About Our Firm

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Founded in 1997 we are experienced and knowledgeable Tampa attorneys practicing exclusively in Divorce, Family, Stepparent/Relative Adoption, Criminal Defense, & Personal Bankruptcy. We practice primarily in Tampa, Riverview, Brandon, Valrico, Lithia, Carrollwood, North Tampa, Plant City and all of Tampa Bay. We have offices conveniently located throughout Tampa Bay. Our lawyers have extensive experience practicing in contested and uncontested divorces, including military divorces, and family law, child support, child custody and visitation, relocation of children, alimony, domestic violence, distribution of assets and debts, retirement/pensions (military and private), enforcement and modification of final judgments, paternity actions, adoptions and name changes. We also have attorneys who are very knowledgeable and experienced in all areas of criminal defense. We offer a free consultation to discuss your options. Please call us at 813-672-1900 or email us at info@familymaritallaw.com to schedule a consultation. Our representation of our clients reflects our dedication to them. We look forwarding to hearing from you! Se habla EspaƱol.

Friday, August 4, 2017

How to Petition for a Stepparent Adoption in Florida

Most depictions of stepparents in the media present callous individuals who detest any children from the first marriage. This image of the cruel stepparent diminishes the many caring and healthy relationships shared between stepchildren and their stepparents. In fact, some stepparents become so attached they petition to adopt the stepchild, thereby assuming all rights of a natural parent. While there is no denying the emotional aspect of adoption, it also grants the adopting adult important rights to make decisions related to the child and petition for custody if the adoptive and biological parents later divorce. The act of adopting a stepchild can have a profound effect on the child’s life, as seen in a news story about a stepfather who surprised his 11 year-old stepson with an adoption certificate last Christmas. The procedure for stepparent adoption is generally easier than a traditional, formal adoption, but certain standards do need to be satisfied before a court will sign-off on the request.
Is the Stepparent Eligible to Adopt?
Any request for adoption must start with an assessment of whether the person seeking to adopt is eligible. In Florida, the spouse of a child’s natural parent is eligible to petition for adoption as long as the other spouse consents, or is excused by the court from consenting. Most adults are generally able to adopt, unless a person has a physical or mental disability that affects the ability to parent. Courts are reluctant to grant legal rights to individuals that cannot fulfill the parent role, and are likely to deny the adoption petition under such circumstances.
Filing a Petition
Once eligibility is determined, a petition is filed with the local circuit court asking permission to grant the adoption. The petition must contain certain information for a court to accept it, and the provisions that are most important include whether consent from the other biological parent was given and why the stepparent wishes to adopt the child. After the petition is submitted, the child’s other parent must be notified about the pending petition request before a court can rule on it.
Consent from Biological Parents
The crucial part of any adoption, stepparent included, is obtaining the consent of both biological parents, or showing why such consent is not necessary. In stepparent adoptions, the consent of at least one parent is basically presumed, but the real issue lies with whether the child’s other biological parent will protest the adoption petition. If the other parent decides not to consent, it is still possible to proceed with the adoption if grounds exist that make consent unnecessary. These include:
  • the parent deserted or abandoned the child;
  • the parent had his/her parental rights terminated by a court; or
  • the parent was determined by a judge to be legally incompetent, and is unlikely to regain competency.
In addition, consent may not be necessary from the child’s father if the man did not establish himself as a legal parent. These exceptions exist because a father is not always presumed to be a child’s legal parent since, absent genetic testing, biological relation to the child is not guaranteed. Consequently, a father’s consent is only needed if one of the following is true:
  • the man was married to the child’s mother at the child’s birth;
  • the man previously adopted the child;
  • a court determined he is the child’s father;
  • the man filed an affidavit of paternity; or
  • the man acknowledged paternity in accordance with Florida law.
Contact a Florida Adoption Attorney
Adoptions are events worthy of celebration, but the correct procedure must be followed to ensure a court will authorize a petition. Working with an experienced adoption attorney can relieve the stress of wondering if your petition will be accepted, and make the entire process much more perfunctory and simple. All Family Law Group of Tampa Bay knows how to build a strong petition in favor of adoption, and is available to help you complete your family.  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+

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Child Custody Concerns for Military Personnel Post-Divorce

Having and raising a family while being an active member of the military is no easy task. Being away from one’s children and spouse during the long periods of deployment is hard because this parent misses out on a lot of childhood milestones and daily life experiences. Deployment is known to put strains on marriages, and unfortunately, leads to divorce in many situations. Navigating child custody issues post-divorce is unavoidably complicated if disputes arise when the military parent is unable to directly deal with situation due to official duties. The restricted availability of military personnel for months and years at a time makes it easier for the non-military parent to deny or restrict access to the child, and has led to parental kidnapping in some cases. A recent decision by a federal district court in Florida that ordered a serviceman to return his son to his mother in Japan highlights the struggle of many military personnel with children born to foreign parents. Florida law recognizes that parents in the military have the same amount of desire to be involved their children’s lives, but need more flexibility in the exercise of time-sharing plans. An overview of the special considerations active military may need to address on child custody following divorce will follow below.
Changes to the Time-Sharing Schedule
A vulnerability all military parents on deployment face is the possibility that the other parent will seek to change the child custody order in his/her favor. Florida law has provisions that specifically address petitions seeking modification of parental responsibility and/or time-sharing while a parent is on active duty. The goal is to prevent the non-military parent from taking advantage of a deployment, and to that end, a court is not permitted to issue or modify a child custody order while a parent is on active duty that greatly impacts his/her ability to exercise his/her parenting time. The order in place at the time of deployment or assignment must remain in effect until the military order expires. However, a court may enter a temporary decision on time-sharing or parental responsibility if the best interests of the child justify it. The grounds for the temporary modification cannot rest solely on the disruption the deployment has on the child’s life. These temporary modifications automatically expire upon the parent’s return from active duty.
In addition, for parents deployed or assigned for more than 90 days, and consequently unable to exercise their parenting time, they can designate someone else to exercise parenting time. The designee must be a family member, stepparent or a relative of the child by marriage. The other parent can only object to the designation on the grounds that it is not in the best interests of the child.
Concurrent Custody
If a deployed or assigned military parent wants to take the designation of parenting time a step further, he/she can consent to concurrent custody with an immediate family member. This arrangement gives the family member the ability to make decisions related to the child in the parent’s absence. This option allows the deployed or assigned parent to have someone near and available to the child to represent the parent’s interests in important matters.
Get Legal Advice
If you or your spouse is in the military and seeking divorce, you need a divorce attorney experienced with the issues unique to this situation. Laws specific to the divorce of military personnel must be satisfied to ensure the terms of the divorce decree are valid and enforceable. The attorneys at the Tampa Bay law firm All Family Law Group, P.A. understand the rules that apply in military divorces, and will strive to give the best possible representation.  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+