Articles Posted in Family Law

Pursuant to Florida statutes, alimony may be awarded when one spouse has a need for financial assistance and the other spouse has the ability to pay. If a court awards alimony, then the obligor may later seek to modify or terminate the alimony obligation if there is a substantial change in circumstances or if the obligee has entered into a supportive relationship. Pursuant to Florida statutes, the court has discretion to reduce or terminate an award of alimony if the court finds that since the granting of the divorce decree, a supportive relationship has existed between the obligee and a person with whom the obligee resides (“cohabitant”).

The burden is on the obligor to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that a supportive relationship exists. In a recent case, Gregory v. Gregory, 39 Fla. Weekly D1A (Fla. 5th DCA 2014), the 5th DCA held that once the court finds that a supportive relationship exists, the burden of proof shifts to the obligee to prove that he or she has a continued need for the financial support. In that case, the Husband sought to reduce or terminate his alimony obligation based on the wife’s supportive relationship. Ultimately, the court held that the wife was living in a supportive relationship and she failed to prove that she had the continued need for alimony.

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There are several different types of alimony within Florida Law including permanent periodic alimony, rehabilitative alimony, bridge the gap alimony, and durational alimony.

Durational alimony is alimony for a set period of time.

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In a dissolution of marriage involving property, the trial court must determine what asset is marital versus non-marital, what is the value of each asset, and decide how to split the assets. The date of determining the existence of marital versus non-marital assets is the date of filing of the petition. Because cases can take several months or even years to conclude, an asset may exit at the date of filing but not exist, or its value may substantially decrease, by the date of trial. A perfect example is a bank account. In this situation, what is a court to do?

In a recent case in Ballard v. Ballard, 39 Fla. L. Weekly 1670c (Fla. 1st DCA, 2014), the parties owned a bank account that was significantly diminished by the Husband during the dependency of the case. At the date of filing, the bank account had $42,012; by the trial date, the account had no funds. The Husband testified that he used some of the money to pay his attorney’s fees. The trial court did not find any misconduct on the part of the Husband but nonetheless included the $42,012 in the equitable distribution scheme.

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The vast majority of family law matters, whether a dissolution of marriage (divorce) or child related (paternity), cases resolve in a settlement. This means that the parties can avoid going to Court and having a Judge determine their fates. Sometimes the parties cannot amicably resolve their case and must go before a Judge. It is your right to have your case decided by the Judge.

The Judicial system must balance crowded dockets with the citizen’s right to have “access to the courts,” that is to say your right to have your case decided by the Judge. Often Judges will put time pressures on cases to clear up their docket. In one recent case from Miami, the Judge did not provide the Wife with adequate time to present her case. Specifically, telling her counsel that he needed to wrap up her testimony in fifteen (15) minutes. The appellate court found this to be a violation of the Wife’s right to due process and remanded the case to the trial court.

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In Florida Family Law Cases we always file a Family Law Financial Affidavit (for the short form affidavit: http://www.flcourts.org/core/fileparse.php/293/urlt/902b.pdf and for the long form affidavit: http://www.flcourts.org/core/fileparse.php/293/urlt/902c.pdf). These affidavits are very useful in determining the marital estate to be divided in equitable distribution and for determining the need and ability to pay for alimony purposes.

Florida Family Law Financial Affidavits are very important and should be taken very seriously by the parties. In one recent Second District Court of Appeal case the Appellate Court relied on the Husband’s financial affidavit in reversing the trial Court’s approval of alimony.

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On Monday, January 5, 2015, Miami Dade became the first county in the state of Florida to recognize same-sex marriage, start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and officiate same-sex marriages. The decision came from Miami Dade Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel. Judge Zabel lifted a stay of her previous ruling from July of 2014 which found Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. The ban was a result of the 2008 Constitutional Amendment which defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

On January 6, 2015, a similar ruling was set to apply to the rest of the Sunshine State. The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of multiple individuals challenging the 2008 Constitutional Amendment as unconstitutional. On August 21, 2014, the presiding U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle entered his initial ruling declaring the ban as unconstitutional. In his opinion, Judge Hinkle writes

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