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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, August 12, 2015

Parental Responsibility Evaluations

Parental responsibility and timesharing constitute one of the most emotional issues facing spouses as they divorce. Florida has made strides to equalize parental responsibility and timesharing of children in a divorce. Lawmakers have changed stigmatizing language used to describe “non-custodial” or “secondary residential” parents in an effort to focus custody disputes on shared parental responsibility. Still, it is common for parents in a divorce to want to increase their involvement with their children’s lives and decrease the role of the other parent. This tension is often the source of disagreement in designing parental responsibility and timesharing plans.
When parents cannot agree on an arrangement, then the court must step in and make a determination about parental responsibility and timesharing. Using the best interest of the child as the main goal, the court may request a parental responsibility evaluation.
What is a Parental Responsibility Evaluation?
A parental responsibility evaluation, or PRE, is an evaluation conducted by a court appointed third party, usually a psychologist. The psychologist will act as an evaluator and neutral third party to help the court resolve a custody dispute. The psychologist will make conclusions and recommendations regarding custody and timesharing. The psychologist will likely interview the child, or children, and anyone else either parent believes would be beneficial to interview.
How Much Does a PRE Cost and Who Pays for It?
The costs of a PRE vary. The court will decide which parent bears the cost of the evaluation. Typically, the court will order that parents share the cost of the evaluation.
How Do I Prepare My Child for a PRE?
Most likely, a psychologist will interview your child, or children, as part of the evaluation. Your child may be nervous about the interview. You can help your child prepare for their interview and feel less anxious by explaining what will happen in the evaluation. You may want to tell your child that they will meet with someone who wants to know about their feelings and thoughts. You do not need to coach your child for the evaluation; instead, encourage your child to be truthful and honest with the evaluator. Help your child understands that they will not be in trouble for their answers.
How Do I Prepare for a PRE?
Understandably, you may also feel nervous about meeting with a psychologist. You may find the following suggestions will help decrease your anxiety and stress:
  • Make sure that you get plenty of sleep the night before the evaluation;
  • Schedule your day so that you have plenty of time to arrive at the psychologist’s office;
  • Make sure you are dressed comfortably and neatly;
  • Organize documents you need to bring a few days before the evaluation; and
  • Write down any questions you maybe have so that you will remember to ask them.
Knowing the process of a parenting responsibility evaluation will also help ease the stress of the evaluation. Get the guidance you need by contacting the Tampa family and divorce 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+

Frequently Asked Questions about Florida Protective Orders in Divorces or Separations

Some divorces or separations are smooth, painless, or mutual. Most can be difficult, time consuming, and maybe even hurtful. But a few can be downright dangerous. In cases in which a divorce or separation is pending, Florida law provides for the issuance of protective orders (orders of protection, or injunctions for protection, or restraining orders are all names for this court document). If you believe you may be in need of an order of protection and have some questions about how the process works or what the process does, continue reading to learn the answers to frequently asked questions about Florida orders of protection.
Are There Different Types of Protective Orders in Florida? Which One Should I Get?
Florida law provides for four different types of orders of protection against violence, each applicable for a different circumstance: domestic, repeat, dating, and sexual. If you’re considering petitioning for an order of protection pertaining to your divorce or separation, you will be seeking a domestic violence protective order. This will be true even if you are seeking protection from sexual violence or from activities that would fall under one of the other categories of orders.
How Do I Know if I Can Apply for One?
In Florida, the legal standard for who may apply for a protective order is determined based on whether the applicant “has reasonable cause to believe he or she is in imminent danger of becoming the victim of any act of domestic violence”. A judge will make this determination based on things like threats, harassment, stalking, physical abuse, abuse of children or pets, the use or threat of use of weapons, and whether there was a prior order of protection in place.
How Long Will the Protective Order Last?
The order’s length may be temporary (usually used to provide immediate protection quickly after filing) and last a number of days. During that time, you’ll be able to prepare for a full hearing with a judge to decide whether you will be issued a final order of protection, the length of which could span a year, more, or have no expiration date at all.
What Will the Order Protect Me From?
Florida protective orders may order your spouse or ex-spouse to stay away from your home or place of business. It may order him or her to leave the home you both share, to relinquish custody of children to you, or even to go to treatment or counseling (for which he or she will need to pay). The judge will decide what terms will be in the order.
How Should I Go About Pursuing an Order of Protection?
If you or someone you care about is in danger of experiencing or has experienced domestic violence, the first step should be finding a safe place to be. But after prioritizing the individual’s life and health, legal avenues for relief can be considered, including protective orders. The help of an experienced family attorney can ease the stress and difficulty of the process. Contact the Tampa family and divorce 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, July 26, 2015

How Do I Change My Name?

There are many reasons to want to change either your first, middle, or last name. Individuals and parents alike may want to change their name or their children’s names due to personal preference, to take a spouse’s name, or to return to a previous name following a divorce. While Florida courts are often persuaded to accept name changes for legitimate reasons, the choice to accept a name change is discretionary.
How Do I Change My Name?
For adults, the process begins with the filing of a petition in the circuit court in the jurisdiction where you reside. You must also file a set of fingerprints with the court, unless you are restoring your name to a previous version (i.e. your maiden name). These fingerprints must be taken in accordance with procedures established by the Department of Law Enforcement and will be used to conduct a criminal record check.
After filing the petition, and once the court has received the result of the criminal records check, a court hearing will be held. If the judge finds the requirements for filing have been met, a final judgment will be issued by the court. This order will allow you to begin using your new, or newly restored, name.
If you are changing your name as a result of divorce, you can change your name at the same time. In fact, changing your name can be entered in same order as your final divorce judgment. Similarly, names can also be changed during adoption proceedings. Consolidating multiple actions into one saves time and will save you money.
How Do I Change My Child’s name?
The process to change a minor’s name is similar to when an adult wants to change their name. The process begins with filing a petition in the county where the minor resides. The parent, legal guardian, or guardian ad litem can file on behalf of the minor.
If only one parent is filing for the child’s name to be changed, the other parent can sign a Consent of Change of Name form. If the other, non-filing parent, does not sign a Consent of Change of Name form, a copy of the petition must be served on the other parent.
After the appropriate filing and service of process, a hearing will be held on the petition. If the court finds the requirements have been met and there are no additional reasons to deny the petition, the final order will be issued and the minor is free to use the new name.
Are There Any Restrictions?
Courts are hesitant to allow individuals to change their name if they have a criminal records, have filed for bankruptcy, have a judgment entered against them, or they are changing their name in an attempt to avoid creditors.
How Do I Start The Process?
If you have questions regarding the process of changing your name or your children’s names, contact the Tampa family and divorce 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 10, 2015

Appealing a Florida Divorce: What Are My Options?

After a divorce, if you or your spouse are not happy with the result, you both have the right to appeal the decision. Legally, appeals determine whether or not the trial court correctly applied to law to the specific facts of the case. If a reviewing court determines the lower court made an error, they can reverse the previous decision and order the court to correct the error.

There are numerous reasons to want to appeal your divorce ruling, but feeling wronged by the judge’s decision isn’t enough. You must have legal grounds for why your divorce ruling should be overturned. These reasons include concealment of assets, a fraud committed by your spouse, newly discovered evidence, and legal mistake by the spouse.
What Types of Appeals Are Available?
What type of documents and what procedures need to be filed depends entirely on where your case currently is in the process. Currently, there are four remedies available under the broad umbrella of divorce appeals.
If your case was heard by a general magistrate judge, your attorney can file a Notice of Exception to the Report and Recommendation of a General Magistrate. Essentially, this document is an official objection to the general magistrate’s finding on your case. Time is of the essence at this stage because the objection must be filed within ten days of the report. Outside of recognized legal grounds to appeal the decision, a copy of the transcript of the last hearing before the general magistrate must be filed along with the objection. If the Notice is timely filed, then your case will automatically be scheduled for a hearing before a circuit judge.
If your case was heard by a divorce court, your attorney can file a Motion for Rehearing. Unlike the ten days allowed in magistrate court, this objection must be made immediately after an order is issued in circuit court and have a valid legal basis. Motions for Rehearing are difficult because there is no automatic right to an appeal. This path is further complicated by the fact that the request for a new hearing is ruled upon by the judge that made the initial decision in your case.
A general divorce appeal to the District Court of Appeals can be filed within thirty days of the original court order. No new evidence or facts will be heard at this point in the process; everything is based on the records at previous hearings. A divorce appeal requires a full appellate brief, which details how the trial court judgment did not comply with Florida law.
If more than thirty days have passed since the date of the original court order, your attorney can file a Motion for Relief from Judgment or Motion to Set Aside a Judgment. These motions ask that a party be freed from the requirements of the court’s order. These motions are usually based on evidence that your spouse hid assets or committed fraud on the court.
What Are My Options?
When navigating the complicated world of appeals it is important to have an experienced family law attorney on your side. If you are considering appealing your divorce decision, or you have questions on how to begin the process, contact the Tampa family and divorce 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+