The Marks Law Firm Blog and New Updates

How Much Alimony Can I Receive From My Divorce?

Alimony is one of the most hotly contested issues in a divorce.

Some cases can carry on for years because spouses cannot agree on alimony.

Under Florida Statute 61.08, the amount of Alimony you can receive from your divorce depends on several factors starting with:

  1. Need: First, the court must determine whether or not you or your spouse needs spousal support (aka – alimony).
  2. Ability: Second, the court must determine whether or not you or your spouse has the actual ability to pay spousal support.

Once the court has found need for alimony by one spouse and an ability to by that alimony in the other spouse, then the court must consider all relevant factors to determine exactly how much alimony should be paid.

Generally, the court considers approximately ten key factors in assessing how much alimony should be paid from one spouse to the other, which are listed in Florida’s alimony statute 61.08.

Most Common Types of Alimony Received in Florida Divorces

There are also five different types of alimony which will impact the total amount of alimony you may receive.

The five types of alimony include:

  1. Permanent Periodic: This is alimony paid to a spouse until that spouse remarries, or until the paying spouse dies. This type of alimony is usually only available in cases of long-term marriage.

 

  1. Durational: This is alimony paid to a spouse for a short or moderate period of time. As such, this is the type of alimony awarded to spouses of short-term or moderate-term marriages. The only limitation to durational alimony is that you cannot receive durational alimony for a period of time longer than your marriage itself.

 

  1. Bridge-the-Gap: This is alimony paid to a spouse to help them “bridge-the-gap” between married and single living. Usually, this type of alimony is only paid for a short period of time.

 

  1. Lump Sum: This is alimony paid to a spouse in installments. Sometimes spouses agree to make a one-time lump sum payment of alimony, other times spouses choose to make installment payments over a specific period of time. In either case, lump sum alimony cannot be modified at any time.

 

  1. Rehabilitative: This is alimony paid to a spouse for the purposes of helping the receiving spouse become self-sufficient by developing new skills, obtaining an education, or work experience. The receiving spouse must demonstrate a plan for becoming self-sufficient, and this type of alimony is generally short in duration.

As you can see, the length of your marriage also impacts how much alimony you’re eligible to receive. Usually, the longer you’re married, the longer you are entitled to receive alimony. Florida statue 61.08 outlines what constitutes a short-term vs. moderate-term vs. long-term marriage.

You Can Agree to Any Type of Alimony

You can also negotiate alimony beyond, or different from the statutory guidelines if you and your spouse agree to different terms through a settlement conference or divorce mediation.

In Central Florida, you may also request Temporary alimony immediately after attending mediation if you and your spouse fail to come to an agreement. Temporary alimony allows you to obtain court ordered spousal support while your divorce is in progress, and you’re waiting for a final determination on your alimony issue.

Remember, obtaining alimony in divorce is not automatic. You must ask for alimony in your divorce petition or divorce counter-petition to be awarded alimony by the court. Failure to ask for alimony could result in you waiving any ability to get alimony after your divorce is finalized.

Alimony involves several complicated tax, income, and even child support issues, so it’s important to discuss your options with an experienced divorce attorney who can provide you with guidance in this area.

To learn more about how much alimony you may receive in your Orlando divorce case click here to request a consultation or call 407-872-3161 to speak with someone from our team today.

Will I have to pay Alimony if I get Divorced in Florida?

One of the more common questions we receive from clients is:

“Will I have to pay alimony if I get divorced?”

Unfortunately, that question is not easily answered. Having to pay alimony in Florida depends on several factors unique to your personal divorce case.

To help you understand how alimony works in most Florida divorce cases, let’s cover some basic alimony principles you should know.

What is Alimony?

Alimony, also known as spousal support, is financial support ordered by the court and paid to your spouse.

For a spouse to receive alimony they must be able to demonstrate that they have a need for financial support and that the other spouse can pay them.

It is important to note that a spouse who wants alimony must request alimony in their divorce petition or divorce counter-petition. If they fail to ask the court to order alimony in their petition, it cannot be granted by a Judge at all.

In other words, if your spouse does not ask for alimony they cannot automatically get it.

Finding a “Need For” and an “Ability to Pay”

Florida Statute 61.08 subsection (2) says:

“In determining whether to award alimony or maintenance, the court shall first make a specific factual determination as to whether either party has an actual need for alimony or maintenance and whether either party has the ability to pay alimony or maintenance.”

This means the Judge will have to find evidence that supports the requesting spouse’s claim that they have a need for financial support. It also means the Judge will have to find evidence that supports the paying spouse can afford to make alimony payments.

Usually, your income is the first guideline used in this determination. If you make substantially more than your spouse, or if your spouse is a homemaker or otherwise unemployed, a court could determine that the difference in income between you and your spouse calls for some form of spousal support for the spouse in need.

Once a court has determined that the spouse requesting alimony has proven that they need alimony, and that the paying spouse has the money to provide the support requested, the Judge then has to determine the proper type and amount of alimony to order.

How Much Alimony Will I Have to Pay

To determine the proper type and amount of alimony to order, Florida Statute 61.08, outlines ten factors the Judge must consider.

Some of these factors include:

  • The standard of living during the marriage
  • The length of the marriage
  • The age, physical, and emotional condition of each spouse
  • The financial resources of each spouse (including all income and assets)
  • The earning capacities, educational levels, and ability to obtain employment
  • The contribution of each spouse to the marriage, which include homemaking, child rearing, education and career building of the other spouse
  • The adultery of either spouse and the surrounding circumstances

There are several other factors in addition to those listed above, so it is important to speak with an experienced divorce attorney about your specific situation, so you understand how alimony impacts you personally.

Once the Judge determines the appropriate amount and type of alimony to award in your case, the Judge can then order you to pay that amount and type of alimony to your spouse.

The good news is that Florida’s Alimony Statute requires an award of alimony to one spouse does not leave the paying spouse with significantly less net income than the spouse receiving alimony (although there may be exceptions).

Ultimately, while it never feels fair, this is the court’s way of ensuring an award of alimony doesn’t financially cripple the paying spouse.

When Will I Start Paying Alimony

Unless your spouse has requested and been awarded temporary alimony. Your alimony payments should begin on a date as ordered by the Judge. Usually, this date is shortly after your divorce is finalized.

However, if your spouse has requested and is awarded temporary alimony before your divorce is final, you will need to begin payments as ordered by the Judge in your case.

To learn more about whether or not alimony applies to your Orlando divorce case click here to request a consultation or call 407-872-3161 to speak with someone from our team today.

Finding Financial Peace During the Holidays

As a “mom-on-a-budget,” I’ve adopted several practices to help my family stay on track during the holiday season. By putting these few simple practices into action, my kids have learned that Christmas is about more than just receiving presents and I’ve found I can avoid breaking the bank and still make each Christmas morning absolutely amazing!

First and foremost, encourage your kids to be realistic about gifts.

A few years ago I heard of a family who had adopted the tradition of the Three Kings. When the Wise Men came to visit baby Jesus, they certainly did not come hauling the whole Walmart baby section behind them in Red Rider Wagons!
Each King brought ONE gift for Him…. And He is JESUS! Each gift was something that was meaningful in that time, each gift was a blessing fit for a King. My daughter, who is 9 now, fully understands this theory and it’s given me the opportunity to teach her that Christmas is so much deeper than Santa Claus, candy canes, and toys that break within 24 hours of opening them. Think Simple, Think Meaningful!

Set a budget and stick to it!

It’s so easy to pick up extra gifts here or there, just because they are a “great deal”, but before you know it, those deals have blown your budget and Christmas becomes a burden that you have to recover from.

AVOID THE TOY CATALOGS!!

Sit with your children, ONCE, at the beginning of the season and discuss their 3 most “wanted” gifts. And if you just must use the catalogs, don’t revisit them every week. Use this as time to really find out about your kids likes and dislikes and as a way to really invest your hard earned money rather than just buying random toys as a “great deal.”

Think outside the box! A gift doesn’t solely have to be a toy or a video game. What does he/she delight in? You can find so many unique experiences to gift to your child through websites such as Groupon. Give them a memory for a lifetime!

These are the top three ways I’ve found financial peace during each Christmas season while teaching my kids a bit about contentment and the true meaning of this season!

Collaborative Law vs. Divorce Mediation in Family Law

By Orlando Family Law Attorney Tom Marks

First, let me say that both the Collaborative Law Process and Mediation have their place and each can be very beneficial in the right circumstances. However, although they may appear similar at first blush, their focus and processes are different. Both attempt to help the Parties resolve their issues without formal litigation, with the goal being a Settlement Agreement in their case.

One calls that agreement a Collaborative Law Agreement and the other calls it a Mediation Agreement.

Let’s look at the differences.

Collaborative Law vs. Divorce Mediation

Mediation typically involves “positional bargaining,” while Collaborative involves mutual “goal setting.” An essential difference is that in Mediation the parties typically take their respective corners and usually start bargaining from polar extremes.

Each Party normally hopes to end up somewhere closer to the middle or, depending on his or her perspective, closer to their position.

In the collaborative family law, collaborative divorce or collaborative problem solving, the parties come together in a more transparent fashion. They outline their goals together and work together to find common purposes like “protecting the minor children.”

Another difference is the people involved. The Collaborative Process includes a team working together, not just the Clients and their Attorneys. The team includes a Collaborative Mental Health Professional and a Financial Collaborative Professional. These two professionals are considered “neutrals” and they do not advocate for one side or the other; they are part of the solution. And the attorneys, because they sign the Collaborative Agreement stating that they will not take the case to Court, are also vested in reaching resolution in the Collaborative Process.

One last important difference: although all Family Law cases in Central Florida are required to go to Mediation before they proceed to any contested Hearings, Collaborative Cases only proceed where both parties agree. There has to be some level of trust and willingness to be open and transparent for the Collaborative process to be effective. However, the potential benefits are tremendous for the parties, their children, finances and futures. But if the trust isn’t there or the Collaborative Process is not an option, Mediation is still far better than formal litigation, which usually results in substantial pain to everyone involved.

Check out this video of Attorney Tom Marks and Attorney Ronald Sims discussing Collaborative Law vs.  Mediation:

 

Orlando Collaborative Family Law and Professionalism

By Orlando Collaborative Family Law Attorney Tom Marks

I believe that the vast majority of attorneys are caring and professional in their behavior and advocacy for their clients. In our adversarial system it is only natural though that by the end of the case, at least one of the parties will feel like they lost. That is especially true in Family Law, the area I practice in.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be that way and that is one of the reasons I have developed a Collaborative Family Law Practice where husbands and wives agree to work together to resolve the issues without having to take the case to Court.

Not only are both parties winners in Collaborative Law, because they avoided acrimonious Litigation, but also because both parents together have focused on their kids’ best interests.

I have actually participated in Collaborative Law Cases where both parties have felt like they are not only happy with the final results but that they believe they have done everything they can mutually to protect their children and to ensure that their children thrive even after the Dissolution of Marriage. They have chosen to love their children the most and to continue to be friends in order to co-parent their children in the most healthy and productive way possible.

A Word About “Collaborative” Family Law Attorneys

Attorneys who practice Collaborative Family Law are some of the most professional, ethical and caring lawyers I have ever met. The focus is no longer on litigation and winning at no small expense, financially, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually to the clients. And in  addition to the Collaborative Family Law Attorneys, there are highly professional Neutral Collaborative Professionals like the Financial Collaborative Professional and the Mental Health Collaborative Professional. They assist the clients and attorneys in putting together Equitable Distribution Worksheets and other financial documents as well as the Parenting Plan and other important documents in the case.

I am not saying that Family Law Attorneys involved in the Litigation aspects of Family Law are not for the most part Professional. There certainly are many. But those Attorneys who have decided to focus on Collaborative Family Law, do it I believe, because they care about the process of helping clients resolve their cases in the healthiest and most productive way possible.

A Life Well Lived

by Family Law Attorney Tom Marks

I went to a funeral for a 20-year-old young woman named Jenny recently. She was the daughter of two of our best friends, Mike and Lisa who we have known for about 25 years. My wife and Lisa were pregnant together and our daughter was born two months before Jenny. Then our sons were born one month apart a couple years later. So we have lived a lot of life with our friends Mike and Lisa.

Jenny was born with a diaphragmatic hernia and had probably 50 surgeries during her short 20 years of life. Although she had significant medical issues and had to rely on oxygen most of her life she was a determined and amazing young lady.

Although we have known Mike and Lisa for 25 years I still learned so much about Jenny from the many people who got up and spoke about her many accomplishments from working at Chick-fil-A to attending college at Florida Southern College in Lakeland. Jenny had a 4.0 GPA and was in the process of working with Florida Southern and Arnold Palmer Hospital to create a new degree major called a Child Life Specialist.

The church was packed with people who Jenny had positively impacted during her life and there were a flood of tears shed but also a lot of appreciation for all of her accomplishments and the lives she’d touched. She helped families and other young lives through some very similar difficult medical paths that she had taken.

For someone who had gone through so much she had an enduring spirit, a quick wit and a precocious and determined personality. She touched a lot of people in very positive ways despite her circumstances. In short, she left a legacy that lives on.

I hope many who read this will pause to consider that perhaps our circumstances are really not that hard and just maybe we can rise above to see how much we have to appreciate and how great an impact we can have on the lives of others, just like Jenny did.

Blessings!

Who Is at Fault When Nobody’s to Blame?

One of the questions asked most during initial consultations is: “Does my spouse’s infidelity matter?”  It’s a fair question, given the pain infidelity can cause.  While televisions shows like “Jerry Springer” and “Cheaters” make light of spouses who don’t honor their vows, for the cheater’s other half the issue isn’t funny and demands attention.

Without a doubt, the party who has been “cheated on” has every right to be hurt or even angry, and the desire to see the cheating spouse held accountable is understandable.  The same goes for parties who have been victimized by emotional affairs, disengaged spouses, or a just plain “bad marriage.”

Infidelity Irrelevant in Orlando?

However, Florida’s divorce laws render a spouse’s infidelity, and the other reasons marriages fall apart, largely irrelevant in a divorce proceeding.  That’s because Florida is a “no fault” divorce state, which means the reason behind the failure of your marriage is of little importance to the Court.  The Court will ask only if your marriage is “irretrievably broken,” and if either party wants a divorce, that desire is enough to “break” the marriage for legal purposes.

The Court generally does not make judgments about the health of your marriage or whether divorce is right for you, and it almost never engages in a discussion about whether counseling or other steps might save your marriage.  Unfortunately, in Florida, if one spouse “wants out” of a marriage, there is little the other spouse can do, through the legal system, to stop them.  Many people (including yours truly) believe we have made it too easy for people to end their marriage, but that is the current state of Florida’s law.

I write the above not to discourage anyone, or steal hope from a spouse holding on in a difficult situation.  It’s actually quite the opposite.  My hope in explaining Florida’s “no fault” divorce laws is to encourage those in struggling marriages to get help before considering legal options.  Unless you are in an abusive situation or have been abandoned without the means to support yourself and/or your children, I urge you to explore non-legal ways to address your marital issues.

Seek out the counsel of trusted clergy or a professional counselor.  Consider programs like the “Fireproof” or “Courageous” studies to see if they might be useful.  Enlist friends and relatives to help you communicate with your spouse about your desire and commitment to salvage your marriage and keep you family together.

Whatever you do, don’t give up on your marriage and family just because the road gets rough. Divorce is too important a decision to make lightly, and it’s too difficult a process to endure as anything other than a last resort.  If you need help figuring out the right thing to do in your situation, please contact one of the family law professionals at The Marks Law Firm so we can talk about what you can do to preserve your family and protect your marriage.

Reaching a Common Ground

By Family Law Attorney Tom Marks

I went this last week to visit Regent University in Virginia with my daughter and we went to an event called the “Clash of the Titans.” It was a debate from the political left and right moderated by Dana Perino, of the Fox news show called “The Five.”

The two conservatives, Newt Gingrich and Jay Sekulow debated the two liberals, David Axelrod and David Plouffe. The focus of the debate was on “Executive Powers” and involved some of the most divisive issues of our day, including Obamacare, the medical exchanges currently in disarray and the IRS targeting conservative political groups. Of course, issues like the recent partial federal government shutdown and the threat of defunding Obamacare were on the table for a potentially polarizing and out-of-control argumentative free-for-all.

However, even though the participants did not agree on many of the pressing issues facing America today, they maintained civility and respect for each other’s ideas, goals and positions. It made me think of The Marks Law Firm’s Family Law Practice and how even opposing parties in the Dissolution of Marriage Proceedings can still act civilly and seek common goals of protecting the minor children and properly co-parenting them into the future. I see those successes in my Collaborative Family Law Cases and even in the more traditional litigated Family Law Cases.

Even with gridlock in Washington DC, these politicians from opposite sides of the political spectrum could still agree to disagree in a debate on the issues and then sit down and have dinner together and try to reach common ground for the good of the country.

I believe parents should and can do the same thing even through a divorce, for the good of their minor children.

Fighting for the Beautiful View

This past Summer I enjoyed a great reminder of the importance of struggling through difficult times toward the blessing on the other side. This reminder came while my wife and I were whitewater rafting in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.

If you’ve ever been rafting, you know that the common rafting trip involves a lot of time coasting downriver, punctuated by a few episodes of furious paddling, leaning, and trying hard to stay in the boat! This works great because it allows you feel like a bit of a daredevil while enjoying breathtaking natural beauty from a unique perspective!

As we approached a sharp bend in the Arkansas River, high in the Colorado Rockies, the rapids began to pick up.

Our guide told our four-person crew that we had an intense stretch of river coming, so we anchored ourselves and got ready to paddle. For maybe 25-30 seconds we paddled hard, leaning and pulling our way through the rapids and around the river’s turn.

The waters calmed and we were able to catch our breath and relax. Once things had settled, our guide got everyone’s attention and told us to look behind us. What we saw was amazing—an unobstructed, glorious view of a 14,000 foot peak that looked as if it rose directly out of the river.

That evening when I thought back on the moment we came around the bend, it struck me that we couldn’t see the mountain, or the view, until after we fought through the rough waters and turned the corner. My perspective wasn’t clear, and the benefit wasn’t evident, until I came through the stormy waters. Sometimes life is a lot like that rafting trip.

We spend a lot of time coasting and then, without much warning, difficult pops up. In the midst of the difficulty, we might feel like things will never be “good” again. We struggle, head down and hands to the paddle, furiously trying to find a way through the stormy waters. And eventually we turn a corner where the river calms and we can catch our breath.

And it’s then that we learn the benefit and beauty of our struggling. The bible tells us to consider it a joy when we struggle through trials of all kinds. These trials perfect our faith. They fix our perspective. They help us plot a more positive course going forward. So when you find yourself in the middle of a difficult time, be encouraged. Joy comes in the morning. And when you’ve turned the corner, you’re likely to find a beautiful view that wasn’t available before the trial. God bless!

“MIRRORING” – and Its Application in the Law

By Family Law Mediator and Attorney Ronald L. Sims

Psychologists have a time-honored vehicle to enhance communication. It’s called “mirroring.”

The procedure is simple in theory, but may be slightly difficult in application.

The first speaker makes a statement, and the second speaker “mirrors” that statement by repeating it verbatim. Sounds easy enough.

Let’s try it.

                        First speaker: “I’m uncomfortable with you here.”

                        Second speaker: “You don’t want me here.”

                        (Buzzer)

As often happens, the second speaker doesn’t repeat, but instead re-interprets what the first speaker said. That is not mirroring. Let’s try it again.

                        First speaker: “I’m uncomfortable with you here”.

                        Second speaker: “you said, I’m uncomfortable with you here”

                        (bell)

The first speaker relaxes- he or she has been heard and understood, and that is important. All too often we hear what is said to us, and we quickly re-interpret what is said and end up with a conclusion that is slightly off, if not flat out wrong.

There have been many occasions when lawyers have agreed to something over the phone, only to end up in a later fight about what was actually said. That result is often avoided by exchanging confirmation messages, so that both parties know and have a memorial of exactly what was intended. That is a form of mirroring and, as many can tell you, it has often saved the day from protracted litigation over an issue that both parties thought was resolved.

How many times in marriage, or post-marriage, do we hear, “You said_______”, “No, I didn’t.” Such a situation often is followed by a heated discussion that usually results in a deadlock (or sometimes a hammerlock).

With the advent of email and texting, the concept of mirroring can take place in a matter of seconds. If, however, you think the matter may have some significance later on, and you are in a position to do so, write it down, date it, and have the other party initial it. If the circumstances won’t allow for that, at least you can write some confirmation note that you can share with the other person in a timely manner to at least memorialize your understanding of the matter. Then, if they don’t correct it, you have evidence of a mutual understanding.

This may sound like I’m suggesting something awfully technical. I’m not! Misunderstandings occur all the time, and normally are unintentional. Eliminating those misunderstandings by mirroring your correspondent is easy, painless, and many times, very important. Attorneys often refer to a “he said/she said” type of case. Those instances can be avoided at home, as well as in the courtroom which will lead to clear communication and fewer headaches for everyone involved!