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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.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Regrouping if Divorce Mediation Fails

Divorce often leaves both parties with a lot of anger and other negative emotions that can be difficult to overcome during the dissolution process. In order to reduce the amount of conflict, which is important to many spouses with children, the parties enter mediation to settle unresolved issues, such as child custody and property division. Mediation is designed to be a less contentious forum where the spouses have an opportunity to discuss their positions, with the assistance of their attorneys, as the mediator tries to deflect any points of disagreement so the process can continue. Mediation is frequently used in family law cases as a starting point before court intervention, and some judges automatically order divorcing spouses to attend mediation before they will schedule a case for a hearing. Court-ordered mediation is especially likely if the unresolved issues are child-related. Divorced parents cannot completely cut off contact with one another, and those that find a way to cooperate offer a better situation for the child. Sometimes, however, mediation is not the best forum to resolve conflicts between parties, and conversations do break down. Knowing what the available options are if mediation does not work out can help divorcing spouses maintain a more open perspective about the dissolution process, and avoid jumping to the worst-case scenario of protracted litigation.
Reporting to the Court
Assuming mediation is a waste of time if it does not lead to a resolution is a natural reaction, but cases commonly settle before trial, even after earlier attempts have failed. Mediation is non-binding, so either party can walk away at any time and for any reason. If mediation does fail, the parties must report their inability to form an agreement to the court. Depending on how far apart the spouses are, the court may ask the couple to try again. Alternatively, the court could look to put the case on the judge’s schedule, which moves the case into litigation mode, and require the parties to start preparing for trial.
Reassessing Positions
Prior to attending a mediation session, parties and their attorneys gather information and prepare a list of things they wish to discuss. During the session itself, new information may emerge that changes how a party views a certain issue. In order for mediation to work, both parties must be willing to compromise, and part of the process is reevaluating one’s interests after each session. This analysis could lead a spouse to relinquish an interest in property, for example, or decide to be more flexible over the time-sharing schedule. The key to successful mediation often rests on how willing each party is to reconsider their positions following each session.
Trying Again
As mentioned above, attempts at settlement do not always occur on the first try. It may be fruitful to go through mediation again or try another alternative dispute resolution option, such as collaborative divorce or arbitration. Having gone through mediation once, each party is more prepared for future negotiations, which may simplify the discussions. While mediation is not free, the cost is typically much less than a party can expect to pay if court intervention is required, and the timeline to divorce is much shorter.
Litigation and Information Revealed in Mediation
Finally, all information revealed during a mediation session is considered confidential, and cannot be used against the other party at trial unless the information is also available through another source. Gaining important information through a mediation session prior to trial is helpful, but searching for alternate sources is likely to add costs, and can be frustrating if other options cannot be found. Thus, both parties are better off if an agreement can be reached outside of the courtroom.
Get Legal Advice
Finding the right lawyer to take you through the difficult process of divorce is important to having the most productive and satisfying experience possible. The lawyers at All Family Law Group, P.A. serve clients in the Tampa Bay area, and provide a compassionate approach to divorce that is tailored to your unique needs.  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, November 15, 2017

Weighing Annulment vs. Divorce

When couples contemplate ending a marriage, rarely does the thought of asking for annulment, instead of divorce, occur to them. While most people have some vague idea of what annulment means, many associate it with a religious procedure intended to erase the marriage. Religious-based annulments certainly exist, but are wholly separate from the civil process that goes under the same name. The key difference between divorce and annulment is that an annulled marriage is treated as if it never existed, and a divorce simply dissolves a legally-valid union. People do opt for a civil annulment for religious reasons, but also seek this alternative to divorce to avoid extending certain benefits that former spouses are entitled to in divorce, such as property distribution. Compared to divorce, annulment is a complicated and more costly procedure that brings no guarantee a court will grant it. That being said, it may be the right choice in certain situations, and understanding how the law and courts treat these kinds of requests will allow individuals considering whether to end their relationship to make an informed decision.
Grounds for Annulment
One important point to understand about annulment is that, unlike divorce, there are no statutes addressing this subject. Thus, all the law on this issue is based on past court decisions, which means judges have wide discretion in deciding annulment cases, and the outcomes are very uncertain. However, looking at past judicial trends, certain claims for annulment are more likely to be accepted than others, including:
  • The marriage was a sham or fraudulent. This occurs if one party agrees to marry to gain a certain benefit, such as immigration status, public benefits, health insurance or greed. To claim a marriage is fraudulent requires one spouse to be innocent of the other party’s motives, and usually requires the marriage to fail shortly after its creation.
  • There was no consummation. If consummation of the marriage did not occur, courts have accepted this reason to justify annulment, but it must be sought relatively early to have any chance of succeeding. Waiting years to annul a marriage is likely to preclude this option.
  • The marriage was illegal from the start. Illegality of a marriage can be based on age, one party being already married, or the incapacity of a spouse at the time of the marriage. In this situation, courts are likely to grant an annulment because the marriage was never valid. The more compelling the evidence, the easier it is to convince a judge the marriage should never have taken place.
Spousal Rights
Marriage confers specific rights on both spouses that make a significant difference in divorce. The rights of a party in a divorce are spelled out in Florida statutory law, but annulment, as mentioned above, has no set laws governing its application. From a practical standpoint, courts can and will divide property in an annulment proceeding since there is likely to be some commingling of property, but the court is not required to use a particular standard to decide which party gets what. Consequently, if possible, it is best for the parties to form an agreement on property division privately so there is more control over the outcome. In addition, Florida law automatically dissolves certain trusts, insurance beneficiary designations, and provisions in wills as an aftereffect of divorce. Annulment typically brings the same type of effect, but an experienced family law attorney should be consulted to ensure the financial aspects of the annulment are handled properly.
Talk to a Florida Family Law Attorney
Making the decision to end your marriage is never easy, but working with a family law/divorce attorney can make the process more manageable. The Tampa Bay law firm All Family Law Group, P.A. understands how overwhelming this transition can be, and will work to keep you informed about the legal process and 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+

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Navigating Summer Vacations and Shared Custody of Your Child

Children impatiently wait for summer vacation most the year, as they dream about being free from the strictures of school and schedules. For parents, however, this time of year can bring a lot of stress, especially if they share custody of a child. Planning summer getaways and figuring out child care when school is out of session can create tension with the parenting schedule, sparking disputes that can quickly escalate. Before disagreements about parenting time and activities get out of hand, and potentially require the intervention of a court to resolve, there are steps parents can take to minimize the possibility of contentious issues. When parents argue over child-related issues, the child is usually the one most affected, which is rarely a parent’s desire or intent. An overview of several methods that could reduce the chance of a dispute with the other parent over summer vacation plans will be discussed below.
Check the Parenting Plan
Parenting plans often include provisions regarding any changes to the parenting time schedule during school vacations, but parents sometimes forget to refer to this document and inadvertently violate the terms when planning family events. Thus, this document should be the first place parents look to when planning summer events. If the parenting plan is silent on school vacations, or the provisions no longer work for the parent and child, it may be time to attempt to work privately with the other parent on a reasonable plan for the summer season. Any negotiations or agreements between the parents should be in writing in case court involvement is needed in the future to formally change or enforce parenting time.
Early Planning
One of the easiest and best strategies a parent can use to reduce conflict is to plan as early as possible, and keep the other parent informed about the plans and any potential disruptions to the parenting time schedule. If the other parent is kept in the dark about when and where the child will be, the likelihood of legal action is much higher. Any deviations from the established parenting schedule should also be written in the event a petition must be filed to enforce custody rights and to defend against allegations of violations of the parenting plan by the other parent.
Notifications
To further encourage cooperation by the other parent, send reminders in the days and weeks leading up to the trip. This effort will ward off accusations by the other parent that he/she was not kept informed, and hopefully prevent the parent from making conflicting plans with the child over the same period of time.
Modify the Parenting Plan if Necessary
If it appears that the other parent is unwilling to consider accommodating summer plans or actively seeks to interfere with custody rights, the only option left may be to ask a court to modify the parenting plan. Court-ordered modifications to a parenting plan will be granted if there is a “substantial, material and unanticipated change in circumstances,” and the modification is in the best interests of the child. In addition, depending on the circumstances, a parent can also ask for additional parenting time and/or the payment of costs related to the other parent’s interfering actions.
Contact a Family Law Attorney
Child custody disputes can quickly turn into nasty affairs that call for legal action. The Tampa Bay law firm All Family Law Group, P.A. focuses on all areas of family law, including child custody, and will fight to protect your rights as a parent. 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, November 2, 2017

How Courts Treat Spousal Gifts in Divorce

Exchanging gifts with friends and family is a traditional way to show how much one cares, and even before marriage, exchanging gifts between spouses is common, even expected to some extent. When the relationship is good, the effort and expense of obtaining and sharing gifts between spouses are not given a second thought. However, when the marriage is no longer viable, and one or both spouses seek to divorce, items given as gifts take on new significance in the division of property. One could reasonably assume that gifts would not be considered a marital asset since they are freely given and nothing is typically expected in return. However, the law does not view gifts between spouses in this manner, and considers all gifts exchanged during the marriage as marital assets. The difficulty comes when some assets are not easily labeled as marital or non-marital. The Florida Supreme Court recently weighed in on how courts should assess whether particular properties are spousal gifts for purposes of property distribution, and found that two properties owned by the husband, but used only as the family’s residence, count as gifts to the wife.
Marital vs. Non-Marital Property
Assuming the spouses cannot mutually decide how to divide property, Florida law calls for the court to determine an equitable/equal division of all marital assets and liabilities. Judges are permitted to deviate from the equal division standard if such a result would be unfair, but divorcing couples should generally expect to split everything with the other spouse down the middle. In order to distribute the assets and liabilities between the parties, it is first necessary to identify what qualifies as marital and non-marital property. Marital property includes:
  • any asset or liability obtained during the marriage by either spouse individually or jointly;
  • non-marital assets that increased in value due to the efforts of the spouses or from the expenditure of marital funds/assets;
  • gifts between spouses; and
  • any interest in vested and non-vested pension funds, retirement accounts, insurance policies, annuities or other deferred compensation program.
In addition, any real or personal property jointly owned by the spouses, regardless of when it was acquired, is automatically considered marital property. This assumption may be rebutted with strong evidence to convince a court to classify it as non-marital.
By comparison, non-marital property includes any of the following:
  • assets or liabilities acquired before the marriage by either spouse;
  • assets acquired by a spouse individually through inheritance or via gift from a non-spouse;
  • income earned from non-marital assets unless the income was treated as a marital asset; and
  • assets and liabilities excluded from the marital estate under the terms of a prenuptial or nuptial agreement.
Spousal Gifts
When considering what items could count as a spousal, it is necessary to look at everything from jewelry given on an anniversary to the car bought to mark a milestone birthday. The key issue with spousal gifts is figuring out if the item actually qualifies as a gift. It is does not, it could potentially be classified as non-marital property, and thus, not subject to division in divorce. Legally speaking, for an item to meet the criteria for a gift, the transfer by a spouse must:
  • be intentional;
  • be immediate;
  • relinquish all control over the property to the receiver; and
  • be accepted by the other spouse.
If any of these elements are missing, an argument could be made the property was not a gift, and instead, should be considered a non-marital asset.
Get Legal Advice
Your financial future is tied to the property distribution settlement in your divorce, so you want to make sure it is fair and that your rights are properly represented. The Tampa Bay law firm, All Family Law Group, P.A., understands how complicated property division can be, and are ready to answer your questions and concerns.  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+