About Our Firm

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Since 1997 we are experienced and knowledgeable Tampa attorneys practicing exclusively in Divorce, Family, Stepparent/Relative Adoption, Consumer/Personal Bankruptcy & Mediation. We practice primarily in Tampa, Riverview, Brandon, Valrico, Lithia, Carrollwood, North Tampa, Plant City and all of Hillsborough County,Polk, and Pinellas Counties. Our lawyers have experience practicing in contested and uncontested divorces, including military divorces, and family law, child support, child custody and visitation, relocation of children, alimony, domestic violence, distribution of assets and debts, retirement/pensions (military and private), enforcement and modification of final judgments, paternity actions, adoptions and name changes. We offer a free consultation and we are happy to discuss your case. Call or email to schedule a consult. Our representation of our clients reflects our dedication to them.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Lesser Known Option to End Marriage: Annulment

When married individuals consider ending their marriage divorce is usually the first and only option they explore. This default starting point makes sense when one thinks about the lack of other viable options discussed and/or known by most people. In addition, many people look to divorce as the easiest available option, and avoid other possibilities for ending a marriage out of a desire to exit the relationship quickly. However, while Florida does not offer couples the option of a legal separation, statutes and law established through court cases do permit couples to annul a marriage in certain situations. A natural question that emerges for most people when this topic comes up is why they should choose this over divorce. Ultimately, the principal advantage of annulment is that it legally treats an annulled marriage as if it never existed. And, there are circumstances where a person would rather have no legal association with a past partner that justifies this more involved step. A recent story on Fox News serves as an example of a spouse that would have reasonable grounds for seeking an annulment. A Zephyr Hills man assumed a fake identity for over 20 years in order to avoid a second divorce. His new wife had no idea her husband was using a false identity until police appeared at their door to arrest him for identity theft, and she is now left to deal with the legal and emotional fallout of his decision.
Void Marriages
As a preliminary point, it is important to note that Florida does not have specific law on annulment. Rather, it has statutes and case law that establish when a marriage may be declared void or voidable. Void marriages are unions that were invalid from the start and can never be legal. Voidable marriages, on the other hand, were not necessarily invalid from the start but potentially could be. All void marriages can be annulled, but only some voidable marriages may be. Some examples of void marriages under Florida law include:
  • bigamy – marriage to more than one person at the same time;
  • incest – marriage to a blood relative;
  • underage couples – 18 is the minimum age to get married unless there is consent from the couple’s parents. Note that an exception can be made if the couple is expecting a child; and
  • permanent incompetency – marriage to a person unable to give informed consent to the marriage due to permanent mental incapacity.
Voidable Marriages
Obtaining an annulment for a voidable marriage is a more difficult process because the allowable circumstances are more complex and subjective. Further, the law in this area is exclusively based on past court decisions, which leaves the reach and application of the law open to interpretation. However, the following grounds are historically recognized as sufficient to justify annulling a marriage:
  • sham or fraudulent marriages, such as to gain legal immigration status, public benefits, or Social Security. There must be no intent to live together as married couple by one spouse, with the other being entirely innocent;
  • lack of consummation, but this claim should be made relatively early in the marriage to have a convincing argument; and
  • concealment, such as one spouse hiding the fact that he/she cannot have children.
Consult a Family Law Attorney
Annulment cases are very complex, and typically involve very complicated sets of facts that require an experienced lawyer to effectively present in court. The All Family Law Group, P.A. in Tampa Bay understands the law and resource investment needed to win these cases, and can help you determine if annulment is right for you.  Contact the Tampa divorce attorneys and family lawyers at All Family Law Group, P.A. in Tampa Bay at 813-816-2232 for a consultation at no charge or email us.
By Lynette Silon-Laguna Google+

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Divorce and Mediation

Given the emotional, financial and legal upheaval divorce creates for most couples, it is easy to understand why divorcing spouses have trouble seeing issues eye-to-eye. Typically, a person’s entire world changes in the wake of divorce, and seeing the other spouse as the source of this conflict certainly makes it challenging to find places of agreement. However, there are circumstances where it may be preferable to find areas of commonality and to work together toward resolution with minimum amounts of dispute to keep the relationship as intact as possible. This need for cooperation is often seen in divorce cases involving children or spouses that own and operate a business they wish to maintain with minimal disruption. Taking a divorce case through the traditional court process is, by its nature, a combative procedure. Each spouse takes a position on each issue, there is little collaboration, and a third party, in the form of a judge, is the ultimate decision-maker. There is another option that allows divorcing spouses to work together toward resolving issues in a more congenial manner – mediation. An overview of how this process works, and when courts require parties to a divorce to enter into it, will follow below.
What Is Mediation?
Mediation is a non-adversarial process where parties in a dispute discuss areas of disagreement in the presence of a mediator. A mediator is a neutral third party that attempts to help the parties better communicate, which makes it more likely they will be able to resolve their issues. Even though judges are not involved in the process, lawyers can still attend mediation sessions with their clients to help them make informed decisions with an eye toward the legal consequences. An advantage of mediation over litigation is that this process is private and confidential, and records of the parties’ agreement are not open to the public. In traditional divorce cases, unless a judge makes the unusual decision to seal the records, all the documents filed with the court are public records. Further, mediation is faster and less expensive, and the parties have complete control over the outcome. Note that this process is voluntary, and either party can withdraw at any point and for any reason. If the parties cannot come to an agreement, they still have the option of proceeding with the divorce case in court.
When Is It Required?
Some mediation is required under court order, and the parties must make a good faith effort to resolve their disputes in this forum before returning to the judge for resolution. In family law matters, courts will order the parties to undergo mediation if the following issues are under dispute:
  • parental responsibility;
  • which parent should provide the primary residence for the child;
  • access to a child;
  • visitation; or
  • child support.
If the parties are able to agree, the terms of the agreement are formally documented by the mediator in a consent order that is submitted to the parties and their attorneys for review. If the parties approve the consent order, it is then given to the judge for final approval, and once granted, the consent order is enforceable to the same extent as a regular court order.
Talk to a Divorce Attorney
If you are facing divorce and want to know your options for resolving disputes outside of court, talk to a divorce attorney who can advise of the different options available, which extend beyond just mediation. The Tampa Bay law firm of All Family Law Group, P.A. works with divorcing clients in all stages of the process, and in forums outside of court.  Contact the Tampa divorce attorneys and family lawyers at All Family Law Group, P.A. in Tampa Bay at 813-816-2232 for a consultation at no charge or email us.
By Lynette Silon-Laguna Google+

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Florida Divorce 101

Looking at the almost daily stories about divorce that appear in the news, it seems as if society sees this event as an everyday process that is not worth a lot of conversation. This nonchalant attitude is especially apparent in the large of number of reports about which group is most likely end their marriage and the top signs a relationship is heading for divorce. In reality, divorce is a painful process that few enter without a large amount of soul searching and numerous attempts to save the marriage, but once the decision is made, having some key bits of information can make the situation a little easier. Knowing this basic information about divorce procedure is likely to make the process feel a little less overwhelming and scary, which should provide some much needed emotional relief to anyone facing divorce. Consequently, an overview of how to initiate a divorce, the types of information needed to file for divorce, and the role of the court will be discussed below.
Starting Divorce Proceedings
All dissolutions of marriage in Florida start with a petition for dissolution. In order for a couple to be permitted access to Florida courts for divorce, at least one party must be a resident of the state for a minimum of six months and intend to remain. The petition is filed with the circuit court in the county where the couple last lived together.  This legal document provides the court with information it needs to determine if there is authority for a  Florida judge to grant a divorce and requires the party filing the petition to include certain information related to child custody, child support, alimony, and property distribution, as applicable, so the court knows what the petitioner is seeking.
Florida is a no-fault divorce state, and all that the petitioner needs to do to get divorced is claim the marriage is irretrievably broken. This means it is unnecessary to prove that one party caused the failure of the marriage, but it also allows one party to ask for a divorce even if the other does not desire that result. The length of time it takes to obtain a divorce depends on the complexity of each individual case, but the law requires a minimum of 60 days to pass between the filing of the divorce petition and the issuance of the court order dissolving the marriage.  However, this can be waived by the parties.
Necessary Information
Before a divorce attorney can begin drafting a petition, he/she will need to collect information related to minor children, property holdings, and support. Specifically, if the couple shares minor children, identifying information for each child and any agreements the parents have made about custody and parenting time should be disclosed. Further, each party must file a financial affidavit with the court no later than 45 days after the petition for divorce is filed. This affidavit will provide the court with information that will help the judge determine child support payments, property division, and alimony, if granted. Note that the law requires the information provided in this form be disclosed to the other spouse.
How the Court Is Involved
The role of the court in divorce cases is, first and foremost, to issue a court order legally terminating a marriage. Beyond this purpose, the court oversees and approves any agreements the parties make related to the divorce. The court will take a more direct role and make decisions on issues like support and child custody, but since many couples work out the terms of divorce in mediation, it is not necessary for the court to intervene. Thus, most divorcing spouses only appear in court once to attend the case management conference where the judge learns about the status of the case and makes any decisions needed to move the case forward.  Or the case management conference can be used as a final hearing if the parties are in agreement and have completed all that is necessary to finalize their case.
Talk to a Divorce Attorney
It can be tempting to file for divorce on your own, but there are a lot of procedural rules and statutory laws that affect how quickly the case progresses and the ultimate outcome. An experienced divorce lawyer is best equipped to handle these legalities, and help you avoid the frustration of not knowing or understanding why certain forms have to be filed and the particulars of local court rules. The Tampa law firm All Family Law Group, P.A. can offer you representation in all divorce matters and is committed to helping you achieve the best possible solution. Contact the Tampa divorce attorneys and family lawyers at All Family Law Group, P.A. in Tampa Bay at 813-816-2232 for a consultation at no charge or email us.
By Lynette Silon-Laguna Google+

Friday, July 29, 2016

Moving Away with Children after a Divorce

divorce can cause a lot of emotional turmoil and can disrupt the family for a long period of time. The children are of utmost importance when making the many decisions that are involved in the divorce process. In Florida, as in other states, the courts are required to make judgments that are in the best interest of the children. The major parenting decisions are handled in with a document called a parenting plan. The parenting plan details how the care and custody of children will be handled after the divorce is finalized.
Child Custody
Most parents today take part in what is known as “shared parenting”. This means that both parents share legal custody of the kids. Legal custody refers to the major decisions that must be made for a child. For example, some of the important decisions include medical, educational, and religious options. Physical custody is simply the location where the children reside. Sometimes one parent has primary physical custody while they share legal custody with the other parent.
Moving Out of State
Once a parenting plan is put into place as part of the divorce, it is a legal order and must be followed. Both parents are typically allowed access to their children. Moving to another state would severely limit the contact of one parent, so it is usually not allowed. If you are considering a move to another state and you are the primary custodial parent, you must first consult your divorce documents. Determine how a potential move is to be handled. This is often covered as part of the parenting plan.
Request a Hearing
A change to the divorce order, including changes to a child’s residence, must be made through the court system. Even if the other parent agrees to the move, the change must be made legally by a judge. However, in many cases the other parent will not approve of the move. The first step is to discuss the matter with an experienced divorce attorney. Your lawyer will assist you in taking the steps needed to request a hearing.
Preparing for the Hearing
The hearing is the court date during which the judge will review your request and make a determination. Both parents are required to attend the hearing. Each parent is allowed time to present information and data to support their position. It is important to remember that the judge will always make a decision based on what is best for the child. All aspects of the case will be reviewed when making such a serious decision.
It is helpful for parents to have a plan in place that addresses how visitation will occur in the future. When the children are older, typically over age 12, they may be consulted regarding their wishes. This would be done by the judge, often in chambers. The courts always make sure that the children are protected and the decision will reflect that.
If you are considering making a move out of state, or your former spouse has requested to move with your child, you need help from a skilled legal team. Contact the Tampa divorce attorneys and family lawyers at All Family Law Group, P.A. in Tampa Bay at 813-816-2232 for a consultation at no charge or email us.
By Lynette Silon-Laguna Google+