How do college expenses factor into property division?

When a Florida couple are preparing to divorce, there are numerous issues that demand the attention of both parties. It’s easy to overlook less common aspects of property division. An example is found in college savings, which should be addressed during the negotiation process. 

Most college savings plans, such as 529 accounts, are held in only one parent’s name, even if both parents have contributed to the account for many years. Other savings vehicles include custodial accounts, college savings accounts and uniform minor accounts. Parents need to discuss how those savings will be maintained and increased after the divorce. 

Unless an agreement is made and documented in writing, one spouse could simply refuse to contribute to college savings efforts. That could leave the other party holding the bag, and could eventually impact a child’s ability to get the education for which he or she has worked so hard. On the other hand, if provisions are not discussed during a divorce, unused college savings can end up in the pocket of only one spouse.

The best way for Florida couples to ensure a fair property division outcome is to negotiate these matters early in the process. Even if a verbal agreement is reached concerning college savings and ongoing funding, be sure to cement that agreement in writing. Failure to do so can yield unexpected and unpleasant consequences, including forcing a child to take on a heavy debt load to obtain a college education. Ironing these details out in advance allows everyone involved to focus on celebrating the student’s success as college nears — not stressing over financial matters and placing blame. 

Source: akronlegalnews.com, “How are employer benefits and other unique assets divided in a divorce case?“, Michael C. Craven, Dec. 27, 2017

Many prenuptial agreements include marital longevity provisions

Few Florida readers are unaware of the marital woes facing shamed Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. In the aftermath of Weinstein’s dismissal from his production company and amid rumors of criminal charges to come, his wife of 10 years is preparing for a divorce. The couple had a prenup, but like many prenuptial agreements, the contract included a clause regarding the length of the marriage. 

Weinstein is married to Georgina Chapman, the designer behind the fashion label Marchesa. The document is believed to grant Chapman $300,000 per year in spousal support, but that number would rise to $400,000 if the marriage lasted longer than 10 years. Additional provisions were to address housing expenses and other costs. Weinstein’s net worth is estimated at $250 million, while Chapman is worth an estimated $20 million. 

The public is unlikely to learn the inner workings of this marriage, as it’s rumored that the prenuptial agreement prevents either party from publishing memoirs about their lives or doing television interviews or other types of media events. Chapman is said to have assembled a team of divorce lawyers. It’s unclear how she will proceed in the high asset divorce case, but the end of his marriage is not the only trouble Weinstein is facing. 

Florida readers may gain deeper insight into Weinstein’s private life, no matter what his prenup states. As more and more women come out against the producer, additional details come to light. Even the most carefully drafted prenuptial agreements don’t address what individuals outside a marriage disclose. It remains to be seen how Weinstein’s actions could impact his divorce case, or how a judge decides to weigh the couple’s prenup against his behavior during the marriage.  

Source: aol.com, “Here’s how much money Georgina Chapman could get from her Harvey Weinstein divorce“, Gibson Johns, Dec. 19, 2017

Social media use and collaborative divorce

One thing you may have noticed time and time again when researching do’s and don’ts for your divorce is that you should limit social media use or refrain from it altogether. This is due to the fact that all types of posts and photos, be they innocent, joking or emotional, could potentially be used against you in a divorce proceeding or provoke tensions.

But what if your divorce is collaborative? What if the separation is incredibly friendly and the two of you remain on good terms? In such cases, you may think you can proceed as always on social media. However, limiting your use is still a good idea.

Your spouse’s preferences

In collaborative divorces, parties work together to achieve outcomes that are good for both of them, and the process is often respectful. The actions you take should be made with the other person in mind. That is, you might have no problem posting on Facebook about your divorce and how glad you are to remain friends. However, maybe your ex is not ready yet for your family and friends to know about the divorce, or it is incredibly hurtful for your ex to see you “business as usual” on Facebook while he or she is grieving internally.

The two of you, early on, need to decide how to handle social media and how the divorce will be announced on social media and elsewhere. Interestingly, some couples find a way to make such posts funny.

Keeping the divorce collaborative

Even in the best situations, divorce is still divorce, and loss is involved. Thus, emotions are sometimes on a sort of roller coaster. You want to keep the divorce collaborative and not risk something being taken the wrong way by your spouse in a moment of emotional insecurity. Having a plan with your spouse and being conscious of your social media use can help prevent many problems. 

Appeal filed in high-profile, high asset divorce case

Many Florida readers will recall media coverage of the divorce between the founder of Cancer Treatment Centers of America and his much younger wife. The divorce was finalized, but the wife has filed an appeal in the high asset divorce case. She wants the court to reconsider how her former husband’s assets were valued. 

The wife, now 52 years of age, received a lump-sum payment of $6.5 million, along with alimony of $55,000 per month. She asserts, however, that her ex is worth far more than the court estimated. Specifically, she notes the valuation of their Barrington Hills estate as well as other assets. If she is able to support those claims with evidence, the settlement amounts could change. 

The couple had a prenuptial agreement in place that stated that there would be no alimony if the marriage was of short duration. Because the union lasted for many years, the wife was able to pursue spousal support. The couple had a child together who is now an adult. The divorce case went on for a long period of time, and many expect the appeal to also be lengthy. 

While the settlement may seem like a substantial volume of wealth to some, the divorce proceeding revealed details of the extravagant life led by the couple. As is the case in many high asset divorce matters in Florida and elsewhere, the former wife is seeking a division of assets in line with the couple’s marital wealth. Fair and balanced property division is the central focus of most divorces, no matter how much wealth is at stake. 

Source: Chicago Tribune, “Ex-wife of Cancer Treatment Centers founder appeals multimillion-dollar divorce ruling“, Amanda Marrazzo, Dec. 14, 2017

More and more millennials are seeking prenuptial agreements

According to family law attorneys, more and more young people are including a prenup in their wedding planning to-do lists. Prenuptial agreements were once the domain of the rich and famous but now are viewed simply as financial planning tools. There are a number of reasons why young spouses in Florida and elsewhere have embraced these marital contracts.

One factor is the age at which people now choose to marry. Young people are delaying marriage until after they’ve established themselves and their careers. For some, marriage comes after starting a business or gaining considerable assets. While romance may rule the day when it comes to a wedding, plain common sense advocates for a degree of protection when one party brings far more assets into a marriage than the other.

Another factor could be that young people accept the statistical reality that many marriages eventually end in divorce. Many of these younger spouses witnessed their own parents divorce and realized that both parties were able to go on relatively unscathed. While they don’t enter marriage expecting its demise, they do understand that things don’t always work out as intended.

Regardless of the reasons why more Florida millennials are seeking prenuptial agreements, the end result is that these young people will be better protected for having made that decision. Aside from matters of asset protection, most engaged couples draft prenuptial agreements that are fair and balanced. Agreements made prior to marriage usually outline a division of assets that is untainted by anger, bitterness or hurt feelings.

Source: refinery29.com, “Prenuptial Agreement Popularity Rise Among Millennials“, Sarah Midkiff, Dec. 5, 2017