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.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Dealing with a Spouse Who Is Intentionally Hiding or Squandering Marital Assets Pending Divorce

Married couples spend years building up assets in the hope of gaining financial stability for their family, and this effort often requires many sacrifices to produce the desired results. Consequently, if a couple later divorces, dividing this property frequently becomes a contentious and highly litigated issue. Relinquishing control over something that required considerable effort is understandably difficult. However, unless a prenuptial agreement exists, the division of marital property is mandated by Florida law. Typically, marital property is equally divided between spouses under the premise that each provided equivalent contributions to the acquisition of the assets. But, if there are concerns about a spouse dissipating assets during the marriage and/or while the divorce is pending, the court can take steps to rein in this behavior if sufficient evidence is brought to its attention. Basically, the law does not want one spouse to unfairly and unilaterally gain a greater share of the marital property at the other spouse’s expense, and potentially leave the innocent party with no financial resources following the divorce decree. A woman from Florida is facing this situation as she seeks to stem the further loss of marital property to her husband’s mistress. The woman filed for divorce earlier this year after learning of the affair, and believes the amount that actually benefited the other woman is far in excess of the $11 million claimed by her husband. A discussion of what a spouse can do to stop dissipation, or waste, of marital property, as well as how to recover the squandered funds in a divorce, will follow below.
Actions Considered Dissipation of Assets
A spouse is considered to have dissipated marital assets if he/she attempts to hide or waste the assets, and thereby deprives the other spouse of the benefits the property provides. Dissipation can include transferring money to family members, wiring money to an overseas bank account, or intentionally running up huge credit card debts to punish the other spouse for getting divorced. Further, changing the beneficiary of a life insurance from a spouse to a mistress, for example, would also be viewed as waste since the intent is to deny the spouse the benefit and use of the proceeds. If this type of behavior is suspected, action must be taken as soon as possible to prevent further, and potentially unrecoverable, losses of marital property.
Injunctions
Florida law allows spouses to petition the court for an injunction to prevent the other spouse from disposing of or concealing the property. This means the spouse named in the injunction is prohibited from removing the property from the state or reducing its value in any way without the other spouse’s permission. If a spouse violates the injunction, the other spouse may file a petition with the court to hold him/her in contempt, and may also include a demand for the spouse to deposit a sum of money with the court to cover the value of the lost assets, if they are unrecoverable, as an incentive to prevent further violations. The payment is also usually necessary to avoid a jail sentence for contempt.
Property Division in Light of Lost Assets
If a spouse did dissipate marital property, this behavior can have a significant effect on the division of property in a divorce. The court will value assets lost to dissipation, and award a greater amount of the remaining marital property to the innocent spouse. If the remaining marital property is insufficient to cover the value of the wasted assets, the court will look to the guilty spouse’s separate property to find restitution for the other party.
Get Help
If you are concerned a spouse is disposing of assets without your knowledge or consent, talk to a family law attorney as soon as possible. The quicker legal action is taken, the greater the possibility of tracking and recovering the property. The All Family Law Group, P.A. represents clients throughout the Tampa Bay area in family law matters, including property division, and can help you get the settlement you deserve.  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, March 6, 2017

Mental Incapacity: The Lesser Known Basis for Divorce

Marriage requires compromise and acceptance of difficult situations if a couple wants it to last, and such sacrifice tends to increase as spouses age. People generally recognize that a spouse will change both physically and psychologically over time, and are willing to stay with the person despite these shifts. However, there may come a point where the change is so dramatic and profound that staying married is no longer feasible and divorce becomes a viable option. Everyone is familiar with irreconcilable differences as the no-fault basis for divorce, but Florida also offers an additional ground to justify divorce – mental incapacity. Divorcing someone in these circumstances may seem harsh, but other factors may make ending the marriage in this manner a reasonable choice. Children, especially if they are young, are likely to experience a considerable negative impact if continually exposed to a parent that is mentally incapacitated. Kim Kardashian is currently facing the dilemma of deciding whether to divorce from her husband, Kanye West, in the wake of his mental health breakdown in recent weeks. Divorcing someone on the grounds of mental incapacity is not the easy procedure offered by claiming irreconcilable differences, but is important to know about for those in this situation.
Divorce Due to Mental Incapacity
The main reason someone might choose to use irreconcilable differences as a basis for divorce, even if their spouse is mentally incapacitated, is the extra time required for choosing the latter. Florida law mandates that to use mental incapacity as the reason for divorce, one spouse must first be declared incompetent for at least three years. Further, the incapacitated spouse is entitled to have a guardian to represent their interests, which adds another layer of complexity to the case. Most importantly, though, spouses that divorce due to mental incapacity are obligated to pay alimony because the other spouse is almost guaranteed to lack the resources for self-support.
Getting Someone Declared Mentally Incapacitated
Before getting into how one is declared incapacitated, it is worth stopping for moment to consider why a spouse or family member would take this step in the first place. It seems to appear from the outside that this procedure would have little to no impact on the daily needs of the incapacitated person, which is probably true. But, it does give the spouse or family member the authority to make medical and financials decisions on behalf of the incapacitated individual, and may open access to programs that can assist with caring for the incapacitated person.
This process starts with filing a petition with the court asking it to declare someone incapacitated. These petitions are addressed on an expedited basis, so the process moves somewhat quickly compared with other cases. Within five days of filing the petition, the court must appoint a committee of three medical professionals to evaluate the condition of the person named in the petition, and each must submit a report to the judge no later than four months after their appointment. Each professional must personally examine the individual and assess whether he/she has the ability to exercise certain legal rights, such as the right to marry, manage property, vote, make medical decisions and decide living situation issues. The court uses this information, along with its own impressions gathered by questioning the individual, to decide if some or all legal rights should be removed due to incapacity. This status continues indefinitely until lifted by a court in a future proceeding.
Talk to a Divorce Attorney
If you are considering divorce, regardless of the reason, consult a divorce attorney before filing a divorce petition. Divorce has important legal consequences, many of which are permanent, and should be approached under the guidance of a divorce attorney who can make sure your interests are fully considered and protected. The Tampa Bay law firm of the All Family Law Group works with clients to achieve their specific goals as they enter a new stage in life.  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, March 1, 2017

Can You Keep the Details of a Divorce Private?

Divorce can leave the participants feeling emotionally and financially vulnerable. These reactions make sense in light of the dramatic changes divorce triggers within a relatively short-period of time – change in residence, change in economic circumstance and change in relationship status. Another difficult reality of divorce is the necessity of releasing private and potentially embarrassing information to the public. All cases filed in any court are matters of public record, which means anyone has the right to access them upon request. This was not much of an issue before the advent of the Internet, and to view case records typically required someone to visit the courthouse in person. However, now that records can be accessed from the comfort of home at any time of the day, concerns about who may view, and subsequently use, this information is real and justified. Parties involved in court proceedings have the right to ask a judge to seal all case records and related documents so the information is withheld from public view. However, a compelling reason must exist to justify such a request. Actor Brad Pitt recently tried to seal the records in his divorce, citing concerns about his children’s privacy rights, but the court disagreed and denied the request. While receiving approval to seal records in a divorce case is not easy, it does happen. Importantly, though, there are ways to keep information private without resorting to a request to seal records.
Sealing Records
As noted above, documents filed in connection with divorce cases are considered public records subject to Florida law on the public’s right to access this information. If a party wants to keep information out of the public eye, he/she must file a request with the court asking it to designate certain information as confidential and thus exempt from disclosure. Courts will only grant such a request if a party can demonstrate certain grounds exist to justify the decision. These include:
  • confidentiality is necessary to preserve justice in a case;
  • confidentiality is needed to avoid injury to innocent third parties, such as children; or
  • confidentiality is necessary to prevent injury to a party by the disclosure of information normally protected under common law or a right to privacy.
Courts are generally reluctant to grant these requests, and a party must have a fairly compelling reason to be successful. Consequently, a better option is to limit or completely avoid submitting private information to a court.
Other Ways of Keeping Information Private
The most effective way to circumvent the need to release private information into the public record is to negotiate and enter into a private settlement agreement as part of a mediation or through the collaborative divorce process. These proceedings are private, and the extent to which personal information must be disclosed to finalize a divorce is limited. Further, the provisions of a marital settlement can refer to outside agreements without disclosing the terms contained within them, which is especially useful to protect financial information. Thus, while it takes a little planning, it is possible to keep most personal information out of the public domain, and an experienced divorce attorney will know the most effective way to accomplish this goal.
Consult a Divorce Attorney
Divorce is difficult, and being forced to disclose personal information to strangers only adds to the stress. If you are concerned about revealing personal information to the public, work with a knowledgeable divorce attorney about limiting your exposure. 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, February 27, 2017

Do Step-parents Have the Authority to Make Legal Decisions for a Stepchild?

Divorce is especially hard on children because they rarely understand the reasons behind the decision, and only perceive the practical consequence that their parents do not live together anymore. Disputes over child custody and parental responsibility can particularly complicate things. While the child may struggle to adapt to this disruption in daily life, welcoming a new adult into the home if a parent decides to remarry can be equally challenging. Despite the common and unflattering depiction of step-parents in movies and books, many step-parent/step-child relationships and are healthy and productive and do not include the abusive, overbearing bearing behavior step-parents are sometimes charged with using. From a legal standpoint, a step-parent has no authority to provide consent to medical treatment, enroll a child in school, or make any other routine decision without approval from the legally-recognized parents. This lack of authority can cause problems if the child’s parent becomes ill or is otherwise unable to fulfill his/her parental duties. Informal and formal legal arrangements exist that can bridge the gap between a desire by the step-parent to become more involved in a child’s life and the limitations of the law.
Piecemeal Written Authorizations
The easiest and least expensive method of granting authorization to a step-parent for a step-child is a written letter from a parent or legal guardian that specifically gives the step-parent the power to make decisions. While the simplicity of this arrangement can make it appealing, it does require preplanning, and does not really take into account emergency situations. It is impractical to carry a letter of authorization around constantly, and while no medical facility would deny a child treatment for a serious condition because a parent is not present, non-emergency medical care cannot occur without consent from an adult with parental rights.
Step-Parent Adoption
Step-parent adoption is a permanent solution to the lack of authority, but does involve the investment of money and time. Step-parent adoption is only available if the person is legally married to one of the child’s parents. If a married couple wants to initiate a step-parent adoption, they must file a petition in court. Florida does not permit a child to have three legal parents, so the only way to complete a step-parent adoption for a child with two living parents is through the termination of one parent’s rights via consent or court order. Sometimes the consent of a parent is unnecessary. For example, if the parent deserted the child, previously lost his/her parental rights, or is ruled incompetent, consent is not required. Because of the gravity of the rights being granted and the concurrent seriousness of the loss of rights by a parent, the law wants to be sure all interested parties know about an adoption petition. Consequently, the legislature created a database for potential fathers of unwed mothers, called the Putative Father Registry. When a man registers his name on the database, he becomes entitled to notice about any impending adoption. Thus, checking this list is necessary if the biological father is out of the picture, but may have known about the woman’s pregnancy.
Despite the legal requirements, step-parent adoptions are easier and faster than conventional adoptions, and can be completed in one day if both parents consent. This legal option ensures the step-parent removes all obstacles to caring for a child, and may be the right choice for families looking to fully integrate.
Contact a Family Law Attorney
If you are a step-parent wishing to have more of a say in a child’s life, talk to a family law attorney about your legal options. A family law attorney can look at the dynamics of your family and guide you toward a choice that makes the most sense. 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+