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Since 1997 we are Tampa attorneys practicing exclusively in Divorce, Family, Adoption, Bankruptcy & Mediation Services: practicing in Tampa, Riverview, Brandon, Valrico, Lithia and all of Hillsborough County as well as for bankruptcy in all counties in the Tampa Division of the Middle District of Florda: Hillsborough, Pinellas, Manatee, Sarasota, Hardee, Hernando, Polk, and Pasco Counties. Our lawyers have experience practicing in contested and uncontested divorces, including military divorces, and family law, child support, child custody and visitation, relocation of children, alimony, domestic violence, distribution of assets and debts, retirement/pensions (military and private), enforcement and modification of final judgments, paternity actions, adoptions, and name changes. We offer a free consultation and we are happy to discuss your case. Call or email to schedule a consult. Our representation of our clients reflects our dedication to them.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

When Does Child Support End in Florida?

Many divorcing parents are aware of their obligation to support their children, and some are familiar with how the amount they have to pay is decided. Fewer are aware of how long their obligation to support their children continues.

Payment Lasts Until Child Reaches Majority Age

In general, a parent must pay child support until their child is 18. This is considered the age of majority, when the child is legally recognized as an adult. However, a child's eighteenth birthday isn't always the cutoff date for support payments. According to Florida law, a parent's duty to continue paying child support may be extended when the child has not finished high school by their eighteenth birthday; when the child has special needs; and when there is an agreement that says otherwise.

First, parents of children who have not finished high school by their eighteenth birthday are obligated to support their children until the children complete their education. This doesn't mean that a child can stay in high school forever. Support will only continue if the child is still enrolled in school, has a reasonable expectation of finishing their education, and expects to graduate before their nineteenth birthday. Showing a "reasonable expectation" is often the key to qualifying for this exception. The child would most likely have to show that they are and have been enrolled in a school, that they have been regularly attending, and that they will meet the requirements for graduation. Under this statute a child who dropped out of high school at 17, or who is several years away from graduating, would not qualify for continued support. In contrast, a child who turned 18 several months before their graduation would be entitled to receive support until their graduation.

Second, child support may continue indefinitely if the child is mentally or physically disabled. In determining the length of time that support will continue, the courts will generally look at whether the child will ever be able to earn enough money to support themselves or whether their disability will prevent them from providing for themselves. It does not matter whether the child was born with their disability or whether they became afflicted with it at a later age. For the support to continue, all that matters is that the disability began before the child reached the age of majority, and that the disability will prevent the child from being financially self-sufficient.

Third, though parents have no legal obligation to continue supporting their children after the aforementioned circumstances, the courts will enforce voluntarily entered agreements that extend the period of support. Parents are prevented from contractually decreasing their child's right to support (because the right to be supported belongs to the child, and not to either parent), but there is no legal stipulation against providing more support than one is asked to. Thus, parents who decide to create a binding agreement to help their child beyond what is required will generally be held to the terms of that agreement.

Talk to a Tampa Bay Family Law Attorney
           
Whether you're contemplating a divorce or a paternity action, are in the middle of the process, or already have an order in place, a Tampa family law attorney can help answer your questions about child support. Contact the experienced divorce attorneys at the All Family Law Group, P.A.

By Lynette Silon-Laguna Google

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Divorced and Moving On….with the Court’s Permission in Florida

Picture this: you’re divorced from your former spouse with whom you have a minor child. During the divorce proceedings, you are deemed the custodial parent. You and your former spouse get along amicably and follow the child visitation plans without issue. A few years following the divorce, you get an offer for your dream job in Denver, CO. You are ready to go, but before you do, you may need to get the court’s permission.

Relocating Outside of Florida

Florida has a specific statute that provides the rules for relocating 50 miles or more when a minor child is involved. The legal term for moving the child out of state is “relocation.” The statute requires that the relocating parent receive written agreement to the move by the noncustodial parent, or request the court’s permission. As a practical matter, it will be easier if you can get your former spouse’s agreement to the relocation. However, even if they do not agree with the move, the court still has the power to grant permission for the move.

How the Court Decides

One of the most important phrases in the realm of family law is “the best interests of the child.”  The court will generally allow relocation, even if one parent objects, if it determines that it is in the best interest of the child. The court’s primary concern is your child’s best interests, not yours or your former spouse’s. Thus, a great career opportunity alone may not be a good enough reason to allow relocation if the court finds that uprooting the child from their home, established routine, and support system would be harmful to the child’s well-being. After all, moving can be tough on children. This is one of many reasons why you need a strong advocate explaining your position to the court.

The judge will make the decision on a case by case basis. Every case, like every family, is different. However, the law provides some guidance as to factors that should be considered. These factors include, but are not limited to:

      The child’s relationship with the non-relocating parent, siblings, and other relatives;
      The child’s age, development, and the likely emotional impact of the move;
      The possibility of preserving long-term relationships even after the move;
      The child’s personal preferences (if they can be meaningfully obtained); and
      The overall potential benefit of the move on the child’s quality of life.

It’s important to remember that none of these factors are determinative; the judge weighs and reviews them to help decide whether the relocation would be in the child’s best interest. Also, in most cases the burden of proof is on the parent wishing to relocate to show by a preponderance of the evidence that that move is in the child’s best interest.

Get Legal Help

No matter the specifics of your family situation, there are complex procedural rules that must be followed when relocating with a child. For this reason, the safest course of action is to have a Florida family law attorney analyze your situation prior to your move and help you through the process.

At the All Family Law Group, P.A. with offices in Riverview, Tampa, Apollo Beach and Clearwater, Florida we understand that family decisions, like relocation inside or outside the state of Florida, are about more than just the law.  The goal of our family law attorneys is to ensure that you understand both the legal and practical implications of your decisions. If you or your spouse is considering relocation, contact us today. We can help you understand the law and develop a plan of action that is in the best interest of you and your child.

By Lynette Silon-Laguna Google

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Reaffirmation Agreements in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you will either retain or surrender your secured property. You will probably have to sign a reaffirmation agreement if you are going to keep your property, for example, your vehicle and your home. The reaffirmation agreement basically will reaffirm the amount remaining on the loan, interest rate and the monthly payments. Usually the agreement will be that you continue to make the same payments on the balance due. If you owe a significant amount more than the value of the collateral, sometimes you can negotiate with the creditor to reduce the balance due, monthly payments, and/or interest charged.

If you do not sign the reaffirmation agreement but continue to pay the debt, then it is possible that the creditor will repossess the collateral, although it really depends upon the benefit to the creditor of doing so. For instance, if the vehicle is worth much less than the loan, then it is to the creditor's benefit to continue to allow you to make payments. The bankruptcy discharges the debt unless you sign the reaffirmation agreement. Therefore, if you do not sign the agreement even if you say you will reaffirm it in the bankruptcy petition and you stop paying the debt, the creditor can pick up the collateral; however, it cannot come after you for the deficiency. That is why the creditor wants a signed reaffirmation agreement.

If you have a secured debt and an unsecured debt, i.e., a credit card, with the same lender, then often that lender will require you to reaffirm both the secured and unsecured debt to keep the collateral. For example, you want to keep your vehicle as you have equity in it of $10,000.00 so you will want to sign the reaffirmation agreement with the lender; however, you also have a credit card with the same lender with a balance due of $10,000.00. The lender will require that to keep your vehicle, you must sign a reaffirmation agreement that you will pay the balance due on the vehicle as well as the $10,000.00 credit card debt. If you do not sign the agreement, then it is to the creditor's benefit to repossess your vehicle.

By Lynette Silon-Laguna Google

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Use of Annuities to Improve How Alimony Works

All Family Law Group, P.A., is collaborating with The Planning Partners* to help our divorcing clients to improve their chances for an alimony settlement beneficial to both parties.  Annuity contracts can provide a combination of either more benefits for the same money or at less cost for the same benefits and they can deal with most contingencies alimony agreements include.

Some of the benefits of having an annuity as opposed to providing alimony payments are as follows:
  • The receiving spouse has a certainty of payment as a highly regulated insurance or annuity company provides the payments.  
  • There is no necessity of having to motion the court for enforcement of the alimony provisions of a Final Judgment if the ordered or agreed upon payments are not made.
  • The payor does not have to make payments or have the payments deducted from his or her income through an income deduction order.
  •  If the payor's income goes down because of reduced income from employment, illness, or he or she retires or dies, the annuity payments will remain the same for the former spouse and the payor will not have to seek a reduction modification through the court of the alimony he or she is paying.  Alimony normally terminates upon the death of the payor.  
  • Annuities allow the opportunity to obtain more benefits for the same amount of money or to save money to provide the same benefits agreed upon.  This occurs because insurance and annuity contracts provide for interest and other benefits that creates amounts in addition to the principal payment to be paid to the receiving spouse.
  • The spouse may receive income for terms of 5, 10, or 20 years, for example, or income for life.  However, the amount received will be more the shorter the term of payment.
  • Annuity contracts are exempt from creditors in the event of a bankruptcy, which means that all of the funds survive a bankruptcy.
  • Income taxes are deferred on the build-up of interest income in a deferred indexed annuity, including the new 3.8% Medicare Tax on passive income, if applicable.
Annuities are divided between "immediate" annuities and "deferred" annuities. The immediate annuities start paying an income right away. Deferred annuities allow the growth of principal deposits inside the contract. In the future, the deferred annuities become like immediate annuities providing income from the higher Retirement Fund balance that has grown tax deferred over the years.

There is so much more information to be had on annuities and their benefits in a divorce where alimony or other assets are involved. Call us at 813-672-1900 or contact us by email, if you would like more information on how annuities can work for you if you are going through a divorce or otherwise.  

*To offer insurance and annuity products I have arranged a strategic relationship with two very experienced estate planners. Rick D. Miller, CLU, ChFC, RHU and Scott F. Barnett, J.D., LL.M. (Taxation) have a combined 70 years of experience in the field.  They have organized THE PLANNING PARTNERS to offer professional level services to individuals, families, and closely held businesses.  Rick and Scott have taken the Collaborative Law Training Seminar and Scott is now a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst. 

By Lynette Silon-Laguna

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