolved.

Source: abajournal.com, “Exonerated inmate’s $20M settlement is marital property in divorce, appeals court says“, Debra Cassens Weiss, Oct. 6, 2016

Could collaborative law result in less divorce paperwork?

Many Florida residents are unsure what to do with their divorce paperwork once the process is complete. For many, the files and folders associated with a divorce are overwhelming. It is not uncommon for couples to amass literally hundreds of pages of documents and legal correspondence. Hanging on to those documents can feel like a burden, both literally and figuratively. For those in Florida who use a collaborative law approach, the end result could be far less paperwork to handle, both during the divorce and afterward.

When it comes to one’s actual divorce settlement, it is important to hang on to those papers indefinitely. If the terms of the divorce are not being met, such as child custody or spousal support, having access to the settlement will be important. That said, there is no reason that those papers need to be stored in a file cabinet or box within the home; they are safer and less likely to be lost in a safe deposit box or locked in a fireproof.

For those who want to avoid amassing a huge pile of divorce paperwork in the first place, consider trying a collaborative approach. In general, working together to process the details of the end of a marriage is far less contentious than a traditionally litigated divorce. It also tends to generate fewer documents and pieces of correspondence.

Collaborative law has a number of benefits for Florida residents who are preparing to divorce. For those with kids, it is often a top priority to move through the divorce process with as little disruption as possible. A collaborative divorce can help make that goal a reality, and could save some trees in the process.

Source: commdiginews.com, “When should you shred your divorce papers?“, Myra Fleischer, Oct. 10, 2016

Avoid expenditures during a high asset divorce

Transitioning from married to single is a complex process, one that involves a significant investment of time, effort and money. That said, it is important for Florida spouses to avoid excessive spending in the months leading up to a high asset divorce. It is not uncommon for one spouse to claim that the other has acted to intentionally deplete marital assets, which is an issue that the courts take very seriously.

One of the biggest red flags for family court judges are loans made to friends and family. These loans can easily be portrayed as little more than efforts to divert assets away from the marriage. Proving that the loan was both offered and accepted in good faith can be an uphill battle.

In many cases, expenditures will be necessary in order to set up separate households. Spouses can err on the side of caution by drawing up a pre-divorce budget that outlays the expenses that both parties agree are necessary. That can help reduce the chance that one side will claim that the other acted to deplete marital wealth.

It is also important to pay close attention to the actions of one spouse during a high asset divorce. For Florida spouses who suspect that their partner may have taken steps to shield assets from the divorce process, it is important to discuss the matter with a family law attorney. A forensic accountant can review the family’s financial documents and get to the bottom of any missing or unaccounted for funds.

Source: U.S. News & World Report, “10 Ways to Prevent a Divorce From Ruining Your Finances“, Maryalene LaPonsie, Sept. 29, 2016