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, 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.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Filing for Divorce as a Stay-at-Home Spouse

When someone starts contemplating divorce, a number of considerations must be factored into the final decision. For spouses who chose to pause their career in favor of raising children, the financial implications of divorce cannot be overstated. Concerns about supporting oneself and one’s children is naturally paramount, and can specifically manifest as worries over how feasible returning to work will be, as well as the impact on the child of putting him/her in daycare. Further, staying in the family home may not be possible, and the additional issue of finding a new place to live weighs on the ramifications of ending the marriage. All this is to say that stay-at-home spouses have an enormous amount of emotional and financial stress to manage in the wake of divorce. One source of money may be available in the form of alimony, or spousal support. However, a party seeking alimony should know that these awards are rarely permanent, so some type of alternative revenue stream will need to be found at some point. Further, getting an alimony award, and making sure it is paid, is another matter altogether.
In addition, you will not automatically receive alimony after you file for divorce until the judge orders it or it is paid voluntarily.  The judge will not order it until there is a temporary hearing on the matter.  Normally the parties are required to attend mediation prior to having a temporary hearing on alimony.  Furthermore, needing support is not usually considered to be grounds for an emergency hearing as there are so many people in the divorce process who need financial support during the process that it usually is not considered an emergency.
To help stay-at-home spouses understand their options in divorce, a discussion of the types of alimony available in Florida, as well as methods of enforcing payment, will follow.
Types of Alimony
The first thing to know about alimony awards is that a court will not issue one if the judge believes the party being asked to pay does not have the ability to so, or that a need for the support exists. For stay-at-home spouses, the need for support is almost always present, and courts have discretion over how much the alimony payments will be. In addition, courts can attribute income to spouses believed to be voluntarily earning less than they could when deciding if alimony is appropriate and how much it should be.
Florida has four types of alimony: bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, durational and permanent. Other than the permanent option, the others are temporary, and meant to provide short-term financial support while the party needing assistance finds his/her own way to generate income.
Bridge-the-gap alimony is designed to provide for short-term needs as the spouse transitions to being single, and cannot exceed two years. Rehabilitative alimony provides financial support while a party gets the education or training needed to become self-sufficient. This type of alimony would be particularly relevant for stay-at-home spouses seeking to reenter the workforce. It lasts until the rehabilitation plan is complete, circumstances change, or the party stops complying with the plan. Durational alimony is for a set period of time, and is typically used for marriages lasting less than 17 years.  Finally, permanent alimony is available for parties unable to support themselves, but is generally reserved for marriages of 17 years or more, absent extenuating circumstances. Thus, this type of alimony is unavailable for most individuals.
Enforcing Compliance
When a judge issues a court order that includes an alimony award, the payment of this support becomes a legal obligation. Many ex-spouses resent having to pay this money, and attempt to avoid it. In these situations, enforcing compliance becomes necessary. There are a number of available legal options to force the payment of alimony, including civil contempt, liens and forced sale of property and wage garnishment.
Violating an order to pay alimony is considered to be in contempt of court, and if there is evidence that the non-payment was willful, the court can punish the delinquent party with jail time, fines or both. Further, if the delinquent party has assets, such as real estate or cars, pursuing a lien against the property, followed by a writ of execution to force the sale of assets, is a good option for collecting payment. If there are no assets, petitioning for the garnishment of wages is another avenue to obtain payment. Sometimes, it is even possible to collect future payments and attorney’s fees.
Ask for Help
Figuring out the financial implications of divorce is a pressing issue, and a divorce attorney can advise you on the short- and long-term consequences of the divorce process. This is information everyone needs up front, so do not delay consulting with an attorney about these concerns, or you may risk losing valuable rights. 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, July 24, 2017

Special Considerations Same-Sex Couples Face in Divorce

The legal landscape on marriage and divorce for same-sex couples has changed dramatically over the past few years. Until very recently, 2015 to be precise, marriage between same-sex couples was not legal nationwide. Thirty-seven states granted same-sex couples the right to marry, while others took action to ban gay marriage to prevent these unions from being recognized. Few would argue that marriage has an important symbolic aspect, but more important are the rights and privileges it transfers to the couple, which become particularly relevant during divorce. It is easy to take for granted the legal benefits of being married, such as shared health insurance, joint income tax filings and the right to receive a spouse’s government benefits. In the context of divorce, these rights translate into property division, child custody and support, all pivotal family law matters that few domestic partners were previously able to access absent additional complicated legal arrangements. Given how recently the law changed on same-sex marriage, special considerations exist for couples now seeking divorce due to the overlap of conflicting laws pre-and post-legalization. These potential concerns especially affect couples with long relationships, but only a few years of legal marriage.
Child Custody
Child custody can be a particularly tricky issue for same-sex couples. Upon divorce, parents are entitled to time with their children if and only if they are considered the legal parents. Florida law previously only recognized men in heterosexual marriages as a child’s legal father upon birth without further proof. Same-sex couples had to fight for this same recognition, and the state now allows both spouses in same-sex marriages to be listed on a child’s birth certificate as the legal parents. But what about couples who had a child before same-sex marriage was legal? In these situations, it is not uncommon for the child to have only one legal parent. Unless the couple executed adoption papers to ensure both parties have legal rights over the child, the court is unlikely to give the non-biological parent any rights to visitation, or impose the obligation to pay child support, regardless of how many years the party helped raise the child.
Alimony is financial support a former spouse receives because of an inability to self-support. It is usually awarded in cases where one spouse was financially dependent on the other during the marriage. Florida offers several types of alimony, both temporary and permanent, which are based in part on the duration of the marriage. Same-sex couples will have only a few years of legal marriage at this point, despite being together for decades. A court could possibly consider the entire length of a couple’s relationship on this issue, but the best way to ensure the interests of both parties are protected is to execute a prenuptial agreement outlining what happens to property and finances if divorce occurs.
Property Division
Finally, same-sex couples, being relatively new to the legal rights of marriage, may not realize how property is divided in a divorce. Previously, before such couples could marry, when a relationship ended, each person kept whatever property was in his/her name. In divorce, Florida has equitable distribution, which generally divides all property acquired after marriage equally between the couple. Because divorce is somewhat new to same-sex couples, the higher-earning spouse may be shocked when he/she learns that potentially half of everything they purchased over the past few years could be gone. A prenuptial agreement could address this concern as well. They may not be romantic, but they do save a lot of time, hassle and money during a time when emotions are already running high.
Get Help
Divorce, under any circumstances, is a devastating experience, and these emotions can make it difficult to fully appreciate the legal ramifications of this decision. Divorce attorneys, like those at Tampa Bay’s All Family Law Group, P.A., are there to guide you through the divorce process and ensure your legal rights are protected and your wishes followed. 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 19, 2017

Divorcing without Conflict

Separating divorce from the notions of courtroom disputes and drawn-out litigation is hard to do. As this depiction is really the only one that is written about or appears on television. Obviously, if a couple chooses to divorce, the relationship has not been in a good place for some time, but ending the marriage does not necessarily mean the dissolution must be full of conflict. Alternatives to traditional litigation in divorce do exist that allow the parties to end the marriage on a more amicable note. Couples in divorce may have an invested interest in keeping the process as civil as possible, especially if they hope to equally share childcare responsibilities or have business interests together. One type of alternative dispute resolution that is becoming more popular in recent years is collaborative divorce.
The Basics of Collaborative Divorce
Collaborative divorce centers on the idea that the resolution of issues in divorce can be done in a productive and civil manner without the contentiousness of the courtroom. In addition to the parties, there is a team of professionals that assist the couple with finding solutions to their problems. This team consists of specially trained collaborative attorneys, mental health professionals and financial experts. They work with the couple to facilitate agreement on solutions that are best for the whole family, especially the children. Informal discussions, settlement conferences and mediation are some of the methods used during this process. The process begins when the couple signs the collaborative law participation agreement, which has the parties consent to forego filing a divorce petition in court, in favor of making a good faith effort to work out disagreements in a non-adversarial setting. Each party must be willing to voluntarily disclose relevant information, but any information exchanged or communicated during these sessions are confidential and cannot be later used at trial. Either party may terminate the collaborative process at any time and for any reason. Initiating court action automatically terminates the process, and the collaborative attorneys are not permitted to represent either party in the adversarial proceeding.
Collaborative Divorce May Not Be Necessary
Even though this process aims to completely neutralize and eliminate conflict and allows the parties to craft their own agreement outside of the courtroom, it is not always possible to come to an agreement nor may the process be in the best interest of the client.  If you do not have issues that require mental health professionals or financial experts, etc., then it is not necessary to go through the collaborative divorce process.  Even if you do have these issues, there are other means of alternative dispute resolution such as mediation.  In traditional family law cases, you can still preserve a working relationship. come to an agreement and avoid a hearing before the judge.  Furthermore, if you cannot come to an agreement, you will not have to begin the process again with another attorney as a collaborative law attorney must withdraw if the parties cannot come to an agreement.
Talk to a Divorce Lawyer
If you are contemplating or facing divorce, speak to a divorce attorney about your options for resolving your case outside of court. While alternative dispute resolution options are not appropriate in every situation, it is worth exploring other methods that could better 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+

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Impact of Drug Use on Divorce

The number of issues that can potentially end a marriage are wide and vast, but one issue is particularly known to wreak havoc on all relationships – drug and alcohol abuse. Individuals caught in the cycle of addiction can pose a safety risk to the other spouse and their children, as well as jeopardize finances. Getting out of these marriages and seeking divorce is rarely easy, but unfortunately, often necessary. While these issues are certainly private matters that one tends to keep quiet, the presence of substance abuse does have a real impact on the outcome of a divorce, especially if children are involved. Breaking off all communication and relations with individuals with substance abuse problems is ideal, but not always possible or practical. One of President Trump’s advisors, Steve Bannon, has an ex-wife with alcohol and drug issues, and despite her problems he has continued to provide financial and emotional support as she struggles to recover. This news report illustrates that addiction issues reach into all spheres of power and wealth, and needs to be understood in the context of divorce.
Property Division
Marital property is divided in divorce based on the concept of equitable distribution. Equitable distribution, under Florida law, starts from the premise that all marital property should be distributed equally. However, a court will deviate from that standard, if there is justification, in order to arrive at an arrangement that is most fair based on circumstances of the parties. One factor that can persuade a court to award an unequal division of assets is if one spouse intentionally wasted marital property. Drug and alcohol abusers will invariably spend more than they can afford to feed their addiction, which results in the taking of financial resources away from the rest of the family. A court will specifically look at a spouse’s use of marital property in the two years preceding the filing of the divorce petition and while the divorce case is pending. If there is evidence of a spouse deliberately using money and property to acquire drugs or alcohol, the judge is likely to give the other spouse a greater share of the remaining assets.
Child Custody
Substance abuse has an even bigger impact on child custody decisions. The law in Florida gives a preference to shared parental responsibility, but the arrangement must first and foremost be in the best interests of the child. Specifically, if the court finds evidence that a shared parental responsibility would be detrimental to the child, the judge has discretion to award the other parent sole custody. Alternatively, the court could limit the frequency and type of visitation the parent with substance abuse problems has, such as by ordering supervised visitation. The court must analyze a long list of factors to decide what is in the child’s best interests, and evidence of substance abuse would certainly get the court’s attention. Basically, a judge is looking for any pattern of behavior that could pose a harm to the child’s mental and physical health, and potential exposure to drug use and/or a parent that would put getting drugs or alcohol before the child’s needs is problematic.
One final point worth noting is that, unlike criminal trials, a judge in a civil case can take a party’s silence as guilt. This point is important in substance abuse cases since these individuals have a tendency to deny the existence of or responsibility for the problem. Thus, if a spouse accuses the other of a cocaine habit, and the accused party refuses to confirm or deny or submit drug testing results, the judge can take this behavior as affirmation of the party’s drug problem.
Contact a Divorce Lawyer
Navigating divorce with a spouse who is addicted to alcohol or drugs is bound to present challenges. Having an experienced divorce attorney on your side, like those at Tampa Bay’s All Family Law Group, P.A., will alleviate some of the stress associated with 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, July 7, 2017

How Unwed Fathers Gain Custody Rights Over a Child

Learning that one is about to become a parent is an exciting and nerve-racking time. Anticipating the child and thinking of all the hopes and dreams a parent may have is a very emotional experience, but if the parent is an unwed father, the opportunity to participate in his child’s life is not guaranteed. The path to legal parenthood for unwed fathers requires the establishment of paternity. Establishing paternity grants a man legal rights and obligations over a child from birth to adulthood. In contrast, mothers and married men are automatically granted full custody and decision-making rights over a child upon birth, reflecting state policy in preference of marriage. A recent news story highlights the potential for complications this rule poses in practice. A Florida man is fighting for parental rights over his son from his ex-girlfriend’s husband. The boy’s mother was married at the time of the child’s birth to another man, thus giving her husband rights as the legal father. Generally, state law supports the involvement of both parents in a child’s life regardless of the couple’s relationship status, but does impose additional requirements on unwed fathers to attain these privileges. An overview of the available methods to establish paternity in Florida will follow below.
Acknowledgement of Paternity
The simplest way to gain paternity over a child is to file an Acknowledgement of Paternity with the Florida Department of Health’s Office of Vital Statistics. In order for this form to be valid, both the mother and presumed father must sign it in the presence of two witnesses, or have it notarized. By signing this document, the father is accepting full rights and responsibilities over the child, including the obligation to provide financial and medical support until the child is an adult. In return, the father is granted the right to request custody and visitation with the child. Both parties have the right to withdraw their consent to the acknowledgement of paternity within 60 days of executing the document. Once this time has passed, paternity is established and can only be challenged in court on the basis that the form was signed due to duress, fraud or mistake of fact.
Petitioning a Court and Genetic Testing
The other principal method of establishing paternity is through a court order. This is a more complicated process, and is typically used when there is a dispute over the child’s paternity. To determine if the child is in fact biologically related to the alleged father, the court will look at the circumstances of the parties’ personal relationship to see if the child is a likely result. In addition, either the court or the parties may request genetic testing. The test results are admissible as evidence of paternity, and if they show the man is related to the child by the statistical probability of 95 percent or higher, paternity is presumed. Both parties have the right to challenge the results and request further testing, but also have the responsibility for paying the costs for the new analysis.
Get Help
If you have questions or concerns about the paternity of your child, consult an experienced family law attorney to ensure your legal rights are fully protected. Many rights and responsibilities are attached to this designation, which means it should not be initiated lightly. The Tampa Bay law firm All Family Group represents mothers and fathers in these matters, and is available to help you to determine the appropriate next steps.  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+

5 Frequently Asked Questions About Divorce In Tampa

Everyone understands the basic concept of divorce. It is a legal process people must go through when they want to formally end their marriag...