Category Archives: Moving Forward with Divorce?

The Benefits of Divorce Coaching

Patricia Ferreira is passionate about helping others; born out of her experiences, struggles and breakthroughs.  As a Professional Life Coach, Patricia supports individuals as they find their way through difficult situations and transitions.  Given the enormous challenges that divorce brings, we discuss with Patricia the role of life coaching when it comes to helping women experiencing divorce.

 What Is a Professional Life Coach?

A life coach helps you with specific projects, business goals, and transitions in your personal life, relationships or profession.  Examining what is going on right now; discovering what the obstacles or challenges might be; and putting together a course of action to make your life what you want it to be.  Like coaching a player to get better at her game, we guide and help you get better at all aspects of your life.

When Working with Divorcing Women, What Are the Biggest Challenges You Encounter?

Every divorce is different; therefore, every woman going through a divorce is dealing with her special set of challenges.  Although the challenges are varied, they usually fall within three areas:  1) legal, 2) financial, and 3) emotional.  I would say the biggest challenge is in the emotional state you are in while entering a legal or court proceeding.  You are a mixed bag of feelings, sad, scared, angry or anxious and expected to make decisions that are life defining.

Why Do You Think These Challenges Present Themselves?  

The stakes in a divorce are usually very high and making uninformed or emotionally led decisions is the worst plan.  My recommendation is to seek guidance and support as early as possible in the process.  Don’t take advice from just anyone; build a team of experts in that will look out for your best interest and guide you through the process.  An attorney, a separate divorce mentor to help you understand the details of the process, a financial advisor and especially a life coach that will help you navigate the journey while you remain confident and not allow fear or guilt to dictate the process.

How Can a Life Coach Help Women of Divorce?

A life coach can help in every phase of the divorce process:

  1. When contemplating divorce, we guide you to reflect and evaluate your relationship or current situation and uncover if divorce is the best decision for you.
  2. During the divorce, it’s important to have a safe, supportive and nonjudgmental person to go to.  We help you withstand the emotional burden that a divorce can create.  Often pain, anger and power struggles make you lose confidence or worse lead to a breaking point.  Keeping you centered and mindful of your capacity and self-worth will help you better deal with conflicts, children, co-parenting and other issues as they arise.
  3. Once the divorce is final, we navigate you through the healing process by helping you avoid the “stuck” phase that usually happens after a divorce.  We hold your hand while you pick up the pieces and put yourself back together again.  This allows you to reinvent or discover yourself, find your voice, self-esteem and kick off the next chapter of your life confidently.

Getting unmarried is a very intricate and consuming process.  It has a lot of moving pieces and should by no means be taken lightly.  Just like you research and prepare for a wedding––hiring planners, caterers and others––take a similar approach with the divorce, and give yourself the time and support to insure a positive and fair outcome.

A Not So Happy New Year

Like most, at The Big Kaboom, we cherish the renewed optimism that comes with the New Year.  The simple calendar tick from December 31 to January 1 seems to bring out the best in everyone and everything.

Unfortunately, the start of a new year also has a dark side–a giant spike in the number of divorce filings.  Many sources point to January as being “Divorce Month”; that is, the month when most divorces are filed.  Still, other sources make light of March as being the peak month for divorce filings.

In general, most individuals are adverse to change.  And few life altering events top divorce.  A new year gives people the optimism and courage to make important life changes.  And as is pretty evident, as the year progresses those new year resolutions begin to wane.   So it’s easy to see why January through March has a disproportionate amount of divorce filings when compared to the rest of the year.

But the January through March time period also has another dubious distinction.  The average length of a divorce in the U.S. is one year from the time of filing.  So, January through March is also witness to the most finalized divorces in the year.

Which month has the least divorce filings?  You guessed it, December.  After all, who wants to mess up the holidays?

We wish our clients, partners, supporters and readers a wonderful and prosperous 2017.  Our only wish is that the New Year brings each of you what you want most.

The Legality of Leaving the Marital Home

In divorce cases, I often see where one spouse assumes that the other must leave the marital home. Given that so many people seemed to be confused with this aspect of divorce, this is a subject worth delving into. To get clarity on this topic, I reached out to Gil R. Izquierdo, a Miami-based family law attorney and mediator.

TBK: With a divorce filing is the husband obligated to leave the marital home?

IZQUIERDO: The filing of a divorce action in the State of Florida, by itself, does not obligate either spouse to leave the marital home, and both parties may remain in the marital home while the case is pending a final resolution. The opening of the divorce case, alone, does not automatically trigger the eviction of a spouse, nor does it matter “who files first.”

TBK: Can one party, via a court action, force the other party to leave the home? Under what circumstances would the court typically issue such an order?

IZQUIERDO: Yes. Either party may request the Family Court for an order granting temporary exclusive use or possession of the marital home, which the Court would entertain before the case is finalized. If granted by the Court, it would obligate the other party to vacate the home. Other than allegations of physical violence, or issues related to the wellbeing of children, another reason warranting such an order may include situations in which the household environment is untenable and emotionally taxing. Yet, the vacating party must have the ability to secure alternate accommodations, and both parties must ensure that the marital home will be maintained. On the other hand, if one spouse has been either physically violent, or if one spouse threatens the other with violence leading the threatened spouse to believe that violence is imminent, then the victim spouse may ask the Court for a domestic violence ” stay away” order (injunction). In such instances and if the request is granted, the aggressor would be immediately removed from the marital home regardless of the aggressor spouse’s ability to secure alternate accommodations. It’s important to note that such an injunction may be requested at any time by a person that feels physically threatened by the other spouse (or significant other, if the parties aren’t married), regardless of whether a divorce case has been filed.

TBK: If the primary wage earner in the marriage leaves the home, is she/he required to continue supporting the spouse living in the marital home until the divorce is finalized?

IZQUIERDO: Only if a spouse requests such support and it’s ordered by the Court. In granting such an order, the Court will consider the immediate financial need of the spouse that remained in the home, as well as the vacating spouse’s ability to pay.

TBK: When it comes to the wellbeing of children, should both spouses remain in the marital home during the course of the divorce?

IZQUIERDO: That depends. The Florida Family Court has ruled that when children are exposed to their parents’ intemperance, quarreling, and fighting, it’s in the best interests of the children for one of the spouses to leave the marital home. However, mere harassment between the parties is not sufficient to mandate that the parties live separately.

TBK: If one party vacates the marital home, what actions should that person take?

IZQUIERDO: One should only leave the marital home after a carefully documented inventory of the contents. Time stamped pictures and video should be taken, recording the condition of all marital assets, including the structural condition of the home, to safeguard against future asset dissipation and destruction.

The High Tech Divorce

You’re taking a shower. Where’s your phone? What about your laptop or tablet?

You’ve decided to get a divorce, but you and your spouse remain in the house until the process is finalized. Or, one of you moves out, but there is an “open door” policy when it comes to the marital home. In cases where couples are amicable during the divorce process or for the benefit of children, this is not an uncommon situation. Such was the case in my divorce.

But because you’re under the same roof or there is easy access to the home, you need to be ever more vigilant. Vigilant when it comes to safeguarding your personal information, be it electronic or in paper form.

There are several software and services that allow the monitoring of smartphone usage in real time. These solutions can log any activity taking place on a phone. The same solutions exit for laptops, tablets and desktop computers. Once installed in a device, these products work in stealth mode and can easily log passwords, IDs and any other keystrokes.

So back to your shower; while you are not looking, your soon to be former spouse can easily install such software on your devices. What’s worse is that you will not have the faintest idea of its presence. As a result, the other party will have access to all your privileged exchanges—emails, chats, social sites, texts—with your attorney, accountant, friends and all others.

Solutions from providers like Mobil Spy and SpectorSoft, positioned as monitoring solutions for children and employees, can now be used against you in what is likely the biggest negotiation of your life—i.e., your divorce. And with the other side gaining unfair access to your information, you will likely be at a severe disadvantage.

Think this can’t happen to you? Think again. It happens more than anyone would think. “I see undetected monitoring all the time,” says Alexis Gonzalez, owner of the firm Advance Network Support. “A client used such a solution to uncover her daughter’s drug addiction, so just imagine what can be uncovered in a divorce case.”

To protect themselves, people open take some key steps right after the decision to divorce is made:

  1. Change passwords on all your devices, especially on any previously shared computers or tablets.
  2. Reduce the idle time on all devices so that the password access screen activates right after the device becomes idle.
  3. Make best efforts to always have primary devices in their immediate possession.
  4. And when it comes to sensitive documents, they are put away securely once they are done using them.

So, enjoy your shower, but always be vigilant.

The Aftermath

One of the biggest risks after divorce is doing nothing. As with many things in life, post-divorce procrastination can produce disastrous consequences. During the course of a long-term marriage many things were co-mingled and two lives were intertwined. Now, these two lives need to be separated.

Post-divorce actions generally fall into three categories:

  1. Court Required. Tasks in your marital settlement agreement or final judgment that you’re mandated to do.
  2. Critical. Immediate changes to prevent future problems and should be done right away.
  3. Prudent. Important things that need to get done, but somehow are put off.

Court Required

Coming out of your divorce, there will likely be many actions stipulated regarding asset separation and other matters. Often, the challenge with these tasks is that they may not be specifically assigned to either of you. Vehicle tile changes, account closures, division of financial assets, quit claim deeds, among others, are common tasks.

It’s prudent to take ownership for any action items not specifically assigned. It’s a good idea to follow-up closely on tasks assigned to your ex-spouse. Often people in such situations, get help from professionals who can support your efforts in working through tasks in your MSA.

Critical

Revoking an existing Trust and/or Will is something important to consider. And if you did not have, think about getting one. Now that you are divorced, your assets could be titled in your sole name, unless you have a legal document stipulating otherwise.

Insurance considerations—medical, life, vehicle, disability—should be top of mind. For example, if you were on your spouse’s medical insurance policy, you might not be insured after the divorce. And post-divorce, the two of you can no longer be insured under the same vehicle insurance policy.

A simple thing easily done but often neglected is the updating of beneficiaries on policies and investment accounts, such as insurance policies and IRAs. For many, this is a top priority given even the slight chance of tragic death and the proceeds going to a former spouse.

Consider changing beneficiary designations to a trusted relative or a Trust, if you have one. And any account held for the benefit of children, in the name of a guardian or trustee, should be looked at. Moving forward, you and your ex-spouse will need to agree on any guardian/trustee designations.

If you shared online credentials with your ex-spouse, consider all the passwords and/or accounts that need to be changed or closed. Another action often overlooked is the changing or collecting of all keys/access codes to vehicles, vessels, real estate and other property.

Prudent

Did you former spouse manage the family finances? If so, you might want to consider hiring a professional to manage your investments, deal with taxes and even help with a financial plan and budget.

If you restored your maiden name as a result of the divorce, it’s a good idea to make the corresponding change with creditors, the Department of Motor Vehicles, on your passport, with the Social Security Administration and the Department of Elections, among others.

Often something that often gets overlooked is the safekeeping of important documents and keepsakes. You and your ex-spouse will need to agree on who will hold important documents, such as children’s passports, birth certificates, medical and religious documents, photographs/videos, keepsakes. Another good idea is for one of you should keep the original marriage certificate, with a copy provided to the other person.

It’s Your Deal — Own It

The other day, I was having coffee with Joe Cardona. A good friend, Joe is an independent film maker and a really sharp guy. Joe also happens to be a divorced dad, as I am. Our “cafecito” lead us into an interesting conversation about law, divorce and business.

Joes made the point that good business people negotiate their own deals. With a deal framework done, they give it to an attorney. The attorney’s job is to mirror the deal in a good contract. This put me to think of the circus surrounding LeBron James.

Too often I hear clients or friends say, “My attorney got me a great deal. I got everything that I wanted from my ex-spouse. I won!” What does everything actually mean? How does anyone know if they got everything or if they left money on the table? How can victory be claimed?

The only reason we know that LeBron—or any other professional athlete for that fact—got “everything” is because there is full disclosure. To nauseous detail, ESPN makes sure we know what a good deal is. And professional associations, like the NBA, have guidelines and rules that are followed when structuring an athlete’s contract.

This is not the case with divorce. Yes, there is law and there are statutes and guidelines. But many aspects of a divorce are negotiable. To me, divorce is possibly the biggest negotiation of anyone’s life. Still, most people approach the negotiation from a fragile emotional state. And worse yet, they enter divorce uninformed and uneducated. So what do they do? They let their attorney negotiate the deal for them.

When your divorce is over, your attorney will go on to represent other clients. Your divorce will be but faint memory to him or her. But the divorce will be with you for the rest of your life. Trust me; there will hardly be a day, week or month that you won’t think about it.

Now back to Joe’s point. Your divorce is your deal—own it. And you own it by being an informed and educated client that directs the actions of your legal counsel. Sure, you must listen to the advice of your attorney and the guidance for which you are paying a good penny. But you don’t have to do what your attorney says nor take the first deal on the table. Without being a pain in the rear or offensive, you can negotiate the best deal for you. And the key point here is: what “best” means to you; not your friends, family or attorney.

In business, one never approaches a key negotiation misinformed and wanting it so bad that one can taste it. Why not? Because you will end up with a terrible deal. So why should the biggest negotiation of your life be any different?

Get educated on the process and business of divorce. No matter the circumstances leading up to the divorce, check your emotions at the door. Have an objective and a plan. Be clear as to what you want; what you are willing to give away; and what is non-negotiable. And best is not always about dollars and cents.

Remember the discount clothing retailer Syms? The company slogan was, “An Educated Consumer is our Best Customer.” Ask any good family law attorney, and they will tell you the same thing. An educated and informed client will make the divorce process much easier, faster and less costly in the long run.

Financial Discovery: Finding the Assets and Liabilities

Often misunderstood at the start of divorce proceeding is how the financial terms of the divorce will be worked out. The process involves something called financial discovery. To get a better understanding of how the process works, I spoke with Monica Holden, Esq., a partner in the Miami family law firm of HoldenCapriles.

TBK: What is financial discovery and how does the process work?

HOLDEN: Financial discovery is the exchange of financial documents between the parties to a family law proceeding in an effort to promote and obtain a fair resolution of the case. Florida requires financial disclosure in almost every family law case. Financial documents are generally exchanged at the beginning of the case and include each parties’ financial affidavit, as well as other financial records dating back for a certain period of time. A family law affidavit requires that the party line item their income, expenses, assets, and liabilities. In addition, the parties are required to provide documentation regarding their income, real and personal property, bank accounts, retirement accounts, household furnishings of significant value, jewelry, business interests, and any other property and debts. The attorneys are also able to conduct depositions to ensure that all assets and liabilities have been properly disclosed, or expose any inconsistencies or omissions regarding the parties’ financial matters.

TBK: What is the purpose of financial discovery?

HODEN: The purpose of financial discovery is to investigate and confirm the other party’s claims regarding income, assets, and liabilities. The extent of financial disclosure varies depending on the type of case. For example, in a divorce case financial discovery is complicated and necessary to identify the parties’ martial assets and liabilities and their respective values, so that the Court can distribute them accordingly. In a paternity case, financial discovery is necessary to determine each parties’ respective income in order to calculate child support. In addition, complete financial disclosure is necessary to assist the parties and attorneys in reaching a settlement and bringing the case to closure. Accordingly, it is the obligation of the parties to make sure that their financial affidavit and corresponding documentation is current and accurate prior to court conferences, mediation, motions, and trial.

TBK: If discrepancies are suspected by one party, such as understated income or assets, what are the recourses to reconcile this?

HOLDEN: The attorney’s evaluation of the financial documents provide significant information to allow the development of strategies to expose discrepancies and misrepresentations. The attorney can choose to utilize the assistance of forensic accountants, private investigators, and/or asset tracing services to uncover financial discrepancies. The parties are advised to obtain forensic accountants in the event discrepancies as to income or assets are discovered. In addition, in the event the parties are unable to amicably resolve their case, these experts are available to testify before the court and present their conclusions.

TBK: If any inappropriate activities are discovered during financial discovery process, is a person liable in any manner?

HOLDEN: A party’s obligation to provide financial disclosure also includes the responsibility to provide full and frank information and documentation. Accordingly, it can establish a party’s credibility or lack thereof if any discrepancies or omissions are discovered. A party can be severely sanctioned for failing to completely and accurately participate in the court required financial disclosure. The Court may sanction the party by limiting the offending party’s ability to contest the allegations against them, limit the evidence that they can produce in their defense, order the offending party to pay for the other’s attorney’s fees and costs, and/or consider the inappropriate activities as a factor when determining its ultimate award to the parties.

Domesticating Your Divorce

In today’s connected and mobile world, moving from one state to another or even to another country is not uncommon. However, not many of us stop to think about how such moves affect a divorce decree.

Enforcing or modifying the terms of a divorce settlement in a state where it was not filed is not as easy as forwarding the mail or changing a mailing address. In such case, a viable option is to “move” the divorce from the original filing state to the one of current residency.

Don and Jessica were divorced 7 years ago, bringing to an end their 25 year marriage. The divorce was settled via mediation and a final judgment entered in an Ohio family court. In the final judgment there were several stipulations regarding future payments due to Jessica from Don. There are two children from the marriage, but both were emancipated shortly after the divorce.

A couple of years after the divorce Jessica moved to South Florida with the children. Like Jessica, soon after the divorce, Don moved from Ohio to a foreign country to pursue a job opportunity. Although each moved and years passed since the divorce, Don continued to honor the financial stipulations resulting from the divorce.

However, over the course of the last year, the situation changed. The payments stopped coming. When addressing the issue with Don, Jessica received poor excuses or no response at all. Jessica feels like Don is leaving her no choice but to enforce the terms of the divorce decree.

However, with her living in South Florida and the court of jurisdiction in Ohio, Jessica is not sure how to proceed.  Needing the money due to her, doing nothing is not an option for Jessica. As such, Jessica is now considering one of two options: 1) Work through the Ohio court to enforce her rights; or 2) change the court of jurisdiction to one in South Florida and then follow the legal process locally. The second option could likely be less expensive and of greater convenience for Jessica.

The process of “moving” a final judgment from one state (and even from a foreign country) to another state is call domesticating a judgment. Most states, including Florida, allow domestication of divorce decrees so that you can use the local court to enforce the final judgment from another state. The initiation of a domestication process begins with the filing a Petition for Domestication.

Although this is a process that some individuals decide to take on by themselves, it could get legally complicated, especially if an ex-spouse decides to contest the domestication request. In Jessica’s case, with her ex-husband living in another country, along with some complicated matters in her decree, she opted to retain a South Florida-based attorney to carry out the domestication action.

Does Infidelity Matter

Sometimes marriages fail due to the breach of trust caused by the infidelity of one party to the marriage. The resulting anger fueled by the infidelity often times spills over into the divorce process. And this anger can lead to a messy divorce just because one party “wants to get back” at the other. With this in mind, I wanted to get to the bottom of infidelity and its ramification in a divorce proceeding from the perspective of the law. So, I sat down for a chat with Carolann Mazza, a Ft. Lauderdale-based collaborative family attorney.

TBK: Carolann, Florida is a no-fault divorce state; what does that actually mean?

MAZZA: Florida officially became a “no-fault” divorce state in 1971. Prior to that, the partying asking for the divorce had to prove certain reasons for obtaining a divorce. Those reasons included actions such as infidelity, misconduct, and abuse. Now, as a “no-fault” divorce state, the Florida courts only have to find that the marriage is irretrievably broken between the spouses in order to dissolve a marriage or grant a divorce.

TBK: So how does the court view infidelity in divorce cases?

MAZZA: The Florida alimony statute specifically allows the court to consider adultery and the circumstances surrounding the adultery when determining an alimony award. While the standard for awarding alimony continues to be the need of the spouse seeking the alimony and the ability to pay of the other spouse, a court can consider evidence of adulterous activities by either spouse. Also, when determining an equitable division of marital assets and marital debt, the court may consider evidence of infidelity if there is an allegation that the infidelity caused the depletion of marital assets or an increase in marital debt.

TBK: In those cases where infidelity occurred does it affect the awarding of spousal support positively or negatively?

MAZZA: The answer is best illustrated by example of case law. In Escobar v. Escobar, the district court concluded that the alimony statute allows a trial court to refuse to consider the adultery of a non-alimony seeking spouse when this evidence is offered by an alimony-seeking spouse solely to obtain or increase an award of alimony. The Florida Supreme Court approved this result. In Noah v. Noah, the trial court awarded a disproportionate distributional scheme as lump sum alimony because of the husband’s adulterous affair. The Supreme Court upheld the district court’s reversal, reiterating the primary factors to be used are need and ability to pay and finding that those factors were clearly met, without considering the adulterous affair.

TBK: For the spouse committing the infidelity, does that action impact child custody and/or visitation rights?

MAZZA: In the State of Florida shared parental responsibility is the rule unless the court finds there would be detriment to the child(ren) or if the best interest of the child(ren) dictates otherwise. While the statute does not specifically state as a factor “infidelity” as one of the determining factors for a finding of the best interest of the child(ren), it does contain two factors that could relate to infidelity. The two factors are: 1) “The moral fitness of the parents;” 2) “Any other factor that is relevant to the determination of a specific parenting plan, including the time-sharing schedule” (The “catch-all” factor). I am not aware of any recent cases that specifically utilized infidelity as a factor to limit parenting and/or time-sharing. In my opinion, there would have to be extremely egregious circumstances for this to happen in a conflict over children.

 

Divorce in the Workplace

It was eight years ago when my wife asked for the divorce. Anyone can argue that there is never a good time for that kind of news, but this was a really, really bad time. Six months earlier, I sold my company and there was so much to do. Still, I was almost paralyzed. Going through the motions, I was a zombie at work. Any energy I could muster was directed at dealing with my divorce and my unknown future.

For corporations or those who own a business, divorce has a direct impact on the bottom line. Findings of the Life Innovations Study “Marriage and Family Wellness: Corporate America’s Business?” concluded that relationship-related stress costs employers about $300 billion annually.

Chances are 50% or more of married employees will divorce at some point. The process is an emotional roller coaster that impacts people’s ability to be mindful on the job. The stress and apprehension brought on by divorce often results in a depressive state affecting employee health and performance, measured in reduced employee attendance, motivation and focus.

The resulting impact to the organization is significant, with research showing that:

  1. The average cost to a company due to employees going through the divorce process is $83,171 per year.
  2.  It can take up to five years for employee productivity to rebound after divorce.
  3. Workers in domestic disputes often become unavailable for travel or extended hours.

Productivity is impacted when workers are absent due to divorce-related issues, such as court and attorney meetings and the time involved in preparing for these appointments. Also impacting the employer is the use of working hours to discuss the divorce with others and do research, along with not completing tasks properly or on time due to lack of focus.

During the divorce process, people often feel alone and overburdened and lack confidence; it is not surprising how many buckle under the pressure. The fear of the unknown, especially the financial outcome of the divorce, can be overwhelming.

As employers, offering employees access to benefits or resources that provide them relief during such a critical time in their lives will clearly have a resulting benefit to the company as well. Some employee benefits such as, pre-paid legal services and medical insurance that is inclusive of mental health coverage is a good start, but it’s not enough. Education and on-going support must also be part of the solution.

In terms of stressful life events, divorce consistently ranks second only to the death of a spouse or child. Divorce is completely life altering; striking at an individual’s very foundation. As such, any divorce-related employee benefit should look at the trauma holistically. There is grief counseling, so why not divorce
counseling?

Much work is required in this area, but it needs to start with employers recognizing the workplace impact of divorce and not just on the employee home.