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One of the positive evolutions in the field of family law is the increase of alternate dispute resolution means and their utilization for resolving a divorce case. Many of these means may allow for spouses to work in a more collaborative and less adversarial fashion toward achieving closure and moving forward productively. Engaging a mature and non-adversarial process may be particularly important and beneficial if there are young children from the marriage.

Sometimes, one may read about Hollywood celebrities who have made this commitment to work together for the benefit of their child/children. According to a People report, the divorce of acting stars Chris Pratt and Anna Faris is one example of this type of effort toward collaboration. It is important to remember, however, that, no matter how cooperative each of you seeks to be and how amicable your relationship is (even after the breakdown of the marriage), there are certain legal requirements that your divorce documents must satisfy. To make sure that your amicable divorce is not slowed down by procedural or legal errors, as well to ensure that your rights are properly protected, always make sure you have consulted an experienced South Florida family law attorney.

According to the People report, Pratt and Faris, who share a 6-year-old son, separated in August 2017. For the benefit of the son, the parents worked to achieve a divorce arrangement and post-divorce living situation in their home state of California that was geared toward being “unusually tension-free.”

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When people think of equitable distribution in a divorce, they may associate it with a fairly simple and straightforward process in which each spouse gets 50% of the marital assets. Of course, achieving this outcome can involve some technical matters, such as determining values of assets and deciding what is or is not a marital asset. Then there are other potential complexities such as dividing a property where the value was (or is) less than the balance of the outstanding mortgages. Achieving an equitable distribution that fairly protects your interests, then, involves a detailed understanding of the law in Florida, which is why it pays to have representation from a knowledgeable Miami family law attorney.

The divorce of A.M. and K.M. was a case with an equitable distribution dispute. The couple married in the fall of 2011. Prior to the marriage, the wife had purchased a home that was worth $126,000 on the couple’s wedding day. The home had two mortgages on it. The first mortgage alone had a balance of $166,000. During the marriage, the couple lived in that home. They used marital assets to make payments on the first mortgage, but they paid nothing on the second mortgage. The husband also made renovations to the home during the marriage.

Three and a one-half years after the couple married, the wife filed for divorce. During that litigation process, the home was assigned a market value of $170,000. The first mortgage had a balance of $143,000 and the second mortgage had a balance of $57,000.

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Certainly, some divorcing spouses end their marriage under highly amicable and collegial circumstances. They may choose, even after divorcing, to live close to each other, or to maintain a friendship and an active role in each other’s lives. They may even choose to remain in business together. However, the law generally does not support forcing two divorcing spouses to remain in business together. Instead, a business that is a marital asset typically should be assessed a value and distributed as part of equitable distribution. Valuing and distributing a business is just one of many potentially complex elements of equitable distribution and a place where your case may benefit greatly from the knowledge and skill of an experienced Miami divorce attorney.

One less-than-amicable divorce that involved a business asset was the case of K.G. and C.G. At the end of the trial, the court entered a final judgment of dissolution that, among other things, declared the husband’s closely held business, a Miami Beach-based prosthetics company, to be a marital asset and gave each spouse a 50% ownership stake in the business. In making that ruling, the trial judge expressly stated that he was declining to assign a value to the prosthetics business.

The husband appealed that decision and he was able to get it reversed. The judge’s decision to make the divorcing spouses co-owners together of the prosthetics business was a legal error that was “apparent on the face” of the ruling. That’s because Florida law is very clear that “compelling former spouses to remain in business together ‘creates [an] intolerable situation’.” That’s because divorce should be about an opportunity for closure. Forcing two divorcing spouses to co-own a business is potentially bad for them personally, bad for their business and bad for something called “judicial economy,” as it raises one more circumstance under which the parties might decide to bring their disputes back into court (perhaps multiple times).

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Recently, ET Online broke the news that former Playboy model and reality television star Holly Madison and her husband were divorcing after five years of marriage. While the couple, who are parents of two children, will have to work through some issues within the divorce litigation (such as parental responsibility, timesharing and a parenting plan), other issues are already resolved. That’s because the couple created a prenuptial agreement back in 2013. When properly negotiated, written and executed, a prenuptial agreement can be a very helpful part of the pre-marriage process. A prenuptial agreement can give both spouses the peace of mind that, if something should go wrong, issues like alimony and division of some or all assets have already been decided at a time when there was less stress and potentially less acrimony.  Whether you are seeking to create a prenuptial agreement or are facing divorce litigation, make sure you have the legal representation you need by hiring an experienced South Florida divorce attorney.

Madison is arguably best known to the public for her time as a star of E! reality TV show, The Girls Next Door, while Rotella is a highly successful promoter of electronic dance music concerts (or “raves”). The couple met in 2011 and married in 2013. They have two children, a five-year-old daughter and a two-year-old son.

Reports of the divorce from Radar Online indicated that the husband’s petition asked the court to award the couple joint custody of the two children. Several other aspects of the couple’s Nevada divorce were resolved before any divorce filing was begun. Just days before the couple’s September wedding at Disneyland, the pair signed a prenuptial agreement. Madison and Rotella’s agreement apparently stated that each spouse would keep her/his separate assets and debts as her/his own, and the agreement also stated that neither spouse was entitled to receive alimony from the other one, according to the Radar Online report.

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In a divorce case, there are generally several issues that must be worked through. One of those issues is equitable distribution. While it may be easy to think of equitable distribution as the process that distributes marital assets, it is important to remember that marital debts must also be divided in equitable distribution. Keep in mind that, just because a piece of real estate is a non-marital asset, that does not automatically mean that the mortgage on that property is non-marital. You must be prepared to prove that the facts of your case demonstrate that the mortgage was non-marital and that the obligation for paying it back should not be included in your equitable distribution. To help in getting a truly fair equitable distribution, make sure that you have retained the services of a skilled South Florida divorce attorney who can help you get the distribution you deserve.

The divorce case of S.F. and T.F. was one that involved this type of dispute over the correct categorization of a mortgage. The spouses were married for nine years. During the divorce litigation, each spouse acknowledged the house located in an area of Pasco County called Mitchell Ranch was the husband’s separate property. The husband had purchased the home prior to the marriage and there was no mortgage on the property when he and S.F. wed.

While the spouses were married, they took out a $73,000 mortgage on the Mitchell Ranch property. According to the wife, all of the money was used to make improvements to the Mitchell Ranch house. The wife’s name never appeared on the note or on the property deed. At the end of the divorce trial, however, the judge concluded that the house was the husband’s separate property but that the mortgage was marital debt subject to equitable distribution.

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In any legal action, particularly something as personal as a family law case, you (as a party) hope and expect to receive a fair hearing from the court. So, what can you do if after the conclusion of your case you receive a final judgment that seems to indicate that your judge was less than adequately impartial or independent in his/her decision-making? Depending on the specific flaws in your judgment, you may have options. At many steps in the process, you may have avenues for seeking relief. These issues point out how it can help to have a skilled South Florida family law attorney on your side who understands in great detail all of the possibilities that may exist to allow you to get justice.

The case of a husband named G.T. was an example of such a scenario. To better understand what happened in G.T.’s divorce, it is helpful to walk through the steps of a contested divorce. The court will hold a trial. Each spouse will receive the opportunity to present proof and witnesses, and to cross-examine the other spouse’s witnesses. Once the trial is over, a final judgment of dissolution of marriage must be entered by the court. It is not uncommon for one of the spouse’s attorneys to draft a proposed final judgment for the judge to review and sign.

Obviously, each spouse’s attorney is a zealous advocate for her client and will draft a proposed final judgment that includes findings of fact and conclusions of law that favor her client. The judge, typically, will use portions of what the attorney has written, discard others, and insert additional language that the judge created independently.

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When you are dealing with a dispute in relation to how your marital settlement agreement should be carried out, the courts will enforce the agreement in a manner similar to any other kind of contract dispute. What this means is that if the agreement is clear and unambiguous on its face the court will look only at the agreement document itself to determine what the outcome should be. If, however, the court decides that the document contains ambiguity, then that ambiguity allows the spouses to introduce external evidence to prove the true meaning of the provision in dispute. Achieving success, then, in your marital settlement agreement dispute begins with successfully persuading the court that your agreement is, or is not, ambiguous. When it comes these and other types of marital settlement agreement enforcement disputes, it is worthwhile to have the advice and advocacy of a skilled South Florida family law attorney.

An example of this type of dispute regarding a marital settlement agreement and its potential ambiguity was the case of M.F. and R.F. M.F. and R.F. worked out a marital settlement agreement as part of their divorce. For couples who are getting closer to the age of retirement, one of the most important pieces within the asset division puzzle may be the distribution of retirement accounts. In M.F. and R.F.’s case, the settlement agreement dealt with the husband’s pension, stating that the wife was entitled to 50% of the marital portion of the husband’s Florida Retirement System plan through his employer, the Broward County Sheriff’s Office. The agreement further declared that, outside this FRS plan, each spouse would keep any IRAs or 401K plans in their names.

On the surface, this might sound straightforward enough. However, in this couple’s case, there was a complication. The husband had originally worked for a city police department that had eventually been absorbed by the Broward County Sheriff’s Office. At the time of the absorption, the couple cashed out the husband’s pension that he had with the city. Later on, during the marriage, the couple purchased “enhancements” to the husband’s Florida Retirement System plan, which meant that they put extra money into the pension in order to realize a greater benefit when the husband retired. They used marital funds to purchase this enhancement.

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In many divorce cases, two of the key items that must be resolved are child support and alimony. In Florida, some types of alimony, like permanent alimony and durational alimony, are awarded with the expectation that the supporting spouse will be making payments to the recipient spouse for a considerable period of time. So what happens if the supporting spouse dies shortly after the award is ordered by the court? If that happens, it could mean that the recipient spouse receives very little alimony. To avoid that outcome, Florida law empowers judges to order supporting spouses to obtain life insurance to secure the alimony award. Judges can issue these orders only under special circumstances, however. To find out if your case’s circumstances are “special” and learn more about your options regarding alimony, you should contact a knowledgeable South Florida alimony attorney.Florida courts have clearly outlined what the “special circumstances” are that can serve as triggers for an order demanding life insurance as security for an alimony award. They include situations in which a spouse would potentially be “left in dire financial straits” if her supporting spouse died prematurely “due to age, ill health, and/or lack of employment skills.” These circumstances also include the supporting spouse’s failing health, minor children living at home, a recipient spouse who has limited earning ability, a supporting spouse who is behind on alimony payments, or cases in which the supporting spouse agreed to purchase a life insurance policy to secure the alimony award.

In one recent case, the trial court ordered the husband to purchase a $1 million life insurance policy to secure his alimony obligation. The husband appealed that decision, arguing that none of the law’s list of special circumstances applied to his situation. The husband had agreed to obtain life insurance to secure his child support obligation, but he had never made any similar agreement with regard to his alimony.

The judge’s order regarding life insurance did not survive an appeal because there wasn’t enough evidence of the required special circumstances. There was no finding by the trial judge that the wife would be left in “dire financial straits.” Additionally, the wife was fairly young, had a college degree, and also had a good job. The minor child at home with the wife would turn 18 in less than 2 years, and the husband was not behind in his alimony payments. These facts indicated that none of the special circumstances existed.

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When you find yourself facing a divorce, there may be several financial concerns on your mind. One of those concerns may be the distribution of marital assets that the court will order as part of the resolution of the divorce case. One thing that you should keep in mind as the case proceeds is that the distribution of marital assets may not necessarily be 50-50. The law requires an equitable distribution, but not an equal distribution, and there are many reasons why an unequal distribution might be equitable. To make sure you get what the law says you deserve, make sure you have retained knowledgeable South Florida divorce counsel to represent you.The divorce case of J.K. and E.P. was an example of an unequal equitable distribution. The spouses were two people who came into their marriage with two very different financial profiles. J.K. was a CPA who was deeply in debt. E.P. was a self-employed realtor, and she had amassed substantial wealth.

During the marriage, the couple bought a house for $412,000. The home’s down payment, in addition to the monthly mortgage payments, was made using the wife’s premarital assets. Also during the marriage, the couple remodeled the home, spending more than a half-million dollars on that project. Despite outlays of more than $910,000, the house was only worth $575,000, even after renovation. Nevertheless, when the couple divorced, the husband asserted that he was entitled to a 50% cut from the $163,000 appreciation in the value of the home.

In many situations, a spouse would be entitled to 50% of a marital asset. However, the law in Florida demands an equitable distribution of marital property, rather than an equal distribution of marital property. What that means, in plain English, is that the goal of the courts in distributing assets after a divorce is to arrive at a fair outcome, whether that outcome is equal or unequal.

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Divorce and family law litigation can be difficult on multiple levels. It can be emotionally stressful. It can also be draining in terms of time and money. That is especially true if if you are asked to make extensive and intrusive production of information, including sensitive financial documents. Sometimes, there may be ways to persuade the judge that you should not have to make such disclosures. It is important to avoid simply not complying, but instead to go through the proper legal procedures. A knowledgeable Florida family law attorney can help make the arguments you need.

One recent South Florida case that involved family law litigation and document disclosure was the dispute between G.E. and P.E. The spouses co-owned several rental properties. As part of the resolution of the divorce litigation, the spouses agreed to divide those rental properties. The agreement required the husband to use his “best efforts” to remove the wife from the properties he received in the settlement, and also obligated the wife to make similar efforts to remove the husband from the properties she received.

More than two years later, the ex-spouses were back in court. The ex-wife asked the court for an order to enforce the agreement. She alleged that the ex-husband still had not gotten her name removed from the mortgage on one of the properties that he received in the settlement. As part of this legal action, the ex-wife made a demand for the production of extension financial information.