Law Office of Daniel E. Forrest, P.A.

Facing a family law issue? We can helpSchedule an initial consultation

Phone 954-800-5000
Toll Free 800-642-8160

Broward County Divorce Law Blog

Determining who gets alimony in Florida

After a Florida divorce, a judge may award alimony to either party if it determined that it is needed. The alimony may be provided on a permanent basis or for a duration of time as determined by the court. Financial assistance may be used to help one spouse get on his or her feet or help him or her make it through a financial gap. Those who are granted bridge-the-gap alimony may not receive payments for more than two years.

Payments may be made in a single lump sum or over a longer period of time. To determine if an individual may need alimony, the court will look at a variety of factors. For instance, it will take into consideration the length of the marriage as well as the standard of living established during the marriage. A court will also look at the physical and mental health of a party as well as the ability to make money in the future.

Virtual visitation as part of a custody order

As technology continues to move forward, virtual visitation is a practical tool being discussed and utilized in family court systems as part of divorce proceedings. Florida and other states already have laws in place that permit the use of virtual visitation, which allows noncustodial parents and their children to enjoy time together through such methods as video conferencing and social networks. Courts in some states that currently do not have specific legislation are allowing this form as well as part of an approved parenting plan and custody order.

Some of the benefits to virtual visitations include instances where the custodial parent and child live a considerable distance from the non-custodial parent. In this situation, utilizing webcams or video conferencing methods could allow children to interact more readily with an absent parent. This type of virtual visitation may give some parents and children the ability to share events such as school plays and athletic activities.

Protecting business interests during a Florida divorce

A divorce can be a complicated and emotional time for both parties, but it might be even more so if one spouse owns a business. This is because a spouse may be entitled to some stake in the company unless the proper steps are taken. Two ideas to consider are a prenuptial agreement and a postnuptial agreement. A prenuptial agreement may override state property division laws and are generally respected as is by divorce courts.

For a prenuptial agreement to be valid, it must be in writing. It is often recommended that the agreement is signed in front of a judge to reduce the odds that any party to the agreement claims it was signed under duress. Such agreements should also be signed well in advance of a wedding and should contain reasonable terms. Agreements that are signed the night before a wedding are likely to be invalidated in court.

How is property divided in a divorce?

Many couples that divorce in Florida are unable to reach an agreement about property division outside of court. If a judge must determine how to divide marital assets between two spouses, the judge does so according to the principle of equitable distribution that is followed in Florida and in the majority of other states. Equitable distribution means that marital property is divided fairly, but not necessarily equally.

Before making decisions about property division, a judge will set aside all assets and liabilities that are designated as separate property. These non-marital assets might be property that one spouse acquired before the marriage or during the marriage through a gift or an inheritance. Likewise, any debts that were acquired by one spouse prior to the marriage will not be the responsibility of the other spouse after a divorce.

Handling 401(k) accounts in a divorce

Many Florida workers have 401(k) accounts. It may intrigue them to know that, during a divorce, this kind of retirement account may be considered a marital asset, thereby subjecting its accrued contents to distribution between the divorcing parties.

Although the laws governing these retirement accounts normally provide a penalty for early withdrawal, which is significant enough to deter many account holders from touching their 401(k) before the trigger age, this penalty may be temporarily lifted after a Qualified Domestic Relations Order indicating that an ex-spouse has legally acquired partial ownership of the account's funds has been verified. This order, often referenced by its acronym, QRDO, is issued by the court presiding over the divorce, and it specifies the portion of the 401(k) belonging to the ex-spouse. The account's new beneficiary may then withdraw his or her assigned portion without penalty in a cash lump sum, which is subject to taxes.

Reasonable visitation agreements in Florida and how they work

Ending a relationship is never easy, but when a child is involved, the whole situation becomes far more complex. Florida courts will always consider what's in the best interests of a child when deciding custody, but when it comes to visitation, parents have the option of agreeing to a reasonable visitation plan. Under this visitation agreement, the two parents themselves, without the help of the courts, will decide upon their own visitation schedule.

A reasonable visitation plan means parents can work around other responsibilities in their lives, but for this to work, the parents involved must be fully willing to cooperate. If the relationship is contentious on even one side, this type of visitation agreement might not be the best. Additionally, if two parents opt for this type of agreement but it becomes obvious that one isn't being treated fairly, it's possible to go back to the courts and request a fixed schedule.

Requirements for parents relocating with a child

Divorced Florida parents sometimes decide to move to a new location in order to get a fresh start. However, there are certain requirements that a custodial parent must meet before relocating with a child, especially if the new location is out of state.

The custodial parent will likely need to provide the court with what may be called a "good faith" reason for the relocation. Such a reason may become even more important if the move will disrupt the child's daily routine, remove them from their current school or disrupt their emotional or social stability. Acceptable reasons often can include a new job offer, moving closer to family members and if the cost of living is better. However, it should be noted that the court may take the noncustodial parent's wishes into consideration.

Best interests of the child in Florida custody matters

When parents are engaged in a child custody dispute, they are likely to hear the phrase "best interests of the child" in court. People with child custody cases may not understand what the phrase means in a legal sense. In Florida, the best interests of the child refers to the idea that courts make custody decisions designed to ensure the child's best outcomes in terms of their health, welfare and safety.

Judges make child custody decisions by weighing a number of relevant factors. Although the parents' individual wishes are considered, the child's interests are preeminent. Courts are not to give preference to one party over the other simply due to their respective genders. Instead, the factors considered by the courts are aimed at informing their best interests determinations.

Prenuptial agreements in Florida

Although it is common to approach marriage from the viewpoint that it will last, divorce is a significant reality for many couples, and property division decisions can be contentious. Planning for the possibility may limit difficulties if the issue arises, especially if you have significant assets or own a business that could be affected by divorce action later on. The use of a prenuptial agreement may enable you to define separate holdings and to create a plan for property division if you later divorce. By not planning carefully through a prenuptial agreement, you could be required to split important holdings with your partner.

A serious concern in drafting your prenuptial agreement is whether it will be viewed as valid later on. Legal challenges to such agreements are common, especially if a spouse's net worth is significant or if a separate business or property gains in value over the course of the marriage. Protecting your agreement from challenges may depend on appropriate wording and on the manner in which the document is reviewed and signed by your fiancee.

When inheritance becomes a marital asset

Florida residents considering divorce may be concerned about how property is divided. In Florida, property is divided equitably between the spouses. There are two types of property in matters of divorce. Marital property is that which is acquired during the marriage. Separate property is the property individuals own before they marry. Marital property is divided in divorce, and separate property is not.

There are exceptions to the rule. If a spouse personally inherits money or real property during the marriage, the inheritance is considered separate property. The same holds true for awards from personal injury lawsuits or gifts. If the funds are mixed with the funds in a joint account, the ability to retain separateness dissolves. Placing joint funds into an inheritance account also commingles the funds. In addition, if inherited funds are used for joint purposes such as home improvements, the inheritance becomes subject to property division.