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The Truth: Alimony is Arbitrary

I recently came across an article on how alimony is awarded in different states.  The article, titled “A Survey of Lawyers’ Observations About the Principles Governing the Award of Spousal Support Throughout the United States,” was written by J. Thomas Oldham of the University of Houston Law Center.  Here is the abstract:

Abstract

At the beginning of this project, I distributed 5000 questionnaires to family lawyers around the country. I asked the lawyers to respond by estimating the spousal support award, if any, that would result for six hypothetical divorcing couples in their jurisdiction. While the response rate was not great, the responses received suggest that there are three different types of spousal support systems in the U. S. today. In some states, spousal support is rarely awarded, and then only to prevent severe hardship. In others, spousal support is frequently awarded when the spouses’ incomes are substantially different at divorce. In most states, however, it appears that there is no clear spousal support policy, and the award, if any, in any given case is the result of which judge is assigned to hear the matter. In these states, spousal support determinations appear to be arbitrary. I have included as an appendix to my article a summary of the responses.

Some states have responded to this lack of clarity regarding spousal support standards by adopting guidelines. These guidelines attempt to provide more uniformity in terms of award amounts and award duration. To date, they have not attempted to provide guidance regarding when a spousal support award is warranted. In this article, I discuss how spousal support standards could be clarified in those states where there appears to be no clearly accepted policy.

I would say that Florida falls into the last category:  there are no alimony guidelines, and the amount you might receive or pay is highly dependent on the whims of the judge you are in front of.

That is, if you let the judge decide the amount of alimony.

You Can Be Your Own Judge

More and more families are coming to realize that going through a court battle is, in most cases, the worst possible way to divorce.  If you choose a private form of dispute resolution, such as the Collaborative Process, you and your spouse will have the final say on the amount of any alimony.

In the Collaborative Process, you and your spouse each have separate attorneys to guide you.  However, the attorneys are not there for opposition research or to prepare for trial; rather, they are there solely for the purpose of helping you reach an out-of-court agreement.  This means that no time, energy, or money is spent fighting in court.

Oftentimes, a neutral financial professional will help you and your spouse develop and analyze financial options that work best for your family.  The financial neutral can do a lifestyle analysis to determine what has been spent in the past and where there might be efficiencies that can be created in a spouse’s cash flow.   The financial professional will oftentimes also look into whether there are tax loopholes that might allow the family to enlarge their proverbial pie.

So do your family and your future a favor and consider the Collaborative Family Law Process.


Adam B. Cordover is co-author of an upcoming American Bar Association book on Collaborative Divorce.  Further, Adam trains attorneys, mental health professional, financial professionals, and mediators in the Collaborative Process throughout Florida and the U.S.

Video: Betty Discusses Her Collaborative Divorce

Choosing how you go through divorce can be a harrowing experience.  Sometimes it is helpful to hear how others have chosen to divorce.  In the video below, from the Tampa Bay Academy of Collaborative Professionals, Betty discusses her collaborative divorce:

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Mediation Compared to Collaborative Divorce

There has been a growing recognition over the past few decades that courtroom divorce, an adversarial process that pits husband against wife, is a dreadful and harmful method to resolve family disputes.  As a result, the Florida Supreme Court, like many other judicial bodies, declared that family matters needed “a system that provided nonadversarial alternatives and flexibility of alternatives; a system that preserved rather than destroyed family relationships;…and a system that facilitated the process chosen by the parties.”  In re Report of the Family Law Steering Committee, 794 So. 2d 518, 523 (Fla. 2001).

Two alternatives that have developed to fill this space are mediation and collaborative divorce.  As collaborative divorce is a relatively new option, and there exists much confusion – even among experienced family law practitioners – about the differences between these two methods of dispute resolution, this article looks to compare and contrast mediation and collaborative divorce.

Event versus Process

Mediation is generally a one-time meeting where the parties come together, along with a mediator, to attempt to settle disputes.  In Florida, the parties’ attorneys are also in the room, though other jurisdictions exclude attorneys.  The mediator is a neutral actor who does not have the power to force the parties into any type of settlement, but can only encourage them to reach an agreement.  A mediation conference will generally last from 3 to 8 hours or more.  If the parties cannot reach an agreement in that meeting, then they tend to go to court, usually multiple times.

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What Should I Tell The Kids About Our Divorce?

If you have children and are going through a divorce, your biggest concern is likely how your kids will be affected. When is the best time to tell your children, and how much should you share with them?

Your Children Will Know

Your children will know that something is going on, and leaving them in the dark may cause more apprehension and stress in them than just being upfront. Establish a united front early in the process, and tell your children together that you are separating. Assure them that while things will be different, everything will be okay. Alleviate their fears that your divorce is in any way their faults. Remind them often during the process that everything will fine and it is not their faults.

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Video: Collaborative Divorce Founder Stu Webb

Collaborative divorce as a form of out-of-court dispute resolution has been around since 1990, but it did not just magically appear.  Minnesota family law attorney Stu Webb decided he was fed up with the traditional adversarial court system.  And he decided to do something about it.

In the video below, Henry Yampolsky of the Living Peace Institute interviews collaborative divorce founder Stu Webb:

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Divorce Need Not Destroy Your Small Business

Running a small business is tough enough.  Running a small business while your marriage is falling apart can be crushing.  But you don’t need to go through a traditional court battle if divorce is on the horizon.  Your business does not need to be a casualty.  There is an alternative.  There is collaborative divorce.

Small Business & Privacy

Collaborative divorce is a form of out-of-court dispute resolution that values privacy.  This means that your client lists, inventory details, and other trade secrets remain safely away from public court records.  In fact, here in Florida, the Collaborative Law Process Act and accompanying rules safeguard most communications had within a collaborative divorce.  Courts now have authority to sanction a party who reveals a collaborative law communication.

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Why Don’t You Have More Collaborative Family Law Cases? Advanced Training Opportunity

We know that most divorcing spouses are better off using the collaborative process.  Still, you may not have as many collaborative cases as you want.  What challenges have you encountered when trying to enroll a collaborative family law case?

Does your heart pound when explaining the disqualification clause?  Are you worried about how to discuss costs?  Can you get your client to yes, but struggle to bring the other spouse on board?

The South Palm Beach Collaborative Practice Group invites attorneys, mental health professionals, and financial professionals to an Advanced Collaborative Training on It All Starts In The Initial Client Meeting – Enrolling the Collaborative Case.  The training will be taught by Adam B. Cordover, Esq., Jeremy S. Gaies, Psy.D., Barbara E. Kelly, Ph.D., and J. David Harper, CPA of the Tampa Bay Collaborative Trainers.  It takes place March 16, 2018, at the Boca Grove Golf & Tennis Club, 21351 Whitaker Dr., Boca Raton, Florida 33433.

Click Here for Registration Form

In this full day intensive advanced collaborative family law training, you will learn the keys to having a successful initial client meeting, including the following:

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Who Gets The Kids On Holidays?

The holidays are such a magical time of year, especially if you have children. But if you are going through a divorce, your family will need to establish new traditions. Holidays must now be split between two family units. Until the judge orders a holiday schedule or you and your ex reach an agreement about it, each party is usually equally entitled to a holiday. This can create a lot of stress during an already stressful, busy time of year.    So how do you determine how holidays should be split?

Mediation and Collaboration

If you choose a courtless divorce option like mediation or collaboration, professionals will assist you and your spouse in creating a holiday schedule that works best for both of you. It may be more important for your side of the family to celebrate certain holidays than it is for your spouse. Likewise, there are probably some holidays you don’t care about that are important to your ex. One or both of you may want to have the opportunity to travel during certain holidays. All of these matters can be addressed more thoroughly if you participate in a form of alternative dispute resolution than if you let the judge decide for you.

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Discernment Counseling

Discernment Counseling: What If Only One Spouse Wants to Divorce?

Are you leaning towards divorce but your spouse is not?  Have you tried couple’s counseling but found that the pressure was all on you to change?  Do you want a time-limited, non-adversarial way to help you and your spouse determine whether it is time to divorce?  If so, you should look into discernment counseling.

Discernment counseling is a way for “mixed agenda” couples to determine what is next.  Mixed agenda refers to the frequent scenario where one spouse is leaning out of the marriage and the other is leaning in.  The couple comes together with a counselor to talk and determine whether they want to repair their marriage or divorce.

Hear from the Founder of Discernment Counseling

Dr. Bill Doherty, the founder of discernment counseling, discusses the method in the video below:

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Mosten: Is Your Divorce Lawyer Informing You?

If you are considering divorce, you likely think that whether you can have an amicable or collaborative divorce depends wholly on your spouse.  Certainly, the attitude and ability of your spouse to compromise has an effect, but in my experience the attorneys that you and your spouse choose has a much bigger impact.

Beginning A Litigation Divorce

If you and your spouse choose attorneys whose primary orientation is litigation, then there is a good chance that you will face a court battle.  Your litigation attorney will likely draft a petition for dissolution of marriage asking for everything, and then have a process server or sheriff’s officer serve your spouse.  These tactics are all intended to intimidate your spouse and get them to submit.

It should be no surprise that this usually elicits the opposite of the intended response.  Not willing to submit, your spouse hires a “bulldog lawyer,” and the battle is on.  Say goodbye to your children’s college saving.  Know that this money will now be going to your lawyers’ children’s college tuition.

Fortunately, there is a different way.

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