About Our Firm
- All Family Law Group, P.A.
- 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.
Tuesday, September 22, 2015
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.
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
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.
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.
Saturday, September 19, 2015
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+
By Lynette Silon-Laguna Google+
Thursday, September 17, 2015
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.
Tuesday, September 15, 2015
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.
Sunday, September 13, 2015
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.