The Marks Law Firm Blog and New Updates
The large majority of family law cases never see the bright lights and excitement of a trial.
As of January 1, 2013, that provision no longer exists. The Florida Supreme Court has removed the 10 day provision from paragraph (f). This change could have serious implications on a family law party that does not show up to mediation prepared and informed. But alas, after reading this post you will not be such a party!
While the deletion of the 10 day provision seems, at first, to limit the ability of family law parties to obtain full review of a mediated agreement reached without their attorney present, that is not the case. All the deletion means is that you do not have the protection of an automatic 10 day period for objection. However, you can ensure that same protection by simply demanding that a review provision be included in your agreement before you sign it. By including language that gives your attorney a certain time period within which to review the agreement and object to any points of concern, you can ensure you have the same protection the paragraph (f) of Rule 12.740 previously provided. You can also refuse to sign any agreement that your attorney will not have the chance to review first.
Of course, you can always take the course of action that gives you the greatest protection–take counsel to your mediation so you can avoid unnecessary hiccups in the first place! If you have a mediation coming up and you don’t want to go it alone, contact the experienced family law attorneys at The Marks Law Firm to discuss your options.
During a divorce proceeding, one of the biggest questions is often “What date do we use to determine the value of a particular marital asset?”
For example, on what date do we look at a spouse’s 401k to assign a value to it for family law purposes? Should the date of separation be the valuation date, or should we use the date the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage was filed? What about the date of the Final Judgment—is if ever proper to use that date?
Pursuant to Florida Statute 61.075(7), the Court has discretion in answering these questions. The statute allows the Court to select the date for determining the value of assets and the amount of liabilities based on Its belief as to what is just and equitable under the circumstances. Put simply, the Court can pick the date that It thinks will result in the fairest determination, all things considered. This broad discretion means it is important to explain clearly, and with supporting evidence, why you believe it is fair for that Court to use a date that benefits you in valuing a particular asset or liability.
In regards to the valuation of the property itself, the Court also must support Its final assignment of a value to a marital debt or liability with competent, substantial evidence. This means the Court usually should not assign values simply by splitting the difference between each party’s estimate of the property’s value. Of course, this all assumes that the parties have presented some actual evidence of the value of the property at issue (note that your own opinion of the value of your property is admissible evidence in a divorce case). If the parties present no evidence as to the value of an item, the Court need not speculate as the item’s value. This underscores the importance of making sure you can explain the value you assign to the debts and liabilities over which you are fighting!
As you can see, determining the date of valuation for marital assets and liabilities can be tricky. If you have questions about this issue, contact the experienced family law attorneys at The Marks Law Firm to discuss your situation and ensure that you protected.
With the holiday season in full swing, I wanted to take a moment away from the legal discussion that normally takes place on the blog and provide a word of encouragement to those struggling through a divorce case or other family law matter. One of, if not the most difficult job we have as family law attorneys, is helping the client manage their emotions and remain mentally and spiritually whole during their case.
It is both easy and understandable for someone in a divorce to be hurt, become angry, or disengage from those close to them. The end of a marriage involves a mourning process and it can often seem like that process will never end. Take heart, things will get better!
The first word of encouragement is this: it’s ok to hurt and to mourn as you work through the difficulties of family law litigation. In fact, confronting and dealing with the pain you’re feeling is healthy and necessary, particularly if you want to have positive relationships moving forward.
The second thing to remember this holiday season is that there is a light at the end of the tunnel! In the midst of the battle it can be hard to see peace awaiting you on the other side, but it’s there! The attorneys at The Marks Law Firm have combined more than 80 years of family law experience, and we want every family law litigant to know that regardless of how difficult your case seems, it will eventually come to an end.
Resolution is coming, and with it, the opportunity to start fresh. So if you ever feel like yours is a lost cause and things will never improve, give us a call for a reminder that there is hope and that better days are ahead!
The rehabilitation of marriages is something that every professional family lawyer should explore rather than race headlong into driving the last nail into the coffin of a bad marriage.
I have to say, however, it is somewhat difficult for a family law attorney to expound upon the essentials of a good marriage, since as you might suspect, our offices are not the place where one would deal with healthy marriages.
It is with this reality in mind that I was pleased to happen upon an article on the Internet addressing how good relationships could be maintained and poor relationships could be rehabilitated. The author’s name is Laura Doyle and she has a website at LauraDoyle.org. She is a relationship expert, and New York Times best selling author, who specializes in training and coaching intimacy skills.
In that article she expresses her belief in intimacy skills that she has learned over a period of time in her work of counseling women. She refers to these skills as “Six Steps for Women to Stamp Out Divorce”. She begins by recognizing what most of us would readily admit which is that most people do not have good relationship role models. Many of today’s marrieds are products of single-parent households or broken homes or marriages that have washed up on the rocks as a permanent condition. Her humorous line was that learning intimacy skills from broken marriages is the equivalent of learning oral care from parents with false teeth.
Many of us know that there is very little teaching in schools or colleges about marriage and the skills of intimacy necessary to maintain a good marriage. Normally a Sunday school class or church sermon is as close as some of us get to lessons on how to conduct a good marriage. Most of us learn marriage skills after several years of marriage, and the resulting unhappiness has driven us to seek counselors for help after a great deal of damage to the relationship has already been accomplished. This, then, becomes our belated classroom.
I read the article out of curiosity since it related to my practice of family law but after I had finished the article I could see how most men would probably respond in a very positive manner to a spouse who initiated these skills, and that they would, no doubt, encourage reciprocity on the part of the husband.
I am going to refer to her comments because I believe that her approach could lead to a very successful rehabilitative process. However I may add some of my own comments where I feel my professional experience might assist in your understanding. The six intimacy skills that she espouses are as follows:
Skill #1: Do at least three things a day for your own pleasure.
She is of the opinion that there is a direct correlation between your self-care and your level of tolerance for your husband. She says relationships require patience and compassion but if you’re tired, frazzled or undernourished, you give your relationship little chance of thriving. She believes that focusing on your own pleasure through self-care takes the pressure off of your husband to make you happy (and she acknowledges that your happiness is your own responsibility and not that of your husband anyway.) She believes that your good mood also signals to him that he can succeed in delighting you which inspires him to want to do just that. Here, it seems to me, for a person to have fun every day reduces the demands and expectations on a husband to provide an escape from a mundane life, and you might expect that relief to encourage a positive response.
Skill #2: Relinquish control of people you cannot control.
She states, with a great deal of insightfulness, that “helpful” in wife language means “controlling” in husband language. She says that when you correct your man’s driving, or what he wears, or what he does at work, you are sending a message that he is not competent to guide his daily life properly. She knowingly states that unwitting criticism is an attack. This pushes intimacy away no matter how well-meaning your comments. She knows that intimacy needs safety and encouragement in order to thrive, and the intimacy vanishes with criticism. She prescribes for the woman to take a step back and trust her husband to run his own life without any help from her, and then watch him take a step forward and start acting like the man that she initially fell in love with.
Skill #3 -Receive gifts, complements and help graciously
Her opinion is that “receiving is the opposite of rejecting. When your husband gives you something that’s not what you had in mind, receive it anyway by saying, “you were so thoughtful. Thank you” On the other hand, deflecting a gift or a complement is rejecting the giver as well as the emotional connection you could have had, had you accepted the gift graciously. She recommends that when your husband offers to bathe the kids, accept his help graciously no matter how imperfectly he does it. Rejecting a gift, or compliments or help, contributes to reducing the quality of your relationship. She believes that if you receive gifts graciously that you’ll probably see more gifts start to come your way almost immediately.
Skill #4 – Respect the man you chose.
Laura believes that being respectful will resurrect the man you fell in love with. She readily concedes that you probably didn’t marry a dumb man to begin with, and if he appears to be dumb now, it’s probably because you are focused on his shortcomings. She understands that a man who feels respected by the woman, who knows him best, also feels self-respect, which is far more attractive than him cowering or bristling with hostility. She goes on to say that the lack of respect causes more divorces than cheating does, because for men, respect is like oxygen. She thinks that they need respect more than they do sex. The exercise of respect means that you don’t dismiss, criticize, contradict or try to teach them anything. It should be obvious, according to her, that he won’t do things the same way you do. And it follows that if you wanted to have that, you could’ve just married yourself. She is convinced that with your respect, he will once again do the things that amazed and delighted you to begin with.
Her statement here brought to mind my recollection of the biblical encouragement found in Ephesians chapter 5 at verse 33, where Paul is speaking to husbands and wives saying that “each one of you must love his wife as he loves himself and the wife must respect her husband”. It seems that if respect is important enough to find its way in the Scriptures then it is certainly a skill worthy of development.
I once heard a counselor state that if a wife praises her husband for being thoughtful, even though he is not thoughtful, that by hearing it enough he will be inspired to grow into that description. I believe there’s a lot of validity to that statement.
Skill #5 – Express gratitude three times daily.
Laura states the following: “gratitude has magical powers. It turns an ordinary meal into a feast an average relationship into a lifelong romance, and an ordinary husband into your hero.” Laura admitted that in her personal experience that she had been reluctant to thank her husband for anything because she thought that she was doing more than he was anyway, and he wasn’t thanking her for what she was doing. She also thought that he would stop doing the things that she thanked him for because he would consider those efforts as being optional. However she admits that she was wrong and that currently she thanks him for washing dishes, replacing light bulbs, and working hard at his business. She states what appears to be a truism, that the more grateful she was for what he did, the more inspired he was to do the things that she appreciated, which made her feel more cherished and adored.
It strikes me as only logical that if the husband receives no appreciation for the things that he does, because his wife feels that he is supposed to do those things anyway, then it would follow that the husband believes that he is no better off than a hired hand who is doing no more than what is paid for doing. Surely, fostering an employer/employee relationship is the farthest thing from encouraging the intimacy that one would seek to enjoy in a marriage.
Skill #6 – Strive to be Vulnerable
Laura is of the opinion that intimacy and vulnerability are directly connected. She believes that if you want intimacy, then you will need to take the risk of admitting that you are lonely, embarrassed or hurt, or whatever admission sends the message of vulnerability. This is not a sign of weakness, according to her, since it takes a lot of strength to do that. But she illustrates that when you are vulnerable you don’t care about being right. You’re just open and trusting enough to say “I miss you” instead of “you never spend time with me”. She recommends that it simply means saying “ouch” when he is insensitive, rather than retaliating. She knows that such vulnerability completely changes the way that your husband responds to you. She encourages you to understand that vulnerability is not only attractive but it’s the only way to get to that incredible feeling of being loved just the way you are, by someone who knows you very well. She paints the picture that there is nothing like the joy of intimacy that results from vulnerability. She urges women to understand that it is really worth dropping the burden of being an efficient, over scheduled superwoman in order to have the intimacy that vulnerability brings about.
The bottom line for Laura Doyle is that an intimate, passionate, peaceful relationship is not a matter of luck – it’s a matter of skill and good habits.
What I observed in my practice is that most unhealthy marriages result from a lack of focus on the essential needs of your spouse. This is what Laura Doyle covers very well in her statement about the six skills. What has become evident over the years is that spouses become very self focused and begin to develop a primary concern that their own needs are not being met in the marriage. These feelings inevitably result in feelings of resentment, and the resentment level slowly increases until you almost can’t stand being around the other person. That is the result of self-focus.
Many people state that marriage is a 50-50 proposition with each person doing their fair share. However, in my view the wise ones are the ones that advocate marriage being a 100/100 proposition. This calls for focusing on his needs as well as your own.
When you review the six skills that she’s talking about, it really doesn’t call for a great deal of sacrifice. All it calls for, is doing at least three things a day for your own pleasure; relinquishing control over people that you can’t control anyhow; receiving gifts, compliments and help, graciously; showing respect for the man; expressing gratitude three times a day, and risking to be vulnerable, because it’s more attractive.
When you really think about it, those skills don’t demand a great deal of sacrifice, but they may well draw more intimate attention from the man you married, because in this kind of relationship, pulling, by attraction, is far more successful than pushing.
I received some very positive feedback to my last blog, “Family Law- How to Avoid Divorce,” so with some encouragement and trepidation, I will attempt to offer some more helpful insights from a Family Law Attorney’s perspective. We started with the premise that I believe in marriage and marriage can be a very positive experience. I like to say there is nothing better than a good marriage and nothing worse than a bad marriage. So how do you avoid the divorce lawyer’s office?
Good Marriage vs. Bad:
How do we avoid a bad marriage? I don’t think a bad marriage happens overnight and I don’t believe it is a one-sided result either. Like the Second Law of Thermodynamics you must apply energy or effort into something to avoid disorder. It’s the same thing with marriage. It is something not only to be guarded but something to poured into in a positive way. So how do we do that? How do we avoid taking our spouse for granted? What positive measures can we take?
Falling Out of Love:
Let’s tackle the next big threat to marriage. Remember my last blog touched on the threat of the Internet. This one is more amorphous and insidious. It is the creeping over time “I’ve just fallen out of love with him/her.” How does this happen? We get consumed with the cares of this world whether it be our careers, kids, finances, addictions, worries, fears or sheer exhaustion. Our world has become more complex, fast paced and in many ways impersonal.
We all long for significance and connections to others so that our life has meaning, but we get pulled toward the immediate, perhaps moving from crisis to crisis, from bills and deadlines to distractions and other relationships. How do you focus on your spouse and pursuing deep and meaning communication, connection and commitment when you work inordinate hours to pay the bills or you seek refuge in some distraction or worse, addiction to dull the pain?
The American Dream:
Too many of us live beyond our means, chasing the American dream until we are a captive of our material possessions and our jobs. We are on the perpetual treadmill running faster and harder while seeming to make less and less progress. Is it possible to simplify, to get off the treadmill and to live within our means? Can we find significance in who we are and in our spouse, our children and our friendships? If we “downsized” or at least committed to weaning ourselves from the mentality that more stuff brings us happiness, we could spend more time with those we love, listening, interacting and growing in the same direction. We would no longer be held captive to the world’s definition of happiness based on material possessions. We would seek more time with those we love, especially that most important marriage relationship.
Focus on each other:
Simplify, take a walk, fly a kite, go to the beach, but do it together. Avoid distractions, TV, Video Games, Extramarital pursuits, even selfish ambitions or hobbies. Make your spouse a priority and commit to time every day together to talk, laugh and share each other’s sorrows. Enjoy life and each other together. With all this said, I am a realist too. I understand it takes two to make a great marriage and there are many very lonely and sad spouses out there that are ignored or taken for granted. It is those I see in my office who have been ignored, verbally abused or worse. Everyone has a limit and then their love tank runs dry. They are disillusioned, disappointed and even angry.
Try to see the signs early enough and not to let it get to that point. It is a whole lot easier to avoid that place with some meaningful, positive and preventative measures then to try to dig yourself out of a very deep and dark pit. Let us know what we can do to help. We have excellent marriage and family therapists we can refer you to or if it is truly irretrievable, we can help you through the process as trustworthy and caring advocates.
Answer: It depends.
Section 743.07(2) Florida Statutes, states:
“This section shall not prohibit any court of competent jurisdiction from requiring support for a dependent person beyond the age of 18 years when such dependency is because of a mental or physical incapacity which began prior to such person reaching majority or if the person is dependent in fact, is between the ages of 18 and 19, and is still in high school, performing in good faith with a reasonable expectation of graduation before the age of 19.”
Additionally, § 61.13 Florida Statutes, states:
1. All child support orders and income deduction orders entered on or after October 1, 2010, must provide:
a. For child support to terminate on a child’s 18th birthday unless the court finds or previously found that s. 743.07(2) applies, or is otherwise agreed to by the parties;
b. A schedule, based on the record existing at the time of the order, stating the amount of the monthly child support obligation for all the minor children at the time of the order and the amount of child support that will be owed for any remaining children after one or more of the children are no longer entitled to receive child support; and
c. The month, day, and year that the reduction or termination of child support becomes effective.
However, many support orders entered prior to October 1, 2010, provide for a “lump sum” of child support for multiple children. For example, if a support order only states that the obligor parent must pay $1,200.00 per month in support for the parties’ three (3) minor children, this order provides for a lump sum of child support. As such, the obligor parent would have the affirmative duty to seek a reduction as each child reaches majority.
Furthermore, even when a child support order allocates the amount of support per child but does not have a specified termination date, the trial court can retroactively terminate child support based on the emancipation of a child prior to the date such relief is requested. Thus, while the obligor parent must still request the court modify the child support amount, the court has the authority to do so retroactive to the date the child reached majority. As a result, the obligor parent may be able to receive a credit for “overpayment” of child support.
Everyone is familiar with at least the general idea of a pre-nuptial agreement—a contract you enter before your marriage that governs what will happen to certain assets and liabilities if things don’t work out.
But did you know you can still take advantage of those same protections AFTER you say “I do?”
Florida law allows married parties to enter into a post-nuptial agreement—a contract after you’ve been married that has basically the same impact as a pre-nup would. Most people don’t consider this option, either because of taboo or because they simply don’t know it exists. However, a post-nuptial agreement can be a great way to alleviate financial concerns that arise after your wedding day.
Wow! This seems like a strange topic coming from a Family Law Attorney who has practiced law for over 25 years and who has handled hundreds of Family Law Cases. including Divorce which in Florida is known as Dissolution of Marriage. However, who would be in a better position to have seen so many of the causes of Divorce.
Not getting married, although one option, is not the answer either because the impecunious “significant other” in the “living together” arrangement misses out on many of the protections otherwise afforded them under Chapter 61 of the Florida Statutes had they been married. They get no alimony, spousal support, or Equitable Distribution rights.
So starting with the assumption of being married, which I am actually a strong proponent of, how do you avoid divorce after you are married? Obviously, this is a huge topic which hundreds of books if not more have been written, seminars given and counseling sought. All of those are good and are certainly part of the answer. The Attorneys at The Marks Law Firm, P.A. regularly encourage reconciliation in the right circumstances when done correctly and safely. We have a list of excellent Christian Counselors and others we can refer our clients to.
So you are married-what now?
But how do you avoid getting to the point of having to walk into a Divorce Lawyer’s office in the first place? The following is certainly not an exhaustive list and so should be considered instructive and a good starting place. Let’s begin with the assumption that you have taken the time to really get to know your potential spouse by building on a solid friendship and not just a lot of emotion and feelings that will fade over time. Let’s also assume that you have common goals and beliefs going into the marriage as a foundation. Now let’s assume you are married and facing a myriad of stressors and temptations around you at work, in social settings and from your past.
Danger-danger: the Internet?
Let’s work our way backwards here starting with your past and working our way forward. I have come to see the Internet and Social Networks, like Facebook, as the most significant current threat to marriages. How’s that? Well of course it starts at home. If you are not connecting and spending time growing together with your spouse, they may seek out affirmation in a former relationship from college, high school or other setting, like work. I can’t tell you how many Divorces I’ve seen where one of the spouses felt neglected and sought out affirmation or simply a connection from someone in their past. For some reason former high school sweethearts end up being the most frequent choice I see. Maybe it is about reliving our past and glorifying how wonderful a former relationship was when we are in the midst of bills, kids, jobs and all the other real life stressors.
It is easy to fall into this trap when you are feeling unappreciated, under stress and alone. I can tell you the grass is not greener on the other side of the hill. All the statistics bear this out. If about 50% of first marriages end in divorce, the percentage of failed marriages increases with each subsequent remarriage, i.e. 2nd, 3rd and 4th marriages until about 90% of 4th marriages fail. And yes, I see those too.
So what’s the Answer?
So stay connected, spend time with each other, grow in the same direction together, develop or enhance your shared beliefs and remember and reaffirm your wedding vows regularly in deed and in word. I am out of space here and so will have to get to the next major observation from my practice to help you avoid divorce. You may be asking why someone who handles divorces and whose Firm handles exclusively Family Law related matters from Adoption, Alimony, Custody, Enforcement, Modifications, Paternity, Domestic Violence Injunctions to Divorce, would write a blog to help people avoid having to see a Divorce Lawyer?
I’ve always said I want to be able to come home at night and look my Wife and Kids in the eye and say I helped someone today. I want to act with integrity and my own personal beliefs based on sound principals to do what is right and to help people in any way I can. Whether you have to walk into my office for help or whether I can help you avoid the trauma of Divorce or maybe at least help the Parties avoid damaging their kids by lowering conflict and seeking what is in the best interest of the minor children.
Florida Statute 61.071- Alimony Pendente Lite (aka Temporary Alimony); Suit Money
“In every proceeding for dissolution of the marriage, a party may claim alimony and suit money in the petition or by motion, and if the petition is well founded, the court shall allow a reasonable sum therefor. If a party in any proceeding for dissolution of marriage claims alimony or suit money in his or her answer or by motion, and the answer or motion is well founded, the court shall allow a reasonable sum therefor.”
Often times there is a great disparity in incomes between spouses. This becomes even more apparent once a Petition for Dissolution is filed, and the spouse with the greater earnings, refuses to support the other spouse. To assist the spouse with the lesser of the two incomes from becoming destitute, one spouse may be ordered to provide necessary support for the other spouse while dissolution proceedings are ongoing.
The criteria for ordering such alimony are the need of one spouse and the other’s spouses to pay. The obligation to support one’s spouse if able is imposed by law while the marriage is still in existence and not extinguishable by contract or conduct.
Thus, while the parties can contract away post dissolution support by executing a prenuptial agreement, any agreement waiving temporary support prior to the entry of the Final Judgment is void. The procedural requisites for temporary support orders are not as demanding as a permanent alimony order would necessitate. This is due to the fact the one of the spouses may need immediate support prior to the completion of mandatory disclosure.
As the pink ribbons blanketing Central Florida reflect, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month! Like most of you, The Marks Law Firm has been touched by the destructive impact breast cancer can have, both on a family’s personal relationship and its finances. That’s why we wanted to take this opportunity to remind our extended family (you guys!) that Florida’s Statutes governing family law are aware of, and make provision for, the costs that accompany breast cancer and other medical struggles you might face.
Unfortunately, the development of significant medical issues can leave a family or individual in financial straits. Medical issues normally arise unexpectedly, putting an unplanned strain on finances that can be difficult to overcome. If you are a spouse preparing for a divorce, or a former spouse who faces growing medical bills, you are not alone.
No parent should have to make healthcare decisions for herself or her children based solely on the cost of the care involved. If you’re struggling with these costs and worried that your family may not be able to get the care it needs, call The Marks Law Firm to schedule a consultation and discuss your options.