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.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Are people who file for bankruptcy "using the system"?

As a bankruptcy attorney, I was asked by a criminal law attorney whether I thought people were acquiring debt with the intention of discharging it in bankruptcy. I assured this attorney that this was NOT the case. The overwhelming majority of clients we have had and have are devastated by having to file for bankruptcy. There may be a few that “work the system”, but that is the exception.

Furthermore, I can also vouch through my experience that the majority of people who are on unemployment compensation would much rather be working. They are making a minimal amount of money on unemployment which doesn’t even begin to cover the income they received when they were working. Without even the income to pay their living and food expenses, unpaid debt starts accruing and creditors add fees and raise interest rates and the amount owed increases rapidly, making it even more impossible to pay back. It’s a no win situation.

My advice if you are falling behind on paying your debt is that you do not use equity from your homestead or use funds from your retirement accounts as both of these assets are usually exempt in bankruptcy. In essence, if you cannot pay your bills, do not devastate yourself even more financially by using up assets which you may keep if you must file for bankruptcy. I have seen too many clients who have done so and they are destitute. Many of these people should be retired, but they don't have the means to retire.

Beware of Foreclosure Rescue Scams. Help is Free!

There is never a fee to get assistance or information about the Making Home Affordable program from your lender or a HUD-approved housing counselor.

For a HUD-approved counselor, visit: http://www.hud.gov/offices/hsq/sfh/hcc/fc

Beware of any person or organization that asks you to pay a fee in exchange for housing counseling services or modification of a delinquent loan.

Beware of anyone who says they can “save” your home if you sign or transfer over the deed to your house. Do not sign over the deed to your property to any organization or individual unless you are working directly with your mortgage company to forgive your debt.

Never make your mortgage payments to anyone other than your mortgage company without their approval.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Reasons to Delay or Speed Up Your Bankruptcy Filing

There are many factors to consider when deciding when you should file for bankruptcy. Here are a few common reasons for delaying or speeding up a bankruptcy filing.

Reasons to Delay a Bankruptcy Filing

Your income recently decreased. One good reason to delay a filing is if your income over the last six months puts you over the means test limit but a recent decrease in your income would put you under the limit if you waited a month or two to file. Remember, the means test is based on your average gross income received during the six-month period just prior to the month you file. So, if you file in October you would average your income during the months of April through September.

You face foreclosure but the sale is not yet scheduled. An impending foreclosure is another reason to delay you filing (or speed it up, see below). If the foreclosure sale hasn't been scheduled yet, you may want to delay your filing until the sale is both scheduled and close to taking place. This tactic will result in a delay of the sale for at least two months and sometimes longer, which will give you an extra couple of months of payment-free shelter.

Certain credit card use. Still another reason to delay filing is if you used a credit card within the previous 90 days or obtained cash advances within the previous 70 days. If the credit card charges totaled more than $550 on any one card and were for luxuries, or the advances on any one card exceeded $850, the creditor can obtain a court ruling that the charges or advances will not be discharged in your bankruptcy. If you have recent charges or cash advances that might survive your bankruptcy you should consider delaying your filing until the three month or 70-day period has expired.

Other reasons. Other common reasons you might want to delay filing are:

•you made preferential payments to creditors (wait 90 days or one year to file, depending on the type of creditor)
•you transferred property for less than fair value within the past two years and the property is valuable enough that the bankruptcy trustee may go after it (typically over $1,000)
•you had a previous bankruptcy case dismissed within the past year (or in some cases within the previous 180 days)
•you are seeking a mortgage modification (the bankruptcy may bring the modification process to a screeching halt)
•you are seeking to discharge back income taxes (wait until three years have passed since the taxes first became due or until two years have passed since you filed a return), or
•you filed a previous bankruptcy in which you obtained a discharge (wait until you are eligible to file again).
Reasons to Speed Up Your Bankruptcy Filing

Sometimes, you'll want to file for bankruptcy right away. If your income greatly increased during the last few months, but was much lower during the previous three or four months, the sooner you file the better your chance of passing the means test. Also, if your house is in foreclosure and the sale is scheduled and you want to delay the sale, you should file for bankruptcy immediately.

To learn more about choosing the right time to file for bankruptcy, see Nolo's article Should I File Bankruptcy Now or Wait? Or visit, Nolo's Bankruptcy Center for articles, FAQs, Legal Updates, books, and software on bankruptcy.

http://www.bankruptcyforeclosureblog.com/2010/11/timing-your-bankruptcy-filing.html

http://www.FamilyMaritalLaw.com

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

States to Unveil Joint Probe Into Foreclosures

If the states have their way, mortgage companies will have to revamp the way they handle foreclosures, pay penalties for violations and expand help to homeowners on the verge of foreclosure.

The top law enforcement officials of states around the country are already weighing the outlines of a potential settlement with the industry, said Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, who will lead the investigation. The inquiry will be announced Wednesday morning.

http://www.aolnews.com/nation/article/states-to-unveil-joint-probe-into-foreclosures/19672006

http://www.FamilyMaritalLaw.com

Friday, October 8, 2010

Bank of America Halts Foreclosures in 50 States

WASHINGTON – Potential flaws in foreclosure documents are threatening to throw the real estate industry into a full-blown crisis, as Bank of America on Friday became the first bank to stop sales of foreclosed homes in all 50 states.

The move, along with another decision on foreclosures by PNC Financial Services Inc., adds to growing concerns that mortgage lenders have been evicting homeowners using flawed court papers.

See the following link:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101008/ap_on_bi_ge/us_foreclosure_mess

http://www.familymaritallaw.com/CM/Bankruptcy/Foreclosure-What-Are-YourRights.asp

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Making Home Affordable - FAQs

This site gives information on the Making Home Affordable Program. This is an effort to get the economy and the housing market back on track. Preventing foreclosures benefits all of us.http://www.familymaritallaw.com

Making Home Affordable - FAQs

Friday, July 9, 2010

MySolutionSpot.com - Business Law | Easy way to reform bankruptcy and stimulate the economy

Bankruptcy and foreclosure is at an all time high. You are not stigmatized if you go through bankruptcy. Bankruptcy does help to stimulate the economy as funds that were used to pay medical bills, credit card, and other unsecured debt, can now be spent on living expenses and necessities. Furthermore, discharging unsecured debt can enable you to pay your mortgage, reducing the number of foreclosures and helping the housing market. It's a circle.

MySolutionSpot.com - Business Law Easy way to reform bankruptcy and stimulate the economy

Alimony Revision in Florida Effective July 1, 2010 - Part 2

The new alimony law requires a finding that there is a need for the alimony, otherwise known as support or maintenance, and that the other party has the ability to pay. Once this is determined, then the court will look at the following factors to determine the type and amount of alimony to award (FL Statutes 61.08):

1. The standard of living established during the marriage.
2. The duration of the marriage.
3. The age and the physical and emotional condition of each party.
4. The financial resources of each party, including the nonmarital and the marital assets and liabilities distributed to each.
5. The earning capacities, educational levels, vocational skills, and employability of the parties and, when applicable, the time necessary for either party to acquire sufficient education or training to enable such party to find appropriate employment.
6. The contribution of each party to the marriage, including, but not limited to, services rendered in homemaking, child care, education, and career building of the other party.
7. The responsibilities each party will have with regard to any minor children they have in common.
8. The tax treatment and consequences to both parties of any alimony award, including the designation of all or a portion of the payment as a nontaxable, nondeductible payment.
9. All sources of income available to either party, including income available to either party through investments of any asset held by that party.
10. Any other factor necessary to do equity and justice between the parties.

A synopsis of the types of alimony:
  • Bridge the gap alimony: assists a party with identifiable short-term needs and may not exceed 2 years. It terminates upon the death of either party and it is non-modifiable in duration or amount.
  • Rehabilitative alimony: assists a party to establish the capacity for self-support. There must be a defined rehabilitative plan. It can be modified or terminated if there is a substantial change in circumstances, or non-compliance or completion of the plan.
  • Durational alimony: This is a new category of alimony implemented when permanent periodic alimony is not appropriate. It provides financial assistance for a set period of time following a short or moderate term marriage (see Part 1 of this series). It terminates upon the death of either party or upon remarriage of the party receiving the alimony. The amount of the award can be modified upon a showing of a substantial change of circumstances; however, the length of the award may only be modified under exceptional circumstances and it cannot exceed the length of the marriage.
  • Permanent periodic alimony (paid monthly for the remainder of the payee's life): This is usually awarded after a long term marriage, although it can be awarded after a moderate term marriage if appropriate considering the factors listed above, and after a short term marriage, if there are exceptional circumstances, i.e., the payee becomes permanently disabled during the marriage and can no longer work. It terminates upon the death of either party or upon the remarriage of the payee. It may modified or terminated based upon a substantial change in circumstances or upon the existence of a supportive relationship as defined in FL Statutes s. 61.14.
  • Lump sum alimony: In any alimony award, the court may order monthly periodic payments or lump sum payments or any combination thereof.
http://www.familymaritallaw.com/

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Alimony Revision in Florida Effective July 1, 2010 - Part 1

Effective July, 1, 2010, the Florida Statutes regarding alimony have been revised substantially. Officially, the types of alimony have been committed to statute: bridge the gap, rehabilitative, durational, permanent or any combination of these forms. In addition, it is clarified that adultery of either party and the circumstances thereof can be considered by the court to determine the amount of the award.

To award support, first there must be a specific finding by the court that there is an actual need for alimony and whether the other party has the ability to pay it. If there is a finding that there is an actual need for and the ability to pay alimony, then the court considers a list of relevant factors to determine the proper type and amount of alimony, as well as any other factor necessary to do equity and justice between the parties.

The revised statutes clearly name and define the time periods of a marriage: A short term marriage is less than 7 years, a moderate term marriage is greater than 7 years and less than 17 years, and a long term marriage is 17 years or greater. Note that year 7 is not accounted for in the revision, but I assume that it will probably be included as a short term marriage. In addition, for the purpose of awarding alimony, the length of the marriage is defined as from the date of marriage through the date of filing an action for divorce.

www.familymaritallaw.com

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Initiating a Short Sale

A short sale can be initiated anytime you are unable to pay your mortgage and the home is headed for foreclosure. If you are filing for bankruptcy, a short sale can be accomplished during a bankruptcy if the automatic stay has been lifted as to the lender, or when the bankruptcy has been discharged. A short sale may even be accomplished after a Final Judgment of Foreclosure if it occurs prior to the auction sale. If so, then the Final Judgment judgment is vacated and per the FCRA the foreclosure cannot appear on your credit report.

Lenders do not have to agree to a short sale; however, the lender will usually prefer a short sale to a foreclosure if the lender believes it will receive more from the short sale than from a foreclosure sale. In addition, even if the lender may obtain less, a short sale may be quicker for the lender than a foreclosure, which will allow the lender to obtain funds for the home earlier -- and that is beneficial. Go to the following link for more information www.familymaritallaw.com/CM/bankruptcy/short-sale-vs-foreclosure.asp