Unfortunately, usually spouses are not happy and excited about the outcome of their Florida divorce, even if it was the best choice for them to make. Divorce can be very stressful. It can be damaging to the couple emotionally, as well as the kids.

During a divorce and after a divorce, there are usually new financial challenges, as the couple’s income must now be used to support two households instead of one.

Although usually divorcing individuals aren’t “happy” with their divorce and the outcome, there are ways to make it easier and more beneficial for you. The best way to make it the easiest is for the couple to work together to agree on the big issues like child support, time sharing arrangements, property division and alimony.

The more that spouses can agree on the big issues, the easier it will be on everyone. Sometimes, couples choose to resolve those issues through mediation, which can be cheaper and quicker than letting the courts decide. However, mediation isn’t for everyone.

Another way to make your divorce easier is to work hard to make sure that you get a fair outcome. If one spouse feels that he or she was “cheated” in the divorce, the bitterness can linger for years, which can make it hard to emotionally get past the divorce.

Having a good divorce attorney who can fight for your rights is critical. If only one attorney is involved, that attorney is not working for both of you – he or she is working for the spouse who retained him or her, and is not looking out for the financial interests of the other spouse.

If you are seeking a divorce in Florida, call Florida divorce attorney Dale Bernstein at 727-478-3250. He works with clients throughout Pasco, Hernando, Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties to make their divorces go easily. Call him to schedule a consultation.

{ 0 comments }

When most people think of asking for alimony or child support, they assume it is in connection with divorce. However, that’s not always the case. Under Florida law (Florida Statute Section 61.09, “Alimony and child support unconnected with dissolution”), a spouse can request the court award alimony and/or child support even if a divorce isn’t requested.

More specifically, the law provides that if a person has the ability to pay for his or her spouse’s support, and the support of his or her minor child, and fails to do so, the spouse who isn’t receiving the support can request from the court an award of alimony or child support, or both. The court can then order alimony if it determines that such an award would be proper.

Although it is allowable for a spouse to receive alimony or child support without a divorce, obviously this would only be done in an unusual situation. If the family is residing together harmoniously, there is no need for alimony or child support to be awarded in most cases. If a couple has split, normally there is a request for alimony and child support as a part of the divorce.

Only in an unusual situation would a spouse request alimony or child support without seeking a divorce. If a couple was separated and hoped to reconcile, but one spouse still needed support until the reconciliation or divorce occurred, he or she may ask for alimony or child support without seeking a divorce. This statute could apply in similar situations.

If you have questions about seeking alimony or child support without necessarily filing for divorce, call Florida alimony attorney Dale Bernstein at 727-478-3250. He works with clients in Florida, specifically in Pasco, Hernando, Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties. Call him today for a free consultation.

{ 0 comments }

If you believe your marriage can be saved, take those necessary steps to save it. Divorce is not an easy process, either emotionally or financially, and if you can work through your problems with your spouse, it’s usually best to do so. This is especially true if there are minor children involved who would benefit from being raised in a household with both parents.

Before you take any steps to end your marriage, you may want to consult with a marriage counselor, psychologist, or a member of the clergy, such as a minister, priest, or rabbi. Having a third party present who can help serve as a sounding board to sort out your marital issues can be invaluable. In addition, there are many social services organizations who can offer counseling for free or for reduced rates that depend on your ability to pay. You may consider going away to a marriage retreat, or taking some needed time away from the kids to talk through your issues.

In some cases, taking time away from each other can also help to clarify your decision. If you two are fighting frequently, a short separation can be exactly what you need in order to allow you to think clearly about each other and your future.

Deciding whether to stay married or to divorce is one of the biggest decisions a person can make. Many couples get tired of the fighting, and they base their decision on emotions rather than on serious thought and decision. Some couples don’t realize the huge implications that divorce can have for the rest of their lives, as well as the lives of their children.

If you do decide that you wish to get divorced, or if you are contemplating divorce but have questions, call Florida divorce attorney Dale Bernstein at 727-478-3250. His practice serves clients in Pasco, Hernando, Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties. He can help talk you through the issues involved in a divorce. Call today to learn more.

{ 0 comments }

How Is Alimony Paid Under Florida Law?

by Dale Bernstein on April 8, 2014

in Alimony Issues

In Florida, there are generally four ways to pay alimony. The first is that the payor makes the payment directly to the former spouse who receives it. This is the simplest way.

However, most spouses are not thrilled about paying alimony, and in some cases will not pay it reliably and must be forced to do so. The recipient spouse may not want the payor spouse to know where he or she is living, so it may be paid by another method. The court may have also ordered that it be paid another way.

The second way to pay alimony is through the State Disbursement Unit. The State Disbursement Unit is a centralized agency for the collection and disbursement of alimony and child support. Under Florida law, many alimony payments must be made through the State Disbursement Unit, unless the parties can agree otherwise, or do not have a minor child.

Another way to pay alimony is through an Income Withholding Order. An Income Withholding Order is a way to deduct alimony payments directly from the payor’s paycheck. The employer would then send the payments to the State Disbursement Unit. If the parties can agree, the payment of alimony can be made directly from one spouse to the other without an Income Withholding Order.

A final way to pay alimony is with an Income Withholding Order, but instead of sending the payments to the State Disbursement Unit, the payments are sent directly from the employer to the recipient spouse.

If you have been ordered to pay alimony in Florida, you may have some questions that need to be answered by an attorney. You may also wish for a modification in the amount of alimony you are paying because of changed circumstances or another reason.

If you have alimony issues or questions, call Florida divorce attorney Dale Bernstein at 727-478-3250. He serves clients in Pasco, Hernando, Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties in Florida, and works exclusively on divorce-related issues. Call him today to learn more or to schedule a consultation.

{ 0 comments }

It’s critical that if you are paying or receiving alimony in Florida that you understand the income tax consequences of alimony. Income taxes can often be overlooked as an issue in alimony, but they can make a huge difference to the payer and the recipient.

In Florida, alimony payment is treated as taxable income to the person who receives it, and it is tax deductible to the spouse who pays it. For example, if you are awarded $2,000 a month in alimony, and that puts you in a 20 percent tax bracket, you will pay $400 per month in taxes.

Therefore, you will only actually have $1,600 to spend. When you are negotiating alimony payments, if you are planning on receiving $2,000 a month to spend, you must actually be awarded more than that after taxes are taken into account. If you are receiving alimony, and you don’t report it, it’s likely you will get audited.

Your former spouse will take a tax deduction for the alimony paid, and will list your social security number as the recipient of the alimony. Therefore, if you don’t report it, your tax return will most likely be flagged and you will be audited.

Alimony is deductible by the person paying it. Therefore, if an individual makes $75,000 per year, and pays $25,000 in alimony, his or her taxable income is $50,000. The alimony payments will most likely put the payer into a lower income tax bracket.

Child support is treated differently than alimony for tax purposes. Child support is neither deductible by the person paying it, nor taxable to the person receiving it.

It’s important to take taxes into consideration when you are negotiating alimony. If you have questions about alimony and divorce, call Florida divorce attorney Dale Bernstein at 727-478-3250.

He helps clients in Pasco, Hernando, Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties. Call today to set up a consultation.

{ 0 comments }

By law, you have the right to appeal a judge’s decision in your Florida divorce case. You may have been unhappy with the amount of alimony awarded, the property division, the child support, or the child custody arrangements. A ruling on any or all of those issues can be appealed.

However, just because you legally can appeal does not mean you should. Simply because you are unhappy with the decision does not mean it will be overturned in appellate court. A trial judge has broad discretion in determining the outcome of divorce cases. Divorce decisions from the trial judge aren’t often overturned.

If a judge has made a legal error, the decision could be overturned. If the judge has abused his or her discretion, such as by presiding over a case of one of his or her friends, the appeal could be successful. If the only legal reason you are appealing is because you are unhappy, your appeal most likely won’t be successful.

Unfortunately, under Florida law you do not have much time in which to file an appeal. By law, an appeal must be filed within 30 days of the final judgment in a Florida divorce. Therefore, if you believe that you wish to file an appeal, it’s important that you speak with your divorce attorney, or find a new divorce attorney, very quickly after your divorce is final.

Divorce appeals usually aren’t inexpensive, and often aren’t successful. It’s usually a good idea to avoid an appeal if possible. However, in some cases appeals are the only avenue to take to overturn an unjust decision.

If you have questions about your divorce and the possibility of an appeal, call Florida divorce attorney Dale Bernstein at 727-478-3250. He works throughout Pasco, Hernando, Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties in Florida. Call him to learn more.

{ 0 comments }

It’s possible your alimony payments could increase if your ex-husband or ex-wife is making substantially more money than he or she was making when the alimony was awarded.

However, it’s not automatic. In order to get a modification in alimony, you must show the court there was a substantial change in circumstances.

Florida law provides that after alimony is awarded, either party can ask the court for a modification if the circumstances or the financial ability of either party changes. If your ex got a modest raise at work, this probably wouldn’t be enough of a change in circumstances to warrant an alimony increase.

However, if the raise was a very significant amount, it may justify an increase in alimony. The Florida Supreme Court has ruled that a substantial increase in the ability of the former spouse to pay doesn’t mandate an increase.

In Florida most courts also want to see an increased need by the individual receiving alimony, rather than simply an increase in income by the individual paying alimony, in order to order an increase in alimony. Some courts, however, will increase alimony simply because the spouse paying it has an increased ability to pay.

When modifying alimony, courts require that the change in circumstances must not have been anticipated at the time of the last award. When looking at an ability to pay, courts can consider not only an increase in income, but also any gift, inheritances, and lottery winnings.

As you can see, alimony modifications aren’t set in stone. Each case is very fact-specific, and depends on the financial circumstances of both spouses. If you are seeking a modification in alimony, it’s critical that you find a knowledgeable attorney who is experienced in divorce law and alimony issues.

Call Florida divorce attorney Dale Bernstein at 727-478-3250. He works with clients in Pasco, Hernando, Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties. Call today to learn more about how he can help you with your case.

{ 0 comments }

For many divorcing couples, their major (or only) asset is the house. There may be a lot of emotions surrounding the house, especially if children are involved.

If the house was acquired during the marriage, or is in both names, it is divided like other assets during a property division.

There are a lot of options on how to fairly split the house in a property division. Florida is an equitable distribution state, and marital property acquired during marriage with marital funds or labor is divided equally in a divorce, unless there are special circumstances involved.

The best thing you and your spouse can do is to agree how the house should be divided. If children are involved, the court is likely to award the house to the parent with primary responsibility for the care of the children, if financially feasible. This is done in order to make the situation as easy for the children as possible.

If children aren’t involved, the house is like any other marital asset. The spouses may agree that one will buy out the others interest in the house. They could also agree to sell it and split the proceeds.

If the spouses can’t agree on who will get the house, the court will decide. The court may order the house sold, or award it to one spouse or the other, depending on the facts and each spouse’s ability to pay for the upkeep of the house.

If you are divorcing and are concerned about the division of the marital home, the best thing to do is to contact a Florida divorce attorney. The attorney can help guide you towards an amicable resolution, and if that’s not possible, will fight for your rights to the marital home in court.

If you are seeking a divorce in Pasco, Hernando, Pinellas or Hillsborough County, call Florida divorce attorney Dale Bernstein at 727-478-3250. His significant experience will be a valuable asset for you in your divorce. Call today to schedule a consultation.

{ 0 comments }

In some divorces, one spouse cannot be located. The individual may have deserted his or her spouse without letting the spouse know where he or she was going.

The spouses may have split up, but for some reason didn’t file for divorce until years later, and may not know each other’s whereabouts.

In order to get a divorce without locating your spouse, you have to take certain steps to locate your spouse. This could include contacting his or her family members or former place of employment, performing an online search, contacting the Department of Motor Vehicles, asking the post office for forwarding addresses, asking people in the neighborhood where the spouse formerly lived about his or her whereabouts, asking utility companies, using a private investigator, or writing letters to the Armed Forces, if the spouse was in the military.

After you have attempted to locate your spouse, you will prepare a sworn declaration listing what steps have been undertaken in order to attempt to locate the individual. This is called an Affidavit of Diligent Search and Inquiry. Once this has been approved by a judge, an advertisement is published in a legal newspaper which notifies the individual of the divorce proceedings.

If the missing spouse has never lived in Florida, the court may require that a second notice be published in the town of the individual’s last known address. If the missing spouse doesn’t respond within four weeks, the divorce can proceed as a default divorce.

If you can’t locate your spouse and wish to get a divorce in Florida, but are uncertain about how to proceed, call Florida divorce attorney Dale Bernstein at 727-478-3250.

He works with clients in Pasco, Hernando, Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties. Call him today to learn more about your possible options.

{ 0 comments }

Cohabitating couples often live together for years or even decades without getting legally married.

They may have children together and acquire assets together. When they break up, they sometimes want the same legal protections to which married couples are entitled under state law, such as alimony.

However, there is no legal right to alimony in an unmarried relationship (which is sometimes called “palimony”). If the partners had a contract about property division, whether written or oral, that could be enforceable like any other contract. In addition, if children are involved, one parent may be entitled to child support, and parents can work out a custody arrangement, just like divorcing parents would.

If a couple chooses to cohabitate for a long period of time, and they choose to acquire property together, or if one partner agrees to quit working to care for the children, the couple should have an agreement on what will happen to the property if they break up. These are called cohabitation agreements, and courts will enforce them in Florida.

Cohabitation agreements should be prepared by an attorney, witnessed and notarized. It’s important that in preparing the document, each party make a full financial disclosure to the other in order to avoid claims of fraud or duress. Each party should have the document reviewed by separate attorneys. Although it’s not romantic to prepare such an agreement, it’s essential since unmarried couples don’t have the same legal rights that married couples do.

If you are cohabitating in an unmarried relationship in Florida, you need to take steps to protect your legal rights.

If you are in Pasco, Hernando, Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties, call Florida divorce attorney Dale Bernstein at 727-478-3250. He can help advise on whether a cohabitation agreement should be prepared, as well as what should be included.

{ 0 comments }