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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.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Don’t Believe the Hype: Collaborative Law Is Not Without Disadvantages

Collaborative law is an alternate form of dispute resolution in the family law context.  While proponents contend that collaborative law is both less expensive and more effective than traditional, adversarial law, it can actually drag out disputes in matters of divorce and child custody, thereby increasing costs.

The Facts About Collaborative Law

The first thing to know about collaborative law is that it is practiced outside of the courtroom.  The philosophy underlying this basic fact is that, by removing contentious issues from the inherently adversarial context of the courtroom, parties will be more inclined to put aside their differences and work together to compromise and find mutually agreeable arrangements.  However, this does not mean that the parties are without representation; separate attorneys are still retained by each.  After retaining separate legal counsel, the parties agree to several covenants that express the “let’s work together” spirit of collaborative law.  Among these covenants are agreements to treat one another with respect, to fully and honestly disclose all information and documents relevant to the disputed issues, and to shield any children who are party to the dispute from any adverse emotional impact.  However, as even proponents concede, these covenants are bound to ring hollow in many cases.

When Collaborative Law Is the Wrong Approach

Obviously, collaborative law, in its essence, is about working together.  This can be hugely problematic in the context of divorce, which, in its essence, is about ceasing togetherness.  It follows that collaborative law is at risk of sometimes being directly at odds with one of its principal aims: facilitating divorces.  Sure, it might work for the rare pair who can remain amicable through a divorce or child custody dispute.  But what about divorces in which the marriage has been devastated by infidelity, abuse, radical differences of opinion in child-rearing styles, or bitter disputes over finances?  It is these scenarios where a “let’s work together” spirit just isn’t realistic.  For those who delude themselves that it is, the cost can be significant.

The Cost When A Collaborative Law Approach Fails

While an attempt to resolve a family law dispute through collaborative law begins outside of the courtroom, it doesn’t necessarily end that way.  If the parties simply can’t reach an agreement, the collaborative law process ends, and the dispute shifts to the traditional courtroom setting.  Not only that, but the original attorneys are disqualified from continuing their roles outside of the failed collaborative attempt.  What does this mean for the parties?  You guessed it: more attorneys.  More attorneys translates to more costs – a reality that is certain to only further sour the dispute, and potentially make matters even more litigious than they would have been if the first attempt at settling the dispute was in the courtroom rather than the collaborative context.

Mediation Is Still Used In Traditional Family Law

Don’t be fooled into thinking that collaborative law is the only forum for alternate forms of dispute resolution.  Traditional family law, too, attempts to settle cases either prior to, or at mediation.  Finally, the past is the best indicator of the future; if you know a spirit of cooperation and compromise simply isn’t realistic, don’t waste time, money, and stress on an attempt at collaborative law that is likely doomed from the outset.

Other Alternatives

Are you considering a divorce? The family law attorneys at All Family Law Group will work towards settling your case in amicable manner with your spouse, if feasible. Call or email All Family Law Group at 813.902.3624 for a consultation at no charge with an experienced Tampa divorce lawyer to discuss your case.

 By Lynette Silon-Laguna Google




Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Divorce, Annulment and Separation in Florida

Florida is known for being one of the states with the highest divorce rates. The decision to divorce your spouse should be given much thought and consideration, and it is important to be familiar with Florida law regarding divorce and whether there are any other available options. It’s quite possible you will have a lot of questions that consider the possible grounds for divorce, whether or not you can get your marriage annulled, and even the specifics of a legal separation if you are not fully ready for a divorce. It is important to understand the difference between divorce, annulment and separation in Florida.

Divorce

According to Florida Statute, there are only two grounds for a divorce: the marriage is irretrievably broken or one of the parties is deemed mentally incapacitated. A judgment of dissolution of marriage cannot be granted on any other basis.

An irretrievably broken marriage exists is when you and your spouse agree that the marriage is broken and there is no possible way of fixing the marriage. If there are no minor children and the spouses do not deny the marriage is irretrievably broken, the court will enter a judgment for dissolution. The process is different if there is a minor child born in the marriage and/or the spouses deny the marriage to be irretrievably broken.  Under either circumstance, the court can do any of the following:

-          Order the spouses consult with a marriage counselor, psychologist, etc;
-          Provide a length of time, not to exceed 3 months, to allow the spouses to reconcile; or
-          Take any other action that may be in the best interest of the parties.

Keep in mind that the court has the discretion to deny the request to dissolve the marriage if the court does not find the marriage is irretrievably broken; however, it is very rare that a divorce will not be granted even if there are children or the other party does not agree to it.  The court in most cases will accept one party’s claim that the marriage is irretrievably broken.

Mental incapacity is the second grounds for divorce, but there is a very important accompanying limitation. A dissolution of a marriage will not be granted unless the alleged mentally incapacitated spouse has been adjudged as incapacitated for the prior three years. 

Annulment

An annulment is an order to terminate a marriage because the marriage is void. Unlike a marriage where the request to dissolve is not based on the validity of the union, an annulment questions whether the marriage was every valid to begin with. Florida case law provides that a marriage can be annulled when a person was under the qualifying age. If parental consent is never obtained, then that is grounds for annulment. Also, a marriage can be annulled for mental incapacitation or if one or both of the parties were under the influence, and thereby unable to provide valid consent. Physical inability to consummate the marriage or consent of marriage through fraud or deception is grounds for annulment, as well. Many parties seek a divorce over an annulment because Florida statutes specifically provide a step-by-step procedure for divorce. And since annulments are governed by common law court rulings, it can be difficult to establish the burden of proof and adhere to the court proceedings.

Separation

Unlike other states, Florida does not allow spouses to file for legal separation, which is an arrangement between the spouses to remain married but live apart. However, there are ways a person can achieve a similar result while utilizing a different avenue.

Partner with a Tampa Bay divorce attorney at All Family Law Group, P.A. to get effective solutions to your family law issues. Call us to discuss your situation at 813-672-1900 or contact us online for an initial consultation at no charge.


 By Lynette Silon-Laguna Google

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Proposed Alimony Revision Legislation in Florida

Florida legislation currently creates a presumption of permanent alimony for long-term marriages, while simultaneously creating a presumption against permanent alimony in short-term marriages. This legislation has drawn the attention of numerous family law attorneys, legislators, and members of the public.  In the summer of the 2013, the Florida legislature attempted to revise the current alimony laws but with no success – the bill did not become law. The proposed changes are likely to be heard again during the next legislative session.

Permanent Alimony

Permanent alimony is exactly what it sounds like: upon dissolution of a marriage, one spouse pays alimony to the other spouse for the rest of their natural life, or until the other spouse dies – whichever comes first. Permanent alimony also terminates when the receiving spouse remarries, but many opt for cohabiting with a new lover, rather than re-marrying, so they can continue to receive payments. A paying spouse can seek an award modification or termination if able to present evidence of a substantial change in their circumstances.

Current Alimony Law

Title VI, Chapter 61, Section 8 of the current Florida Statute provides that permanent alimony may be awarded for the needs and necessities of life as they were established during the marriage of the parties. In Florida, the award of alimony is dependent upon the duration of the marriage. A marriage of less than 7 years is considered short-term, a duration of 7-17 years is considered medium-term, and a marriage that lasts 17 years or more is considered long-term. Florida law provides that permanent alimony is presumed in long-term marriages, but not in short-term marriages. The court can also award durational (rather than permanent) alimony that can last up to the length of the marriage.

Proposed Alimony Law

The proposed law changes the duration of marriage requirement. For example, the proposed law request the following changes regarding duration of marriage: A short-term marriage would be considered less than 11 years, medium-term would be 11-20 years, while a long-term marriage would be over 20 years. Furthermore, the proposed law would create a rebuttable presumption against any form of alimony in short-term marriages, so this means that there can be alimony awarded in a short term marriage; however, the spouse in need of the alimony would have to prove a need and that the other spouse has the ability to pay it. There would continue to be a presumption in favor of a form of alimony in long-term marriages; however, and most notably, permanent alimony would be completely eliminated. This means that in a long-term marriage the spouse from whom alimony is requested would have to prove that he or she does not have the ability to pay alimony or that the other spouse does not have the need for the alimony. 



There is no presumption in favor of alimony for either party in a medium-term marriage. Rather the court has the discretion to determine and award a monthly alimony amount, but the award cannot exceed 30% of the spouse's gross income -- a new guideline incorporated in the proposed law (see below). The proposed law allows for an award of durational alimony with limitations. Durational alimony could be awarded up to half the duration of the marriage. Under exceptional circumstances, the court would have discretion to award more alimony, but most cases will fall under the parameters of the proposed law, so ideally this court discretion would be used at a minimum.

Proposed Law and Alimony Guidelines

Currently, the Florida Statute does not have strict guidelines pertaining to the amount and payment of alimony, compared to how it handles child support. The proposals then present the following limitation on the amount of alimony payments as it relates to the paying spouse: no more than 25% of the gross income for short-term marriages, no more than 35% of the gross income for medium-term marriages, and no more than 38% of the gross income for long-term marriages.

Get Help

Partner with a Tampa Bay divorce attorney at All Family Law Group, P.A. to get effective solutions to your family law issues. Call us to discuss your situation at 813-672-1900 or contact us online.for an initial consultation at no charge.

 By Lynette Silon-Laguna Google

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Later in Life Divorce & Finances

America’s divorce rate might be on the decline for most age groups, but amongst one group it’s hitting record highs. Who’s behind the spike? Baby boomers. The divorce rate for the over-50 crowd has more than tripled in the past 20 years, and the trend shows little chance of slowing. With Americans living longer and looking for more from their marriages, many are choosing to jettison an unloved spouse rather than spend their golden years with someone they no longer care for.

Unfortunately, many boomers are divorcing first and thinking later. Adjusting to life after a divorce is difficult under the best of circumstances, but divorce after 50 can have serious financial repercussions. Boomers need to understand the risks of late-in-life divorce, and take steps to prepare themselves before they file.

Financial Repercussions of Divorce

First, boomers need to consider their retirement. Have you and your spouse been saving money? Investing in a retirement plan? Whatever money you saved will now have to fund two separate retirements, which means that it likely won’t go as far. At best, this could mean that a person has to adjust their lifestyle and expectations; at worst, it could mean that a person would have to work much longer than anticipated.

Second, health care costs will likely rise. Health spending tends to increase as a person ages, but married couples are often able to defray some of these costs by caring for each other rather than hiring a nurse or a caregiver. Divorcing boomers need to consider who will care for them–and how much it will cost–before they experience a major health event.

Third, though some divorcees may anticipate short-term financial losses, older couples need to consider the long-term as well. If a person in their 30s goes through a divorce, they have decades to continue working, to make up any losses, and to prepare for their retirement. If a person in their late 60s chooses to divorce, they’ll have far less time to recuperate.

Finally, consider the difference between a “fair” division of marital property and an “equitable” one. While it might seem “fair” to split everything 50/50, it might be more “equitable” for a spouse who forewent their career to care for a family to take a greater share of the marital estate. Also consider which assets are easy to liquidate, should the need arise, and which assets might take longer to sell.

How to Prepare for Later in Life Divorce

The most important thing you can do before a divorce is initiated is to make sure that you have a handle on your finances. Do you know where your money is, and how to access it? Are your bills paid? Do your credit cards have a low balance? Does it seem like there should be more money in your joint account than actually is there? Find out now, if you don’t know.

Contact a Tampa Bay Divorce Attorney

If you are considering a divorce and are concerned about the effect it could have on your finances, contact our Experienced  Attorneys & Counselors at Law since 1997 Serving all of Tampa Bay. Call 813-672-1900 now for a free initial consultation www.familymaritallaw.com.

 By Lynette Silon-Laguna Google