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Equitable Distribution is the standard by which Florida courts determine a fair and reasonable distribution of assets and debts between the spouses "The court must begin with the premise that the distribution should be equal." Section 61.075(1), F.S.
During mediation with Eric, the spouses will discuss and negotiate a resolution of all financial issues which will be reflected in a divorce settlement agreement. Contrary to the court's process of dividing property, in mediation, each decision will only be reached based upon agreement of both parents.
Eric's settlement agreements are usually around 40-45 pages in length, and provide detailed provisions for the what, how, and when of each issued settled and distributed to the spouses.
In the mediation session, Eric will help the couple to discuss and meaningfully negotiate resolution of issues concerning health insurance, life insurance, and income taxes, and will draft a customized and detailed divorce settlement agreement. Which spouse will stay on the health insurance policy of the other spouse? For how long? Who will be responsible for the premiums and out-of-pocket expenses? With respect to life insurance, the couple will decide if life insurance will be required by either spouse? Who will be named beneficiaries? For how long? With respect to income taxes, decisions will be jointly made about how tax returns will be filed (e.g., jointly, married but separate, or individual)? How will taxes and any refunds be allocated?
Alimony, as you might have already guessed, is one of the most difficult issues discussed and negotiated in mediation. The reason for the difficulty is the complex nature of determining the needs for alimony, and then calculating appropriate amounts and lengths of time. In the hands of a less experienced mediator (unlike Eric who also has over 25 years experience as an attorney), it is common for the spouses to reach an impasse. Section 61.08, F.S. sets forth the law about alimony and list many factors that the court may consider in determining a fair and reasonable amount to award, if any.
There is no clean and neat formula to calculate alimony as there exists for child support. That is one of the main reasons why there is much litigation and expense incurred by spouses fighting over alimony. In Eric's PeacefulSplit® divorce mediation, he works directly with both spouses to come to fair and reasonable decisions concerning alimony. In the end, alimony will be decided by either a judge or by both spouses. The choice who makes that decision is entirely yours.
Married spouses often own many different types of assets, such as their primary house, vacation properties, cars, boats, golf carts, vacation clubs, time-shares, checking & savings accounts, stock and brokerage accounts, and retirement accounts (IRAs, 401k(b)s, pensions, etc.). Every couple is unique. Eric will work with the couple to peacefully and fairly allocate all of their assets in a way that makes sense to them both, and in a manner that is focused on the needs and goals of each spouse.
However it makes financial and practical sense to you both is the result that will be reflected in the settlement agreement. The agreement will also be detailed and specific as to how assets will be sold or transferred.
In addition to common assets (see Topic 03), other assets such as businesses and insurance claim proceeds, are resolved. After assets are distributed, the agreement will also provide for the allocation of all debts (e.g., mortgages, leases, student loans, credit cards, etc.). Just like how assets were distributed, the debts will be allocated and divided-up in whatever way makes sense and is fair to the spouses. The agreement will also include resolution of any other issues important to the couple.
Eric personally drafts a Mediated Marital Settlement Agreement that is detailed, personalized, and customized to the unique needs of the couple. This is not your typical cookie-cutter agreement used by many inexperienced mediators.
Mediation is not an all-or-nothing approach. Meaning, that even if you can agree on how to divide each and every assets and debt, the mediation process can still be successful. Of course, the goal of mediation is to resolve all issues so that the settlement agreement Eric drafts encompasses resolution of every topic and issue. However, once in a while, despite good-faith negotiations, the couple cannot resolve one issue. In that unlikely scenario, the settlement agreement will resolve almost every issue, but the open issue will be left to the judge to decide.
As mentioned above, when the court decides the distribution of assets and debts, the court "must begin with the premise that the distribution should be equal." Section 61.075(1), F.S. However, the power and value of mediation with Eric is that you both will control how each assets, debt, and related issues (such as insurance, taxes, alimony) are divided-up between each spouse. For some couple, they will default to the basic 50-50 split. For many couples, they will arrive at a unique division of each topic in whatever amounts or percentages that makes sense to them. All of these decisions will be reflected in the divorce settlement agreement that Eric personally drafts just for you and your situation.
Generally speaking, every couple that agree to work with Eric can resolve all of their differences so that a settlement agreement can be drafted and submitted to the court. Eric reminds all couples that at the outset of the mediation process, all that they need to agree upon is that they want to be the ones to control their financial future - and not turn that power and control over to the court. If you and your spouse share that mindset, are focused on being fair and reasonable, and want peace more than war, you will reach an agreement that is fair and equitable and meets both of your needs.
As with any issue in divorce, the court maintains the power and authority to modify any agreement. That is because the court must process the divorce and approve all filed documents. However, as a general proposition, it is highly unlikely that the court would be inclined to change or modify provisions of the settlement agreement that was negotiated in good-faith by the parties with a Florida Supreme Court Certified Family Mediator. As a practical matter, you will both control all decisions and issues about your assets, debts, alimony, insurance, taxes, etc.