"How do I know mediation is the right course for me?"

Mediation is appropriate in divorce cases because the parties have a direct say in how their marital assets will be distributed and how their support is derived.  It puts a lot of decision making in the hands of the parties and not in the hands of an impartial judge. In Florida, the normal process for the Court is to order mediation prior to any final hearing. There are three main benefits to mediation for you for consider.   One, there’s the emotional savings because of the stress of litigation; two, there’s practical savings because you, the participants, have the final say in this part of the process. You, the parties, have to agree to the settlement.  The last benefit is financial: there are substantial savings over litigation when you mediate your divorce case.


"When will my child-support payments end?"

In Florida, child support generally stops at the age of majority, which is 18 years old. However, if the child is still in high school, payments will continue until the child finishes high school or reaches the age of 19, if he or she has not graduated by that age. If special circumstances are present (i.e. disabled or mentally challenge children), child support payments could continue past the age of eighteen.

"I received a large lump sum settlement from my divorce. How should I invest the money?"

Individuals receiving large sums of money -- regardless if it comes after a divorce, an inheritance, or the sale of assets -- should seek the help of a competent money manager, in order to protect the corpus (principal) and earn the maximum amount of return. Interview a number of money managers from various brokerage houses. Seek the help and guidance of friends and family and recommendations from people you trust.

"My spouse inherited a house three months after we got married. Does it qualify as part of our equitable-distribution settlement?"

Gifts and inheritances are not normally considered marital assets and would not, under normal circumstances, be subject to equitable distribution in the State of Florida. However, in order for an inherited asset to maintain its non-marital status, it must remain in the name of the individual, and no marital labor or monies should be used to support the asset. If the asset is either re-titled in joint name or marital funds are used to maintain it, it could lose part or all of its non-marital status.

"I am worried that my spouse will try to hide assets from me. How can I get my fair share of his business and other assets?"

Florida is an equitable-distribution state. The presumption is that assets and liabilities that have been acquired during the marriage should be split evenly (50-50). Under normal circumstances, that would be true. In some circumstances, if there has been any waste of marital assets or increases in marital debt due to the actions of one spouse, the distribution could be other than an even split.

You would be smart to hire the services of a good investigative forensic accountant to trace all the assets and value them at petition date. The forensic accountant would also do a lifestyle analysis and trace all monies, sale of assets, and the occurrence of liabilities to assure you that all of the assets and liabilities have been accounted for and then can be equitably divided fairly.


"I have been married for 40 years; my career was raising the kids and taking care of my husband. My attorney mentioned that I would be entitled to Social Security benefits via my ex-husband's record. How does this work?"

Your attorney is correct in certain circumstances. Even if your ex-spouse is currently not collecting Social Security, you may qualify for benefits. To qualify, you must meet the following criteria:

a) You had been married for at least 10 years
b) You must be at least 62 years old
c) You must be currently unmarried and ineligible for an equal or higher benefit on your own Social Security record or on someone else's record.

If you continue to work while receiving benefits, the same earnings limits apply to you as would apply to your ex-spouse. The amount of benefits that you receive will have no effect on your ex-spouse's benefits or other benefits they may receive.


These faqs were first published in the Florida Divorce Magazine and are reprinted here with their full permission.

Copyright 2003-2015 
Bruce M. Berger and Company, PA
All Rights Reserved