The Marks Law Firm Blog and New Updates
Three Common Challenges Blended Families Face
Many times, when couples are experiencing marriage again after a divorce, a new spouse isn’t the only addition to the family. Second marriages not only represent a sense of hope, but may also include a season filled with challenges and transition. For newlyweds with children from previous relationships, it is especially important to manage any expectations regarding the new family dynamic. While television shows and movies often idealize the lives of blended families, parents should make an effort to be sensitive and mindful of their children’s feelings.
When two families are coming together as one, the honeymoon phase may be short lived. Despite each parents’ willingness and determination to create a perfect new life as a blended family, they may not be able to avoid the tension and trials that come up as a result of their union. In fact, there are many challenges blended families struggle to overcome.
Coping with Sacrifice
Young children especially may not realize how many changes will take place once other siblings come into the picture. In situations where the stepsiblings didn’t have an opportunity to get to know each other prior to spending extended periods of time together, they may not understand or expect any sacrifice necessary, financial or otherwise. Validate their feelings, and explain how each member of your new family will need to sacrifice at one point or another for the overall benefit of everyone involved.
Perhaps most of the new siblings get along and enjoy quality time together. However, it is not unusual for one or more of the children to experience feelings of isolation. Easing into a new normal where each child has an opportunity to express his or herself in a safe and open environment is imperative.
Keeping up with Schedules
Age groups, interests, commitments, academic needs, etc. all contribute to the family’s evolving calendar. At first, establishing a routine may seem impossible. After all, the children depend on you and your spouse for transportation and punctuality. Even if co-parents are present and willing to help, you might consider leaning on extended family to make sure everyone is accounted for. Communication is key.
Our Team at The Marks Law Firm, P.A. recognizes the support and patience necessary for blended families to blossom and thrive as a successful unit. We also value the insight and experience of mental health professionals in the Central Florida community. To learn more about blended families, visit our Therapists Corner column.
Co-parenting: How to Prepare for the School Year
For our children, it may seem as though summer just started. Department stores, television commercials, print advertisements, etc. remind us that the back to school season is on the horizon. Children and parents who are readjusting from a divorce, may experience more anxiety than typical concerns students have prior to the first day.
If you are attempting to balance the pressures of the upcoming school year along with easing into a co-parenting arrangement, we assure you, it is possible. While doing so may be challenging and emotional, communication and planning will benefit everyone involved.
Clearly Identify Responsibilities
Depending on the specifics of your parenting plan, both you and your former spouse may be expected to financially contribute to your child’s supply needs. In addition to the costs associated with back to school season, transportation and meals should be accounted for. We shouldn’t assume that carpooling arrangements will be the same as prior school years as professional commitments change and availability may be impacted. Remember, it is imperative to be upfront with what is expected of each parent prior to the first day of school.
Keep a Written or Digital Record of Schedules
Classes, extracurricular activities, tutoring, volunteering, etc. vary depending on your child’s needs and interests. With other responsibilities, it can be easy to lose track of events. Maintaining an agenda or digital calendar that can be shared with your former spouse will help ensure your kids are present for appointments or other points of interest. This will also eliminate any potential confusion regarding your children’s whereabouts.
Inform Teachers and School Staff of Co-parenting
When you have an opportunity to meet your child’s new teacher, let him or her know of any specific concerns you have regarding your co-parenting arrangement. Most cases resolve with the children staying with one parent for all or much of the school week. However, there are unique situations where the children may need to bring additional belongings to school for extended stays with your former spouse. Divorce comes with many moving parts. Be honest about how your child is handling the transition so that his or her teacher can anticipate any behavioral patterns.
Are you interested in speaking with one of our Central Florida Attorneys regarding your co-parenting concerns? Schedule a consultation here.
Co-parenting and Child Support: Knowing Your Rights
Being a single parent wasn’t part of the future you envisioned for yourself or for your marriage. Regardless of your differences or imperfections as a couple, both you and your former spouse have an opportunity to be present and positive influences as parents. Outside of situations where emotional or physical harm to the children are at risk, each parent should be able to maintain, or build (depending on the child’s age) a relationship with his or her kids.
When you are embarking on the divorce process, it is easy to become overwhelmed with dividing assets, determining potential alimony payments, selling the marital home, etc. Your children, however, should remain a top priority as well. As co-parents, you and your former spouse will be connected through your children for years to come.
Perhaps you are concerned with what the outcome of your divorce will mean for your new family dynamic. Our Orlando Divorce Attorneys are available to answer questions that are specific to your case. Legal Teams at the Marks Law Firm have served as guides to our clients who choose not to navigate their family law matters alone.
In addition to each parent’s income, different factors such as children with special needs, behavioral issues, mental health struggles, etc. will all play a role in the amount of child support awarded. Although your previous attempts to receive child support payments on your own may have been unsuccessful, consulting with an attorney may help you better understand your rights and evaluate your options.
To speak with one of our experienced attorneys, schedule a consultation.
Timesharing: Making the Most Out of Your Summer
As your children embrace the start of their summer vacation, they may be wondering what will keep them busy in the coming months. While some parents may play each day by ear, if you adhere to a timesharing schedule, it is especially important to make the most of any quality time with your children. Rather than letting yourself become overwhelmed with uncertainty, be intentional with your time.
Even with the likely time restrictions outlined in your timesharing arrangement, it is still possible to give your children and yourself a memorable and fulfilling summer.
Perhaps there are specific activities your children have expressed interest in doing. Maintain a calendar outlining what you would like to accomplish in your free time together.
Depending on your situation, regular contact with your former spouse may not be effective. However, it is important to make sure he or she remains in the loop, especially if extended travel is planned. In an effort to remain on the same page and avoid misunderstandings, be honest about your children’s whereabouts.
With hurricane season officially underway, the weather may not always cooperate with beach trips or theme park outings. On days where outdoor fun must be postponed, consider having an indoor picnic or movie marathon.
Seek Learning Opportunities:
Since school is no longer in session, your children may not have access to engaged learning opportunities every day. Research programs at your local library or special summer events at the science center. Learning can be fun for the entire family.
Although your professional commitments may limit your free time during the week, make an effort to give your children undivided attention when your schedule permits. After all, the moments you spend together will become memories. Try not to get caught up in the busy parts of your day. Instead, prioritize a few minutes of quality time with your children as often as possible. Sharing a meal or reading together before bed will show your children that you value your time together.
If you, or your former spouse are struggling with timesharing this summer, schedule a consultation with one of our Orlando Family Law Attorneys today.
Is Parallel Parenting Right for You?
In high conflict cases where former spouses struggle to communicate or agree on what is best for their children, co-parenting can seem like a daunting task. The divorce process is just the beginning. Your marriage may be over, but when you have kids, you will be connected to your former spouse for years to come. While most legal teams make an effort to advocate in the best interest of the children involved, regular communication between former spouses is not always an ideal solution.
Co-parenting vs. Parallel Parenting
Although each approach relies on a timesharing agreement, there are clear differences among the two.
Co-parenting consists of each parent regularly communicating with each other as it relates to their child’s schedule, expenses, academics, health, etc., as well as possibly joining forces for birthdays, school functions, and extracurricular activities. It allows both parents the opportunity to voice concerns directly and in person as situations arise. Decisions regarding the children are made together, rather than by one parent alone.
Parallel parenting is a newer arrangement where former spouses are not expected to be in constant contact with one another . In other words, by utilizing this method to avoid conflict and possible tension, each parent protects the children from the negativity associated with their difficulty to communicate. To decrease the need for communication, decision making may be split between parents. For example, the child’s mother may be responsible for health related choices, while the father may have the final say in regards to after school activities. Over time, some parallel parenting arrangements evolve into versions of co-parenting, as resentment weakens and children become the overall focus.
For those who are interested in pursuing a parallel parenting plan, we encourage you to consider which approach would best fit the needs of your children and new family dynamic. The decision may seem overwhelming at first, but there are a variety of resources available to make the transition to parallel parenting easier.
If you are unsure of which option would work best for your case, we encourage you to contact our office and speak with one of our Central Florida Family Law Attorneys today.
How to Handle Timesharing with Ease
Once a case is resolved, former spouses have the opportunity to settle into a new routine. For clients with children, a parenting plan is implemented to outline primary residency, school zoning, expenses and reimbursement expectations, and timesharing (formerly known as child custody). While not all marriages end amicably, in most cases, each parent strives to do what is best for the children involved, despite their own preferences or feelings toward the other party.
Whether they decide to co-parent or parallel parent, timesharing can be difficult at first. Perhaps you are struggling to adjust to having less time with your child. Fear not, over time we have witnessed former clients thrive as they adjusted to a new family dynamic.
Manage your Expectations.
It is important to consider that everyone involved is going through a transition. Make an effort to meet your former spouse, your child and yourself with grace. As each of you adjust to new schedules, ways of communicating, etc., several emotions will come to the surface.
Be Mindful of your Audience.
When you are reunited with your child, it may be tempting to invite others to join in on the excitement. However, you may want to be sensitive to the fact that your son or daughter could be looking forward to alone time with you. At first, he or she may want to only spend time with you rather than with extended family, such as aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc.
Remember the moments where you are dreading the hand off and returning to a quiet home. Each parent should treat the other how they would want to be treated. In order to alleviate stress for everyone, be aware of your body language, your tone and the general agenda of what should take place at your hand off. Some parenting plans specify that a neutral location be used for timesharing arrangements. Others might request former spouses refrain from discussing parenting issues in front of the child, to avoid tension. Put yourself in the shoes of your vulnerable child.
To speak to an attorney regarding your parenting plan or timesharing arrangement, call our office today.
5 Reasons Why Mediation is Encouraged During Divorce
Mediation is often underrated compared to litigation when couples are in the middle of dissolution of marriage. Certainly, there are many situations where pursuing litigation is necessary. However, if both spouses are hoping to proceed with their case amicably, mediation should be an option and is often required by the Court. Many couples experiencing divorce may not be aware of the benefits of mediation.
Our Family Law attorneys at The Marks Law Firm are advocates for our clients and their children and we support mediation wherever possible.
Mediation is encouraged for the following reasons:
In general, mediation costs vary depending on the rates of the mediator as well as the length of the mediation, but in almost all cases, the total fees charged are less than the cost of a Trial, not to mention, the emotional toll that comes along with litigation. Consequently, it is important to consider how much your peace of mind is worth.
2. Influence of Outcome:
Rather than depending on a Judge and his or her ruling in order to determine the resolution of your case, mediation provides each party with the opportunity to come up with possible solutions throughout that are more flexible than a judge is permitted to order. Parties are directly involved with decision making and can come up with out of the box solutions.
3. Welcoming of Pro Se Parties:
Even if you are not in the financial position to retain an attorney, you can still move forward with a divorce while consulting a mediator, who handles mediation where the parties are unrepresented.
4. Mediators are Expected to be Impartial:
While you may not anticipate every aspect of your case to be resolved without some conflict, your mediator will focus on helping the parties reach an amicable resolution. He or she does not choose sides.
Going to Trial in the process of finalizing your divorce means you are now subject to the Court’s availability, dictates and schedule. Choosing mediation gives you more control over how long it takes to reach a resolution of your case.
Alimony Tax Deductions to be Eliminated in 2019
There is huge change coming to how alimony is going to be treated from a tax standpoint. Over the past 75 years, one factor remained the same: alimony was deductible for paying spouses, while receiving spouses were expected to pay income tax on any alimony received.
Effective January 1, 2019 alimony tax deduction will no longer exist! From a family law perspective, I anticipate clients who may be ordered to pay alimony to their spouse will need to take immediate action in order to receive a tax deduction on their alimony payments for years to come. Unfortunately, for those who do not take the necessary steps to file their case or move their existing case forward quickly, they risk not getting to Final Hearing prior to the elimination of alimony tax deduction.
In other words, being proactive is of the upmost importance for paying spouses. According to financial experts, under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, in all divorces after December 31, 2018, not only will alimony no longer be deductible for the payer, but no taxes will be due from the recipient. So recipients may want to delay until after January 1, 2019 and alimony paying spouses will want to get their cases to Court for final resolution prior to January 1, 2019.
For all Final Judgments entered after 2018, higher income spouses and those subject to higher tax brackets will lose up to 37% tax deduction on future alimony payments. As a Family Law attorney serving Orlando and other neighboring counties in Central Florida , it is my responsibility to educate my clients on how this could impact their dissolution of marriage case. Speaking from past experience, tax deductions on alimony payments have become a financial cushion for the paying spouse.
The problem is that it can take several months to get to a Final Hearing on your case and because so many alimony paying spouses will need to get a Final Judgment prior to the end of the year, there will be a flood of new filings or cases already filed that will be pushing to Final Hearing before the end of the year. This will create an even bigger back log in the Court system which could take even longer to get your case heard by the Judge. And of course the Judge may need time to consider the evidence at Trial and may take additional weeks to render the decision.
Although the loss of alimony tax deductibility presents paying spouses with significant challenges, our experienced Family Law attorneys at The Marks Law Firm, P.A. are keeping up to date with these alimony developments. The one thing I would say is if you may have to pay alimony, “Do not wait.”
To speak with one of our Family Law attorneys regarding your alimony concerns in Orlando and other neighboring counties in Central Florida, call our office and schedule a consultation today.
Florida Passes the Collaborative Process Act
After unanimously passing in the Florida House and Senate, on March 24, 2016, Governor Rick Scott signed and enacted the Florida Collaborative Process act. This act recognizes and establishes requirements for the use of the Collaborative Process in family law matters in the State of Florida. The Collaborative Process is a dispute resolution method used as an alternative to Court litigation. In enacting the Collaborative Process Act the Legislature stated the purpose of the Act was:
The Legislature finds and declares that the purpose of the Part III of Chapter 61, Florida Statutes, is to:
- Create a uniform system of practice for a collaborative law process for proceedings under chapters 61 and 742 of the Florida Statutes
- Encourage the peaceful resolution of disputes and the early settlement of pending litigation through voluntary settlement procedures.
- Preserve the working relationship between parties to a dispute through a non-adversarial method that reduces the emotional and financial toll of litigation.
In the Collaborative Process, each party, with the help of a specially trained attorney, meet jointly and privately to respectfully negotiate the settlement off all the issues in their dissolution. Information and documents are exchanged voluntarily without the need of going to Court or the expense of formal discovery. A neutral financial expert, such as a certified public accountant or a financial planner, helps the couple gather and understand their assets, liabilities, income and expenses, to help the parties negotiate a settlement of those issues. A specially trained mental health professional acts as a facilitator to assist the parties with issues involving their children and to stay focused on resolving the issues in their dispute rather than attacking the other person.
The cost and time required by the collaborative process is typically less than half of a litigated divorce. Best of all, the parties learn how to problem solve together, lessening the possibility of future litigation. This is in stark contrast to litigated divorce cases which may leave bitterness and anger for years leaving the parties without a working relationship and solving future problems through more litigation. Further, the Collaborative process allows the parties far greater privacy for themselves and their finances than traditional litigation.
We at the Marks Law Firm have been have been utilizing the Collaborative Process for years to help our clients in their disputes. The attorneys in our firm have received special training in the use of this process, and one of the attorneys in our firm aided in the creation of this statute. It is our hope that, with the passage of this act, the use of the Collaborative Process will become more common as we believe it will greatly benefit Florida’s families.
8 Concerns for People Facing a High Net Worth Divorce
If you own significant assets, generate substantial income, and are facing divorce, the following article could salvage a large portion of your net worth.
In divorce, the more you make, the more you have at stake. Unless you have an ironclad prenuptial agreement, up to 50% of any net worth accumulated during your marriage could belong to your spouse – and maybe more.
The following eight tips will help you understand how to protect yourself through the divorce process.
1. Use valuation specialists if necessary. If you own a business, your business could be an asset subject to division upon divorce. This means you will have to determine the value, which likely includes the blood, sweat, and tears (aka goodwill) you’ve poured into it over time. Never enter into settlement negotiations for divorce without first knowing the actual value of assets like a business, professional practice or real estate.
2. Consider a forensic accountant. In many cases, spouses comingle funds or assets, which can give those assets a mixed characterization and make pinpointing the source difficult. Using a forensic account to trace funds and assets may be necessary.
3. Evaluate the strength of your prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. If you plan to handle your divorce as outlined in a prenuptial agreement, be sure it is well-drafted. If you’ve failed to disclose any assets or failed to have your prenuptial agreement executed under the proper conditions, your prenuptial agreement could be invalidated along with its terms.
4. Consider the tax consequences of your divorce. Transferring assets by way of divorce almost always involves significant tax consequences for high net worth individuals. Your divorce attorney should collaborate with your accountant to ensure any asset transfers as a result of your divorce are structured to mitigate as much tax liability as possible.
5. Understand your potential alimony obligation. If you generate substantially more income than your spouse, and your spouse needs financial support, you could end up with a significant alimony obligation. Alimony payments have tax implications for both the receiving and paying spouse so you want to be sure you can negotiation an alimony agreement that will be favorable to your overall financial picture.
6. Understand the implications of marital waste. Since your marriage has been on the rocks, is your spouse suddenly spending more? Is your spouse funneling marital assets into accounts for which you don’t have access?
It is not uncommon for high net worth individuals to experience this type of behavior from their spouse, or even be tempted to do the same. Thankfully, the law doesn’t allow the waste of marital resources to go unaccounted for, and with the proper guidance of a family law attorney you can take appropriate steps to prevent the unnecessary loss of assets and income.
7. Consider the cost of attorney’s fees (for you and your spouse). If your spouse has little to no income, and your income is substantial, you can expect to pay some amount of their attorney’s fees if you are the spouse seeking the divorce. Treat your divorce like a business decision. Plan how much you are willing to spend to get a reasonable divorce settlement and stick to that decision. Your net worth will thank you.
8. Calculate the cost of your divorce. Would you spend $20 on a $21 dispute? Of course not. Know the value of your fight. Do you want to spend tens of thousands of dollar (or more) on a dispute you could settle for the same amount? You’ll end up spending double what you’d pay, just to fight over the value. While it may be difficult to put your emotions aside and compromise, considering settlement could save you tens of thousands of dollars.
To learn more about how you can reduce the risk of diminishing your net worth as a result of divorce, click here to request a consultation or call 407-872-3161 to speak with one of our Orlando Divorce Attorneys today.