Exclusive Use and Possession of the Marital Home

Where a party has majority time-sharing they may be entitled to exclusive use and possession of the marital home until the youngest child is emancipated.

In Lowry v. Lowry, the 5th District Court of Appeals for the State of Florida held that the trial court had abused its discretion by granting former husband’s request to partition and sell the marital home instead of awarding the former wife exclusive use and possession of it because the former wife had majority time-sharing with children. 

The Court stated that unless there were special circumstances a trial court should award the primary residential parent exclusive use and possession of the marital residence until the youngest child reaches majority or is emancipated, or the primary residential parent remarries.

Can I get an Annulment instead of a Divorce and what are the Requirements?

You can get an annulment instead of a divorce if you can establish to the satisfaction of the court that the marriage was legally void, or legally voidable and has not been ratified. However, the annulment process is more complicated and more expensive than an uncontested divorce so in addition to the legal requirements you would want to consider if there is a special circumstance that makes it worth while to deal with additional complexity and additional expense to have the court determine that the marriage was not legally valid rather than just divorcing.

Annulment is where a marriage is void or voidable and the parties seek to be returned to the status of being single as if no marriage had taken place. A void marriage is a marriage that has a defect that can not be made valid by the actions of another party. A voidable marriage is a marriage that there was a legal impediment to the marriage at the time it was entered into that makes the marriage voidable but the impediment to marriage could be removed and the marriage ratified.

There is no specific statutory requirement for an annulment, so the courts look to case law in making a determination as to if a marriage can be annulled. Examples of circumstances in which an annulment may be granted include; where the other party has concealed his/her true identity before and after the marriage; where a party was legally married to someone else at the time of the marriage; where a party refuses to cohabitate or consummate the marriage; where the parties were under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the marriage; where there was duress; where a party was pregnant with the child of another party at the time of the marriage; or where a party was underage to legally marry. The burden is on the party seeking annulment to establish the grounds for the annulment.

Florida is a no fault divorce state and practically favors divorce over annulment. The divorce process in Florida can be a relative simple one depending on the issues in a case and whether the parties are in agreement or seek to litigate those issues, while the annulment process will always include having to establish that the marriage was void, or voidable and has not been ratified, to the satisfaction of the Court. It depends on your specific situation whether an annulment offers you any advantages over a divorce. If you have questions about annulment please call us to discuss your situation on (786) 539-4935.

Florida Uniform Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act

deployed parent child custody What about time-sharing, visitation, custody ,and parental responsibility for a service member’s children when the service member is being deployed?

Florida has adopted the Uniform Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act.  Florida Statute Section 61.703 et seq.

The Act has sections that relate to giving notice of deployment, out of court agreements for the period of deployment, the possibility of a non-parent having temporary care-taking responsibility during a deployment, and expedited proceedings where agreements can not be reached out of court so an order can be entered prior to deployment and not during the deployment.

This Act serves to supplement the Service members Civil Relief Act, formerly known as the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act, which also provides some protections for service members.

If you or the other parent of your child are a service member who is being deployed and you have questions about your legal rights you are welcome to contact us to arrange a consultation with an attorney.

How Much Does A Divorce Cost?

Divorce or dissolution of marriage cases can vary dramatically in cost depending on what is involved, complexity, and the amount of work that is required.

In a divorce in which the husband and wife already agree on all matters such as support, property, custody, and child support, a fixed fee may be appropriate, providing the case remains uncontested.

Since legal fees are partly determined by the services rendered, it usually is not possible to determine in advance the total fee for a case that has any contested issues.  In such a case, we would tell you our minimum fee, the amount of time we would credit you for that fee, and our hourly rate and fees beyond that should additional work be required.

Lawyers may not charge contingent fees in divorce cases.  Sometimes in a divorce the court may order the other side to pay all or some of the fees and costs incurred.

In addition to legal fees costs may be incurred.   At a minimum there is a filing fee, unless you can establish indigence.  For instance, the Miami-Dade County Clerk of Court presently charges $409 for the filing of a divorce plus a credit card processing fee.  There can be other court costs associated with issuance of a summons and otherwise.

Litigated cases usually entail costs associated with records requests, subpoenas, and depositions. Where child related issues or mental health issues are contested there may be costs associated with experts in the field and court appointed professionals.  Where financial issues are contested there may be costs associated with experts such as appraisers and forensic accountants.

If you need an estimate of the costs of a divorce please call us on (786) 539-4935 so we can identify the issues in your case and determine if your case qualifies for a flat fee or the amount of the minimum fee that will be required.

What Happens To My Pension And Retirement In My Divorce?

retiring to hammock

In a divorce the marital portion of the pension or retirement plan is going to be subject to valuation and equitable distribution.  The non-marital portion should not be subject to equitable distribution by the court. All vested and non vested pensions, retirement, profit sharing, thrift savings, annuities, or insurance acquired during the marriage constitute marital property.  Since only that part of the pension or retirement that accrued during the marriage is a marital asset a  court will look to see the premarital and post marital contributions and the increase in value that relates to each.

Often a Qualified Domestic Relations Order is entered which directs the administrator of a retirement plan to divide the retirement and award the marital portion to the plan holder’s spouse.

After the court has divided marital assets and debts in equitable distribution in can also consider a pension or retirement as a potential source of funds for an alimony award when performing its need and ability to pay analysis.

If you have questions regarding a retirement or pension in the context of your divorce please contact one of our lawyers on (786) 539-4935.

Can I Get My Lawyer’s Fees Paid By The Other Side In A Divorce Or Paternity Case?

The answer in one word is, sometimes.

attorneys fees in dovirce and paternity cases

Pursuant to Florida Statute Section 61.16: “The court may from time to time, after considering the financial resources of both parties, order a party to pay a reasonable amount for attorney’s fees, suit money, and the cost to the other party of maintaining or defending any proceeding under this chapter, including enforcement and modification proceedings and appeals.”

So when one party needs money for their attorney’s fees and the other party has the financial ability to pay the court can make a fee award in favor of the party in need.

Pursuant to the Florida Supreme Court case of Rosen v. Rosen, 696 So. 2d 697 (Fla. 1997) and its progeny a court can also award fees where warranted; in light of the scope and history of the litigation; the duration of the litigation; the lack of merit of the positions taken by the other side; because the other side has brought defenses and assumed positions to mainly frustrate and stall; and based upon the existence and course of prior and existing litigation.

Accordingly, when the other party in a divorce or paternity case engages in bad conduct and takes bad positions during a divorce case that drives up attorney’s fees the court can hold them accountable for those fees.

The court can make an award of temporary attorney’s fees while the case is ongoing and can also make an award of attorney’s fees at the end of the case.  Whether the court will do so is usually based upon the requesting parties’ need for attorney’s fees and the other parties ability to pay.

To recover fees on a temporary basis during the pendency of the case or at its conclusion it is usually necessary to establish the facts that support your claim to establish need and ability to pay and the Rosen case’s factors through admissible evidence and testimony.  It is also necessary to establish the amount of the fees and there reasonableness.

If you want to talk to a lawyer about the potential for recovery of fees in your case contact us for a consultation on (786) 539-4935.

Should a Brokerage Account Funded with Inherited Money be Considered Marital?

In a Divorce case the court determines what assets and liabilities are marital and which are not and equitably divides the marital assets and liabilities. The Third District Court of Appeals entered an opinion in the case of Gromet v. Jensen reversing the trial court for its decision to consider three brokerage accounts funded with inherited money to be marital and subject to equitable distribution.

Of the three brokerage accounts, one had been established prior to the marriage and the two others that had been established during the marriage. All three had been funded by the Husband with money inherited from his mother. Inherited money usually starts of as being non-marital.

The Wife claimed that the brokerage accounts were marital because the Husband had deposited about $1,100 from the dissolution of a marital business into a brokerage account and because the Husband had expended marital efforts and labor in his management of the accounts such that any enhancement in value should be considered marital.

The Husband claimed that while he had managed the accounts during the marriage they had actually decreased in value because of trading losses and the use of funds to maintain the marital household. The Husband also testified that the had not deposited the $1,100 from the marital business into any of the three brokerage accounts having deposited it into a separate bank account.

The Third District Court of Appeals considered the testimony, evidence, and law in detail coming to the conclusion that the three brokerage accounts were not marital on the record before it. It reasoned that the Wife had not specified which brokerage account the $1,100 had been deposited into and did not have specific knowledge regarding the accounts such that the evidence before it was insufficient to find commingling had occurred based upon the vagueness of the Wife’s testimony and evidence concerning the deposit.

The Court then considered the Wife’s enhancement in value argument. The Court reasoned that while the Husband had actively managed the accounts during the marriage the Wife had failed to meet her burden to show an enhancement in their value had resulted from it, and that the evidence of record actually supported that they had decreased in value. Accordingly, the Wife was not entitled to any portion of the three accounts.

This case shows the importance of properly preparing for trial and presenting the right evidence to the trial court. Had a different record been established at trial through documents or testimony the outcome may have been completely different. For instance a bank record showing the deposit of the $1,100 into the initial brokerage account which was then used to fund the other two may have affected the court’s consideration of whether the accounts had become marital through commingling.

If you need to talk to a lawyer or attorney about your divorce, the division of assets and liabilities, the classification of marital and non-marital property, valuation under the law, and presenting the legal arguments and evidence to the court to support your position, contact our office to arrange a consultation on (786)539-4935

Divorce, Equitable Distribution, Court Must Identify Marital Or Nonmarital Status of Assets and Liabilities and Value Them

equitable distribution assets and liabilitiesIn a divorce case with assets and liabilities, the court must identify what assets and liabilities are marital and what are non-marital and then assign values to the assets and liabilities so they can be divided in equitable distribution.

Determining what is marital and what is non-marital generally starts with a determination of what assets and debts were obtained or incurred during the marriage.

There are however some exclusions from what is considered marital even where an asset was acquired during the marriage, for instance, non-interspousal gifts, income produced by nonmarital assets, or an inheritance.

Then a court must then decide if assets and debts that existed prior to the marriage have a marital component because of concepts like gifting, enhancement, and commingling.

The assets and liabilities are then valued and equitably divided by the court.

This is not necessarily an easy process involving both legal concepts and valuation issues so you will want a lawyer with experience in such issues to present the right legal concepts and values to the court.

If a court does not determine what is marital and what is nonmarital and value the assets and liabilities in its judgment a decision can be reversed.

For instance, in Buckalew v. Buckalew, the trial court had affirmed a General Magistrates written findings of fact that did not identify what assets and liabilities were marital and what were not.  Nor did it assign values to each asset and liability.  The Fourth District Court of Appeals for the State of Florida reversed the trial court’s decision to adopt the written findings because they did not state what was marital and what was not and assign a value to each asset and liability.

A decision can also be reversed if a court does not categorize what is marital or nonmarital correctly or uses inappropriate valuation methods.

If you are facing equitable distribution issues in your divorce case you need a divorce lawyer who can help identify the issues specific to your case and help you present your case to the court.  Call us for a consultation. (786) 539-4935

“We Want Prenup, We Want Prenup”, Prenuptial Agreements Are Not Just For Celebrities

“We want prenup” was a term thrown into the popular culture of the time by Kanye West’s song “Gold Digger”. While people often think of a prenuptial agreement as reserved for celebrities and the mega rich any couple can benefit from one.

Prenuptial and premarital agreements are agreements entered into by parties contemplating marriage that set forth the rights and obligations of each party in the event of death, divorce, and even during the marriage. They can be used to delineate the assets, debts, and income that may be marital and divided should the marriage fail, and those that may remain separate and not be divided in the event of divorce. There are only a few things that they can’t be used for which mostly relate to child issues, like determining child custody, a parenting plan, or child support.

Nobody goes into a marriage thinking it will fail but its best to plan for contingencies, just like we get insurance to protect things we own. Prenuptial agreements can offer certainty and help to reduce the transactional costs should the worst happen and the marriage result in a divorce, leaving less to fight about and with both parties knowing where they will stand. While it can be a little uncomfortable discussing a prenuptial agreement with a fiancé, having a prenuptial agreement can help people stay friends down the road if the relationship results in a divorce by taking the acrimony out of the divorce process itself. If you think it’s hard to talk about consider it may be easier to negotiate with a party that loves you and wants to marry you than one that wants to leave you and divorce you already. If you are losing the relationship with the person you thought was the love of your life you may thank yourself and they may thank you also for not adding a fight in divorce court to the process. For the frugal among you, the cost is likely to be much less than a divorce with contested financial issues.

If you want to talk to us about a prenuptial agreement please contact our office to arrange a consultation on (786)539-4935