Frequently Asked Questions
- What should I do to get ready for my divorce?
- What happens to my children?
- Who pays the cost of the divorce?
- How does the Court determine child support?
- How does alimony work?
- How does my property get divided?
- What about prenuptial agreements?
- When should I expect to receive a trust accounting?
- When can the collaborative process be used?
- How does the Collaborative Law process work?
- What are the benefits of the Collaborative Divorce process?
- Are the Attorneys at Greene & Greene trained in the Collaborative Divorce process?
- What is the role of the neutral facilitator/mental health professional?
- What is the role of the neutral financial professional?
- How does the Collaborative Divorce process terminate?
What should I do to get ready for my divorce?
Please put together all of your documentation concerning assets, liabilities, and both spouses’ income. If you can, find and bring the last three years of your tax returns. If you have given financial statements to any lenders, please bring that information. It is often helpful to obtain your credit report.
Briefly stated, the more financial information you’re able to bring and the better organized that information is, the better advice you will be able to receive at the beginning of your case. However, if you don’t have easy access to this information, don’t worry, we will get it.
What happens to my children?
Being a father and grandfather, I very much appreciate the fact that nothing is more important to my clients than their children. Children cannot protect themselves. It is up to you as their parent to assure that their future has an opportunity to thrive post divorce.
The fact that you are getting divorced does not change the fact that the children have two parents. In the great majority of cases, there will be shared parental responsibility where both parents remain meaningfully involved with the children. In a very small percentage of cases, there is sole parental responsibility because one parent has acted in a way that manifests a lack of capability to act in the best interest of the child. We usually call these parents unfit.
Florida law is largely protective of children. Florida law recognizes that, under shared parental, both parents have rights and responsibilities with their children and share in major decision making. Neither parent has the right, and hopefully not the opportunity, to use the children as a weapon or for revenge purposes.
If at all possible, you and the other parent should self-determine what happens with the children, timesharing and otherwise. If not, the Court will decide. Should the Court have to decide, a Judge can appoint an evaluator to advise the Court on children matters. These evaluators are sensitive to the potential and actual harm children encounter when their parents divorce, as are our Judges. Children may not go to depositions and will not be in a courtroom, absent extremely compelling reasons.
I have never brought a child to a courtroom and will not start with your case.
Our firm has positive relationships within the mental health community to both meet your children’s counseling needs and, where necessary, to obtain expert testimony on disputed matters.
We will work with you in the best interest of your children, whether it involves custodial matters, child support, parenting plans, timesharing, or geographic considerations.
Who pays the cost of the divorce?
Florida law talks about need and ability to pay. What this really means is that the cost of your divorce will be paid from either the income of both spouses, from the income of the greater earning spouse where there is significant disparity, or from marital or nonmarital assets. It is important to remember that wherever the costs are paid, that cost effects both parties. Otherwise stated, neither one of you should waste money fighting about unnecessary or unproductive issues. Regardless of who cuts the check, both parties pay.
How does the Court determine child support?
Florida has a statute, F.S. 61.30, that includes guidelines for child support payment, based upon the parents’ combined actual or imputed income. Under certain conditions the Court can vary from these guidelines. Child support normally ends when you child graduates high school, absent mental or physical dependency. Florida does not include the expenses of college, although the parents can bind themselves to this expense. Child support remains modifiable throughout the eligibility of the child, based upon a substantial change of circumstance.
How does alimony work?
In Florida, the applicable statute is F.S. 61.16. Several types of alimony are available if you are the potentially receiving spouse and must be considered if you are the potential payor. They are temporary, transitional, bridge the gap, lump sum, rehabilitative, and permanent. Alimony determinations are largely driven by the length of marriage and the respective earnings of each party.
How does my property get divided?
The applicable Florida Statutes are F.S. 61.075 and 61.076. First, the Court identifies the nonmarital property of each party. If your spouse doesn’t agree that your property is nonmarital, it is your burden to prove that fact. Second, the Court must identify and value the marital property. Marital property includes all of the assets and liabilities that are not characterized as nonmarital.
Under Florida law, there is a presumption that marital property should be distributed equally, no matter who generated the income or made the investment that created the asset or debt. However, there are situations where the Court will grant unequal distribution following a finding that it is not equitable to equally divide marital assets. Unequal distribution cases are relatively rare and require very specific evidence and/or fact patterns to justify the unequal distribution. Our firm has significant experience in this complex arena.
What about prenuptial agreements?
A prenuptial agreement is a contract potential marital partners enter into prior to the marriage itself. Florida law, generally, favors enforcement of such agreements.
Properly done, such an agreement defines and controls matters concerning spousal support and the ultimate retention or distribution of property. Improperly done, they are an invitation to litigation.
A prenuptial agreement is, quite possibly, the most difficult contract to effectively draft. Meaningful comments describing the inherent complexities are way beyond this brief discourse. I can say that timing is important and appropriate financial disclosure critical.
This firm has extensive experience in both the drafting of agreements and in the litigation considerations concerning those agreements others have drafted, where you may wish to either enforce the agreement or set it aside.
When should I expect to receive a trust accounting?
Qualified trust beneficiaries are entitled to receive fiduciary trust accountings on an annual basis. If the trustee does not submit an accounting voluntarily, a beneficiary has the ability to petition the court to compel the trustee to issue said accountings.
When can the collaborative process be used?
- Divorce (dissolution of marriage)
- Parenting Plans
- Modification actions
- Enforcement actions
- Pre-nuptial Agreements
- Post-nuptial Agreements
How does the Collaborative Law process work?
In a typical collaborative case, each of the parties hires an attorney of their choice who acts in their best interest, as well as a joint neutral facilitator (or “mental health professional”) and a joint neutral financial expert. This is called the “collaborative team”. A series of team meetings are held to review the outstanding issues and builds different options to come to a resolution. The parties must agree to be transparent and cooperative with the neutral experts involved. The court system is not involved in any way in making decisions throughout this process. There are no discovery fights and the financial neutral acts as an advisor to the team on all monetary matters while the mental health neutral plays a critical role in avoiding trigger points and impasse. The attorneys’ jobs are to facilitate the creation of a broader range of possible settlement alternatives for both parties than would otherwise be available in court. This process provides higher quality individualized solutions to emerge in each collaborative case.
What are the benefits of the Collaborative Divorce process?
The collaborative process has many benefits over traditional litigation:
Control: Parties retain more control over the outcome and can be creative in generating resolutions that a court otherwise could not. The collaborative divorce process is client-driven and focuses on goal-based solutions.
Time: Typically takes less time than litigation as hearing times can be weeks and months out.
Cost: While each case varies, the collaborative process is typically more cost-efficient than traditional litigation. In a traditional divorce litigation case, each party may hire their own experts who will then spend hours reviewing the other expert’s opinion in an attempt to weaken their position. With collaborative divorce, one joint financial neutral looks at both parties’ finances and develops options based on that review. Further, traditional divorce cases that go to trial or have several contested hearings can be extremely expensive. Rather than spending marital funds on lawyers, the parties should maintain those assets to divide between themselves.
Commitment to Process: The attorneys are not constantly threatening to go to court as part of the negotiation process. The collaborative process provides that neither attorney can seek affirmative relief from the court. This is to ensure that the entire team is committed to mutual resolution. Of course, if the collaborative process breaks down, the parties may hire litigation attorneys to go through the court system.
Less Conflict and Stress: Traditional litigation can be extremely stressful and cause unnecessary conflicts between the parties. Parties often feel the need to overstate positions when in front of a judge, while this is much less present in a collaborative divorce setting. The collaborative process allows parties to express concerns in a safe and productive way.
Lasting Results: By working collaboratively with a team to devise a goal-based resolution during this very difficult time, the parties are committing to having a healthier post-divorce relationship. This is a priceless benefit to this process, especially in cases when the parties have children, whether minor or not.
Because of these benefits, the collaborative divorce process is becoming more and more popular as an alternative to traditional litigation. Obviously, a divorce is a tough time for anyone and even if you are not on the best of terms with your spouse, the collaborative process is still a healthier and overall cheaper option to traditional litigation
Are the Attorneys at Greene & Greene trained in the Collaborative Divorce process?
Yes! All attorneys at Greene & Greene have attended both the basic and advanced training for collaborative law. Attorney Lee Greene is a member and past director of the Tampa Bay Academy of Collaborative Professionals and Attorneys Billy Greene and Megan Greene are members of the Next Generation Divorce collaborative practice group.
What is the role of the neutral facilitator/mental health professional?
The role of the neutral facilitator/mental health professional in the collaborative process is to manage and control emotions to prevent them from interfering with both parties coming to a mutual resolution. Further, the neutral facilitator acts as the captain of the ship and steers the team in the right direction because he or she is communicating with all team members to determine if everything is on the right track or if there are specific issues that need to be discussed. We often find that collaborative cases without a neutral facilitator suffer greatly from their absence.
What is the role of the neutral financial professional?
The role of the neutral financial professional in the collaborative process is to gather documents from both spouses, create financial schedules, and build options with regard to division of assets and spousal support. Other responsibilities of a joint financial expert may include drafting an inventory of any assets and liabilities, assisting clients with creating budgets, assisting the collaborative lawyers in understanding which assets are separate or marital property, assisting with property valuations, and developing options for settlement of any financial matters.
How does the Collaborative Divorce process terminate?
While either party may terminate the process at any time, parties are discouraged from doing so because they would then have to hire another attorney. The collaborative process also terminates if either party seeks affirmative relief from the court. Typically, we find that once the parties have agreed to the collaborative process, they are committed to see it through and do not terminate it without cause.