What is mediation?

“ 'Mediation' means a process whereby a neutral third person called a mediator acts to encourage and facilitate the resolution of a dispute between two or more parties. It is an informal and nonadversarial process with the objective of helping the disputing parties reach a mutually acceptable and voluntary agreement. In mediation, decisionmaking authority rests with the parties. The role of the mediator includes, but is not limited to, assisting the parties in identifying issues, fostering joint problem solving, and exploring settlement alternatives." See Fla. Stat. Sect. 44.1011

Particularly, “ '[f]amily mediation' means mediation of family matters, including married and unmarried persons, before and after judgments involving dissolution of marriage; property division; shared or sole parental responsibility; or child support, custody, and visitation involving emotional or financial considerations not usually present in other circuit civil cases. Negotiations in family mediation are primarily conducted by the parties. Counsel for each party may attend the mediation conference and privately communicate with their clients. However, presence of counsel is not required, and, in the discretion of the mediator, and with the agreement of the parties, mediation may proceed in the absence of counsel unless otherwise ordered by the court." See Fla. Stat. Sect. 44.1011 (d)

In all family matters, the court orders you to participate in mediation. Court mediation is offered for parties earning a combined income of less than $100,000 annual gross income. This mediation is held for 3 hours at a courthouse and depending on the circuit, a contracted attorney and/or mediator or a court-employed mediator acts as mediator. The mediator holds a specific certificate that allows him/her to act in this role. Mediators are not always attorneys and are not always family law, marital law, or Florida attorneys.

Private mediators are often utilized in cases that are high conflict, deal with multiple assets and liabilities, have special considerations regarding parenting, or have parties who earn over the allowable amount for court mediation. These mediations tend to be effective as the parties typically invest their time and money for the purpose of reaching an agreement as to some or all of the issues involved in the case.

This blog post is not intended to provide any legal advice whatsoever. This post does not create a legal relationship between Bouchard Law, P.A. and the reader and is merely intended to provide general information to the reader.

Tax consequences of divorce: Alimony recipients & tax withholding

If you are awarded alimony as part of a divorce settlement or divorce final judgment, typically these monies are not subject to tax withholding. Therefore, there may be a resulting tax liability, which should be looked at by a tax advisor so you are fully aware and prepared to pay the liability. 

Also, due to your status changing from married to single, a tax advisor can adequately inform you of the benefits/or loss of benefits that occurs due to the change in filing status from married to individual or single.

A tax professional can assist you with filling out a new W-4, if necessary. This form instructs your employer to withhold federal income tax from your pay, which may differ post-divorce due to the new status of becoming single.

This blog post is not intended to provide readers with legal advice or tax advice in any way. This does not create a legal relationship or agreement between the reader and Bouchard Law, P.A. Bouchard Law, P.A. and its attorneys and staff do not claim to be experts in tax matters.  Bouchard Law, P.A. recommends consulting a tax professional to fully evaluate your tax implications and consequences of your particular position.

Tax consequences of divorce: Alimony


For those who may be on the hook for on-going alimony payments, the word "alimony" may seem like a dirty word. However, many overlook the tax benefit of classifying payments as "alimony" versus something different, such as a property distribution.

Alimony is currently considered a taxable event meaning the recipient of the alimony is receiving taxable income. The alimony as paid is tax-deductible to the paying party, provided the settlement agreement does not state otherwise. This has been in the tax code since 1942.

But buyer beware! Tax changes are on the horizon. "Because of the new tax law, spouses paying alimony won’t be able to take a deduction while spouses receiving alimony will no longer have to report it as income..." reports the American Bar Association. Come 2019, alimony will no longer be a taxable event, which means no more tax deduction and more money flowing to the government due to the payers of alimony mostly being part of higher tax brackets.

Source: http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/new_tax_law_affects_alimony_could_spur_divorce_surge/

This blog post is not intended to provide readers with legal advice or tax advice in any way. This does not create a legal relationship or agreement between the reader and Bouchard Law, P.A. Bouchard Law, P.A. and its attorneys and staff do not claim to be experts in tax matters.  Bouchard Law, P.A. recommends consulting a tax professional to fully evaluate your tax implications and consequences of your particular position.


Why your case is probably not an "uncontested" divorce.

I often have folks visit me and state their case is an "uncontested" simplified divorce. I tell them it probably is not.

What exactly qualifies as simplified under Florida law? 

Generally, most divorces are contested one way or other. Simplified divorce involves no children, no alimony or spousal support, and, generally, no conflict whatsoever. The parties go to the Clerk of Court to jointly file the Petition for Simplified Dissolution. Most of these cases do not involve lawyers. Our firm finds that a simplified proceeding is a useful tool when the parties have not been married long and they do not own any assets nor have any joint liabilities (financial debts). The parties are not required to have financial disclosure, but are required to attend a final hearing. The parties also give up their right to a trial and the opportunity to examine/cross-exam the other parties and witnesses.

From the Florida Bar Consumer Pamphlet: Divorce in Florida

Not everyone can use the simplified procedure. Couples can use the simplified dissolution of marriage only if all the following requirements are met: 

· Both parties agree to the use of this form of dissolution proceeding.
· They have no minor (under 18) or dependent children.
· They have no adopted children under the age of 18.
· Neither party is pregnant.
· At least one of the parties has lived in Florida for the past six months.
· The parties have agreed on the division of all of their property (assets) and obligations (debts).
· Neither party is seeking alimony.
· Both parties agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken. 

If you and your spouse cannot meet all of the above requirements, you will have to follow the procedure of the regular dissolution of marriage process.

Where people run into problems when filing a simplified dissolution is when they fail to recognize and address their legal needs and rights thoroughly. For example, parties fail to recognize that pets are considered personal property under Florida law. If the parties do not address who retains the pet upon a simplified dissolution, generally, the pro se (the Clerk-provided, do-it-yourself) marital settlement agreement provides that personal property will stay with the person it is currently with. Then, later on, you'll find yourself in small claims court attempting to resolve the issue of who gets the dog, which should have been resolved via your divorce. Other issues that people fail to address involve changing titles/registrations on vehicles, relinquishing their property rights in homes and land, health insurance/care needs, and other types of support.

If you have questions about your case, give us a call at (941) 764-1146 to schedule a free consultation.

What to do with pets when people separate or divorce?

One major concern of our clients is who receives a beloved pet upon divorce or separation. Most people consider their dogs, cats, birds, turtles, horses, and hamsters to be one of the family and akin to another "child." However, under Florida law, pets are treated like personal property, just like a sofa or vehicle.

Our firm has worked with couples to fashion schedules, future expense divisions, and debt associated with pets upon divorce or separation. Yes, dog time-sharing schedules are a thing! Some issues that our clients do not consider on their own include who takes a pet while the other person goes on vacation or up north for the summer, who pays for veterinarian bills and medication, or simply who keeps the crate and dog bed.

This is why you need a firm to make sure these issues are hashed out in any settlement agreement.  If you own a pet, you need a personalized approach. Call Bouchard Law, P.A. today at (941) 764-1146.