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Founded in 1997 we are experienced and knowledgeable Tampa attorneys practicing exclusively in Divorce, Family, Stepparent/Relative Adoption, Criminal Defense, and Personal Bankruptcy. We practice primarily in the cities of Tampa, Riverview, Brandon, Valrico, Lithia, Carrollwood, Northdale, North Tampa, Plant City as well as Hillsborough County, Pinellas County and Pasco County. 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 as well as criminal defense. We offer a free consultation to discuss your options. Please call us at 813-672-1900 or email us at info@familymaritallaw.com to schedule a consultation. Our representation of our clients reflects our dedication to them. We look forwarding to hearing from you! Se habla EspaƱol.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Relocating with a Child May Require More than Hiring Movers

The world is now a smaller place due to advances in technology that allow us to travel faster and stay in constant communication. One significant byproduct of this change is people are much more mobile today compared with previous generations. Moving for a job or a change in lifestyle is now considered normal, and divorced parents, while needing to consider additional concerns, are part of this group. Certainly, all parents must weigh the impact of uprooting a child to a new place before deciding if the transition is in the family’s best interest, but when child custody issues are put into the mix, the decision becomes complicated. The law recognizes the fact that people with shared parenting responsibilities relocate all the time, while also taking into account the competing interest of the parent left behind who will lose regular contact with the child. Consequently, rules are in place to regulate these circumstances, which are aimed at determining if the move is in the child’s best interest, including an assessment of whether the motivation behind the relocation is legitimate and not vindictive. Parents who have conflicted relationships with ex-spouses may want to avoid a discussion on this issue, but relocating parents cannot keep the other parent in the dark. An overview of the legal requirements for a parent planning to relocate will follow below.
Agreement vs. Petition
As a preliminary point, these rules only apply to changes in the parent’s residence that are greater than 50 miles and expected to last more than 60 days. Any relocation less than this distance does not need parent or court approval. At a minimum, the parent seeking to relocate with the child must obtain the consent of the other parent, and memorialize the agreement in writing. The written agreement must include an affirmative acknowledgement of the other parent’s approval and a plan for how the parenting time arrangement will be modified to reflect the child’s new location. If consent is not obtained, the relocating parent must receive permission from a court to move forward. This requires the parent to file a petition in court, and serve a copy to the other parent so he/she has notice of the legal action. The petition must include a description of the reason for the move and a revised timesharing and travel schedule for the child, or it will be dismissed.
Contested Relocation
Once a parent receives notice about a potential relocation, that parent has 20 days to contest the request. If the parent fails to do so, the relocation will be granted without a hearing or notice, unless it is against the best interests of the child. Filing a response to contest the relocation will put a temporary hold on the move until the matter is settled. The parent seeking to relocate has the obligation to show why the move is in the child’s best interest, but if this burden is met, the responsibility to demonstrate why the move is against the child’s best interest shifts to the parent contesting the move. To evaluate what is in the child’s best interest, courts weigh a number of factors, including how the move will affect the nature and quality of the relationship with the non-relocating parent and how the move may impact the child’s development. Some other factors are:
  • the child’s preference, assuming the child is mature enough to make a reasoned decision;
  • if the relocation will improve the quality of life for the relocating parent and child;
  • if the relocation is requested in good faith; and
  • the reason each parent is asking for or objecting to the relocation.
Talk to a Florida Family Law Attorney
If your child is involved in a possible relocation, seek the advice of an experienced family law attorney well before the planned moving date. If a parent relocates with a child without fulfilling the necessary legal requirements, serious legal consequences could follow, including potential loss of custody. The attorneys at the Tampa Bay law firm All Family Group, P.A. understand what is at stake in child-related matters, and will work to get the result is best for 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+

Saturday, January 28, 2017

What to Do When You Suspect the Other Parent Plans to Kidnap Your Child

Ask any child of divorced parents what would make them happy, and most will respond with having their parents together again. While it is fairly well known that children tend to do better in intact homes, this situation is not always tenable or in the child’s best interest if the parents are unable to maintain a healthy and functioning relationship. When a couple does decide to separate or divorce, and issues of child custody and parental responsibilities are addressed, most parents strive to make decisions that are best for their child. Unfortunately, though, not all parents are willing to discuss or compromise their positions on their children, and this unyielding attitude can easily lead to disputes. An extreme manifestation of this inflexibility is a parent who decides to ignore or directly violate a parenting plan in order to keep a child away from the other parent or legal guardian. A woman in Citrus County was recently arrested for interference with child custody when she forcefully took her children from the court-appointed guardian after being told she had no legal right to see them. Worrying about a parent kidnapping his/her child is a terrible scenario for the other parent, but the law does offer some protections to a parent fearing this possibility.
Parents at Risk of Violating Parenting Plan
The purpose of a parenting plan is to establish the responsibilities of each parent, and includes a time-sharing schedule that outlines how much time a child will spend with each parent. If a parent has legitimate evidence that another parent is likely to violate the parenting plan by removing a child from the state or concealing the child’s location, the parent can file a petition with the court asking it to block any possible attempts. The court has authority to prohibit the parent from taking certain actions that would facilitate travel with or concealment of the child. Some of the options a court has to inhibit a parent’s ability to violate the parenting plan include:
  • requiring court permission or the consent of both parents to remove the child from the state or country;
  • requiring the parent to surrender the child’s passport;
  • imposing travel restrictions that insist on a parent providing a travel itinerary and contact information for the child before travel can commence;
  • prohibiting a parent from removing the child from school or approaching the child outside of the designated site for visitation; and
  • imposing limitations on visitation or requiring all visitation with the child be supervised until the risk of a parenting plan violation has subsided.
Bringing a Child Home
Once a child is taken to another state or country and contact with a parent is cut off, it is important to know what laws are in place to resolve this situation. Most states, Florida included, enacted a law that governs child custody disputes that cross state lines. The law, the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, allows courts in different states to speak to one another in order to determine which court should decide the child custody case, and ultimately, where the child should live. This decision is based on the residency of the child, which is typically established by where child lived for the previous six months. Consequently, taking legal action as soon as possible is important to preventing a change of residency for the child. Motions related to child custody disputes are heard quickly to facilitate an efficient resolution of the matter for the sake of the child, especially when parental kidnapping is alleged.
The most important thing, when a threat such as this exists, is to get a court order outlining the rights of each parent. Without this legal backing, law enforcement will not have the authority to intervene if there is a kidnapping, leaving one parent with little recourse to get the child back.
Hire a Family Law Attorney
If you are fighting with an ex-spouse about parenting time or other child-related matters, and fear he/she will take action to keep the child away from you, you need to speak with an experienced family law attorney as soon as possible. Keeping the child in the state is imperative to protecting your rights, and the attorneys at the All Family Law Group, P.A. understand how important child custody issues are. 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, January 26, 2017

Alimony and How Courts Decide to Award Spousal Support

For a select few, divorce will be a seamless process that merely involves filing paperwork and waiting for a judge to issue a divorce decree. These seemingly easy dissolutions often involve couples that either had detailed prenuptial agreements or a very short marriage. For the rest, however, divorce will likely include some amount of disagreement requiring negotiation and compromise to resolve. One area that is often disputed is the payment of alimony or spousal support. Alimony is often requested in divorces where one spouse earns considerably more than the other, one spouse stopped working to raise children or otherwise support the household, or in marriages of long duration. A high profile couple in South Florida going through a divorce is currently battling over this issue as the wife has asked for alimony, as well as a sizeable portion of couple’s property. Alimony awards usually involve a balanced consideration by a court of what is fair to the spouse with greater financial resources and the spouse who needs assistance. Alimony law in Florida is complex, and does not provide a judge with hard-line rules on when an alimony award is appropriate. This leaves the outcome to a case-by-case analysis that is hard to predict. Despite this uncertainty, parties seeking alimony need to understand the various types of alimony permitted under Florida law so they know what to expect during the divorce process. A discussion of this issue will follow below.
Types of Alimony
Florida has four types of alimony that range from extremely temporary to permanent, and a judge can combine more than one type into an alimony award as needed. The four types are: bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, durational, and permanent. Bridge-the-gap is the shortest type of alimony, and can last no more than two years. It is intended to assist a party with the transition from married to single and to cover specific short-term needs.
Rehabilitative alimony provides financial assistance to a party while he/she acquires or updates the skills needed to become self-supporting. A detailed rehabilitation plan must accompany these awards outlining precisely what the party intends to do to gain self-sufficiency.
Durational alimony is granted when permanent alimony is inappropriate or unnecessary. This alimony award is for a set period of time that cannot exceed the length of the marriage, and is difficult to modify once established.
Permanent alimony awards are approved when a party lacks the ability to meet his/her financial needs following divorce. It is typically reserved for marriage that lasted at least 17 years, and will only be given for shorter marriages if there is a strong showing of evidence to justify it.
Factors in Alimony Awards
Before a court can begin the alimony award analysis, two preliminary questions must be answered – is the alimony needed, and can the party being asked to pay afford it? Unless both of these questions are answered in the affirmative, a court will not even consider awarding alimony. Once this first hurdle is overcome, the court must then weigh a number of factors to determine if alimony appropriate is appropriate. These factors include:
  • the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage;
  • how long the parties were married;
  • the age, physical health, and mental condition of the parties;
  • the financial resources of each party;
  • the earning capacities of each party;
  • the contribution of each party to the marriage, including child care and career support provided; and
  • the division of parental responsibilities between the parties for minor children.
Note that a court can consider evidence of adultery by a spouse in this analysis, and the length of a marriage is calculated from the date they couple married until one filed for divorce.
Get Legal Help
Getting divorced is a difficult time in a person’s life, and having the guidance of an experienced divorce attorney can take away some of the stress during this emotional time. At the Tampa Bay law firm All Family Law Group, P.A., we focus our practice on family law and divorce matters so we can provide well-informed legal representation to our clients.  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, January 24, 2017

The Role of Prenuptial Agreements in Divorce

When couples begin conversations about getting married and starting a future together, they are understandably reluctant to consider what could happen if the relationship does not last. At the outset of any happy time it is difficult to think about possible negative futures, but unfortunately not all marriages survive, and thinking about the financial ramifications of a divorce should lead many couples to explore the benefits of a prenuptial agreement. Prenuptial agreements are contracts executed before a couple marries that outline how property will be divided if they later divorce. The divorce of celebrity couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie is the situation most people envision in which a prenuptial agreement has value. Thus, many couples believe, especially if they are young, that prenuptial agreements are unnecessary because they own very little of value, but it is hard to predict what a person’s financial situation will be in twenty or thirty years, and substantial assets could accumulate during the life of the marriage. In addition, if person is entering a second or third marriage, he/she will likely possess sizeable property and/or have concerns about protecting property for children from an earlier marriage. In either case, a prenuptial agreement would address these issues.
Creating a Prenuptial Agreement
The most important thing to realize about prenuptial agreements is that they must be created before the marriage occurs, and are only effective if the marriage takes place. As such, if a couple drafts an agreement, but later decides to skip marriage in favor of living together, the contract has no force as a prenuptial agreement if the couple later breaks up. The legal formalities for prenuptial agreements are simple: it must be written, and signed by both parties. Any changes to the content or decisions to revoke a prenuptial agreement must be writing and signed by both parties as well. Putting together the bare bones of an agreement is relatively easy, but figuring out which terms are permissible and make sense for each person’s unique situation requires more work.
What Can the Contract Say?
Florida law limits the content of prenuptial agreements to the division of a party’s financial assets, real and personal, tangible and intangible, and specifically delineates what the agreement may address. The permissible terms of a prenuptial agreement include:
  • the rights of each party over property acquired at any time or under any circumstances;
  • the right of either party to buy, sell, transfer, manage, or control property;
  • what happens to property upon divorce or the occurrence of another event;
  • whether and how spousal support will be paid;
  • who retains ownership rights in death benefits paid under a life insurance policy; and
  • the need to create a will, trust, or other estate planning arrangement to carry out the terms of the prenuptial agreement.
Note that prenuptial agreements cannot reduce or eliminate a party’s right to pay or receive child support, and if the elimination or modification of spousal support would cause a party to qualify for government assistance, a court has the authority to order spousal support notwithstanding the terms of the prenuptial agreement.
Get Legal Advice
The complexity of a prenuptial agreement is entirely dependent on the wishes of the parties and types of property they own, so do not assume a highly technical agreement is needed in every situation. However, protecting carefully accumulated assets is always in your best interest, and an experienced family law attorney can help you accomplish that interest. The Tampa Bay law firm All Family Group, P.A. is well versed in all areas of marital and divorce law, and is ready to help you with all your legal needs.  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, January 22, 2017

Deciding Which Kind of Divorce Is Right for You

Any couple together long enough will go through difficult patches of time where one is out of sync with the other, and many discussions end in argument. Most of the time, moving past the rough period intact is possible. However, sometimes the problems are deeper than surface disagreements, making it impossible to stay together. At this point, which is different for everyone, divorce enters the picture, and spouses must begin the process of unraveling their lives. While this process is often painful and demanding, spouses sometimes find their relationship as exes is better than when married. Once the decision is made to dissolve the marriage, the next step is to determine what type of divorce is appropriate. All divorces legally end a marriage, but not all divorce cases are processed in the same manner. A recent article discussed the divorce of the mayor of Cape Coral from her husband after less than three months of marriage, and noted that the couple filed a simplified divorce petition. Simplified divorce is one option for couples seeking to end a marriage, but is often unavailable to most divorce petitioners for reasons that will be discussed below. Selecting the correct type of divorce petition is a crucial aspect of court procedure. If the wrong one is filed, the case will be dismissed and will require a re-filing of the appropriate type, along with additional time and money utilized by both parties.
Simplified Dissolution
Simplified divorce is a faster and less expensive divorce process for those couples with no issues to resolve. Both parties must be in agreement on all of the following points, and jointly sign the petition for divorce. All of the following must be true in order to qualify for simplified divorce:
  • both spouses agree the marriage is irretrievably broken;
  • the parties do not share minor or dependent children, nor is there a pregnancy;
  • the parties agree on the division of all their assets and liabilities;
  • neither party is asking for alimony;
  • at least one spouse has resided in Florida for the previous six months; and
  • both parties are willing to jointly attend the final hearing before the judge.
One important right this simplified process takes away is the right to examine the other spouse through the collection of information before trial or as a witness during trial. This happens because simplified dissolution requires both parties to waive the right to a trial and appeal. This limitation on information is further expanded to the disclosure of financial information. While both parties are required to submit a financial affidavit, any further requests for financial information are not always enforceable.
Regular Dissolution
If a couple does not meet the criteria for a simplified divorce or declines to consent to the waiver of rights, a regular divorce petition is the option left to them. Regular divorce cases begin when one party files a petition for divorce. In addition to requesting a divorce, the petition includes any other demands a party may have, like specific property division terms, alimony, child support, or parenting time.  Where it goes from here depends on whether the divorce case is contested or uncontested.
The other spouse always has 20 days to respond after the receiving divorce petition, and if the response agrees with the demands of the petition, making the case uncontested, the parties can ask for a final hearing date to conclude the matter once the required financial disclosure is complete. If, however, the other party files a counter-petition disputing the demands listed in the petition or makes new demands, a Notice for Trial must be filed, as this case is contested. A contested divorce is like any other lawsuit where the parties exchange information and present arguments to the judge through filing additional documents or attending live hearings. This is a lengthier process, but may be necessary if the parties cannot agree, or have another type challenge preventing resolution of the case.
Get Help
Regardless of the kind of divorce petition you file, you are permitted to retain legal counsel to represent your interests. In divorce cases, where the outcome has significant and long-lasting effects on a person’s daily life, it is important to work with a divorce or family law attorney to ensure you do not unnecessarily give up your rights and fully understand the legal consequences of your decision. The Tampa Bay law firm, All Family Law Group, P.A., will evaluate the unique facts of your case and guide you through the divorce process to its end.  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, January 20, 2017

Caution – Social Media, Electronic Evidence, and Divorce: Guarding Against Negative Impact

In today’s world of increasing reliance on cloud-based computing, and the ability to obtain almost everything a person needs to live with a few clicks of a mouse, social media is a large and important presence in many people’s lives. Using social media to update friends and family is routine for many people and one of the original purposes behind this technology, but it is fast becoming a way for people to promote their businesses, earn a living, organize political and activist groups, and vet potential employees or clients. Many are so used to using social media to document their daily lives that they may not think about the potential ways it could be used against them. Anyone involved in a divorce case should keep this possibility in mind, and think about the potential negative consequences sharing information on social media could bring. Not only can it be used as evidence in court proceedings, it is now becoming the basis for many legal actions. Most recently, former Congressman Anthony Weiner is facing divorce and possible criminal charges after explicit texts he sent to young women, including a 15-year-old girl, came to light. Certainly, this situation is outside the norm, but understanding what kinds of electronic evidence can be used in court, and how to minimize the disclosure of damaging information, is relevant for all parties seeking divorce.

Types of Electronic Evidence Used in Lawsuits
Parties involved in divorce cases, especially those that are highly contentious, should expect the other side, at a minimum, to demand records related to texts, cell phone use, and emails. These particular forms of electronic communication are targeted because almost everyone uses them to some extent, even if they avoid more popular social media platforms. Typically, text messages and emails will be combed for information related to immoral activities and emotional outbursts that show unstable mental states. Cell phone call logs and GPS location records are useful to indicate how a spouse is spending non-family time and could reveal indiscretions or embarrassing obsessions.
Social media can be a goldmine of potential evidence that helps or hurts a divorce case. It documents how people spend their time, with whom they associate, and records states of mind at particular moments in time. Importantly, this information exists forever, and an effort to delete damning tidbits is easily discovered and can be very damaging in court. Damaging or destroying evidence is referred to as spoliation, and can bring serious consequences for the guilty party. Courts are permitted issue sanctions for these actions that include casting all legal presumptions in favor of the innocent spouse and dismissing claims of the guilty party.
How to Protect Yourself on Social Media
The best way to mitigate or eliminate potential damage from social media posts is completely suspend its use while the divorce case is pending. If that is not possible, attempt to refrain from discussing the divorce or any related issues. Further, do not create posts related to new purchases, social activities, and inflammatory topics that could be twisted in court and ultimately damage a person’s case. Finally, think about how someone else could view one’s thoughts before writing, and if there is any potential to spin it negatively, do not write it down.
Seek Legal Advice
Digital information is a minefield that can hurt or help your case. If you are contemplating divorce, discussing the kinds of information a person can expect to see on your email, cell phone, and social media accounts is crucial to building a case. The Tampa Bay law firm All Family Group, P.A. is well versed in a large variety of family law matters, and will work to obtain the best possible outcome.  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, January 18, 2017

Can You Undo a Divorce Decree?

Deciding to get divorced usually comes after much deliberation and numerous attempts to save the marriage. Once the decision is made, however, the parties are typically firm in their position that the marriage cannot continue. Nevertheless, there are instances where a couple later determines they want to attempt reconciliation instead of divorce. While this situation is good for the spouses personally, legally there could be difficulty depending on far the divorce case has proceeded through the court system. If a default judgment or final divorce decree was issued, courts are reluctant to undo such decisions because the stability of the legal system rests in part on the finality of court actions. In addition, the legal complexity of reintegrating all of the matters a divorce separates makes it virtually impossible to really undo a divorce decree. Consequently, if the divorce case has reached an endpoint, courts will only overturn an order in limited circumstances. If, however, the case is earlier in the process, stopping divorce proceedings is easier and generally brings fewer consequences. Certainly such requests are the exception in most divorce cases, but understanding the procedure to cancel a divorce decree will illustrate the seriousness of seeking divorce.
Dismissal of Pending Divorce Case
If a divorce case is still pending and no final orders have issued from the court, it is relatively simple to withdraw the petition. All that is necessary is for one party to file a voluntary motion for dismissal requesting the court to stop the case at the present point and discontinue further proceedings. If the other party filed counterclaims earlier in the case, it may be necessary that he/she also file a motion to dismiss. Note that if the court entered interim orders for child support or alimony, these benefits would go away. Thus, it is important for parties to assess what they would lose by ending a divorce petition.
Vacating Default and Final Judgments
When a court issues a final judgment in a case, it means the judge has considered and decided all pending matters before the court. The verdict is released in a written decision that can be used to enforce the terms of the court’s judgment. While most people associate final judgments with the end of a case after both parties present their arguments, it can come earlier in the form of a default judgment. When a legal petition is filed with a court, all named parties must respond to the demands or allegations made against them. If any party fails to respond, the court can enter a default judgment against him/her that grants all of the demands of the opposition. This is a severe result, so it is crucial to respond to every court document received in a legal case.
Overturning a final judgment is a complicated process, and a court will only consider it if one of the following circumstances exist:
  • mistake, unintentional or excusable neglect, or surprise;
  • newly discovered evidence that was not available or discoverable during the pendency of the case; or
  • fraud, misrepresentation, or other bad conduct by a party.
None of the grounds for vacating a final judgment is easy to show, but in the event a decent argument can be made, the knowledge of an experienced divorce attorney is needed to evaluate the facts of the case in order to give such a request the best chance of succeeding. Also, it is important to mention that a party can use these grounds as basis to reopen a divorce case and argue it needs to be reconsidered or modified.
Talk to a Divorce Lawyer
If you have questions or concerns about the final judgment issued in your divorce case, talk to a divorce attorney to learn what your legal options are. The All Family Law Group, P.A., located in the Tampa Bay area, handles all aspects of divorce and family law cases, including post-judgment appeals and petitions.  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+

How Is Child Support Calculated In Florida?

When making decisions on child support during a divorce case, there is no one fixed number a judge will use. Instead, many different factors...