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.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

New App Aims to Help Parents Post-Divorce

Navigating how to co-parent during and after divorce is one of the biggest stresses single parents have.  There is a lot of information that parents need to stay in compliance with the parenting plan and as a preventative measure in case a dispute arises about parenting time or financial contributions.  The current structure of child custody, which is now referred to as parenting time, is encapsulated in a parenting plan and requires much more cooperation between divorced parents than in the past.  Click here to read more.


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Evaluating the Different Options to Get Divorced

Obtaining a divorce requires a couple to make a series of important decisions that will have long-term impacts on their future, including selecting which process to use to end the marriage. It may seem like the path chosen to arrive at divorce is an incidental factor, but it can have substantial implications for the settlement that is ultimately reached. Most couples are aware and have some notion of the traditional process of getting divorce – litigation, and many even assume this is their only option for ending the marriage. However, two other options that couples may want to consider if they are looking for a less contentious way to work out their issues, namely alternative dispute resolution – usually mediation, and collaborative divorce. A discussion of how each process works, including the positive and negative features of each, will follow below.
Traditional Divorce
Traditional divorce is the type one sees depicted on television, and involves a judge making all the decisions for the couple. This is the most adversarial method of ending a marriage, and parties generally have less contact with one another and use lawyers to prepare and present all aspects of the case. Further, due to the demands on court systems generally, the time and expense of a traditional divorce is much lengthier and higher. However, a traditional divorce provides an important service to some couples. The matters at issue in divorce are sensitive and complicated, and parties are not always able to come to an agreement because their points of view are too far apart. In this situation, a court can step in to resolve the couple’s outstanding issues, and bring closure to the case. Further, in divorces where is there are issues of violence or wasting of assets by a spouse, court supervision is usually necessary to secure the other spouse’s safety and rights. Thus, a traditional divorce does provide important protections and direction that are needed in some cases.
Mediation
Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution routinely used in family courts to resolve issues. Mediation is a less adversarial method of resolving divorce-related issues, and is led by a mediator who facilitates negotiations between the parties. The mediator is a neutral third party who cannot make decisions for the couple, but can offer suggestions and help them find ways to compromise on points of contention. Mediation sessions may be conducted with both parties in one room, or in separate rooms with the mediator going back and forth with each party’s demands until agreement is reached, or an impasse halts the process. This process allows the parties to have control over the outcome, and is typically cheaper and faster than a standard divorce case. Mediation is voluntary, and if the parties cannot settle all relevant matters, they can return to court to continue the divorce. Importantly, mediation participants often have attorneys present at mediation sessions, or at least to review any divorce settlement before signing, to advise them on the legal implications of any agreement.
Collaborative Divorce
Finally, a relatively new divorce option is collaborative divorce. This is a completely non-adversarial process that is designed to preserve a civil and working relationship between the parties, which is important if they plan to co-parent. Additionally, the parties must agree at the outset to suspend or opt out of court involvement during the collaborative process. Collaborative divorce involves attorneys specially trained in the collaborative law process to handle the legalities of drafting a settlement and explaining what the agreement means long-term and mental health and financial professionals to help the parties resolve child custody issues and property division. The parties communicate directly with one another, and have full control over the outcome, which typically lessens the likelihood of going to court resolve issues in the future.
Get Help
How you choose to get divorced is often as important as the decision to end the marriage. Every divorce case is unique, and an experienced divorce attorney can advise on the method that best serves your needs and desires. The Tampa law firm All Family Law Group, P.A. understands how overwhelming the divorce can be and can provide the guidance you need to start 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+

Friday, February 9, 2018

Is Posting Information about Your Divorce on Social Media a Good Idea?

Many people view their online social media accounts as an extension of themselves, and sometimes without thinking, post information about personal matters that is best left private. Posting about major life events online, and providing all the details, is not necessarily prudent. Divorce is one those areas where information should be kept to a minimum to avoid it affecting the outcome of the case and inflicting unintentional harm on other people, especially children. Emotions tend to run high around the issue of divorce, and those going through it understandably want to vent about frustrations and other unresolved issues. However, posting information about one’s divorce, including why/how the divorce happened, is not a good idea. Unlike relaying information to a trusted friend or family member, things posted online are available for others to see, including the other spouse and his/her attorney. The husband of the R&B singer, Keke Wyatt, recently posted a video on social media explaining his decision to divorce, including remarks about living in a “toxic environment.” While he may have made the statements with no ill intent, one could view his comments as references to behavior that creates an unsafe environment for their children. This example of one possible interpretation of his comments illustrates how online posts have the potential to affect issues like child custody and property division. An exploration of how social media can impact divorce cases, and the most effective method of mitigating this risk, will follow below.
How Social Media Posts Influence Divorce Settlements/Decrees
One crucial point divorcing spouses need to understand about social media is that such information is admissible as evidence in their case. Even if an account is set to private, a court may allow the other party to gain access to posts as part of the discovery process (procedure that permits parties to gather evidence). Thus, using social media during an active divorce should at least involve some thought on how it may be construed. Specifically, if spouses are in a dispute over finances, posts indicating monetary expenditures, such as going out for dinner or attending a show, no matter how innocuous, can be used to argue for a greater share of the marital assets or more alimony. Further, social media can have particularly damaging effects on child custody disputes. Courts look at the best interests of the child when deciding how to divide parental responsibilities, and parties that post negative comments about the child or other parent could be viewed by the court as signaling the parent will not be willing or capable of cooperating on child custody matters. This inference could lead to the court to give the other parent greater decision-making authority and the majority of the parenting time.
Limiting the Impact
As alluded to above, social media should be used sparingly, if at all, while the divorce is pending. While it may be difficult to refrain from using this communication medium, the potential for negative consequences is typically greater than the benefit social media confers. If abstaining is not possible, taking pains to keep posts as neutral as possible is critical to minimizing their impact. An experienced divorce attorney can advise how to handle social media in divorce and other family law matters, which is especially important if negative content is already posted.
Contact a Florida Divorce Attorney
Putting together a divorce case requires more than merely filing certain documents with the court. An experienced divorce attorney can help you gather and present the information you need to get a fair and appropriate result. Tampa Bay’s All Family Law Group, P.A. understands the stresses of divorce, and is available to help you negotiate a settlement, or litigate the case in court, if necessary.  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, February 3, 2018

Who Pays for the Divorce?

In addition to the emotional challenges of divorce, there is the very concerning issue of how to handle the financial fallout of this decision. Finances play a huge role in people’s lives, and can force couples to stay together for fear of financial collapse. Once the wheels are put in motion to form separate lives, each spouse must figure out how to support him/herself independently, before any court orders are issued regarding alimony or property division. Even the process of divorce itself can cause concern, especially if litigation is necessary to resolve points of dispute. Parties in divorce usually do not want to cut corners on legal representation or pursuing legal action, but such efforts do come with a cost. Further, even if alternative dispute resolutions options are explored, such as mediation, which are less expensive than a traditional divorce, this process has an associated cost as well. While parties are generally expected to cover these expenses on their own, it is possible to ask a court to order the other spouse to pay for legal fees and court costs in certain circumstances. Costs for family law mediations are handled somewhat differently. A discussion of how costs for traditionally litigated divorce cases and divorce mediation can be shifted will follow below.
Mediation Costs
Couples entering into divorce, especially if children are involved, are becoming more open to the possibility of alternative processes to work out unresolved issues. Mediation in family law and divorce cases is one frequently chosen option due to its brevity, lower cost and control it gives to the parties. Further, ordering divorcing spouses to attempt mediation before formally beginning the legal process of divorce is a standard requirement. Thus, most divorcing couples will have some exposure to mediation. The cost will depend on the provider chosen for this service, but it is generally shared between the parties. If the parties’ combined annual income is $100,000 or less, the cost may be based on Florida statute, which sets a flat rate, though the court can waive the fee if circumstances justify it. Further, a point of negotiation could be who will bear the fees if there is a concern about paying, and a court could order one party to cover any associated costs of mediation if there is an ability to pay.
Recovering Attorney Fees in Divorce Cases
Anytime a court decides a dispute, the costs of seeing the case through to the end quickly multiply. If one party has more financial resources from which to pull, this process can easily become unfair. However, Florida statutes permit a court to order a party to pay the other spouse’s attorney fees or other costs incurred in the divorce case. These awards are authorized to ensure one party does not gain an unfair advantage simply due to having more money. However, a request for attorney fees and costs must be made in the first filing a party makes with court. Requests made a later time are rarely considered. A judge will consider a number of factors when deciding whether to grant such a request, including:
  • the financial resources of both parties, which goes beyond looking at income and additionally explores the assets each party owns;
  • the scope and history of the case, especially if a relatively simple dispute turns into a complicated case involving multiple issues;
  • whether one party is using court procedure to harass the other party or stall progression of the case; and
  • the actual need for the award, usually taken to mean a party would have to use resources allocated for basic expenses in order to pay for legal representation.
Talk to a Florida Divorce Attorney
Figuring out how to pay for divorce is a source of significant concern for many people, but know there are options to share costs or shift the burden to the spouse with the greater ability to pay. The Tampa Bay law firm All Family Law Group, P.A. has years of experience counseling clients on their rights in a divorce.  Contact the Tampa divorce attorneys and family lawyers at All Family Law Group, P.A. in Tampa Bay at 813-672-1900 for a consultation at no charge or email us.
by Lynette Silon-Laguna Google+

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Who Gets to Stay in Marital Home during a Divorce?

Spouses often have emotional attachments to their marital home, due to the hard work that was needed to purchase it and its likely status as the most valuable asset they possess. The marital home takes on a new and greater significance if a divorce occurs as the parties try to decide present and future living arrangements, and whether the home should be sold. The ultimate treatment of the marital home is an area that can cause contention between divorcing spouses, especially if the mortgage payment is out of reach for one party’s income. Even the issue of who gets to stay in the home while the divorce is pending leads to disputes in some cases and requires court intervention to resolve. Typically, both spouses have a right to remain in the home. However, there are situations where a court might give one spouse an exclusive right to remain in the dwelling. Recently, tennis professional Serena Williams filed an emergency motion in her father’s divorce case requesting the home she owns, and the one in which the couple lived, be limited to her father’s use, and exclude entry to the soon-to-be ex-stepmother/wife. Determining the disposition of the marital home during the pendency of the divorce and following dissolution is a central matter that must be settled. The treatment of the marital home in the divorce process will be explored below.
While the Divorce Is Pending
Once the divorce is initiated, if not earlier, couples will frequently want to change the living arrangement so both parties do not occupy the same space. However, there may be disagreement about who should move out. Financial considerations or child care may be the motivating factor, but if the parties cannot agree, a judge will often be tapped to settle the matter. Regardless of who owns or has a legal right to live in the marital home, a judge can grant one spouse the exclusive right to use and possess the home. The result is the other spouse must move out pending the final divorce judgment, though this right can extend beyond the divorce case. Florida does not clearly establish when an exclusive right to stay in the marital home will be granted, but the parties must have evidence of more than just a desire to live apart. Court orders of this type are most commonly issued in connection with domestic violence, a parent who is the primary caregiver, or if the home is modified to serve a particular need, such as a disability. While the person ordered to vacate the premises does not lose property rights, he/she cannot enter the premises without permission, and the other party has the right to exclude entry.
Following the Divorce Order
Most homes that are owned are considered marital property in divorce, even if just one spouse is listed on the title/mortgage. This result occurs because marital funds are commonly used to pay for and maintain the home, which makes it a marital asset under Florida law. If the parties cannot agree on what to do with this asset, a court will decide and require the parties to do any of the following:
  • sell the home if neither party can afford to keep the house on one income. The proceeds of the sale is usually shared, though the percentage each receives will depend on what is most fair under the circumstance, e., short-term marriage or one party greatly contributed to the improvement of the home;
  • defer sale of the property to allow the party with most of the childcare responsibilities to remain in the home until the children reach adulthood; or
  • order one party to buyout the other if the person wishing to remain can pay an equitable settlement for the other party’s share.
Speak to a Florida Divorce Attorney
The ownership and possession of the marital home is just one of many issues that come up in divorce. Resolving these issues can often be done privately, with the help of an experienced divorce attorney, but if agreement is not possible, you need a dedicated divorce attorney to represent your interests in court. Tampa Bay’s All Family Law Group, P.A. handles all aspects of divorce, and can help negotiate a settlement or advocate for your rights in 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+

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Figuring Out Where to File for Divorce

Many people think the hardest part of getting divorced is making the decision to end the relationship, but this step is just the first in a complicated and technical process to legally sever ties with a spouse. To initiate a divorce, a petition must be filed with a court that has jurisdiction, or authority, to hear the case. Deciding which courthouse is the appropriate location depends on a combination of residency and venue. To file for divorce in Florida, at least one of the parties must be a resident of the state for at least six months. What counts as residency is not always straightforward, especially if a couple only lives here part time or recently moved to another area following separation. Further, once residency is settled, a person must then determine in which county courthouse to file the petition. Filing it in the wrong place can cause the case to be dismissed, and require the person petitioning for divorce to accrue additional expenses associated with re-filing in the correct county. As an example of the potential complications of jurisdiction, a professional baseball player in the middle of a stalled divorce case, due in part to competing petitions filed in two different states, is seeking to move the divorce to Florida, his home state and where his wife and child currently live. These issues may seem like technical rules that have little effect on the outcome on the case, but they can be important if another state has the right to grant the divorce, as laws differ, or the parties live in different counties or ends of the state. Some of the complications that can arise with residency and venue will be explored below.
What Makes Someone a Resident?
Courts do not want to make decisions in cases where a party lives far away because the interests and property underlying the case are distant, making it more difficult for the court to hear all relevant evidence and enforce any orders issued. Thus, a prerequisite to divorce is at least a six month residency of one or both spouses during the time period immediately preceding filing for divorce, and this requirement cannot be waived by agreement. However, residency is more than just where a person is physically located – there must also be intent to remain in Florida as a resident. However, a party to divorce does not have to be in the State during the prior six months if he/she is temporarily living elsewhere. If there is a dispute over where a person’s principal place of residence is, such as in the case of “snowbirds,” a fact-based analysis must be used to decide where a person’s chief place of household interests or affairs is located. To make this determination courts will look at:
  • how many months during the year a party lives in a particular state;
  • where the party holds a valid driver’s license;
  • where the party is registered to vote;
  • where taxes are paid; and
  • where cars are registered.
If a court decides neither party qualifies as a Florida resident, the matter will be dismissed, and the party petitioning for divorce will need to re-file in his/her home state.
Choosing the Right County
Venue, or which county to file the petition, can be another tricky issue. Florida law says that venue is determined by the county in which the couple last lived together. The problem comes when spouses disagree over where that place is, which can happen if there were frequent moves. For example, if a couple owned a home in Hillsborough County for 10 years, but then separated, sold the house, and moved to different counties, under the law, the appropriate venue is in Hillsborough regardless of the fact neither party lives there any longer. However, the parties can agree to a particular venue that is more agreeable, as long as the court will accept the case.
Talk to a Florida Divorce Attorney
Divorces are often more complicated than they seem at first, which is why an experienced divorce attorney is the best resource you can use to obtain the results you want. The Tampa Bay law firm All Family Law Group, P.A. is dedicated to promoting your rights, and tailoring their approach to your 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+

Friday, January 26, 2018

Paternity Claims Can Extend Beyond Death

Knowing who one’s parents are is a fact taken for granted by most children, but there is a distinct difference between being told a particular person is one’s mother or father, and whether the law recognizes this person as a parent. Any woman that gives birth to a child, not including surrogates, is automatically considered to be a child’s legal mother, and immediately receives full parental rights. Determining a child’s male parentage is not always so easy, and it may be necessary to establish paternitybefore a man can exercise any parental rights or be compelled to fulfill any parental obligations. Typically, paternity is established when a person is still a minor, but he/she can take action to legally confirm paternity as an adult. An unusual paternity case involving famed surrealist painter, Salvador Dali, was filed by a woman claiming to be his daughter through an affair with a domestic servant led a Spanish court to authorize an exhumation of the body so DNA testing can take place. Among other consequences, establishing paternity gives the child the right to inherit from the parent’s estate, and the Spanish woman claiming relation to Dali could receive one-fourth of his estate if paternity is confirmed. Florida has several methods of establishing paternity that range from an easy administrative process to potentially contentious litigation. A discussion of the difference between a biological father and a legal father, as well as an overview of the available procedures used to determine paternity, will follow below.
Biological vs. Legal Father
People tend to instinctively associate a person’s biological father as the father recognized by law. However, the two are not mutually exclusive. A legal father has the rights and responsibilities of parenthood, including custody rights and child support obligations, but this status is only conferred through marriage, adoption or court order. Thus, if a married woman fathers a child with a man who is not her husband, the law would view the husband as the legal father despite a lack of genetic connection.
Voluntary Acknowledgment
If a couple is unmarried, and there is no dispute over paternity, the state allows the couple to complete and file a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity, which is commonly done at the hospital following childbirth. This acknowledgement becomes binding after 60 days, with an extremely limited ability to set it aside, and grants the man parental rights over the child. Given the permanent nature of these documents, fully considering the consequences before signing is extremely important.
Marriage
As alluded to above, if a woman is married when the child is born, the husband is automatically considered the legal father, even if the couple was not married at conception. Further, if a couple has a child out of wedlock, it is possible to marry later and legitimize the paternity of the child if the man is the biological father.
Paternity Case
Finally, if there is disagreement or uncertainty over paternity, a court order will be necessary to settle the issue. The mother, the alleged father, and a representative acting on behalf of the child are all eligible to petition a court to determine paternity. A court can decide paternity based upon outside evidence, genetic testing or a combination of both. Evidence, other than genetic testing, offered to show paternity would relate to the nature of the parties’ relationship and any conduct by a party that tends to prove or disprove paternity. If a judge finds sufficient evidence that the alleged father should be declared the legal father, the man will gain the right to make decisions on the child’s upbringing and to seek parenting time. If paternity is not established, the man will have no right to have a say in the child’s, but will also be relieved of the responsibility of providing for the child’s needs.
Get Help
If you have questions or concerns about the paternity of a child, you need the advice of an experienced family law attorney regarding the best course of action to achieve your desired result. Tampa Bay’s All Family Law Group, P.A. can assist with drafting a parenting plan if an agreement is made, or take charge of representing your interests in family 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+

Monday, January 22, 2018

Drawn Out Divorce Case Illustrates Importance of Prenuptial Agreements

When a couple is in the throes of celebrating an engagement and planning a wedding, thoughts about the possibility of divorce are the farthest thing from their minds. Consequently, many couples skip the talk about the benefits of a prenuptial agreement, and assume that everything will work out. Sidestepping this issue when young is easier to understand because the parties are less likely to have valuable assets, but when marrying at an older age, and especially in instances of second (or subsequent) marriages, prenuptial agreements are important to safeguarding assets that have been built over a lifetime. A former Clerk of Courts for Broward County is learning this lesson the hard way as he battles his second wife in a divorce case over a share of his deferred income from the state’s retirement program and Social Security benefits. It may seem pessimistic to dwell on the potential for divorce, but for those with a lot at stake financially, having this document in place is a smart way to protect these assets from being substantially depleted in divorce. This is an important consideration if there are children from a previous marriage to whom a parent intends to leave an inheritance. A discussion of what a prenuptial agreement is, what it can and cannot do, as well as the benefits a prenuptial agreement can bring to a marriage, will follow below.
What Is a Prenuptial Agreement, Anyway?
A prenuptial agreement, also referred to as a premarital or antenuptial agreement, is a contract a couple enters into before marriage that governs the division of assets and payment of spousal support, or alimony, in the event of divorce or other specified occurrence (death, incapacity, birth of children, etc.). Without such an agreement, a spouse is typically entitled to 50 percent of the marital assets if the couple later divorces. Though having a prenuptial agreement does not negate the possibility of litigation, having a well-crafted contract from an experienced family law attorney will make it less likely a court will invalidate the agreement.
Possible Uses and Certain Prohibitions
Prenuptial agreements are intended to protect assets from division in divorce, protect against assuming the liabilities of the other spouse, and protect the other spouse from claiming certain future earnings. However, Florida law specifically prohibits the enforcement of clauses in prenuptial agreements that attempt to release a party from a child support obligation, or would leave one party destitute and forced to seek public assistance for means of basic support.
How an Agreement Can Benefit Marriage
One way to make the discussion of a prenuptial agreement less negative is by using it as an opportunity to learn about each individual’s approach to finances. Finances are one of the leading causes of divorce, and working out how to handle these matters before marriage reduces the chance of disagreement. Further, a valid prenuptial agreement requires both parties to fully disclose all income, assets and liabilities so each person knows exactly what they are gaining or losing under the agreed upon terms. Further, knowing this information up front will give a couple the opportunity to blend their financial styles into an approach that is workable when finances do become shared.
Seek Legal Advice
Prenuptial agreements must follow certain rules to be enforceable, and involve complex issues that have long-term consequences. To ensure the executed agreement reflects what you want, work with a family law attorney that understands how courts view these contracts. The Tampa Bay law firm All Family Law Group, P.A. understands how important these agreements are, and is available to provide you with a free consultation to discuss your concerns.
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 19, 2018

Getting Divorced When a Spouse Is Nowhere to Be Found

Divorce is usually precipitated by an uncomfortable conversation during which at least one spouse must work up the nerve to say he/she wants out of the marriage. If given the choice, it is likely many would skip this step if at all possible, but they do have the comfort of knowing where their spouse is so the divorce process can begin. However, what does a spouse do when he/she cannot locate the other person to initiate a divorce? One of the basic requirements of a divorce case is the need to serve the other spouse with a copy of the divorce petition so he/she has notice and an opportunity to reply. However, what does one do if a spouse suddenly walks out one day, without a word, and never returns? Likely, the person left behind will at some point contemplate divorce, but how does one proceed when a central party is absent? A discussion of how one can obtain a divorce when one spouse is missing, and limitations of the legal process in this situation, will follow below.
Constructive Notice/Service by Publication
As noted above, all parties to a legal proceeding have the right to notice of the suit and an opportunity to respond. However, the law does not want to keep individuals in marriages solely because one spouse cannot be located. As a result, one party can petition for divorce and satisfy the notice requirement by providing constructive notice, or service by publication. Service by publication can be accomplished by publishing a notice of the divorce case in a newspaper approved by the Clerk of Court for four consecutive weeks. Further, the party seeking divorce must make a diligent search for the other spouse, which is something beyond stating he/she cannot be located. Specifically, a party will be expected to show some form of the following actions:
  • contacting the last known employer;
  • questioning family and friends about the spouse’s current or past whereabouts;
  • searching online;
  • checking social media; and
  • monitoring bank and credit account activity.
An affidavit of the party’s failed efforts to locate the missing spouse must be filed in conjunction with the petition for divorce before a court will proceed on the case.
Default Judgment and Limitations of the Court
If a party fails to respond to a pending legal action, the court will issue what is called a default judgment. This essentially grants all the demands of the petitioner, which may sound great for the spouse seeking divorce, but due to the personal nature of divorce proceedings, there are some caveats. While a court in a constructive notice case can dissolve the marriage, it does not have authority to do the following:
  • divide property;
  • award child support or alimony; or
  • create a parenting plan, though the practical implication of one spouse’s absence is that the party present receives sole custody.
Obviously, these issues lay at the heart of most divorce cases, which is why courts are willing to reopen divorce cases if the missing spouse later reappears to settle these outstanding matters. Because divorce cases under these circumstances leave a lot of issues unresolved, it is important to do whatever is necessary to find the other spouse, including hiring a private investigator if financial resources allow.
Get Legal Advice
Divorce is never easy, and unforeseen complications frequently come up in the most straightforward divorce cases. Having an experienced divorce attorney by your side greatly reduces the likelihood of surprises, and provides the security of knowing someone has a vested interest in protecting your rights. The Tampa Bay firm All Family Law Group, P.A. takes time to get to know their clients so they can best serve their needs and 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+

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Legal Options When the Alimony Payments Stop

Spousal support, or alimony, is a topic that gets a lot of bad press because of the general assumption that this financial assistance is merely an attempt to gouge an ex-spouse out of more money. However, alimony awards are rarely permanent, and more commonly serve to give an ex-spouse sufficient time to acquire the means for self-support. Alternatively, an ex-spouse’s ability to work may be affected by a child with special needs. Thus, this money represents a real financial need and not blatant greed. If these payments stop coming, the recipient can quickly find him/herself in dire financial straits. Consequently, taking quick action to enforce compliance with an alimony award is necessary to prevent the accumulation of a number of delinquent payments. However, a party seeking to avoid paying alimony can sometimes go to great lengths to sidestep this obligation, including transferring money and assets to a new spouse or another family member so he/she can argue the means to pay is no longer present. The ex-wife of a prominent Fort Lauderdale attorney is facing this situation as she tries to collect more than $600,000 in overdue alimony. The woman recently filed a lawsuit against her ex-husband’s new wife, claiming he transferred the bulk of his assets to his new wife to avoid his obligation to pay alimony. Alimony can be a touchy subject, but it is important to actively enforce the right to receive it. An overview of the options a person has to enforce an alimony award will follow below.
Alimony Obligation Generally
Alimony is a financial obligation just like any other – a mortgage owed to a bank or an outstanding balance owed to a credit card company, for example. Consequently, former spouses seeking delinquent alimony are treated as creditors for legal purposes, and gain all the rights a creditor would have to obtain satisfaction of a debt. Enforcing an alimony award requires the use of the legal process – specifically, asking a court to take action to force compliance. As a result, the services of an experienced family law attorney are needed to ensure one utilizes all available legal options to collect the overdue amount. Often, the delinquent party will claim he/she no longer has the ability to pay, a legal requirement of an alimony obligation. But, an experienced attorney will know how to gather evidence of hidden income, fraudulent transfers and/or voluntary job loss through the use of private investigators and statements from witnesses to prove the ex-spouse is capable of complying with the court order.
Methods of Enforcement
The methods for collection of overdue alimony are similar to those used for the non-payment of child support. Typically, the first step in enforcing an alimony award is to file a petition with the family court, requesting the judge take steps to enforce the earlier order and/or hold the party in contempt if the non-payment appears to be willful. The following are some of the options for collection a court can order:
  • Money Judgment – The first order needed by a court for enforcement that states how much an ex-spouse owes, and entitles the following specific methods of enforcement.
  • Writ of Execution – Permits the seizure of certain property owned by the delinquent party, which is sold, and the proceeds given to the party entitled to alimony. Note that a person’s home is exempt from this measure.
  • Writ of Garnishment – Authorizes the deduction of alimony payments directly from the delinquent spouse’s earnings. This enforcement option is most useful when a party does not have assets to seize, and can be set as continuing so that payments can be made periodically.
Get Help
Not receiving the alimony you rely on to cover the expenses of daily living is a situation that calls for swift action. You need a dedicated and responsive family law attorney to pursue your right to payment to the fullest extent permitted. The Tampa Bay law firm All Family Law Group, P.A. understands how essential this support is for some individuals, and offers a free initial consultation to review your situation.  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+

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