What Is A Complex Divorce?

by Robin Roshkind, Esquire, West Palm Beach, Florida

A complex divorce is one in which there are many issues to resolve and the Husband and Wife are anything but agreeable.  It could involve many real estate properties, tax issues, a privately held corporation or several closely held businesses, marital assets in several states, trust assets, split siblings or special needs children, assets or businesses that need valuations, and supplemental issues including vocational studies, custody battles, an unfit parent, off shore bank accounts and the like.   Complex divorces can also include bad behavior including adultery and the dissipation of marital assets due to outside relationships, gambling, drug or alcohol use or uncontrollable shopping or other mental health issues.

The more complex the marriage, the more complex the divorce.  The more a couple has to fight over, generally the more complex the divorce.  This type of divorce usually turns ugly and requires the use of a divorce team.  This team includes psychologists or psychiatrists, appraisers, private investigator, real estate agents, CPAs, estate planning attorneys, corporate attorneys, tax attorneys, and of course the divorce lawyer.   For more information about this or other divorce topics, call one of the divorce lawyers at ROBIN ROSHKIND, P.A. at 561 835 9091 or click on the Firm’s web site at http://www.familylawwpb.com.

Contract Law and Divorce Lawyers

By Robin Roshkind, Esquire, West Palm Beach, Florida

Many people don’t realize the amount of knowledge a divorce lawyer must have in order to effect  justice between the Husband and Wife in divorce court.

Often times, a divorce lawyer has to be well versed not only in FAMILY law, but also in TORT law, CRIMINAL law, and CONTRACT law.   Family law encompasses what is in the best interests of the child/ren, name changes, relocation matters, child support and time sharing between parents;  tort law comes into play when there is spousal abuse, physical injury, spread of disease between husband and wife; criminal law addresses stolen or damaged property of one spouse by another, violence, rape, battery and the like. 

But divorce lawyers also deal in contract law in terms of effectuating a valid, enforceable, marital settlement agreement between the parties,a division of assets and debts, future real estate arrangements, partnerships without the marriage factor.  Contracts can only be valid and enforceable if they are fairly negotiated, fully understood, and freely agreed to under controlled circumstances.   That is why in my practice, I go through a marital settlement agreement with my clients a page and paragraph at a time for an extra layer of protection.   In high asset or complex divorce matters I video tape the actual signing of these documents.   The other party always has the opportunity to challenge an agreement but the real issue is whether or not he/she will prevail.  I do everything possible to prevent a winning challenge to these contracts.

If you are thinking about getting divorced in Palm Beach County, Florida, or know someone who is, call one of the divorce lawyers at ROBIN ROSHKIND, P.A. at 561 835 9091 or click on the Firm’s web site at www.familylawwpb.com for more information.

How Long Will My Divorce Take?

By Robin Roshkind, Esquire, West Palm Beach, Florida

Divorces are like people…each case is different.  But I can give my clients some guidelines as to how long it will take to get a divorce, based upon the facts of the marriage and the personalities involved.

If both parties want the divorce, obviously it will go quicker than if one spouse wants it and the other does not.

If someone is motivated to cooperate, it will go quicker.  For example, if a spouse wants to remarry fairly quickly.

If both parties have been already living separate and apart, chances are the divorce will be on the fast track.

If there is nothing substantial to fight over, in terms of assets, debts or children, the divorce will be fast.

So what does this mean…normally, when a petition for dissolution of marriage is filed and served, the recipient has 20 days to respond.  He/she can respond on day 1 or day 19.  After that, financial affidavits must be filed.  That can be done also within days.  If parties cooperate, a divorce can be done in less than a month.

Other divorces are more complex, leaving the parties with minutia to fight over.  These types of litigious divorces can take as long as several years to complete.  Every step of the way may require a court hearing, in terms of motions to compel, motions for protective orders, motions to set mediations, depositions or other hearings and no one agrees to anything.

So depending upon your circumstances, divorces can be completed in as little as 4 weeks or as long as three years. If you are thinking about getting a divorce in Palm Beach County, talk to one of the divorce lawyers at ROBIN ROSHKIND, P.A. at 561 835 9091 or click on the Firm’s web site at www.familylawwpb.com for more information.

CASE OF THE MONTH: Equitable Distribution With a Girlfriend on the Side.

By Robin Roshkind, Esquire, West Palm Beach, Florida

THE FACTS:  This case involves a husband, who we represent, who decided to leave his long term marriage.  The couple has extensive assets, two large homes, one in Florida and another up north, and two country clubs.   The husband also has a younger girlfriend who is a successful working professional.  The wife is shocked, hurt, and angry.   She is rightfully so under the care of a therapist.

THE ISSUES:  While the girlfriend is an issue for the wife,  since she is self supporting and the husband has not spent much money on her, legally the girlfriend is not an issue in the State of Florida.  If she is, it is only to the extent of marital funds being spent, which, unlike most cases involving a paramour, is minimal in this case.

HOW WE WORKED IT OUT:  The homes have to be sold.  They are worth millions of dollars.  The husband and wife agree that this is a bad time to do that, so they will remain real estate partners, bearing the asset and the debt together with their liquid assets.

The rest of the accounts, stocks, bonds, investments, are to be split 50/50 with a joint account set up for joint expenses on the homes, to which both parties will contribute equally from their 50/50 share of cash.   This leaves the husband free now to spend his half as he wishes, whether that means investing, setting up a new business or spending it all on the girlfriend.

WHAT WE STILL NEED TO DO:  What remains is division of an extensive art collection.  Should it be divided according to value or according to who wants what?  This is up for discussion at the next mediation.

Lastly, the husband wants both country club memberships.  It will be interesting to see how this is worked out since he is on the board of both and wishes to bring his girlfriend to both clubs.    The wife is furious.

If you have extensive assets, and want more information, call one of the divorce lawyers at ROBIN ROSHKIND, P.A. at 561-835-9091.  Or click on the Firm’s web site at http://www.familylawwpb.com.

How long does a divorce take?

By Robin Roshkind, Esquire, West Palm Beach, Florida

I once did a divorce in FOUR days.  Here’s how that worked:  A race car driver (my client) and his wife arrived at my office by appointment, along with their accountant.  The accountant knew the family businesses and finances.  Both the husband and wife trusted this accountant, and relied on the fairness of the accountant’s judgment in setting forth the terms of the marital settlement.  They all marched into my office on a Thursday; I drafted all the paperwork, petitions, waivers, court orders, hearing notices, and I had them divorced by Monday. 

That is an exception to the rule.  Here is Palm Beach County, Florida, there are certain family court rules that divorce lawyers have to follow UNLESS a client and spouse WAIVE those rights.  Once a divorce petition is served upon the other spouse, the responding spouse has 20 days in which to file an answer and counter petition.

The petitioner then has 45 days from date of filing to produce mandatory disclosure of finances.  The respondent has 45 days from date of service to provide mandatory disclosure documents.  Once financials are exchanged and reviewed, the parties can schedule mediation which is also mandatory in Palm Beach County.  This process usually takes about 3 to 4  months.

At mediation, the case can resolve, and the parties sign a marital settlement agreement.  That agreement is then used for the final judgment of divorce, which takes another month or so to go before the judge.

This is a best case scenario.  If there is no resolution at mediation, the case goes before the judge in a temporary relief hearing.  The judge then sets forth the terms of the separation pending the rest of the divorce proceedings.  The “rest” of depositions, discovery, subpeonas, witness interviews, expert witness analysis, etc. can take up to another year or two.

It all really depends upon how litigious or complex the case is and how cooperative or uncooperative the parties are.  For more information about the divorce process, call one of the attorneys at ROBIN ROSHKIND, P.A. at 561-835-9091, or click on the Firm’s web site at www.familylawwpb.com.

Why is going to trial so expensive?

By Robin Roshkind, Esquire, West Palm Beach, Florida

The divorce petition is filed with the court and the spouse is served.  The spouse has 20 calendar days to file and answer and a counter petition for dissolution of marriage.  Over the next month or so, mandatory disclosure is produced by both husband and wife.  This may include the following: pay stubs, tax returns, credit card receipts, bank statements, stock portfolios, deeds, titles, and any other evidence of income, assets or debts of the marriage or separate property of the parties.  Armed with all this paper, this “discovery”, both spouses and their lawyers attend mediation in an attempt to settle the divorce case and any disputed issues between the parties.  If a settlement occurs, the marital settlement agreement becomes part of a court order, the final divorce decree.

Should mediation not result in a partial or global marital settlement, the next step involves divorce litigation. Going to divorce court means taking the case to the judge so he or she can decide what is going to be for the future of the family.   A temporary relief hearing is set, which essentially is a mini trial.  The court order resulting from a temporary relief hearing sets forth the terms of the separation on a temporary basis pending the divorce proceedings.  Now the fun begins.

Issues such as a valuation of a business formed during the marriage can complicate the divorce.  Issues involving the employability of a stay at home spouse can complicate the divorce.  Issues regarding an unfit parent and who is to have custody can complicate a divorce.  Issues about relocation with children out of the state can complicate a divorce.  Hidden monies offshore can complicate a divorce. Money spent on paramours can complicate a divorce.  What is marital property versus what is non marital property can complicate a divorce.  Drugs and alcohol use along with domestic violence and general health issues can complicate a divorce.  Appraisals of jewelry and property can complicate a divorce.

Along with these divorce complications, come the expert witnesses to testify on behalf of each of their clients.  These include child psychologists, marriage counselors, forensic CPAs, appraisers, real estate agents, good mommy or good daddy friends, doctors, relatives.  Sometimes all these witnesses need to be deposed prior to trial.  And paid for their time and expertise.  Or testimony at trial.  Documents that can fill libraries are generated as evidence.  Each exhibit has to be marked for admissibility into evidence.  And your divorce lawyer has to know what is on every piece of paper and where to find it in the boxes and boxes of documents.

Trial preparation, from the point of strategizing the case, to obtaining necessary information and organizing the file, to speaking in the courtroom is time consuming, stressful, and very expensive.  The more complex issues there are in dispute between the spouses, the more expensive the trial will be.  By way of example, a straightforward half day trial can cost between $15,000 – $20,000 to prepare.  At Robin Roshkind, P.A., the lawyers always attempt settlement prior to switching gears toward litigation.   For more information, visit the web site of Robin Roshkind, P.A. Divorce Lawyers at www.familylawwpb.com or call for a consultation with one of the Firm’s experienced divorce lawyers at 561-835-9091.

Legal Fees and Divorce: What is reasonable?

By Robin Roshkind, Esquire – West Palm Beach, Florida

Many people call my office and the first question they ask is “How much will my divorce cost?”  The answer is, IT DEPENDS.  Let me explain:

When one spouse wants to settle the matter and the other does not, this type of divorce becomes expensive because it involves preparation for a full blown trial.  You or I cannot control the other party’s attorney or spouse.  That is why most divorce lawyers work hourly using hourly rates. 

On the other hand, where both parties agree to stay out of court and settle their disputes like adult business men and women, without the anger, without the vindictiveness, and without emotional complications, these types of divorces are certainly less expensive.  And less stressful. 

So what is reasonable?  In my divorce practice, I have settled cases for $3,500 up to $15,000.  The range is due to how long it takes to negotiate, how many times we go to mediation, and how many offers and counter offers are proposed until an agreement is reached.  If a marital settlement agreement is signed by both parties after going back and forth only once or twice, this will take less time and cost less than an agreement that goes back and forth four or five times until a settlement is reached. 

Going to trial is a different animal all together.  Preparation for trial includes depositions, subpeonas of people and records, much more extensive document production and discovery, testimony of witness, accountants’ fees, pychologist reports, employability studies of a non-working spouse, custody evaluations, business valuations, appraisals of real and personal property and the list could go on and on.  In my experience, fees and costs for trial preparation can run from $15,000 on upward into the six figures.   

The other factors that go into a determination of what a divorce will cost is the complexity of the case.  For example, a divorce with children usually costs more than one without.  A divorce where there are numerous homes and other real estate will cost more than one for a couple with only one marital home.  Generally the more “stuff” in a marriage, the more there is to fight over, the higher the cost of the divorce. 

Then there are the emotional issues.  Where a husband or wife leaves the marriage for another, this type of divorce can certainly costs more than if two people just decide together to call it quits.  Fighting over children gets expensive.  Hiding money or keeping control of marital funds while keeping the other party in the dark can cause the price of a divorce to skyrocket.

In conclusion, the price of your divorce depends upon the complexity of the case and the mindset of the spouses.  Hourly rates for attorneys in Palm Beach County, Florida, generally average from $300 per hour to $550 per hour. 

The experienced family law attorneys at my firm all work at $350 per hour (we accept all major credit cards).  For additional information, please call my law firm, Robin Roshkind, P.A., for a consultation (561-835-9091) or visit the firm’s website at www.familylawwpb.com.