About Our Firm

My photo
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 Tampa Bay. 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.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Appealing a Divorce

The process of divorce can be a long and winding road, especially if children are involved. Consequently, when the divorce decree is finally issued, parties typically feel a sense of relief gained by the knowledge that they can now move past this period in their life. And, for most divorcing couples, the final divorce order marks the end of the divorce case and the marriage. However, circumstances do sometimes arise that can compel someone to appeal a divorce order, but courts are reluctant to revisit these cases because the integrity of marriage requires that divorce judgments be conclusive and not easily overturned. Despite this policy, courts are willing to reconsider and potentially modify divorce orders for very particular and limited reasons. Given how restrictive divorce appeals are, working to negotiate one’s own agreement is the best method of ensuring the settlement terms are fair. Failing agreement, parties need to present the best evidence to the judge, which an experienced divorce attorney will know how to do. Nevertheless, understanding when a divorce appeal is permitted is important information to have in case an appealable issue does occur.
Legal Options to Revisit Divorce Order
Florida law gives parties in divorce cases several opportunities to request that the court reassess an earlier decision, and the type one files tends to depend upon how much time has passed since the final divorce decree was issued. The first option, and the one with the shortest deadline, is to file a motion for rehearing. This request must be made within 15 days following the issuance of a court order, and is usually the first step in filing a formal appeal. This request is used when a party has a legal basis for appeal, not just an objection based on facts. The judge is not required to grant a rehearing, and has broad discretion to deny it, which is generally what happens.
The next alternative, which is available if the divorce order was issued within the previous 30 days, is to file a formal appeal. This is a very complicated and technical process that takes a considerable amount of time to complete. No new evidence may be presented, and the basis for appeal must rest on a claim that the court misapplied the law. Note that if a party wins on appeal, the case will likely have to go back to the trial court for final resolution.
Finally, if more than one month has passed since the court issued the divorce order, the only option left is to file a motion for relief from judgment. A party has up to one year to file this type of motion. However, these requests are rarely successful, and are only granted in unusual circumstances.
Grounds for Appeal
The legal basis for appealing a divorce order is commonly based on one or more of the following claims:
  • the judge made a mistake in the application of the law;
  • new evidence was discovered that was unavailable or not ascertainable earlier in the case; or
  • fraud, misrepresentation, or misconduct by the other party. This claim typically relates to concealment of assets by a spouse. Note that while parties usually have just one year to file a motion to set aside a judgment, a special rule exists for divorce cases that completely removes the time restriction if the request is based on fraudulent financial records.
Get Help from Our Attorneys
If you believe a mistaken or a fundamentally unjust decision was made in your divorce case, talk to family law attorney about appealing the judge’s order. The All Family Law Group, P.A. helps clients in the Tampa Bay area deal with variety of family law issues, including divorce appeals.  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, February 17, 2017

Traditional vs. Collaborative Divorce: Which Option Is Better for You?

Deciding to divorce is one of the most difficult and painful decisions most people will ever make. Coming to this conclusion is typically the result of a lot of discussion, personal reflection and failed efforts to improve the relationship. Once the decision is made, though, the logistics and practical considerations of getting divorced must be addressed. Who will file the divorce petition? Will both sides hire lawyers? Should child custody and property division be decided first? These are important questions that all divorcing couples face, but another crucial matter those seeking divorce should consider is the type of divorce procedure to use. Most people assume that the traditional, combative divorce case in front of a judge is the only way to dissolve a marriage. However, as divorces have become more common over the past 30 years, alternative ways to pursue divorce have emerged, including a recent option called collaborative divorce. This method of divorce is geared toward allowing the parties to emerge from the process with a working relationship by the use of a non-combative dispute resolution approach. While collaborative divorce is an option, this choice is not right for everyone.
Marriage is a Business Contract
While viewing marriage as a business deal is not the most romantic approach, it does reflect the practical realities of the rights and obligations a couple both grant and assume to each other the day they marry. In the event of divorce, sorting out how to dissolve this arrangement is a proposition more suited for the abilities of a court, rather than the professional advisors that collaborate with divorcing parties in the collaborative divorce process. While it may seem more attractive to fashion one’s own conclusion to the relationship, the court has remedies it can access that are unavailable to private parties. These remedies are designed to ensure the unraveling of the relationship is just, and protect the rights of parties in weaker positions.
Traditional Divorce Can Be Civil
Collaborative divorce is known as the peaceful alternative to ending a marriage, but couples do not have to engage in protracted disputes simply because a traditional divorce case is filed. Couples can work out their own private settlement agreement, with the assistance of divorce attorneys, before stepping inside a courtroom. In fact, Florida offers a simplified divorce petition, which gives parties with no disputed issues a condensed and faster approach to navigating the divorce process.
Limitations on Probing the Other Side’s Claims
A key aspect of conventional divorce cases is the disclosure of financial information to the other side. This information is needed to assess the types of property owned jointly and separately for purposes of property division, and to see the financial resources of each party for calculations of child support and alimony awards. Filing the usual divorce petition gives each party the ability to request specific information, and to ask a court to compel the release of additional information if fraud or misrepresentation is suspected. Collaborative divorce does not give parties the tools to verify or contest the accuracy of the financial information offered. This limitation may make it easier to hide or withhold information on assets, so if someone considering divorce is unsure about what the other spouse owns, this process may not be the best choice.
Work with a Florida Divorce Attorney
If you are contemplating divorce, talk to a divorce attorney before filing a petition to make sure you choose the type of divorce best for you and your family. The Tampa Bay law firm All Family Law Group, P.A. is experienced in many different types of divorce, and can assist you with your case.  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, February 15, 2017

Child Custody Decision Guidelines in Florida

Parents contemplating divorce often have a much more difficult time deciding whether to end the marriage. Divorce greatly affects children, and is known to leave a negative stamp on a child’s development. Certainly, couples in unhealthy relationships should part because staying together is also damaging to a child, but divorces involving children are naturally more complicated. Figuring out how to divide childcare and decision-making responsibilities frequently leads to conflict as each parent fights to ensure they maintain a strong presence in their child’s life. Parents ideally negotiate their own child custody arrangement, often with the assistance of a divorce attorney, but in high-conflict divorces, the court is typically tasked with making this decision. Giving this much power to the judge may seem frightening. A group of women in Palm Beach County founded an organization in 2003, Families Against Court Travesties (FACTS), dedicated to scrutinizing the family court system after encountering judges who seemed to favor one party in high-conflict child custody cases. Understanding the guidelines judges must follow in child custody decisions will help divorcing parents move through the process with less stress and anxiety.
Parenting Plans
Florida law requires all divorce cases involving minor children to include a parenting plan, which governs how the parents will split responsibilities for the children going forward. Many divorcing couples formulate their own parenting plans since they can cater to the unique needs of their families, but the court must still approve the terms. All parenting plans must do all of the following:
  • describe with sufficient detail how the parents plan to share the daily tasks of raising a child;
  • specify how much time the child will spend with each parent;
  • indicate who will be responsible for decisions related to health care, education, and other activities; and
  • describe how the parents plan to communicate with the child.
If the judge must create the parenting plan, the court starts from the premise that both parents will share responsibility, and will only deviate from this standard if following it would be detrimental to the child. Evidence of domestic violence or convictions for other violent offenses are examples of issues that would be detrimental to the child, and cause a judge to consider awarding all parenting responsibilities to one party. The court will give considerable weight to the wishes of the parties, but the one principle that drives all child custody decisions is the best interests of the child.
Best Interests of the Child
In order to ascertain what is in the best interests of the child, the court takes into account a number of factors. These factors help the court to evaluate the needs and circumstances of a particular child and family. Some of these factors are:
  • the ability of each parent to support a close relationship between the child and the other parent;
  • how often a parent would delegate parental responsibilities to a third party;
  • the ability of each parent to put the needs of the child first;
  • the geographic viability of the parenting plan, especially for school-age children;
  • the mental and physical health of the parents;
  • the ability of each parent to provide a consistent routine for the child;
  • the ability of the parents to communicate with each other on child-related issues and adopt a united front on important issues; and
  • the ability of each parent to meet the child’s needs.
Consult a Florida Family Law Attorney
If you are getting divorced or have questions about child custody issues, it is best to speak with an experienced family law attorney to ensure you receive accurate information on such an important matter. The Tampa Bay law firm, All Family Group, P.A., will conduct a thorough analysis to determine what the best arrangement is for you and your family.  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+

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Relocating with a Child May Require More than Hiring Movers

The world is now a smaller place due to advances in technology that allow us to travel faster and stay in constant communication. One significant byproduct of this change is people are much more mobile today compared with previous generations. Moving for a job or a change in lifestyle is now considered normal, and divorced parents, while needing to consider additional concerns, are part of this group. Certainly, all parents must weigh the impact of uprooting a child to a new place before deciding if the transition is in the family’s best interest, but when child custody issues are put into the mix, the decision becomes complicated. The law recognizes the fact that people with shared parenting responsibilities relocate all the time, while also taking into account the competing interest of the parent left behind who will lose regular contact with the child. Consequently, rules are in place to regulate these circumstances, which are aimed at determining if the move is in the child’s best interest, including an assessment of whether the motivation behind the relocation is legitimate and not vindictive. Parents who have conflicted relationships with ex-spouses may want to avoid a discussion on this issue, but relocating parents cannot keep the other parent in the dark. An overview of the legal requirements for a parent planning to relocate will follow below.
Agreement vs. Petition
As a preliminary point, these rules only apply to changes in the parent’s residence that are greater than 50 miles and expected to last more than 60 days. Any relocation less than this distance does not need parent or court approval. At a minimum, the parent seeking to relocate with the child must obtain the consent of the other parent, and memorialize the agreement in writing. The written agreement must include an affirmative acknowledgement of the other parent’s approval and a plan for how the parenting time arrangement will be modified to reflect the child’s new location. If consent is not obtained, the relocating parent must receive permission from a court to move forward. This requires the parent to file a petition in court, and serve a copy to the other parent so he/she has notice of the legal action. The petition must include a description of the reason for the move and a revised timesharing and travel schedule for the child, or it will be dismissed.
Contested Relocation
Once a parent receives notice about a potential relocation, that parent has 20 days to contest the request. If the parent fails to do so, the relocation will be granted without a hearing or notice, unless it is against the best interests of the child. Filing a response to contest the relocation will put a temporary hold on the move until the matter is settled. The parent seeking to relocate has the obligation to show why the move is in the child’s best interest, but if this burden is met, the responsibility to demonstrate why the move is against the child’s best interest shifts to the parent contesting the move. To evaluate what is in the child’s best interest, courts weigh a number of factors, including how the move will affect the nature and quality of the relationship with the non-relocating parent and how the move may impact the child’s development. Some other factors are:
  • the child’s preference, assuming the child is mature enough to make a reasoned decision;
  • if the relocation will improve the quality of life for the relocating parent and child;
  • if the relocation is requested in good faith; and
  • the reason each parent is asking for or objecting to the relocation.
Talk to a Florida Family Law Attorney
If your child is involved in a possible relocation, seek the advice of an experienced family law attorney well before the planned moving date. If a parent relocates with a child without fulfilling the necessary legal requirements, serious legal consequences could follow, including potential loss of custody. The attorneys at the Tampa Bay law firm All Family Group, P.A. understand what is at stake in child-related matters, and will work to get the result is best for your family.  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+