I am divorced and I pay alimony. Can I stop paying alimony if I file bankruptcy?

Generally, no.  

Spouses must continue to pay alimony even if they file 
bankruptcy. This includes the payment of past due alimony.  
Section 523 is entitled “Exceptions to discharge.”  A person 
cannot discharge (or get rid) of the debts listed in that section. 
Subsection (a)(5) states that a spouse cannot discharge a 
“domestic support obligation.”

The bankruptcy code defines domestic support obligation at 11 U.
S.C. 101(14A), and it includes obligations that are in the nature of 
alimony, maintenance, or support of a spouse or former spouse.

Sometimes, parties will disagree with what is truly “alimony” or a 
domestic support obligation.  

For example, what if the state divorce court makes a spouse pay 
his or her spouses’ attorneys’ fees and costs in the divorce case?

If the bankruptcy court rules the a all or a portion of the alimony 
is not truly a domestic support obligation, then the spouse could 
possibly modify that obligation or get rid of it in the bankruptcy 

Bankruptcy courts look at the substance of the obligation as to 
whether it constitutes alimony, maintenance, or support, largely 
disregarding what the parties or the state court called the 

The question is whether the obligation is “in the nature of 
support.”  A debt is “in the nature of support” if, at the time the 
debt was created, the parties intended the obligation to function 
as support.  The key determination in whether a debt is non-
dischargeable alimony or a domestic support obligation under the 
bankruptcy code is the “intent” of the parties.

Whether a given debt is in the nature of support is an issue of 
federal law. Cummings v. Cummings, 244 F.3d 1263 (11th Cir. 
2001), citing In re Strickland, 90 F.3d 444, 446 (11th Cir. 1996).  

Although federal law controls, state law does “provide guidance in 
determining whether the obligation should be considered ‘support’ 
under § 523(a)(5).” Id.

In short, the bankruptcy code was written so that a person could 
not use “the protection of a bankruptcy filing in order to avoid 
legitimate marital and child support obligations.’” In re Proyect, 
503 B.R. 765, 773 (Bankr. N.D. Ga. 2013)(quoting H.R.Rep. No. 
103-835, at 54 (Oct. 4, 1994), reprinted in 1994 U.S.C.C.A.N. 
3340, 3363).  Instead, a spouse can retain a divorce attorney and 
apply for relief with the state divorce court that originally awarded 
the alimony in order to reduce or modify the spouse’s alimony 
obligations in light of the financial hardship.  

Bankruptcy and divorce issues are often complicated.  

It is important that you retain an attorney if you believe that you 
might have any bankruptcy or family law issues.

With questions about family law, please contact William S. Foley, 
Esquire, with William S. Foley, P.A., at 

With questions about bankruptcy law, please contact Alfred 
Villoch, III, Esquire, with Savage, Combs & Villoch, PLLC, at

Guest Blog Written By Alfred Villoch III
of Savage, Combs & Villoch, PLLC - September 2014
All rights Reserved

What is Baseball’s Paternity List?

Many fans of America’s favorite past time were surprised to hear 
about this when it first surfaced in the news a few months ago – I 
know this author was – but it’s true, Major League baseball has a 
“Paternity List” which allows players to lawfully leave a team when 
their spouse is in the process of delivering birth to a child.

Pursuant to Major League Baseball’s 2011 collective bargaining 
agreement with the Player’s Union, major league baseball players 
are afforded three days of paternity leave. This provision came to 
light when New York Mets second baseman, Daniel Murphy, 
exercised his right to paternity leave in early April 2014 to join his 
wife and new son.

Murphy’s decision to take paternity leave was not greeted 
enthusiastically by many in the sports world. 
Boomer Esiason 
suggested that Murphy’s wife should have had a “c-section” before 
the season so that Murphy would not miss any games.

Not cool Boomer.

Additionally, New York radio host 
Mike Francesa on WFAN was 
equally upset with Murphy and went as far to say that Murphy’s 
wife really didn’t need him to be there in the first few days 
following birth.

The surfacing of Murphy’s case in the media raises some unique 

For example, should professional athletes be given paternity leave 
or is the obligation to their teams and fans too great to justify 
paternity leave?

Furthermore, is it time that the country in general starts a 
comprehensive dialogue on the subject of paternity leave for all 

In the end, this case is yet another example of how the fields of 
family law and policy have become completely intertwined with 
multiple facets of American society.

It’s difficult to say with certainty how the concept of paternity 
leave will evolve but it seems likely that the topic will remain 
within the public discourse.

One thing is for sure, at least for now, paternity leave is here to 
stay in Major League Baseball.

Prenups: I do or I don’t

Why should we get a prenup?
No one should enter into a marriage anticipating
       failure but premarital agreements (aka prenup) protect both
   parties and their families should something go wrong.
       Advantages include:
       •      Avoiding Litigation Costs
       •      Protecting against Fears of Family Members
       •      Protecting Family Assets
       •      Protecting Business Assets
       •      Protection Against Creditors and debt
       •      Estate planning/Predetermined Disposition of Property

Such agreements also open the door to “full disclosure” 
concerning assets and debt.

What is the difference between a prenuptial agreement 
and a premarital agreement?
Nothing significant…A pre-nuptial, or premarital agreement, is 
an agreement between two prospective spouses made before 
marriage and becomes effective when you and your spouse 

In Florida the agreement is referred to as a “premarital 
agreement” which means an agreement between prospective 
spouses made in contemplation of marriage and to be effective 
upon marriage.

Are there specific requirements to make a premarital 
agreement valid?
Yes. Under Florida law, among other requirements, a premarital 
agreement must be in writing and signed by both parties and 
enforceable upon marriage. You can speak with William S. 
Foley, PA for other advice on ensuring that you premarital 
agreement is valid.

How does Florida handle premarital agreements?
Florida Statute §61.079 follows a version of the Uniform 
Premarital Agreement Act (UPAA) which governs premarital 
agreements entered on or after October 1, 2007. The UPAA 
follows Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure.

Can we do it ourselves?
In the eyes of the law, marriage is a contract between two 
people. A premarital agreement is also a contract, and if done 
incorrectly can be invalid or misconstrued to the original intent 
of the parties/couple.
*It is always best to have a professional look over any contract.

Do we both need lawyers?
It is a contract…the drafting attorney is doing what is best for 
his client. It only makes sense to have someone look out for 
your best interest as well.

What makes a premarital agreement unenforceable and 
who decides the enforceability?
An agreement is unenforceable if it was involuntary, the product 
of fraud, duress, coercion, or the agreement was 

Courts occasionally invalidate premarital agreements, these are 
normally ones prepared without the help of attorneys, or ones 
where there was coercion in getting one partner’s signature.

If you have a properly drafted agreement, and there was no 
duress, there is a better chance that it will stand up in court

What should be included in a premarital agreement?
The specific needs of each couple will vary. But the Florida 
statute recognizes the need to contract on property, spousal 
support (you should speak to an attorney regarding the state of 
the Law in Florida on temporary support, as this is a tricky area 
of the law), creation of a will or trust, benefits from life 
insurance, the choice of law governing the construction of the 
agreement, and any matter including personal rights and 
obligations that does not violate public policy of this state or 
law imposing a criminal penalty.

Does it have to be done before we are married?
A premarital agreement must be completed and signed before 
the marriage to be a “pre-marital” agreement. Only premarital 
agreements fall under the UPAA guidelines.

But a “post-marital” agreement (or Postnuptial Agreement) can 
be drafted at anytime during the marriage and can accomplish
the same objectives as a premarital agreement.

Do you also draft Postnuptial Agreements?
Yes! Postnuptial Agreements are agreements entered into 
AFTER the marriage. We prepare those as well and they can be 
very helpful even if the premarital agreement was not entered 
into prior to the marriage.

How long before the marriage should we make a 
premarital agreement?
Depending on the complexity of the issues and the parties’ 
financial status, drafting the agreement should be done several 
months before the wedding but the signing of the agreement ca 
be done anytime before the ceremony.

Are premarital agreements expensive?
No. Compared to the cost of an average wedding or an average 
divorce, a premarital agreement is a bargain. The best way to 
think about it is like buying insurance: it’s a small one-time cost 
for something you never hope to use, but if you ever need it, 
you’ll be glad you have it, and it will save you a lot of money.

Can a premarital agreement be terminated or modified?
Yes, after marriage, a premarital agreement may be amended, 
revoked, or abandoned only by a written agreement signed by 
both the parties.

Call William S. Foley, a Tampa Prenup Lawyer at (813) 272-
2345 so that wcan set up an initial consultation on
your prenuptial agreement.

Is Florida a ‘No Fault Divorce’ State?

The concept of no fault divorce is one that has evolved over time as state legislatures attempted to redefine the legal rules surrounding the dissolution of marriages. Historically, states required parties to a divorce to prove ‘fault’ regarding the demise of the marriage. For example, New York required that a party prove cruel and inhuman treatment, adultery, confinement, or abandonment, in order to successfully dissolve a marriage. The policy reason behind this was that states wanted to protect the institution of marriage and encourage reconciliation amongst the parties.

So, what happened?

The simple answer is that state legislatures came to the realization that divorces often do not involve ‘fault’ in the traditional statutory sense. Instead, couples may often be incompatible, unhappy, and simply feel that their marriage is broken beyond repair. For this reason, states opted to introduce the concept of ‘no fault divorce.’

What is no fault divorce?

No fault divorce essentially means that the parties to a divorce only have to show that the marriage is irretrievably broken or there are irreconcilable differences between the parties.

How do I file for a no fault divorce in Florida?

In Florida, the process for filing for a no fault divorce is simple. First, a legal marriage must exist. Second, one of the parties must have been a permanent resident of the State of Florida for a minimum of 6 months prior to the initiation of divorce proceedings. Third, the parties must properly allege that the marriage is irretrievably broken or that irreconcilable differences exist within the marriage.

But what if fault exists?

Often divorces are precipitated through the fault of one of the parties. For example, adultery is a common catalyst for divorces.

So, what role does adultery or other types of fault play in divorce proceedings?

Surprisingly to most clients, adultery is not considered in the decision to grant a dissolution of marriage. However, adultery or other types of fault may play a critical role in the allocation of marital assets through equitable distribution. For example, if your spouse is engaged in an adulterous relationship, and makes expenditures on that relationship, than you may be entitled to receive a share of what your spouse spent on their adulterous relationship. While, adultery may not play a pivotal role in the decision on whether or not to grant a divorce, it can become a crucial factor in determining proper distribution of marital assets.

In Conclusion, Florida is a ‘No Fault’ State and William S. Foley, PA can help you in your divorce. Please call today at (813) 272-2345 to speak to an attorney about your divorce and family law questions.

 Click here to visit the William S. Foley, PA website for more information

Initial Consultation Questions to ask your Florida Divorce Lawyer

What kinds of questions should you ask an attorney during your divorce initial consultation?

It is important to understand that each attorney is different and therefore each attorney will have their own specific process for each of their consultations. Some attorneys will want you to fill out information prior to the consultation and also to discuss with the attorney specific background information that the attorney will need to know. Therefore, please understand that each attorney’s initial consultation is different and most of your specific questions should be answered during the attorney’s specific questioning that they have done hundreds/thousands of times with other people.

Here are some questions to ask during your divorce initial consultation:

1) Do you an area of practice that you focus on?

               If the attorney does not focus on divorce and family law matters, you may want to follow up with - have you ever handled a divorce before?


2) How long is the range that a case like this could last?

              Again, the attorney is in no way a fortune-teller and cannot predict the future of how long your case will last with your specific set of circumstances, but if they can tell you a range; this may help you have a handle on the situation if you have approximate time-frame that the attorney has seen in their experience.

3) If I forget to ask you something today during the initial consultation, can I call later to ask a question, or would I have to pay for another consultation?

Generally, I do not personally charge another consultation fee if a client has another question after the consultation, but some attorneys may charge and may need to see the potential client again. A reason why could include that a great deal of time may have passed and circumstances could have changed. Overall, it can put you at ease if you know that you can call later if you forget something during the consultation. During the consultation, you will be hit with a great deal of information and as it is also a confusing and emotional time, sometimes people can forget to ask all of the questions they have during their initial consultation.

4) What is the law in the state of Florida on: Parental Responsibility, Time-sharing, Parenting Plans, Child Support, Alimony, Equitable Distribution of Assets and Liabilities and Attorney’s Fees?

             Depending on what the issues in your case are, it is very important to know what the basic boiled down approach of the law is in some of the important areas of your case. Right from the start. It may not be the appropriate time to go into the minutiae of the law and specific cases, etc. But it is helpful know the State’s view on certain areas of divorce law so you can start understanding the process you are about to undertake.

5) What about the law applied to my situation? What can I ask for? What should I ask for?

                Your attorney will begin the process of analyzing your situation as soon as you provide back the new client questionnaire. As you are speaking to him or her, they will start to formulate how they wish to approach the case. As each lawyer’s approach may differ, sometimes there is not a right and wrong way to approach it; it may just be one lawyer’s view on the issues. So, feel comfortable with the lawyer’s approach to the case. Try to determine what your own goals are and if they are reasonable from the attorney. Any attorney can promise you the world, but if it is not realistic and they are only reciting back to you what you want to hear, then that may not be helpful to you in your divorce proceeding.

6) Are there any time-frames/deadlines that I need to know about?

                  This is very important as certain situations call for certain time-frames and deadlines. Speak more with your attorney about the specifics related to your case.

7) How much is the initial retainer for my case?

                Lawyers have different retainer amounts for different cases. Some attorneys ask for a refundable retainer and some ask for a non-refundable retainer.  Some retainers can be split up into a payment plan at some offices. The amount is really an important aspect of the consultation. This attorney will let you know at the end of the consultation as they will need to know your full situation before quoting you a retainer.

8) What is your hourly rate?

                 There is no set hourly rate for divorce lawyers in Florida. Each Divorce lawyer sets their own hourly rate, or it is set by their firm. Therefore, you need to know the hourly rates of the attorney and each member of the firm that may be billing on your case.

This is not an exhaustive list of questions to ask your attorney, but hopefully this will give you a basis for asking a Florida Divorce Lawyer questions during your initial consultation. 

What to do where you are served with divorce papers in Hillsborough County, Florida

It is normal to be confused and a little scared when served with divorce papers. Sometimes you may be served by a sheriff or a private process server. Sometimes you are served at home in front of the child and sometimes at work. No matter how it happens, you need to know how to proceed.


Don’t panic!

Knock. Knock. You hear the door and upon opening it you are giving legal documents with a summons by a process server or the sheriff. This can be a frightening and confusing time for anyone. Especially if you did not know that you were going to be served with divorce papers.

Some spouses have their wife/husband served at work and some at home. No matter how it is effectuated, the first thing you need to do is to not panic. The process server is just doing their job, so it is not a good idea to yell at them or blame them. They can also be used as a witness, so be careful.

Make sure you read the title of the documents served and that you have actually be served with divorces papers, and not a domestic violence injunction by a police officer, or some other legal documents. Those other types of legal proceedings that are beyond the scope of this guide.

If you have been served with a petition for dissolution of marriage, then calm down and start reading the paperwork.


Read the paperwork- NOW

I know it is confusing, but I have had a number of people come to see me that either did not even look at the paperwork or did not read certain documents they were served with.

In Hillsborough County, Florida, where I practice, if your case involves minor children, a standing order is put in place in your divorce case and you must abide by that standing order. You need to read the standing order and understand what the Court expects of you.

Read everything and then read it again.


Take notes

Again, an enormous amount of your petition package that you were served with is legal jargon, but do your best to understand what you were served with and take notes on a separate sheet of paper if possible! There are a number of people I have met with that have burned the midnight oil by staying up a highlighting and writing notes all over their petition, their spouses financial affidavit and any other motions that were filed.

Again, if you hire an attorney, or if you represent yourself during your case, you may need those documents, so please make a copy of the documents or write notes on a separate sheet of paper. You may want to start a divorce journal at this time, and writing notes in this journal would be a great start.


Calendar your deadline for answering the petition

If your summons states that you have 20 days to answer, then you need to abide by the petition. The normal amount of time to answer a petition for dissolution of marriage is 20 days and you must file your answer in the Court file prior to that deadline or your spouse may move for a default on your case. Also, calendar any dates in your case.

Do you have a case management order in your packet of paperwork?

If you are in Hillsborough County, you probably should. If you do not- call the clerk’s office immediately if you do not have that case management order in your packet of papers you were served with just to make sure when your next Court date is. See if there are any notices of hearings that inadvertently may not have been included in your paperwork as well. If you do have a notice of hearing or any other notices of dates to comply with in your case, calendar those dates as well.


Get on the internet or look for a referral to an attorney

You should start looking for an attorney immediately. Even if you do not retain an attorney for the case and you decide to proceed Pro Se (unrepresented) you would be better off served at least speaking to an attorney about some of the possibilities of things that you can plead for and if you need to file a Counter-Petition or not (beyond the scope of this guide, speak to an attorney about it if you have any other questions!) or any other emergency matters that need to be handled. While you are on the internet, start reading up on divorce topics on this site and other helpful sites to give you a basic understanding of divorce in Florida. Also, go to a bookstore and look at books on divorce, which again, are not a substitute for a lawyer, as they are not tailored to your specific set of circumstances, but they may be helpful in understanding the general process.

Jurisdiction: Hillsborough County, FL


Schedule one or more initial consultations with attorneys

Do yourself a favor. Get an attorney that you can live with. I have had cases that lasted years. It all depends on the facts and the parties involved. Normally, you don’t want a divorce to last that long, but sometimes complex cases and litigious cases do last a while.

So wouldn’t it be a good idea to find an attorney that you can deal with?

You are interviewing the attorney, just the same as the attorney is interviewing you at an initial consultation.

You can try to get free consultations, but at these consultations the attorneys may not give you any legal advice as it is usually just a way for the attorney to get some background in order to quote you an amount for your case. On the other hand, if you want an in-depth initial consultation, sometimes you will have to pay in order to sit down and get a good analysis of how the attorney would proceed in your set of circumstances and give you a background on Florida Divorce law.


Decide whether or not you want to represent yourself

The Florida Courts website is an amazing resource. www.flcourts.org as are many counties court’s websites that give information to parties that wish to proceed pro se (unrepresented) during their divorce. Some counties have forms clinics at the courthouse that you should look into if you wish to proceed without an attorney. Additionally, if you meet the standards for legal aid, you should speak to the different legal aid offices around the county to see if you qualify and if they can help you with your case.

You have a number of things that will be due very soon (i.e., mandatory disclosure, financial affidavit, discovery you were served with, etc.) so you need to know what these things are and how to prepare them.


File your responsive pleading

This guide cannot help you with what to file; as I said before, it is different in every case, under every set of circumstances.

Just make sure you DO FILE SOMETHING. Do not let your deadline come and pass thinking the judge may just give you a pass. Trust me, it is much more expensive for an attorney to un-do something that was done incorrectly (if they even can un-do it) rather than do it correctly in the first place.

So since this is a legal guide just for what to do in those first few days right after you are served with divorce papers in Hillsborough County, it is clear that it is beyond to scope for what needs to happen next or what may happen in other states or even some other counties. I would suggest you speak to an attorney to determine what is the best way to proceed in your case and what the law is in your jurisdiction, and they should be able to tell you what to file in your case in response to the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.

Written by: William S. Foley, Esquire

For more information, please see William S. Foley’s website