Potential property division issues for spouses to consider

Dividing marital wealth can seem like a straightforward process, but that is not always the case. Pointedly, there are issues that can arise long after the paperwork has been signed, and an inability to reach an agreement on those matters can bring former spouses back to a Florida court. An example is found in the area of real estate and property division. While not a common concern, one couple’s story serves as an illustration of how things can turn into a problem years down the road.

The issue centers on the short sale of the home where the couple lived as a family. As part of the divorce, an agreement was made that allowed the husband to remain living in the family home, while the wife was relieved of any obligation to cover the monthly mortgage payments. Because both parties had signed on for the mortgage, however, they both remained listed on the loan.

Some years later, the home went into a short sale situation, in which the bank would agree to accept less than what was owed on the home to facilitate a sale and avoid having to foreclose on the property. As often happens, the bank offered the homeowner, in this case the husband, a payment of $10,000 as a relocation incentive. When the wife found out about that payment, she insisted that she was entitled to half.

If such a case were to go to court, the husband could make the argument that he was the sole party held responsible for making payments on the home, which means that he should be the sole party who has the right to take any and all incentives from the bank. However, if the wife still holds a portion of ownership interest in the home, or if she were still owed money as part of the divorce settlement, then she may have a stronger claim to a share of the $10,000 payment. The takeaway lesson for Florida residents is simple: have any and all property division terms clearly stated in the divorce paperwork to avoid these and similar issues in the years to follow.

Source: The Washington Post, “Short sale of home owned by divorced couple creates legal complications“, Ilyce Glink and Samuel J. Tamkin, May 15, 2017

3 ways to minimize stress in a divorce

A substantial portion of marriages end in divorce, but despite its frequency, it remains one of the most stressful situations a person might encounter. Nobody wants to separate from the person they expected to spend the rest of their life with, and it is inevitable that some negative feelings will emerge throughout the process. Accepting this does not mean you must resign yourself to melancholy, though. There are several effective ways to minimize the stress you and your partner encounter throughout the process of a divorce.

Prioritize calm communication

When emotions flare up, it can be tempting to break down or lash out. According to Lifehacker, when you actually calm down, resist arguing and communicate calmly, you are far more likely to resolve the problems that triggered an emotional response in the first place. This is key to keeping stress levels low for all parties involved in a divorce.

Always be empathetic

Stress can reach an all-time high when you feel as though no one is listening and everyone is overlooking your needs. If you feel this way, there is a good chance that your ex does, too. You need to extend empathy if you expect to receive it, and both partners in a divorce should practice empathetic thinking regularly. This can greatly reduce the emotional tension — and therefore, stress — that you feel throughout the process.

Find common ground

Sometimes differences become too much, and in such cases, divorce is often the best resolution. Just because your relationship reached this point does not mean you have nothing in common with your ex. In fact, finding common ground is one of the best things you can do as you proceed with the separation. Doing so will mitigate any animosity that threatens to emerge.

Divorce is never an easy situation, but taking a collaborative approach can minimize its trauma. Contacting a lawyer can also help minimize the stress.

Can political disagreement lead to divorce, property division?

Even healthy Florida marriages go through periods of difficulty. In some cases, tensions arise over the shared responsibilities of household management, such as raising kids and paying the bills. For other families, however, disagreement centers on more ideological matters, including politics. According to a recent survey, discord over the new Trump administration may be leading to an increase in divorce and subsequent property division.

A study conducted by Wakefield Research asked 1,000 adults about how the current political environment is impacting their interpersonal relationships. The results suggest that not only can political tensions have a negative effect on a romantic relationship, they can actually lead to the demise of a marriage. A notable increase in disagreements centered on political views surrounding the Trump presidency has surpassed more common topics of contention, including financial matters.

Other respondents reported knowledge of a marriage or relationship that has been negatively affected due to the current Trump presidency. Millennials report the highest numbers in this regard. Many respondents who were not Trump supporters reported that, if they were in a relationship in which their partner had voted for Trump, they would consider ending that relationship or marriage.

When it comes to the demise of a Florida marriage, there are never simple or easy answers. All couples struggle with a unique set of challenges, and many are able to find their way back to a path of relationship stability and harmony. For those who find that political discontent is leading to serious relationship issues, it may be time to consult with a marriage counselor. No matter what one believes about the current administration, most people agree that couples should make every effort to repair their relationship before considering divorce and subsequent property division.

Source: bustle.com, “Fights Over Trump Are Leading To Breakups & Divorces – Especially Among Millennial Couples“, Natalia Lusinski, May 9, 2017

Quiet sale of art in the early stages of this high asset divorce

Many Florida readers are aware of the divorce between billionaire Harry Macklowe and his wife of 58 years. Their story has gained a great deal of media coverage, both due to the length of their marriage and the odd twists and turns in their high asset divorce. Now, the dissolution of their marriage is once again front page news after claims that Macklowe is quietly selling high dollar art in an effort to keep assets away from his wife.

A Roy Lichtenstein painting valued at nearly $35 million is scheduled to be sold at auction through Christie’s. Linda Macklowe has been an avid art collector for many years, and is known to have a talented eye in selecting new pieces for the family collection. The painting in question is part of a limited 14 works from one of Lichtenstein’s series to be held privately; the majority are housed in museums around the globe.

It is well known that Harry Macklowe is involved with a French woman whom he has seen romantically for many years. While in court for a divorce hearing, Macklowe told reporters that he plans to marry again as soon as his divorce is made final. It is rumored that the Lichtenstein painting was purchased from the husband of his current love interest and intended wife.

As this high asset divorce case moves forward, it is likely that any sale of assets will be addressed. The couple is in the midst of negotiating a property division settlement that encompasses nearly $2 billion in wealth. That means that a final settlement could be many months away. For those in Florida who are following the case, it remains to be seen whether the billionaire will stand by his stated desire to immediately remarry.

Source: pagesix.com, “Harry Macklowe may be secretly selling artwork amid $2B divorce“, Ian Mohr, May 8, 2017

Separation could complicate property division for seniors

Much has been written about the uptick in the number of older Americans who are seeking divorce. For many, that decision comes after years of ambivalence about the marriage. For some Florida couples, the transition from married to single takes a long time to complete. A lengthy separation is not unusual among couples in their 50s and beyond. It is important to understand, however, the impact that a separation could have on property division and other divorce matters.

To begin, there can be no formal property division without a divorce. Couples who simply decide to live apart for lengthy periods of time are taking a risk in regard to their financial stability. One party can rack up high levels of debt, and the other could be held responsible for a portion of that debt.

Another potential problem lies in estate planning. Unless formal documents have been drafted, a spouse who is separated will still be the responsible party in the event that the other spouse becomes incapacitated. That means that one’s ex (in a practical sense, if not in the legal sense) could be calling the shots and making life or death decisions. Another issue involves the division of assets; unless a divorce has been made final, spouses can end up inheriting far more than the other party intended. Even worse, other family members could be cut out of any share of wealth originating from the deceased party.

There are cases in which a separation is a good option for a Florida couple, and can provide the time and space needed to return to the marriage with renewed vigor and commitment. However, if the separation extends too long, or continues even after there are not signs that the marriage can be saved, then it may be time to take a different approach. A family law attorney can assist in structuring a fair and balanced property division process as part of a divorce. That is an outcome that gives both parties a degree of stability in the years to follow.  

Source: reuters.com, “Your Money: Older couples ponder financial impact of divorce“, Beth Pinsker, April 26, 2017