About Our Firm

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Since 1997 we are Tampa attorneys practicing exclusively in Divorce, Family, Adoption, Bankruptcy & Mediation Services: practicing in Tampa, Riverview, Brandon, Valrico, Lithia and all of Hillsborough County as well as for bankruptcy in all counties in the Tampa Division of the Middle District of Florda: Hillsborough, Pinellas, Manatee, Sarasota, Hardee, Hernando, Polk, and Pasco Counties. 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.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Proposed Alimony Revision Legislation in Florida

Florida legislation currently creates a presumption of permanent alimony for long-term marriages, while simultaneously creating a presumption against permanent alimony in short-term marriages. This legislation has drawn the attention of numerous family law attorneys, legislators, and members of the public.  In the summer of the 2013, the Florida legislature attempted to revise the current alimony laws but with no success – the bill did not become law. The proposed changes are likely to be heard again during the next legislative session.

Permanent Alimony

Permanent alimony is exactly what it sounds like: upon dissolution of a marriage, one spouse pays alimony to the other spouse for the rest of their natural life, or until the other spouse dies – whichever comes first. Permanent alimony also terminates when the receiving spouse remarries, but many opt for cohabiting with a new lover, rather than re-marrying, so they can continue to receive payments. A paying spouse can seek an award modification or termination if able to present evidence of a substantial change in their circumstances.

Current Alimony Law

Title VI, Chapter 61, Section 8 of the current Florida Statute provides that permanent alimony may be awarded for the needs and necessities of life as they were established during the marriage of the parties. In Florida, the award of alimony is dependent upon the duration of the marriage. A marriage of less than 7 years is considered short-term, a duration of 7-17 years is considered medium-term, and a marriage that lasts 17 years or more is considered long-term. Florida law provides that permanent alimony is presumed in long-term marriages, but not in short-term marriages. The court can also award durational (rather than permanent) alimony that can last up to the length of the marriage.

Proposed Alimony Law

The proposed law changes the duration of marriage requirement. For example, the proposed law request the following changes regarding duration of marriage: A short-term marriage would be considered less than 11 years, medium-term would be 11-20 years, while a long-term marriage would be over 20 years. Furthermore, the proposed law would create a rebuttable presumption against any form of alimony in short-term marriages, so this means that there can be alimony awarded in a short term marriage; however, the spouse in need of the alimony would have to prove a need and that the other spouse has the ability to pay it. There would continue to be a presumption in favor of a form of alimony in long-term marriages; however, and most notably, permanent alimony would be completely eliminated. This means that in a long-term marriage the spouse from whom alimony is requested would have to prove that he or she does not have the ability to pay alimony or that the other spouse does not have the need for the alimony. 



There is no presumption in favor of alimony for either party in a medium-term marriage. Rather the court has the discretion to determine and award a monthly alimony amount, but the award cannot exceed 30% of the spouse's gross income -- a new guideline incorporated in the proposed law (see below). The proposed law allows for an award of durational alimony with limitations. Durational alimony could be awarded up to half the duration of the marriage. Under exceptional circumstances, the court would have discretion to award more alimony, but most cases will fall under the parameters of the proposed law, so ideally this court discretion would be used at a minimum.

Proposed Law and Alimony Guidelines

Currently, the Florida Statute does not have strict guidelines pertaining to the amount and payment of alimony, compared to how it handles child support. The proposals then present the following limitation on the amount of alimony payments as it relates to the paying spouse: no more than 25% of the gross income for short-term marriages, no more than 35% of the gross income for medium-term marriages, and no more than 38% of the gross income for long-term marriages.

Get Help

Partner with a Tampa Bay divorce attorney at All Family Law Group, P.A. to get effective solutions to your family law issues. Call us to discuss your situation at 813-672-1900 or contact us online.for an initial consultation at no charge.

 By Lynette Silon-Laguna Google

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Later in Life Divorce & Finances

America’s divorce rate might be on the decline for most age groups, but amongst one group it’s hitting record highs. Who’s behind the spike? Baby boomers. The divorce rate for the over-50 crowd has more than tripled in the past 20 years, and the trend shows little chance of slowing. With Americans living longer and looking for more from their marriages, many are choosing to jettison an unloved spouse rather than spend their golden years with someone they no longer care for.

Unfortunately, many boomers are divorcing first and thinking later. Adjusting to life after a divorce is difficult under the best of circumstances, but divorce after 50 can have serious financial repercussions. Boomers need to understand the risks of late-in-life divorce, and take steps to prepare themselves before they file.

Financial Repercussions of Divorce

First, boomers need to consider their retirement. Have you and your spouse been saving money? Investing in a retirement plan? Whatever money you saved will now have to fund two separate retirements, which means that it likely won’t go as far. At best, this could mean that a person has to adjust their lifestyle and expectations; at worst, it could mean that a person would have to work much longer than anticipated.

Second, health care costs will likely rise. Health spending tends to increase as a person ages, but married couples are often able to defray some of these costs by caring for each other rather than hiring a nurse or a caregiver. Divorcing boomers need to consider who will care for them–and how much it will cost–before they experience a major health event.

Third, though some divorcees may anticipate short-term financial losses, older couples need to consider the long-term as well. If a person in their 30s goes through a divorce, they have decades to continue working, to make up any losses, and to prepare for their retirement. If a person in their late 60s chooses to divorce, they’ll have far less time to recuperate.

Finally, consider the difference between a “fair” division of marital property and an “equitable” one. While it might seem “fair” to split everything 50/50, it might be more “equitable” for a spouse who forewent their career to care for a family to take a greater share of the marital estate. Also consider which assets are easy to liquidate, should the need arise, and which assets might take longer to sell.

How to Prepare for Later in Life Divorce

The most important thing you can do before a divorce is initiated is to make sure that you have a handle on your finances. Do you know where your money is, and how to access it? Are your bills paid? Do your credit cards have a low balance? Does it seem like there should be more money in your joint account than actually is there? Find out now, if you don’t know.

Contact a Tampa Bay Divorce Attorney

If you are considering a divorce and are concerned about the effect it could have on your finances, contact our Experienced  Attorneys & Counselors at Law since 1997 Serving all of Tampa Bay. Call 813-672-1900 now for a free initial consultation www.familymaritallaw.com.

 By Lynette Silon-Laguna Google



Sunday, August 10, 2014

Til Death Do Us Part, Whether We Like It Or Not: Same Sex Divorce in Florida

In March, a Tampa-area couple made headlines when they filed for a divorce. What made their divorce so special? Their gender. The couple, both women, had been married in Massachusetts years before. When they decided to end their union, they thought nothing of filing their divorce action in the state where they lived. But the judge–and the state of Florida–had other plans.

Same-Sex Marriage in Florida
           
In 2008, Florida voters passed an amendment to the state constitution that defined marriage as being between a man and a woman. State law also holds that marriages between same-sex couples that were entered into in other jurisdictions are invalid in Florida.
           
These laws have frequently been challenged. In mid-July 2014, a judge in Monroe County struck down the 2008 ban and stated that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry. Just one week later, a judge in Miami made a similar ruling, holding that the ban was discriminatory and violated same-sex couples’ right to equal protection under the law. Both decisions have been appealed by the state Attorney General, Pamela Bondi.

Same-Sex Divorce in Florida

While those seeking to marry have made gains, those looking to leave their marriages have a long way to go. Several Florida courts have granted divorces to same-sex couples, but Laurel Lee, the judge in the Tampa case, refused to do so. In Lees view, because the state did not recognize the couple’s marriage, the court had no authority to end the union.
           
This ruling has serious implications. Generally, couples are required to divorce in the state and county that has jurisdiction over them. Jurisdiction is typically established by residence, or how long a person has lived in a particular state. This means that if Florida refuses to allow same-sex couples to divorce, they have two unsatisfactory options. First, one or both partners may choose to go to a state that recognizes their marriage and establish residency. Obviously, this is problematic­; it’s rare that a spouse would have the ability (let alone the willingness) to uproot their lives and move to another state for a number of months before they can even consider filing for a divorce. Second, the couple can choose to “self separate” and live as though they are divorced. Because Florida does not recognize same-sex marriages, agreements on child custody and alimony cannot be enforced. Furthermore, because the couple was never actually divorced, they can never remarry. Thus, many couples are being forced to spend their lives together–even if they don’t want to.
           
The Tampa couple is gearing up for a fight. Their attorneys claim that Florida laws prohibit same-sex marriage, not same-sex divorce. The Florida Bar Family Law Section is jumping into the ring as well, arguing that the couple is being "denied equal access to the courts."

Contact a Tampa Bay Divorce Attorney
           
For now, same-sex marriage and divorce are in a state of flux in Florida. It’s unclear how long the Attorney General’s appeals will take, and it’s uncertain of what will happen next. In such an unsettled atmosphere, it’s crucial that those considering a divorce get all the help they can. If you have questions about same-sex divorce, contact our Experienced  Attorneys & Counselors at Law since 1997 Serving all of Tampa Bay. Call 813-672-1900 now for a free initial consultation www.familymaritallaw.com.

By Lynette Silon-Laguna Google

Saturday, August 2, 2014

You Keep the Car - I Want the Cat: Divorce in Florida

Divorcing couples may expect a fight over who gets the car, the house, or custody of the kids–but do they expect a fight over Fido?

With more and more Americans viewing their fluffy friends as family members, it should come as no surprise that their squabbles over who gets to keep the cat are ending up in family court. But family law courts don’t always see animals the way that their owners see them. Pet owners must understand how the courts view animal custody, and learn how they can prepare themselves for a dispute.

The Current State of the Law
           
In many states across the country, including Florida, animals in divorce cases are seen as objects. Like toasters, silverware, and other inanimate objects, deciding who gets to keep a pet is seen as a matter of distributing personal property, not one of determining custody and visitation rights.
           
This view, which could potentially be traced to the days when animals were means of production and not companions, was cemented by the 1995 Florida case Bennett v. Bennett. When the couple divorced, they found themselves with one major problem: who would get custody of the family dog, Roddy. The trial court set a visitation schedule that elicited yet more legal wrangling between the parties. The case eventually wound its way to the appellate court, who dealt with the issue in just a few paragraphs. “While a dog may be considered by many to be a member of the family,” the court said, “under Florida law, animals are considered to be personal property.” It went on to hold that the trial court had “no authority” to grant visitation rights for personal property, and concluded that “Our courts are overwhelmed with the supervision of custody, visitation, and support matters related to the protection of our children. We cannot undertake the same responsibility as to animals.”

What to Do if You’re Concerned About Pet Custody
           
Despite the precedent set by Bennett, some courts are starting to acknowledge that a person’s relationship with their beloved pet is more complicated than their relationship with their vacuum cleaner. Pet owners who are concerned about what will happen to their animal when they divorce now have a chance of convincing a judge to order custody.
           
If you’re involved in an animal custody dispute, think first about who bought or adopted your pet. Because courts have traditionally seen animals as personal property, they may be more likely to award custody to the animal’s purchaser.
           
Regardless of whether you bought or adopted the pet, you should be prepared to show the judge that you are its primary caregiver and that it is in the animal’s best interests to remain in your custody. Gather evidence that you are the one who exercises the pet, feeds it, takes it to the vet and pays the bills for its care. Ask friends and neighbors for affidavits that demonstrate the animal’s bond to you. If your pet has ever shown signs of distress when you’ve been away from it for a significant time, present that evidence in court as well.
           
Finally, make it clear to the court that your concern is for the animal, and not for revenge. A judge will not look kindly on a person who never showed any interest in the family dog until they realized how much losing the animal would hurt their soon-to-be-ex spouse.

Talk to a Tampa Bay Family Law Attorney
           
If you’re going through a divorce or separation and are worried about what could happen to your animals, contact a Tampa family law attorney. Pet custody is a new and uncharted area of the law, but an attorney will be in the best position to understand the developments and present your case. Contact our Experienced  Attorneys & Counselors at Law since 1997 Serving all of Tampa Bay. Call 813-672-1900 now for a free initial consultation www.familymaritallaw.com.

By Lynette Silon-Laguna Google