Articles Posted in Family Law

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Divorces can often be contentious matters. It may be especially fractious if one of the spouses was allegedly having an affair. If you are facing a high-dollar divorce, it is important to understand how your spouse’s allegations of your infidelity can – and cannot – impact what the judge orders in terms of equitable distribution. To make sure that you don’t get shortchanged and that the distribution you get complies with current Florida law, be sure you have a knowledgeable Florida divorce attorney advocating for you.

H.D. and G.D. were a couple whose divorce case involved allegations of unfaithfulness. The couple married in Cuba in 1967. 48 years later, the husband file for divorce in Miami. The wife asked the judge to award an unequal distribution because of the husband’s adultery. Specifically, the husband allegedly spent marital funds on the mistress and did not collect rent from the mistress (who lived in an East Hialeah rental property that the husband and wife owned.)

The trial judge ruled that the wife was entitled to something called “special equity” and awarded her an unequal distribution. (The wife received $605,000 in assets; the husband $258,000.) The husband appealed that ruling and won his appeal. The trial court’s decision had to be reversed because Florida doesn’t recognize the legal concept of special equity, and hasn’t since 2008.

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If you file for divorce in the wrong place, that error will likely result in a dismissal, costing you valuable time and resources. This risk is a particularly prominent one if yours is a high-dollar divorce. High-asset couples are more likely to have multiple homes, which may give spouses the idea they have more options for where to file than they actually have. Each state has a series of requirements that must be met before the state will allow a person to obtain a judgment of divorce there. Before you proceed with filing your divorce petition with a court in Florida, be sure you have the legal counsel you need from a knowledgeable South Florida family law attorney to get your divorce as efficiently and effectively as possible.

R.L. and L.L. were a couple whose divorce case became caught up in this residency requirement. The wife filed for divorce and the trial court awarded her exclusive use of a Pinellas County home as well as nearly $16,000 per month in alimony. The husband, though, appealed and the appeals court ruled in his favor.

The reason this wife’s divorce case unraveled was because of Florida’s rules for subject matter jurisdiction for divorces. “Subject matter jurisdiction” means the legal authority of a court to hear, and issue orders in, particular types of cases. Even if both spouses desire for a Florida court to resolve their divorce case, Florida courts cannot do so if subject matter jurisdiction isn’t there.

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Sometimes, your high-asset divorce can also mean high-dollar misconduct. The breakdown of a marriage can sometimes lead spouses to do things they shouldn’t, like going out and spending large amounts of marital assets on things that don’t benefit the marriage. When that happens, you’ll need to be prepared to take the right action in court in order to make sure that your spouse’s dissipation of assets doesn’t end up counting against you when it comes time for the court to establish an equitable distribution. Whenever you’re faced with this kind of divorce, make sure you protect yourself with an experienced South Florida family law attorney.

A case that originated in the Orlando area is a good example. Both spouses were high-profile and highly successful sports commentary personalities, each with net worth in excess of $5 million. The husband was a highly successful radio and TV host, covering golf and fantasy football, among other things, for several major networks. The wife was also a successful TV commentator, covering golf and football. During the marriage, the husband received a large settlement from one of his previous employers.

In 2016, though, the successful sports commentary couple divorced. Before the divorce was finalized, though, the wife allegedly took a substantial chunk of the husband’s settlement money and spent it on, among other things, $100,000+ of cosmetic procedures at a Beverly Hills dermatologist and over $7,000 on a new dog.

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We’ve mostly all heard the phrase “separation of church and state.” For many folks, though, the process of getting married inherently involves aspects of both secular and religious law. If you and your spouse-to-be seek to make binding promises as part of your religious obligations, it is important to proceed with the aid of a knowledgeable South Florida family law attorney. That’s because, if there is eventually a question later about something you or your spouse promised, it will be a Florida civil court and not a religious tribunal that decides the outcome, so you need to be sure that whatever you agreed to can be enforced by the secular courts in Florida.

This issue has popped up in multiple places recently, and two very recent decisions highlight how the courts might handle your religion-influenced case. In Maryland, an Islamic couple had undergone a civil marriage and an Islamic one. In the Islamic process, the husband made a mahr which, according to the Encyclopaedia of Islam, is a gift that the groom “has to give the bride when the contract of marriage is made and which becomes the property of the wife.”

The wife eventually filed in state court in Maryland to compel the husband to fulfill his mahr promise. The court ruled for the wife because it was able to resolve that dispute using solely secular Maryland contract law. The wife won because she had proof of the terms of the agreement, and the husband lacked evidence that the mahr agreement was either unconscionable under Maryland law or the product of “fraud, duress, coercion, mistake, undue influence,” one party’s incompetence or bad faith.

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We can learn a lot sometimes from legal cases involving celebrities. Musician Ric Ocasek, who achieved his greatest notoriety in the 1980s with his band The Cars and who died in 2019, is one such example. His case offers a clear example of how you, as a Floridian, can benefit from completing your divorce promptly or, perhaps even more beneficially, from executing a prenuptial or post-nuptial agreement with your spouse. If you have a large amount of wealth, the difference between doing these things and not doing these things can be millions of dollars. To make sure that your wealth will continue to go where you want it to, even as you contemplate an upcoming marriage or an upcoming divorce, be sure to rely upon an experienced Florida divorce attorney.

In 2018, Ocasek’s wife, model Paulina Porizkova, announced that she and Ocasek had separated in 2017. In September 2019, Ocasek died of natural causes. At the time, he and Porizkova remained married. Later last year, news reports indicated that Ocasek had excluded Porizkova from his will. The will stated that the pair were “in the process of divorcing” and that Porizkova was not entitled to anything from his estate “because she has abandoned me,” according to People.com. Ocasek’s estate included $5 million just in copyrights.

Ocasek died in New York City and his probate estate will not be administered in Florida. However, for many people, especially people with high dollar estates, it is very important to look at a case like Ocasek’s and understand the impact of a divorce on your probate estate. The Florida Statutes have something called a “spousal share” for surviving spouses. That law says that, if your spouse survives you, she can “elect” to receive 30% of your estate, regardless of what your estate planning documents say. (That’s true even if your documents expressly say she should receive nothing.)

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Recently, singer/actor Justin Timberlake made the celebrity gossip and entertainment news after he was spotted holding hands with his costar from his latest movie, fueling rumors that Timberlake was having an affair with the actress. Timberlake and his wife, according to the New York Daily News, have a prenuptial agreement that says that, if Timberlake cheats and the couple divorces, his infidelity would result in his wife receiving an extra $500,000 in the divorce settlement. That sum would be small compared to actor Michael Douglas, who would owe an extra $5 million if he cheated on wife Catherine Zeta-Jones and the pair divorced, according to the Daily News.

These types of provisions in prenuptial agreements, which are generally dubbed “lifestyle’ clauses, can address everything from sexual fidelity to a spouse’s weight to the frequency of sex…even down to how often the in-laws visit, and they are increasing in popularity. If you desire to learn more about the creation or the enforcement of your prenuptial agreement with a lifestyle clause, be sure to retain an experienced Florida prenuptial agreement attorney.

If you are in a position of high visibility in South Florida business and/or society, you probably have certain expectations of your partner… expectations you might desire to be placed in a prenuptial agreement. As a person of social and/or professional prominence, you might be concerned that a husband who notoriously cheats on you could damage your standing in society, and so desire a fidelity clause in your prenup. Alternately, you might be a high-powered business professional who’s concerned that a wife whose appearance goes from South Beach supermodel to obese could harm your business prospects by negatively impacting your professional “brand,” thereby making you interested in a weight (or similar appearance) clause in your prenup.

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Rarely have truer words been written into the first sentence of a court opinion than last year, when a Florida appeals court declared that the “tiniest words can have the greatest consequence.” If you work within the field of high-dollar commercial contracts, you probably know that to be true. If you are simply preparing to get married, the intricacies and minutia of the law of contract drafting may not be at the forefront of your mind. That’s why you should make sure you have an experienced Florida prenuptial agreement attorney representing you. Just like any other contract, the inclusion or exclusion of as little as a single word may completely change the outcome of your situation, costing you (or gaining you) massive sums. When millions are potentially on the line, don’t take chances.

A case from across the state is a good example of just how much can be riding on just one word. M.F. was a successful entrepreneur. M.F.’s fiancee, J.L., was a lawyer in the Sarasota area. A few weeks before the couple wed in 2006, they signed a prenuptial agreement. The agreement called for a cash payout from the husband to the wife in the event of a divorce, with the amount of that payout increasing over time. The document specifically said that the husband was to pay to the wife within 90 days, “of the date either party files a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage the amount listed below next to the number of full years they have been married at the time a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage is filed.”

That all seems somewhat straightforward, right? In some circumstances, it could have been, not always. That’s why you retain the most skillful attorneys to draft any contract for you, including a prenuptial agreement. Because, as the old saying says, the “devil is in the details” and imperfect drafting can leave you vulnerable to possible ambiguity.

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Many high-earning individuals may be subject to extreme fluctuations in income. A professional athlete’s playing career may be ended abruptly by injury. A corporate executive may be unexpectedly forced out of his/her position. A sudden shift in popular tastes may mean that a music or acting star loses his/her contract with his/her recording label or filmmaking studio. A high-earning real estate broker may suffer a severe reduction in income due to a recession that greatly reduces the number of people buying new houses.

In any of these cases, the financial setbacks may have many impacts, especially if that high-earner is also subject to a court-ordered child support obligation. When that happens to you, you need to know what you can do to obtain relief from the Florida courts. For that kind of legal help, look to an experienced South Florida family law attorney to advise you regarding your specific situation.

An example of this type of scenario was the child support case of J.V., who was a highly accomplished professional football player originally from Miami-Dade County. While playing professional football in New Orleans, the player had a child with B.B. In 2015, the parents entered into what’s called a “consent judgment” in Louisiana. A consent judgment is a judgment issued by a judge but whose terms are established as a result of an agreement between the parties. The Louisiana judgment established timesharing and child support, among other things.

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Earlier this year, a Michigan court made an interesting ruling in an unusual case involving a husband who won a lottery jackpot during his separation prior to divorce. Here in Florida, we have Powerball, Mega Millions, Jackpot Triple Play and a bunch of other lottery games, but you’re highly unlikely to win an eight-figure jackpot in the lottery, especially while you’re going through a divorce.

However, the Michigan lottery winner’s case does pose some worthwhile questions. What if the events had occurred in Florida instead of Michigan? What if the multi-million-dollar new asset wasn’t a stroke of luck like a lottery jackpot but was something related to your business? For business people, these scenarios are entirely plausible, and serve as a reminder that, if you’re in that position, you should be sure you have a skilled South Florida divorce attorney handling your legal needs and protecting your interests.

The Michigan couple, R.Z. and M.Z., married in 2004. By 2011, the marriage had broken down and each spouse had filed a divorce complaint. The divorce, however, did not resolve quickly. The arbitrator assigned to the case decided the issue of property division in November 2013. The “wrinkle,” so to speak, was that the husband had purchased a winning lottery ticket in July 2013. This was no ordinary lottery “score;” the man’s net winnings after taxes were $38 million.

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Gavel-WeddingRigs
Any divorce case is a complex proceeding. Divorce becomes even more complicated when it’s intertwined with a personal injury settlement. When a personal injury settlement coincides with a divorce, the parties understandably want to know what happens to the personal injury settlement. Here’s what you need to know about how personal injury settlements are handled in a divorce. We talk to personal injury attorney and expert Jack Bernstein about this complex legal proceeding.

Is a Personal Injury Settlement Part of a Divorce Proceeding?

Yes, a personal injury settlement is part of the conversation in a divorce proceeding. Whether the settlement is subject to distribution in the divorce proceeding is a complex question.

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