Marriage from the Other Side

During the course of my legal practice as a family law attorney, I have gained a perspective of marriage and divorce to which few are privy. Marriage (the institution) sometimes replaces Marriage (the relationship) as the goal of one or both parties. Interestingly, in these instances, those endorsing the institution rail that divorce is the devilish pariah that is destroying the fabric of society. The proponents of marriage as a relationship understand that divorce allows for the healthy disengagement of a non-existent or even toxic relationship.

Publicly, I have spoken on both marriage and divorce. Almost every time, there is at least one heckler in the crowd who says – “I can do it myself; what do I need you for?” My answer is usually the same: “If you needed a root canal, would you try to do it yourself?” The loss of any significant relationship is devastating. The loss of a marriage has been likened by many psychologists to death only without the closure of a funeral. Yet, at this juncture, circumstances and competing legal agendas require clear and well thought out decisions. In this sea of tumultuous change, the hiring of a professional team to create objectivity in the moment and make plans for the future becomes a necessity, not a luxury.

Time and again I meet with people who have chosen to “do it themselves.” In most instances they are sitting in my office because they have realized, too late, that the great deal they thought they negotiated without lawyers left them with no future and very little present. Once a divorce judgment is signed, for all practical purposes, it cannot be changed except under extraordinary circumstances. Every divorce case is complex and evolving even if the legal issues are streamlined. Attorneys are not “one size fits all.” Finding a professional who is qualified and who understand the goals and factors that contribute to the complexity of the case is THE most important decision made by a party. Prior to either a marriage or divorce, it is wise to consult a family law attorney to accurately assess your rights in making these momentous decisions.

For more information about marriage from the other side or to request a consultation, please contact me at: lhudson@hudsonfamilylaw.com or at: (561)472-0805 .

SCHOOL’S OUT! (now what?) – enforcing boundaries for the children

Those among us who are under the age of eighteen are enthusiastically careening toward the first week of June when freedom shall once again reign supreme. The school year ends and summer begins….officially. However, for the parents of these freed, tweeting, over-digitalized, virtual gamers, a space-time rift (known as a black hole) forms. So, in an effort to help maintain the real-time presence of being a “parent”, here are a few tips:

  1. Electricity is necessary to power all digital devices (including an iPhone);
  2. The digital devices eventually find their way home;
  3. There is electricity at home;
  4. Electricity costs money and flows in a current;
  5. The current can be interrupted………….. permanently;
    • option one – have the child’s room established as a separate billing address by FP&L, or
    • option two – go “off grid”;
  6. Once the current is interrupted – communication can be restored.

These above suggestions may save the lives of many unsuspecting parents.

However, in the event that more extreme measures are necessary, there are multiple locations throughout the Appalachian Mountains, the Poconos, or even the Everglades where there are no cell towers, Wi-Fi units, DSL lines, Cable, batteries, or even hot showers. These locations are called “camps”. Arrangements can be made prior to the conclusion of the school year for immediate transportation of the children to and from these “camps”. Most “camps” convene for the duration of the summer. Should your child require persuasion to attend, they can be lured onto any waiting camp bus with the sound of the “angry birds” soundtrack.

Being a parent requires collaboration– whether a parent is married, divorced, or single. Children are quite capable of attempting to emotionally or physically manipulate circumstances to get what they want. Children need to know that they are loved, and that there are limits to what is permissible and what is not. If both parents are available, both parents should actively be involved in drawing and enforcing boundaries for the children. Divorce should never be the excuse for failing to establish boundaries.

If you have questions about how to successfully parent in a divorce, paternity, or other court proceeding, please contact me at: lhudson@hudsonfamilylaw.com, or at (561)472-0805.

THE NEW REVOLUTION: ALIMONY REFORM

Alimony: it’s a word that strikes fear into the heart of most divorced men and has been a sacrosanct right to many divorced woman. When discussed at cocktail parties or among polite acquaintances, it quickly divides a room and often destroys all enjoyable conversation; but what is alimony?

Alimony is the requirement of one spouse to support another after the end of the relationship. In the United States and most Western societies this requirement is primarily financial. The concept of alimony has existed for centuries, even millennia. While the methodology to calculate this support may differ in various Nations, the concept of support in and after a formal marital relationship is recognized globally with very few exceptions.

Since 2010, there have been significant efforts in Florida to change how and when alimony is awarded; all prior efforts have failed. This year may prove to be different. Once again, in the corridors of the State Capitol, hard core lobbying has been taking place to change §61.08 (Fla. Stat., 2011) – Florida’s alimony statute. The proponents of the “revolution” share disheartening stories of being “trapped” forever because they were ordered or agreed to pay life time alimony. The opponents share their deep dissatisfaction and discouragement about how their alimony awards did not provide enough or were too short to allow them to recover financially.

For the first time, the proponents of reform are working with the Family Law section of the Florida Bar to create a fair and balanced alimony reform bill. Those assisting with drafting these new measures have indicated that, more likely than not, an alimony guideline shall be utilized, much like the Florida child support guideline. However, there is also an indication that permanent or life time alimony shall be abolished. Taking a “wait and see” approach if you are considering divorce could have disastrous results.

If you have questions concerning alimony, divorce, or how your rights may be effected in the future, please contact me immediately at:lhudson@hudsonfamilylaw.com or (561)472-0805

Brave New World – Religious Divorce

While there are many new, complex, and dangerous issues facing this Nation, there are some that are profoundly the same. On Sunday, January 25, 2015, the New York Times reported an article on page one denoting that the Roman Catholic Church is re-examining its stance on divorce and whether a marriage, once made, is indissoluble. At the heart of this question is a discussion which is intrinsic to all of the great faiths of the world, spans many centuries, and has, in part, even spawned wars. There are many who hold dear the tenets of their faith and yet have been banned from practicing it because divorce is not recognized as a “viable option.” Florida unwittingly became a pioneer in the area of divorce when Henry Morrison Flagler was permitted to divorce his second wife by reason of her diagnosed insanity; something that was disallowed formerly. Previously neither Florida nor most other states permitted divorce unless “fault” (usually adultery) could be proven. These and other legislative policies were shaped by Judeo-Christian or faith based ideals.

On January 6, 2015 Florida became one of several states whose same-sex marriage ban was held unconstitutional. In light of the significant split by federal appellate courts regarding which unions shall constitute a “marriage”, the United States Supreme Court shall address the issue prior to the conclusion of its spring session in 2015. With this question squarely before the highest court of our Nation, it will be noteworthy to observe whether the tenets of faith continue to diverge with civil ideals. However, even when the dust has cleared from this highly emotionally judicial decision, the more difficult issue of divorce within the confines of certain faiths shall still remain. The question of obtaining a “religious divorce” has had a resurgence over the last decade. In the Catholic faith, it is provided by way of an annulment; in the Jewish faith it is provided by way of a Get, and although the Protestant faith has no formal outlet to address the issue, certain sects of Protestantism are providing their members with church based programs for help. As we venture into 2015 and beyond, marriage, divorce, parental identification, and many more core values of our society will be touched by the answers which are applied to the questions involving marriage and divorce. Finding a lawyer who can be of assistance with all of the issues can be a great relief. If you would like to know more, please contact me, Lise Hudson at Hudson Family Law; telephone: (561)472-0805 or on the web at: www.HudsonFamilyLaw.com.

CHILD OF WAR/ CHILD OF PEACE

In my last four articles, we have reviewed the top four mistakes that divorcing parties make prior to or during litigation. The discussion today is about the worst and most profound mistake made by parties during a divorce.

Florida is a state whose policies focus on children. It is one of the few states that constitutionally guarantees that parents are legally ensured of their right to parent; but what rights belong to their children?

Today, divorcing parents are required to take a “parenting” course endorsed by the judicial system subsequent to filing a petition for dissolution of marriage. It is an effort by the courts to attempt to deter the ping pong effect that occurs in most divorcing families. These courses are helpful but have not stemmed the tide of the incidence of parent alienation, Münchausen syndrome by proxy (MSBP or MBP), and other activities that are designed for one purpose – the emotional and sometimes physical abuse of a child.

Even if a divorcing parent’s actions do not rise to the level of the extreme behavior described above, all too often I will hear one or both parents speak in terms of the “right” that a child has to know about one spouse’s extra-marital affair, drug addiction, professional mishaps and so on. “After all, they did it to ‘both of us’” – goes the reasoning. My immediate response is always the same; No – “they” did not.

Children have the right to not be a parent’s sounding board when that parent is angry, frustrated, enraged, and emotionally compromised toward the other parent. They have the right to have two parents. Most importantly, children have the right to be children and have age appropriate discussions that do not include having to take sides with one parent against the other – even for a moment.

During the last twenty-five years of practice, my mission has been: Resolve, Rebuild, Restore. Let me discuss with you how to accomplish this goal without compromising the integrity of your children’s lives or yours. You may reach me at: (561)472-0805 or on the web at: www.HudsonFamilyLaw.com

For a personal consultation please feel free to contact me at: lhudson@hudsonfamilylaw.com or at: (561)472-0805 .

For more information on how to properly and accurately disclose required discovery in a divorce proceeding, feel free to contact me at:lhudson@hudsonfamilylaw.com or on the web at: www.HudsonFamilyLaw.com .

Did I Forget to Mention That…? Divorce Discovery

The Third Worst Mistake Made by Divorcing Spouses

In my last two articles, we began a review of the top five mistakes that divorcing parties make prior to or during litigation.  We discussed that Florida has a “no fault” policy thus creating unique laws regarding divorce that may vary widely from other states.  We also reviewed that posting negative or disparaging comments on social media prior to or during a divorce is a significant mistake especially when they will probably be viewed by the Judge.

Some of the most innocent and costly mistakes made in litigation are during disclosure. In Florida, each party is required to exchange extensive financial documentation, as well as, file financial affidavits identifying all income, expenses, assets and liabilities at the time of the divorce whether marital or non-marital.

Believing that divorce discovery is relegated to joint marital accounts, assets, liabilities or employment information is a common misunderstanding.  The required disclosure is much broader.  It includes information as innocuous as interest income from the children’s savings accounts to disclosure of third party accounts and holdings with non-marital people.  Accounts titled jointly with parents or siblings, third party trusts of which one or the other spouse is named a beneficiary, or assets gifted or acquired prior to or during the marriage that have retained value require identification and valuation.  Insurance policies, time shares, shares in a closely held corporation, or other items that are more difficult to value must also be identified and disclosed.  Loans, credit card debts, contingent responsibilities, and other liabilities are included in this review.

A party may lose the right to make critical legal arguments if disclosure is not compliant. These losses may include non-marital assets being characterized as marital and divided with the ex-spouse, a finding of contempt by a Judge, or worse, creating a loop-hole for an ex-spouse to have a second bite of the apple in subsequent court proceedings.

For more information on how to properly and accurately disclose required discovery in a divorce proceeding, feel free to contact me at:  Hudson@ hudsonfamilylaw.com or on the web at:  www.HudsonFamilyLaw.com.