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 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.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Deciding Which Kind of Divorce Is Right for You

Any couple together long enough will go through difficult patches of time where one is out of sync with the other, and many discussions end in argument. Most of the time, moving past the rough period intact is possible. However, sometimes the problems are deeper than surface disagreements, making it impossible to stay together. At this point, which is different for everyone, divorce enters the picture, and spouses must begin the process of unraveling their lives. While this process is often painful and demanding, spouses sometimes find their relationship as exes is better than when married. Once the decision is made to dissolve the marriage, the next step is to determine what type of divorce is appropriate. All divorces legally end a marriage, but not all divorce cases are processed in the same manner. A recent article discussed the divorce of the mayor of Cape Coral from her husband after less than three months of marriage, and noted that the couple filed a simplified divorce petition. Simplified divorce is one option for couples seeking to end a marriage, but is often unavailable to most divorce petitioners for reasons that will be discussed below. Selecting the correct type of divorce petition is a crucial aspect of court procedure. If the wrong one is filed, the case will be dismissed and will require a re-filing of the appropriate type, along with additional time and money utilized by both parties.
Simplified Dissolution
Simplified divorce is a faster and less expensive divorce process for those couples with no issues to resolve. Both parties must be in agreement on all of the following points, and jointly sign the petition for divorce. All of the following must be true in order to qualify for simplified divorce:
  • both spouses agree the marriage is irretrievably broken;
  • the parties do not share minor or dependent children, nor is there a pregnancy;
  • the parties agree on the division of all their assets and liabilities;
  • neither party is asking for alimony;
  • at least one spouse has resided in Florida for the previous six months; and
  • both parties are willing to jointly attend the final hearing before the judge.
One important right this simplified process takes away is the right to examine the other spouse through the collection of information before trial or as a witness during trial. This happens because simplified dissolution requires both parties to waive the right to a trial and appeal. This limitation on information is further expanded to the disclosure of financial information. While both parties are required to submit a financial affidavit, any further requests for financial information are not always enforceable.
Regular Dissolution
If a couple does not meet the criteria for a simplified divorce or declines to consent to the waiver of rights, a regular divorce petition is the option left to them. Regular divorce cases begin when one party files a petition for divorce. In addition to requesting a divorce, the petition includes any other demands a party may have, like specific property division terms, alimony, child support, or parenting time.  Where it goes from here depends on whether the divorce case is contested or uncontested.
The other spouse always has 20 days to respond after the receiving divorce petition, and if the response agrees with the demands of the petition, making the case uncontested, the parties can ask for a final hearing date to conclude the matter once the required financial disclosure is complete. If, however, the other party files a counter-petition disputing the demands listed in the petition or makes new demands, a Notice for Trial must be filed, as this case is contested. A contested divorce is like any other lawsuit where the parties exchange information and present arguments to the judge through filing additional documents or attending live hearings. This is a lengthier process, but may be necessary if the parties cannot agree, or have another type challenge preventing resolution of the case.
Get Help
Regardless of the kind of divorce petition you file, you are permitted to retain legal counsel to represent your interests. In divorce cases, where the outcome has significant and long-lasting effects on a person’s daily life, it is important to work with a divorce or family law attorney to ensure you do not unnecessarily give up your rights and fully understand the legal consequences of your decision. The Tampa Bay law firm, All Family Law Group, P.A., will evaluate the unique facts of your case and guide you through the divorce process to its end.  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, January 20, 2017

Caution – Social Media, Electronic Evidence, and Divorce: Guarding Against Negative Impact

In today’s world of increasing reliance on cloud-based computing, and the ability to obtain almost everything a person needs to live with a few clicks of a mouse, social media is a large and important presence in many people’s lives. Using social media to update friends and family is routine for many people and one of the original purposes behind this technology, but it is fast becoming a way for people to promote their businesses, earn a living, organize political and activist groups, and vet potential employees or clients. Many are so used to using social media to document their daily lives that they may not think about the potential ways it could be used against them. Anyone involved in a divorce case should keep this possibility in mind, and think about the potential negative consequences sharing information on social media could bring. Not only can it be used as evidence in court proceedings, it is now becoming the basis for many legal actions. Most recently, former Congressman Anthony Weiner is facing divorce and possible criminal charges after explicit texts he sent to young women, including a 15-year-old girl, came to light. Certainly, this situation is outside the norm, but understanding what kinds of electronic evidence can be used in court, and how to minimize the disclosure of damaging information, is relevant for all parties seeking divorce.

Types of Electronic Evidence Used in Lawsuits
Parties involved in divorce cases, especially those that are highly contentious, should expect the other side, at a minimum, to demand records related to texts, cell phone use, and emails. These particular forms of electronic communication are targeted because almost everyone uses them to some extent, even if they avoid more popular social media platforms. Typically, text messages and emails will be combed for information related to immoral activities and emotional outbursts that show unstable mental states. Cell phone call logs and GPS location records are useful to indicate how a spouse is spending non-family time and could reveal indiscretions or embarrassing obsessions.
Social media can be a goldmine of potential evidence that helps or hurts a divorce case. It documents how people spend their time, with whom they associate, and records states of mind at particular moments in time. Importantly, this information exists forever, and an effort to delete damning tidbits is easily discovered and can be very damaging in court. Damaging or destroying evidence is referred to as spoliation, and can bring serious consequences for the guilty party. Courts are permitted issue sanctions for these actions that include casting all legal presumptions in favor of the innocent spouse and dismissing claims of the guilty party.
How to Protect Yourself on Social Media
The best way to mitigate or eliminate potential damage from social media posts is completely suspend its use while the divorce case is pending. If that is not possible, attempt to refrain from discussing the divorce or any related issues. Further, do not create posts related to new purchases, social activities, and inflammatory topics that could be twisted in court and ultimately damage a person’s case. Finally, think about how someone else could view one’s thoughts before writing, and if there is any potential to spin it negatively, do not write it down.
Seek Legal Advice
Digital information is a minefield that can hurt or help your case. If you are contemplating divorce, discussing the kinds of information a person can expect to see on your email, cell phone, and social media accounts is crucial to building a case. The Tampa Bay law firm All Family Group, P.A. is well versed in a large variety of family law matters, and will work to obtain the best possible outcome.  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, January 18, 2017

Can You Undo a Divorce Decree?

Deciding to get divorced usually comes after much deliberation and numerous attempts to save the marriage. Once the decision is made, however, the parties are typically firm in their position that the marriage cannot continue. Nevertheless, there are instances where a couple later determines they want to attempt reconciliation instead of divorce. While this situation is good for the spouses personally, legally there could be difficulty depending on far the divorce case has proceeded through the court system. If a default judgment or final divorce decree was issued, courts are reluctant to undo such decisions because the stability of the legal system rests in part on the finality of court actions. In addition, the legal complexity of reintegrating all of the matters a divorce separates makes it virtually impossible to really undo a divorce decree. Consequently, if the divorce case has reached an endpoint, courts will only overturn an order in limited circumstances. If, however, the case is earlier in the process, stopping divorce proceedings is easier and generally brings fewer consequences. Certainly such requests are the exception in most divorce cases, but understanding the procedure to cancel a divorce decree will illustrate the seriousness of seeking divorce.
Dismissal of Pending Divorce Case
If a divorce case is still pending and no final orders have issued from the court, it is relatively simple to withdraw the petition. All that is necessary is for one party to file a voluntary motion for dismissal requesting the court to stop the case at the present point and discontinue further proceedings. If the other party filed counterclaims earlier in the case, it may be necessary that he/she also file a motion to dismiss. Note that if the court entered interim orders for child support or alimony, these benefits would go away. Thus, it is important for parties to assess what they would lose by ending a divorce petition.
Vacating Default and Final Judgments
When a court issues a final judgment in a case, it means the judge has considered and decided all pending matters before the court. The verdict is released in a written decision that can be used to enforce the terms of the court’s judgment. While most people associate final judgments with the end of a case after both parties present their arguments, it can come earlier in the form of a default judgment. When a legal petition is filed with a court, all named parties must respond to the demands or allegations made against them. If any party fails to respond, the court can enter a default judgment against him/her that grants all of the demands of the opposition. This is a severe result, so it is crucial to respond to every court document received in a legal case.
Overturning a final judgment is a complicated process, and a court will only consider it if one of the following circumstances exist:
  • mistake, unintentional or excusable neglect, or surprise;
  • newly discovered evidence that was not available or discoverable during the pendency of the case; or
  • fraud, misrepresentation, or other bad conduct by a party.
None of the grounds for vacating a final judgment is easy to show, but in the event a decent argument can be made, the knowledge of an experienced divorce attorney is needed to evaluate the facts of the case in order to give such a request the best chance of succeeding. Also, it is important to mention that a party can use these grounds as basis to reopen a divorce case and argue it needs to be reconsidered or modified.
Talk to a Divorce Lawyer
If you have questions or concerns about the final judgment issued in your divorce case, talk to a divorce attorney to learn what your legal options are. The All Family Law Group, P.A., located in the Tampa Bay area, handles all aspects of divorce and family law cases, including post-judgment appeals and petitions.  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, December 20, 2016

The Importance of Establishing Paternity in Child Custody and Support Cases

It seems almost self-evident that children thrive more in homes that have mothers and fathers in place to support and guide them. Ideally, all children would have the chance to live with both parents in a loving environment, but reality is often much harsher. Couples cannot always stay together, and marriage does not automatically guarantee happily ever after. For children born to unwed parents, the situation is complicated by the fact that unmarried men are not assumed to be the father of a child born to their partners. This gap in legal recognition can create problems when it comes to child custody and support issues. All legal parents have rights and obligations over their child, but without this designation, there is no way to exercise or enforce these legal measures. Florida law has several options available to prove a child’s paternity, some of which are voluntary and others that can occur on an order from a court. If the mother wishes to seek child support, or the father wants to secure visitation, paternity must first be established. Consequently, this issue is of critical importance to the wellbeing of the child.
Acknowledgement of Paternity
The simplest and easiest way to establish paternity requires the parents to file an acknowledgement of paternity with the Florida Department of Health, Office of Vital Statistics. This form must be signed by both parties in front of two witnesses or a notary public. Filing this form creates a legal presumption that the man signing it is the child’s father, and is assuming all the rights and responsibilities of a legal parent. Either party has 60 days from the time the form was signed to rescind this acknowledgement. After this time, it can only be challenged in court on the basis of fraud, duress, or mistake, which is very difficult to prove.
DNA Testing
If the alleged father is challenging paternity or refuses to take responsibility for the child, it may be necessary to obtain a DNA test to confirm paternity. If the mother is just seeking child support, and the alleged father has no interest in participating in the child’s life, the Department of Revenue will assist with genetic testing without the cost of going to court. If, however, the father wants an active role in the child’s life, the paternity dispute would need to be settled in court. The judge would order the mother, alleged father, and child to submit biological samples to a qualified laboratory for analysis. Results that state the statistical probability the man is the father by 95 percent or higher creates a presumption of paternity that can only be challenged with additional testing. Once paternity is established, the mother can petition the court for a child support order, and the father would have right to ask the court for custody and visitation rights.
Putative Father Registry
Finally, if man believes a woman is pregnant with his child, but they are unmarried, and he is worried she will give the child up for adoption without his knowledge, Florida has a registry he can access to preserve his rights. The Florida Putative Father Registry allows the unmarried man to add his name to registry, which means he is claiming paternity, so that he preserves his right to receive notice of any impending adoption. With this information, the man can oppose adoption and seek custody of the child if he so desires. Importantly, he can claim paternity at any time before the child’s birth, but this right terminates once a petition to terminate parental rights is filed.
Get Help
Whether you need to establish paternity for child support purposes or to claim parental rights, work with a family law attorney on this issue to ensure your legal rights are fully protected. The All Family Law Group, P.A. in Tampa is highly experienced in these matters, and can advise you on your options.  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+