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Broward County Divorce Law Blog

Shared parental responsibility in Florida custody cases

Parents undergoing a child custody dispute can expect that most family courts will assign parents shared responsibility for their children, even when one parent may have primary residential or physical custody. Custody decisions encompass more than just determining with which parent a child will primarily live. It also involves courts determining how major decisions that affect the children's lives will be made.

In most cases, courts will order the parents to share parental responsibility. This means that parents must confer with one another when making major decisions regarding the children. In other words, both parents will have a say in where the child will attend school, what doctor the child will see, whether the child will receive counseling and in what religion, if any, the child will be raised.

What is a parenting plan?

A parenting plan is a blueprint for the resolution of challenges that parents and their children may face prior to, during and following a dissolution of a marriage. Florida law changed the way that parenting issues are governed in divorce proceedings in 2008, and the biggest change is the requirement that a parenting plan be developed for every child involved in an action for dissolution of a marriage.

In a parenting plan, the details for how parents intend to share the daily duties of raising their child are addressed. Time-sharing agendas and issues such as how each parent communicates with the child and which parent will hold responsibility for education-related matters are also planned. The more cooperative the parents are with each other in developing a parenting plan, the easier the divorce process becomes.

How is property distributed in a divorce in Florida?

In a Florida divorce, judges follow the principles of equitable distribution in dividing the marital assets and debts between the spouses. Each person keeps all non-marital assets, including property he or she owned prior to the marriage, any inheritance left to him or her, personal injury lawsuit proceeds, gifts made to one spouse by a third party and any property that has been deemed non-marital through a written or prenuptial agreement.

Equitable distribution is not the same as an equal division. Marital property and incurred debts are divided by the court in the fairest manner. When deciding how to divide the marital property, courts take into account what each party contributed to the marriage, including not only employment but also homemaking, whether a child should remain in the family home, the financial circumstances of each party, how long the marriage lasted and whether one party contributed to the other's education and career advancement.

Florida prenuptial agreements

In Florida, prenuptial agreements, called premarital agreements, are a type of contract people enter into prior to the marriage that become effective once the marriage occurs. Couples can sign agreements regarding such things as spousal support, property rights, division of assets, choice of law covering the agreement and how life insurance proceeds will be distributed in the event a death occurs. Premarital agreements cannot contain a clause adversely affecting the right of a child to future support, however.

In addition to defining what categories couples can choose to include in a premarital agreement, the law provides a mechanism by which either spouse can challenge pre-existing prenuptial agreements in the event of a divorce to prevent them from being enforced. Agreements will be held to be unenforceable if a spouse can prove one of several things occurred.

Protocol for alimony determination in Florida

Florida residents considering divorce may have questions about spousal support. There are guidelines established by the state that provide for a recipient's acclimation to being single once again. The court uses certain factors to decide how the amount of alimony is determined.

In Florida, spousal support may be considered rehabilitative, allowing either party to retrain such that their employability is enhanced or permanent. Such support is usually paid by the higher-earning party. Support may be paid in one payment, or it may be paid at predetermined intervals. In addition, the court might ask that the payer obtain life insurance that will cover alimony payments should he or she predecease the recipient.

The different types of alimony in Florida

Florida residents who are contemplating divorce may be interested in the way alimony is decided. The first determination the court considers is whether or not one spouse needs alimony and if the other spouse is financially able to pay it. In determining the amount of alimony, the court has many variable to consider. The length of the marriage and the contribution of each spouse is taken into consideration including child rearing, and the age and health of both spouses. Marriages of less than seven years are considered to be short-term marriages in Florida, while long-term ones exceed 17 years.

If one spouse enhanced the other's career by curtailing their own time in the workforce to take care of home-related duties, the court will use that information. Two types of alimony allow a spouse to readjust to life on their own. One bridges the gap between married and single status while the other, rehabilitative alimony, allows a spouse to retrain or seek education crucial to finding employment.

Forensic accountants are important experts in divorce proceedings

For couples seeking a divorce in Florida, where state laws make it easy to set up and run a small business, divorces involving a couple's business can be very complex. Businesses are required by law to maintain certain categories of records, and any well-run business needs a certain minimum level of accounting. Unfortunately, when an equitable asset split is involved, businesses can be points of contention in divorce court. When a business apportionment is part of a divorce settlement, the business owner may try stalling tactics, like delivering all financial documents at the last possible minute to run up their spouses legal bills. They may try presenting documents that have been deliberately jumbled and misfiled to conceal missing information.

Some business owners will attempt to under-sell the value of the business to make its on-book valuation lower. This lets them pay less than they otherwise would for buying out their spouse's share of the business, or in some cases, commit outright fraud. Unfortunately, many divorce and family law attorneys aren't well versed on accounting techniques, which is why hiring a forensic accountant can be a key advantage in a divorce proceeding.

Wealthy wife seeks to void prenuptial agreement

The wife of a billionaire hedge fund manager is countering her husband's divorce by trying to declare their prenuptial agreement invalid. The divorce began in the summer of 2013 after the couple had been married for 11 years. The agreement would prevent the wife from gaining much from the divorce; sources say that she would be entitled to only $50 million, which is about 1 percent of the husband's net worth.

According to the wife, she signed the prenuptial agreement under duress. She stated that the husband presented the agreement shortly before the wedding and caught her off guard. In addition, she claims that the two of them saw a psychologist to help them resolve pre-marital issues, and the psychologist recommended she sign the agreement. She found out later that the husband had already been seeing the psychologist. She wrote in the filing that she was essentially tricked into believing she was seeing a neutral professional, when it fact she was being pushed into signing the agreement.

Prenuptials add order to marriage expectations

Many couples in Florida approach their wedding day with a sense of anticipation and vigor. While the number of people marrying who have a prenuptial agreement in place is unknown, using one to delineate ordered expectations before, during and at the end of marriage is growing.

The reasons people favor prenuptial agreements vary but are often related to asset protection. Prenuptials may deal with what happens to homes owned separately before marriage and upgraded during marriage. Another area is inheritance. A spouse who expects to come into an inheritance may want to strategize about what will happen to it if the marriage fails.

International marriages and divorce in the United States

With cultural diversity becoming more common in the U.S., divorce may require an international approach. Florida residents may have questions about how divorce in this country affects their marital status in their native country. Property division in the divorce settlement may involve assets they own as a couple in another country. Whether those assets are able to be divided in Florida and be subject to division elsewhere may be complicated.

A couple legally married in another country may divorce in the U.S., provided that the court that handles their divorce has jurisdiction over such matters. Jurisdiction over such issues varies depending on the state. In Florida, one of the parties to a divorce must live within the state for a period of six months before they are able to file. Having a valid divorce decree in the U.S. may not void the marriage in some countries. It might be a good idea to consult with an attorney who may provide clarification on such issues.