April 4

Regarding the Marital Residence in a Divorce

house divorceDivorcing parties often consider the possibility of one party buying out the other’s one-half ownership interest in their marital home. However, I always raise a few “what ifs” if my client is the one contemplating the option of being bought out:

  1. What if your spouse cannot refinance the home into their sole name and release you from the financial obligation to the lender? If they cannot refinance the home, you will continue to be legally obligated to the lender for the balance owed on the mortgage (assuming you are on the promissory note).
  2. What if your former spouse loses their job or intentionally stops paying the mortgage and ends up defaulting on the loan, and you have already moved out of the residence, trusting he or she would continue to pay the monthly payment. Of course, despite the divorce and buy-out, your credit rating will also end up taking a huge hit as a result of the mortgage default.
  3. What if you have difficulty being able to purchase another home of your own because all lenders will review your income as well as your financial liabilities/obligations, and the mortgage balance owed on your former marital home will continue to be part of the lender’s equation.

Due to these considerations and if the occupying spouse is unable to obtain refinancing to buy the other spouse’s interest in the residence, I typically advise my clients that it makes the most sense for divorcing parties to sell the marital residence and equally divide the net proceeds (sale price less the mortgage and real estate commissions and closing cost).

March 18

Contested Divorce or Uncontested Divorce?

tavares florida divorcePeople often ask me what I charge for a divorce that is “uncontested”. My initial questions are to establish whether they truly have an uncontested divorce case. If they have children, they will sometimes tell me they have agreed to a 50/50 timesharing (formerly called custody). I then ask whether they have discussed what will be paid in monthly child support, very often they respond with, “neither of us will pay child support to the other”. My follow-up question is, “ok, so do you both make the same amount of money?” Usually, I will get a response such as well no, he/she earns a lot more than me. When one party earns significantly more, the parent with the greater income will normally have to pay some amount of support to the other.  Of course, people have often not considered the issue of income disparity and believe the 50/50 time-sharing arrangement precludes one party from having to pay the other any child-support.

There are various other issues for consideration as well, such as health insurance coverage for the child(ren), uncovered medical expenses, IRS dependency exemptions, and child-care expenses, all of which need to be negotiated and settled during the divorce process.

In summary, although clients perceive that they have an “uncontested” case, there are normally many issues that need to be discussed and settled between the parties they had not yet considered. I have helped many clients over the years negotiate these kinds of additional details such that the parties can ultimately enter into a mutually acceptable settlement agreement for their “uncontested” divorce.

Learn more about your divorce options and schedule a consultation today.

February 7

I want a divorce, but I have no idea where my ex is.

missing spouse divorceOne of the many freedoms we enjoy in America is the freedom to decide when to end a marriage. Divorce is already an emotional and complicated procedure, however, so when one spouse chooses to hide from the process, a few additional steps must be taken to complete the divorce, but divorce is possible, nonetheless.

In Florida, a few actions must be taken to prove to the court that all possibilities for locating an absentee spouse were taken before filing for divorce.

Those actions include:

  • Service by Publication (or Constructive Notice)
  • Proving Diligent Search (Due Diligence)
  • Obtaining Default Judgment (Final Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage)

While Service by Publication may sound as simple as posting a notice in the newspaper and waiting the required amount of time to fulfill Florida’s legal requirement, and in turn, find favor with the Court, many more aspects are involved.

First, the Court requires you to prove that you took every possible, reasonable measure for locating our missing spouse. This proof is called Due Diligence.

Due Diligence requires that you contact your missing spouse’s employer, known associates, and family members, then follow up on any information received. You may also be required to contact the Department of Motor Vehicles to obtain your missing spouse’s last known address information; checking for a possible death certificate; monitoring credit or banking information that may provide information about their whereabouts, searching for tax information, or even hiring a private investigator.

Proving to the Court that you took all of the above steps and were still unable to locate your spouse requires that you provide the court with proof and an outline of the steps you took and their results. An affidavit is required in addition to your evidence to show every measure was made with no consequence.

At this point, you’ll contact a reputable newspaper and run a legally written ad for four consecutive weeks, order to give your spouse time to see the ad and respond. If you receive no response within 28 days, you’ll then ask the court for a Default Judgment for Final Dissolution of Marriage and a hearing to finalize your divorce process.

While the methods above are one avenue for obtaining a simple divorce, it should be used as a last resort, as it leaves no room to address issues like Child Time Sharing or Division of Marital Assets or Debts.

If you are entirely unable to locate your spouse and believe that Divorce by Publication is the best course of action to take in your situation, it is always best to contact an experienced, professional attorney to assist you in your case.

October 4

Things to Complete Before Finalizing Divorce

Divorce is never an easy decision to make. It can typically involve many different factors and even people. There are ways to make the finalization of divorce easier by creating a checklist for yourself before taking it to the serious point of divorce. Knowing how to handle a divorce before papers are signed can be beneficial to both parties and, at the very least, give you peace of mind that things are in the right order. Here you will find some of the things to add to your checklist before finalization, ensuring you won't have to deal with any potholes along the way.

  • Finances are a big part of a divorce. Many married couples share joint accounts and may have for many years. Keep track of what's in the accounts before bringing divorce papers into play. If possible, begin the separation of what's yours into a new account on your own. In the unfortunate case of a soon to be ex-spouse draining a joint account when they get informed of the impending divorce, you will be safe from potential over-spending that you're unaware of.
  • On the same page, with separating your accounts, it's best to close joint credit accounts. Try to have them paid off before divorce proceedings begin as it can be a bit more difficult after the fact. You can request the accounts to be frozen, but this won't get rid of a balance.
  • Do your homework on who's representing you! A divorce attorney may not always be needed if both parties remain civil and find an agreement amongst each other, but that is not always the case. If it's a particularly messy divorce (or has the potential to be), a divorce lawyer should be at the top of your checklist. Don't go with the first lawyer you meet with. Try to interview with 3-5 lawyers who have at least 5-10 years of experience in family law.
  • What will your living situation be after the divorce is finalized? Do you think you and your soon-to-be ex-partner will still live civilly together, or is someone moving out? If it's the latter, both parties will now be taking on rent/mortgage payments on their own. This can be a bit more difficult when children and owned property are involved. It's recommended to remain living with the partner you are divorcing until all court proceedings are done, and the divorce is officially final.
  • One of the most important things to do before finalizing a divorce is to keep your cool and lay low. A divorce is a very emotional time for everyone involved, and acting out in anger and frustration will only make things harder for you. As for laying low, it's a good idea to keep the dating to a minimum until the divorce is said and done. This looks better on you if you remain focused on the goal of working on your family if there are children, and if there are no children, it's a good time for you to reflect on yourself and work on that.

There are quite a few other things to make sure you go over before divorce is finalized, but these are some of the top things that should be covered before taking that last step. It's an unfortunate time, and every situation is different, but it makes it a bit easier if you're prepared beforehand.



August 24

A Few Do's and Don'ts for New Step Parents

Even in the most seemingly ideal situations, the successful blending of families is often a daunting task. As a new step-parent, it’s natural to want to instantly bond with your step children and create a new family, but what approach is in the actual best interest of the children? Here are a few Do’s and Don’ts to keep in mind as a new step parent:

Don’t expect a magic flip to be switched on the instant you marry. Adapting to a new situation takes time for anyone, especially children who may still be reeling from their biological parents’ divorce.

Do take things slow and allow the dynamic to develop naturally. Remember, this is their world of security and familiarity, and you are new. Expect some rough patches and know that love will develop over time.

Don’t discuss disagreements with your spouse within earshot of the children. Children are curious and likely to blame themselves for most issues.

Do set aside time to discuss troublesome issues privately with your spouse. If it is an issue that involves the children, choose a time to calmly discuss the issue as a family. This prevents children from playing one parent or step parent against the other and shows a united front. Discuss expectations and rules about each member of the family’s responsibilities in a respectful, cooperative manner.

Don’t attempt to replace a parent. No matter what your feelings toward the former spouse may be, trying to replace them leads to strong feelings of resentment.

Do be a role model, source of support, encourager and mentor. Children deserve a listening and caring ear. It is never okay to disparage or bad-mouth a biological parent. When children hear one of their parents is  “bad," they believe “part of me is bad.” Keep it positive!