Marriage has long been described as the union of two people, which in the end gives rise to solidarity of purpose and existence, creating one stronger unit.  With the emphasis put on the union, you can imagine that undoing the union is serious business.  During divorces, emotions run high for different reasons.  The financial aspect of ending the marriage relationship is high on the list of stressors.  For example, if a household brings in $100,000 per year between the husband and the wife, splitting that income in two and trying to maintain the same standard of living is hard to to do.  As a Jacksonville divorce lawyer, I’ve encountered this dilemma many times.  Intertwined in the issue of income splitting is the issue of dividing marital debt (and marital assets, but in this article the focus will be on marital debt).

Marital Debt

Marital Debt

According to Florida Statute 61.075, “All assets acquired and liabilities incurred by either spouse subsequent to the date of the marriage and not specifically established as non-marital assets or liabilities are presumed to be marital assets and liabilities.”  In other words, both parties are responsible for debt created by one or both of them, unless it can be shown that one of them should be solely responsible for the debt.  This means proving that it is non-marital debt.  The person who wants the debt to be considered non-marital debt has the burden to prove that it is non-marital debt.

Florida law begins with the idea that both parties should share equally in paying marital debt.  There are circumstances where the court will order disproportionate distributions of marital debts (and assets); equal distribution is only a legal presumption and can be overcome.  At the Law Office of David M. Goldman, we have experienced Jacksonville divorce lawyer that can help you understand your rights and responsibilities.  Initial consultations are free.  Call us today to schedule your free consultation with an experienced Jacksonville divorce lawyer that will keep your best interest in mind.

Trusts have long been a tool used in asset protection and estate planning to protect property and income.  But  what if a person seeks to use a trust  as a shield to protect a trust beneficiary from making support payments in family law cases?  The answer is not necessarily straight forward, but depends on the circumstances and the terms of the trust.  However, Florida trust law makes it possible for a trust to be used to provide support to a trust beneficiary’s dependents.  This is  limited to child support or spousal support and is only considered when there are no other alternatives to receiving the support that is sought.  The person seeking to attach a trust’s distributions to a beneficiary must demonstrate to the court that certain factors are present that justify going after the trust.  A trust’s spendthrift provision will not defeat a garnishment for support of a dependent.

equalRecently, the 2nd District Court of Appeals, in Berlinger v. Casselberry, upheld a trial court’s order issuing a continuing writ of garnishment against any future disbursements from a trust for the ex-husband’s benefit after the ex-wife filed a motion for contempt and requested a writ of garnishment.  In this case, the ex-husband was ordered to pay a substantial amount of alimony per month.  The ex-husband stopped making the alimony payments, but lived a lavish lifestyle with his new wife.  The couple lived off a trust set up for the benefit of the ex-husband, who had attempted to hide the trust.  After the ex-wife discovered the trust, she requested the writ of garnishment, which the court granted.

The State of Florida holds spendthrift provisions in high regard and will respect them, generally.  However, the State’s policy as it relates to a person’s obligation to support his or her dependents is of higher interest to the State of Florida.  For more information on trusts or family law issues, contact the Law Office of David M. Goldman, PPLC.  Initial consultations are free.

Florida child support is based off of a formula that is used to calculate the amount of periodic payments that have to be made by a noncustodial parent.  The goal behind child support enforcement is to have the parents, rather than the State of Florida, take care of children.  Of the thousands of cases that involve child support orders, some are the result of divorce cases or paternity cases started by the mother or father, while many are the result of legal action by the Florida Department of Revenue.  The Florida Department of Revenue is the state agency that handles child support enforcement.  However a child support order comes into existence, the obligation to support a child or children is taken seriously.  Not paying child support can have consequences that range from suspended licenses, liens on property, contempt of court (which can mean jail time), and more.

child supportAs a Jacksonville child support lawyer, I’ve had many conversations with noncustodial parents when they are behind on support payments.  Many have ignored the payments, typically after job loss or some other event that makes them believe they aren’t required to pay.  If a major even happens that changes your ability to pay or makes you think that you no longer have to make payments, I suggest that you immediately contact a child support lawyer that can help you understand your rights and obligations.  When there is a substantial change in circumstances, child support payments may be modified.  The possibility for change can be upward or downward, depending on the circumstances.

Contacting a child support lawyer is important whether your child support payments are made through an income deduction order or paid directly to the other parent.  Making adjustments to the child support amount on your own without going through the court can lead to some of the penalties listed above.  Call the Law Office of David M. Goldman, PLLC today to schedule a free consultation.  We can help enforce child support payments, as well.  So whether you’re not receiving the support your child deserves, you need to start a new support case, or a modification is necessary, we can help.

Florida divorce rates are declining, while marriage rates are increasing, according to a recent article by WCTV.  This has been the case for the past year, according to a Department of Health report.  Jacksonville divorce lawyers are familiar with the fact that divorces are tough.  It is a wonderful thing for the numbers to decrease, even if only by a small amount.  Divorces cases are emotionally taxing on families.  Divorces are also financially harmful to families.

jacksonville divorceIn Florida, the divorce process is a simple one.  It may not always be easy to actually go through it, but the concept is simple.  If one person out of the couple believes that the marriage is broken, then there is grounds for a divorce.  Some other states require a bit more.  This could be one of the reasons why Florida’s divorce rate is slightly higher than the national average.

The major issues that come up in divorce cases are (1) child custody and visitation, referred to as parental responsibility and time-sharing; (2) child support; (3) alimony or spousal support; and (4) the division of assets and liabilities.  At the Law Office of David M. Goldman, PPLC, we have experienced Jacksonville divorce lawyers that can help you navigate through the simple, but stressful process of divorce in Florida.  Call us today for a free consultation.  Our experienced Jacksonville divorce lawyers can help you understand your rights and obligations regarding your divorce.  As much as we wish you a long healthy marriage, we realize that things happen and plans change.  Let our divorce lawyers get you on the right track.  Call today.

Mediation in divorce and family law cases is a way for the people involved to directly take part in the outcome.  Otherwise, strangers who know very little about the true nature of the dispute will make decisions for those involved in the case.  Mediation is a process where you have a neutral third person acting as a referee of sorts to help the parties involved see if an agreement can been reached.  Any issue can be resolved in mediation, from child support and alimony to the division of marital assets.  The mediator is not on anyone’s side, but uses logic, experience, and his or her knowledge of family law to help each side understand the other person’s viewpoint and what could possibly happen if the case were to go to trial.

Mediation in Florida

Balance through mediation

Mediators can differ a lot in style, but in general, he or she will start with one side and explain the rules and the process to the person.  The same will be done for the person on the other side.  In a typical divorce case, the parties involved will be the husband and his lawyer on one side and the wife and her lawyer on the other side.  Although with same sex marriages being more prevalent, variations of this scenario are possible.  Some mediators will do the initial process disclosure with both parties present in the same room in order to save time.  Afterwards, the parties are split, and each side will explain its position and may make an offer to the other party, or they may send an invitation to receive an offer from the other side.

Mediation is not strictly required under Florida law, but the Family Law Rules of Procedure, in rule 12.740, give judges discretion to send parties to mediation prior to cases being set for trial.  With as much to do as the average family law judge, mediation is an attractive idea.   It saves the judge time, and it gives the parties a chance to participate in the result.  Also, mediation allows the parties to get creative and have more flexibility regarding an outcome than the judge has.   Most judges I’ve practiced in front of as a Jacksonville divorce lawyer are patient, insightful, and all other things that make good judges.  They all have also been human, however.  In light of the possibility for human error or for something to appear different than what it really is, mediation is a good way to protect yourself from the possibility of not having things go your way in court.  In the spirit of reaching a resolution, there has to be a willingness to compromise in some regards.  Keep in mind that no one can be forced in mediation to do what he or she is unwilling to do.  If no agreement is reached, the parties are free to set the case for trial.

Most people have had buyer’s remorse from time-to-time. The moment a person realizes he or she has made a bad deal can be very disappointing. As a Jacksonville divorce lawyer, I can tell you that settlement agreements in divorce cases can leave a person feeling the same way. Marital settlement agreements can be used to resolve any issue in a divorce case. Some subjects, like custody or time-sharing, may have to be approved by the court before being made a part of the final divorce decree. Child support, for example, that is normally based on guidelines can be more than what the law requires, if both parties have agreed to it.  A father that has agreed to pay $200 additional in child support per month will typically be stuck with the terms of the agreement he signed.  divorce_pic

Florida courts have long held that a signed settlement agreement in divorce cases will bind both parties.   This is so, because courts prefer people to work the cases out themselves, rather than rely on the court to solve problems through litigation. Jacksonville divorce lawyers would all hope that their clients won’t enter into agreements without the divorce lawyer having an opportunity to review and advise the client about the agreement, but divorce lawyers are sometimes faced with having to search for ways to get a client out of a settlement agreement the lawyer was not involved in.   Unless certain circumstances exist, a person is bound by a signed settlement agreement in divorce cases. Things that can make a settlement agreement unenforceable include fraud, duress, misrepresentation, and overreaching.

For example, a situation where a husband threatened to turn his wife and her business partners in to the IRS unless she signed the marital settlement agreement was found to be duress, and the agreement was set aside. Where one party has lied about what assets are available, courts are likely to invalidate those agreements, as well. Experienced Jacksonville divorce lawyers at the Law Office of David M. Goldman, PLLC can help you maneuver through the issues in your divorce case. Free consultations are available. Call us today at (904) 685-1200.

If your divorce case goes wrong, you made need to appeal the judge’s decision. Judges don’t always get it right. I’ve witnessed this as a Jacksonville family and divorce lawyer. Whenever, cases have reached a final conclusion, our legal system allows a person to appeal the decision. In family cases, judges listen to evidence at trials and must decide what is in the best interest of a child when considering time-sharing or child custody issues.  Florida Statute 61.13(3) lists the factors that the judge should use. The trial judge has discretion to do what he or she sees fit and in accord with the facts and the law in each case.

system_failureWhen cases are appealed, the appeals court will look back at the decision made by the trial judge and decide whether the judge abused his or her discretion. In the recently decided case of Niekamp v. Niekamp, the Second District Court of Appeals overruled a Leon County, Florida judge regarding several issues.  The judge in the Niekamp case awarded no time-sharing to the Husband in the case, but did not implement a plan for reunification of the Husband and the children. The appeals court deemed the lack of a reunification plan as an abuse of discretion.  Although the trial judge found that no time-sharing was appropriate for the time, there was no evidence that it was in the children’s best interest to never be reunited with the Husband.

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Divorce is an unfortunate reality.  It happens to people of all walks of life from the average Joe to household names like celebrity couple Gwen Steffani and Gavin Rossdale.   According to, Gwen filed for divorce on Monday.  Gwen and Gavin are both successful musicians and have been married for over 13 years, but sources report that Gwen complained that Gavin was a cheater and was on tour with his band too often.  Gavin claims that Gwen spent time on the road, as well.  Reasons for divorce vary as much as the couples that get them, but there are a few reoccurring themes in divorce cases.  Financial issues, cheating, domestic violence, substance abuse, and simply growing apart are the ones I hear most often.  Whatever the reason, divorces are common, but knowledge about the process and rights each person has is not common.
imagesThe process of getting divorced is legally simple.  What is complicated at times, is accomplishing the task.  The emotions that go along with the process can make matters difficult, especially where one party is being spiteful or is suffering from emotional pain that enhances the legal battle.  Pushing aside the emotions that come along with a divorce, the major issues to be decided are:

  1. Child child custody and visitation (referred to as “time-sharing” in Florida)
  2. Child support
  3. Spousal support (alimony)
  4. Division of marital property (equitable distribution)

Time-sharing is based on what is in the best interest of children.  A list of factors to be considered can be found in Section 60.13(3), Fla. Stat.   Child support is determined by a formula and is based on the parents’ incomes and the children’s needs, amongst other factors.  Spousal support (or alimony) is based on the length of the marriage, the parties’ needs and ability to pay, and more.  MArital property (and marital debt too) is generally divided equally between the parties, but there can be a deviation from this scheme, depending on the circumstances.

For more information on your rights and responsibilities, and general information on divorce in Florida, contact the Jacksonville divorce lawyers at the Law Office of David M. Goldman PLLC at (904) 685-1200.  Initial consultations are free.  Our attorneys can help you navigate through the process, while protecting your rights.  Call us today to schedule an appointment.


“Why is divorce so expensive? Because it’s worth it. “- Unknown

As a Jacksonville divorce lawyer, I can tell you that the average person that is thinking of divorce worries about the cost of  divorce.  The ugly truth is that divorce can be expensive, but divorce does not have to cost a lot.  There are things that you can do to help keep the costs down during your divorce.

1.  Be Reasonable

Some things in life are certain… like death and taxes.  Other things are mostly certain.  In divorce cases that involve minor children, child support is one of those things that will be mostly certain.  Each parent has a legal obligation to support children.  Florida has developed guidelines that are used to calculate child support.  The right of the child to be supported by parents cannot be negotiated away by husband and wife during divorce, since the right to receive support belongs to the child.  There are circumstances where child support could potentially be little to nothing, but they are not commonly present in my experience.  Therefore, be reasonable.  For example, fighting to pay no child support where there are three small children involved in a case is unreasonable and will be a waste of financial resources in most instances.  There are plenty of examples of unreasonable positions that can be held in a divorce case. Here, I only want to make the point that the more unreasonable you are– the more the fighting that takes place– the more fighting that takes places– the higher the attorney fees will be.

2.  Don’t Be Spiteful

Being angry at your soon-to-be ex-spouse is normal during a divorce.  People have hurt feelings.  People are sad for their lost. And for most divorcing couples, the decision to end the marriage is a big deal.  However, the time to be spiteful and do annoying things to get back at your spouse isn’t during the divorce.  Being spiteful leads to unreasonable decisions.  Tip number one above explains why this can be an expensive thing to do.

3.  Find a Close Friend or Family Member to Talk With

Although lawyers are commonly referred to as “Attorney and Counselor at law”, you don’t want to use your lawyer as your counselor.  Spending time explaining to your lawyer all of the things that make your spouse horrible should not happen often.  Your attorney should focus on addressing the legal issues that protect your interest.  Focusing on the issues at hand rather than talking about your feelings with your divorce lawyer is the ideal situation.  Lawyers understand the stress that comes during this time in your life.  Most will accommodate your request and talk with you when they are available, but keep in mind that this is considered as time dedicated to your case.  You will likely be billed for the counseling session.

These are just a few ways money can be saved.  For more information or for help with a divorce or other family law issue, contact the Law Office of David M. Goldman, PLLC at (904) 685-1200.  Our experienced family lawyers can help.

Separation and Bankruptcy in Florida: Can I file without my spouse if we are separated?

In addition to being emotionally draining for most people, divorces can cause a myriad of issues with the most substantial problems being financial issues.  Sometimes couples split, but don’t legally divorce.  Some states recognize legal separation, but Florida does not.  Living separately from your spouse while still being married is fine, but in Florida it does not have any special legal recognition.  When an individual who is simply living separate from his or her spouse (or is going through a divorce) considers bankruptcy, they often want to know if they can proceed with a bankruptcy without involving their spouse.

The current bankruptcy laws allow a debtor to file an individual bankruptcy regardless of whether he or she is married or in the process of getting a divorce. A debtor is allowed to file a joint or individual bankruptcy during a marriage or during an ongoing divorce.  Generally, when a person is married and filing bankruptcy, either individually or jointly, the income of both spouses determines what type of bankruptcy a debtor can file; either a Chapter 7, 13 or 11. This is known as household income in bankruptcy. Even if only one spouse is filing bankruptcy, the income of the other non-filing spouse will be taken into consideration and must be disclosed to the trustee and court.

Having the income of both parties included can create a huge problem when a married couple is separating and living apart and one spouse wants to file bankruptcy. They may be able to qualify for a Chapter 7 alone, but not when their non-filing spouse’s income is taken into consideration. When married couples are living separately, this means there are two houses and two sets of expenses.

Luckily, Florida has something called the “marital adjustment” in bankruptcy. The marital adjustment allows a spouse who is filing individually to subtract from their non-filing spouses income expenses that solely belong to the non-filing spouse. For example, if the non-filing spouse has a monthly car payment for a vehicle owned exclusively by the non-filing spouse, these type of expenses may be subtracted from the couples total income. This allows the filing spouse to not be penalized for expenses that are not for his or her benefit.

Call the Law Office of David Goldman PLLC today at 904-685-1200 for more information.  Our experience divorce lawyers and bankruptcy lawyers can help.

by Kendal Sander, Esq.

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