About Our Firm

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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.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Alimony in Divorce

Alimony is money that is paid by one spouse to the other during or after a divorce. There are several types of alimony, also known as spousal support or maintenance. Whether you will get paid alimony will ultimately be determined as part of your final divorce settlement terms. While alimony was often a common part of every divorce proceeding, today, this is not necessarily the case. With more dual-working couples, the need for spousal support has decreased. If you require alimony it is best to discuss your needs with an experienced divorce attorney as soon as possible.
Alimony is decided on a case by case basis and there are many issues that will factor into the decision to pay alimony as well as the length of time the alimony will be paid and how much money will be provided. The general divorce settlement terms should be decided by both partners as part of the divorce – if couples cannot agree the courts will usually ask couples to go through mediation prior to ultimately making a ruling.
How Alimony is Determined
Many things are considered when determining the details of alimony. For example, if one partner worked while the other stayed at home to care for the children, the working partner may be required to provide alimony to the other. However, the terms of alimony will be decided by many different factors such as:
  • Length of the marriage;
  •  Assets and debts;
  • Current salaries;
  • Number and ages of children;
  • Ability of both parties to get future employment;
  • Educational background;
  • Age; and
  • Lifestyle.
Types of Alimony
There are various types of alimony in Florida. Each type is designed for a specific purpose. Some of the most common types of alimony include temporary, bridge-the-gap, and lump sum. Temporary alimony is intended to provide one party with money for immediate living expenses for a short period of time. This type of alimony will usually end at a specific time. Bridge-the-gap alimony is money paid for a period of time while the spouse does what is necessary to prepare to re-enter the workforce. This is specifically used for couples where one spouse may have been out of the workforce for some time and may now need to take classes or otherwise prepare to go back to work. Lump sum alimony is a specific amount of money awarded to one spouse as part of the divorce settlement. This one transaction will complete the alimony obligation.
Alimony in Settlement Terms
Alimony is just one of the various settlement terms that must be agreed upon by divorcing couples. Financial considerations, such as alimony, are often a point of contention. Your attorney has experience working through negotiations and mediation. You must supply all of the necessary financial information along with employment history and educational background.
Alimony is not designed to punish either spouse, but instead is supposed to provide equitable money distribution so both people continue to live in the manner to which they have become accustomed. The judge makes alimony part of the divorce settlement terms that will be ordered in the final judgment. An experienced divorce attorney will assist you through the entire divorce process and will advocate for your rights.
When you are seeking a divorce, count on our compassionate attorneys for the guidance and assistance you need. Contact the Tampa divorce 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 6, 2015

Florida Military Divorce

The decision to divorce is never an easy and it may be even more difficult when one or both spouses are members of the military service. Divorce can be stressful and confusing, but it is especially complicated for members of the military. There are a number of concerns and considerations that can make divorce more complex in these situations. If you have decided to divorce it is best to speak with a reputable Tampa military divorce attorney as soon as possible.
Jurisdiction Concerns
One of the first questions that may come up in a military divorce is jurisdiction. Jurisdiction refers to the location that governs the divorce case. While a military member may be stationed in Florida, the actual residence may be in another state. Conversely, military members may be Florida residents but are stationed elsewhere. It is important to note that Florida has special rules in place to handle these types of situations.
When the couple has minor children, issues that have to do with them are handled in the state where they have been residing for the past six months. Since service members may be deployed to another location after a divorce proceeding begins, the matter can become more complicated. Under the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act, a divorce may be postponed while one spouse is actively deployed out of the country. These issues must be discussed with a competent military divorce attorney.
Support Issues
Military branches each have their own guidelines regarding support, which would take effect in cases where there is no other agreement or court order. In addition to support, there are special issues that must be considered regarding military pay and allowances. While military allowances are often tax-free, military pay is not.
There are many types of pay and allowances. Some of the common types of pay include basic, combat, hazardous duty, and flight. Allowances may be made for housing, subsistence, disability, and per diem, among others. Your attorney needs to review the military member’s pay for support and other requirements.
Equitable Distribution of Property
In Florida, as in other states, marital property must be distributed equitably between partners in a divorce. This can be more complicated when it comes to members of the military. The spouse of a service member may be eligible for direct government payment if they meet the 10/10 rule. This states that payment is made if the spouse has 10 years of marriage that overlap with 10 years of active duty service.
Another important calculation must be made in regards to division of retirement pay. Since these issues can be complex they require an experienced military divorce attorney in order to be sure that the matter is properly handled. Otherwise, the circumstances could end up costing you quite a large sum of money.
Help from a Skilled Military Divorce Attorney
If you are interested in a military divorce, it is likely that you have many questions. Meet with a qualified divorce attorney with experience in military divorces. This can be essential in achieving an equitable divorce. Your attorney will guide you through the process from start to finish, ensuring that your rights are protected.
Contact the Tampa divorce 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 4, 2015

Modifying a Finalized Divorce

The divorce process is often complex and lengthy and sometimes there are many issues that must be settled during the process. If the parties cannot agree upon the terms, then a hearing before the judge would be required and it would be up to the judge to decide the outcome. The terms of the judge’s decision will be included in a Final Judgment. Once the divorce is complete and the order is in place, if one of the parties wants a modification of the terms and the parties do not agree on the change, the only way to make a change is through a court hearing.  Normally, there has to be a substantial change not contemplated at the time of the divorce in order to modify the Final Judgment when the parties do not agree. If you want to make a change to your Final Judgment, it is best to speak with a qualified divorce attorney as soon as possible. Your lawyer will review your situation and help determine the best way to proceed.
Divorce Settlement Terms
Couples must make decisions, or the Court will decide, the resolutions of the issues in the divorce, called dissolution of marriage. Some of the settlement terms that must be determined include:
If the couple has difficulty coming to resolution of terms in a divorce, mediation is mandatory in Hillsborough County. The terms of the agreement or court order may include specific instructions as to how changes can or will be made in the future.
Child Custody and Visitation Changes
One of the most common reasons for requesting modification is to make changes to child custody or visitation orders. A parenting plan is part of the original divorce order and it contains details as to how custody and visitation is to be handled. It should also provide for a method for making future changes. Changes may be relatively minor or may be quite more complex. Regardless of the change requested, all modifications must be made through the legal process to be binding.
Moving Out of State
Many requests for modification come when one parent wants to move out of state or more than 50 miles away from the other parent. The other parent may not agree to the other relocating with the child. In this case, the parent who wishes to move with the child will need to get permission and a court order or modification of the order that is in place, if the judge agrees that relocation and believes that relocation is in the best interest of the child.
Making Modifications
Not all changes are allowed and modifications as to division of assets and debt are not modifiable without the agreement of the other party. Furthermore, the court will not even address changes that are not properly requested. Meet with your attorney to determine whether your proposed change meets the criteria necessary to be heard by the court. If so, you must file a supplemental petition for modification and proceed through the process. If a hearing is necessary, both parties must attend the hearing and each will have a chance to present his or her case. Your attorney will assist in preparing for the hearing and will attend it with you. The judge will listen to the case and make a ruling. Keep in mind that if children are involved, the courts are instructed to make decisions that are in the best interest of the child. Once the ruling is made it is the new effective court order.
If you are in need of a modification or must attend a modification hearing, contact the Tampa divorce 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, December 3, 2015

Child Relocation in Florida

Divorced parents often wonder if it is possible for them to relocate with their child. The Petition to Relocate must be made in accordance with the law and must contain the correct information in order to be deemed legal. The court will schedule a hearing date at which time both parents will be present unless the non-relocating parent consents to the relocation. Relocation may be across the state or out of state. If you are moving within a 50-mile radius of your home it is not necessary to request permission from the court. However, many parents find that they need to relocate out of state, often in order to take a better job. The Florida relocation statute provides guidelines on how to legally relocate with a child after divorce.
Relocation with a Child
The law regarding relocating with a minor child is a complex one. It is necessary to review it completely when determining how best to proceed in your situation. The statute may not apply to your case so it is best to speak with an experienced divorce attorney before making any decisions regarding relocation. Parents who want to relocate with their child are able to do so in one of two ways:
  • Both parents may consent to the relocation of the child. The consent must be in writing and be approved by the court before relocation takes place.
  • When parents are not in agreement regarding the relocation request, the parent who wishes to relocate must file a petition in court, called a Petition to Relocate.
The Petition to Relocate must be made in accordance with the law and must contain the correct information in order to be deemed legal. The court will schedule a hearing date at which time both parents will be present.
Parenting Plan
When parents divorce they must include a parenting plan in their divorce order. The plan addresses many issues regarding custody and visitation of the child. Parents must address the specific parenting plan or custodial order that is in place. Issues of relocation may be addressed in this plan. Additionally, parents may have already agreed as to the way relocation and other issues will be handled should they occur later on. Always refer to your original divorce order to learn information regarding relocation. In most cases, relocation will need to be handled through the courts with a modification and petition to relocate.
Failure to Comply
Parents who fail to comply with Florida law are subject to legal action. A parent who relocates a child without compliment could be found in contempt. The child could be returned to the other parent or the relocating parent could lose custody of the child. The time-sharing schedule must be properly modified through a court order for it to be considered lawful. In addition to the possibility of losing custody, the relocating parent may be responsible for attorney’s fees for the other parent and for travel costs to return the child. Because of the serious nature of these issues it is strongly advised that you go through proper channels for relocation and modification of child custody issues.
Whether you are considering relocation with a child or want to fight a relocation request by your former spouse, it is best to speak with a family law attorney as soon as possible. These cases can take some time and you must have a court order before moving with the child. To learn more about child relocation in Florida, contact the Tampa divorce 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+

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Who Keeps the House in a Divorce?

Divorce is never easy but it can become more complicated with there is property at stake. The home is a place that should be considered a safe haven, yet it could become a sticking point in a divorce settlement. In Florida property and assets that were acquired during the marriage are considered marital property and are to be divided equitably between spouses. All too often, couples disagree about what to do with the home after the divorce. The situation can become more complex if the couple bought the home together prior to getting married.
Equitable Property Distribution
Equitable property distribution means that both parties must split their assets and property so that both receive the same value in the settlement. There are some considerations that may be given to how property is divided but in most marriages, especially with couples who have been married a long time, the split is approximately equal. The marital home is just one part of the property owned by the couple that must now be divided. There are several options that are generally available:
  • One spouse may buy the other out and own the home. This requires that the spouse relinquish other assets that total half the value of the home;
  • The couple may sell the home and split the profits; or
  • Both parties may continue to own the home together until a later date. In this case, the person living in the home may need to pay rent along with a share of taxes and maintenance costs.
The choice to sell the home may be a difficult one but ultimately may be the best option, particularly if the divorce is acrimonious. In situations where there are minor children living in the home, the couple may decide that it is best to allow them to stay in the home with one parent so they can continue to attend the same school and keep the same friends and activities.
Preparing for Divorce
If you own a home, or other property, there are a couple of things that you must do immediately when you decide to divorce. If the home is mortgaged you will need to determine the amount that is still owed on the home as well as how much equity you have in the home. Divorcing couples must find out the current value of the home. This is best accomplished by having an appraisal completed. Once you know what the home is worth you can determine the amount of equity you have in it. This will help couples make the decision as to how to proceed. For example, if you owe more than the home is worth it may be advantageous to keep the home until the market value increases and you have more equity in the property.
How a Divorce Attorney Will Help
Couples in Florida are encouraged to come to an agreement as to the major divorce settlement terms. This is often done with help from an experienced Tampa divorce lawyer. Your attorney guides you through the process and works to assist when there are disagreements. You will learn what your options are when it comes to your home so you can make the decision that is best in your situation. Some divorces are more complex than others. Count on your attorney to answer your questions and work to achieve a fair and equitable divorce for you and your family. Contact the Tampa divorce 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 11, 2015

Uncontested Divorce in Florida


Divorce can be an emotional and difficult time in your life. Once the decision to divorce has been made, the legal process must be followed. Divorce in Florida is also known as dissolution of marriage. The easiest and fastest divorce option is an uncontested divorce. When a couple can agree to the terms of the divorce, it is said to be uncontested. If one or the other party does not agree to the divorce or accept the settlement terms, the divorce becomes contested and therefore more complex. While uncontested divorce is fast and easy, it is still best to seek guidance from an experienced divorce attorney.
Criteria for an Uncontested Divorce
There are a number of qualifications that must be met in order to qualify for an uncontested divorce. These include:
  • Both parties agree that they want the divorce;
  • Parties agree about the division of property;
  • If the couple has minor children, a parenting plan must be put in place;
  • Child support is agreed upon;
  • Alimony is not disputed;
  • There are no unsettled issues; and
  • Both parties agree to sign the necessary documents.
Generally, an uncontested divorce can be utilized in situations where both parties are in agreement. When issues are disputed or go unresolved, the divorce is contested and proceeds in that manner. A contested divorce often signals a litigious situation and one that may require negotiation and possibly mediation.
Benefits of an Uncontested Divorce
There are many benefits to choosing an uncontested divorce. The uncontested divorce is typically much easier to complete and therefore is much less expensive. It is still in your best interest to have representation by a divorce attorney; however, the process is less complex. Another advantage to an uncontested divorce is that the time necessary to finalize it is less than a contested divorce. A simple uncontested divorce could take just a couple of months to complete while a contested divorce could drag on for many months or even years. Probably the most significant benefit of an uncontested divorce is that the marriage is dissolved in an amicable manner. This relieves stress on everyone in the family, including the children. A more relaxed situation sets the stage for a better relationship as the family moves forward in a new configuration.
Is Uncontested Divorce My Best Option?
In Florida, as elsewhere, property and assets that have been acquired during the marriage belong to both parties and are to be divided equitably upon divorce. This means that both people should receive about an equal portion of assets in a settlement. In situations where the couple agrees the division of assets and there are no complications, the uncontested divorce is a very good choice. Every divorce is different and a unique set of circumstances. When determining how to proceed with a divorce it is helpful to speak with a reputable divorce attorney to answer your questions and assist in determining the options available to you. Contact the Tampa divorce 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, October 8, 2015

Getting Through a Contested Divorce

Divorce is never easy, even in situations where both parties are in agreement. However, when one party does not agree to the dissolution of marriage or settlement terms, the result is a contested divorceIn a typical uncontested divorce the couple is expected to come to a reasonable agreement as to the terms of the settlement. When one person contests the divorce it means they do not agree to the terms and therefore the divorce is headed towards trial. A contentious divorce can make the process longer and, as a result, more difficult and expensive.

Terms for Divorce Settlement
When a couple divorces in Florida they need to work to come to an agreement as to the major settlement terms. These settlement terms cover such topics as:
In Florida, as in other states, marital assets and liabilities must be distributed equitably in a divorce. Assets that were attained during the marriage are included in marital property with few exceptions. Distribution of assets can become complicated, particularly when the both husband and wife have been working, have pensions or retirement accounts, and have been married for a long time. It is best to discuss these issues with a qualified divorce attorney as soon as possible so concerns can be cleared up quickly.
How to Resolve Differences
When your divorce is acrimonious it requires special treatment. An experienced divorce attorney assists in resolving the major problems and restoring agreement. Many times, emotions take over, especially when it comes to finances and issues regarding the children. When this happens, it is helpful for you to have assistance from your attorney, who is able to see the situation from a more objective position. It is important to ensure that your rights are protected while allowing for some compromises that will make the divorce process smoother and less stressful.
Speeding Up the Divorce Process
A contested divorce can take longer to complete and becomes more expensive, time consuming, and stressful. If your divorce is contested it will take an emotional toll on the entire family. It is often best to try to resolve the differences without having to go to trial. As the divorce progresses you may realize that it is becoming difficult. Often, the judge sends couples back to try to resolve their own issues. The judge may even require mediation before making a final determination, which is done in a hearing. To avert this situation, your attorney will help guide you through the resolution process with as few problems as possible.
Contested Final Hearing
If, after all possible options have been exhausted, the couple is still unable to agree to the divorce issues, there will be a final hearing. In the contested final hearing, also called a trial, both parties present evidence and testimony to the judge, who will make a final decision. Your divorce attorney will prepare you and guide you through the entire process to achieve your desired outcome.
If you are facing the possibility of a contested divorce, it is important to reach out to skilled counsel immediately. Contact the Tampa divorce 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, October 4, 2015

Supreme Court of Florida Weighs in on Waivers in Hahamovitch v. Hahamovitch - Pre Nuptial Agreements

A prenuptial agreement can be an effective tool for two people to settle the division of assets upon the dissolution of the marriage. Prenuptial agreements can be complex agreements that should be approached with great care and diligence. Both parties to the agreement should have a full understanding of the subject of the agreement and retain counsel to advocate for their interests. One common element of prenuptial agreements is a waiver and release of claims, which can vary in specificity. In Hahamovitch v. Hahamovitch, the Supreme Court of Florida determined the validity of general waivers as they relate to certain marital property and claims.
Issue of the Case
In Hahamovitch v. Hahamovitch, the husband and wife executed a prenuptial agreement before marriage, which lasted for 22 years and produced two children. The prenuptial agreement contained:
  • a general waiver and release that barred the wife from asserting any claim to the husband’s property, and to any rights she otherwise accrued as a result of the marriage, such as alimony, support and maintenance, equitable distribution, division of property, or attorneys’ fees;
  • a provision that each spouse shall keep sole ownership of their respective property that was acquired before or after the marriage, and that each waived all right to the other’s assets; and
  • a presumption that property titled in one spouse’s name was deemed to be that spouse’s property.
Upon their divorce, the wife claimed that the general waiver did not apply to her right to her share of her husband’s earnings, assets purchased with those earnings, or any appreciation or enhanced value of her husband’s assets as a result of marital efforts. Before the Hahamovitch decision, Florida courts were split as to whether a general waiver as described above is a valid means to waive a spouse’s right to such assets.
The Court’s Ruling
In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court of Florida settled an important legal issue in Florida divorce law. The court held that prenuptial agreements that contain a general waiver that provides that each spouse:
  1. disclaims all interest in the other spouse’s property;
  2. will be the sole owner of property purchased in their own name; and
  3. waives all claims that they may have as a result of the marriage, e.g., alimony;
…are valid and will prevent each spouse from claiming a share of property owned and titled in the other spouse’s name, regardless if that property was purchased with marital assets or appreciated in value because of efforts by the non-owner spouse.
Impact on Prenuptial Agreements
Before Hahamovitch, Florida courts varied on the specificity required for waivers for certain marital assets, such as a spouse’s earnings. The court’s decision brings clarity in that a properly drafted waiver can serve to preclude claims otherwise allowed under Florida law.
Considering or Need Help with a Prenuptial Agreement?
Prenuptial agreements are complex and require careful consideration, especially when they contain a broad waiver and release of claims. The divorce attorneys at All Family Law Group, P.A. have the knowledge and skill necessary to protect your interest in entering and exiting a marriage. If you need help or have questions about your divorce or prenuptial agreement, contact the Tampa family and divorce 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+

Timing of Marriage and Baby Doesn’t Affect Divorce Rate

In the past, research showed that cohabitating couples who had a baby prior to getting married consistently faced a higher divorce rate than those who married first and had a baby later. In fact, a study by the National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG) claims that there was no increased risk of divorce for those who chose to marry first, as opposed to those who chose to have a baby first and then get married.
The study analyzed data from couples who had their first child between 1985 and 1995 and those who did so between 1997 and 2010. Researchers found that unmarried couples in the first group were 60% more likely to divorce than those couples who married before having their first child. Only 10 years later, however, this difference disappeared. Couples from the second group who remained unmarried before the birth of their first child were no more likely to divorce than those who were married first.
Why is This the Case?
Researchers attribute this drastic change in statistics to a number of different factors. On the whole, American society, as well as that of other industrialized countries, is more accepting of unmarried couples who live together. These days, there is little societal pressure to immediately marry if a pregnancy occurs. Children born of out wedlock are commonplace in most areas of the country, and the stigmas that were attached to unmarried couples sharing a household and children born outside of marriage no longer really exist. Rather, couples who share a child take their time in deciding whether and when they will marry.
In fact, the only group who had a significantly higher chance of splitting up after their first child was comprised of those couples who never married. Thirty percent of those cohabitating couples who never married split up within five years. However, this statistic may have been skewed by the fact that cohabitating couples tend to have less income and education that those who marry, which may contribute to an eventual split.
Whether parents are married or not, however, a separation is likely to increase the need for court orders regarding custody, visitation, and child support. These options are equally available to children born during marriages and those who are not. While some separations occur amicably, and parents are able to compromise and reach an agreement on these important issues, others are much more complex, and may require extensive litigation.
It is in these situations that an experienced Tampa family law attorney can be most helpful to you. When you are going through the emotional struggle that often accompanies a bitter break-up, the last thing you need is to try and navigate the minefield of child custody and visitation on your own. This is where we can be of assistance to you. Contact the Tampa family and divorce 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+

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Re-Establishing Contact with Your Children after a Divorce

In some circumstances, divorce also means a temporary severance between a child and one parent. The reasons for separation are many, including isolation due to a physical or mental condition, substance abuse, maltreatment, relocation, or other breakdown in the parental relationship. Unfortunately, along with a divorce, the affected parent will be restricted from time-sharing or visitation with the child. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding the divorce, and the reasons for separation from the child, it is important to ensure a path to reunification as part of your divorce case, and the terms of your final decree of dissolution. In Niekamp v. Niekamp, No. 2D14-728, Fla. 2nd DCA 2015, Mr. Niekamp challenged several issues related to the final judgement in his divorce case, including how the divorce court handled the potential for reunification with his children.
Facts of the Case: Being Separated from Your Children
The Niekamps were married for 22 years and had two children within the marriage. In the 10 years preceding their separation, Mr. Niekamp worked in the home and assumed child care responsibilities while Ms. Niekamp operated a business. Based on the facts provided by the appellate court, Mr. Niekamp suffered from mental health issues, which, among other facts, provided an obstacle to shared parental responsibility. Ms. Niekamp was awarded sole parental responsibility after the court determined that shared responsibility and timesharing would be detrimental to the children. Like many individuals facing these circumstances, Mr. Niekamp was prohibited from contact with his children and, as the appellate court noted, was even denied the opportunity to speak to his children over the telephone. Although Mr. Niekamp was to be separated from his children for the time being, the court did grant Mr. Niekamp’s request for therapeutic reunification with his children.
Reunification: Protecting Your Rights as a Parent During Separation
The judge in Mr. Niekamp’s case designated a therapist to oversee the reunification process, which is designed to re-establish a supportive parent-child relationship. The problem with the court’s initial judgment, and one of the reasons for Mr. Niekamp’s appeal, was that the court neglected to provide any insight as to how Mr. Niekamp could advance the reunification with his children, other than participate in the therapy as dictated by the therapist. The appellate court agreed with Mr. Niekamp, and affirmed the fact that as part of any judgment that suspends a parent’s right to see their child subject to reunification, the court must specifically identify the steps the separated parent can take to re-establish timesharing of the children. If you are facing the suspension of your rights and separation from your children as part of your divorce, you need to ensure that the court provides specific expectations and steps you can take to regain contact with your children beyond the general requirement that you participate in therapeutic reunification.
Need Help?
The divorce attorneys at All Family Law Group, P.A. have the experience necessary to protect your interest during your divorce. If you need help or have questions about your divorce, contact the Tampa family and divorce 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, September 21, 2015

When Your House is No Longer Your Home

After years of marriage, your home may be one of, if not the most, significant assets owned by you and your spouse. When facing a divorce, the disposition of the marital home will be a critical issue and dependent upon a variety of circumstances. Under Florida law, the judge presiding over the divorce will distribute marital assets and liabilities between the spouses. Unless otherwise justified under the circumstances of the particular case, this division should be equal between each individual.

Marital vs. Nonmarital Property
With some exceptions, nonmarital assets include property acquired by either spouse prior to the marriage. On the other hand, marital property generally includes property acquired during the marriage, without regard as to whose name the property was titled in. For example, after two years of marriage, Suzy and Tom purchase a house. This house would be marital property under Florida law. Marital property can also include an enhancement in value of nonmarital assets that occur during the marriage. For example, Gene purchased a house 10 years before marrying Sam. Sam is a contractor and did substantial work to the home during the marriage using marital funds. The appreciation may be considered a marital asset even though the home was purchased before the marriage by Gene.
Equitable Distribution
During a divorce proceeding the presiding judge will first set aside each spouse’s nonmarital property, and then consider the marital property for distribution between the parties. The judge will distribute the marital property equally, unless fairness requires otherwise based upon the following factors:
  • each party’s contribution to the marriage and/or to the acquisition or appreciation of the asset;
  • the duration of the marriage and relative economic position of the parties;
  • any sacrifice made by a party with regard to their career or education for the sake of the other party;
  • the need of such asset for use in a business or profession;
  • any intentional impairment of the asset by a party after the filing for divorce or within the preceding two-year period; and
  • any other factor necessary to do substantial justice.
Disposition of the Marital Home
Division of the home creates an obvious problem in a divorce. Many times neither party can support the mortgage payment due on the family residence, which will require its sale and distribution of the proceeds based on the factors listed above. On the other side of the spectrum, in situations where there is substantial equity, neither party may have the resources to buy the other party’s share of the equity, which will also necessitate a sale and distribution of the proceeds as outlined above. Other factors may drive the judge’s decision outside of the relative economics of the property. If the marital home is a residence for a younger child of the parties, the court may find that in the best interest of that child the custodial parent should remain in the home if financially feasible.
Get the Assistance You Need
The distribution of marital assets is a fact specific analysis that requires knowledge and experience. The attorneys of All Family Law Group, P.A. are knowledgeable Tampa divorce attorneys who have experience in the identification and distribution of marital and nonmarital assets and liabilities. If you are faced with divorce, we can help protect and assert your rights under Florida law. Contact the Tampa family and divorce 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, September 19, 2015

Alimony and Potential Alimony Modification

The award of alimony (also known as spousal support) is a key issue at the center of many divorces and must be resolved during the course of a proceeding for dissolution or voluntary property settlement. Alimony is a court ordered payment by one party to the former spouse for purposes of support after the divorce and can vary in type, amount, and duration. Under Florida law, alimony can be structured in a variety of ways, which is determined during the divorce proceedings and generally awarded by a court as part of the divorce decree. Alimony consists of either, or a combination of, bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, durational, or permanent support paid by one party to the former spouse.

When is Alimony Awarded?
Alimony is determined on a case by case basis by applying several factors. Among the factors a court may consider are the:
  • standard of living established during the marriage;
  • duration of the marriage;
  • age and physical condition of each party;
  • available financial resources;
  • earning capacity and employability;
  • contribution of each party to the marriage (for example, homemaking, child care, and career building);
  • tax treatment and consequences of an alimony award; and
  • sources of income available to each party.
In addition, a court may consider any other factor in the interest of equity and justice. Due to the wide range of considerations and the unique facts of each relationship, determining the amount of alimony to be paid can be a complex and contentious part of any dissolution proceeding. Unfortunately, issues related to alimony awards often continue even after the divorce is finalized.
Life after a divorce can be unpredictable, and one may find themself, or their former spouse, in different circumstances years after the divorce became final. Often, the spouse affected by a change in circumstances will ask the court to modify its obligations under the original divorce decree. Upon such a request, the court will consider additional factors that may support a decision to modify an alimony award. Factors that may support an adjustment to an alimony award include an involuntary, permanent, and substantial change in the life of the party obligated to make the alimony payment to their former spouse. The most common example is a change in the party’s job or career that is permanent and substantially affects the person’s ability to satisfy their obligations under the original divorce decree. Other reasons may include the fact that the recipient of the alimony award has become involved in a permanent supportive relationship, which may be grounds to reduce or terminate the alimony award.
Our Attorneys Can Help You
Resolving issues of alimony during and after the initial divorce proceeding will have a serious impact on your future. The attorneys of All Family Law Group, P.A. are knowledgeable Florida divorce attorneys who have experience in alimony issues during all stages of a divorce. If you are faced with a change in your circumstances, or a change that may impact your former spouse and their ability to pay an alimony award, we can help protect and assert your rights under Florida law. Contact the alimony and divorce attorneys at All Family Law Group, P.A. in Tampa at 813-816-2232 for a free consultation.

By Lynette Silon-Laguna Google+

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Possible Effects of Federal Policy Changes on Child Support Enforcement

Starting late last year and continuing into earlier this year, a new federal policy shifted the focus of child support enforcement and could affect among other things the amount of money custodial parents receive from their non-custodial ex-spouses. The federal government, working in tandem with state agencies, provides oversight and regulation of State child support enforcement. The policy change was in response to past child support formulas that set payment amounts at levels the non-custodial parent had no chance of reaching and frequently left them a lifetime of being chased by this debt. Broadly speaking, the new policy attempts to reallocate resources from strict collection efforts to ways of reintegrating the non-custodial parent back into the support system through methods like forgiving outstanding overdue child support and job placement services. Given that most custodial parents rely heavily on child support payments to sufficiently fund their household expenses, it is important to examine what exactly the new policy will implement, and what, if any, effect it will have on the financial stability of single parents.

Outline of New Child Support Enforcement Policy
In a notice released by the Administration for Children & Families (ACF) to state enforcement agencies in April 2015, ACF discussed the importance of improving the “financial capability” of parents so they would be less likely to need public assistance. Essentially, “financial capability” refers to the ability of both parents to successfully manage their economic resources and is typically provided to parents through a combination of state education programs on financial counseling and job placement services. The thought behind this approach is the better each parent is able to manage their money, the more effectively it will be used to benefit the child.
In addition to providing financial services, ACF published a proposed rule in November 2014 requesting states to calibrate their child support calculations to the noncustodial parent’s actual income instead of relying on a formula to determine the applicable amount. This is supposed to increase the likelihood they will be able to pay. Specifically, they want states to ideally limit child support obligations to no more than 15% of the non-custodial parent’s monthly income based on studies that indicated child support that is more than 20% of monthly incomes commonly results in a higher percentage of non-compliance. Coupled with a refinement of child support guidelines, the proposed rule also wants states to stop imposing jail time for non-payment of child support unless the non-custodial parent has the actual ability to pay the required amount and yet failed to do so. A court should look at actual earnings and the amount needed for basic subsistence when determining if the parent had the ability to pay. Further, the court should set the purge amount, which is the amount the parent must pay to avoid jail time, in line with the actual ability to pay. If the parent has no ability to pay, the court should impose requirements like getting a job or participating in a job placement program in lieu of jail time. This policy reflects the belief that incarcerating parents who have no way of paying the amount in arrears will only further prevent them from earning income and push them further into the red.
Potential Impact on Custodial Parents
The new emphasis on the financial responsibility of both parents seems to shift some of the burden from the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent to find a way to sustain the needs of the child without regard to child support. However, the new proposed rules on child support enforcement may encourage non-custodial parents who are behind on child support payments to make more of an effort to obtain legitimate employment if they know jail time is not a possibility and the amount they will be required to pay will be something they can afford. Until states enact laws to implement the rules, it will be hard to gauge whether they will result in more compliance with child support orders, but it seems this will be a move towards a softer approach to child support enforcement over the next few years.
For more information on Florida Law regarding this matter, contact All Family Law Group, P.A. in Tampa provides legal representation for all child support-related matters. Contact the Tampa family and divorce 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+

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Military Deployment & Child Custody

Child custody issues are complicated. These issues are further complicated when a military parent has primary custody of a child and the military parent is suddenly called to active duty and deployed. Deployment and child custody can pose special challenges for service members. Oftentimes, military parents fear losing child custody if the military parent leaves the child with a stepparent or a relative during deployment and the other parent files for custody of the child. Many states have passed laws that seek to address the unique challenges of military parents who miss visitation or give up custody of their children when mobilized, or placed on temporary duty or deployment.

Service Family Care Plan
A family care plan is critical when the service member has primary custody of a child. A family care plan is a document that explains who will care for the service member’s child when the service member is away for training or deployed overseas. The plan must include critical details about custody including who will have short-term custody of the child when the service member has little or no notice before deployment. Having a family care plan will ease the transition of responsibility when a military parent is away.
It is possible that a parenting plan will need to be modified if a military parent expects to be deployed for a year or longer. Depending upon the length of the expected deployment, courts may allow the service member’s spouse or a family member to be responsible for the child while the service member is deployed. This will allow the child to continue going to the same school and live in the same home. In Florida, the law allows military parents to designate a family member, stepparent or relative to engage in time sharing on the parent’s behalf. This flexibility would allow a military parent to designate grandparents or another family member to time share in their absence and maintain primary custody of the child.
Protection Under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act
The SCRA protects military service members when they are deployed on active duty. The SCRA provides an automatic stay of 90 days for court and administrative proceedings while the service member is deployed. This type of protection helps a service member if they are deployed and find they are facing a child custody challenge. Additionally, the US Department of Defense USA 4 Military Families initiative engages in advocacy with the goal of ensuring that military parents do not lose custody of their child simply because of their military service. Until laws exist to ensure military parents do not lose custody while deployed are enacted, military parents should seek the advice of legal counsel to ensure they understand the impact their deployment will have on their child custody.
The Tampa family lawyers at All Family Law Group, P.A. are familiar with all aspects of military divorce and child custody. Our office is knowledgeable in the area of military divorce and can help you throughout the process. Contact the Tampa family and divorce 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, September 13, 2015

Military Divorce and International Law

Military divorces happen at all stages of marriage, from long 20-year marriages to couples married just before deployment overseas in Germany, Korea or Afghanistan. It is important to note that, the military does not grant divorce. State courts grant divorces to persons who are in the military and it’s better to think of military divorces as divorces involving military personnel. As such, international law could become relevant factor when divorcing a military member who is overseas. This is particularly true if the country has signed the Hague Convention. The Hague Convention covers service of process abroad and may apply in some child custody disputes.

The Hague Convention Governs Service of Divorce Papers
Florida law requires the service of military personnel outside the United States conform to the requirements of the Hague Convention. Consequently, the Convention of the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters (the Convention on Service Abroad) governs the service of divorce papers on military spouses abroad. The convention requires that service follow the rules of the country where the service member resides. Additionally, documents may need to be translated into the local language, even if the service member does not speak the language.
The Hague Convention may Govern Aspects of Custody Disputes
A different Hague Convention may apply if a child is improperly taken overseas. The Hague Convention on Child Abduction (Child Abduction Convention) is likely to come into play when a child was improperly, or illegally, removed from a custodial parent. A Child Abduction application may be made at The Hague when:
  • A child is taken, or retained across an international border,
  • The place where the child is being held is away from the child’s habitual residence,
  • The child was removed without the consent of the custodial parent; and
  • The custodial parent has custody according to the law of the child’s habitual residence.
If the countries involved are parties of the Child Abduction Convention, then the child must be returned to the habitual residence. This will be the case unless returning the child will create a grave risk of harm to the child. The “habitual resident” is usually the physical location of the child six months prior to filing the application.
Military divorce and potential custody disputes are complicated. These issues are even more complicated in military divorces that involve the Hague Convention. Military divorces evolve rapidly and there is too much at stake for attorneys and their clients to learn about critical aspects of the Hague Convention on the fly. It is extremely important to locate counsel with knowledge and experience in military divorce and Hague proceedings.
The Military divorce attorneys at All Family Law Group, P.A. have the skills necessary to take you through your military divorce. Our office is knowledgeable in the area of military divorce and can help you throughout the process. Contact the Tampa family and divorce 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+