From WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 5, 2014

TALKING PARENTS


www.talkingparents.com is a website intended to be a free replacement for email, text, and any other electronic messages between co-parents. It is ideal for all shared parenting situations from Dissolution of Marriage to “No Contact” matters, and it is also great for parents who get along just fine. 

Again, IT IS FREE. It only takes about a minute to sign up and the company represents they do not share your email address with the other parent. All new messages are clearly marked until they are viewed, and you can post a new message in any conversation at any time. 

Once you sign in you can create a new conversation for discussion at any time by clicking on the “new conversation” button. You may attach up to five files to each message and the company records the details of every file transfer.  However, the files themselves do not become part of the record. You can download your complete record in PDF format at any time for free, email a copy to any email address directly from the company’s site, or you may order a securely-bound copy from the company. 

It is easy to manage your account when your email address, password, time zone and contact information changes. The records include the content of each message, when each message is posted, when each parent signs in and out, every time a file is shared, and even when a parent first views a new message but does not respond. Records do not contain any personal contact information such as email addresses or telephone numbers. If needed for a court hearing or other need, one may order a full-color, securely-bound, and personally-certified copy of their record.

Parents may agree to use TalkingParents.com on their own, or you may ask your Attorney to obtain a Court Order to communicate exclusively through this service if you believe a record would benefit you or your child(ren), or your Attorney / Judge desires to review each party’s ability to communicate regarding shared parenting issues.

I would ask anyone who uses this shared parenting program to advise me of their opinion / experience by posting a comment to this Blog so I may determine whether or not to advise this for use by my clients (and to Judges), as it is a relatively new program which I have not used in my practice.

I look forward to hearing from you.

R PARENTING RELATIONSHIP

How to Change your Parenting Relationship

If you and your former spouse have a toxic relationship, I can assure you it is detrimental to your child(ren). If you actually care about your child(ren) (versus a false social persona) there are seven (7) simple steps you may take to dissolve your toxic relationship. 

You must do the following:

1. Admit I am in a conflicted co-parenting relationship;

2. Acknowledge that this relationship is not good for my child(ren);

3. Admit where I have done wrong;

4. Make a list of those I have harmed;

5. Apologize to those I have harmed;

6. Start the new co-parenting relationship this minutewith a code of behavior in every situation do the decent thing; and

7. Take a daily inventory. See the mistakes and strive to do better.

It will help to keep a daily notebook with regard to your progress per these seven steps. The only question is whether you have the courage to do this, and whether your love for your child(ren) is greater than the conflict / despise / hatred you have for your former spouse. Only you can answer that question and only you can accomplish these seven (7) steps. Even if your former spouse refuses to change their behavior and he/she continues with a toxic relationship, you may lead by example for yourself, for other people, and most importantly, for your child(ren). Teach your child(ren) how a mature, aware and rational parent acts and responds.  It is simple, and your child(ren) is(are) expecting and relying upon you to be the bigger person.

From TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, 2014

THE TOP "10" PARENTING PLAN ERRORS

A seasoned divorce attorney knows immediately at the end of a case whether or not the soon-to-be former husband and former wife will be returning to court in the near future and spending all of their college savings for their children on attorneys while re-litigating issue after issue for the next 15 years.  A bad parenting plan is a bad parenting plan. The term among divorce attorneys and divorce judges is simply, "Garbage in, garbage out," which means the skill and effort put into an agreement or trial is directly reflected in the agreement or judgment by the Court. One section of your Marital Settlement Agreement with Parenting Plan (MSAPP) is a parenting plan itself. Avoiding these top 10 parenting plan mistakes may save you many thousands of dollars in the future and years of frustration and inconvenience dealing with divorce attorneys and spending time in the divorce courtroom.

The Top "10" Parenting Plan mistakes are:

1. The use of a non-specific parenting schedule (using terms such as "liberal and frequent time sharing") versus a defined and understanding time sharing schedule.

2. Failing to consider future residential moves by either party, whether short or long distance.

3. Failing to consider electronic document sharing (health, education, extra-curricular activity, etc.)

4. Failing to consider travel and travel restrictions, including foreign travel to countries that are not parties of the Hague Convention (this allows a mechanism for return of your child if wrongfully detained in the foreign country.)

5. Failure to discuss whether eye care, braces or mental health, etc. constitutes health treatment, the initiations of said treatment and the sharing of costs.

6. If you child(ren) is(are) young, failing to discuss changes to time sharing and other aspects of the Parenting Plan after the child(ren) reach(es) a certain age and start(s) elementary school, middle school and high school. Furthermore, failure to discuss transportation issues for the child once he or she is 16 years old and he or she is of age to have a driver's license (i.e., automobile, insurance, etc.)

7. Failure to have a unified "chore" list at both residences, and failure to have a unified "discipline" system at both residences. Failure to define a communication schedule and type of communication, including when, how often, who pays for it, type (electronic, cell or landline, etc.) Some former spouses still enjoy being passive-aggressive and calling the child at 6:45 a.m. when they know the entire family is sleeping.

8. Failure to discuss and develop a policy whether pictures of your child can be posted on the internet (Facebook, etc.) by you or a third party.

9. What is the role of step-parents or significant others? And for the purposes of introduction, etc., when does that person become a "significant other"? What is the role of grandparents and extended family?

10. Failure to define support and financial planning. How much support will be paid for matters as extra-curricular activities, tutoring, etc.? How will it be paid? When will the financial obligation end? College funds and life insurance should also be defined, and again determine when the financial obligation for those will end.

Please note the Florida Supreme Court has a "form" Parenting Plan.  It is of essence to understand this is merely a form developed by one committee.  Pursuant to Florida Statute Ch. 61, there are some mandatory provisions that must be incorporated in the Parenting Plan. However, there are only approximately six mandatory provisions in a Parenting Plan, and therefore you can be as creative as you want in all other clauses. You can put anything you want in the Parenting Plan as long as it is legal and your former spouse either accepts it or you convince the Court to adopt it. My clients have included clauses that include types of acceptable clothing to wear at school (when they are concerned that the other parent does not have adequate taste or maturity to properly dress a child); specific prohibition of contact with known "bad" relatives; mandatory drug testing and the consequences for testing positive for certain substances.

The Parenting Plan is your opportunity to have a contract with your former spouse / parent / partner for your child(ren) that will solely benefit the child(ren) by having consistency and routine between the residences and a unified front, and a proper Parenting Plan is the only way to prevent your child(ren) from playing the two of you against each other, as they have keenly observed you and your former spouse pushing each other's buttons for probably a long period of time and they have observed precisely how you react (unfortunately, other than responding) when said button has been pushed. 

Your imagination is the only limitation when developing additional clauses for your Parenting Plan. Remember, the power of the pen (or keyboard).

From FRIDAY, DECEMBER 19, 2014

WHAT IS A CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE

 

A Case Management Conference is a meeting scheduled by the Judge to review the status of your case. The substance and procedure of a Case Management Conference varies from Judge to Judge. Some Judges require the client to attend the Case Management Conference, while other Judges do not mandate the attendance of the client, nor do they necessarily mandate the attendance of the Attorney for the client (if that client's Attorney has arranged for another Attorney to cover the matter for them.) 

Pursuant to Family Law Rules of Procedure 12.200(a), the purpose of the Case Management Conference is to schedule or reschedule service of motions, pleadings and other papers; set or reset the time of trials; coordinate the progress of the action if complex litigation factors are present; limit, schedule, order and expedite Discovery; schedule disclosure of Expert Witnesses, and discovery of facts known and opinions held by such Experts; schedule and hear motions related to the admission or exclusion of evidence; pursue the possibility of settlement; require filing preliminary stipulations; refer issues to the General Magistrate for findings of fact, if consent is obtained; review if there is a history of Domestic Violence, and if not a prohibiting issue of Domestic Violence, refer the Parties to mediation; coordinate voluntary binding arbitration; appoint Court Experts and allocate expenses for appointments; refer the cause for a Parenting Plan recommendation, social investigation and study, home study and psychological evaluation and to allocate the initial expense for the studies and evaluations; appoint an Attorney or Guardian Ad Litem for a minor child(ren) if required and allocate the expense of that appointment; and schedule other conferences or determine other matters that can aid in the disposition of your divorce. 

A properly run Case Management Conference by the Judge saves time and money for the case and allows for better communication between the Attorneys. This creates a more efficient / amicable result in your case. A poorly run Case Management Conference by the Judge only reviews whether or not the case is ready to be put on a trial docket or if there should be another Case Management Conference, and therefore they are only proceeding with the Case Management Conference because it is mandated by the Family Law Rules of Procedure.  It is my opinion that this type of Case Management Conference is a waste of time and resources. A proper Case Management Conference is one that the client attends and the Judge thoroughly reviews the case file, pending motions, mandatory disclosure dates and assists the Parties in scheduling mediation. This keeps the case moving along and avoids an Attorney (without ethics) from stalling the case if it is to their client's advantage (for example:  delaying the ability to set a temporary hearing wherein your spouse would have to pay you temporary Alimony, child support/Attorney Fees and Costs.)  

In "English," ask your Attorney about the Case Management Conference and how the Judge assigned to your case runs his or her Case Management Conference. Discuss with your Attorney whether or not your attendance at the Case Management Conference is mandatory or advisable, and ask your Attorney to explain to you why it is in your interest to properly prepare for the Case Management Conference and how this will help your case. Ask your Attorney how you can assist in the preparation for the Case Management Conference, and as always, tell your Attorney what you want and confirm what you want via email. I hope the Judge assigned to your case properly runs his or her Case Management Conference.

Alimony Reform in Florida

The intent of the new alimony statute is to create guidance to Circuit Court Judges for consistent spousal support rulings. It abolishes all types of alimony but for temporary alimony and final alimony. There is no longer bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, durational or permanent periodic alimony. It does not address the availability of lump sum alimony.

The statute considers both ability to pay and need for alimony. It creates a low range for amount and duration and a high range for amount and duration, and it is presumed any Judgment within that range is proper. To decide where the Order should fall in that range, there are alimony factors for review (very similar to the existing alimony factors). To deviate outside of that range, the Judge must explain why the guidelines are "inappropriate or inequitable" and she must do so in writing. It is very important to note that this law applies to all matters pending as of October 1, 2016, and therefore, if you have a trial in August, 2016 but is not ruled upon until October 2, 2016, this new statute would apply.

My initial calculations conclude it will save the payor money for a lower end long-term marriage (17 years or less) with gross income differential between the payor and payee of $150,000.00 or less. On the other hand, it seems, but for the time duration, if the parties lived a semi-reasonable standard of living, the payor would pay more money in alimony (but not duration) for long term marriages of 25 years or longer, with gross income differential of $200, 000.00 or more. I suggest you perform your own calculations (per the below formula) and apply the results to your opinion of average Circuit Court rulings.

The formula to determine the low end of duration is multiplication of .25 x number of years of marriage and .75 x number of years of marriage for the high end. 

To determine the amount of alimony, the low end is determined by multiplying .015 times the number of years married (not to exceed the number of 20 years married, even if married longer than 20 years), multiplied by the difference in gross income of the divorcing couple (either per month or per year, and if per year, divide by 12). To determine the high end, the multiplier number rises to .020, again with the maximum number of years for the multiplier at 20, unless if the Court establishes duration of the alimony award at 50% or less than the length of marriage, then the Court shall use the actual number of years of marriage up to a maximum of 25 years to calculate the high end of the presumptive alimony amount range. Therefore, if the duration of the marriage is greater than 20 years, there is a possibility the "amount" multiplier for the high end range may increase to 25 years.

1. The Parties have been married for 18 years and have standard W-2 income. The wife makes $50,000.00 per year and the husband makes $150,000.00 per year.

Therefore the low end amount / duration is $2,250.00 / 4½ years and the high end amount / duration is $3,000.00 / 13½ years.

2. The Parties have been married six years, and the wife has small business income of $75,000.00 per year and the husband has W-2 income of $60,000.00 per year.

Therefore the low end amount / duration is $112.50/1½ years and the high end amount / duration is$150.00/4½ years.

It is important to compare this alimony statute with the child support statute, as the child support does have a mechanism for deviation, as does this statute. However, experience concludes that Judges rarely deviate and apply the mathematical formula (either out of convenience or the Attorneys do not present sufficient requests and facts to the Court for deviation). I would expect the same potential application of the alimony guidelines with a high end duration / amount based upon children and whether the payee is a stay-at-home parent/spouse, and toward the lower end if there are not children and both parties are actively employed. Therefore, a rule of thumb / mid-range computation would be 0.0175 x the number of years of marriage (not to exceed 20 years) x the difference in gross income of the Parties, and I would expect negotiation to proceed above and below this rule of thumb amount.

One final note. Although unrelated to alimony, it is important to note that the statute has also entered a presumption that the Court shall begin with a premise that a minor child should spend approximately equal amounts of time with each parent, and to use this premise as a starting point subject to the Parenting Plan Factors.

Two examples: Please note the definition section has been completely reworked for gross income, potential income, underemployed, and many other definitions. There is a presumption that if your marriage is two years or less, there shall be no Order of Final Alimony. Also, imputation of income has been redefined along with the ability to order nominal alimony. The taxability and deductibility of alimony has also been redefined, as has termination, modification and payment of the award. 

 

New Child Support Law

 

As of 10/1/10, the child support law is changing. It is changing by how the amount of child support you pay or receive is calculated. If you have your child twenty (20) percent to forty (40) percent of the overnights per year, you will pay less child support, and on the other side of the coin, if your child spends twenty (20) to forty (40) percent of overnights with your former spouse, you will receive less child support (than compared to the law prior to 10/1/10). Your child support does not automatically change if previously ordered prior to 10/1/10, but rather this is the result of cases after 10/1/10. I have noticed in my calculations that the average amount of child support you will receive (if your child is with you the majority of the time) is much LESS. So, it is very important to concentrate on the alimony and asset distribution portion of your case for your financial security. There is also a new type of alimony as of 7/1/10, called "durational" alimony, which we will discuss in the future.

Watch Your Judge

SUNDAY, JANUARY 17, 2010

Your divorce is a bench trial, which means a Judge decides your case not a jury. You can go sit in the Courtroom of your assigned Judge at most anytime they have hearings or trials. By watching your Judge on somebody else's case, you may understand how that particular Judge runs their Courtroom, and you may be a bit less nervous during any of your hearings or trial, and you may understand the process a bit more. It is also a good way to watch attorneys and other Husbands/Wives, and what tends to work in a case presentation and what tends not to work in a case presentation. If you are experienced at watching attorneys and Judges, you may develope an "eye" for the lazy versus not lazy ones. This could help you in your selection of an attorney and your case, as your case will change your life forever, hopefully for the betterment of yourself and your children (and even your former spouse as the only resolution is a fair win/win resolution for everybody).

Do they really care?

SATURDAY, JANUARY 30, 2010

A lot of people (attorneys, mental health counselors, expert witnesses) will act like they care about your case. Unfortunately, during my cynical days, I question whether anybody actually cares as much as they act. Go with your gut instinct. If you do not think the individual you are paying to help you (with your divorce or other marital-related issue) actually truly cares about you, FIRE them immediately. Your gut instinct is alway right. Remember, your attorney and any expert you hire works for you and you can fire them anytime you want! Namasté.

The Number 500

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 5, 2010

The Number 500 is the average amount of divorce and relationship cases your divorce Judge is handling at any given time. That is a lot! So, is it a realistic expectation that when the Judge is hearing your case that he or she is mentally and physically able to concentrate and pay attention to all the testimony and evidence? I do not think so. Therefore, focus on the main issues, the important issues. Do you really think anybody is going to listen to your irrelevant babble detailing every failing of your spouse? The Judge does not care who was bad. This is not a 3rd grade sandbox. The Judge cares about the important facts of your marriage and case, so stay focused (which your attorney damn well better help you do) on those facts.

A truly worthless piece of paper

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 18, 2010

Your Divorce will end up on a piece of paper: either a Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage (a judgment written by a Judge after a trial) OR, a Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage incorporating a Marital Settlement Agreement (which is an agreement agreed to and signed by you and your spouse. The point is you need to be very aware of whether or not you can actually enforce what is written on that piece of paper. For example, if your spouse agrees to pay a credit card debt in your name only and he or she does not pay it, can the Judge do anything to your spouse to make them actually pay it? If it is alimony or child support they were supposed to pay and did not, the Judge can incarcerate (put in jail) your spouse. That is "enforcement".

But with regard to credit card debt, the Judge is basically powerless to enforce payment of it, and the Judge's options are limited. If you agreed to lower or no alimony in exchange for your spouse paying your credit card debt, you are only receiving a piece of paper with ink on it. It is useless (if your spouse is not honorable and does not pay that credit card debt.) Be careful. It is the job of your attorney to advise you whether what you are agreeing to or seeking from the Judge will actually be enforceable after it is ordered. A piece of paper that is not enforceable is a waste of time and money. Do not fall into that trap. I have had many consultations with former spouses where the damage is done because their Final Judgment is just a worthless piece of paper. A good attorney would plan adequate remedies and safeguards for this situation.

Bad economy Good

 

TUESDAY, APRIL 13, 2010

In my 48 years of recent existence, I have noticed that people who are broke tend to be nicer and less stuck up. I think a person has time for human interaction and appreciation once they are rid of thier material possessions as those excess material possessions will own the person who possesses, versus what one may percieve as owning their material possessions. I have witnessed friends, clients, colleagues and acquaintances go from what they perceived as being rich to being broke, and you know what, they tend to be nicer and less stuck up once they are broke. So, maybe a bad economy is actually good, to some extent.

25 Years

 

If you have been married 25 years or longer, you should not expect to make a decision to divorce your spouse and that your emotional pain will just cease. Your decision, once you finally make it, will feel like your decades of problems have been lifted off of your shoulders, but please expect to have proper sadness and grieving in the months to come. If you understand that it is an emotionally painfull process, a sad process that one should grieve, then when you have these feelings they will not be debilitating to your day to day life, and finally a smile will emerge. So, it is ok to cry and then it is ok to smile.

Divorcing a Narcissist

MONDAY, MARCH 29, 2010

If your spouse is a Narcissist, your divorce and beyond will be difficult. If you understand how and why your narcissist spouse is acting towards you, the pain will be a bit less, but have no misunderstanding that if you have a child together, it is basically a life of turmoil. Be glad you escaped when you did, as your healing can start. A good book for your understanding and healing is "Surviving the Storm: Strategies and Realities when Divorcing a Narcissist" by Richard Skerritt.

When to Shut Up

SATURDAY, MAY 1, 2010

Often during a client consultation or conference, I am aware that my client is under so much stress and in so much pain that, although my mouth is moving and my words are emitting forth, my client is not hearing a word I am saying. This is a good time for me to remember to stop talking and start listening. (This is also a good time for a client to have confidence in their attorney's ability to do what is right and fair in the long term.) But once I realize it's time to stop talking and start listening, I have been amazed how clients often have the best ideas on how to proceed in their case or how to settle certain matters. I have seen it before, how interesting facts or ideas can suddenly emerge from the client in ways that were not asked or intended. Solutions are tricky and elusive and can occur when you become more aware of listening instead of talking. So, if you don't have any idea what's going on, and why, consider turning your seemingly irrelevant thoughts into specific questions. I do think it's o.k. to ask your attorney to shut up occassionally and just listen. You do have the best ideas.

Change

FRIDAY, MAY 21, 2010

During your divorce case, there will be many changes. Some of your goals and intentions in the beginning of your case may not be the same in the middle or end of your case. Change is a constant. It's okay to change your mind and your desires. Sometimes you will feel secure in the process of your case and sometimes you will feel unsecure in the process of your case. Remember you are working towards an end result, and facts in your life, your spouse's life and your children's lives can change weekly and monthly. If you understand and expect change during your case, it will be much less traumatic for you. Change can be a different or even a good thing to look forward to, as stagnation is rot, and nobody or nothing can grow with or from rot.

Loving your children, dating your attorney

MONDAY, JUNE 28, 2010

I am involved in a case where the former wife is dating her attorney. I represent the former husband. She has two (2) children. She acts like she is concerned about the welfare of her children and she acts like she is concerned about how the children get along with her former husband, their father. She is a fraud and a fake, as if she actually considered how the children felt about her boyfriend being in a legally adverse relationship with her former husband/father, she would conclude that just the perception to the children will emotionally harm them for the rest of their lives. Unfortunately, she is so concerned about her alimony check and she is so lazy she will do anything to avoid working, even forever damaging her children by dating her attorney. I wonder how she avoids actually considering the harm of her actions. She does not realize it, but it is affecting her physically, as every time I see her at a court hearing or deposition or mediation or otherwise, her physical body is deteriorating from her life condition of being lazy and avoidance. It is ok to get a job if it will avoid a toll on your children, and therefore be able to hire and pay an attorney to represent you other than having to date one.

Do not act surprised!

 

Often during a divorce, especially a divorce involving children, a spouse acts "surprised" (notice the choice of word "acts") when their soon-to-be ex spouse refuses to be reasonable, or reacts on an immature level, or just does stupid and juvenile things. Why in the world would you be surprised? If your soon-to-be ex spouse was a reasonable, mature and responsible person, you would not be divorcing them! So, if you have a dysfunctional marriage, do not expect anything else other then a dysfunctional divorce, and a future dysfunctional relationship as former husband and former wife. The reason you are divorcing your spouse is because they are unreasonable, or it is because they are immature, or it is because they are irresponsible, and therefore, how can you possibly be "surprised" when they act the same way during your divorce and after your divorce.

You really do not know

 

Your attorney will present your case to a Judge (trial) if it does not settle. During the presentation, only the Judge and other attorney can really tell how much preparation your attorney has put into your case and whether he or she is doing a good job as the attorneys and judges know what to look for, but you do not know what to look for to determine if you attorney is presenting a good trial for you. You may want to hear certain questions asked or voices raised, but that does not mean your attorney has necessarily prepared for your case or is doing a good job. Try to remove yourself from the courtroom (in your mind) and look in from a corner and just observe. You may develop a different prespective at that time. I have actually represented attorneys during their trials. This is difficult as my clients as practicing attorneys definitely know what type of job I am doing or not doing. If your case is actually going to a trial, go watch some other trials so you will be able to compare and contrast the work of your attorney, so at least you are aware and not some "deer in the headlights." As a caveat, attorneys make very bad clients due to their usual general psychological makeup (rules apply to other people, but not me).

Love to Hate

SUNDAY, JUNE 28, 2009

Often, when in a consultation with a potential client who has come in seeking education about a divorce, I will look at them and try to imagine their wedding, the rehearsal dinner, etc. I never ask about it, (well maybe sometimes when I draw a complete blank, but that is not often) as i wonder how two humans can go from a state of Love to Hate. I can answer the question. It is because one of the spouses love was "self love" versus "unconditional love." Anything solely about the self is a cancer, waiting to ravish its host body.

........"oh your spouse did that".......