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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, 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+

Friday, December 8, 2017

What Happens to Health Insurance When Couples Divorce?

Medical care is known to be one of the more expensive, but necessary, items to hit a person’s budget. Most people seek medical insurance through an employer, if available, to defray the costs of obtaining coverage, and most families are covered under one spouse’s insurance – usually the one that offers the best coverage at an affordable price. Medical insurance is a valuable asset in today’s world, and when couples decide to divorce, one party will be left with the dilemma of how to replace it. If a person is lucky, his/her employer could offer health insurance, but it may not be a good policy, and even if it is, the cost could be too high to contemplate joining the plan. However, the worst situation a divorcing spouse could find him/herself facing is having no option to purchase employer-sponsored health insurance and trying to manage a number of pre-existing medical conditions that are expensive to treat. Does a person, who is reliant on the other spouse for health insurance, have any ability to maintain that coverage post-divorce? Additionally, there is the issue of who will provide health insurance for the children, and how that expense will be divided between each parent. A discussion of an individual’s options for health insurance after divorce, and how health insurance for children is handled in this situation, will be explored below.
Insurance Options for a Divorcing Spouse
Anyone facing a serious and/or chronic health condition is understandably anxious when it comes to securing sufficient health insurance coverage so they may receive necessary treatment. Serious health concerns can force a person to reduce time at work, change careers into a less demanding and lower-paying field, or stop working entirely. This presents a real problem in the context of divorce. Federal law requires health insurance providers that contract with companies that employ 20 or more employees to provide the same level of temporary coverage, known as COBRA, to an ex-spouse for 36 months after a divorce is finalized. Divorce is one of several qualifying events that obligate an insurance company to offer enrollment in a plan or the continuation of coverage – marriage, birth of a child, and loss of employment are examples of other qualifying events. Thus, divorce waives enrollment restrictions, and allows the spouse losing coverage to obtain previously-declined insurance with an employer or buy coverage in the marketplace. Note that ex-spouses have 60 days after the divorce decree is issued to contact the insurance company and elect to enroll in the COBRA program. However, the big issue with COBRA is the high cost. Most group health plans are subsidized (or partially subsidized) by the employer, which is lost when the legal relationship with the employee is severed by divorce. Further, health insurance companies are permitted to add an additional premium above what the employer is paying that only adds to the high cost. This situation often results in monthly premiums of over $1,000 for one person.
The law does not require an ex-spouse to cover the cost of health insurance, but this issue may be negotiated as part of a divorce settlement. In addition, courts will scrutinize divorces that could leave one party indigent due to serious health issues, and lead a judge to give the spouse with lesser means a greater share of the marital property, or order the other spouse to pay alimony.
Health Insurance for Children
Typically, health insurance for children will remain the responsibility of the primary provider, as it is the easiest way to resolve this matter. But, in any event, Florida law requires one parent, typically the one ordered to pay child support, provide health insurance for a child following divorce, as long as the cost is reasonable and the coverage is accessible. The cost is considered reasonable if the additional amount does not exceed five percent of the obligated parent’s gross monthly income. Coverage is considered accessible if the policy includes the county where the child primarily lives, or another county if agreed to by the parent with the greater share of parenting time. If the parent receiving support provides health insurance for the child, the other parent may be required to reimburse this cost.
Talk to a Florida Divorce Attorney
Maintaining health insurance coverage after divorce is a serious concern for many people, and if you have questions about the effect divorce has your rights and benefits, talk to a divorce attorney about what you should expect. The Tampa Bay law firm All Family Law Group, P.A. has a team of dedicated attorneys ready to help 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+

Sunday, December 3, 2017

When Will Courts Hear Child Testimony in Family Law Cases?

Numerous studies have supported the finding that divorcenegatively affects many children. Certainly, the degree of the impact is likely related to the age of the child when the divorce occurs and the child’s ability to understand the situation, though it is hard to handle a parent divorcing at any age. However, once a child is old enough to have some capacity to grasp that his/her parents are no longer together, many will express an opinion about which parent they would prefer to live with primarily. There is no denying children are a central issue in divorce, and the outcome will unavoidably directly affect their life. Based on this situation, some parents, and sometimes the child him/herself, want the judge to take the child’s wishes into consideration. While a child’s input could provide the court with some valuable information, most judges tend to shy away from this situation because of the potential for a parent to influence the child’s statement, as well the possible detriment of being exposed to the legal process. However, children are permitted to testify in some cases, and teenagers, in particular, are more likely to be given a voice in child custody matters. Judges have complete discretion in deciding this matter, but there are some guidelines courts can use to assess whether child testimony is advisable. An overview of the circumstances that would make a court more likely to permit a child’s testimony, and a review of the guidelines courts can use to determine if a child’s testimony is appropriate, will follow below.
Allowing Child Testimony
Generally, courts will only seriously consider hearing a child’s testimony if it is the only way to get important evidence into the case. However, even with that standard, unless the child is at least 12 or 13 years old, the likelihood the court will allow the testimony is extremely small. Courts have a legitimate worry about the competency of the child to testify, which requires the child be of sufficient age and maturity to make independent decisions and understand the implications of what he/she is saying. Further, even if the child is viewed as sufficiently mature, situations of domestic violence where the child is the only witness are one of the few circumstances where a child’s testimony would be given due consideration. Older teenagers, though, are given more leeway to testify about custody issues since they usually have the ability to understand the legal process and separate themselves from the dynamics of their parent’s marriage.
Legal Guidelines
Florida does not have an established age range judges can use to guide their decisions on child testimony, but it does have a statute about evaluating motions for child involvement in civil cases. Any party or court-appointed advocate can make such a request, and the court is directed to look at:
  • the child’s age;
  • the type of case;
  • the child’s relationship to the parties in the case, e., a child of parents involved in a family law matter; and
  • how the child would be affected by providing testimony.
To minimize stress on the child, many judges will speak with the child directly and out of the presence of his/her parents, known as in camera, in hopes of reducing any pressure the child may feel to favor one parent over the other.
The best option, though, is to keep children out of family law cases as much as possible. Guardians ad litem or other court-appointed advocates can usually provide the same information, and save the child from the trauma of having to appear at a court proceeding, an option judges would likely support. The best stance to take on this issue is to assume the judge will not allow child involvement, which is by and large the case, and instead work with an attorney to find alternatives that can convey the same evidence.
Get Legal Advice
Divorce brings up a lot of emotions for everyone involved, and it is easy to become overwhelmed by the complexity of the legal process to end a marriage. Finding an experienced family law attorney that will listen and strongly advocate for your interests is the most effective way to move through the divorce process efficiently and reduce unnecessary stress. The Tampa Bay law firm All Family Law Group, P.A. strives to settle divorce cases amicably, but are well-prepared to present your interests in court.  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+