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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, January 19, 2018

Getting Divorced When a Spouse Is Nowhere to Be Found

Divorce is usually precipitated by an uncomfortable conversation during which at least one spouse must work up the nerve to say he/she wants out of the marriage. If given the choice, it is likely many would skip this step if at all possible, but they do have the comfort of knowing where their spouse is so the divorce process can begin. However, what does a spouse do when he/she cannot locate the other person to initiate a divorce? One of the basic requirements of a divorce case is the need to serve the other spouse with a copy of the divorce petition so he/she has notice and an opportunity to reply. However, what does one do if a spouse suddenly walks out one day, without a word, and never returns? Likely, the person left behind will at some point contemplate divorce, but how does one proceed when a central party is absent? A discussion of how one can obtain a divorce when one spouse is missing, and limitations of the legal process in this situation, will follow below.
Constructive Notice/Service by Publication
As noted above, all parties to a legal proceeding have the right to notice of the suit and an opportunity to respond. However, the law does not want to keep individuals in marriages solely because one spouse cannot be located. As a result, one party can petition for divorce and satisfy the notice requirement by providing constructive notice, or service by publication. Service by publication can be accomplished by publishing a notice of the divorce case in a newspaper approved by the Clerk of Court for four consecutive weeks. Further, the party seeking divorce must make a diligent search for the other spouse, which is something beyond stating he/she cannot be located. Specifically, a party will be expected to show some form of the following actions:
  • contacting the last known employer;
  • questioning family and friends about the spouse’s current or past whereabouts;
  • searching online;
  • checking social media; and
  • monitoring bank and credit account activity.
An affidavit of the party’s failed efforts to locate the missing spouse must be filed in conjunction with the petition for divorce before a court will proceed on the case.
Default Judgment and Limitations of the Court
If a party fails to respond to a pending legal action, the court will issue what is called a default judgment. This essentially grants all the demands of the petitioner, which may sound great for the spouse seeking divorce, but due to the personal nature of divorce proceedings, there are some caveats. While a court in a constructive notice case can dissolve the marriage, it does not have authority to do the following:
  • divide property;
  • award child support or alimony; or
  • create a parenting plan, though the practical implication of one spouse’s absence is that the party present receives sole custody.
Obviously, these issues lay at the heart of most divorce cases, which is why courts are willing to reopen divorce cases if the missing spouse later reappears to settle these outstanding matters. Because divorce cases under these circumstances leave a lot of issues unresolved, it is important to do whatever is necessary to find the other spouse, including hiring a private investigator if financial resources allow.
Get Legal Advice
Divorce is never easy, and unforeseen complications frequently come up in the most straightforward divorce cases. Having an experienced divorce attorney by your side greatly reduces the likelihood of surprises, and provides the security of knowing someone has a vested interest in protecting your rights. The Tampa Bay firm All Family Law Group, P.A. takes time to get to know their clients so they can best serve their needs and 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+

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Legal Options When the Alimony Payments Stop

Spousal support, or alimony, is a topic that gets a lot of bad press because of the general assumption that this financial assistance is merely an attempt to gouge an ex-spouse out of more money. However, alimony awards are rarely permanent, and more commonly serve to give an ex-spouse sufficient time to acquire the means for self-support. Alternatively, an ex-spouse’s ability to work may be affected by a child with special needs. Thus, this money represents a real financial need and not blatant greed. If these payments stop coming, the recipient can quickly find him/herself in dire financial straits. Consequently, taking quick action to enforce compliance with an alimony award is necessary to prevent the accumulation of a number of delinquent payments. However, a party seeking to avoid paying alimony can sometimes go to great lengths to sidestep this obligation, including transferring money and assets to a new spouse or another family member so he/she can argue the means to pay is no longer present. The ex-wife of a prominent Fort Lauderdale attorney is facing this situation as she tries to collect more than $600,000 in overdue alimony. The woman recently filed a lawsuit against her ex-husband’s new wife, claiming he transferred the bulk of his assets to his new wife to avoid his obligation to pay alimony. Alimony can be a touchy subject, but it is important to actively enforce the right to receive it. An overview of the options a person has to enforce an alimony award will follow below.
Alimony Obligation Generally
Alimony is a financial obligation just like any other – a mortgage owed to a bank or an outstanding balance owed to a credit card company, for example. Consequently, former spouses seeking delinquent alimony are treated as creditors for legal purposes, and gain all the rights a creditor would have to obtain satisfaction of a debt. Enforcing an alimony award requires the use of the legal process – specifically, asking a court to take action to force compliance. As a result, the services of an experienced family law attorney are needed to ensure one utilizes all available legal options to collect the overdue amount. Often, the delinquent party will claim he/she no longer has the ability to pay, a legal requirement of an alimony obligation. But, an experienced attorney will know how to gather evidence of hidden income, fraudulent transfers and/or voluntary job loss through the use of private investigators and statements from witnesses to prove the ex-spouse is capable of complying with the court order.
Methods of Enforcement
The methods for collection of overdue alimony are similar to those used for the non-payment of child support. Typically, the first step in enforcing an alimony award is to file a petition with the family court, requesting the judge take steps to enforce the earlier order and/or hold the party in contempt if the non-payment appears to be willful. The following are some of the options for collection a court can order:
  • Money Judgment – The first order needed by a court for enforcement that states how much an ex-spouse owes, and entitles the following specific methods of enforcement.
  • Writ of Execution – Permits the seizure of certain property owned by the delinquent party, which is sold, and the proceeds given to the party entitled to alimony. Note that a person’s home is exempt from this measure.
  • Writ of Garnishment – Authorizes the deduction of alimony payments directly from the delinquent spouse’s earnings. This enforcement option is most useful when a party does not have assets to seize, and can be set as continuing so that payments can be made periodically.
Get Help
Not receiving the alimony you rely on to cover the expenses of daily living is a situation that calls for swift action. You need a dedicated and responsive family law attorney to pursue your right to payment to the fullest extent permitted. The Tampa Bay law firm All Family Law Group, P.A. understands how essential this support is for some individuals, and offers a free initial consultation to review your situation.  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, December 15, 2017

What to Do When a Spouse Badmouths During a Divorce

Emotions understandably run high during divorce, and things can be said in the moment that are hurtful, but not helpful or accurate. While negative comments said to a spouse in private will not directly result in legal consequences, making disparaging remarks to children or others could lead to unintended and unwanted legal repercussions. Children often bear the brunt of divorce, and have a hard time adjusting to a world where they seem to have less stability. Rare is the parent who deliberately makes negative remarks about a soon-to-be ex-spouse with the intent of causing the child emotional pain. However, hearing parents bad mouth each other in the presence of or to the child directly is confusing and hurtful for the child, and often leaves them unsure about which parent deserves loyalty and respect. Obviously, this situation is not optimal for the child, and can have lasting effects on him/her if the negative talk is continual. In some instances, courts will take action to curb and/or eliminate this propensity. In addition to bad mouthing a spouse to a child, making damaging comments publicly to friends, family and mutual acquaintances also brings the potential for serious legal consequences. A discussion of how courts can react to parents subjecting their child to negative talk about the other parent, and the legal options a spouse has when negative comments are made public, will follow below.
Comments to Children
Judges generally do not take a kind view to displays of high emotion during a divorce hearing/trial, and this stance extends to exposing children to similar scenes of negative behavior. Courts must always keep the best interests of the child in mind when making decisions about custody, and if a judge discovers a parent is bad mouthing the other to the child, that fact will factor into his/her final decision on how parenting responsibility will be divided. Further, this behavior could be used as a basis for requesting a modification of custody post-divorce if a parent can show it substantially damaged the parent/child relationship. When courts examine what is in the best interests of the child, Florida law has a number of factors they are directed to use, and two relate to fostering healthy communication with the child. These are:
  • the demonstrated ability of each parent to promote close parent/child relationships, which would be compromised if one or both parents bad mouths the other; and
  • the capacity for each parent to put the needs of the child before his/her own needs and desires.
While these are just two factors among a much longer list, potentially interfering with the other parent’s relationship with the child goes against the State’s policy of encouraging and supporting the parent/child connection. Consequently, a court could decide to take a harsh position on this issue and give one parent more time with and control over the child. Thus, restraining from making these remarks, despite what a parent may personally believe, is the best way to guard against any challenges to custody brought by the other parent.
Comments to Others
In addition to repercussions for child custody, publicizing disparaging remarks about an ex-spouse could result in a reduction of the marital property award and/or a lawsuit for defamation if the negative comments damaged the other party’s reputation. A New York divorcee learned this lesson the hard way when an appeals court further reduced her divorce award for making public remarks about her ex-husband that allegedly cost him clients and income. While Florida courts are not supposed to take a party’s bad behavior into consideration when deciding how to divide assets, deliberate actions by a spouse that diminish the financial resources of the other could motivate a judge to give a greater share to that party in the interests of fairness.
Consult a Divorce Attorney
Divorce is a difficult process, but you do not have to go through it alone. Support for an experienced divorce attorney can make a substantial difference in obtaining a favorable outcome and keeping stress levels as low as possible. The Tampa Bay law firm All Family Law Group, P.A. is ready to walk you through the legal ramifications of this decision, and to craft a customized solution to meet the needs of 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+

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Property Distribution by Courts Must Be Equitable

Finances are frequently a major concern for someone going through divorce, either as a worry about walking away with enough to cover the costs of daily living, or as anxiety related to the possibility of being required to relinquish a substantial amount. The finances of divorce revolve around the division of marital assets and the payment of support. While both types of financial resources are integral to a person’s security, property division is particularly important to a person’s long-term ability for self-support. Because of the monetary value, and in some cases, an emotional attachment to a particular item, in a couple’s marital estate, this issue can become heated during the divorce process. Parties typically feel better about the outcome of property division if they are able to negotiate a private settlement because of the control they were able to exert over the terms. However, forming an agreement over the division of marital assets is not always possible for a variety of reasons, and a court must sometimes step-in to settle the matter. Further, even if a settlement agreement is reached, a court will still review the terms to ensure fairness, as property settlements are considered final and rarely modifiable. A discussion of how courts assess the division of property, including a recent case where the trial court’s analysis was incorrect, will follow below.
Equitable Distribution
Equitable distribution is the standard courts use to evaluate what the appropriate division of property should be, and rests on what division would be most fair. While the starting point for this analysis is a presumption for equal division, courts can favor one party if circumstances indicate this is necessary. Due to the importance of this issue, a court’s analysis of what is equitable is the central focus of many divorce cases, because if improperly conducted, the decision can give a party grounds to appeal the divorce judgment. A recent decision by a Florida appeals court highlights the effect a judge’s failure to follow the rules for determining a fair division can have on the value of a party’s settlement. The major issue in the case was the value of a property the parties owned in the U.S. Virgin Islands, with each party providing conflicting numbers. The appeals court sent the case back for reconsideration because the trial court did not factually support why its decision was equitable, a requirement of Florida law. These factual findings must relate to a list of factors courts are required to use when evaluating the fairness of an equal division of property; otherwise, there is no way to know if the law was correctly applied, or if the court’s decision was arbitrary.
Factors to Evaluate Distribution
To direct the court’s analysis, the law provides for a number of factors a judge must consider when deciding how to divide property that specifically delve into the parties’ financial needs and the economic circumstances of the marriage. Some of the pivotal factors on that list include:
  • each party’s contribution to the marriage, including childcare and services as a stay-at-home spouse;
  • the financial resources of each party;
  • halting or passing on educational or career opportunities by either party;
  • the length of the marriage;
  • how much each party contributed to the enhancement of marital assets or the accumulation of debt;
  • a desire to keep the marital home for the sake of a minor child; and
  • the intentional waste or depletion of marital assets after filing for divorce, or within the previous two years.
Looking at the list above, the court requires a lot of detailed and personal information to decide the division of property, which illustrates the need to have an experienced divorce attorney to advise on the best and most persuasive way to present this information.
Seek Legal Advice
No one knows the story of what led to your divorce better than you, but an experienced divorce attorney will know how to best use that information to your advantage. An attorney will also know how to protect your rights, and look out for your interests and those of your family. The Tampa Bay law firm All Family Law Group, P.A. knows how straining divorce can be, and is prepared to take over the legal burden so you can focus on supporting 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+