Friday, February 29, 2008

Emotional Stages of Divorce - Kübler-Ross

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, M.D. (July 8, 1926 – August 24, 2004) was a psychiatrist and the author of the groundbreaking book On Death and Dying. She proposed the Five Stages of Grief as a pattern of phases, most or all of which people tend to go through, in sequence, after being faced with the tragedy of their own impending death. I believe these stages as modified also apply to Divorce and I share them with new clients. The Emotional Stages of Divorce are:

Denial /Shock

ANGER

BARGAINING

FEAR/GUILT/DEPRESSION

ACCEPTANCE

FORGIVENESS

When a couple reaches ACCEPTANCE it is much easier to resolve the case. I know an adversary attoney who once said at a seminar that he files motions in a case to buy time until the couple gets to forgiveness. As always, you can post a comment about this blog, Divorce Mediation, or Tucson Arizona by following the directions at the right in the green column or at the bottom of this website or participate in our Presidential poll located at the below the directions. WM 2/29/08

Objecting to a Move - 3 Important Points

Florida’s child relocation law has requirements for parents who want to move their child more than 50 miles away. If you have received a Notice of Intent to Relocate for your child, you need to take action if you object to the planned move.

If you don’t object within 30 days, the judge will ratify the plan contained in the Notice of Intent to Relocate, including the new visitation and transportation arrangements and child support. With a relocation, child support can be changed and can consider the increased transportation costs.

The three most important points about objections are:

  1. It objection must be served on the custodial parent within 30 days after you receive the Notice of Intent to Relocate. Send the original. Although regular mail is acceptable, at a minimum you should request the delivery confirmation service. If you cannot prove your objection was delivered, the judge may sign an order ratifying the intended relocation and you will have to spend time and money trying to unravel the whole mess.
  2. Your objection must have specific facts about your reasons for objecting, including a statement of the amount you participate currently, or have participated, in your child’s life. You want to describe all your visitation and activities fully. Since the law requires “meaningful” contact with both parents, you’ll want to describe how the proposal lessens the quality of your contact with the child.
  3. The objection must be notarized or signed under penalty of perjury.

If you fail to object on time, it will be presumed the move is in the best interest of the child, and it will be allowed, unless there is “good cause.” The judge will sign an order, with a copy of the Notice of Intent to Relocate attached. The order will say it is entered as a result of the failure to object, and adopt the visitation schedule and transportation arrangements in the Notice.

If you object on time, the parent who want to move has to file a motion for permission to move before they can move.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

10 Things to Include in Your Relocation Notice

The Florida child relocation law requires a primary residential parent who wants to move a child more than 50 miles notify the non-custodial parent of a proposed relocation by sending a Notice of Intent to Relocate.

Your Notice of Intent to Relocate must be sent to the other parent before you move.

The Notice has specific requirements. It must include:

1. A description of the intended new residence - include the state, city, and specific physical address, if you already know it.

If the residential parent is entitled to a public records exemption of his or her address (police, foster parents and certain other public employees), the court has to order modification of the disclosure requirements of this section, so that confidentiality is maintained. One suggested way of handling this is to put the exempt information on a separate sheet of paper. On the Notice, say that the information is provided on a separate sheet and is exempt by Florida law. Provide the Notice and the extra sheet to the other parent, but only file the Notice.

2. The mailing address of the new residence, if not the same as the physical address, if you already know it.

3. The home telephone number of the new residence, if you already know it.

4. The date you intend to move.

5. A detailed statement of the specific reasons for the move. If one of the reasons is based upon a written job offer, the offer must be attached to the Notice.

6. A proposal for the revised schedule of visitation and for the new transportation arrangements. If you don’t include this part, the court can dismiss your request. If there is a current, valid order abating, terminating, or restricting visitation, failure to comply with this provision will not cause dismissal. That’s also true if you have another “good cause” reason before you want to move. In either of these cases, the judge will still want to know your plan for future visitation if it is ordered.

You can also change the child support to consider the increased transportation costs. If you want to do this, you need to explain exactly how you arrived at the new child support amount. The court needs to be sure that the children are adequately supported. Reducing the child support more than 5% from the amount in the guidelines has to be clearly explained.

7. This statement in capital letters:

AN OBJECTION TO THE PROPOSED RELOCATION MUST BE MADE IN WRITING, FILED WITH THE COURT, AND SERVED ON THE PARENT OR OTHER PERSON SEEKING TO RELOCATE WITHIN 30 DAYS AFTER SERVICE OF THIS NOTICE OF INTENT TO RELOCATE. IF YOU FAIL TO TIMELY OBJECT TO THE RELOCATION, THE RELOCATION WILL BE ALLOWED, UNLESS IT IS NOT IN THE BEST INTERESTS OF THE CHILD, WITHOUT FURTHER NOTICE AND WITHOUT A HEARING.

8. Your mailing address - where you will receive the objection, if one is filed.

9. A certificate of service showing how and when you gave the Notice to the non-custodial parent.

10. You must sign the Notice of Intent to Relocate under oath and under penalty of perjury and send a copy of it to the non-custodial parent in accordance with the certificate of service. If there is no pending case, you must send the Notice by certified mail, returned receipt and restricted delivery or have a process server or the Sheriff’s office personally serve the Notice on the other parent. The original is not filed with the clerk yet.

You have a duty to update the information you give in the Notice of Intent as it changes. So if you find an apartment in the new location, you need to provide that address as a Supplemental Notice. Remember you can send papers by mail after the first paper is served personally, so the Supplemental Notice can be sent by mail.

The non-custodial parent then has 30 days to object to the relocation. If no objection is filed, you have to file a motion and ask the court to ratify the relocation. The motion has to be personally served on the other parent. The court will ratify the plan according to what is in your Notice of Intent to Relocate, including the visitation and transportation schedules and child support. No hearing is required.

If you receive an objection to the Notice from the other parent, you have to file a motion for permission to relocate and attach the Notice of Intent, including the certificate of service. The court will schedule a priority hearing.

At that hearing, you will have to show that, more likely than not, the relocation is in the best interest of the child. The judge will look at it from the child’s perspective, not the best interest of the parent. If the judge initially finds that the move is in the child’s best interest, the non-relocating parent then has a chance to prove that the relocation is not truly in the child’s best interest.

After you provide the Notice and receive an objection, the court can enter a temporary order permitting the relocation if:

1. The required Notice of Intent to Relocate was provided on a time; and

2. The court finds preliminary evidence that there’s a likelihood the court will approve the relocation based on certain factors at the final hearing,

But, the court may not consider the temporary relocation as a factor in reaching its final decision. Before you ask for a temporary order, consider whether you want to move with the possibility than you may be ordered to return. Also consider whether you want to have two hearings before you ask for a Temporary Relocation Order.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Marriages of Limited Duration

We see in the news a lot about how marriage is defined. There is a bill in the Arizona legislature for a constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and a women. See article at http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/0212gay-marriage0212.html. Arizona and other states have covenant marriages. To enter into a covenant marriage, the couple first must have premarital counseling from a member of the clergy or a marriage counselor. Then, when applying for a license to be married, both persons must show their intention to enter into a covenant marriage by signing a special statement (or "declaration") on the application form. In a covenant marriage, legal separation or divorce may be granted by the court only for specific reasons listed in state law. See more about covenant marriages at http://www.supreme.state.az.us/dr/Text/Covenant.htm

It seems to me after having been a divorce mediator for 30 years that the person you marries is not always the same person you divorce. I have often thought that we should apply the same concept found in leases to marriage. A couple would not get married for life but for a set time with options to renew. If the couple did not renew, they would no longer be married. A novel but interesting idea. As always, you can post a comment about this blog, Divorce Mediation, or Tucson Arizona by following the directions at the right in the green column or at the bottom of this website or participate in our Presidential poll located at the below the directions. WM 2/27/08

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Things I Would Like To Change In Divorce - Health Insurance, Mortgages, and Country Club Memberships

After working with divorcing clients for 30 years, I have a list of items which I would like to change and feel are inherently unfair. The first item is health insurance. When a couple divorces in every state I am aware of other than Massachusetts and Rhode Island, if a couple has family health insurance coverage, one of the parties must get individual coverage and one can keep the existing policy. Often this means the cost of health insurance doubles. All states should have the Massachusetts model which allows divorced parties to stay on the family coverage until one of the parties remarries. The second item is mortgages. When married couples get a mortgage to buy a home, they are both usually named on the mortgage. This is the case even when the mortgage is based on only one income. When the couple divorces and one party keeps the home, the bank will not usually allow the party who no longer owns the home to be taken off the mortgage. This requires the person who retains the home to refinance at a greater cost in order to remove the other party from the mortgage. If the person who retains the house otherwise qualifies, the bank should allow the parties to remove the name of the person from mortgage who is not retaining the home. Finally, country club memberships. When couples divorce, country clubs usually do not allow the couple to split the membership. Only the husband or wife is allowed to retain the membership. I often have a problem where only one party can take their children to the country club. If it is the father who retains the membership and the mother takes the children, she must drop them off and leave them unsupervised. All of the issues are currently decided in what is the best financial interest of the health insurance company, the bank, or the country club. The issues should be determined on what is the best interest of families. You can post a comment by following the directions at the right in the green column or at the bottom of this website. WM 2/26/08

5 Reasons to Follow the Child Relocation Procedure

Moving your child without following the Florida Statutes’ child relocation procedures can cause severe problems for the custodial parent who wants to move more than 50 miles from the non-custodial parent. Whether you are in the divorce/ paternity phase of your case or already have a court order about the kids, the court has authority over you. There are five good reasons to follow the new child relocation procedures.

First, you can be held in contempt of court if you don’t follow the rules. Contempt means you did not obey a court order. A contempt order is serious. Once you are found in contempt of court, the judge can order you to jail. If that happens, you will first have the opportunity to “purge” or comply with the original order. Most likely, that means returning the child to your original location. Part of the procedure is to make new timesharing arrangements. You have to prove to the judge that you will follow through on those arrangements. If you are in contempt for not following the court’s rules, the judge may be less likely to believe your testimony.

Second, if you fail to follow the procedure before moving your children, the judge can consider your violation when deciding whether or not you can move the kids. If you’ve been found in contempt because you didn’t follow the rules, the judge may not believe your promises of continued meaningful contact between your children and their non-custodial parent. Remember Florida’s strong policy for involving both parents.

Third, the judge will also consider your failure to follow the procedure if the non-custodial parent files a petition to modify custody because you want to move away. Consistency and continuity are important for children, so the non-custodial parent may claim it’s in your children’s best interest to stay in the same area, with you having timesharing on holidays and in the summers.

Fourth, if you did not follow the relocation procedures, you may have to pay the other side’s reasonable expenses and attorney's fees. You may also have to pay interim travel expenses for visitation or post security for the return of the child. You may also have to provide reasonable security to guarantee that you will not interfere or interrupt the other parent’s court-ordered contact with the child.

Fifth, the court may even enter a temporary order prohibiting you from moving the children or requiring you to return them if you already moved, if the court finds:
  1. The required notice was not provided on time;
  2. The children have already been relocated without notice or written agreement or court approval; or
  3. The court finds preliminary evidence that there’s a likelihood it will not approve the relocation at the final hearing.
Next time we’ll focus on the Notice of Proposed Relocation.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Divorce Movies

While preparing for our first program on Divorce TV about the culture of divorce, I put together the following list of movies about divorce. We also found an interesting law review article entitled "Divorce Goes to the Movies," in University of San Francisco Law Review, Volume 30, Number 4 (1996) by Ira Lurvey and Selise E. Eiseman. Some of our movies came from this article. See the entire article at http://tarlton.law.utexas.edu/lpop/etext/usf/lurvey30.htm Let us know if you can think of any other movies and any comments you have about them. You can post a comment by following the directions at the right in the green column or at the bottom of this website. WM 2/24/08

AFFAIR WITH A STRANGER (RKO 1953)
ANNA KARENINA (1948)
ANTARES (2004)
AWFUL TRUTH, THE (Columbia 1937) (directed by Leo McCarey)
BASIC INSTINCT 2 (2006)
BLAME IT ON RIO (1984)
BLUME IN LOVE (Warner Brothers 1973) (directed by Paul Mazursky).
BROOD (1979)
BYE BYE LOVE
CELEBRITY (1998)
CHINATOWN (Paramount/Long Road 1985)).
CIMARRON (RKO 1931).
COOLER (2003)
COURTSHIP OF ANDY HARDY, THE (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer 1942) (directed by George B. Seltz),
DARK WATER (2002)
DAYBREAK (2005)
DECISION OF CHRISTOPHER BLAKE, THE(Warner Brothers 1948).
DESERT HEARTS (Desert Heart Productions 1985) (directed by Donna Deitch).
DINNER WITH FRIENDS
DIVORCE OF LADY X, THE (London Films 1938) (directed by Tim Whelen)
DIVORCE - ITALIAN STYLE (Lux/Vides/Galatea 1962)
DIVORCE AMERICAN STYLE (Columbia/Tandem 1967)
DIVORCE HIS, DIVORCE HERS (1973)
DIVORCEE, THE (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer 1930) (directed by Robert Z. Leonard, 1930)
DODSWORTH
DODSWORTH (Samuel Goldwyn 1936) (directed by William Wyler, also featured Paul Lukas, David Niven and Mary Astor).
DROWNING ON DRY LAND (1999)
FALLING DOWN (1993)
FOOL'S GOLD (2008)
FOREVER DARLING (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Zanra 1956) (starring Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, directed by Alexander Hall).
FOUR CHRISTMASES (2008)
GAY DIVORCEE, THE (RKO 1934) (directed by Mark Sandrich, featuring Betty Grable and Edward Everett Horton as the lawyer)
GOOD MOTHER, THE (Warner Brothers/Touchstone/Silver Screen Partners IV 1988) (directed by Leonard Nimoy)
GUARDIAN (2006)
HE MARRIED HIS WIFE (Twentieth Century Fox 1940) (directed by Roy Del Ruth).
HEARTBREAKERS (2001)
HEARTBURN (1986)
HOUSE ARREST (1996)
HOW TO COMMIT MARRIAGE (Cinerama 1969) (directed by Norman Panama). Bob Hope movie with Jane Wyman and Jackie Gleason,
HUSBANDS AND WIVES (1992)
I LOVE YOU AGAIN (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Cosmopolitan 1940) (starring William Powell and Myrna Loy),
IN NAME ONLY (RKO 1939) (directed by John Cromwell), Cary Grant
INTERIORS (1978)
IRRECONCILABLE DIFFERENCES (Lantana/Warner Brothers 1984) (directed by Charles Shyer).
JERSEY GIRL (2004)
JOE SOMEBODY (2001)
KRAMER VS. KRAMER (Columbia 1979) (directed by Robert Benton)
LAWS OF ATTRACTION (2004)
LIAR LIAR
LOVER COME BACK (Universal 1946) (directed by William A. Seiter),
MAN ON FIRE (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer 1957)
MANHATTAN (United Artists 1979) (directed by Woody Allen).
MARRIAGE CIRCLE (1924)
MARRYING KIND, THE (Columbia 1952) (directed by George Cukor; Judy Holliday and Aldo Ray.
MCLINTOCK! (United Artists 1963)
MEXICAN SPITFIRE OUT WEST (RKO 1940)
MICKI & MAUDE (Columbia/Delphi III/B.E.E. 1984) (directed by Blake Edwards).
MISFITS (1961) WIDESCREEN $7.15
MORGAN! (British Lion/Quintra 1966).
MRS. DOUBTFIRE
NEW DAUGHTER
NINA'S TRAGEDIES (2005)
NO PLACE FOR JENNIFER (ABPC 1949)
NOTHING IN COMMON (1986)
ONE MORE RIVER (Universal 1934) (directed by James Whale and featuring the film debut of Jane Wyatt).
OUR WIFE (Columbia 1941) (directed by John M. Stahl), starred Melvyn Douglas
PAYMENT ON DEMAND (RKO 1951).
PEPPERMINT SODA (Films de L'Alma/Alexandre Films 1977) (directed by Diane Kurys).
PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM (Paramount/APJAC/Rollins-Jaffe 1972) (directed by Herbert Ross).
POWER AND THE GLORY, THE (Twentieth Century Fox 1933).
PROZAC NATION (2003)
QUESTION OF LOVE, A (Blinn/Thorpe Productions in association with Viacom 1978) (directed by Jerry Thorpe, starring Gena Rowlands, Ned Beatty, and Bonnie Bedelia)
RARE BIRDS (2001)
REUNION IN RENO (Universal 1951)
RICH KIDS (Altman/Lion's Gate/United Artists 1979) (directed by Robert M. Young)
RICH ARE ALWAYS WITH US, THE (Warner Brothers 1932) (directed by Alfred E. Green and featuring Bette Davis).
SCENES FROM A MARRIAGE (Cinema 5 1973) (directed by Ingmar Bergman).
SERVING SARA (2002)
SHOOT THE MOON (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer 1982), an extraordinary movie of raw emotional power directed by Alan Parker, and starring Albert Finney and Diane Keaton.
SHOOT THE MOON (1981)
SILENCE OF THE HEART (1984)
SMASH PALACE (Aardvark Films 1981)
SNOW ANGELS (2008)
SQUID AND THE WHALE, THE (2005)
STEPFORD WIVES (Fadsin/Palomar 1974) (directed by Brian Forbes).
STEPMOM (1998)
STEPMOM
THE FIRST WIVES CLUB
TRAVELLING HUSBANDS (RKO 1931).
TWICE IN A LIFETIME (Yorkin Company 1985) (starring Gene Hackman and directed by Bud Yorkin).
TWO JAKES, THE (Blue Dolphin/Paramount 1990) (directed by and starring Jack Nicholson in
UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN (2003)
UNMARRIED WOMAN
WANT A DIVORCE (Paramount 1940) (directed by Ralph Murphy), Joan Blondell and Dick Powell
WAR OF THE ROSES, THE (Fox/Gracie Films 1989) (directed by Danny De Vito).
WEDDING CRASHERS (2005)
WEDDING CRASHERS

Child Relocation Agreements

Revisions to the Florida divorce laws made relocating your children more complicated last year. Even if both parents agree to the relocation, there are new requirements for written agreements.

The agreement has to reflect the non-custodial parent’s agreement to the move and what the new timesharing arrangements will be. The law also allows internet and webcam contact between the child and the parent who is not moving. If that parent has alternate weekend time from after school on Friday until Monday morning and alternating holidays, alternate timesharing could include the whole summer and spring break every year. The number of days works out to be about the same. Remember, any agreement you make will be in effect until there is a substantial, unforeseen change of circumstances.

In addition to the new schedule, transportation arrangements need to be spelled out in the written agreement. Who is going to pay for the transportation? How will the child be transported? With out-of-state moves, remember that many airlines have rules about children traveling alone and the rules vary by airline. Most require an escort and charge a fee. Who will pay the escort fee? What if the child is too young to travel alone? Who will pay the extra adult airfares that are needed?

Some other things to consider include: Will child support be adjusted to offset the increased cost of visits? Will the offset vary child support more than 5% from the Child Support Guidelines? You’ll need more financial specifics in your agreement about why you’re adjusting child support if the new amount varies more than 5% from the Guidelines. If there is an Income Deduction Order in place, you will need to submit a new one if the child support amount changes.

Once you write the agreement and sign it, you will need to have the court ratify it. There will not be a “trial” type hearing unless it’s requested, in writing, by one of you within 10 days after the date the agreement is filed with the court. If a hearing isn’t requested, the court can ratify the agreement without a “trial” type hearing and then you can relocate with your child.

Next time, we’ll talk about the Notice of Intent to Relocate.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

7 Things You Must Know About Relocating Your Child

One. Unless your custody order has language that spells out how future moves will be decided, Florida Statute 61.13001 now requires you to follow a specific procedure if you want to move your child more than 50 miles away from where you lived when the order was originally entered.

Two. Even if you are both in agreement with the move, there are new requirements.

Three. If you move without following the new procedure, you may be held in contempt of court and that’s only the beginning. If you don’t follow the new procedure, your violation can be used against you in court. It can be a reason to change custody. It can also be a reason for the judge to order you to pay the other parent’s attorney’s fees and costs. And the judge can order you to pay all the child’s travel expenses for visitation while the case is pending. The judge can even order you to return the child to the area permanently. These may seem like severe sanctions, but Florida has a strong policy that both parents encourage parents to “share the rights and responsibilities, and joys of childrearing.”

Four. The new statute spells out exactly what information you need to provide to the other parent, when you have to give it, and how you provide the information in a Notice of Intent to Relocate to the other parent.

Five. The other parent has 30 days to object to the move. Like the Notice, the objection has to contain specific information and be provided to the custodial parent in a certain way. If there is no objection in 30 days, the custodial parent can file the Notice with the court and the court will enter an order approving the relocation plan contained in the Notice.

Six. If there is an objection, the custodial parent has to ask the court for permission to move. The court will have a hearing to determine if it’s in the child’s best interest to move. The hearing gets priority on the judge’s schedule. At the hearing, the judge will consider ten factors about the relocation, along with any of the usual “best interest” child custody factors of Florida Statute 61.13.

Seven. The court will enter an order for time-sharing that can include telephone, Internet, and webcam contact, and any other arrangements so the child has frequent, continuing, and meaningful contact the other parent. The order can adjust child support and account for the increased transportation costs, but still has to consider the Child Support Guidelines.

Over the next week, we’ll look more closely at Florida law’s new requirements for relocating children. Maybe you can go back to Kansas, Dorothy.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Fog of Divorce

Lessons about divorce can from other areas. The 2003 movie, "The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara is such an area. " Internet Movie Database says it is "a film about the former US Secretary of Defense and the various difficult lessons he learned about the nature and conduct of modern war." The movie won an Oscar in 2004 for Best Documentary. See more detail about the movie at Internet Movie Database http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0317910/ I have adapted these eleven lessons to divorce below. As always, you can post a comment by following the directions at the right in the green column or at the bottom of this website. WM 2/22/08
The Fog of Divorce - Eleven Lessons
1. Empathize with your spouse.
2. Rationality will not save you.
3. There's something beyond one's self.
4. Maximize efficiency.
5. Proportionality should be a guideline in divorce.
6. Get the data.
7. Belief and seeing are both often wrong.
8. Be prepared to reexamine your reasoning.
9. In order to do good, you may have to do something you don't want to do.
10. Never say never.
11. You can't change human nature.

What Are My Rights?

The most common question we are asked when a potential client telephones us about divorce mediation is "What are my rights?" It happened again this week. Obviously this reflects anxiety about the fear of the unknowns of divorce. This question is usually followed by the questions, "How much alimony must I pay or how much alimony will I get?" Clients want to be reassured that they will be financially ok. As mediators, we can not advise a person of his or her rights and maintain our neutrality. We tell him or her we have the answer to the question but if we answered it we would no longer be neutral. Although we don’t answer the question we advise the client it would be helpful if he or she either seeks review counsel or the person and his or her spouse come in to see us together. We usually advise the person that if he or she seeks professional help he or she will not be financially devastated by the divorce. However, as the fixed cost being divorce are higher than the fixed cost of marriage and the amount of money available will be about the same, both parties will have less money to work with and will have a reduced life style. The party is not always satisfied with this answer. The person must decide whether they want a validation of his or her own opinion or want a truthful opinion. Parties should be aware of an attorney telling them what he or she wants to hear in order to get the case. There are no guaranteed results in a divorce case. We often in jest suggest the party get a written guarantee from the person advising them which includes the advisor paying if the person does not get what the advisor said the person would get. The results are even less predictable when a case goes to trial and a judge decides. There may be a range of results which are acceptable or a worse case and best case scenario but every case is a role of the dice. Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know. In divorce mediation the couple maintains control and decides their our results. This is safer and more satisfying. There is also what I call the peace benefit. The couple is better able to resolve problems in the future with out the help of a third party. What are your rights? It may be up to you. As always, you can post a comment by following the directions at the right in the green column or at the bottom of this website. WM 2/21/08

Don't Invite Identity Theft in Your Florida Divorce Court File

Every Florida divorce requires financial information be exchanged by the parties. At a minimum, the court file will have a Financial Affidavit from both of you. One of the most common mistakes DIYers make is to provide too much information in their Financial Affidavits and Mandatory Disclosure. Remember, court records are open to the public in Florida. Don't invite identity theft by filing papers with your confidential information on them.

With the exception of the required Notice of Social Security Number if you have kids, never file any paper that has your confidential information on it with the Clerk. The law says the SSN notices are not open to the public, so anyone looking at your court file will not be able to see that notice. The rest of your file can be seen by anyone who asks to see it.

Florida's Sunshine law allows anyone to look at court records, take notes, even ask for copies from your file. Even if your complete information is not on one page, by looking through a DIYer divorce court file it's possible to piece together enough information about you to steal your identity.

Here's what you can do to avoid identity theft in your Florida divorce:
On your Financial Affidavit, list your accounts with only the last four digits of your account number. Do not provide pay stubs or other papers with your Social Security number still visible. I personally use a Sharpie black permanent marker to black out SSNs and account numbers. Even though it bleeds through the page, it does the best job of blocking the information. Even better is to use the black marker and then copy the document. This eliminates the possibility of reading through the back of the document.
For Mandatory Disclosure, Rule 12.285 only requires that the Certificate of Compliance is filed with the Clerk. The form Certificate allows you to check off the items you provide to the other side. This is another example where adding information to the "official" form is good. List the documents you provide and include the month and year of each document on the Certificate of Compliance. For example, on the certificate you would type "Sun Trust checking #3456 12/07, 1/08, 2/08" for your checking account.
You have to give copies of your financial account statements to your spouse and you are entitled to copies of theirs, but only the Certificate of Compliance is filed in the court file. For any non-joint accounts, you'll want to follow the black marker method when giving copies of your Mandatory Disclosure.
If you realize that this information is already in your court file, request that it be removed by the Clerk. At minimum, the clerk will need a list of the specific information you want removed and the case number. Some Clerks have a form for this request. Contact your local Clerk for more information on local procedures.



Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Using the Florida Divorce Forms

The Florida Divorce forms offered on the Florida Supreme Court website can be used by do-it-yourselfers, but the forms are only a starting point. You will have to add information to some of the basic forms so they clearly give the facts of your case. If your case is contested, this becomes even more important. If you don’t ask for it, the court can’t give it to you.

So if you want to

  • stay in the house to raise the kids, you have to ask for exclusive use and possession of the marital home;
  • restore your maiden name, you have to ask for it and state your former name in the petition;
  • sell the marital home, you have to ask for partition of the property and provide specific information about the legal description, the owners, the mortgage, etc.

The sample forms cover only the most basic requirements to dissolve your marriage. If you make mistakes or leave out facts in the petition, the final judgment may be affected and you could wind up spending thousands of dollars for attorney’s fees to fix your pro se divorce.

Monday, February 18, 2008

When God and the Law Don’t Square - In the News

An article in Sunday’s February 17, 2008 New York Times by Adam Liptak entitled " When God and the Law Don’t Square ( entire article at http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/17/weekinreview/17liptak. ) brought to mind many thoughts and lead to a long discussion between Mary and me. Britain’s Archbishop of Canterbury commented in a recent interview that "a Western legal system should make room for Shariah or Islamic law." In particular, he seemed to be saying Shariah should apply to divorces. He seemed to single out divorce law and not other areas of the law. Why should it only apply to divorces? If it is good for divorces, shouldn’t it be good for all areas of the law including criminal and corporate?


The culture of origin of a couple has been an issue in many of the cases we have mediated. We point out to the couple that although they may have been married in another country, they are getting divorced in this country and must comply with the laws of the United States. The Archbishop seems to favor family law cases being resolved by religious courts if the parties agree. We have always liked that mediation allows for self determination but there must be some limits. The limits should include that the parties are treated fairly and that U.S. laws are not violated. We wonder whether allowing religious courts to adjudicate legal matters would lead to a chaotic patchwork of decisions and a fracturing of our society’s social contract.

We do not disagree that the parties should be able to make mutually agreed decisions about religious observance. For example, if the parties agree, we make provisions in our agreements that parties ‘will cooperate in obtaining a Jewish Divorce also known as a "Get" or an annulment but the parties have never agreed to allow the religious court to do more than grant the divorce or annulment. For more discussion, the article refers to a law review article by Robin Fretwell Wilson "The Overlooked Costs of Religious Deference". Washington and Lee Law Review, Vol. 64, No. 4, 2007 http://ssrn.com/abstract=1028776 . As always, you can post a comment by following the directions at the right in the green column or at the bottom of this website. WM 2/18/08

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Florida Divorce Law: Non-Marital Assets: What's Mine is Mine

Non-marital assets and liabilities belong only to one of you and aren’t divided in the Equitable Distribution process. An asset is real or personal property. A liability is a loan or promissory note. Most everything you bought or borrowed during your marriage will be considered a marital asset liability, but there are five categories of assets/liabilities that are non-marital under Florida law.

Those non-marital categories are:
  1. Assets or liabilities acquired before the marriage
  2. Inheritances and other gifts during the marriage
  3. Any income received from non-marital gifts unless you relied on or treated that income as a marital asset.
  4. Assets defined as non-marital in a written agreement (pre or post nuptial agreement)
  5. A liability obtained by forgery of one spouse’s name by the other spouse. The forging spouse gets that liability, if the other has specific proof.

In considering Equitable Distribution, a court will only consider “marital” assets and liabilities. Non-marital assets come into play primarily with alimony determinations.

When you have non-marital assets/liabilities but mix them with marital assets, by depositing your inheritance check into a joint marital account for example, you may have “co-mingled” these assets so that they aren’t considered non-marital anymore. This area can be a minefield and you will most likely want some professional advice if the two of you can’t decide on a fair way to divide co-mingled property.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentine's Day

Over the years, our clients have never scheduled divorce mediation appointments or court dates on Valentine’s Day. Even though they are getting divorced, they feel it is not appropriate to work on their divorce on Valentine’s Day. Maybe they are still a little romantic. I was trying to figure out how to say this in our blog when I read the following article in today’s Arizona Star. I thought this was more interesting than what I had to say! WM 2/14/08


VALENTINE'S DAY BREAK: W. VA. RADIO STATION OFFERING FREE DIVORCE TO SOME LUCKY UNHAPPY COUPLE
The Associated Press
Arizona Star, Tucson, Arizona Published: 02.14.2008
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A Charleston radio station is observing Valentine's Day with a reminder that Cupid sometimes misses his mark.
WKLC-FM, better known as Rock 105, is giving away a free divorce.
Valentine's Day isn't all hearts and flowers, says WKLC Program Director Jay Nunley. There is a darker side, he said, "where maybe you despise your spouse and resent the entire day."
Through 4 p.m. on Thursday, Valentine's Day, applications for the free divorce will be accepted on the classic rock station's Web site, www.wklc.com. The winning name will be drawn at 5 p.m.
Nunley cautions that this is a real divorce and people shouldn't enter if they aren't serious. Also, people expecting a long, drawn-out legal battle should hire a lawyer because the Rock 105 contest is for a relatively uncomplicated divorce.
Charleston attorney Rusty Webb will handle the actual filing.
"Sure we can give away concert tickets, and we do," said Nunley. "That's going to make you happy for a little while. This is the chance to make someone happy for the rest of their life."

Florida Divorce: Equitable Distribution/Property Division

“Equitable Distribution,” Florida’s property division process, starts with a 50/50 split but in some situations, an equal split may not be fair or equitable. For example, one of you may decide to take more of the assets along with the loans on those assets because you can afford to do so. Unequal splits are unusual when cases go to trial. Florida courts have ordered unequal splits when
  • One spouse is disabled and the other is employed
  • One spouse is needed to care for a disabled child
  • One spouse spoke little English, had no formal education and never worked
  • One spouse hasn’t worked for years, the other is nearing retirement

As you can see, the situations for unequal distribution are not the typical situation. Florida law starts with a 50/50 split of assets and debts. For most couples, that even split will apply.

If your case goes to trial, Florida Statute 61.075 directs the judge to consider these factors in deciding what is “equitable” or fair when making the division for you:

  • Contribution to marriage by each spouse, including homemaking
  • Economic circumstances of parties
  • Duration of marriage
  • Interruption in career or education of either spouse
  • Contribution to career or education of one spouse by the other spouse
  • Keeping an income-producing asset intact & free from interference, like a family business run primarily by one spouse
  • Each spouse’s contribution to acquisition, enhancement, production of income, assets, and/or liabilities
  • Whether it is in minor child’s best interest to keep the marital home until child turns 18 & if financially feasible
  • Intentional dissipation, waste, depletion, or destruction of marital assets after or within a 2 year period before filing Petition
  • Any other factor necessary to do equity and justice between the parties

The Marital Settlement Agreement

If you are dividing only personal property, a simple statement that you have already divided the personal property is enough in either the Petition or the Marital Settlement Agreement.

If you own real property, have credit card debt or other recorded loans, have any joint property, you need to list all your property and all your debts with some identifying information for them in the MSA. With concerns over identity theft, show only the last 4 digits of your loan and account numbers in the Agreement. For the real property, give the address and the complete legal description from your deed on a sheet labeled with your name and case number, if you have one already, attached to the Marital Settlement Agreement.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Your Values or Your Child?

It was bound to happen. In a country so divided over what are the "right" values, with electoral politics focused on who should be allowed to marry, and whether evolution can be taught in the public schools without also teaching creationism, a New York Times front page story today reports on the increasing role of religion in child custody disputes. On February 13, a day sandwiched between Lincoln’s birthday with its discussions of freedom and Valentine’s Day with its paeans to love, the New York Times article tells of judges increasingly being asked to rule on whether a parent’s religious beliefs make him/her suitable to parent his/her child. What’s next? Are we going to have divorce court judges being asked to rule on whether a father who hunts or a mother who is a vegan can have joint custody of their children? How about if a parent is pro-life or pro-choice? Should the judge in a custody matter be asked to take that into account when determining what is in the child’s best interest? What’s worse for a child, being exposed to religious practices the other parent finds abhorrent or endless parental squabbling over issues large and small? MGM 2/13/08. See the entire New York Times article by Neela Banerjee at
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/13/us/13custody.html?ex=1360645200&en=2fa24bb09d77ef8e&ei=5124&partner=permalink&exprod=permalink

Breaking Up is Hard to Do, But Need it Destroy You? - In the News

There was an informative article in the December 5 2007, Arizona Star by Jakob Hanes entitled
"Breaking Up is Hard to Do, But Need it Destroy You?" See the entire article at http://www.azstarnet.com/sn/byauthor/214824 Hanes discusses an ongoing study at the University of Arizona by Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychology, David Sbarra, examining the physical responses people have when they think about their breakup. It is no surprise that the study found that bad breakups are associated with weakened immune systems, increase rates of colds and other illnesses and high blood pressure. People also became depressed and confused about life. One of the reasons we favor divorce mediation is that it helps reduce the pain of divorce and the divorce process. We see divorce mediation as a growth experience and an opportunity for a person to move on with their life and make it better. WM 2/13/08

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Dating

Another question I am frequently asked when I begin a divorce mediation is "When can I start dating?" It helps if both parties want to start dating. It is very hurtful if one of the parties does not want to start dating. I am reminded of a couple I was working with a few years ago. They both asked me when they could start dating. I gave my usual advice that if the marriage was truly over they could start dating but they should be discrete. Even if a couple is divorcing, a party can get angry when they see their spouse with someone else. This makes the mediation more difficult. The couple understood this. Two weeks later they came back for their next mediation session. As always I asked how things were going and they both gave me a "sheepish" look. They explained that they took my advice about dating and decided they would have a dinner date in New York City where they would avoid their spouse. Unfortunately, they both picked the same restaurant at the same time and were seated at adjoining tables! It still worked out and they were happily divorced a few months later. WM 2/12/08

Monday, February 11, 2008

Uncontested Divorce Procedures

You can file an "uncontested" divorce if you and your spouse agree:
  • Your marriage is broken and you want a divorce
  • How your property and debts will be divided
  • Whether alimony will be paid, and if yes, how long and how much

and if you have children, you agree on:

  • Who the children will primarily live with
  • What the visitation plan is
  • How much child support will be paid (after consulting the child support guidelines)

You can write all the terms of your agreement into a Marital Settlement Agreement, you both sign it and file it with a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and other required initial documents. Your spouse then files a Waiver of Service and Answer. After that, your case can be set for final hearing.

In the Petition, you must claim that the marriage is “irretrievably broken,” that one of you has lived in Florida for at least six months before filing the Petition; and, that you both signed a Marital Settlement Agreement.

Next time I'll talk more about marital property.

DIYDivorce Makes the Watch List!


DIYDivorce blog has made the Watch List on the Florida Lawyers Blog Watch website. The guys over there keep track of law blogs in Florida. The blogs cover all areas of Florida law, so if you are interested in other areas of law, check out some of the blogs they're watching.

Divorce and Presidents

Those of you who know me know that I am fascinated (some might say obsessed) with Presidential trivia. I have read a biography of every President and own over 300 biographies of Presidents. As a family we have visited a historic site for every President. The first Presidential race I remember is 1952. Stevenson lost the race to Eisenhower. One of the facts of that race which is not always remembered was that Stevenson was the first major party candidate who was divorced. In 1928 Stevenson married Ellen Borden, one of Chicago's most attractive debutantes. In 1949, less than a year after Stevenson became governor of Illinois, his wife sued for divorce. It is said she still voted for him for President. See an August 1952 article from Time Magazine. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,822378,00.html It was considered a major liability to be divorced and run for President. It was not until Ronald Reagan ran and won in 1980 that we elected a divorced President. He married fellow actress Jane Wyman on January 24, 1940 and they divorced in 1948. It may have helped that he remarried Nancy Reagan in 1953. After Reagan, the divorce issue seemed not to be as important. Kerry was divorced and remarried when he ran in 2004. McCain is divorced and remarried. Giuliani was divorced twice and remarried. See an interesting article about in the March 11, 2007 New York Times, "Voters Accept Divorced Candidates, but They Have Limits, " by Joyce Purnick at http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/11/weekinreview/11purnick.html?ex=1331269200&en=c781aa02a6a50b5a&ei=5124&partner=permalink&exprod=permalink
As always, you can post a comment by following the directions at the right in the green column or at the bottom of this website. WM 2/11/08

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Why I Became A Mediator

This comes under the category of questions I am asked. I am often asked why I became a mediator. People say it is difficult or very emotional to work with people who are getting divorced. Why would you want to work with people getting a divorce? I became an attorney because I wanted to go into politics and not because I wanted to practice law. For years I was in a general law practice. I was spread too thin and did little which I took pride in or gave me professional satisfaction. When clients had great cases, they took them to a specialist. I had done a divorce mediation case referred to me by a friend, Dr. Donald Cohen. His father and Lenard Marlow did divorce mediation in New York and needed a Connecticut attorney to finish the case. Later, when my Wife asked me what I would like to specialize in, I said that I had enjoyed doing the divorce mediation. She suggested I pursue it. I trained with Zena Zumeta and Carl Schneider and started getting more cases. I helped found an organization of divorce mediators in Connecticut, the Connecticut Council for Divorce Mediation, and worked to help change the culture of divorce. I continue to do all these things and more. I found that divorce mediation fit my personality. I was a better mediator than I was an attorney. I saw both sides of issues and did not have to advocate a position I did not agree with. I also became a father during the early days of my mediation career. As a parent and an attorney/mediator, I found I did not like being part of an adversary process which destroyed children. I also found that I was helping people. My clients came out of the divorce better than they came in. They left the baggage of a bad marriage behind and were better able to communicate with the ex-spouse. They were better able to parent their children. They were able to move on. Helping them was very satisfying. There was also self selection in the client population. The people who chose mediation were not as angry and were more willing to work out an amicable divorce settlement. They were problem solvers and not negotiators. Finally, I got to meet with other mediators. My colleagues were people I liked and enjoyed spending time with. As always, let me know what you think. If you are a mediator, why you became a mediator. You can post a comment by following the directions at the right in the green column or at the bottom of this website. WM 2/10/08

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Predictors of a Successful Mediation

We are often asked if a mediation will be successful. The following is a list we use which is a helpful predictor. Post a comment for more details or to tell us what you think of you think are good predictors or your experience. Directions on how to post a comment are in the first blog comment. WM 2/9/08
POSITIVE SIGNS IN COUPLES
+ Desire for amicable post-divorce relationship.
+ Willingness to make own decisions
+ Desire for fairness.
+ Willingness to give and take.
+ Ability to regulate intense emotions
+ Children's well-being is more important than financial results of divorce.
NEGATIVE SIGNS IN COUPLES
- Lack of trust that other person will live up to the agreement.
- Desire for revenge.
- Spousal or child abuse.
- Substance abuse.
- Only goal is to save money.
- Little concern about impact of divorce on children.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Enforcing Delayed Income Deduction Orders

The law requires an Income Deduction Order when payment of child support is ordered. An IDO requires the paying parent's employer to deduct child support from earnings and forward it to the state, which in turn forwards to the receiving parent.

Sometimes the IDO has a delayed effective date. Most commonly, the IDO says it will be effective if the paying parent falls behind in support payments for a certain number of days.

Unless the Florida Department of Revenue is assisting in child support enforcement, it is up to the receiving parent to enforce the delayed IDO. Although from reading a delayed IDO, it seems that all you must do send the IDO to the paying parent's employer, you must FIRST file a Notice of Delinquency before the delayed IDO can be enforced.

So, if the paying parent falls behind, the receiving parent files a notice indicating when the money was due and the amount of delinquency. Send a copy of the notice to the paying parent. The paying parent can then dispute the delinquency within 15 days by filing an objection.

A hearing will be set if the delinquency is disputed. If there is no dispute filed by the paying parent, the receiving parent sends the IDO by certified mail to the paying parent's employer who must then deduct the support payments according to the IDO.

Remember, you need to file a notice of delinquency before you can file a motion for enforcement.

Co-mediation

Over the years we have found the balance of two mediators often makes each member of the couple feel more comfortable. We offer couples the choice of one mediator or co-mediation. Many couples prefer the balance of a male and female mediator and the added insights these trained mediators with legal and mental health backgrounds bring to the process. The greater understanding of psychological dynamics that a therapist-mediator brings to divorce mediation is very useful in overcoming blockages in the process. When custody issues exist, the input of the psychologist-mediator helps regarding children's reactions to divorce and the potential impact of various custody arrangements on children. The modeling by mediators of a wife and husband and a father and mother help a couple. We can show how you can disagree with respect and understanding. Post a comment for more details or to tell us what you think of Co-mediation. Directions on how to post a comment are in the green column on the right or at the bottom of this page. WM 2/8/08

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Marital Mediation

We encourage couples having trouble with marital issues to use mediation to reach a legal agreement addressing those issues, thereby strengthening the marriage. The couple jointly hires us to act not as a lawyer or counselor for either, but as a mediator. During a series of meetings the couple works with us to identify their issues and work out a mutually satisfactory plan to address them, including exchange of financial information and whatever sharing of responsibility they consider best for them. Both are free to consult with a lawyer, financial planner or other advisor at any time. The process is designed to help the couple strengthen their marriage by negotiating and then signing a legally enforceable contract.
Once an agreement is reached, we draft a Marital Mediation Agreement for each spouse to review with his or her legal advisor before signing. The Agreement may be enforced in various ways.
Marital Mediation works only if the couple is willing to make a good faith effort to reach agreement. There is no legal obligation to agree. Any commitment to mediation and to make the resulting agreement work comes voluntarily from the couple.
The process of negotiating and writing a legal agreement can change behavior in a couple's relationship. Creating personal solutions enhances marital satisfaction allowing the marriage to continue. Marital Mediation also leads to a reduction in marital conflict, helping children.
We will be giving a talk at the Tucson Saguaro Rotary club on February 26, 2008. Post a comment for more details or to tell us what you think of Marital Mediation. Directions on how to post a comment are in the first blog comment. WM 2/7/08

Remaining Calm


Over on the Zen Habits blog, there is an article on Remaining Calm in a Crazy World. Although written more with a workplace focus, the tips are helpful for divorcing couples too. After all, divorce is a crazy time - even when you both agree. So click here for today's recommended reading.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Divorce Songs

While researching a theme song for the Divorce TV program I came up with the following list of divorce songs. Let me know what you think would be a good theme song and if you have any other suggestions. Directions on how to make a comment are contained in our first blog posting. WM 2/6/08

1. Love Stinks - J. Geils Band
2. Goodbye To You - Scandal
3. I Will Survive - Gloria Gaynor
4. Go Your Own Way - Fleetwood Mac
5. 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover - Paul Simon
6. Hit the road jack - Ray Charles
7. You're So Vain - Carly Simon
8. The Thrill Is Gone - B.B. King
9. Time For Me To Fly - REO Speedwagon
10. Release Me - Engelbert Humperdinck
11. Sail On - Commodores
12. Harden My Heart - Quarterflash
13. I Hate Myself For Loving You - Joan Jett and The Blackhearts
14. Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera) - Doris Day
15. Here's A Quarter (Call Someone Who Cares) - Travis Tritt
16. Jive Talkin' - The Bee Gees
17. Let's Call The Whole Thing Off - Harry Connick, Jr.
18. Lonesome Loser - Little River Band
19. Separate Ways (Worlds Apart) - Journey
20. Sisters Are Doin' It For Themselves - Aretha Franklin
21. I don't Care About You - Fear
22. Happy Trails - Van Halen

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Are You Eligible for a Simplified Proceeding?

To help people representing themselves in divorces, Florida created the Simplified Dissolution of Marriage proceeding. You can use this type of case if:

You do not have children and the wife is not currently pregnant AND

You have a written agreement to divide your property AND

Both of you sign the petition and appear at court.

If you meet these 3 requirements, you should use the Simplified Petition (Form 901(a)).

The biggest benefit to a simplified proceeding is that you may not have to file Financial Affidavits!

A recent decision from West Palm Beach allowed the parties to waive the Financial Affidavit requirement in a written agreement signed by both parties. In their waiver agreement, the parties said they already divided their property, both believed the division was fair and equitable and that they waived the Financial Affidavit filing requirement. Despite the rule requiring Financial Affidavits be filed, they were able to divorce without them because they agreed to the waiver in writing and filed it with the court.

To read the decision, go to the Opinions link at www.4dca.org and search for case number 4D07-380.

Mediated Divorce: Focus on the Needs of Children in Desert Leaf

See our article in the January Desert Leaf. WM 2/5/08

Humor in Mediation and Divorce

In times of conflict and trouble, one of the first qualities that we lose is our sense of humor.

Humor, injected into mediation in an appropriate way, can soften all of these attitudes and help the parties move forward. I know a mediator who, during the opening phase will sometimes note that the bathrooms are down the hall to the left, "but no one is allowed to go there until we have reached resolution." This unexpected, and absurd, statement is most always appreciated by the parties as an effort to lighten the moment. It serves to ease tensions a little, brings on some smiles, and in a way reinforces the commitment to actually work hard toward finding a resolution. It underscores in a humorous way the "why" everyone has come to the table.
A good mediator is to be able to recognize when and how to inject humor, in a respectful way, into the process. This is not always easy, as it involves taking a risk that the humor won’t be well accepted. But mediating well is a process of risk taking, as Kenneth Close notes in "Mediating Dangerously." Used with care and respect, humor can be a powerful tool in the mediator’s kit. And sometimes the participants in the process will rise to the occasion and inject their own healing humorous comments. Below is a cartoon I like about mediation and a joke about mediators. Do you have a cartoon, joke or story you would like to share? As always, post a comment with us. There are instructions in our first blog which tells you how. WM 2/5/08


How many mediators does it take to change a lightbulb?
Well, let's unpack that shall we?
First of all, let's be clear that it isn't the mediator's function to change the lightbulb.
The mediator will explore with the lightbulb how it feels about the on and off nature of its job, its unhappiness at always having to work nights, and its relationships with the other parties, including the new lightbulbs that it feels are a threat to its position.
The mediator will talk to the new lightbulbs, reframing and normalizing their observation that the principal lightbulb is completely out of its box, and identifying that their real issue is that being picked on one at a time constantly undermines their team spirit.
The darkness seems quite hostile to all the lightbulbs and keeps telling them to go and unscrew themselves. The mediator will allow it to vent its anger and express its distress at how it always feels unwanted.
The mediator will help guide the darkness and the lightbulbs, both new and mature, to a solution reflecting their new understanding of each other. Bright sparks will realise that you'll have to be left in the dark now because the final outcome is confidential.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Custody & Divorce

Florida has a strong public policy about children and divorce.

It is the public policy of this state to assure that each minor child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents separate or the marriage of the parties is dissolved and to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities, and joys of childrearing.
If you cannot reach agreement about your children, the judge will consider the factors in Florida Statute 61.13(2) [scroll half way down, look below (2)(a)] when deciding which one of you the children will live with after the divorce.
Note that when you look at the factors there are two factors that relate to fostering a relationship between the child and the other parent. THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT FACTOR FOR MOST JUDGES WHEN DECIDING CUSTODY CASES. You should talk about how the two of you will encourage the children to go with the other parent when they don't want to. Check the Interesting Perspectives section below for some articles with ideas.

Red Cross

I have volunteered to work as a mediator for the Red Cross Disaster Relief program. You can find out more about the Southern Arizona Chapter of the Red Cross at http://www.redcrossarizona.org/site/PageServer. I agree with the Red Cross’ Fundamental Principles of Humanity, Impartiality, Neutrality, Independence Services, Unity, and Universality and its Core Values of Accountability, Collaboration, Commitment, Results, Trustworthiness, and Humanitarianism. Becoming a volunteer requires a great deal of training. I have taken courses entitled Fundamentals of Staff Services, Fulfilling Our Mission: Translating Your Compassion into Community Action, Mass Care Overview, Introduction to Disaster Services, New Paid & Vol. Staff Orientation, Client Casework: Providing Emergency Assistance and will be taking Collaborating to Ensure Effective Service Delivery. What has been interesting is how many of the skills taught by the Red Cross are similar to those used by mediators. In fact the skills are common sense and social skills we should all use. Some of the skills include: welcome the person warmly, treat the person with courtesy; active listening which enables you to express in your own words what the client is saying; avoiding the listening challenges of not paying attention, interrupting, hearing what is expected; practicing good listening skills such as focusing on the person, paying attention to non-verbal language, asking questions that clarify what the person is saying; and finally empathy. Volunteering for the Red Cross is a rewarding experience and I highly recommend it. WM 2/4/08

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Divorce TV

It was probably no surprise that I wanted to do my own television show. I can’t remember my family not having a television set but I remember us purchasing our first set. I watched Hopalong Cassidy and matured to watching Have Gun Will Travel. For reasons I don’t remember, I started calling myself Lucky. I even was in the Peanut Gallery of the Howdy Doody Show. So it came as now surprise when I read about Access Tucson http://www.accesstucson.org/ and how you could do your own public access television show that I decided to do a television program. I also was interest in how the media could change the culture of divorce and I liked playing with electronic equipment. Doing a television show seemed to include many of my interests. Thus was born Divorce TV, a program dedicated to providing you information about divorce so you can make knowledgeable decisions about divorce. We are starting to tape the show in April and hope it will air in May. If you want more information about the show, you can go to its website at http://divorcetvaz.googlepages.com/ or its blog at http://divorcetvaz.blogspot.com/
If you get Cox or Comcast cable you can view the show on the pubic access channels. If you don’t get cable you can view the show on your computer at http://www.accesstucson.org/ They may also have it On Demand. If you want more information about the show or want me to email you when and where the show is on, you can email me at DivorceTVAZ@gmail.com As always, we welcome your comments. In particular, we are interested in what you would like to see on Divorce TV and questions you would like us to answer on the air. You can always post a comment on this blog by clicking on comments at the end of the posted blog and follow the instructions in the window that opens up. We look forward to hearing from you. WM 2/3/08

7 Financial Documents You Will Need

Here are seven categories of financial documents that you will need. Start gathering copies of these documents now. You should gather the past 3 years worth unless otherwise noted.

1. Tax Returns Federal and state income tax returns. Use IRS forms W-2, 1099 and/or K-1 for the past year if the income tax return for that year has not been prepared.

2. Pay Stubs Pay stubs or other evidence of income for the past three months.

3. Deeds & Titles The deeds for all real property and titles for vehicles.

4. Bank Accounts Statements from the last 3 months for all checking accounts and from the last 12 months for all other accounts (for example, savings accounts, money market funds, certificates of deposit, etc.).

5. Stock Accounts All brokerage account statements for past 12 months.

6. Retirement Accounts The most recent statement for any profit sharing, retirement, deferred compensation, or pension plan (for example, IRA, 401(k), 403(b), SEP, KEOGH, or other similar account).

7. Insurance Policies The declarations page and the last periodic statement for all life insurance policies and all current health and dental insurance cards covering the couple or their children.

Gathering these documents will not only help you with the required Financial Affidavit, but will serve as a starting point for dividing your property and debt.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Made the Decision? 7 Action Steps


Once you have made the decision to dissolve your marriage (divorce), there are some action steps you should take.

If you and the soon-to-be-ex are taking the DIY route to divorce you should:
  • Cancel all joint credit cards - open new individual accounts

  • Cancel Direct Deposit if you have it and unlink bank accounts if linked online

  • Split the money in joint accounts and each open separate, individual accounts

  • Change all passwords - email, ATM, websites - and don't use the same old ones!

  • Monitor your credit report to be sure the accounts are closed

  • Start a folder to collect monthly bills in one place - this makes the Financial Affidavit easier

  • Decide how the household bills will be paid during the divorce process
You can use this online estimator for child support. Although not precise, it will give you an idea of what the child support payment will be so you can make a budget.

Florida Court Websites

Each of the 20 circuit courts in Florida has a website where you can learn
more about the procedures and local rules. Click on the title to this post
for a complete list.

Friday, February 01, 2008

8 Documents You Need to File for Divorce in Florida


Almost 100,000 people represented themselves in Florida divorce courts in 2007. I've seen those who represent themselves turned away from the Clerk of Court because they didn't have all the necessary documents to file the case.

To file the case, you need at least six documents. If you have children, you will need eight documents.

These are the documents you need to have to file your case on your own:

1. Civil cover sheet [Note: You may need to change the circuit # at the top]
2. Notice of Related Case
3. Petition for Dissolution of Marriage
4. Financial affidavit
5. Affidavit of Corroborating Witness
6. Summons

With minor children, you also will need:

7. Child Support Guidelines Worksheet
8. Notice of Social Security number

Don't be turned away. Avoid needless delay and have all the documents for the Clerk of Court.





Polling on Our Blog

One of the interesting features of our blog is the ability to do polling. For fun and since it is the presidential season, I have asked in our poll which of the current presidential candidates you would like as your divorce attorney or mediator. Try the poll at the bottom right. Let us know if you have any questions you would like us to poll. WM 1/31/08