Successful Divorce Strategies For Stay At Home Moms

Successful Divorce Strategies For Stay At Home Moms


Lori: We are recording today’s Successful Divorce Strategies for Stay-at-Home Moms session. Thank you all for signing up for this. I know that we are in tough times. As we’re doing this, many of us are locked into our homes, and there’s a lot of uncertainty, which makes the situation worse if you are going through a divorce or thinking about divorce. So we want to be sensitive to that. And by the way, when I say we, I have Andres Montes De Oca. My apologies for mispronouncing that, Andres. He will speak to you about the financial picture of this, which I know is real. It’s always essential, but now even more so.

So I’m going to get started. I also have some questions you shared with me, and I can’t go into the details, but you’ve given me some broad-based things that will apply to many people here. So I’m going to do that. We won’t take live questions during this presentation because this is being recorded, and the recording will be shared. But if you’re logged on, and there’s something that you want to ask, you can always shoot me an email at, and I will try to get to it during this presentation.

But I will get rolling here because everybody’s time is valuable. So we’ll start with the place where we always start: you. And generally, I tell people that for women, especially stay-at-home moms holding down the fort and taking care of everybody, there’s a tendency to think of everybody but yourself. And what will happen to the kids? Even What will your family think? What’s going to happen to your spouse?

And the thing is, this may feel unnatural, but this is the time that you must think about yourself. You’ve got to put yourself first because you need to do that to be able to help everybody. You will not be able to help your children navigate this process. You will not be able to make the decisions you need to make. So one of the things we’ll discuss is staying resourced and ensuring you are taken care of. And now more than ever, going through these uncertain times, that is extremely important that you do that.

So we’re going to start by talking about the kids because I know that is foremost on the minds of any parents, and you all are stay-at-home moms, so I know those kids are very near and dear to you. So many people are concerned about what will happen to kids when they divorce. And that is a legitimate concern because this will change their lives. But people often think that getting divorced is the worst thing for kids. And before I go further, let me emphasize that I’m not telling you to divorce or not to divorce, but I want to make sure you understand that the conflict is worse for the kids.

I’ve done much work in divorce as a guardian ad litem and talked to kids one-on-one. I’ve also had a lot of training on this, and there are some resources I’m going to tell you about. And what’s most important to kids is that normalcy is maintained as much as possible. And by normalcy, I mean their relationships. A lot of times, kids may lose touch with a parent. That is challenging. It’s excruciating. And when their routines get upset, especially the older kids, that bothers them quite a bit.

But it’s also the conflict that is quite a problem for kids. And I’m moving on to Slide number 3, in case you’re following along with me here. There was a long-term study done of kids post-divorce and adult children who went through a divorce. And the findings were different from what everybody believed. Many thought they would need better relationships and be doing terribly. But instead, many of those kids were doing very well because the conflict was removed.

So, again, this is not a should you divorce, should you not divorce. Those are certain decisions that you have to make. But I want you to be very aware when you think about your children that the amount of conflict will be essential for them. And this is a very challenging time for those of you who are. When you’re at home, if you’re at home with your spouse, who now might be home more, there might be many more opportunities for conflict. And I urge you to be aware of that. And, again, this goes back to staying resourced and taking care of yourself because the less conflict your kid experience, the better off they’ll be, especially now when everybody is concerned about what’s going on.

Moving on from the kids, our other most significant aspect of this picture is financial planning and divorce. And Andres is going to go into more of that than I will. One of the things that we emphasize so much is understanding the financial picture and creating a plan. I can’t emphasize enough how important planning and strategy are here because we all know the people who had a terrible divorce. Maybe it was a friend; maybe it was your parents. It’s undoubtedly somebody; they’re out there. No one ever wants to be in that situation. You probably signed up for this because you don’t want that to happen, or you don’t want a bad result, or you don’t want a nightmare divorce that your kids get dragged through. You don’t want any of those things to happen.

The most crucial step that you can take to avoid that is understanding your finances. Because one of the biggest mistakes people make when they get divorced is that they fight over money they don’t have. And that sounds ridiculous, but you know somebody who’s done it. Because they didn’t understand the numbers, they were afraid of it and wanted to believe that there was more out there. And they spent a lot of resources fighting over something and getting nothing back.

So part of the financial picture is alimony. And as a stay-at-home parent, I know this is a big part of it. Florida has alimony laws. They could be more fixed. We don’t have guidelines here in Florida. It goes by what’s called need and ability to pay. And I will pause because somebody sent in some great questions I wanted to address. After all, many of you, as stay-at-home parents, have spent many years at home. You did not have those income-earning years. You may have put off a career or have yet to start one.

The compensation for that is the number of years of alimony. No formula totals this is what you would’ve earned; this is what you should be paid. It doesn’t work that way. But the time you’ve spent at home is undoubtedly a factor in alimony. There’s an awful lot to alimony. Many variables to it are more than we can get into now. But right now, I want to make you aware of that, especially if you’ve been a stay-at-home parent for a significant amount of time; it is undoubtedly part of the equation that you would receive alimony for some time or indefinitely.

Going back to strategy because, again, what this comes down to, and I know that may sound like a strange word. Still, to me, strategy means you need to know what you’re trying to do, what you’re trying to accomplish, and how you will get there. And one of the things you’ll hear me say a lot is to avoid hiring aggressive lawyers. It’s a very tempting thing. People get terrified. Sometimes your spouse will say, “Well, I will hire the toughest lawyer. I’m going to destroy you. I’m going to do all these bad things.” Because people say a lot of stuff when they’re emotional, certain people have emotional or mental health issues that respond that way to these situations. So even if your spouse is telling you, “I’m hiring this solid, aggressive pit bull-type lawyer,” it is not in your best interest to do that as well.

I strongly encourage you to find somebody, first of all, that you can speak to. I’ve talked to seminar participants who have told me, “I’m afraid to speak to my lawyer.” And to me, that’s very troubling. How do you get through this process working with somebody you can’t even converse with? And the other thing that concerns me is many people tell me, “I don’t even know what’s happening. All this money is being spent. There’s all this back and forth. I don’t know what it is, what we’re even trying to accomplish.” You should not be in that situation. At the end of a meeting with an attorney, you should know where you intend to go and how to get there. That strategy might change, but you should at least have that roadmap, and you definitely should have that roadmap during the process.

I’m going to move on to my Johnny Depp slide. And again, certainly not making light of anything or anybody’s issues, but I often hear this one. “I have the craziest spouse. I have the most difficulty.” One of the questions that came to me was about mental health issues and how to address them. So, again, the first thing I would start with is an aggressive strategy is the absolute worst thing to deal with an aggressive spouse, one that you believe is crazy or one that you believe has mental health issues because that will only make them more aggressive. It’s only going to make the process worse for you.

And some of you might be wondering whether you only have two choices. I see this a lot, and if you saw the Netflix show, “Marriage Story,” which I’m not sure I’d recommend, but if you did it, it seems like there are two choices here. Either you find the aggressive lawyer who is all in, or you find the person who’s so lovely but can’t get it done. I can tell you; I’ve done this for over 20 years, and there is a middle ground. There’s the person who can stand up for you, who is strategic, who can think this through, who isn’t afraid to fight for you but is going to do it in an intelligent way that benefits you.

Now, my slides are freezing on me. Okay, there we go. All right, staying resourced, we’ve talked about this. It all comes back to you, especially now more than ever. If you are going through this process or even think you’re going through this process, the first thing you want to do is know where your resources are. When I meet with people before I meet with people, I do a very detailed intake. And some of the questions I will ask are what are your sources for support? Who do you draw on? Whether they’re community sources, whether they’re certain people, and what that looks like for you.

Now, for some people, especially if you’ve been very involved in raising children at home, and sometimes your family is far away, some people look at that and say, “I don’t have those resources.” If that is you, don’t feel wrong about that. You’re certainly not alone in that. There are a lot of people who are in that situation. And I would tell you, and encourage you, that those resources are out there. One of the things we do is we look for those community resources for you, and we help you find those resources so that you have something to help you get through this and have some form of support system.

And the other thing I will discuss is an activity that I call your pause. Your pause, to me, is the activity that allows you to stop the process, to stop the anxiety, to stop to basically. Not necessarily checkout, but get a break from things, for some people. I’m very involved in sports and fitness, so that might be a long hike or a run. Other people like, do knitting and they do crossword puzzles. Some people will go and clean the house. It’s whatever suspends that mental activity and allows you a place of peace. And we draw out these things before we begin the process so that you have them and know where to go. Because we know this will be difficult for you, and the key is to find something helpful.

Now, again, to reiterate the point I made about aggressive lawyers versus friendly lawyers. And, again, I know a lot of people get into this process; they get scared, their spouse does something they shouldn’t have done or something scary or makes a threat, and people say, “I need to go out and hire that aggressive lawyer.” But, again, there’s a middle ground. There are people out there who can work with you, who can work with your emotions and help you find support during this time but can also be effective in this process.

I’m sorry, my slides are freezing up on me. There we go. Okay. So now that we’ve started with you and have a baseline of resources and support, we look at your life plan next. And that’s something that finances will come into play, and Andres will also talk about. But one of the things that help me get through this process is remembering that something is coming. There is something after this process. People get so consumed by divorce that they think nothing else exists. But the reality is your life will go on. And what we want you to look at is what you are going to do next. What are your financial goals? What are your career goals? Which you may or may not have, depending on where you are.

And as stay-at-home moms, you may have put that career on hold, but there might be something that you want to do. And this would be the opportunity to do it. So we work with you to create that life plan; excuse me so that you have a focus on what comes after this process. To sum up, we’ve discussed never hiring an aggressive lawyer, especially if you have a difficult spouse. Make sure whoever you work with has a strategy; you know where this is going. And also, plan for your life so you know where you’re going after this process.

Let’s talk. We’ve got some general slides here. I will breeze through them because I know you all have this packet. Much of this concern is general legal information for those who want the background or might be doing it alone. You can read about residency requirements. Again, this is a list of the forms you want to fill out if you are doing this process alone, the required parenting class, and some processes for people who can get through this independently. Sometimes people file jointly and can navigate the process; there’s some reading on that. We have some family court resources that are also helpful and useful.

Here is some information on the name change, something to think about. Many times, especially if you have small children, people sometimes don’t wanna change their name because they don’t want the kids to feel like they’re being divorced from their parents. However, that choice is solely up to you. The Status quo is an important one, especially right now.

Depending on what county you’re in, Dade, Broward, and Monroe will have what is called status quo orders, which means that if and when you file for divorce, there is an order that nobody can change anything. You can’t cancel the insurance; you can’t cash out accounts; you can’t move the kids out of state, and things like that. So it’s something to be aware of. And you’re going through this process. So, in that case, you’d certainly want to discuss it with the lawyer if you’re working with a lawyer; if not, you’ll want a lawyer to look at that order so that you understand it.

Here are a couple of things about resources and getting through the process. We certainly talked a lot about those emotional and support resources. But on the financial side, one thing to keep in mind is sometimes it’s good, as we’re doing right now as a society, to prepare for the worst, and hope for the best. People are often concerned that financial resources may be cut off or lessened. Your spouse may be the one who manages the finances. The courts will provide temporary support during a divorce. The dockets are very crowded. They were undoubtedly very crowded before the current situation and the restrictions; they’re only going to be more so.

One thing to consider is some emergency funds, either your own or borrowing from friends or family. So there could be a source for a loan, things like that. I’m not going to get into too much detail about that. But, again, it’s something that I want to point out that if you’re going to go through the process, it’s something that you want to discuss, maybe discuss with a lawyer that you’re working with or discuss with your family and friends so that you have that. And also, that will come into play with knowing your budget, which we’ve talked about, and we’ll address a little bit more as we go forward.

Just a couple of different resources for you. Again, there are forms on the clerk’s website for people doing this independently. There are addition to hiring a lawyer to represent you throughout the entire process, there’s something called modern law representation or unbundled legal services, which means you can have somebody help you with certain aspects. For example, you’ve drafted papers on your own, and you want somebody to review them. Maybe your spouse gave you an agreement, and you want that reviewed.

And a quick note on that, I always tell people who want to do this on their own that if you only spent two hours with a lawyer in this process. I don’t recommend that; that may not be enough. But, still, if that’s all you could do or would do, you want to speak to somebody at the beginning to clearly understand your rights and what the picture should look like. You want to speak to somebody before you sign an agreement.

Often, primarily when representing stay-at-home moms, people will come in and say, “My spouse gave me this agreement.” And I’ll look at it and say, “Well, do we know anything about the finances here?” And the answer is, “No, but he said it’s fair,” or something like that. And you know what, it might be. You may have a decent, fair spouse making a fair agreement, as the law says, or somebody interpreting the word fair. But I would be very wary about signing agreements when you need help understanding their background. So definitely, talk to a lawyer about that beforehand.

And these are just some links and reading that you all can do. But, again, you have these slides and this presentation, so I’ll leave that for you. And again, I have this tendency to repeat things when they’re essential. And to me, I’m going to go back to this aggressive, aggressive divorce attorney, once again, because I hear it so much. I see it online. I see people telling me, “This is what I need. This is what I better do.” And again, I leave you with more food for thought on that topic because the court system is adversarial. A lot of people have described it as broken. I agree with that. There are better places for families. And the reason is its adversarial nature because it puts one person against the other.

Now, there are certain situations, especially you might have some mental health issues, which somebody wrote about, or you might have a tough person who is not going to resolve this in any way, shape, or form, fair or proper. So you may have to go to court, but you want to keep this. You want to lessen the adversarial nature of this as much as possible. And hiring aggressive attorneys will not do that. It will not be suitable for your mental health. It will not be good for your kids’ long-term outcome. And frankly, more often than not, it doesn’t get you a better result.

More often than not, when I speak to people who have hired somebody who is aggressive, they aren’t happy about it. Granted, many of those are changing lawyers who have decided it hasn’t worked. But I’ve talked to many people after the process who said this did not work well for them. So to quote Mr. Wonderful, I don’t know if there are any “Shark Tank” fans out there; stop the madness on that one. I know it’s an easy trap to fall into. But that’s why this is a lucrative business. Keep in mind it’s a multi-billion dollar industry. And think about whether you want to add to that or whether you want to put your funds towards your kids’ college or retirement.

So, to capitalize on that a little bit, most cases settle. And this is something people need to be made aware of. Often, people don’t know the process and think, “We have to go to court.” Ninety-plus percent and 95-plus percent of cases will settle without going to court or in front of a judge. This means that most issues, no matter how difficult they feel to you, no matter how difficult you think your situation is, chances are it can be resolved. So why do people go to court? Generally, people go to court because their lawyers say, “We have to go to court.” And sadly, sometimes, again, that may be true. But first of all, you only know that once you’ve exhausted all possibilities of trying to resolve this. Even the court, even a judge, will see you once you’ve tried to work it out.

So if somebody’s telling you, the court is your only remedy. I would get a second opinion on that. I’ll leave it at that. But why do lawyers tell you to go to court? Well, there are two reasons. One is that you have somebody who needs to gain experience and learn how to negotiate or get a fair settlement for you. And two, again, this is a very lucrative field for some people who use it that way. You have somebody who wants money from the litigation. And if you speak to those you know who went through a nasty divorce, many people will tell you,” I feel like they just took my money.” Don’t be that person. Don’t be that statistic. We’re here today to see that that doesn’t happen to you. And I know you’re here taking your time out, especially during this challenging time, to ensure that that doesn’t happen too.

Okay. So to talk briefly about what we do, I will answer some of these questions here. Sustainable Family Solutions is the company that I created after nearly 20 years in this field. I’m in my 21st year as an attorney, mainly as a divorce lawyer. And during that time, I’ve done everything on the spectrum here. I’ve done it collaboratively; I am collaboratively trained. And I’ve done mediation. I was a certified mediator for several years. I’ve worked with children as a guardian ad litem. I’ve done a lot of litigation and looked at what worked and what didn’t. I’ve done a lot of research. I’ve talked to clients, judges, and everybody I could, to find the best formula for this. So what is the best thing we can do?

And what we do is plan, strategize, and prepare. We have an extensive and very in-depth consultation. And we do a lot of preparation before. We gather as much information as possible personally and financially so that we can give you the best strategy possible, both a legal strategy and a financial strategy. We help you create a resource plan to get through this process. We know how to resolve things. We know how to go to court. I’ve litigated plenty, but again, 90-plus percent of the cases will settle. So wouldn’t you want the person who can negotiate more for you? So that’s what we do.

We know how to negotiate. We also know how to neutralize the tactics of aggressive lawyers. We’re very solution-focused. We will come up with plans for you. And client satisfaction is paramount. I will share it with you; I have more cases than I need. I turn away quite a bit of work now, and I’m not doing this to see how many cases I can get. I’m doing this because I believe in this model. I believe in what I’m telling you. This is a better way for you and your family.

And with that in mind, again, one of these days, I will change this slide because I cannot give you a pain-free divorce, but I can make it less painful. I can make it less financially devastating for you. What we offer that is unique is a very comprehensive consultation. It includes an audit of your financial and other circumstances. It talks about when to file, which right now will be a very, very big issue in the future with possible job losses and income losses. So again, I’ll let Andres talk more about the finances. Still, many asset values are down if you’re invested in the market, such as alimony and child support concerns, so when filing is undoubtedly a significant issue.

Typically, we offer that package from. We offer that consultation, 90 minutes of meeting time with me, plus substantial preparation time beforehand. And that’s me, personally. I’m the only one who does these. Typically, we offer that for 495. I am offering a special for the participants here, some of whom I know can’t log on. I see some emails coming in. Are you all trying to log on and having a problem with that? So we are going to take care of you. For anybody who has signed up for this, we discount that rate to 450.

And, again, the other thing I do with that, I offer something that nobody I know of does. I will give you a money-back guarantee for that. If you do not feel that that service was valuable to you, if you do not feel that I have helped you or provided anything, I will refund your money. Because, again, I stand by what I do. I believe in helping people or, at the very least, trying to help people. And so I will stand by that and offer a guarantee.

And before I turn this over, I will see what I can do about these questions. I’ve got a few questions. We’ve discussed the years at home as a stay-at-home mom and the income loss. Another critical question, just someone who wrote here and probably for a few others here, is wanting to stay home with your children, especially until they get into school and are not at home full-time. You may have preschool-aged kids, or you may have elementary school-aged kids. So again, the excellent question depends on the facts and circumstances of your particular case.

And so, again, those are things you want to flesh out with a lawyer that you feel comfortable with because part of that will be the financial equation and just some things to consider. Is there enough income to stay home and not work during that time? What about where you’re living, the house situation, the equity in the house, and the ability to keep it? Would you need to move? So a bunch of facts and circumstances with that.

And I will answer just one more question before I turn this over. And this has to do with mental health issues and 50/50 parenting time, which, again, we are trending more and more towards parents having equal time with their kids if they can have that time and participate. Mental health issues may affect that depending on the severity of them, depending on what they are. Again, varying facts and circumstances. I would discuss it in detail with a lawyer you trust.

And also, how you present those things are essential because, again, if you have a spouse who you believe has some mental health challenges. You file something with the court that is then served on them that says, “You have all these problems. You cannot care for the children,” how is that person going to react? How are they going to react around the children? So how you deal with that is going to be very important.

And so I’m going to turn it over right now. Andres has been on here very patiently, listening. He is not only a financial advisor but a wonderful person who is an excellent resource for people going through this. This cause is near and dear to his heart, so much so that he’s working from home with his beautiful family. However, he still showed up today to talk to you and tell you some things about the financial picture. So please reach out to him with questions. He’s a precious resource for you during this process. Let me see if I can get this off my screen. And Andres, I’m going to let you take over.

Andres: Thank you, Lori and all that are here present. Thank you again for your kind words, insight, and opportunity to present. So let me go ahead and jump here and bring my screen over. Okay. Now, Lori, can you see the screen there?

Lori: I don’t see it. Oh, I see, like, a line on it.

Andres: Let’s try again.

Lori: There you go. You got it.

Andres: Right. Okay. So, again, my name is Andres Montes De Oca. Lori did a phenomenal job pronouncing that last name. I certainly got a lot of heat for that when I was little. But, again, Merrill Lynch Wealth Management is the firm I am with. And I will keep this as short and general as possible. As Lori had mentioned, there are a lot of facts and circumstances to everybody’s case, and everybody’s going to have a different scenario, but certainly, something to be addressed.

So very important to me, as Lori had mentioned. I’ve had personal experience with this. When my parents divorced, I was a young child, so I understand the severity and impact at home and with finances. And just recently, I just saw my brother go through it, and obviously, it’s not fun. So my goal is to provide my clients with a solid relationship that helps them better understand the strategies available to them and take the path in the future in how we can resolve the issues. It’s never easy, but certainly, it’s a lot easier when you’ve got a team of individuals striving to better families daily. So I see that in Lori and certainly in myself.

And to piggyback what Lori has said, this is building a team around yourself, not just on the financial side, but obviously with counsel. And really, we encourage you to arm yourself with professionals, such as Lori and myself, and a CPA, and attack the situation with the best guidance possible. So there’s a tremendous amount of valuable information that individuals don’t even know they have available. And it’s just building a team around you. So Merrill becomes just another resource for you and your family.

So no matter how complex your financial picture is, we address everything involving money and investments. So we’re not just an investment brokerage arm for Bank of America. We certainly address insurance needs, trust and estate strategies, retirement planning, and college savings for kids. But we also go as far as lending for new and existing properties. So a good example is you have a property owned between you and your ex-spouse, which needs to be refinanced and kept under your name. So we certainly address that and can assist you with that.

Our promise to our clients is our promise to you. And this is a relationship. Once your divorce is finalized, we certainly do not go away. We’re certainly here to listen to you. We don’t do a lot of the speaking. We want to hear about your circumstances and get to know you, your family, and the goals aligned with that. So my favorite line on this is proactively offering you unbiased advice. So credential-wise and license-wise, I am a stock broker, to the definition. But my incentive and desire to be in this business are to give you the most unbiased advice, only and ultimately to benefit you and your circumstances.

And with that, we answer all your questions and are here during good times and bad times. Right now, if any of you follow the market, you’re certainly seeing a lot of ebbs and flows and a lot of emotion behind this COVID-19. And that’s what we’re here for. We’re here to hold your hand and get you through these challenging dark moments.

So after the divorce, we indeed begin to work with the resources that you currently have and execute those goals. So what does that mean? This includes monthly cash flows, and that’s important, and that’s something that I’m certainly going to chat about. But, still, we address the necessities that must be taken care of immediately, right? So if you need to find another home or a place to live. If funding for your child’s education is super necessary, and that has to be the number one on your priority, we address that as well. And, of course, how much do you need to retire for those that may have or never had kids and are approaching retirement?

And, of course, I’ve got ta put an investment slide in this. Many folks are scared, especially now, but this gives you a picture of if you had $1 invested in 1970 and what that dollar would look like today. Well, not today, in 2018. If you just kept it in cash, with inflation, you’d be looking at about $6.68. Now, the inverse, you have U.S. stocks. That’s the top line. You’d have about $117 if it would’ve been appropriately invested in U.S. stocks. The difference there is substantial.

So the goal here is to ensure that you keep the money you have and that it gives you enough to go through your daily expenses, monthly expenses, yearly expenses, and everything that falls in between. And also, this shows you what your after-tax returns would be. So your strategy would be obvious to enter into a diversified portfolio, so you’re not 100% exposed to stocks or 100% exposure to bonds. They all carry their risks but blended; you would get a much higher return if you invested in a diversified portfolio instead of just keeping it in cash.

Now, cash flow planning is something that we certainly must recognize. And, being a part of your team, right, we’re going to sit down and analyze your budget, and we’re going to get a plan in place. This is going to address the income that you have, whether you’re working or not. But, still, it’s undoubtedly going to address the alimony received, any dividends or interest because of the portfolio you will be taking part in. But in addition, you may have a side business that you’re starting, and that will also have some income.

And then, of course, we must address the outflows, annual taxes, mortgages, simple living expenses, light, food, water, and family support. You may have an elderly individual, a family member you care for—and charitable giving. That seems necessary to many families, and we certainly address that and find a way to continue.

We certainly live in a world where we leverage technology, and you should also be. And what we do is create a report with proprietary algorithms that simulate different scenarios in the future and how that can impact your finances. And ultimately, this tool will help you keep track of your daily, monthly, and yearly goals. So it’ll give you the worst-case scenario, best-case scenario, and a high probability of achieving those goals, which is in the middle. And it’ll tell you throughout your life expectancy. So starting today until the day you expire, and if you want to leave something for the kids or grandkids, leave it to charity. But, we also consider that surprises do come up. There may be a health crisis or another financial crisis; who knows? We want to ensure we can address every scenario in the future.

And now that you’ve finished this chapter in your life, it does not mean you will go about it alone. And to piggyback, again, off of what Lori has said, you’ve got support. With your friends and family, you certainly have us here at Merrill Lynch to walk you through every financial life stage.

Lastly, this is the opportunity to get this negative and turn it into a positive. You’re going to start taking control of your financial life. You will address the issues that are going on today, and we will find solutions for them. And it’s just, we’re going to rip this Band-Aid, we’re going to get through it together, and we’re going to make this negative turn into a positive for you and your family. And with that said, Lori, I will return it to you. You’ve got a ton of questions lined up from those that are listening in, and that is probably going to chime in later. But I also want to make myself available if anybody has questions.

Lori: Okay. And Andres, that was a fantastic, fantastic presentation. Folks, I am receiving your emails. I know some of you are trying to log on and are having difficulties. I apologize profusely for that. This is the first time we are doing this. That’s not an excuse. I want you to know we’re working out the kinks. I am recording this, and I’m going to make sure you all have the recording and I’m going to make sure that you have the opportunity to ask the questions that you need to ask.

I have one more that came in that I’m going to. I’ll field the best I can. This had to do with post-judgment and enforcement of orders. Somebody was very concerned about that. Always a difficult question, a very timely one. Let me give you some general background on how that works. There are different levels of enforcement. When somebody’s paying support, that’s a much higher level of enforcement. Support is generally child support or spousal support in the form of alimony. And there are potent enforcement remedies that only exist in enforcing something that is a judgment or property. Sometimes part of the settlement is that you’ll receive payment for your share of something, or there’s supposed to be a debt payment. The enforcement of that kind of thing is less in terms of the severity of it.

How can you enforce those things? The first question, and the person who asked this, asked an excellent question, is it worth it to go forward? That is the question you should ask yourself. And indeed, if you’re hiring an attorney and trying to collect on child support, alimony, or a judgment, one of the questions you want to ask that person is, can I do that? They probably can’t answer that the first time you meet them because you need to know whether your spouse has the ability. I’m sorry, your ex-spouse or the person you agreed with, do they have the ability to pay for this? Are they working? Do they have funds? What’s going on?

I mean, I suspect we’ll see a lot of child support and spousal support modifications coming up if there are layoffs. And I’m not here to alarm you.
As Andres said, we’re in this together. We’re going to get through it. But it’s something to think about. If your ex lost their job and said, “I can’t pay right now,” I can’t tell you that your modification will be 100% successful. Then again, if they pay you to zero, their strategy is unsuccessful. So these are things you need to discuss with somebody.

So I can’t give you a specific answer, but I would tell you that you want to understand that situation. You want to know whether they can collect. And suppose you are hiring a lawyer to do that. In that case, you want to ensure that that law clearly explains how it will determine whether that can happen. So you don’t simply want to go forward, spend much money, and not recover. Although there is one more thing that I will touch on, there are services for people with judgments for support. Some people work on that, and they can do that. So I can direct you to that if that’s something you want. And also, the state of Florida will help collect unpaid child or spousal support.

That’s all I have in terms of questions. Again, thank you all for your incredible patience. I know we didn’t get everybody on here. There is another presentation coming up this evening at 6 p.m. It is different. It is geared more towards women in the workforce, women breadwinners. But if anybody wants to get on that presentation, I’ll undoubtedly get you the link to do that, and I will try to get into the questions I can. So, again, thank you for everything. Andres, excellent presentation. Thank you for being here. And with that, we’re going to sign off.

Andres: All right. Take care, everyone.

Lori: Okay. Take care. Thank you for being here.

I may need a divorce.
Hi, I’m Lori Barkus, a family law attorney. My Colorado and Florida-based law firm helps women have a successful divorce by achieving the fairest resolution in the most efficient manner possible. And today, I’d like to talk to you about the what-ifs of divorce. Let’s say you’re thinking about divorce, or maybe your spouse has shared some shocking and devastating news about a betrayal or told you that they’re thinking about divorce, and you’re completely caught off guard by this. You’re still determining what you want at this point. You might still be thinking, maybe I can still save my marriage, or it might be unavoidable and the process is moving forward. Your friends and family are telling you that you should go forward. They’re telling you, you should talk to an attorney. You have so much going on. You know you need help but you’re trying to figure out where to go.

We can help with this situation, because it’s something that my firm and I have faced many times over the years. In fact, we’ve seen cases like this so often that we’ve created an offering specifically for you. We do what’s called a strategy session, and the purpose of this session is to answer all of those what-ifs? We’re here to help you, not just tell you that you should go forward with divorce. We want you to understand what would happen if this goes forward. We want you to know what the process looks like. We want to answer your question about mediation. What is it? Is it right for you? What can you expect in terms of custody of your kids? Would you get alimony? Would you pay alimony? How does child support work? What if you want to keep your house? Maybe you’re concerned that your partner is hiding money.

We can answer all of these questions and more. We can also provide resources to help you understand your financial picture and help support you in making the decision. That’s what we’re here to do. We want you to determine if the marriage can be saved and if divorce is the right step for you, and if it is, we want to make your divorce a successful one. If you have any questions, please get in touch.
Divorce FAQs

A divorce mediator is a neutral party who does not represent either person in a divorce. They can help you and your spouse reach an agreement on all divorce-related issues such as child support, parenting plans, dividing property and spousal support. Divorce mediation usually works best when both parties generally agree on how they want to resolve the various issues and are on amicable terms. At Barkus law, we provide a service that includes both mediation time to discuss and work out the details of your divorce as well as the preparation of all divorce-related documents you will need to file with the court. Although she is a family law attorney, in her role as a mediator, Lori Barkus cannot file paperwork on your behalf, nor can she provide you with legal advice. However, she can prepare all of the documents for you and give you detailed step-by-step instructions about how to file your paperwork. Should you have legal questions or require that paperwork filed on your behalf, you should speak with a qualified attorney about your rights and obligations before and even during the mediation process. Mediation is a low-cost and less stressful way to “untie the knot.” Sustainable Family Solutions offers a flat fee for the mediation process and an additional fee for preparing the documents you need to file with the court. Please call us for details.

In a collaborative divorce, both parties are represented by separate attorneys. The parties and their lawyers sign an agreement not to go to court and instead work together to create an agreement that is best for the parties and their children. The parties can end the process if it does not work, but, if they go to court to have a judge decide, they will each need to hire another lawyer. This keeps the lawyers and parties invested in reaching an agreement. Collaborative divorce can cost far less than a traditional or litigated divorce and can help preserve the family and keep children out of the process. If you are interested in a consultation or have questions, do not hesitate to contact Sustainable Family Solutions. Simply click here and send us a message and we’ll get right back to you.

In order to obtain a divorce, one party needs to state that he or she has lived in Florida for six months and that the marriage is irretrievably broken.
A divorce can be granted over one party’s objection. As long as one party meets residency requirements and states that the marriage is irretrievably broken, there is no way to object to or to stop the divorce process from moving forward.

While you are not required to have a lawyer represent you, not having a lawyer can put you at a disadvantage. It is very important that you understand your rights and obligations before you reach any settlement or go to court. You may decide to seek legal advice or representation if you have questions about your rights in the divorce process.

While alimony can be modified, requesting a modification doesn’t mean you’ll get one. It’s not a matter of simply going before a judge and telling them that you no longer can pay what you have been paying your ex-spouse. These cases must be prepared carefully and those seeking a modification must be able to state a legal basis for the change. Under Florida statute 61.13, the trial court judge has the discretion as to whether alimony will be modified. It provides that when “the circumstances or the financial ability of either party changes” either party may apply for an order decreasing or increasing the amount of alimony and the court has jurisdiction to make orders as equity requires, with “due regard to the changed circumstances of the financial ability of the parties.” The party seeking the modification carries the burden to justify the reduction by having to prove a substantial change in circumstances since the original alimony order and that the change in circumstances was not contemplated at the time of the final order of dissolution. The change also has to be “sufficient, material, involuntary and permanent in nature.” In other words, the party seeking a reduction can’t quit a job that paid them $100,000 a year and accept a job that pays significantly less. When it comes to being permanent in nature, this depends on the facts and circumstances of a particular case. Should the spouse paying alimony choose to retire, the court can take that into consideration. However, that doesn’t mean there will be an automatic reduction or termination of alimony. The court has to consider the age of the payor, his or her health, and the reason for their decision to retire as well as the financial circumstances of the recipient. There are many scenarios that can be contemplated when seeking modification of alimony. Modifications require the consultation and assistance of an attorney who understands the process, the risks and the likelihood of success. If you are interested in a consultation or have questions do not hesitate to contact Sustainable Family Solutions. Simply click here and send us a message and we will get right back to you.

The goal of shared parenting is for parents to collaborate and to remain actively involved in their child’s life, not just on weekends or holidays. In most cases, parents share parental responsibility and make decisions together regarding education, health, and other important matters. Timesharing refers to the time each parent is allowed to spend with the child or children. In more and more cases, parents have equal or nearly equal timesharing with the children. Historically, most children whose parents divorce have spent a majority of their time living with one parent — usually the mother — with the other parent getting visitation rights. However, there has been a big push in recent years to balance the amount of time children spend with both parents, giving parents the opportunity to be actively involved in the raising of their children. In most states, including Florida, judges make custody decisions based on a”best interest of the child” standard. However, judges need not explain the reason(s) for their decisions. Several states have gone so far as to pass shared parenting legislation. In 2013, Florida lawmakers approved an alimony reform law that included a provision for shared parenting. However, Gov. Rick Scott vetoed the bill. Equal timesharing isn’t for everyone and works best for those who are ready, willing and able to take on responsibilities for their child. If you are interested in a consultation or have questions do not hesitate to contact Sustainable Family Solutions. Simply click here and send us a message and we will get right back to you.

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