About Our Firm

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Founded in 1997 we are experienced and knowledgeable Tampa attorneys practicing exclusively in Divorce, Family, Stepparent/Relative Adoption, Criminal Defense, & Personal Bankruptcy. We practice primarily in Tampa, Riverview, Brandon, Valrico, Lithia, Carrollwood, North Tampa, Plant City and all of Tampa Bay. We have offices conveniently located throughout Tampa Bay. Our lawyers have extensive 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 also have attorneys who are very knowledgeable and experienced in all areas of criminal defense. We offer a free consultation to discuss your options. Please call us at 813-672-1900 or email us at info@familymaritallaw.com to schedule a consultation. Our representation of our clients reflects our dedication to them. We look forwarding to hearing from you! Se habla EspaƱol.

Friday, August 4, 2017

How to Petition for a Stepparent Adoption in Florida

Most depictions of stepparents in the media present callous individuals who detest any children from the first marriage. This image of the cruel stepparent diminishes the many caring and healthy relationships shared between stepchildren and their stepparents. In fact, some stepparents become so attached they petition to adopt the stepchild, thereby assuming all rights of a natural parent. While there is no denying the emotional aspect of adoption, it also grants the adopting adult important rights to make decisions related to the child and petition for custody if the adoptive and biological parents later divorce. The act of adopting a stepchild can have a profound effect on the child’s life, as seen in a news story about a stepfather who surprised his 11 year-old stepson with an adoption certificate last Christmas. The procedure for stepparent adoption is generally easier than a traditional, formal adoption, but certain standards do need to be satisfied before a court will sign-off on the request.
Is the Stepparent Eligible to Adopt?
Any request for adoption must start with an assessment of whether the person seeking to adopt is eligible. In Florida, the spouse of a child’s natural parent is eligible to petition for adoption as long as the other spouse consents, or is excused by the court from consenting. Most adults are generally able to adopt, unless a person has a physical or mental disability that affects the ability to parent. Courts are reluctant to grant legal rights to individuals that cannot fulfill the parent role, and are likely to deny the adoption petition under such circumstances.
Filing a Petition
Once eligibility is determined, a petition is filed with the local circuit court asking permission to grant the adoption. The petition must contain certain information for a court to accept it, and the provisions that are most important include whether consent from the other biological parent was given and why the stepparent wishes to adopt the child. After the petition is submitted, the child’s other parent must be notified about the pending petition request before a court can rule on it.
Consent from Biological Parents
The crucial part of any adoption, stepparent included, is obtaining the consent of both biological parents, or showing why such consent is not necessary. In stepparent adoptions, the consent of at least one parent is basically presumed, but the real issue lies with whether the child’s other biological parent will protest the adoption petition. If the other parent decides not to consent, it is still possible to proceed with the adoption if grounds exist that make consent unnecessary. These include:
  • the parent deserted or abandoned the child;
  • the parent had his/her parental rights terminated by a court; or
  • the parent was determined by a judge to be legally incompetent, and is unlikely to regain competency.
In addition, consent may not be necessary from the child’s father if the man did not establish himself as a legal parent. These exceptions exist because a father is not always presumed to be a child’s legal parent since, absent genetic testing, biological relation to the child is not guaranteed. Consequently, a father’s consent is only needed if one of the following is true:
  • the man was married to the child’s mother at the child’s birth;
  • the man previously adopted the child;
  • a court determined he is the child’s father;
  • the man filed an affidavit of paternity; or
  • the man acknowledged paternity in accordance with Florida law.
Contact a Florida Adoption Attorney
Adoptions are events worthy of celebration, but the correct procedure must be followed to ensure a court will authorize a petition. Working with an experienced adoption attorney can relieve the stress of wondering if your petition will be accepted, and make the entire process much more perfunctory and simple. All Family Law Group of Tampa Bay knows how to build a strong petition in favor of adoption, and is available to help you complete 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, August 1, 2017

Child Custody Concerns for Military Personnel Post-Divorce

Having and raising a family while being an active member of the military is no easy task. Being away from one’s children and spouse during the long periods of deployment is hard because this parent misses out on a lot of childhood milestones and daily life experiences. Deployment is known to put strains on marriages, and unfortunately, leads to divorce in many situations. Navigating child custody issues post-divorce is unavoidably complicated if disputes arise when the military parent is unable to directly deal with situation due to official duties. The restricted availability of military personnel for months and years at a time makes it easier for the non-military parent to deny or restrict access to the child, and has led to parental kidnapping in some cases. A recent decision by a federal district court in Florida that ordered a serviceman to return his son to his mother in Japan highlights the struggle of many military personnel with children born to foreign parents. Florida law recognizes that parents in the military have the same amount of desire to be involved their children’s lives, but need more flexibility in the exercise of time-sharing plans. An overview of the special considerations active military may need to address on child custody following divorce will follow below.
Changes to the Time-Sharing Schedule
A vulnerability all military parents on deployment face is the possibility that the other parent will seek to change the child custody order in his/her favor. Florida law has provisions that specifically address petitions seeking modification of parental responsibility and/or time-sharing while a parent is on active duty. The goal is to prevent the non-military parent from taking advantage of a deployment, and to that end, a court is not permitted to issue or modify a child custody order while a parent is on active duty that greatly impacts his/her ability to exercise his/her parenting time. The order in place at the time of deployment or assignment must remain in effect until the military order expires. However, a court may enter a temporary decision on time-sharing or parental responsibility if the best interests of the child justify it. The grounds for the temporary modification cannot rest solely on the disruption the deployment has on the child’s life. These temporary modifications automatically expire upon the parent’s return from active duty.
In addition, for parents deployed or assigned for more than 90 days, and consequently unable to exercise their parenting time, they can designate someone else to exercise parenting time. The designee must be a family member, stepparent or a relative of the child by marriage. The other parent can only object to the designation on the grounds that it is not in the best interests of the child.
Concurrent Custody
If a deployed or assigned military parent wants to take the designation of parenting time a step further, he/she can consent to concurrent custody with an immediate family member. This arrangement gives the family member the ability to make decisions related to the child in the parent’s absence. This option allows the deployed or assigned parent to have someone near and available to the child to represent the parent’s interests in important matters.
Get Legal Advice
If you or your spouse is in the military and seeking divorce, you need a divorce attorney experienced with the issues unique to this situation. Laws specific to the divorce of military personnel must be satisfied to ensure the terms of the divorce decree are valid and enforceable. The attorneys at the Tampa Bay law firm All Family Law Group, P.A. understand the rules that apply in military divorces, and will strive to give the best possible representation.  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+

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Filing for Divorce as a Stay-at-Home Spouse

When someone starts contemplating divorce, a number of considerations must be factored into the final decision. For spouses who chose to pause their career in favor of raising children, the financial implications of divorce cannot be overstated. Concerns about supporting oneself and one’s children is naturally paramount, and can specifically manifest as worries over how feasible returning to work will be, as well as the impact on the child of putting him/her in daycare. Further, staying in the family home may not be possible, and the additional issue of finding a new place to live weighs on the ramifications of ending the marriage. All this is to say that stay-at-home spouses have an enormous amount of emotional and financial stress to manage in the wake of divorce. One source of money may be available in the form of alimony, or spousal support. However, a party seeking alimony should know that these awards are rarely permanent, so some type of alternative revenue stream will need to be found at some point. Further, getting an alimony award, and making sure it is paid, is another matter altogether.
In addition, you will not automatically receive alimony after you file for divorce until the judge orders it or it is paid voluntarily.  The judge will not order it until there is a temporary hearing on the matter.  Normally the parties are required to attend mediation prior to having a temporary hearing on alimony.  Furthermore, needing support is not usually considered to be grounds for an emergency hearing as there are so many people in the divorce process who need financial support during the process that it usually is not considered an emergency.
To help stay-at-home spouses understand their options in divorce, a discussion of the types of alimony available in Florida, as well as methods of enforcing payment, will follow.
Types of Alimony
The first thing to know about alimony awards is that a court will not issue one if the judge believes the party being asked to pay does not have the ability to so, or that a need for the support exists. For stay-at-home spouses, the need for support is almost always present, and courts have discretion over how much the alimony payments will be. In addition, courts can attribute income to spouses believed to be voluntarily earning less than they could when deciding if alimony is appropriate and how much it should be.
Florida has four types of alimony: bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, durational and permanent. Other than the permanent option, the others are temporary, and meant to provide short-term financial support while the party needing assistance finds his/her own way to generate income.
Bridge-the-gap alimony is designed to provide for short-term needs as the spouse transitions to being single, and cannot exceed two years. Rehabilitative alimony provides financial support while a party gets the education or training needed to become self-sufficient. This type of alimony would be particularly relevant for stay-at-home spouses seeking to reenter the workforce. It lasts until the rehabilitation plan is complete, circumstances change, or the party stops complying with the plan. Durational alimony is for a set period of time, and is typically used for marriages lasting less than 17 years.  Finally, permanent alimony is available for parties unable to support themselves, but is generally reserved for marriages of 17 years or more, absent extenuating circumstances. Thus, this type of alimony is unavailable for most individuals.
Enforcing Compliance
When a judge issues a court order that includes an alimony award, the payment of this support becomes a legal obligation. Many ex-spouses resent having to pay this money, and attempt to avoid it. In these situations, enforcing compliance becomes necessary. There are a number of available legal options to force the payment of alimony, including civil contempt, liens and forced sale of property and wage garnishment.
Violating an order to pay alimony is considered to be in contempt of court, and if there is evidence that the non-payment was willful, the court can punish the delinquent party with jail time, fines or both. Further, if the delinquent party has assets, such as real estate or cars, pursuing a lien against the property, followed by a writ of execution to force the sale of assets, is a good option for collecting payment. If there are no assets, petitioning for the garnishment of wages is another avenue to obtain payment. Sometimes, it is even possible to collect future payments and attorney’s fees.
Ask for Help
Figuring out the financial implications of divorce is a pressing issue, and a divorce attorney can advise you on the short- and long-term consequences of the divorce process. This is information everyone needs up front, so do not delay consulting with an attorney about these concerns, or you may risk losing valuable rights. 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+

Monday, July 24, 2017

Special Considerations Same-Sex Couples Face in Divorce

The legal landscape on marriage and divorce for same-sex couples has changed dramatically over the past few years. Until very recently, 2015 to be precise, marriage between same-sex couples was not legal nationwide. Thirty-seven states granted same-sex couples the right to marry, while others took action to ban gay marriage to prevent these unions from being recognized. Few would argue that marriage has an important symbolic aspect, but more important are the rights and privileges it transfers to the couple, which become particularly relevant during divorce. It is easy to take for granted the legal benefits of being married, such as shared health insurance, joint income tax filings and the right to receive a spouse’s government benefits. In the context of divorce, these rights translate into property division, child custody and support, all pivotal family law matters that few domestic partners were previously able to access absent additional complicated legal arrangements. Given how recently the law changed on same-sex marriage, special considerations exist for couples now seeking divorce due to the overlap of conflicting laws pre-and post-legalization. These potential concerns especially affect couples with long relationships, but only a few years of legal marriage.
Child Custody
Child custody can be a particularly tricky issue for same-sex couples. Upon divorce, parents are entitled to time with their children if and only if they are considered the legal parents. Florida law previously only recognized men in heterosexual marriages as a child’s legal father upon birth without further proof. Same-sex couples had to fight for this same recognition, and the state now allows both spouses in same-sex marriages to be listed on a child’s birth certificate as the legal parents. But what about couples who had a child before same-sex marriage was legal? In these situations, it is not uncommon for the child to have only one legal parent. Unless the couple executed adoption papers to ensure both parties have legal rights over the child, the court is unlikely to give the non-biological parent any rights to visitation, or impose the obligation to pay child support, regardless of how many years the party helped raise the child.
Alimony is financial support a former spouse receives because of an inability to self-support. It is usually awarded in cases where one spouse was financially dependent on the other during the marriage. Florida offers several types of alimony, both temporary and permanent, which are based in part on the duration of the marriage. Same-sex couples will have only a few years of legal marriage at this point, despite being together for decades. A court could possibly consider the entire length of a couple’s relationship on this issue, but the best way to ensure the interests of both parties are protected is to execute a prenuptial agreement outlining what happens to property and finances if divorce occurs.
Property Division
Finally, same-sex couples, being relatively new to the legal rights of marriage, may not realize how property is divided in a divorce. Previously, before such couples could marry, when a relationship ended, each person kept whatever property was in his/her name. In divorce, Florida has equitable distribution, which generally divides all property acquired after marriage equally between the couple. Because divorce is somewhat new to same-sex couples, the higher-earning spouse may be shocked when he/she learns that potentially half of everything they purchased over the past few years could be gone. A prenuptial agreement could address this concern as well. They may not be romantic, but they do save a lot of time, hassle and money during a time when emotions are already running high.
Get Help
Divorce, under any circumstances, is a devastating experience, and these emotions can make it difficult to fully appreciate the legal ramifications of this decision. Divorce attorneys, like those at Tampa Bay’s All Family Law Group, P.A., are there to guide you through the divorce process and ensure your legal rights are protected and your wishes followed. 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+