Articles Posted in Gay Divorce

The end of a marriage can be a trying time, both emotionally and financially.  For many people, fundamental aspects of their daily life will change dramatically, including where they live, how often they see their children, their day-to-day routine, and even whether or not they have a job.  In some cases, one of the parties to a marriage has forgone pursuing a career to support his or her spouse or may have left the workforce early to raise a family or manage the marital home.  Your Jacksonville family attorney can assist you in obtaining alimony or defending against alimony claims.

Florida Alimony

Of course, the parties to a marriage both have financial needs, both during the marriage and afterwards, should it end.  The law that governs the way marriages end recognize this fact and provide for an equitable distribution of the marital assets upon dissolution.  Additionally, Florida Courts are authorized by law to award additional financial support based on one party’s need and the other party’s ability to pay.  This type of arrangement is referred to as “alimony” by Florida law but can also be called “spousal support” or “maintenance.”  There are several types of alimony that may be awarded, including bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, permanent, durational, or lump-sum alimony.  Which kind of alimony is appropriate to request can sometimes be difficult to decide on your own.  Your Jacksonville family attorney will assist you in making that determination after examining all the facts related to your marriage.

Many divorcing parents and single parents are aware of their obligation to support their children, and some are familiar with how the amount they must pay is decided.  Fewer are aware of how long the obligation to support their children continues.  Your Jacksonville family attorney can assist you with understanding all of the nuances about child support.

Payment Lasts Until the Child Reaches Majority Age

In general, a parent must pay child support until the child is 18 years old.  This is considered the age of majority or when the child is recognized as an adult.  However, a child’s eighteenth birthday isn’t always the cutoff date for support payments.  According to Florida law, a parent’s duty to continue paying child support may be extended when the child has not finished high school by their eighteenth birthday; when the child has special needs; and when there is an agreement that says otherwise.  Your Jacksonville family attorney can assist you in determining what your obligation will be based on your particular circumstances.

Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution that is mandatory in a Florida divorce, paternity, or modification case, but many people do not see the process as the benefit it is.  During mediation, the two parties will meet with a mediator who is an unbiased and uninterested person in the case.  The mediator will try and help the parties resolve all disputes related to the family law case.  If an agreement is reached, it is drafted and submitted to the Court for approval so the case can be closed.  While the process is straightforward, there are still many myths related to the process.  Your Jacksonville family attorney can assist you in understanding the mediation process.  Below are the biggest myths about family law mediation in Florida, and the truth behind them.

The Mediator Will Make All the Decisions

This is simply untrue.  Mediators do not make any of the decisions when they meet with parties going through a divorce, paternity, or modification case.  They cannot force either party to do, or not do, anything.  Instead, they are only there to help you and facilitate you and your spouse, ex-spouse, or co-parent to reach an agreement.  If you cannot reach an agreement and your case requires litigation, it is the Judge that will make all the decisions.  Your Jacksonville family attorney is here to assist you in mediation and to represent you in any litigation should you not reach agreement.

Family law clients always ask me, “What is a QDRO?”  (pronounced informally “Quad-Row”) QDRO is an acronym for Qualified Domestic Relations Order, which is a court order that grants a party a right to a portion of the retirement benefits his or her former spouse has earned through participation in an employer-sponsored retirement plan. Federal law states that a retirement benefit can only be divided between former spouses if there is a QDRO.  Retirement plans can be a huge asset in a marriage that may be forgotten in a divorce, so its key for clients to educate themselves on division of this marital asset.

QDRO divorceIn a divorce, a family law attorney needs to determine what retirement plan each party owns through mandatory disclosure by the formal, legal plan name.  It is important to know the value of each plan, the valuation date used to value the plan, what ancillary benefits are associated with the plan (for example, market fluctuations, survivor benefits, subsidies/supplements, and interest credits), the correct method of division for the plan, and will the retirement plan accept a QDRO.  Disclosure is important in obtaining this information and the plan’s summary description. It is also important to obtain the plan’s divorce transfer and QDRO guidelines, if available.  Obtaining a statement for the plan as of your desired valuation date will assist you in a smooth QDRO process.  For federal government employees, retirement plans are divided by a COAP, which stands for Court Order Acceptable for Processing.

Your divorce decree will not be enough to divide a retirement benefit in most cases.  A QDRO is a separate document from the divorce decree. It is always better to file a QDRO with the retirement plan as soon as possible.  If the former spouse retires after the divorce is final, and the QDRO has not been filed with the plan, the plan will begin paying out the benefit to the former spouse and only future payments will be affected.

That dreaded word in a divorce:  Alimony. Alimony is determined by the court after looking at one party’s actual need versus one party’s ability to pay. After equitable distribution is determined, the court reviews what money is left over, if anything, and considers the parties’ circumstances to come up with a fair award.  Some questions to answer:

  • Length of the marriage
  • Standard of living the parties are accustomed to

Divorces in Florida typically split the parties’ assets and liabilities down the middle as much as possible.  Determining what is a marital asset or liability or a non-marital asset or liability can be key to whether an asset or liability will be considered in the calculations.  Before filing for divorce, you should consider the following items when thinking about equitable distribution:

  • Previous Inheritance
  • Marital Home

In Florida, divorces with children involved primarily focus on the parenting plan first.  The parenting plan determines numerous factors in raising your children and will be the document most referred to after the divorce is finalized.  It is important that the plan is tailored to you and your children and accounts for the best interest of the children.  Before filing for divorce, you should consider whether you would like to request one of the following:

  • Shared Parental Responsibility: Both parents confer and jointly make all major decisions affecting the welfare of the children, such as education, healthcare, etc.
  • Shared Parental Responsibility with Decision Making Authority: Both parents attempt to agree on major decisions, but one parent will have the ultimate decision-making authority.

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and his third wife, Judith, are currently involved in a heated divorce.  A day after filing for divorce on April 4, 2018, the parties filed for each other to produce a statement of net worth to determine assets.  The Giulianis have been married for 15 years and they do not have a prenuptial agreement.

prenupIn 2007, when Rudy Giuliani submitted his financial disclosure to the Federal Election Commission while running for president, he was worth an estimated $30 million.  The couple own properties in Manhattan and Palm Beach, Florida.  It is estimated that there is currently an estimated $60 million in assets at stake. When he married Judith, Rudy was pretty much insolvent and the money he has now was earned while he was married to Judith.  New York is a separate property state, but her participation in his success could be a factor for the assets to be split 50/50.

In Florida, mandatory disclosure applies so the Giulianis would not need to file for a statement of net worth.  Mandatory Disclosure is the procedure where financial information is automatically disclosed by the parties upon the filing of a divorce.  The parties must exchange financial information in the form of a financial affidavit and additional documents such as tax returns, bank statements, credit card statements, deeds, vehicle titles, insurance policies, etc. Mandatory disclosure must be completed within 45 days after service on the respondent.

gay_divorce_2006_thumb.jpgSame-sex marriage is only legally recognized in a few states. However, many gay and lesbian couples reside in Florida. As a Jacksonville Gay and Lesbian Issues Lawyer, I receive numerous calls from same-sex couples that live in Jacksonville, Florida seeking a divorce.

Florida, like the majority of states that don’t recognize same-sex marriage, does not recognize same-sex divorce. This is because granting a same-sex couple a divorce is basically a legal recognition that the couple was married in the first place. If you live in Florida and have been married in a state which allows for same-sex marriages, getting a divorce in Florida is not possible. Obtaining a divorce might require, among other conditions, that you establish residency in the state in which you were married. Generally speaking, most states require residency in their state for six months, a year, or even more.

If you were married in California, however, you may have a new option. California’s governor Jerry Brown recently signed into law a bill that allows couples who were married in California to file for divorce in California — even if the couple no longer lives there. For example, if you were married in California’s Orange County, moved to Florida’s Orange County, and are now seeking a divorce, the California County that married you still has jurisdiction to grant your divorce.

melissa.jpgMelissa Etheridge, singer of the hit 90s song “I’m the Only One” and fresh off the release of her new album, Icon, is still in the depths of her legal battle with her former domestic partner. Their current dispute centers around their children, who are 5-year-old twins.

Originally, the court ordered Ms. Etheridge to pay Tammy Lynn Michaels $23,000 a month in child support. As this is more money than many people make in a year (the poverty level for a family of three is $18,530), most people would think $23,000 a month would be sufficient. Ms. Michaels, however, is asking for an increase. She claims she can’t survive on this amount and is requesting an increase to $128,000 each month.

Ms. Etheridge has responded with several accusations of why her former partner should not be granted the increase, even accusing Ms. Michaels of accidentally burning one of the children with a cigarette. She has asked the court for 50/50 custody and for an order requiring neither of them smoke around the children.

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