Divorce Planning Overview

Posted on February 28th, 2017

divorce planning

Most people who get married never plan for the possibility they may wind up in divorce court.  Things usually start out well for the most part.  Everyone experiences usual bumps in the road.  However, if your marriage just isn’t working out then you should talk with a divorce planning lawyer.  You should consider your divorce planning options.  Without proper divorce planning, you assume the risk of experiencing extreme financial consequences. If you feel divorce is becoming more likely as time passes then you should be aware of these important principles.

Important Things to Remember When You Start Planning

Dating: Don’t do it! I do not recommend that you begin dating nor do I recommend that you change your status from married to single until you are in fact divorced not simply separated. I do not recommend room mate arrangements just as I do not recommend moving anyone into your residence. There is a time and place for everything and now is not the right time to change the chemistry of your home environment. Change will happen soon so let it happen without causing yourself trouble down the road.

Social Media: I highly advise against using social media to post comments about your relationship.  I highly discourage the use of social media to make status comments or updates during any pending dissolution of marriage proceeding.  You should never use social media to publish comments about your divorce, the judge, your spouse, or your children.  Its simple, do not post!   Social media comments last forever, are easily misconstrued and may be used against you. These comments constitute different types of statements that are usually admissible in court.

Employment: Each party to a divorce proceeding must report their income and expenses on a financial affidavit.  Each party must file their financial affidavit with the clerk.  Your lawyer will want to verify the income of both parties when there are issues of alimony and child support.  In cases where one of the spouses is not employed, the law authorizes the court to impute income to that spouse which means the court will impute income to a spouse for support purposes even if that spouse is unemployed or has no income.  The law requires both divorcing parents to contribute towards the support of their minor child or children.  The child support guidelines are premised under policy that requires both parents to provide support for their children no matter what the time-sharing arrangement may be.  Proper divorce planning is critical to minimizing financial exposure to support obligations.

Financial disclosure: For divorce planning purposes, you should be aware that Florida law requires full and complete financial disclosure. The law requires both parties to produce copies of the following documents for the relevant time periods listed.  The law requires both parties to exchange the following documents within forty-five (45) days from the date of filing the petition.

  1.  Financial Affidavit, (See form number 12.902(b) if your annual income is less than $50,000, or form 12.902 ( c) if your annual income is equal to or greater than $50,000)
  2.  All personal (1040) federal and state tax income returns, gift tax returns, and intangible personal property tax returns for the preceding 3 years; IRS forms W-2, 1099, and K-1 for the past year because the income tax return for the past year has not been prepared.
  3.  Pay stubs or other evidence of earned income for the 3 months before the service of the financial affidavit.
  4.  A statement identifying the source and amount of all income for the 3 months before the service of the financial affidavit, if not reflected on the pay stubs produced.
  5.  All loan applications and financial statements prepared for any purpose or used for any purpose within the 12 months preceding the service of the financial affidavit.
  6.  All deeds to real estate in which I presently own or owned an interest within the past 3 years. All promissory notes in which I presently own or owned an interest within the last 12 months. All present leases in which I own an interest.
  7.  All periodic statements for the last 3 months for all checking accounts and for the last year for all savings accounts, money market funds, certificates of deposit, etc.
  8.  All brokerage account statements for the last 12 months.
  9.  Most recent statement for any pension, profit sharing, deferred compensation, or retirement plan (for example, IRA, 401(k), 403(b), SEP, KEOGH, etc.) and summary plan description for any such plan in which I am a participant or alternate payee.
  10.  The declarations page, the last periodic statement, and the certificate for any group insurance for all life insurance policies insuring my life or the life of my spouse.
  11.  All health and dental insurance cards covering either of me or my spouse and/or our dependent child(ren).
  12.  Corporate, partnership, and trust tax returns for the last 3 tax years, in which I have an ownership or interest greater than or equal to 30%.
  13.  All credit card and charge account statements and other records showing my(our) indebtedness as of the date of the filing of this action and for the prior 3 months. All promissory notes on which I presently owe or owed within the past year. All lease agreements I presently owe.
  14.  All premarital and marital agreements between the parties to this case.
  15.  All documents and tangible evidence relating to claims for special equity or nonmarital status of an asset or debt.
  16.  Any court order directing that I pay or receive spousal support (alimony) or child support.

Strategizing: You should complete your financial affidavit with precision.  The law allows you to  amend your financial affidavit if the representations change.  A good lawyer will pick your financial affidavit apart and so you should be prepared to back up all representations.  Remember, the affidavit measures units by the month so if you pay for your vehicles tag renewal at $60 dollars per year then the figure on this line of the financial affidavit should be $5.00. A financial affidavit is evidence of what your income, expenses, assets and liabilities look like.  Entries on a financial affidavit is not conclusive.  For instance, if you work part time and own a side business then your income for support issues is based on your W-2 income and your business income.  Business income is the average of your monthly gross receipts less the average of your monthly gross business expenses.

Children: The Court’s primary concern is for the welfare of your child or children.  The parent who has typically been primarily responsible for the children’s day to day care is usually the parent the court will award majority timesharing.  Courts have become more open to liberal time-sharing schedules, and the Florida legislature has proposed legislation that would provide a presumption that equal timesharing is best.  The legislature’s attempts to equalize timesharing in Florida have been unsuccessful.  The key here is to make your children your biggest priority and stay involved with them.  You should allow your children to continue to participate in all their usual activities.  You should remain active with your children in school events, and extracurricular activities.

Maintenance of the Status Quo: A standing family law Order applies to every case.  The filing of a petition triggers the standing Order.  The standing Order prohibits either party from jointly acquire or dissipating assets.  The Order prohibits either party from making changes to bank accounts without an agreement or court order.  The standing order prohibits both parties from changing the ownership status of marital assets.  Also, the standing Order prohibits either party from relocating with the children more than 50 miles.

Questions About Divorce Planning?

The lawyer you choose to represent you in your divorce is a crucial decision.  You should hire the most experienced attorney your matter commands.  If you think you need to consider divorce planning, then talk to a Board Certified Specialist.

Aside from experience and qualifications, you should choose a lawyer you are comfortable engaging in open and honest dialogue with.  You should communicate your goals as well as your concerns to the lawyer from the very beginning.  Tell your lawyer all the facts and let them know what you would like an ideal outcome to look like.  If you need divorce planning help call your Law4jax Team today at (904)360-6100 .