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Hillsborough County Family Law Blog

Orders in divorce cases can't supersede bankruptcy orders

Florida residents who are divorcing should be careful with how they handle the property division portions of their divorce cases. A recent case that was decided in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Georgia demonstrates the limits of the reach of family court decisions in some property division matters.

In the case, a family court ordered a man to pay his ex-wife $53,000 in the couple's property division portion of the divorce case. The judge termed the money as a property division payment and ruled that the man would not be allowed to discharge it in bankruptcy. Two weeks later, the man filed for bankruptcy, and the ex-wife challenged his ability to seek a discharge of the $53,000 based on the family court's order.

Can retirement accounts be divided after a divorce?

Florida couples who are planning to divorce might need to take special care with their property divisions if they have accumulated substantial assets during their marriages. If they do not make certain that they receive their fair portions of their spouses' retirement accounts, they may forever lose their abilities to collect any portion of them.

One mistake that some people make involves not dividing the retirement accounts while their divorces are pending. In some cases, one of the spouses will convince the others that they want to wait to divide the accounts so that they can grow larger. Even if they do agree to divide the accounts after the divorces are final, the division may then be subjected to substantial tax penalties, especially if it is done before retirement age.

Protecting family businesses from divorce

A family business can be a substantial personal asset, especially if its value has increased overtime. Florida residents who co-own a business with their partner or spouse should know about what they can do before and during a marriage to protect the it if a divorce occurs.

A prenuptial agreement is one legal tool that some unwed couples can use to plan for the future and specify what should happen with the family business if they get divorced. It is recommended that if one is being considered that it be negotiated and signed well in advance of the wedding date. This could help to forestall a subsequent challenge by one of the parties that it was signed under duress.

Vague trust terms could expose funds in divorce settlement

When a Florida beneficiary of a trust gets married, a subsequent divorce might involve the assets within the trust. If the benefactor who created the trust overlooked the possibility of a divorce in the beneficiary's future, then the terms of the trust might be insufficient to protect assets during property division or the calculation of spousal support.

Items generally considered separate from marital property include property owned before a marriage, personal injury settlements for pain and suffering and property specifically declared nonmarital within a prenuptial agreement. If the trust document does not clearly state that a spouse of a beneficiary cannot access the assets in a divorce settlement, then an ex-spouse might attempt to make a legal claim upon the trust fund.

High fees often result from splitting a 401(k) in divorce

Expenses can easily pile up for people in Florida seeking a divorce. In addition to legal fees, a couple that needs to split the assets within a 401(k) retirement plan must first obtain a qualified domestic relations order. After paying a lawyer to prepare the QDRO document, the firm managing the retirement account typically adds another $300 to $1,800 in charges to process the transaction.

A lawyer familiar with lawsuits against investment companies that charge excessive service fees said the tactic is meant to increase profits for administrators. Another lawyer who frequently prepares QDRO paperwork described the high fees from retirement plan administrators as a "cash printing machine."

Rapper T.I. and reality star Tiny heading for divorce

Florida celebrity watchers may be interested to learn that reality star Tiny filed for divorce from her rapper husband T.I. She allegedly filed for divorce in December 2016 after claiming that the family was "irretrievably broken".

It appeared that T.I. had made a commitment to try and make the family work. However, Tiny reportedly told the rapper to gather lists of all of their marital assets such as property and investment accounts. She was also seeking half of the vehicles that were purchased during the course of their marriage. She also stated that the family was in debt and owed millions to the IRS. She requested a hearing for some time in March 2017 to discuss topics associated with the divorce, including child support and temporary alimony.

Divorce rate spikes after the holidays: Is that a bad thing?

Did this year's holiday season with family match your definition of "happy?" If not, you're probably not alone. In fact, the divorce rate spikes at the beginning of every year. Family law attorneys around the country report that rates of filing are nearly one-third higher beginning in January and continuing through March.

Indeed the New Year has many people seeking a change in their life, and that change could come in a resolution to end your marriage. We are told so much during the holidays to be thankful for what we have and do good onto others, but 2017 may be the time to focus on yourself and your life after marriage.

Considering important financial matters in a divorce

Florida couples who are getting a divorce may focus largely on major issues, such as child support and custody, as well as major assets such as the home. This might cause other financial considerations that are just as important to fall by the wayside.

For example, there may be some complicated calculations involved in working out how to divide some property such as retirement accounts and investments. Some retirement accounts may require a Qualified Domestic Relations Order to be divided, and this can be a complex document. Another consideration is the tax implications for various types of divisions. Finally, people should keep in mind that dividing everything 50/50 is not necessarily the best approach. For example, if one person has a much higher income than the other, then they might be more readily able to rebuild retirement savings.

Ex-NFL player faces contempt for past due child support

Florida residents may be interested to hear about the case of former New Orleans Saints wide receiver Robert Meachem. He currently risks facing contempt charges over his failure to pay what now allegedly totals nearly $400,000. His case brings to light the very real possibility of fines and jail time that anyone who fails to pay child support may face.

According to court records, Meachem and his wife separated in 2014, and their divorce was finalized in 2015. The couple agreed to share custody of their two children. Meachem was ordered by the court to pay $20,000 per month in child support, which he didn't contest. Despite this, Meachem only ended up providing about $200,000 of what he owed. The court requested that he appear in court. When Meachem failed to do this, his wife requested the court find him in contempt.

It's time for the talk: Prenup considerations for high asset marriages

We are all familiar with the wedding vows recited in the generic Hollywood movie scene: "for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health." While most engaged couples may seek to make similar promises during their own ceremony, those with high assets may have different considerations to make if they desire to protect their possessions in times of sickness and health.

These considerations may be best addressed in drafting a prenuptial agreement. Although it may not be the romantic conversation to have with your beloved, individuals discussing aspects of a prenup can help to clear up misconceptions either have regarding finances and their future together. Drafting and signing a prenup can promote peace of mind that will extend past your walk down the aisle.

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