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Fort Myers Florida Family Law Legal Blog

Collaborative law involves more than just attorneys

Florida residents going through a divorce may want to try to make it as stress-free as possible. After all, going through a trial is an emotionally and financially draining experience. Plus, the winner-takes-all nature of litigation can lead to an unsatisfactory resolution to your divorce. However, there are other ways to settle a divorce that may be more attractive than litigation.

One way to settle a divorce out of court is through collaborative law. In a collaborative divorce, each party retains an attorney, but both parties and their attorneys agree in writing to work together to reach a settlement to all their divorce legal issues. If any issues remain unresolved once the collaborative law process is over and the parties must go to trial, their attorneys must bow out of the case and the parties must retain new attorneys. This gives everyone an incentive to make the collaborative divorce process work from the get-go.

Know when paternity must be established

There is no doubt that children need both parents involved in their lives whenever that is possible. But sometimes the circumstances of a baby's birth don't clearly indicate who the father is.

Having a legal father is important for a child. Establishing paternity gives rights to the child and both parents, as you will read below.

Prenups can be valuable when Floridians marry a second time

Not every marriage is meant to last, and some couples in Florida who married in their younger years end up getting divorced decades later. Sometimes, after the divorce is final, a person will find love again and decide to remarry. By this point, however, that person may have accumulated a significant amount of valuable assets and wealth. If this is the case, they may want to consider executing a prenuptial agreement (referred to as a premarital agreement under Florida law), to avoid the difficulties that could be encountered in a high net worth divorce.

When a person is entering their second marriage, they will want to consider how they will support themselves financially while married. A prenup can address what income and retirement assets will be retained as separate property and what income and retirement assets will be considered marital property. The prenup can also address who will be responsible for what costs when it comes to household expenses.

Divorce of Amazon CEO teaches valuable lessons

Florida residents may have been following the highly publicized divorce of Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos. This high net worth divorce is notable not just due to Bezos' $137 billion fortune, but due to the fact that Amazon, which he founded while married, may be considered marital property and could be included in the divisible marital estate.

Another notable lesson we can learn from Bezos' divorce is the importance of prenuptial agreements. Bezos and his wife reportedly had not executed a prenuptial agreement. This could significantly affect the outcome of his divorce.

How is property in Florida divided during a divorce?

Couples in Florida may spend years or even decades accumulating various assets, such as a house, automobiles, electronics, artwork and other valuable pieces of property. So, should the couple divorce, the issue of property division can be a sticking point for many spouses who believe they are entitled to certain assets. If a settlement cannot be reached regarding property division, the parties will turn to the court to issue a decision.

When it comes to property division, Florida is an equitable distribution state. This means that the judge will issue a decision regarding property division based on what is fair, and it may not always result in an even 50/50 split of assets and liabilities. Specifically, Florida statutes state that the court will begin with the premise that assets and liabilities should be split equally unless there is a justifiable reason not to do so based on all relevant factors.

Why might spouses in Florida choose lump-sum alimony?

One thing couples in Florida who are undergoing a divorce may wish is to have as little contact with one another as possible. However, one aspect of divorce that could tether spouses to one another even after their union is dissolved is alimony, also known as spousal support. It is often assumed that if one party is ordered to pay alimony to the other post-divorce, it could mean monthly alimony payments for a certain length of time.

However, especially in a high net worth divorce where one party makes substantially more than the other or if the marriage lasted a long time, permanent alimony may be awarded. For those who don't want to remain in monthly contact with their ex indefinitely or until their ex remarries, paying alimony in a single lump-sum may be an attractive option. Florida statutes permit lump-sum alimony.

Is divorce mediation always a good idea?

Most divorce attorneys will agree that you can't go wrong by mediating a divorce. Even if the mediation fails, at least you've given it a shot and, by doing so, had a chance at the many benefits that mediation can bring -- like saving money, time, stress and preserving your and your future ex's good relationship in the future.

All that being said, however, a wise attorney will admit that some situations do not bode well for the mediation process. Most of these involve the mindset of you and your spouse. One spanner in the gearbox of your mediation process -- regardless of who it happens to be -- can make it an exercise in futility.

Collaborative law offers litigation alternatives for divorce

Divorce is known as the one kind of litigation that a large percentage of the population will experience during their lifetime. Because things like child custody, child support, property division and alimony are often at issue, divorce has a reputation for being an extremely unpleasant experience. Most of us here in Fort Myers know people whose divorces were painful or infuriating. Is there an alternative to litigation for divorcing couples?

For many couples, there is. If each spouse is willing to give it a go, a collaborative divorce may be a great alternative. Instead of the fight and win approach that is so common in litigation, a collaborative divorce uses a troubleshoot and problem-solve approach. The two spouses use negotiations to try to settle their divorce without a family court judge. A collaborative divorce can save time, money and happens in a less formal atmosphere. It allows the parties to negotiate an agreement that works for them, and it allows them to decide how to settle post-agreement disputes before they happen.

Divorcing couple's artworks included in equitable distribution

Last week we talked about some of the issues that come up when a divorcing couple needs to divide assets held in the form of artwork. This week we learned about a very affluent couple who is encountering this very issue in their divorce after nearly 60 years of marriage. What happened when they had to divide assets amounting to over half a billion dollars?

Harry Macklowe and his wife Linda Macklowe have been locked in an acrimonious divorce for the past two years. One of the issues in the property division process is the couple's large trove of important and valuable artworks, valued between $625 million and $788 million. The couple's total assets have been estimated to be worth $2 billion. Included in the artworks are pieces by Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol and Willem de Kooning.

Who gets the artwork in a divorce?

Bidding adieu to artwork can be one of the most devastating aspects of divorce for some couples. Some pieces you might have collected on your travels, while others you might have received as a gift for one of your anniversaries. These pieces are likely special to both you and your spouse, which can create an issue in the event of a divorce.

Like other marital property, each couple generally has an equal claim to artwork. The laws of equitable distribution require each spouse to receive a similar distribution of marital assets. Unfortunately, artwork cannot be divided as easily as other assets.

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