Why alimony reform spells disaster for women

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A blog post from two weeks ago explained why Governor Scott’s veto of alimony reform was a good thing. However, reformists are still attempting to have permanent alimony made a thing of the past. But there are others who disagree with the reformists and believe that alimony reform will have a detrimental effect on families overall.

Most couples who decide that the mother should stay home with the kids do so for several reasons, one of which is so the husband can concentrate on his career. If a woman knows that alimony is no longer an option, she is going to opt to work so she can protect herself in the event of a divorce. This means the husband loses his fulltime at home support. Also, if both work, expenses to take care of the children such as daycare, an au pair or a nanny would have to be included in the household expenses. A wife who stays at home eliminates the need for those things, but that does not mean she does not deserve to be compensated for the work she did and the money she saved the family.

One of the main reasons reformists are calling for the changes is because many men state they are stuck paying alimony payments they can no longer afford. Their payments might have been based on a much higher income than they might have now. This is plausible considering the economic climate. However, in the state of Florida, alimony agreements can be modified provided the former husband can prove that paying the current court-ordered amount is financially impossible. The only time a husband will be put in jail for nonpayment is when he refuses to pay but has the means to do so.

Another reason reform is detrimental is because it allows the husband to walk away from the marriage with no obligation to provide financial support for his former wife, a person who voluntarily stopped working or put a career on hold to take care of the family. Twenty years later, once the kids are grown, you could have a woman who is living in virtual poverty because she has no tangible skills to use in the workplace. Any woman who is facing such a situation because a former spouse won’t pay would be wise to speak to a legal professional experienced in divorce and alimony issues.

Source: Huffington Post, “Alimony Reform Laws Focus on the Exception to the Rule and to the Detriment of the American Family” Deborah S. Chames, Oct. 09, 2013

Stay or get a gray divorce?

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The rate of divorce is rising for people over the age of 50. “Gray divorces” don’t come with the common issues that a younger couple might have to deal with, such as child support and visitation, but they do have some special issues, and these areas of dispute can complicate a situation even more and cause further acrimony.

Older couples have seen their share of triumphs and tragedies. They’ve raised children, had careers and possibly wrestled with financial hardship. By the time they reach the retirement years, one would think it would be clear sailing. Or time to relax on the porch. But therein lies part of the problem: If one half of the couple wants to literally sail off into the sunset on a cruise, while the other wants to enjoy the golden years rocking the days away at home, conflict can arise, and in some cases, a divorce is the end result.

The one thing most retired couples can agree on is that they want to enjoy the years after they’ve worked and raised their children. But most couples do not discuss how they want to spend their retirement years while they are still working, so when it comes time to retire, they discover they are not on the same page. Discussing your retirement desires and dreams ahead of time can stave off the shock of realizing that you and your spouse have completely different retirement goals.

There’s also the financial aspect. Conflict can arise if one spouse wants to spend their retirement money, but the other wants to leave something behind for the kids. Also, if one half of the couple always handled the finances, the other half might not be aware how well they can live during retirement. Even with wealthy couples, one spouse might not know their financial standing. Finding out that a retirement dream is or is not attainable can cause additional stress on a relationship, so it is important that the couple be completely aware of the financial situation. For those who find themselves still contemplating a divorce, understanding their legal options when it comes to divorce can help make their decision clearer.

Source: Reuters, “Stern Advice – Till death (not retirement) do us part” Linda Stern, Oct. 09, 2013

Permanent alimony brings balance

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Some want to believe that we have progressed enough in our society to have outgrown the need for certain things. One of those concepts that some would like to see fall by the wayside isalimony. Although the argument can be made that with women in the workforce, the need to pay them monthly for the rest of their lives is no longer necessary, there are still flaws in the argument. Not to mention, it completely glosses over why alimony is actually paid in the first place.

Recently, Florida governor Rick Scott vetoed a bill that would have eliminated permanent alimony for spouses. Some organizations, such as Florida Alimony Reform (FAR) were disappointed by this action. Others, however, breathed a sigh of relief. Eliminating permanent alimony would have risked the equitable division of assets for a lot of divorcing couples, equity the injured spouse would never be able to recoup, no matter how long they were in the workforce.

Here’s why: For couples who are only married for a few years, rehabilitative alimony kicks in to give the spouse who did not work a chance to get back on his or her feet. It’s not permanent alimony and ends after a set period of time. Permanent alimony was never intended for short-term marriages. For couples who were married for 20, 25, or more years, this is where permanent alimony truly comes into play. A spouse who stayed at home while the other worked invested time and resources into the marriage. They raised the kids, supported the spouse in his or her career endeavors and ran the household. If a couple in that situation divorces, the spouse who did not work would never recoup the investment. Permanent alimony serves to attempt to balance the equitable distribution of assets in the marriage. It accounts for the intangibles.

The ending of a marriage is a sad period for everyone involved, however it should not be punitive for either party. Anyone who is facing a divorce and has questions about alimony would be wise to speak with a legal professional about their options. These professionals could determine if alimony – rehabilitative or permanent — is an option that should be explored.

Source: Orlando Sentinel, “My Word: Permanent alimony rights a wrong” Jerry Reiss, Oct. 01, 2013

Reproductive science may affect child custody proceedings

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Science is encroaching on the realm of child custody as it steams ahead into the world of frozen embryos. Already one of the toughest portions of a divorce for couples in Orlando, Florida, it seems that some couples are starting to argue over the rights to decide on the fates of any embryos the couple created together. Previously considered property, it seems that decisions in some states have elicited the possibility that this might actually be a child custody matter, considering the property has the potential to become a living child one day.

For instance, one couple who decided to divorce had put aside nine frozen embryos. The couple had signed an agreement with the fertility center when this happened, giving custody of the embryos to the woman in case of a split. But she was deemed an unfit parent by the courts when the man was given sole custody of their three-year-old daughter during the divorce proceedings. This brings several worries to the table for the father: He does not want his ex-wife to become a parent again because she may not be able to properly provide for another child and he does not want to be held responsible for child support when he wanted the embryos destroyed. Would it be right to hold a person liable for child support when she or he wanted the embryos destroyed instead of used and brought into this world? Even if the person using the embryos waived child support, she or he may still need to seek assistance from the state. The government may then, in turn, sue the other donor of the embryo – the other biological parent – for the support it has paid.

Experts are worried about how quickly reproductive science is moving forward as it eclipses the law and continues on. It makes many areas of divorce rather murky and uncertain, forcing family law judges to make decisions that are relevant to the current social climate. Legal issues will likely continue to arise as fertility techniques become more and more viable. Perhaps other techniques may arise in the future, too, and legislators will have to play catch-up each and every time.

Source: Washington Times, “Are unborn children people or property in a divorce, and who decides?” Myra Fleischer, Sep. 19, 2013

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

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