Introducing our KK Q&A series. Over the coming months, look out for monthly Q&A posts with Kluger Kaplan associates, digging in about some of the most interesting parts of their practices. Something special you’re dying to ask an associate or learn more about? Send us a message and we’d be happy to include it.
The world is certainly different than it was 50 years ago. No longer is it the norm to get married, buy a house, have a family – in that order. In many places, gone are the days of nuclear family, picket fence suburbia, and instead, trading in for later in life marriages, children out of wedlock, and pre-marital cohabitation. In fact, Miami is among the highest numbers of non-married co-borrowers of new mortgages this year.
But has the law changed to accommodate the new norm? Not really. We asked Lindsay Haber, KKSKL associate and family and divorce law expert, about the effect societal changes have on the practice of law.
- What should unmarried couples be aware of when combining their lives?
As couples are slower to rush down the aisle, couples should be considering legalities of purchasing cars and property together, mixing incomes, accumulating debts and much more. When any sort of comingling of finances occurs, there is no real recourse in a family court should an unmarried couple break up. A popular concern for unmarried co-habitating couples is buying a home together. The question of how to own property is something I frequently see unmarried couples struggle with. If a couple is married with no prenup, real property purchased during the marriage is generally considered marital property regardless of how titled. For an unmarried couple, however, there is no such presumption of jointly held ownership when an unmarried couple titles the property in one party’s name only. There is limited recourse for the party not titled, yet who has helped purchase the real property, pay down the mortgage, and put money towards the upkeep of the property.
- From your perspective, has the law had any effect on families?
The world is changing. People are not as quick to get married, which leads to more marriages later in life. More later-life marriages mean more life events happening prior to marriage, like opening your own business, inheriting money, and creating substantial debt (be it school or otherwise), and a more complicated union is born. This, in turn, is just one of the reasons couples should consider entering into a pre-nuptial agreement prior to marriage.
- How has the changing view of gender roles in a marriage effected family law?
When most people think of a family going through a divorce or paternity matter, one of their first thoughts is “how much is the man going to have to pay?” But that’s no longer the case. I have had quite a few cases this year where the wife or mother has been the breadwinner, has had to pay alimony to her now ex-husband, or will be paying her ex-husband or ex-boyfriend child support until their child reaches the age of a majority. I have also had several cases where both parties make nearly the same income and are surprised to learn during their divorce or paternity action that neither party is entitled to alimony or child support from the other.
- In an ever-changing world, can you suggest some tips for someone in the first stages of a divorce or a paternity matter?
Many get the wrong advice from friends and family—who all probably have the best intentions for that person—but ultimately, this can do more harm than good. There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all divorce advice. No two families are the same, so no two divorces and no two paternity actions will be the same. While a friend or family member may recommend that you should move out, empty a bank account, or immediately file for divorce, the best first step is to contact an attorney for a consultation to see if that is in fact the right step for you to take. Attorney/prospective client privilege applies in consultations so you can feel comfortable that what is said during that time will remain private.
Lindsay Haber is an associate in the firm’s Family Law Group, focusing her practice on family law disputes, including divorces, child custody issues, domestic violence and preparations of prenuptial agreements and paternity disputes. Beyond her national practice, Ms. Haber has handled international domestic relations issues, including international kidnapping.