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Broward County Divorce Law Blog

Lobbyists battle in divorce court over art collection

Florida readers may be interested in a story out of Washington, D.C., concerning one couple who has decided to end their marriage. The husband and wife, both high-profile lobbyists, are now fighting a legal battle over ownership and control of their art collection.

Tony and Heather Podesta initially separated in October 2012, but the couple has now decided to make the divorce official. He recently filed divorce papers in D.C. Superior Court, and she filed a counterclaim soon after. One of the more contentious issues in the proceedings is the control of the couple's collection of artwork. With his claimed history of supporting the arts and donating pieces to museums, he is claiming that Heather has attempted to block these donations. Heather is seeking to enjoin Tony from any further donations without the written consent of both spouses.

New bill has international custody considerations

Proposed legislation that was passed unanimously by the House of Representatives in December spells out what the U.S. can do if a foreign country fails to comply with the Hague international abduction treaty when a child is taken from Florida or any other state. U.S. State Department statistics show that in 2013, non-custodial parents abducted more than 1,000 children and moved with them to another country. The bill is now in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and hearings have already begun.

A Colorado father has been going through such a battle after his ex-wife, the mother of their children, took them to Argentina in violation of a U.S. court order. The Supreme Court of Argentina recently issued its final ruling in favor of the father, and he is waiting on an order of return to be issued by the U.S. State Department.

Transparency of marital assets in divorce

Florida couples contemplating divorce might know that property division is based on a clear understanding and listing of marital assets. When marital assets are clearly identified and valuated, property division may begin. When the divorcing spouses are high net worth individuals, assets may be greater and harder to find as they are often more complex and not always easily divided.

When assets such as hedge or venture capital funds are involved, the property division process may become complex. Additionally, the spouses may be co-owners of a business. In this case, dividing the shares that each spouse owns may be difficult. The value of a company is not static and changes over time; it might be worth a great deal more in the future or it could go bankrupt. If the couple shares ownership of the business, then selling it when they divorce might not benefit either spouse. A financial adviser could offer an estimation of future worth when considering the asset.

FL couples face challenges in divorce with division of assets

When a Florida couple files for divorce, the end of their marriage results in the need to divide their marital assets in an equitable fashion as allowed under the law. In some marriages, property division is fairly straightforward and simple, such as if only a home is owned by the couple. However, the division of assets becomes more complicated when the couple owns stocks.

There are different types of stock assets that a couple may own. For example, the couple may have stocks, stock options and restricted stocks. These assets can be challenging to divide because their value may be difficult to pinpoint. In addition, some of these assets may be hidden by one spouse, or they may not be transferrable or divided. For example, if an individual obtains preferred or restricted stocks through their employer, the spouse of the employee may not be aware of the assets.

Former OMB director Peter Orszag in child support dispute 

Single parents in Florida that may get involved in child support disagreements may want to review details of a dispute that involves the former director of the Office of Management and Budget for the White House. After leaving public service, Peter Orszag became a high-ranking executive with Citigroup in 2011.

Orszag's pay rose substantially, and his ex-spouse decided that the 2008 child support agreement that they had entered into needed to be changed. In 2012, she filed papers in Washington D.C. Superior Court seeking an increase in child support payments to $25,000 per month. They have two children together. Orszag resisted such efforts, and the matter eventually went to trial on March 12. Just prior to that, his lawyers filed documents that stated Orszag's current and anticipated income. In a ruling issued by the presiding federal judge in late February, this information was to be made public.

Billionaire to keep controlling interest in his oil company

Floridians who pay attention to Forbes' list of Global Billionaires may be familiar with Harold Hamm, founder of Continental Resources and number 68 on the list. Hamm made the news recently when an Oklahoma District Court Judge ruled in Hamm's favor in his divorce proceedings. The divorce filings for Hamm and his wife became public last year, and the trial phase of the divorce is expected to begin in July. As is the case in most high net worth divorces, Hamm stood to lose a lot of money depending on what the judge considered to be marital property and pre-marital property.

On Feb. 13, the Oklahoma judge held that 122 million of Hamm's approximate 126 million shares of Continental that he had acquired before marriage were in fact "pre-marital," granting partial summary judgment on this issue. Although Hamm expressed that he was confident that the shares were pre-marital property, the shares were worth a significant amount of money and carried a lot of power with them; losing them would have been a blow to Hamm.

The effects of cohabitation on alimony

Florida residents may be interested in the way cohabitation affects alimony. When a couple divorces, one spouse may pay alimony to the other for sustenance and to help them become self-sufficient. Spousal support may be limited or it may continue until the spouse receiving alimony remarries. However, cohabitation without remarriage may occur and in this case alimony does not necessarily stop.

The rules concerning the effect cohabitation has on alimony differ in various states but in most cases proof is dependent on showing that the new couple are living in a way suggestive of a married couple. The question of proof can be difficult, however. Financial and social sharing of duties and living expenses are two areas that may be used to satisfy proof. If a couple shares rent, food or utility bills, this may show cohabitation. Social factors such as helping with child rearing or vacationing together indicate a couple are living in a situation that reflects marriage.

Changing dynamics in families

A push for shared parenting has resulted in an unprecedented change, with more Florida fathers are becoming single parents. During the last several decades, courts have made decisions regarding custody by considering the best interests of the child, which has resulted in a disproportionate number of custody decisions favoring the mothers. However, as more fathers push for joint custody, more mothers have decided to give up their portion of custody.

Some fathers perceive that courts prefer mothers and are more likely to accept visitation and fewer rights. They see other men in this situation and assume it is the norm. However, courts are actually granting more parenting time to fathers than they had previously. The perception that fathers have of themselves has also changed, making them feel like they play an important role in their children's lives and are more willing to fight to stay a constant in their children's lives.

When your divorce causes a tax audit

Florida couples who have recently divorced may want to watch out for the IRS. Due to the additional scrutiny on a couple's finances during a divorce, there's an increased chance that a couple will be audited for discrepancies in previously-filed tax returns.

In many cases, divorces require a forensic audit, which is used to disclose all income and assets so that property can be distributed equitably. A judge usually reviews the information gathered by this audit before making rulings regarding property division. If the judge notices any inconsistencies in the couple's finances, he or she is obligated to share that information with the IRS. Such inconsistencies might include undisclosed income and hidden assets.

Comedian pays millions to ex-wife in alimony

As Florida advocates gear up for another round for alimony reform legislation, the story of comedian John Cleese may serve as a reminder of alimony's high cost. John Cleese has based part of his comedy show on alimony, and over the years he has paid millions of dollars to his ex-wife.

The comedian started a one-man show a few years ago called 'The Alimony Tour.' Before that, he experienced success through his role in the Monty Python comedy troupe. Although he is 74 years old now and was divorced in 2008, he is still making alimony payments to his ex-wife, who was a psychotherapist. They had been married for 16 years at the time of their divorce, and had no children together. Their settlement was entered into in 2009. He remarried in 2012 with his fourth wife.

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