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 Español.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

How Do I Change My Name?

There are many reasons to want to change either your first, middle, or last name. Individuals and parents alike may want to change their name or their children’s names due to personal preference, to take a spouse’s name, or to return to a previous name following a divorce. While Florida courts are often persuaded to accept name changes for legitimate reasons, the choice to accept a name change is discretionary.
How Do I Change My Name?
For adults, the process begins with the filing of a petition in the circuit court in the jurisdiction where you reside. You must also file a set of fingerprints with the court, unless you are restoring your name to a previous version (i.e. your maiden name). These fingerprints must be taken in accordance with procedures established by the Department of Law Enforcement and will be used to conduct a criminal record check.
After filing the petition, and once the court has received the result of the criminal records check, a court hearing will be held. If the judge finds the requirements for filing have been met, a final judgment will be issued by the court. This order will allow you to begin using your new, or newly restored, name.
If you are changing your name as a result of divorce, you can change your name at the same time. In fact, changing your name can be entered in same order as your final divorce judgment. Similarly, names can also be changed during adoption proceedings. Consolidating multiple actions into one saves time and will save you money.
How Do I Change My Child’s name?
The process to change a minor’s name is similar to when an adult wants to change their name. The process begins with filing a petition in the county where the minor resides. The parent, legal guardian, or guardian ad litem can file on behalf of the minor.
If only one parent is filing for the child’s name to be changed, the other parent can sign a Consent of Change of Name form. If the other, non-filing parent, does not sign a Consent of Change of Name form, a copy of the petition must be served on the other parent.
After the appropriate filing and service of process, a hearing will be held on the petition. If the court finds the requirements have been met and there are no additional reasons to deny the petition, the final order will be issued and the minor is free to use the new name.
Are There Any Restrictions?
Courts are hesitant to allow individuals to change their name if they have a criminal records, have filed for bankruptcy, have a judgment entered against them, or they are changing their name in an attempt to avoid creditors.
How Do I Start The Process?
If you have questions regarding the process of changing your name or your children’s names, 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+

Friday, July 10, 2015

Appealing a Florida Divorce: What Are My Options?

After a divorce, if you or your spouse are not happy with the result, you both have the right to appeal the decision. Legally, appeals determine whether or not the trial court correctly applied to law to the specific facts of the case. If a reviewing court determines the lower court made an error, they can reverse the previous decision and order the court to correct the error.

There are numerous reasons to want to appeal your divorce ruling, but feeling wronged by the judge’s decision isn’t enough. You must have legal grounds for why your divorce ruling should be overturned. These reasons include concealment of assets, a fraud committed by your spouse, newly discovered evidence, and legal mistake by the spouse.
What Types of Appeals Are Available?
What type of documents and what procedures need to be filed depends entirely on where your case currently is in the process. Currently, there are four remedies available under the broad umbrella of divorce appeals.
If your case was heard by a general magistrate judge, your attorney can file a Notice of Exception to the Report and Recommendation of a General Magistrate. Essentially, this document is an official objection to the general magistrate’s finding on your case. Time is of the essence at this stage because the objection must be filed within ten days of the report. Outside of recognized legal grounds to appeal the decision, a copy of the transcript of the last hearing before the general magistrate must be filed along with the objection. If the Notice is timely filed, then your case will automatically be scheduled for a hearing before a circuit judge.
If your case was heard by a divorce court, your attorney can file a Motion for Rehearing. Unlike the ten days allowed in magistrate court, this objection must be made immediately after an order is issued in circuit court and have a valid legal basis. Motions for Rehearing are difficult because there is no automatic right to an appeal. This path is further complicated by the fact that the request for a new hearing is ruled upon by the judge that made the initial decision in your case.
A general divorce appeal to the District Court of Appeals can be filed within thirty days of the original court order. No new evidence or facts will be heard at this point in the process; everything is based on the records at previous hearings. A divorce appeal requires a full appellate brief, which details how the trial court judgment did not comply with Florida law.
If more than thirty days have passed since the date of the original court order, your attorney can file a Motion for Relief from Judgment or Motion to Set Aside a Judgment. These motions ask that a party be freed from the requirements of the court’s order. These motions are usually based on evidence that your spouse hid assets or committed fraud on the court.
What Are My Options?
When navigating the complicated world of appeals it is important to have an experienced family law attorney on your side. If you are considering appealing your divorce decision, or you have questions on how to begin 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+

Can I Enforce or Modify My Out of State Divorce in Florida?

Because divorce is state specific, it is difficult to know how to “transfer” your divorce when you move. If you and your children have moved or relocated after a divorce, paternity, or other family law proceeding has terminated, you might be wondering if Florida will enforce those orders. If you have received a final judgment then you might be able to domesticate said judgment. This is the formal process necessary to enforce your foreign (out of state) divorce. Outside of the enforcement guaranteed by the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the U.S. Constitution, several acts of the Florida legislature have detailed how to record, or domesticate, your order in your new home state.

What’s the Process of Domestication?
The first step in domestication is obtaining a certified copy of your final judgment. This will likely require a written request and a fee from the original court, which will depend on the divorcing jurisdiction.
After you have received a certified copy, you must prepare an affidavit to be notarized. This affidavit must contain the name, address, and Social Security number of both parties to the divorce. The affidavit must additionally include a request to domesticate the order in the Florida county in which you now reside.
You must then take the certified copy of the final judgment along with the affidavit to the clerk of the family law division in your local Florida courthouse. Upon receipt the clerk will record the judgment and affidavit and notify the opposing party that the final judgment has been filed in Florida.
There is a filing fee associated with the Domesticating of the Judgment as well as a waiting period. For 30 days after the initial filing, the respondent has an opportunity to respond. This waiting period allows the respondent reasonable time to file an action challenging the validity or enforcement of the final order. If the defendant does not respond or initiate any action during those 30 days the order will be domesticated and enforceable in Florida.
Why Would I Want to Domesticate My Judgment?
In order to have the full enforcement of the Florida authorities, a judgment must be recorded in the Florida Courts. One of the benefits of domesticating your final order is to have the ability to modify that order in Florida courts. Once a judgment is domesticated, Florida law will apply to any modifications the party seek to make to the agreement.
Is Domestication Guaranteed?
No. Parties can attempt to stop the domestication of a foreign judgment or order for several reasons. First, if the order you are seeking to domesticate in Florida is not final, the court will not record the order. This means if your order is currently under appeal or there are other related court proceedings that have not terminated before seeking domestication, it is likely the order will not be domesticated.
Will My Order Be Domesticated?
If you are considering domesticating your out of state order in Florida, or you have questions on how to begin 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+
- See more at: http://www.familymaritallaw.com/can-i-enforce-or-modify-my-out-of-state-divorce-in-florida/#sthash.JBZBEqtz.dpuf

Military Divorce In Florida

Divorcing a spouse who is on active duty in the military can present difficulties that would not otherwise be present in civilian divorce proceedings. Although the grounds for divorce are the same, several special issues of service of process, default, custody orders, support orders and property division are unique to a military marriage.

Florida’s Jurisdiction & Service of Process
To establish Florida’s jurisdiction over the military divorce, two preliminary matters must be met. First, one partner must reside or be stationed in Florida at the time of filing. Second, the active duty spouse must be personally served with a summons and copy of the divorce. In an uncontested case, the active duty spouse can file an affidavit acknowledging the divorce action.
Protection From Default
In a civilian divorce, the respondent can find himself in a default judgment by failing to respond to a divorce action in a timely manner. For active duty spouses that are deployed at the time of filing, this presents a unique problem because they may not be able to respond in the time allotted by the court. Under the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act, Florida judges can postpone divorce proceedings until the service member returns from duty and up to 60 days after his or her return.
Pension and Benefit Division
Outside of Florida’s laws directing the division of marital property, the property of military couples is further regulated by the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act, which specifies how military benefits, including commissary, exchange, health care benefits, and the service member’s pension, can be distributed. It also provides for transitional health coverage and limited base privileges in certain cases.
This act specifically allows the state of divorce to treat military disposable retired pay as marital property and divisible in a divorce action. This act allows Florida courts to treat military retired pay as any other pension plan and subject to garnishments to satisfy other financial divorce obligations.
The Survivor Benefit Plan is also unique to military marriages. This program provides a monthly payment to a specified individual upon the service member’s death. The individual selected as the service member’s Survivor Benefit Recipient can be changed throughout the course of the spouse’s service. Whether or not a former spouse is to remain as the Survivor Benefit Recipient is important to enumerate in the marital settlement agreement.
Child Custody
Service members often have relocation concerns that other civilian couples do not. Permanent Change of Station Orders (PCS) dictate when and where service members are stationed for years at a time. In terms of child custody, this may require military spouses to adapt their parenting agreements to accommodate a long-distance time sharing schedule. Florida allows for temporary relocation requests and provides a final hearing on those issues within 90 days of filing, thus allowing the active duty service member to get a court’s ruling on custody issues before leaving on orders.
Support Orders
Military service members are paid a higher rate of compensation when they are deployed versus when they are stationed at home. These two rates of pay need to be considered when evaluating how often the active duty spouse is deployed. If the active spouse is deployed frequently, the court may raise alimony and child support amounts to take this higher pay rate into consideration.
How Do I Protect Myself & My Family in My Military Divorce?
The Tampa 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 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+
- See more at: http://www.familymaritallaw.com/military-divorce-in-florida/#sthash.EonJe9w1.dpuf

How Does Mediation Work?

If you are involved in a contested divorce in Hillsborough County or other Florida jurisdictions, you will be required to attend mediation prior to judge hearing your case, unless there is a substantiated emergency. Outside of emergencies, the Florida Rules of Family Law Procedure require both parties to go to mediation before either temporary relief or a final trial can be ordered. This process is more informal than a jury trial and encourages parties to come to an agreement before relinquishing these issues to a judge’s discretion.

What is the Process?
Mediation is where both parties attempt to reach an agreement with a neutral third party, a mediator, coordinating the negotiation. The mediator is a neutral third party that has been pre-approved by the court.
It is important to note that a mediator is not a judge. They do not have the authority to impose a solution or demand enforcement of any issues agreed upon by the parties. Mediators are there to facilitate an agreement, not to impose any final decision. During the session, each party is allowed to communicate privately with his or her attorney. Mediation can be limited to one day, or it can last for several sessions.
The session will likely begin with an introduction to the process by the mediator. After introductions, the mediator will help determine what issues need to be resolved and organize them according to priority. Then, each party and his or her attorney will go into separate rooms and the mediator will split time between the parties as is needed to negotiate terms and agreements.
What are the Benefits?
Mediation can have a substantial cost savings and the proceedings are confidential, unless stated otherwise. The mediation process also allows the parties more autonomy over the outcome of their case than they would otherwise have if the case were to proceed to trial. For example, if each party comes to an agreement over their contested issues, such as alimony or child custody, then those issues can be codified into an agreement between the parties. If the case is not resolved in mediation, then the determination of the ultimate issues would be in the hands of a judge or jury.
Outside of the possibly expedited cost and time savings, mediation can also serve to help the parties communicate in the future. By coming to an agreement, and compromising on contested issues, the parties’ future relationship will benefit. This is especially important if there will be a continuing relationship between the parties.
What Happens If Both Parties Agree or Disagree?
If both parties disagree, the mediator will report this disagreement to the judge. This report may contain outstanding issues between the parties, so long as the parties consent to that disclosure.
If both parties come to an agreement on the contested issues, then the mediator will prepare a written settlement agreement to be signed by both parties. This agreement will then be presented to the judge on the case so that a final judgment, the final divorce order, will mirror the terms stated in the settlement agreement.
Contact a Tampa Attorney
It is important to prepare thoroughly for mediation. This should include a meeting with your attorney to discuss what to expect and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the case. For answers to your questions about resolving your divorce or other family law issues in mediation, 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+

New Grandparents’ Rights Bill Took Effect July 1

Michelle Parker, the mother of two young children, suddenly disappeared after she appeared on an episode of “The People’s Court” with her ex-fiancé, who was also the father of her children. Parker was reported missing sometime after dropping the children off at her ex-fiancé’s house in 2013. Her body has not been discovered and the criminal case relating to her disappearance was dismissed in 2014. Parker’s parents have not been allowed to see their grandchildren, as the ex-fiancé refuses to allow them visitation.

Previously, grandparents’ rights were difficult and complicated to establish in Florida, with courts only allowing grandparents to sue for visitation if the parents had divorced, a parent had deserted the child, or the child was born out of wedlock. As of July 1st, 2015, however, grandparents will be allowed to petition for visitation in additional circumstances, including the case of Michelle Parker’s parents.
What Are the Additional Circumstances?
According to the new law, grandparents can petition for visitation of a minor child where both parents or one of the parents is (1) deceased, (2) missing, (3) in a persistent vegetative state, or (4) has been convicted of a felony or an offense of violence showing behavior that poses a substantial threat of harm to the minor child’s health or welfare.
What is the Process?
The grandparents must petition the court for visitation rights and meet the criteria laid out under the law. In cases like Michelle Parker–where a parent is not alive or missing– the court would weigh various factors in determining whether to award visitation. In order for grandparents to qualify, the court would consider the grandparents’ previous relationship with the child and the mental, physical and emotional health of both the child and the grandparents. The reason why the grandparents were denied visitation would have to be considered as well.
In situations where a parent is not deceased, missing, or impaired, the court will hold a preliminary hearing to determine whether there exists a “prima facie showing” of parental unfitness or significant harm to the child. Essentially, the court is looking for enough information to establish a fact or raise a presumption that a parent is unfit or poses significant harm to the child. If the grandparent fails to make this preliminary showing, the court shall dismiss the petition and may award reasonable attorney’s fees and costs to be paid by the grandparents to the respondent.
However, if the grandparents do establish enough evidence to meet the initial burden, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem and refer the matter to mediation. Should mediation prove unsuccessful, the matter will proceed to a final hearing.
If at the final hearing the court finds, by clear and convincing evidence (1) a parent is either unfit or poses significant harm to the child (or is deceased or missing), (2) visitation is in the best interest of the child, and (3) the visitation will not materially harm the parent-child relationship, the court may award reasonable visitation to the grandparent.
When considering what qualifies as the “best interest of the child” the court will look to the emotional well being of the child, the length and quality of the previous relationship between the child and grandparent, the reasons the parent initially refused visitation, any emotional harm caused by the disruption of the family unit, and other relevant circumstances. All of these and other relevant factors will be taken into consideration when determining if visitation is in the child’s best interest.
How Do I Proceed?
If you are considering filing for visitation as a grandparent, you are the respondent in a grandparent visitation suit, or you have questions on how the new law affects your case, 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+