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Hillsborough County Family Law Blog

Florida court rules on evidence standards in divorce case

The Florida Supreme Court agreed with a trial court's ruling in a case involving a divorcing couple who were in a dispute about two homes. The decision rested on what standard of evidence was necessary. The appeals court had used "a preponderance of evidence" as its standard while the trial court used "competent and substantial evidence". The high court ruled that the latter was the correct standard.

The couple married in 1987. They had a prenuptial agreement in which they agreed they would each keep the property they brought into the marriage if they were divorced. In 2010, the woman filed for divorce. Two properties that were used as residences came into dispute. The woman was not on the property title, but the trial court ruled that the properties should be considered joint marital assets because thy were used that way during the marriage. The man owned other properties that he did not use in the same way, and those properties were not in dispute.

Divorce of Scheana Shay finalized

Florida residents who enjoy the TV show "Vanderpump Rules" might have heard that one of its stars, Scheana Shay, filed for divorce in 2016 in a California courtroom. The court papers listed Nov. 9 as the date of separation.

The couple, who were together for about 15 years, released a statement saying that they were parting amicably. The statement also said that reporting on their relationship had been "misguided".

Carmelo and La La Anthony announce separation

Florida pro basketball fans may be interested to learn that, on April 17, New York Knicks star Carmelo Anthony and his actress wife La La have separated. According to a New York divorce attorney, the 32-year-old sports star could be shelling out millions to the 37-year-old actress if the pair did not have a prenuptial agreement. They were married in 2010 and have a 10-year-old son together.

The actress was spotted strolling around New York City the day after the news was reported without her wedding ring. It was rumored that Carmelo had a child with another woman on the way, which appeared to be the final straw that resulted in the separation. Neither Carmelo or La La have filed for divorce.

The role of a QDRO in a divorce

People in Florida who are divorcing might need a document known as a Qualified Domestic Relations Order. This is an order or judgment that deals with dividing a retirement account. A QDRO can make transferring assets more efficient, but it can also be complex and costly. Individuals might not understand the fees and taxes associated with the division and transfer. As a result, attorneys sometimes recommend that clients consult with certified divorce financial analysts who can explain these potential costs and how to minimize them.

An equitable division of a retirement account does not necessarily mean that it will be split 50/50. A judge may take other factors into account to make sure that assets are fairly distributed even if they're not split exactly in half. When couples are negotiating their divorces, they might want to keep in mind that the amounts in their retirement accounts may not accurately depict how much money they will actually receive from them.

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.

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