Divorce Advice

Smartphone Apps for Divorce?

Written March 14th, 2014
Categories: Divorce, Divorce Advice, Divorce Trends

ID-10032760Divorcing executives living in Jupiter, Wellington or Palm Beach, Florida, get ready to download a bevy of applications to assist with the separation. In an age where we all know the phrase about having an application for everything, it should come as no surprise that applications for assisting with a professional’s divorce abound. If you are considering settling your relationship woes through whatever smart device you own, be careful.  Carol Bruess, professor of family communication at the University of St. Thomas [said], “Relationships are so incredibly complex. Can an app really offer the complexity we need?”

Katie Humphrey researched applications for Star Tribune of Minneapolis and found some interesting information. Here are a few examples of what she found:

  • Grass is Greener– launched by Pamela Green, is a conversation starter for those pondering divorce. It has 39 multiple choice questions. Green reminds everyone, “We don’t give results. It’s not like a Cosmo quiz. It’s designed to help people think . . .People have to come to that decision on their own.”
  • Sesame Street: Divorce– by title may seem like a strange idea but ask any divorcing parent how they’re going to tell their children and most will show you a startled and terrified look. This app, with assistance from the Sesame Street characters, Grover and Abby Cadabby, helps parents through that daunting process.
  • Calculators and Calendars- Plenty of applications exist that purport to address the issues of calculating asset division and sharing schedules for taking care of the kids.

If you are considering using an application, be sure to check the source. Bruess said, “In the pre-app world we might seek out a book written by experts and it was really clear who wrote that book because you could read about the credentials of that person. How many people really dig for the author of an app?”

For any professional getting divorced, the responsibility of complying with the law is your responsibility. Be sure to verify the sources for whatever tools you use: an online site, an application, a book or journal. Above all, consult a qualified attorney for anything that pertains to Florida divorce laws.



Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Divorce Settlement Hazards

Written January 15th, 2014
Categories: Divorce, Divorce Advice

ID-10044368People from Jupiter to Wellington know that divorce is costly.  As the divorce rate increases for individuals over 50, the cost can deplete retirement savings plans and doesn’t give the individuals much time to recoup losses over their remaining working years.  According to an article by Elizabeth MacBride, one of the keys to minimizing the damage is to stay away from a few common snags along the divorce pathway.

MacBride shares four hazards and offers ideas of how to make the path straighter on the way to a settlement.

  • Hazard 1: Going to trial when not needed.
    According to Justin A. Reckers, CEO of Pacific Divorce Management, of the 900,000 splits in 2011, only five percent went to trial. The ones that did tended to be high conflict, involved layers of finances and involved children. They also cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. The majority of couples can use other options, such as collaborative divorce, to stay out of the court room and to save a great deal of money. Reckers reminds us of process by saying, “For most people, this is the largest financial transaction” they will experience in life.
  • Hazard 2: Ignoring tax implications.
    Assets are not always equal and not considering the repercussions of taxes can haunt you later. For example, $200,000 in cash is not the same as $200,000 in a retirement account. At some point, retirement income will be affected by taxes. Be sure to get help from an accountant or other qualified financial professional to make all these liabilities clear before a settlement is final.
  • Hazard 3: Not demanding the full financial picture.
    Enlist the help of a forensic accountant or similar professional to find any hidden assets your spouse might have. You have the legal right to the information. Once the report is present, you’ll have a better idea of what might be a fair settlement.
  • Hazard 4: Letting Emotions decide.
    Since this is a business transaction, albeit with a lot of emotions attached, you must make pragmatic decisions when it comes to finances, family visitation, etc. Get help from professionals who can assist you in processing your emotions and who can teach you the legal process and how it will affect you financially in the long term. Then make a plan based on the facts.

Using these practices will not suddenly make your divorce inexpensive, but it can help reduce the overall cost. Every bit of money saved during a divorce can help you establish your new financial life after the settlement is finalized.



Image Courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Six Things You Must Do Before Getting a Divorce

Written March 20th, 2013
Categories: Divorce, Divorce Advice

Experienced attorneys from Jupiter to West Palm Beach know that when a married couple is in a disintegrating relationship there are always warning signs. More often than not, the couple gradually drift to divorce, rather than have divorce occur as a sudden transition from being a happily married couple to two people sitting across from each other in an adversarial courtroom.  Attorney Stann Givens recently discussed six actions people should consider doing when they see a divorce in their future:

1. Meet with a lawyer.  The biggest mistake that experienced divorce attorneys often see is that divorcing couples wait far too long before they seek advice.  There are things that can always be done prior to a divorce to protect your assets or to put yourself in a better position to obtain the goals that you desire.  Think about it in terms of your participation in a sports event.  You wouldn’t dream of stepping onto a baseball diamond unless you already knew the rules of the game.  Consulting with an experienced divorce attorney can help dispense many myths that might exist in the area of divorce and can help prepare you with an initial game plan of how best to protect yourself in the event that the worst happens;

2. Gather financial information and put it in a safe place.  Family lawyers from Wellington to Boynton Beach know that sometimes a spouse in a divorce may begin hiding assets or information.  The significant step to protect yourself is to copy all your important financial documents and put them in a safe place.  They should always be kept outside of your home in a safe deposit box or with a friend;

3. Don’t try to hide the money.  Most people who try to hide assets during a divorce or prior to a divorce don’t do a very good job at it.  If you get caught having hidden assets, then the trial judge will never believe anything else you have to say about any other issue in your case.  The potential damage far outweighs any potential benefit;

4. Don’t bad mouth your spouse to your children or mutual friends.  People in the middle of a divorce are often angry.  Angry people often say stupid and hurtful things.  They often can say terrible things about each other in the presence of their children in order to get them on their side.  This is a tactic that will only backfire and will only do harm to your children.  Don’t do it;

5. Go see a mental health professional.  If you are in the middle of a divorce or thinking about getting divorced, you are experiencing extreme stress.  You are going to be frustrated, angry, sad, dismayed, annoyed and disheartened.  Divorce attorneys are not mental health professionals.  Mental health professionals can help you process these feelings and assist in guiding you emotionally through the turmoil that you are experiencing while contemplating a divorce or experience during a divorce;

6. Consider changing your healthcare directive.  In almost every state, a document exists that you can sign that gives someone the right to make important medical decisions in the event that you are in a coma or otherwise are unable to direct your treating physicians.  For most people, their spouse is this designated person.  You already don’t want to be in a deteriorating relationship with your spouse.  Consequently, you should not rely upon this same person to make the correct decision as to whether to pull the plug on your respirator.  Go ahead and change the designee.  You don’t have to tell anyone except the new designee and you can always change it back if you patch things up with your spouse.

Attorney Givens has useful advice for people contemplating divorce.  If you are contemplating a divorce, please carefully consider following his instructions.  To read more about Attorney Stann Givens’ advice, click here.

Can I Keep the Pets in my Florida Divorce?

Written April 24th, 2012
Categories: Divorce Advice, Divorce Property Law, Uncategorized

Pets and DivorceWe become quite attached to our pets over time.  We bond with them.  We play with them.  We feed and nurture them.  They provide solace during our times of crises and emotional turmoil.  They become one of the family.  We grieve them when they die.  In divorce cases, experienced divorce attorneys from Jupiter to West Palm Beach recognize that pets are important part to families.  Unfortunately, the courts in Florida treat pets not as a member of the family but rather as a form of property.

Here are some basic issues to remember divorce and pets in Florida:

1.  No matter how resolutely you feel that your pet is part of the family, Florida courts treat animals as property during the divorce;

2.  As property, equitable distribution laws apply to your pet.  Therefore, your pet is subject to be awarded to either you or your spouse.  The only exceptions are if you can prove during the divorce, that your pet is your separate property.  Generally, you can only prove that your pet is your separate property if:

a.  You owned your pet prior to being married (proven through bills of sale, vet bills dated prior to the marriage, etc.);

b.  Your pet was given specifically to you as a gift during the marriage by someone other than your spouse (which may be somewhat difficult to prove); and

c.  Your pet has been either willed or bequeathed to you (such as a long-lived parrot willed to you by your uncle);

3. If you have a valuable pet such as a horse, purebred, or show animal, it will be considered to be a valuable asset and may be treated accordingly.

If you and your spouse do not agree as to the ownership of the valuable pet, the judge could order that the animal be sold and the proceeds divided according to what the judge thinks is appropriate.

Although in Florida your pet is legally considered to be property, you may wish to consult with an experienced attorney to develop tactics to either negotiate or litigate the ownership of your pet.  For instance, if you have minor children (human) who have formed a close attachment with the pet, consider letting the pet go to the parent who has majority timeshare of the children.  To view other strategies, please visit my You Tube video, “How can I Keep the Pets in a Divorce?”.

The litigation of pets is a very emotional issue in court.  Because of our close bonding with our pets, make sure that you don’t shortchange yourself.  Inform your attorney early in the case and prepare your positions in negotiation and litigation on this issue.

Start Over Smart, Divorce Expo

Written April 10th, 2012
Categories: Divorce Advice

Divorce: Start over smart.Last weekend, in New York City, the first US Divorce Expo opened to rave reviews. The creators of the “Start Over Smart” event are a mother-daughter team who had been touched by divorce and were working on a book to help divorcees. According to the Start Over Smart website, the event “provides a central gathering place for women and men navigating the divorce process as they seek information, services, and expert guidance from trusted professionals.” Francine Baras and Nicole Baras Feuer saw a need to put divorce professionals under one roof. “It was a lot like a bridal expo — only with less cake and more lawyers.” (source)

The idea for the Expo came straight from Paris. As the two worked on a book to assist divorcees in the complicated issues of divorce, they heard about a divorce expo that was hosted in Paris. They reasoned that putting on this expo in the US would help with the research for their book but more importantly it would help others who really needed it.

Nearly 40 exhibitors came together such as lawyers, therapists, financial advisors, life coaches, stylists and more. One of the many interesting vendors included Maria Coder, InvestiDate founder, who spends time teaching investigating tactics to singles.

Besides perusing the vendor booths, attendants were able to attend seminars and panels on such topics as legal issues, planning for the future and even dating. Presenter Amy Laurent, a high-end matchmaker and founder of Amy Laurent International, hosted a party to bring soon-to-be-singles together in a fun and low-stress environment.

Baras said, “We provide all the resources, information and support you need for going through your divorce and creating your post-divorce family, your post-divorce life.”

The event was such a success that the pair hopes to take it on the road, bringing the expo to people and in other cities and allowing them to benefit from having resources available in one place.

Eight Tips for Better Communication/Negotiations in Your Divorce

Written March 9th, 2012
Categories: Divorce Advice, Divorce Communications, Divorce Negotiations

Divorce attorneys in West Palm Beach know that people involved in family law issues often are on an emotional roller coaster. At times, emotions get in the way of effective communication. However, communicating effectively can make or break a negotiation in a divorce case or a negotiation in any other part of your life. Attorney Richard Price of Fort Worth, Texas recently offered tips for better divorce communications in a collaborative divorce case. Whether you are involved in a collaborative divorce or discussing or negotiating issues with your spouse in other family law matters, Attorney Price’s advice should be followed:

1. Look the other person in the eye. While this may not feel comfortable in some situations, failing to do so may lead your spouse to make an inaccurate assumption about what you’re saying. In our

society, failure to make eye contact is often assumed to be an indication of deception. If performing this task is difficult for you, then you need to get some assistance in learning to communicate in this fashion;

2. Don’t attack verbally. Oftentimes discussions end abruptly or negotiations breakdown when one party gets off track and starts criticizing the other party. Even if what you say is true, don’t attack the other side during your conversation/negotiation. It will not promote your agenda; it will not achieve the goals that you desire and, more likely than not, it will abruptly cause the termination of the communication/negotiation;

3. Ask for what you want. Don’t wait for someone else to speak up for you and don’t think you can bring it up later. Don’t assume that someone will remember what you have said in the past. Speak up for yourself. This is your divorce and you have some responsibility in assuring that what you believe is important is put on the table and is discussed;

4. Speak factually. Don’t exaggerate or make up details. Don’t speak in absolute terms such as “always” and “never”. Don’t make assumptions about what your spouse or the person on the other side of the

communication/negotiation wants or would do or say. As Jack Friday on the old television show Dragnet used to say: “Just the facts, ma’am, just the facts”;

5. Respond without engaging in or starting an argument. In an emotionally charged situation, this often may be hard advice to follow. But remember, you don’t have to be mean or angry as you respond to what is said. Try to keep things factual;

6. Respond directly and briefly. Don’t start a tirade because of a comment. Don’t change the subject or get off on a tangent. You don’t want to have to pay your attorney for a long, unproductive meeting. Keep focused. Speak factually and keep on task;

7. Don’t make assumptions or read things into statements. This is a common problem in our day-to-day communication. In the emotional context of a divorce, it may be even more of a disruptive dynamic. Nevertheless, try dealing with statements that you hear in the context of your communications and negotiations at face value. Adding assumptions will always cause problems because your assumptions usually are going to be wrong and most certainly will be negative; and
Whether you are talking with your spouse, having a discussion with your attorney, or attending some negotiation session in family law matter or on any other important meeting in your life, you will have an easier time by implementing the above recommendation. To learn more about Attorney Richard Price see his web site at: http://www.pricelawfirmtx.com/

8. Don’t be looking at your cell phone while you’re in a discussion or negotiation. Pay attention to just what is being said at hand. Choosing your cell phone over the live person or persons with whom you are negotiating is rude and probably would be considered insulting. If you’re attempting to negotiate an issue in your divorce case or during a communication on an important issue in your life, then it should be far more important than whatever may be occurring on your cell phone.

Divorcing Later in Life

Written February 2nd, 2012
Categories: Divorce Advice

You see it in the papers and hear it on the news: the divorce rate among couples who have been married for years is rising. Living in Palm Beach County, with many retiring here, the statistics can be discouraging. Being married for many years no longer assures a couple of “til death do us part.”

Age does not change how divorce laws are administered, but it does bring about more layers to a person’s life. Older couples experience a variety of life situations. They may have bought a home, sent children to college, started a business, saved for retirement or invested. They share loyalties to businesses, social settings, a place of worship, friends and more. Taking time to consider and discuss how each partner will resolve and subsequently maneuver through those issues can help reduce some of the stress involved in divorcing.

Another consideration is how the divorce can affect adult children. Adults whose parents divorce often do not receive the emotional support that young children do and financially, it can be just as challenging for them. Set reasonable expectations for adult children, giving them space to face multiple houses, confusing holidays and new people coming into the family circus.

Hiring a qualified attorney to assist in navigating the complexities of law should be an early step in resolving property allocation and financial support conflicts. Finding a good mental health counselor might be even more important step for making the way smoother for all involved.

Ultimately, court proceedings will be more complicated for an older couple than for a couple who has been married only a few years, has fewer assets and possibly no children. Use available resources to pave the way for a new stage in life.