Panama City Law Blog

When is enhancement of value a marital asset?

When it comes to divorce, most people focus on equitably dividing tangible assets. However, courts may also look at assets one spouse owned before the marriage, but said asset has since grown in value over the course of the marriage. This is the enhancement of value, and it comes into play in divorces more often than you may think. 

In a landmark court case called Mitchell v. Mitchell, a husband owned a home prior to the marriage, but over the years, the couple enhanced it using marital funds. The court found that the upgrades to the house, mostly wallpapering, was negligible, but the house increased in value due to the passive force of the housing market. The court found this increase in value was marital property, and the couple had to divide the valuation accordingly. 

Can domestic abuse allegations affect child custody in a divorce?

Divorce requires separating couples in Florida to put aside their differences and make decisions that may not align with their personal interests to protect the well-being of their children. These decisions are not always made amicably. Circumstances can arise where one parent alleges the other parent mentally, emotionally or physically abused him or her and/or the kids. The courts do not take allegations of domestic abuse lightly, especially with children and child custody concerns in the mix. 

Some spouses make false claims of abuse to hurt their partners and compromise their parental and child custody rights. Not all allegations are false. Divorce cases where there is a history of abuse can alter the parameters of any custody arrangement. 

Who gets the dog in a divorce?

Divorce upends a family's life in a major way. There is a significant financial toll on both parties. There is also the question of who gets the family pet. 

Under Florida law, pets are personal property. This puts them on the same level as furniture and artwork. The court works to provide an equitable division of assets, so one party getting the pet may require giving something else up. While it can be a difficult topic, especially if both spouses are close to the pet, it is vital for both parties to work together to reach a consensus.  One solution is for the family pet to accompany the children when they transition to the other parent's home.  Another solution would be for spouses to have pet (property) sharing agreement whereby each party would continue to jointly own the pet and each have specified time with the pet.  If you are unable to reach an agreement on a pet, the divorce court judge will most likely just award the pet to one party or the other and place a monetary value on the pet, just like any other property. 

3 ways to protect your assets during divorce

Divorce is a big decision that will leave its mark on your finances. You may not be a high-wealth individual in the Northern Florida Gulf Coast area, but not taking care to guard your finances during divorce can leave you feeling the pinch long after the legal process is over. Before you and your partner can legally go your separate ways, there are some major decisions you must make. The more prepared and organized you are going into your divorce, the better equipped you will be to protect your assets.

After divorce, you will have a significantly different financial profile and assets than you did during your marriage. Here are crucial suggestions to help you prepare for the financial contingencies of divorce.

Have you and your spouse considered collaborative divorce?

If you and your spouse have decided to end your marriage, you may dread the thought of a bitter court battle. However, litigation is not always necessary. There are other options to think about, one of which is a collaborative divorce. Would this be the best approach for you?

How it works

Tips for navigating social media during divorce

When going through a divorce, you need to be careful about what you post on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Some tips relate to good etiquette, such as posting details about the divorce onto Facebook before you tell your family members about it in person. Other tips are useful because the wrong move on social media can actually impact the proceedings. 

Your ex-spouse's attorney can bring social media posts to court to affect alimony payments and child custody. The best rule of thumb to follow during this time is to not post anything. Do not post pictures of your recently purchased a new car. You also do not want to post pictures about how you go partying every other weekend when the kids are with your ex. Social media has become a minefield when it comes to divorce, so you are better off avoiding it completely. 

Is my spouse hiding assets during our divorce?

The division of marital assets is one of the most contentious topics to come up during a divorce. This is especially true if you have significant assets or own a business. You and your spouse must fully and honestly disclose your assets to the court, so they can be divided fairly. However, what if your spouse is not being truly honest and is attempting to come across as having much less money than he or she has? You and other Florida residents going through a divorce may worry that you will end up with an unfair division of property or less alimony and child support than you should be getting.

The fact that it is a crime to knowingly conceal assets does not deter many people from trying it. The following points illustrate some of the common ways in which your spouse might try to hide assets from you and the court:

  • Drain the bank account and transfer the funds to a separate account you do not know about
  • Get cash back when making regular purchases on a debit card, such as while grocery shopping, and hide the money
  • Have a friend hold onto the assets until the divorce is final, which may technically not be marital property if the friend “owns” the assets, even temporarily
  • Delay accepting a raise or promotion at work until the divorce is final, as well as delaying receipt of a commission or bonus
  • Check the option to save this year’s tax refund for next year’s tax and receive a larger tax return, which you will not have access to after the divorce
  • Charge vacations and expensive items to the company’s account instead of his or her personal account

Should a divorcing couple continue to live together?

When it comes to divorce, Florida has one of the largest rates in the country. Panama City, Deltona and Palm Bay had some of the largest populations of divorced people in the United States according to data from 2010. 

There are many things to sort out during the actual divorce process. While one would assume one of those things would be for one spouse to make other living accommodations, many couples decide to share a living space until the divorce is final. Every situation is different, and a divorcing couple really needs to weigh the pros and cons of such an arrangement before agreeing to it. 

What to do before filing for divorce

Divorce is a common legal issue married couples of all ages may have to face. An article in the Miami Herald states that the divorce rate for American citizens over the age of 50 has nearly doubled since 1990. 

When the end of a marriage seems imminent, it is tempting for one spouse to simply pull the trigger and file for divorce. However, it can be more prudent to wait a little bit to ensure all affairs are in order. Taking plenty of time to plan the divorce out can help greatly going forward. 

Best interests of the child: What does it mean?

If you are going through a child custody matter in Florida, it’s likely you’ve heard the term “best interests of the child” many times. In Florida, the courts will determine or approve a parenting time plan that is in the best interests of the child or children involved. But isn’t “best interests” a bit subjective?

As a mother, you probably have your own idea of what is in the best interests of your own child or children – and rightfully so. However, it’s possible that your ex disagrees. So, what happens then?

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