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Since 1997 we are experienced and knowledgeable Tampa attorneys practicing exclusively in Divorce, Family, Stepparent/Relative Adoption, Consumer/Personal Bankruptcy & Mediation. We practice primarily in Tampa, Riverview, Brandon, Valrico, Lithia, Carrollwood, North Tampa, Plant City and all of Tampa Bay. Our lawyers have experience practicing in contested and uncontested divorces, including military divorces, and family law, child support, child custody and visitation, relocation of children, alimony, domestic violence, distribution of assets and debts, retirement/pensions (military and private), enforcement and modification of final judgments, paternity actions, adoptions and name changes. We offer a free consultation and we are happy to discuss your case. Call or email to schedule a consult. Our representation of our clients reflects our dedication to them.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Importance of Establishing Paternity in Child Custody and Support Cases

It seems almost self-evident that children thrive more in homes that have mothers and fathers in place to support and guide them. Ideally, all children would have the chance to live with both parents in a loving environment, but reality is often much harsher. Couples cannot always stay together, and marriage does not automatically guarantee happily ever after. For children born to unwed parents, the situation is complicated by the fact that unmarried men are not assumed to be the father of a child born to their partners. This gap in legal recognition can create problems when it comes to child custody and support issues. All legal parents have rights and obligations over their child, but without this designation, there is no way to exercise or enforce these legal measures. Florida law has several options available to prove a child’s paternity, some of which are voluntary and others that can occur on an order from a court. If the mother wishes to seek child support, or the father wants to secure visitation, paternity must first be established. Consequently, this issue is of critical importance to the wellbeing of the child.
Acknowledgement of Paternity
The simplest and easiest way to establish paternity requires the parents to file an acknowledgement of paternity with the Florida Department of Health, Office of Vital Statistics. This form must be signed by both parties in front of two witnesses or a notary public. Filing this form creates a legal presumption that the man signing it is the child’s father, and is assuming all the rights and responsibilities of a legal parent. Either party has 60 days from the time the form was signed to rescind this acknowledgement. After this time, it can only be challenged in court on the basis of fraud, duress, or mistake, which is very difficult to prove.
DNA Testing
If the alleged father is challenging paternity or refuses to take responsibility for the child, it may be necessary to obtain a DNA test to confirm paternity. If the mother is just seeking child support, and the alleged father has no interest in participating in the child’s life, the Department of Revenue will assist with genetic testing without the cost of going to court. If, however, the father wants an active role in the child’s life, the paternity dispute would need to be settled in court. The judge would order the mother, alleged father, and child to submit biological samples to a qualified laboratory for analysis. Results that state the statistical probability the man is the father by 95 percent or higher creates a presumption of paternity that can only be challenged with additional testing. Once paternity is established, the mother can petition the court for a child support order, and the father would have right to ask the court for custody and visitation rights.
Putative Father Registry
Finally, if man believes a woman is pregnant with his child, but they are unmarried, and he is worried she will give the child up for adoption without his knowledge, Florida has a registry he can access to preserve his rights. The Florida Putative Father Registry allows the unmarried man to add his name to registry, which means he is claiming paternity, so that he preserves his right to receive notice of any impending adoption. With this information, the man can oppose adoption and seek custody of the child if he so desires. Importantly, he can claim paternity at any time before the child’s birth, but this right terminates once a petition to terminate parental rights is filed.
Get Help
Whether you need to establish paternity for child support purposes or to claim parental rights, work with a family law attorney on this issue to ensure your legal rights are fully protected. The All Family Law Group, P.A. in Tampa is highly experienced in these matters, and can advise you on your options.  Contact the Tampa divorce attorneys 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 18, 2016

When and How a Parent Can Change a Parenting Plan

Discussing when and how to divide child custody and visitation is one the more contested issues when couples decide to separate and divorce, as it is a topic central to being a good and present parent. Forming compromises that adequately address the needs of the child and the rights of the parents is a difficult process, but Florida law requires all divorcing parenting to create a parenting plan. A parenting plan lays out the duties and responsibilities of each parent and includes a time-sharing schedule so that both parents know when the child will stay in each household. Crafting a parenting plan that will work through all stages of a child’s life is exceedingly hard because inevitably circumstances will arise that greatly change the needs of the child and the ability of the parents to maintain the same arrangement. Wanting to make changes to custody and/or time-sharing schedules during the school year can be especially difficult as parents try to balance what works for all parties with the need to provide consistency for the child. However, sometimes changes are necessary, but in order to protect the interests of the child and rights of parents, modifications of parenting plans should be approved by the court.
Basic Standard for Modification
The legal system always wants to promote cooperation among parties because it lessens the likelihood of a dispute, so if the parents are able to agree on changes to the parenting plan, they are not technically required to get court permission. However, these changes should be memorialized in writing and submitted to the court to ensure each parent knows what their obligations are, and to protect against one parent later claiming there was no agreement. If the parents cannot agree on changes or a parent refuses to even consider altering the current arrangement, the only option is to get a court order modifying the parenting plan. Note that a judge will not decide on a petition for modification until a hearing is held where each party has an opportunity to present his/her side.
Florida law states that any change to parenting plan or time-sharing schedule is only permitted if there is a “substantial, material, and unanticipated change in circumstances.” This standard is fairly ambiguous, and what it means in practice can vary from judge to judge, but basically, there needs to have been some change that is fairly permanent the parties had no way of anticipating when the original parenting plan was created. However, like all family law cases, the ultimate deciding factor is what in the best interests of the child.
Circumstances that Warrant Changes
Because the statute does not define what a substantial, material, or unanticipated change is, courts must look at the facts of each individual case to determine if a change is justified. Looking at past cases, circumstances that would likely justify a modification of the parenting plan include:
  • efforts by one parent to alienate the child from the other parent;
  • failure to comply with the parenting plan;
  • a parent’s interference with other parent’s time with the child;
  • blocking a child from calling the other parent;
  • making false accusations of abuse against the other parent; and
  • misleading the court in order to gain custody.
Contact a Family Law Attorney
If you have concerns about your current parenting time plan or wish to make changes, speaking with a knowledgeable family law attorney can help by informing you about your legal options and the procedure that is best suited to meet your goals. The Tampa Bay law firm of All Family Law Group, P.A. will work to tailor child custody and visitation arrangements that are best for you and your child.  Contact the Tampa divorce attorneys 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 16, 2016

The Impact of Domestic Violence on Divorce

Living under the specter of domestic violence is one of the most crippling set of circumstances a person can experience. Never knowing what will set off an abuser leaves the victim in a perpetual state of fear that makes taking action almost impossible. Taking the steps to leave this situation requires a lot of courage, especially if the victim plans to file for divorce. It is frequently necessary for abused spouses to move out of the marital home and away from the reach of the other spouse prior to informing him/her about the divorce case. It may seem that domestic violence is mainly the problem of the poor and unemployed, but it happens in every economic class. A recent news story about the divorce of state Rep. Alan Grayson discusses allegations of domestic abuse made by his former spouse throughout their 20-year marriage. The state recognizes the vulnerable position victims are in physically and emotionally, and as a consequence, included provisions in Florida divorce law that attempt to erect safeguards to protect battered spouses. An overview of the law on this issue will follow below.
Parenting Plans
The most direct way to deal with domestic violence is to ask a court for a protective order that demands the alleged abuser stay away from the victim. But, this procedure does not take into account the parental rights of the alleged abuser or the risk posed to an abuser’s children by maintaining contact. Consequently, the intersection of divorce and domestic violence mainly relates to the type of relationship and access the abusive parent should have to the child. Parenting plans are the documents that lay out the responsibility and authority each parent will hold over the child and how much time the child will spend with each. If there is a lot of dispute over these issues, which could certainly happen in this type of situation, the standard protocol is to order the parents to parenting coordination where a third party helps the parents resolve the disagreements. In families with domestic violence however, this process is not an option unless both parents agree to participate and are given an opportunity to consult with a lawyer or domestic violence advocate before giving consent. Further, the court will thoroughly probe the consent given by each party to make sure it is voluntary and freely given.
A court must approve a parenting plan before it is enforceable, and the overriding factor in a judge’s analysis of appropriateness of an arrangement is the best interests of the child. Normally, both parents are given some measure of parenting time unless there is something that would be detrimental to the child. In that vein, Florida law specifically states that evidence of or a conviction for domestic violence is automatically seen as a detriment, and this could result in a judge limiting or denying contact between the abuser and the child depending on the circumstances.
Child/Parent Relocation
Once the divorce is finalized and the parenting plan in place, if the parent with primary responsibility for the child wants to relocate, the parent must first receive permission from the court. One factor a court uses when evaluating whether to give permission for relocation is history of a domestic violence by either parent since the decision ultimately rests on what is in the best interests of the child. However, if one parent relocates to escape domestic violence, the move is not viewed as a violation of the parenting plan.
Get Legal Advice
If you are seeking a divorce from a marriage with domestic violence, it is important to work with an attorney knowledgeable about effects of domestic violence on divorce. Protecting you and your family from further violence is of paramount importance, and an attorney will know the options available to keep your spouse away from you. The Tampa Bay law firm of All Family Law Group, P.A. has extensive experience in areas of family law, including domestic violence, and can help you get the fresh start you need.  Contact the Tampa divorce attorneys 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, December 14, 2016

Resolving Divorce Issues Outside of Court

When people usually think about divorce, they picture a courtroom with the parties appearing before a judge to argue their respective positions. This is the image of the legal system in America – working out disputes in front a judge who makes the final decision on issues like who is at fault, should pay money, or receive custody of a child. Given that divorce is traditionally seen as a contentious process that often requires the parties to openly contest the demands of the other, it makes sense that alternative ways of resolving disagreements are often unknown, let alone discussed. However, there are numerous advantages to settling divorce concerns in forums outside the stressful environment of the courtroom. If parties want to preserve their relationship in order to better co-parent a child or continue operating a family business together, choosing a less combative proceeding presents a better opportunity to achieve that aim. In fact, Florida recently passed legislation that formalizes a collaborative divorce process that is intended to facilitate amicable dissolutions.
Mediation
Mediation is a process whereby a neutral third party attempts to help individuals in a legal dispute come to an agreement. Essentially, a mediator works to help the parties communicate more effectively and concede a compromise if it is necessary to prevent an impasse in the process. It is common for each party to have his/her own attorney present at mediation sessions to ensure legal interests are not unnecessarily given away. This procedure is voluntary, and either party can opt out at any time in favor of pursuing a traditional suit in court, but some of the advantages of this method include:
  • lower cost;
  • faster timeline;
  • parties can choose the mediator;
  • facts of the case remain private and confidential; and
  • complete control over the outcome.
In addition, it is worth noting that Florida law permits a judge to refer parties to mediation in cases where the parties are disputing parental responsibility, visitation, or child support, so this is a process that is already recognized as beneficial by the traditional legal establishment.  In Hillsborough County, mediation is mandatory before the parties can have a hearing before a judge.
Collaborative Divorce
Finally, the Florida legislature recently passed a law that formalizes the operation of the collaborative law process for family law matters in this state. This method offers a non-adversarial approach to conflict resolution that is intended to preserve the parties’ relationship. It is a voluntary settlement process that employs the services of mental health and financial professionals, as well as specially trained attorneys, to help the parties collaborate towards the satisfactory settlement. The parties enter into a participation agreement wherein they agree to forego filing a standard divorce petition while engaged in the collaborative process. Further, if the parties are unable to come to an agreement in this forum, the attorneys must withdraw their representation, and cannot participate in the court case.  Usually this method is employed only if there are mental issues involved, alimony, real property and personal property which require experts to help resolve the issues.  If not, then it is not necessary to go through this process and one attorney can be utilized throughout the proceedings.
Consult a Family Law Attorney
If you are seeking a divorce, regardless of whether you can or cannot come to an agreement, a case will have to be filed with the court.  And even if a case is filed before you come to an agreement, this does not mean you cannot amicably resolve your differences thereafter and have an uncontested divorce.  A family law attorney can advise on all the alternative dispute resolution options, and help guide you to the type that is most advantageous for you. The Tampa Bay All Family Law Group, P.A. is experienced in adversarial and non-adversarial approaches to divorce, and can adapt to either approach if circumstances change. Contact the Tampa divorce attorneys 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+

Monday, December 12, 2016

Navigating Divorce While Serving in the Military

Anyone with connections to military service knows about the sacrifices such a commitment requires of both the individual in the military and his/her family. Being away from home and loved ones for extended periods with restricted communication is likely to create stress in close relationships and can loosen the bonds of married couples. This stress is even higher when the individual is serving in a combat zone. Unfortunately, these prolonged separations sometimes lead to divorce, and recent tabulations of divorce rates among active military personnel show that while the rate is declining, it is still higher now than it was 15 years ago. Obviously, divorcing while on active duty presents unique challenges that can make the divorce process a little more complicated, but federal and state laws are in place to help military personnel make this transition by affording them special protections and exceptions to certain rules. An overview of how a military divorce differs from a civilian dissolution will follow below.
Procedural Issues
Typically, a divorce petition is filed in a person’s resident state, but active members in the military often do not have stable residency since many live on military bases and are subject to transfer on a regular basis. Consequently, many states, Florida included, will allow military personnel to file for divorce once he/she is stationed at a base for at least six months. Further, if the person lived in Florida prior to the start of military service, and intends to return to the state after his/her service is over, the individual can claim Florida residency for purposes of filing a divorce petition. Of course, if the other spouse lives in Florida, he/she always has the option of filing here.
In addition, because military personnel run the risk of missing filing deadlines due to delayed communication, federal law permits courts to delay proceedings until the active service member’s tour of duty is over, which includes the 60 day period following deployment. This law prevents a court from granting divorce without the knowledge of the individual in the military. Military personnel always have the right to waive this delay if they are the party instigating the divorce proceedings.
Child Custody
Further, once a divorce is granted, the other party cannot petition for modification of parental time-sharing and/or custody if the person in the military is on active duty, which will affect his/her ability to comply with any changes to the established arrangement. In these situations, courts cannot issue new orders related to child custody or time-sharing schedules while the person is on active duty, although judges can order temporary modifications if it is in the best interest of the child.
Property Division
Finally, when it comes to property division, the majority of a couple’s assets and liabilities will be divided according to Florida law, including military retirement benefits for the time the parties were married in which the spouse was in the military, regardless of the time married.  There is a federal law that limits the right of the non-military spouse to the military member’s retirement benefits if the couple was married for at least 10 years, and the military member served for at least 10 years during the same period.  However, Florida law supersedes this law and the amount determined will be paid directly to the former spouse, and not through the military.
Talk to a Divorce Attorney
Going through a divorce is a stressful event in and of itself, but when combined with military service, it quickly becomes overwhelming. Working with an attorney knowledgeable in the law that applies to military divorces is critical to protecting your rights and obtaining a divorce in a timely manner. The Tampa Bay law firm of All Family Law Group, P.A. has the necessary skill in these matters, and can help you through this process.  Contact the Tampa divorce attorneys 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 9, 2016

Key Terms Everyone Getting Divorced Should Know

Making the decision to divorce a spouse is one of the largest, hardest, and most far-reaching acts a person can make in their life. The impact of divorce goes far beyond the couple, especially if they have children, and extends to family and friends who may feel compelled to choose between the two parties. Given the emotional turmoil that accompanies divorce, it may be tempting to tune out and disassociate from the legal proceedings once a divorce lawyer is hired to handle the case. However, it is important to be engaged in the divorce process, despite the hard emotions, because of what is at stake. While a divorce attorney can represent the interests of a divorcing party, this person must maintain an active and engaged role throughout the process to ensure the outcome is in keeping with the party’s personal and familial goals. Further, it can be easy to assume one already knows the necessary information about divorce because of its constant presence in society, but unless a person has previous experience or legal training, there is a risk of oversimplifying what getting divorced actually means. Consequently, having a basic foundation in the key terms that come up in every divorce will help to prepare individuals on what to expect, which allows for thoughtful and informed decision-making.
What Is Divorce?
Divorce, or dissolution of marriage, legally severs the union between a couple, and puts them back in the same state they enjoyed as single individuals. Essentially, this process is the legal termination of a marriage, and how couples disentangle their lives from one another. Divorce is initiated when one spouse files a petition in court, and is concluded when the spouses agree on the division of property and responsibilities, or if the parties cannot agree, when the court forms the terms of settlement.
Types of Divorce
While it may appear that all divorces proceed in the same way, more or less, there are, in fact, several different types that affect how long it will take to finalize the divorce and how complex the case will be.
  • Fault vs. No Fault Divorce – Florida, like most states, has no-fault divorce, which means it is not necessary to prove that the actions of one spouse caused the end of the marriage. Instead, all that is required is to state that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.” Florida retains one basis for a fault-based divorce based on the mental incapacity of a spouse, but this provision is rarely used because the incapacity must exist for at least three years and be confirmed by a judicial order.
  • Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce – In addition to determining the grounds of divorce, one also has to assess whether the divorce is contested or not. A contested divorce means the parties do not agree on all issues, such as property division, support, or child custody, and the parties will need to file a standard divorce petition based whether they own property together or have children. Florida also offers a simplified divorce for couples that have no disputes or minor children together. Simplified divorces move through the system much faster, but require the parties to waive their right to a trial and to seek alimony.
Common Issues
Financial Concerns: Because married couples tend to intermingle income, property, and debts, it is necessary to determine how these areas will be divided in divorce. Specifically, divorcing couples must decide:
  • how to divide assets, such bank accounts, stock portfolios, and pensions;
  • how to divide debts;
  • how to handle jointly-owned property, like the marital home; and
  • whether to pay alimony to one spouse.
Children: Disagreements about children account for most of the disputes in divorce, as parents attempt to work out:
  • Custody;
  • child support; and
  • parenting plans.
Talk to a Divorce Attorney
While this article gave you a brief overview of the components of a divorce case, each case is unique and could have issues not covered here. A divorce lawyer can advise you about the particular law that applies in your case, and help you get the outcome you want. The All Family Law Group, P.A. will walk you through the divorce process step-by-step as you begin the next phase of your life.  Contact the Tampa divorce attorneys 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 1, 2016

The Lesser Known Option to End Marriage: Annulment

When married individuals consider ending their marriage divorce is usually the first and only option they explore. This default starting point makes sense when one thinks about the lack of other viable options discussed and/or known by most people. In addition, many people look to divorce as the easiest available option, and avoid other possibilities for ending a marriage out of a desire to exit the relationship quickly. However, while Florida does not offer couples the option of a legal separation, statutes and law established through court cases do permit couples to annul a marriage in certain situations. A natural question that emerges for most people when this topic comes up is why they should choose this over divorce. Ultimately, the principal advantage of annulment is that it legally treats an annulled marriage as if it never existed. And, there are circumstances where a person would rather have no legal association with a past partner that justifies this more involved step. A recent story on Fox News serves as an example of a spouse that would have reasonable grounds for seeking an annulment. A Zephyr Hills man assumed a fake identity for over 20 years in order to avoid a second divorce. His new wife had no idea her husband was using a false identity until police appeared at their door to arrest him for identity theft, and she is now left to deal with the legal and emotional fallout of his decision.
Void Marriages
As a preliminary point, it is important to note that Florida does not have specific law on annulment. Rather, it has statutes and case law that establish when a marriage may be declared void or voidable. Void marriages are unions that were invalid from the start and can never be legal. Voidable marriages, on the other hand, were not necessarily invalid from the start but potentially could be. All void marriages can be annulled, but only some voidable marriages may be. Some examples of void marriages under Florida law include:
  • bigamy – marriage to more than one person at the same time;
  • incest – marriage to a blood relative;
  • underage couples – 18 is the minimum age to get married unless there is consent from the couple’s parents. Note that an exception can be made if the couple is expecting a child; and
  • permanent incompetency – marriage to a person unable to give informed consent to the marriage due to permanent mental incapacity.
Voidable Marriages
Obtaining an annulment for a voidable marriage is a more difficult process because the allowable circumstances are more complex and subjective. Further, the law in this area is exclusively based on past court decisions, which leaves the reach and application of the law open to interpretation. However, the following grounds are historically recognized as sufficient to justify annulling a marriage:
  • sham or fraudulent marriages, such as to gain legal immigration status, public benefits, or Social Security. There must be no intent to live together as married couple by one spouse, with the other being entirely innocent;
  • lack of consummation, but this claim should be made relatively early in the marriage to have a convincing argument; and
  • concealment, such as one spouse hiding the fact that he/she cannot have children.
Consult a Family Law Attorney
Annulment cases are very complex, and typically involve very complicated sets of facts that require an experienced lawyer to effectively present in court. The All Family Law Group, P.A. in Tampa Bay understands the law and resource investment needed to win these cases, and can help you determine if annulment is right for you.  Contact the Tampa divorce attorneys 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 30, 2016

Divorce and Mediation

Given the emotional, financial and legal upheaval divorce creates for most couples, it is easy to understand why divorcing spouses have trouble seeing issues eye-to-eye. Typically, a person’s entire world changes in the wake of divorce, and seeing the other spouse as the source of this conflict certainly makes it challenging to find places of agreement. However, there are circumstances where it may be preferable to find areas of commonality and to work together toward resolution with minimum amounts of dispute to keep the relationship as intact as possible. This need for cooperation is often seen in divorce cases involving children or spouses that own and operate a business they wish to maintain with minimal disruption. Taking a divorce case through the traditional court process is, by its nature, a combative procedure. Each spouse takes a position on each issue, there is little collaboration, and a third party, in the form of a judge, is the ultimate decision-maker. There is another option that allows divorcing spouses to work together toward resolving issues in a more congenial manner – mediation. An overview of how this process works, and when courts require parties to a divorce to enter into it, will follow below.
What Is Mediation?
Mediation is a non-adversarial process where parties in a dispute discuss areas of disagreement in the presence of a mediator. A mediator is a neutral third party that attempts to help the parties better communicate, which makes it more likely they will be able to resolve their issues. Even though judges are not involved in the process, lawyers can still attend mediation sessions with their clients to help them make informed decisions with an eye toward the legal consequences. An advantage of mediation over litigation is that this process is private and confidential, and records of the parties’ agreement are not open to the public. In traditional divorce cases, unless a judge makes the unusual decision to seal the records, all the documents filed with the court are public records. Further, mediation is faster and less expensive, and the parties have complete control over the outcome. Note that this process is voluntary, and either party can withdraw at any point and for any reason. If the parties cannot come to an agreement, they still have the option of proceeding with the divorce case in court.
When Is It Required?
Some mediation is required under court order, and the parties must make a good faith effort to resolve their disputes in this forum before returning to the judge for resolution. In family law matters, courts will order the parties to undergo mediation if the following issues are under dispute:
  • parental responsibility;
  • which parent should provide the primary residence for the child;
  • access to a child;
  • visitation; or
  • child support.
If the parties are able to agree, the terms of the agreement are formally documented by the mediator in a consent order that is submitted to the parties and their attorneys for review. If the parties approve the consent order, it is then given to the judge for final approval, and once granted, the consent order is enforceable to the same extent as a regular court order.
Talk to a Divorce Attorney
If you are facing divorce and want to know your options for resolving disputes outside of court, talk to a divorce attorney who can advise of the different options available, which extend beyond just mediation. The Tampa Bay law firm of All Family Law Group, P.A. works with divorcing clients in all stages of the process, and in forums outside of court.  Contact the Tampa divorce attorneys 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, November 27, 2016

Florida Divorce 101

Looking at the almost daily stories about divorce that appear in the news, it seems as if society sees this event as an everyday process that is not worth a lot of conversation. This nonchalant attitude is especially apparent in the large of number of reports about which group is most likely end their marriage and the top signs a relationship is heading for divorce. In reality, divorce is a painful process that few enter without a large amount of soul searching and numerous attempts to save the marriage, but once the decision is made, having some key bits of information can make the situation a little easier. Knowing this basic information about divorce procedure is likely to make the process feel a little less overwhelming and scary, which should provide some much needed emotional relief to anyone facing divorce. Consequently, an overview of how to initiate a divorce, the types of information needed to file for divorce, and the role of the court will be discussed below.
Starting Divorce Proceedings
All dissolutions of marriage in Florida start with a petition for dissolution. In order for a couple to be permitted access to Florida courts for divorce, at least one party must be a resident of the state for a minimum of six months and intend to remain. The petition is filed with the circuit court in the county where the couple last lived together.  This legal document provides the court with information it needs to determine if there is authority for a  Florida judge to grant a divorce and requires the party filing the petition to include certain information related to child custody, child support, alimony, and property distribution, as applicable, so the court knows what the petitioner is seeking.
Florida is a no-fault divorce state, and all that the petitioner needs to do to get divorced is claim the marriage is irretrievably broken. This means it is unnecessary to prove that one party caused the failure of the marriage, but it also allows one party to ask for a divorce even if the other does not desire that result. The length of time it takes to obtain a divorce depends on the complexity of each individual case, but the law requires a minimum of 60 days to pass between the filing of the divorce petition and the issuance of the court order dissolving the marriage.  However, this can be waived by the parties.
Necessary Information
Before a divorce attorney can begin drafting a petition, he/she will need to collect information related to minor children, property holdings, and support. Specifically, if the couple shares minor children, identifying information for each child and any agreements the parents have made about custody and parenting time should be disclosed. Further, each party must file a financial affidavit with the court no later than 45 days after the petition for divorce is filed. This affidavit will provide the court with information that will help the judge determine child support payments, property division, and alimony, if granted. Note that the law requires the information provided in this form be disclosed to the other spouse.
How the Court Is Involved
The role of the court in divorce cases is, first and foremost, to issue a court order legally terminating a marriage. Beyond this purpose, the court oversees and approves any agreements the parties make related to the divorce. The court will take a more direct role and make decisions on issues like support and child custody, but since many couples work out the terms of divorce in mediation, it is not necessary for the court to intervene. Thus, most divorcing spouses only appear in court once to attend the case management conference where the judge learns about the status of the case and makes any decisions needed to move the case forward.  Or the case management conference can be used as a final hearing if the parties are in agreement and have completed all that is necessary to finalize their case.
Talk to a Divorce Attorney
It can be tempting to file for divorce on your own, but there are a lot of procedural rules and statutory laws that affect how quickly the case progresses and the ultimate outcome. An experienced divorce lawyer is best equipped to handle these legalities, and help you avoid the frustration of not knowing or understanding why certain forms have to be filed and the particulars of local court rules. The Tampa law firm All Family Law Group, P.A. can offer you representation in all divorce matters and is committed to helping you achieve the best possible solution. Contact the Tampa divorce attorneys 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, July 29, 2016

Moving Away with Children after a Divorce

divorce can cause a lot of emotional turmoil and can disrupt the family for a long period of time. The children are of utmost importance when making the many decisions that are involved in the divorce process. In Florida, as in other states, the courts are required to make judgments that are in the best interest of the children. The major parenting decisions are handled in with a document called a parenting plan. The parenting plan details how the care and custody of children will be handled after the divorce is finalized.
Child Custody
Most parents today take part in what is known as “shared parenting”. This means that both parents share legal custody of the kids. Legal custody refers to the major decisions that must be made for a child. For example, some of the important decisions include medical, educational, and religious options. Physical custody is simply the location where the children reside. Sometimes one parent has primary physical custody while they share legal custody with the other parent.
Moving Out of State
Once a parenting plan is put into place as part of the divorce, it is a legal order and must be followed. Both parents are typically allowed access to their children. Moving to another state would severely limit the contact of one parent, so it is usually not allowed. If you are considering a move to another state and you are the primary custodial parent, you must first consult your divorce documents. Determine how a potential move is to be handled. This is often covered as part of the parenting plan.
Request a Hearing
A change to the divorce order, including changes to a child’s residence, must be made through the court system. Even if the other parent agrees to the move, the change must be made legally by a judge. However, in many cases the other parent will not approve of the move. The first step is to discuss the matter with an experienced divorce attorney. Your lawyer will assist you in taking the steps needed to request a hearing.
Preparing for the Hearing
The hearing is the court date during which the judge will review your request and make a determination. Both parents are required to attend the hearing. Each parent is allowed time to present information and data to support their position. It is important to remember that the judge will always make a decision based on what is best for the child. All aspects of the case will be reviewed when making such a serious decision.
It is helpful for parents to have a plan in place that addresses how visitation will occur in the future. When the children are older, typically over age 12, they may be consulted regarding their wishes. This would be done by the judge, often in chambers. The courts always make sure that the children are protected and the decision will reflect that.
If you are considering making a move out of state, or your former spouse has requested to move with your child, you need help from a skilled legal team. Contact the Tampa divorce attorneys 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, July 27, 2016

Reviewing Time-Sharing Options

When parents’ divorce, one of the most controversial and complex decisions is how to resolve issues regarding the children. There are various time-sharing arrangements available to Florida families. In Florida, custody is now called time-sharing, as both parents are expected to make decisions for the child, spend time with the child, and provide support if applicable.
Parenting Time
Generally, shared parenting is the preferred option for child custody. However, the courts do review all factors when considering arrangements. Parents are both expected to provide for their children and spend time with them on a regular basis. Ideally, parenting time should be split in a manner that provides equal time with each parent.
Factors in Considering Custody
The courts have the final decision when determining child time sharing issues. Some of the factors that they use when considering custody include:
  • Ability of each parent to provide care;
  • The relationship between parent and child;
  • Physical and mental health of each parent;
  • Moral fortitude of each parent;
  • Ability to provide safe, substance-free home; and
  • Ability of each parent to meet the developmental needs of the child.
The most important factor that is always at the forefront of any decision is choosing what is in the best interest of the child. The welfare of the child is of utmost importance, and comes before almost every other factor in making a decision of where the child should live.
Parenting Plan
A parenting plan is required for all couples who have minor children at the time of the divorce. The plan is part of the Florida divorce statutes, and is necessary before a divorce will be granted. Parenting plans should address the major areas of concern regarding the children. Some of the important aspects that must be included are:
  • Parents will share daily responsibilities of child care and upbringing;
  • A time sharing schedule to specify time spent with each parent;
  • Determination of how parental responsibilities will be distributed; and
  • How parents will communicate with each other and with the child.
A detailed parenting plan will save parents from disagreements later on. The plan should include information about how to make modifications to the agreement should they become available.
Child Residence
Although parents often share legal responsibilities for the child, the child will usually reside primarily with one parent. Many times, the child resides most of the time with one parent and the other parent has regular visitation with the child. Visitation times should be outlined in the parenting plan. The parents need to share time when the child is on holiday or vacation from school. Changes to these arrangements can only be made through the court. A hearing must be requested where both parents will have the opportunity to speak to the judge.
Parenting issues are very serious matters because they can have a major impact on your child’s life for years to come. As a parent, you probably have many questions and concerns about parenting time during a divorce. Contact the Tampa divorce attorneys and bankruptcy 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, July 25, 2016

Three Valuable Lessons You Can Learn From Celebrity Divorces

Celebrities are in the limelight, but they are just like regular people when it comes to relationships. Many celebrity marriages end in divorce, and when they do the process may involve airing their dirty laundry in public. The reality is, relationships between celebrities are just as complex and difficult as those of average people. When celebrities divorce, you get to see a glimpse into some of the more ugly sides of divorce. And, indeed, you can learn a great deal by watching what happens in high-profile divorces so you can avoid the same problems.
Get a Prenup
It is estimated that only about three to five percent of couples get a prenuptial agreementbefore they marry. This can be one of the biggest mistakes you can make. Prenups aren’t just for the rich and famous. Virtually all couples can benefit greatly by putting a prenup in place. A premarital agreement details all of the major settlement terms of divorce. It is extremely helpful because couples will not have to argue over many of the small issues that can wreak havoc during a divorce. Instead, these matters will have already been ironed out. It is important to note, however, that you should always have a prenup reviewed by an attorney before signing it.
End Things the Right Way
Don’t move on until you have finalized this chapter of your life. The best divorces, if there are such things, are between partners who still have respect for one another. This can be difficult or impossible to do when one spouse moves on way too soon after the split. If you aren’t happy, you need to let your spouse know, and take steps to try to resolve the issues so you can be sure that you want to get divorced. Then, move on at an appropriate time.
Plan Properly
Many times, celebrity divorces seem to come out of nowhere. In reality, we know that there has likely been trouble brewing for quite a while. In Florida, as in other states, property acquired during the marriage is considered marital property and is therefore divided equitably between partners. Before pursuing a divorce, understand your finances, including information regarding your home. Children should be cared for by both parents, although they usually reside primarily with one parent. Review your pension plans, retirement accounts, bank accounts, and investments so that they can be evenly distributed.
How an Experienced Divorce Attorney Will Help
If you are new to divorce, as are most people, you may not know what to expect or how to proceed. You probably have a lot of questions and concerns about the divorce process. Seek out an experienced divorce attorney to guide you through the procedures. Your lawyer will answer all of your questions and put your mind at ease as you begin this new stage of life. Choosing an attorney with experience in family and divorce issues will allow you to leave the details to her while you concentrate on emotional healing for you and your family. If you are interested in pursuing a divorce from your spouse, contact the Tampa divorce attorneys and bankruptcy 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, July 23, 2016

Becoming a Better Parent

Parenting is never easy. Children don’t come with an instruction guide, yet parents are expected to instinctively know how to care for all of their children’s physical, emotional, and financial needs. Unfortunately, divorce can intensify the need for better parenting by both the mother and father. Kids need leadership now more than ever. Although the adults may not see eye to eye on the issues surrounding their split, they can each learn how to become better able to provide the stable support their children need.
Parenting Classes
Taking a parenting class is one of the best ways to improve your skills. After your divorce, you will need to learn new ways to parent with your former spouse. Children need to know that both parents are available to provide them with the nurturing and caring environment they need. Parents can take classes through various sources or they may be required to take a class through the court. Parents will learn valuable information about how to talk to their children about the divorce.
Counseling
Children, like adults, have to work through the changes that come as a result of divorce. Parents may not have the ability to assist children with these concerns, especially when they are working through their own emotional demands. For these reasons, counseling may be a good solution. A therapist or family counselor is a first step towards getting children to talk about their feelings. This will help them come to terms with the divorce. Children are remarkably resilient, but they may need some assistance in dealing with the very adult issues that are around them during a divorce.
Communication
Good communication is the key to all successful relationships, even with your children. Be careful not to discuss adult matters with children because this can give them anxiety and it involves them in a situation that they do not need to worry about. Instead, make sure that you maintain open communication with the children and answer any questions they may have as a result of the divorce. Kids often have very simple needs. They want to be assured that both of their parents still love them and will spend time with them, even if they don’t live together anymore.
Resolving Divorce Issues
Many various issues come up during the divorce process. These can evoke feelings of fear, anger, heartache, and guilt. Children often deal with these same emotions as they go through the changes that divorce brings. To keep everyone’s emotions at bay, try to resolve the major areas of concern with help from your divorce attorney. Head off any serious problem areas before they can become large disagreements. Your divorce lawyer is often able to help keep the divorce progressing along without any significant arguments. A more agreeable divorce will help to create a much happier resolution for the entire family as they move towards creating a new life. If you are about to go through a divorce, contact the Tampa divorce attorneys and bankruptcy 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, July 21, 2016

Trial Separation – Is it an Option in Florida?

The decision to divorce isn’t always an easy one. Sometimes, couples may want some time apart to help them decide whether they want to continue the marriage or move on. In Florida, there is no legal separation. However, couples can still take some steps before filing for divorce, as long as they protect themselves in the process. Remember that separated couples are still married, under Florida law, and so they must be sure that they are able to agree to the issues that may come up during this time period.
Alternatives to Legal Separation
Couples in Florida may live separately before they divorce. If you choose to do this, however, it is advisable to create a separation agreement. While this is not a document that is approved in the family court system, it does provide a degree of protection for couples in this situation. Another option is to enter into a postnuptial agreement. A postnuptial agreement is similar to a prenup except that it is executed during the marriage, rather than prior to it. The postnuptial agreement should include all of the same issues that are handled in a divorce, such as:
  • Distribution of assets;
  • Allocation of debts;
  • Child living arrangements;
  • Child support and visitation; and
  • Spousal maintenance.
Resolving these issues now will help to better navigate a divorce, should the couple decide to move forward in that direction.
File a Petition for Support
One legal document that can be filed separately from a divorce is a petition for support. The petition is a request for child support, spousal support, or both. Money may be needed to allow both spouses to continue to pay the mortgage, and other necessary bills and living expenses. The support petition is a good option for those whose spouses have already moved out, but there is no pending divorce petition filed. These issues can be addressed again later, as part of the divorce proceedings.
Seek Counseling
Couples in turmoil may want to get counseling to help them decide what to do. Many times the couple simply needs some time apart to review the relationship and work on issues that need to be repaired. Counseling can be done together, as a couple, or alone.
Rules of Separation
There are no rules for separation, but couples should follow some guidelines to help them prevent problems. When separating, make a unified decision on how finances will be handled. Get copies of all bank accounts, pensions, and other records so you can review them later. Meet with a skilled divorce attorney to learn about your options, even if you have not yet decided to part for good. Continue regular communication so that you can assess the progress of the situation. Keep up regular child visitation, so there is as little disruption for the children as possible. Finally, set a timeline for the separation so that it won’t go on indefinitely.
If you are considering a separation or divorce, contact the Tampa divorce attorneys and bankruptcy 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, July 19, 2016

Top Five Ways to Make Your Divorce Easier

Divorce can be one of the most difficult times in your life – it can take its toll on you emotionally, physically, and financially. In fact, there are few things in life that can create more stress and disharmony than a divorce. When a family comes apart, there are many different feelings that you are likely working through. However, working through a divorce doesn’t have to be traumatic. In fact, you should consider trying these five actions that can help make the divorce easier for you and your family.
Stay Focused
It is important to focus on getting through your divorce, no matter how tough it may seem to be. An experienced divorce attorney will help guide you through the process and keep your uncoupling on track. You can count on your attorney to handle the legal details of your divorce while you focus on emotional healing, and on rebuilding your life. A stalled divorce can be difficult for everyone, so keep the process moving along.
Be Fair
In Florida, any asset acquired during the marriage is considered marital property, and therefore must be divided equitably between spouses in a divorce. It will typically do little to properly resolve your divorce when parties are being unfair. Unfairness will be met with pushback, and the result will be a lengthy, difficult, and tense divorce. Trust in your attorney and their ability to handle even the most difficult of disagreements.
Think of the Children
If you are having a tough time with the divorce, consider what the children may be going through. Your children need to be loved and protected during this difficult time. Be aware of doing anything that could emotionally damage. Remember to keep your children out from the middle of the spousal disagreements. Set up a stable “new normal” for your family that includes them spending time with your former spouse.
Avoid Negativity
It is important to keep a positive attitude as much as possible. Negativity will only become a distraction and can add to your stress as well as the stress of your family. Avoid any temptation to lash out at your spouse and do not try to trash him or her to others. You both know how to push each other’s buttons, but keep in mind that you do not have to respond, especially when it serves no helpful purpose.
Seek Counseling
There is nothing heroic about getting through a divorce alone. Sometimes, the best thing you can do for yourself, and your children, is to seek counseling. The sooner you begin to deal with your feelings, the more quickly you will be able to move on from the relationship and find happiness. While counseling may not have worked for you and your spouse as a couple, you are now free to work through your own emotions, which will help you get past the divorce so you can go forward. If your children seem to be having a hard time with the changes, you may also want to take them to counseling.
If you are about to go through a divorce don’t do it alone. Contact the Tampa divorce attorneys and bankruptcy 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, July 17, 2016

Handling Retirement Funds in a Divorce

Divorce comes with many decisions, some more complex than others. Some of the most difficult decisions revolve around distribution of assets. In Florida, property and other assets acquired during the marriage are considered marital assets, belonging to both parties. This generally includes any retirement assets accumulated in retirement or pension accounts. Many couples fail to immediately address these funds in a divorce, but that can be a mistake. It is important to protect your retirement accounts when you and your spouse end your marriage.
Identify Retirement Accounts
Although you normally may not be paying much attention to your retirement accounts, when a divorce is imminent it is best to review these issues as soon as possible. If you have had several long-term jobs, you could have several or more pensions or retirement accounts. For this reason, it is helpful to keep good records of the companies and funds that you have accumulated. The dates of the retirement funds are critical since they will determine whether the money was accumulated during the marriage. There are issues with regards to these accounts that must be addressed, including taxation, and beneficiaries.
Complex Concerns
Retirement fund concerns can be quite complex, especially when several accounts, or multiple marriages are involved. If you need to transfer funds from an IRA or other savings account, it is necessary to do it properly. Incorrect transfer of funds could cause the transaction to be considered a full distribution, which may result in tax penalties. Another consideration regarding these accounts is the designated beneficiary. Remember to update these designations after the divorce in order to properly preserve your accounts and achieve the desired stipulations.
Discuss Retirement Accounts
While these accounts may be one of the last things on your mind as you navigate your divorce, they are important to your future. It is best to discuss your retirement accounts with your divorce attorney as soon as possible. You will likely need to request records from your employers (or former employers) that indicate the specific dates of participation, along with the amount of money that was added. This information will be essential when determining marital assets.
Benefit and Contribution Plans
The distribution of funds will depend on the type of account that is utilized. There are two main types of accounts including the defined-benefit plan and the defined-contribution plan. With defined-benefit plans, the spouse may have the opportunity to take a lump-sum payment, called a “cash-out” value. Defined-contribution plans require calculation of vesting percentages. These computations can become complicated, especially when there are multiple accounts to consider. There are also other types of retirement plans that need to be reviewed during a divorce, such as military retirement accounts and government pensions. In general, couples must equitably distribute funds in any accounts that had contributions during the marriage.
Because of the highly complex nature of retirement funds in a divorce, it is critical that you discuss your accounts with a skilled divorce attorney as quickly as possible. If you are seeking a divorce, contact the Tampa divorce attorneys and bankruptcy 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, May 23, 2016

Bankruptcy and Divorce

Financial problems are often a complication that may have added to the stressful causes of a divorce. Divorcing couples who are deeply in debt may wonder whether they should file for bankruptcy before or after they dissolve their marriage. There is no “one size fits all” answer because there are so many factors that need to go into the decision. There are advantages and disadvantages regardless of when you decide to file for bankruptcy. However, it is best to understand your options by discussing the details of your case with a qualified divorce/bankruptcy attorney prior to making any decisions.
Filing during a Divorce
Filing for bankruptcy in the middle of a divorce can be tricky. When one spouse files for bankruptcy alone, the result could be that only his or her portion of the debts are discharged. This could leave the other spouse with quite a bit of debt to resolve. Furthermore, under divorce law you may still be responsible for your share of the debt to your spouse.  For this reason, it is best to come to a bankruptcy decision jointly, whenever possible. If you are having financial difficulties it is imperative that you let your divorce attorney know immediately, as it could affect the decisions of the divorce. 
Automatic Stay
When a bankruptcy is filed during a divorce, it puts an automatic stay, or hold, on the division of property. It does not impact the issues of child support or custody. The hold will lengthen the time it takes to obtain a divorce, since the financial debt matters must first be sorted out. This could take considerable time, in some instances. However, it may be beneficial to resolve debt problems rather than allowing them to have a negative influence on your long-term money situation.
Bankruptcy after Divorce
If you wait until your divorce is final to file for bankruptcy, you could still run into trouble. When a former spouse files bankruptcy after the divorce, creditors do not have to follow the divorce decree where debts were distributed. Instead, they will pursue collection of the debt with the spouse who did not file bankruptcy. Therefore, it could be beneficial to deal with the bankruptcy before finalizing the dissolution of marriage.
Careful Consideration
Since everyone’s marital and financial situations are unique, there is not one correct solution. As with most of the divorce decisions, the choice to file bankruptcy is filled with advantages and disadvantages. There are many important consequences of bankruptcy that need to be weighed before an informed decision can be made. An experienced divorce attorney is essential, especially in cases where there is a potential for bankruptcy.
Fresh Start
As you divorce you are likely looking forward to having a fresh start. You want to put your divorce and all of its baggage behind you. If you are struggling with debt before the divorce, it will probably still haunt you afterwards unless you take the steps necessary to resolve it. The decision to file bankruptcy is one of the most important choices that can be made as part of the divorce. However, it can be a new beginning, which would not be possible otherwise. Trust that your divorce and bankruptcy attorney will assist you in getting the new beginning you deserve. If you are about to go through a difficult divorce, count on the experienced legal team at our firm to assist you during this difficult time. Contact the Tampa divorce attorneys and bankruptcy 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+