Try working together to make your divorce less expensive

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Spouses that have spent more than a handful of years together often find themselves in heated divorces because of what they have. She wants the house, he wants the car, and neither of them can agree on anything. Married couples in Orlando, Florida, are often surprised to find out how much they own together, even though they have let years go by and have spent all of that time buying this and collecting that. Some have purchased real estate; others own businesses that have been developing since the beginning or possibly even before the marriage. Whatever the property is, their values are often the source of serious contention in a high asset divorce.

This isn’t how it has to be, though. A couple can choose to work together during the split to make sure that both parties have what they need to survive and adapt to life without one another. One of the avenues that a couple can use to achieve this is the collaborative process. The name of the process speaks for itself: collaboration. Former couples work on a divorce settlement that is adequate for both of them with the help of attorneys, financial planners and other experts. As long as the couple chooses not to head to court, these professionals can help the spouses come to a mutual agreement instead of fighting it out through litigation.

Choosing this route often leaves the former couple happier for a number of reasons. First, the process is usually less time-consuming than a litigated divorce. Second, the ex-spouses are often more satisfied with the outcome since they have control of the provisions of the agreement, rather than a third-party judge who has no personal involvement with the relationship. In some cases, couples who have chosen collaborative divorce have found that there is no arguing at all. This means the divorce is less stressful and the couple can part as amicably as possible, given the circumstances.

Source: Tampa Tribune, “Kinder, gentler divorces take the bite out of break-ups” Ray Reyes, Sep. 15, 2013

Opponents of Florida alimony reform recount legislative history

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The debate over permanent alimony in Florida continues, even though months have gone by since the governor vetoed a bill that would have eliminated this type of spousal support. Those who sought reform were obviously upset by the governor’s decision, and some would argue that these supporters were actually making a selfish attempt at eliminating their monthly payments. Opponents of the reform were relieved and made sure to claim that the marketing ploys implemented for the bill’s campaign were disingenuous. According to opponents, the end of permanent alimony would be the end of a level playing field, even though reformers often claimed that eliminating lifetime alimony would actually make things even.

In an opinion piece, an opponent of alimony reform recounted Florida’s recent history with spousal support. After 2006, appellate decisions began restricting awards of alimony that allotted for more than basic needs in marriages that lasted less than 22 years. Lifetime alimony, also known as lifestyle alimony, could be awarded in marriages that lasted longer than 22 years. In 2010, durational alimony was added to the arsenal of family law judges, giving them the ability to award spousal support for a certain amount of time. This is different than bridge-to-gap alimony, which helps a lower-income spouse in the transition from married to single life. Each of these considers the standard of living that spouses kept during the marriage.

There is also rehabilitative alimony, a type of support that helps a spouse acquire new skills to become more attractive to employers, facilitating a return to economic independence. Finally, in 2011, opponents of reform noted that the Florida state legislature began requiring courts to show that no other form of alimony would work just as well before awarding permanent lifetime support. This means that it is now the last resort for courts to award. Modifying the law, in the opinion of the opponents, would be a mistake that would cause financial harm to individuals who opted for spousal support instead of assets during their divorces since no reallocation would take place and the law would be retroactive.

Source: Tampa Tribune, “Alimony measure would kill 30 years of progress” Jerry Reiss, Sep. 06, 2013

Absence in court could affect outcome of custody disputes

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Divorce often has a major effect on the lives of any involved children. As soon as the divorce is made known to them, it begins affecting them. In the meantime, parents in Orlando, Florida, may get caught up in the back-and-forth of divorce proceedings, which often last for a lengthy period of time. Despite the fact that custody disputes are included in this process, parents still may manage to neglect the best interests of the child. If recent reports are anything to go on, this may be exactly what is happening in the case between the singer Usher and his former spouse Tameka Raymond.

The former couple was in court several weeks ago to discuss primary custody of their two sons. Just a handful of weeks later and the two were scheduled to be in court once more. The problem was that Usher failed to show up. This meant that no progress could be made in the case. Meanwhile, Tameka has fired her former legal team and moved on to another set of lawyers. She has also changed her legal strategy. Supposedly, she will be seeking the first right of refusal at bare minimum. It seems that what she wants changed the most is the fact that her sons have been spending a considerable amount of time with aunts and nannies when not in the care of Usher himself.

If she receives the first right of refusal, it means that she will be given the responsibility of caring for the kids whenever Usher is not available to do so. Like many parents, she seems to want to care for her children. Whether or not she will get the ability to do so depends on how the dispute goes. Apparently, Usher’s absence was noted by the judge, who seemed upset by this fact. A 30-minute meeting in the judge’s chambers came after the realization that the hearing would not be able to move forward. It is unclear what this meeting may have meant for the father, but it is likely that another absence will contribute to a shift in the proceedings that may fall in the mother’s favor.

Source: Atlanta Blackstar, “Child Custody War: Usher is No-Show at Court as Tameka Raymond Hires New Attorneys” Taylor Gordon, Aug. 30, 2013

Empty nests likely major contributor to gray divorce

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It’s the end of summer and for many parents in Orlando, Florida, that means helping their children move off to college to begin a life outside of the nest. Many older couples have found themselves struggling with an empty nest, a situation that can lead to divorce if it goes unaddressed. There are ways to work to save such marriages from dissolving but even so, one in four divorces involves a person who is 50 or older. This is an age that many parents are either already at or are approaching when their children go off to college. When divorces occurs, this is known as gray divorce.

In order to combat an increasing rate of gray divorce – a jump from one in ten divorced individuals in 1990 to the aforementioned one-in-four figure from 2009 – experts have many suggestions about marriage as the children come of age. Some suggest becoming curious about your partner again. It is likely that at this point in the relationship, you have spent well over a decade together and may have convinced yourself that you know everything about your spouse. This is likely not the case as each day brings with it new things. This is why becoming curious and establishing a daily routine of asking each other about your days is important. Basically, it boils down to being mindful of the relationship and not taking it for granted.

Instilling such habits before the children fly away from the nest can help prevent a high asset divorce from occurring. Even though you may not think you have much wealth, a number of assets are often intermingled between spouses who have been together for more than a decade. With children out of the home in most gray divorces, custody is generally not an issue. Instead, the focus will be on property and any accounts that contain wealth, especially those pertaining to retirement.

Source: MPR News, “How parents can adjust to an empty nest, avoid ‘gray divorce’” No author given, Aug. 27, 2013

Former football star in hot water over child support payments

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Many football fans in Orlando known the name Andre Rison; if not for his plaudits on the field, then for his eventful life off of it. Rison was a star wide receiver in the National Football League for a number of teams. He was also involved in one of the more remarkable off-field moments in recent football history: in 1994, Rison was in a dispute with his girlfriend, the late Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes. Lopes burned some of his possessions during the dispute, which resulted in his home being destroyed.

Rison is in the news again, after he failed to pay more than $330,000 in child support, which was agreed to in court. Rison narrowly avoided prison, instead suffering a year-long extension of his five-year probation, and being reordered to pay the back child support.

This story is a reminder that failing to pay your child support is very serious. Not only could it hurt you in a variety of ways (wage garnishment, jail time and many other penalties are possible), but ultimately, it also hurts your child. Those support payments are meant to pay for things that your child will need to grow and develop.

However, there are many cases where the paying spouse experiences a dramatic change in his or her life circumstances, necessitating a change in the support plan. In order to earn a modification to your divorce agreement or your child support payments, you’ll need to consult an experienced family law attorney to help you build your case.

Source: MLive.com, “Andre Rison dodges prison sentence after more failed child support payments,” Ross Maghielse, Aug. 16, 2013

With school year approaching, be civil with your former spouse

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As parents in Orlando and all across Florida prepare for their children to return to school (and as the kids soak up those fleeting summer days), many divorced parents are coming to the realization that they will have an increased amount of interaction with their former spouse. The school year means that pick-up and drop-off schedules must be arranged; that post-school activities are planned and known; and that the former spouses are aware of everything going on entering the school year regarding classes.

So how can divorced parents get along under these tough circumstances? Here are a few helpful tips:

  • Remember to be civil: This is a crucial part of this “back to school” process. You and your former spouse may not have ended on the best of terms, but when your child is involved and his or her schooling, it is best for both of you to set aside some of the disdain so that you can focus on what’s really important: your child’s happiness.
  • Talk things out and come up with a schedule: Make note of days that you are unable to pick up or drop off your child; discuss the after-school programs, sports and lessons your child is a part of; and be prepared to negotiate and collaborate so that things work for everyone.
  • Dealing with homework: You want to make sure your son or daughter stays on track with his or her schooling. So, you and your former spouse could have a talk about what types of homework each of you will help your child with. This way, both parents are actively involved in the child’s schooling.

Source: Huffington Post, “Co-Parenting Tips for Kicking Off This New School Year On The Right Foot,” Diane L. Danois, Aug. 12, 2013

Cone you dig it? Man must pay added alimony for wife’s ice cream

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When a couple goes through the divorce process, the matter of alimony can often be the most contentious issue. Many divorced couples in Orlando have had to deal with spousal support negotiations, which are complicated discussions that require diligent work from both parties and their attorneys.

If there is no prenuptial agreement involved, the two spouses need to come to an agreement on how much the monthly spousal support payments will be (a prenup will usually outline alimony terms); and there must be justification for the amount being quoted, usually substantiated by the length of the marriage and the standard of living that was established as a result. If the spouses cannot come to terms, then a judge will have the ultimate say.

Alimony is undoubtedly a serious issue in divorce. But a recent spousal support story caught our eye — and our sweet tooth — for a quirky and entertaining clause in a divorce settlement agreed to by an Indian couple.

The divorced husband and wife took their divorce claims to a court in Mumbai, India, where a judge was presiding over the alimony discussions. The man was separating from his wife, in part, because of her love for ice cream. He claimed she drained his savings buying ice cream.

So when it came time to make a ruling on the divorcing couple’s alimony disagreement, the judge decided on a monthly payment of roughly $1,300. Just one thing: an extra $2.50 per month had to be paid by the man to his ex-wife so that she could get some ice cream.

Source: The Inquisitr, “Man Must Pay For Ex-Wife’s Ice Cream In Best Divorce Settlement Ever,” Dusten Carlson, Aug. 6, 2013

Don’t forget these critical steps leading up to your divorce

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Whenever a couple files for divorce, there are plenty of things to handle on the legal side. The divorcee neds to deal with property and asset division; possible alimony; and the enforcement of any prenuptial or postnuptial agreements (if they are present).

But in addition to the legal and procedural aspects to a divorce, any divorcee needs to perform a number of personal tasks as well to ensure that the divorce is a successful one. Many people are not aware of these crucial steps in the divorce process; they may skip them entirely, culminating in disastrous results. So here are a few things to remember when you file for divorce:

  • Do a little housecleaning… but not necessarily literally: You want to find some important documents that pertain to your personal, financial and legal holdings. For example, past tax filings are important to have during a divorce, as are records of credit card bills and bank accounts. You’ll also want hypersensitive documents, such as paperwork that pertains to wills or estates.
  • If you have kids, address child custody and support issues as soon as possible: How much will you pay, or receive, in child support? How will you and your soon-to-be-ex split payments for college tuition? Whose health insurance plan will your child be placed under? You’ll want to know where you and your spouse stand on these things, and subsequently handle them in an appropriate manner. Reaching an agreement before going to court can be greatly beneficial.
  • Prepare for the claims you want to make: Consult an attorney so that you can build the best possible case for earning retirement benefits, valuable assets and other things involved in your divorce that you really want.

Source: Huffington Post, “We’re Getting A Divorce, Now What?,” Linda Descano, July 29, 2013

Settlement reached in Wade divorce, visitation to be discussed

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As many NBA fans in Orlando are aware, Dwyane Wade — the longtime icon of the Miami Heat before LeBron James took his talents to South Beach — has been embroiled in a nasty divorce with his ex-wife since 2007, the year he filed. Since then, Wade and his ex-wife, Siohvaughn, have engaged (pardon the pun) in numerous public battles over their relationship and its tumultuous ending.

Money has been central to these debates; in particular the endorsement money Wade gets from a number of sponsors. However, the child custody arrangement for the now-former couple has also been subject to numerous disputes.

Initially, the debate centered around custody. Child custody can be a complex issue in divorce; but many times the splitting couple realizes that shared custody is the best thing for everyone involved. That was not the case in Wade’s divorce, as Dwyane was granted sole custody of the two sons he had with Siohvaughn.

That’s a significant ruling in any custody dispute. Prior to a court ruling on custody, it can behoove both spouses to enter negotiations on the topic. Court rulings, though impartial, are rigid and often lack the details that either spouse is looking for. Once determined, it can be difficult to successfully appeal the ruling. Negotiations between the spouses and their attorneys can result in a more appropriate and personalized custody agreement.

However, in cases where sole custody is awarded, the spouse left out of the equation can take legal action to earn visitation rights.

Source: Los Angeles Times, “Dwyane Wade divorce drama ends after settlement with ex-wife,” Chuck Schilken, July 23, 2013

Ex-MLB All Star Danny Tartabull involved in child support dispute

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Last night, millions of people around the world gathered to watch Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game as the American League defeated the National League 3-0. But at the same time, a former American League All Star has been facing a child support dispute that could result in jail time.

Danny Tartabull, who represented the AL in 1991, allegedly owes more than $276,000 in unpaid child support intended to provide for his two sons.

Much of the news coverage on this story has focused on the amount of money Tartabull made during in his 14-year baseball career while expressing some incredulity that someone who earned as much money as Tartabull made could fail to pay his child support obligations. According to Baseball-Reference.com, Tartabull’s peak salary was $5.3 million per year. However, Tartabull is not alone among professional athletes who have had difficulties obeying financial judgments from family law courts. Here is the reason why.

Professional athletes have very high incomes, but have relatively short careers. Often, a child support order is entered at the peak of an athlete’s career and earning capacity. Because courts determine child support awards based on a parent’s income at the time, many pro athletes have child support obligations based on their peak incomes. However, a professional athlete’s income is subject to wild fluctuations. Upon retirement, pro athletes often see their income fall to a small fraction of what they had been earning, but their child support obligations do not automatically reduce themselves.

Whenever there has been a significant change in circumstances, such as a reduction in income, a parent who owes child support has the right to work with an attorney and request that payments be reduced. All too often, parents who owe high child support payments they can no longer afford fail to seek a child support modification and eventually fall behind in payments.

Source: NBCLosAngeles.com, “Ex-Major League Baseball Player Tops Child Support “Most Wanted” List,” Dan Stamm, July 12, 2013