November 2011 Archives

November 30, 2011

Obese Children and Parental Rights

The debate over parental rights and obese children has reared its head again. CBS News is reporting an 8-year-old Ohio boy was recently placed in foster care because his parents medically neglected him. Reports are suggesting the boy weighs more than 200 pounds, whereas, government growth charts suggests most 8-year-old boys weigh approximately 60 pounds.

County case workers allege they had been working with the mother for 20 months without any noticeable improvement in the child's health.

This case begs the question of when should the state step in and intrude on parental rights.

If you have questions regarding when the State of Florida can step in and take away parental rights of Jacksonville residents contact a Jacksonville Family Law Attorney today.

November 29, 2011

Florida Alimony and Alimony Factors

alimony2.jpgAs a Family Law Attorney in the Jacksonville Beach area I am consistently asked how the courts calculate alimony. This is often a difficult question to answer.

In Jacksonville Florida there is no basic calculation system that the courts follow; instead, there are factors that are taken into consideration when determining whether to award and how much to award in alimony.

These factors include:

(1) The standard of living established while married.
(2) The length of the marriage.
(3) The age and health of each party.
(4) The financial resources and assets of each party.
(5) When applicable, the time necessary for either party to acquire sufficient education or training to enable such party to find appropriate employment.
(6) The contribution of each party to the marriage, including, but not limited to, services rendered in homemaking, child care, education, and career building of the other party.
(7) All sources of income available to either party.

The court may consider any other factor necessary to do equity and justice between the parties.

If you're seeking a divorce and believe you are entitled to alimony or might have to pay alimony contact a Jacksonville Family Law Lawyer today for more information.

November 25, 2011

Domestic Violence: The Lautenberg Amendment

gun ammo.jpgIn 1996 the 104th United States Congress enacted an act commonly referred to as the Lautenberg Amendment. The Lautenberg Amendment bans shipment, transport, ownership and use of guns or ammunition by individuals convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence, or who are under a restraining order (injunction) for domestic abuse.

As a Jacksonville Family Law Lawyer, I see, all too often, individuals going into injunction court unrepresented because they feel as though an injunction is not a "big deal." These individuals usually consent to having an injunction placed against them or unsuccessfully argue to a Judge why placement of an injunction would be improper. These individuals do not consider the potentially serious ramifications.

Because of the Lautenberg Amendment if an individual is under a current injunction and is found to possess a firearm or ammunition they can be charged with a federal offense. Further, because of the Lautenberg Amendment, any individual who has been convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence charge can no longer own a firearm or ammunition. Certain exceptions may apply, such as; if the conviction has been expunged, set aside, pardoned or the individual has had their gun rights restored.

It is imperative that individuals served with a petition for injunction or charged with misdemeanor domestic violence know their rights prior to accepting any plea deal. Contact a Jacksonville Family Law Lawyer or Jacksonville Criminal Defense Lawyer for more information.

November 24, 2011

What Not to Do In Divorce Court

judge.jpgFamily law attorney, Edra J. Pollin, recently wrote an article on www.huffintonpost.com titled, "My Top Ten List Of What Not To Do In Divorce Court." Ms. Pollin suggests that judicial determinations are often based on factors other than legal argument and evidence. Particularly, Ms. Pollin suggests judges often look to the way parties behave while in the court room. As a Jacksonville Family Law Lawyer, I could not agree more.

The following list consists of what NOT to do while in front of a judge.

(1) Do not roll your eyes, mutter under your breath or otherwise gesticulate when your spouse is testifying.

(2) Do not keep referring to your child as "my" son or "my" daughter.

(3) Make sure that you've disclosed relevant and potentially embarrassing personal facts to your attorney early on in the case.

(4) Don't bring your entire extended family and ten of your closet friends to your divorce hearing.

(5) Don't wear your torn blue jeans, your muscle shirt or your mini skirt to divorce court.

(6) Do not be rendered speechless if you're asked to describe the positive aspects of your spouse's parenting.

(7) Don't display open hostility toward your spouse's attorney.

(8) Don't read or receive text messages during the hearing.

(9) In a child custody dispute, don't keep talking about "your" needs and "your" desires.

(10) Don't tell long winded stories with irrelevant details of your spousal disputes.

If you are contemplating divorce or were recently served divorce papers, contact a Jacksonville Divorce Lawyer today to discuss your options as it may be possible to avoid a court hearing all together.

November 23, 2011

Domestic Violence Injunctions & Gun Rights

gun ban.jpgDomestic violence is a serious issue, and you should speak with the proper authorities if you have been a victim. But you may need to go a step further and have the court grant a protective order or an injunction preventing the other person from contacting you. This allows the police to arrest the person if he or she violates certain provisions of the court order.

These court orders have more implications than many people realize, and they can be very costly for those who need to use a firearm in their work. In fact, current federal law prevents the ownership of guns or ammunition by individuals who are under a restraining order for domestic abuse.

Further, the act makes it illegal to knowingly sell or give a gun or ammunition to people under a restraining order for domestic violence. So, if you own a gun or ammunition but have a protective order filed against you, you are likely in possession of that gun illegally.

If you have had a restraining order or protective order filed against you, contact a Florida Family Law Attorney. You should not go into court alone; a Florida Family Law Attorney can help protect your rights.

November 22, 2011

Retroactive Child Support

retroactive cs.jpgIt's not uncommon for parents to decide to part ways and raise their children separately. Some parents are able to work things out without going to court, but oftentimes the court needs to step in and help determine each parent's rights.

Child support payments are often contested in these situations. Your former spouse may think you owe more than you think you do. If you go to court, you may find the court is on your side. If the court orders child support payments, however, you may find yourself owing more than you originally thought.

In fact, in paternity actions, dissolution of marriages, or petitions for support during marriage, the court has the discretion to award child support retroactive to the date when the parents did not reside together. The court can order payments from up to 24 months in the past.

In making this decision, the court takes numerous things into consideration, including your income and how much you may have already paid. Whether you are trying to decrease your payments or increase the payments you receive, the process can be easier with a Florida Family Law Attorney. Regardless of your situation, contact a Florida Family Law Attorney today to discuss the options that are best for you.

November 21, 2011

Uncontested Divorce? Do they Exist

easy divorce.jpgMany divorces in Florida begin as "uncontested," meaning both parties agree that divorce is appropriate and they want to work out an agreement and get the whole situation behind them as soon as possible.

A Jacksonville Divorce Attorney can help you through this process. In order to file an uncontested divorce, at least one party must be a resident of Florida for at least 180 days (6 months) prior to filing. If the parties remain agreeable, the judge can sign off an agreement within as few as 20 days of filing the initial divorce petition.

In the ideal world, both parties will get what they want and the divorce will be granted relatively quickly. But unfortunately, uncontested divorce does not always work out that way. Parties often find they disagree about important aspects of the divorce. Whether it's a fight over the house, the kids, the car, or the dog, obtaining an uncontested divorce is often not as simple as the parties would like.

A Jacksonville Divorce Attorney can guide you through negotiations and other proceedings that are probably unfamiliar to you. The results of these proceedings will have a lasting effect on your entire life; it's important to have someone on your side who can help you obtain the results you want.

Whether it's an uncontested divorce or not, a Jacksonville Divorce Attorney can help you through the process. Contact an attorney today to discuss your situation.

November 16, 2011

Same-Sex Couples Adopting Around the Country

Jacksonville Gay and Lesbian adoptions.jpgLawyers representing same-sex couples wanting to adopt in Maryland file in the favored jurisdiction of Baltimore City Circuit Court. Although more and more Maryland circuit courts are granting adoptions to same-sex couples, lawyers who focus their practice on gay families will recommend filing in a friendly jurisdiction. Read more on this article at Baltimore Court: A magnet for Same-Sex Parents.

The topic of civil rights for gay individuals and families have sparked debates throughout the country, as in Maryland, where the General Assembly is expected to take up same-sex marriage again next year; and in Florida, where an appeals court struck down a ban on gay adoptions last year.

Conservative groups nationwide have criticized judicial activism contending that children should be raised in families with a mother and father. But gay and lesbian advocates point to the medical community. The American Psychological Association disputes the claim that children are more successful when raised by heterosexual parents. The American Medical Association also supports adoption by same-sex couples.

Maryland, like Florida, has counties that are more "gay friendly" than others. It is important to remember the most important issue when talking about gay adoptions is that it broadens the pool of adoptive parents and reduces the number of children bouncing from foster home to foster home.

Florida's 3rd District Court of Appeal which struck down the ban prohibiting a gay person from adopting is currently the "law of the land" in Florida. Adoption can be a very complicated legal procedure, especially if you are gay. If you have questions about adopting in Florida, consult with a Jacksonville Gay and Lesbian Estate Planning Lawyer.

November 15, 2011

What is a Restraining Order

Thumbnail image for Judge Adams.jpgA few days ago I wrote about the Texas Family Law Judge, William Adams, being caught on video beating his daughter. The video showed Judge Adams beating his then 16 year-old daughter, Hilary Adams with a belt. The video has caught the attention of news agencies across the country and has outrage the public at large.

Since the video has been released Judge Adams has been served with a restraining order that temporarily terminates his visitation with his younger daughter. Judge Adam's, ex-wife, Hallie Adams is reported to fear that her daughter is not safe spending time with Judge Adams right now.

A hearing has been scheduled for November 21st to determine whether Judge Adam's visitation with his younger daughter should continue to be denied or should be supervised by a third party.

This story is just one example of the unfortunate reality of child abuse. I see cases similar to this on a regular basis in the Jacksonville and surrounding area. It is important to know that there are legal avenues to prevent abuse like this from continuing.

Should you be in a similar situation as Hallie Adams, contact a Jacksonville Family Law Lawyer today to discuss what you can do to secure a restraining order against your spouse, ex-spouse or co-parent.

November 14, 2011

Can You Avoid a Guardianship

Jacksonville Guardianship Lawyer.jpgAt times in life, people experience highs and people experience lows. Bouts of depression can bring on drinking or drug use, or a sudden illness or accident can occur. When this happens there is the potential that someone will become incapacitated and hospitalized without the ability to make important life decisions.

A Florida Durable Power of Attorney gives the family a way to help a potentially disabled person in handling his or her legal, business and property affairs. The durable power of attorney might effectively sidestep the time and expense it could cost to establish a guardianship. One should also consider designating a Florida Health Care Surrogate so that he or she can make medical decisions in the event of incapacitation. Consulting with a Jacksonville Guardianship Lawyer with an office in Atlantic Beach, will give you the advice you need about the legal documents available to one who currently has the legal capacity to sign a legal document giving future authority to another.

A situation I recently heard of was of a young man whose older brother had just been divorced. The older brother fell into such a depression that his drug use increased two-fold, and he even told his family that it would kill him. Being a savvy younger brother and knowing his older brother was in the middle of a divorce, the younger brother started talking to the older brother about a durable power of attorney in case he ended up in the hospital and unable to handle his financial affairs in the divorce. Sure enough, the older brother ended up in the hospital, unable to express his desires without the help of his younger brother as his agent.

A designation of health care surrogate had also been prepared which gave the younger brother the authority to make the health care decisions needed to get the medical and psychological treatment the older brother needed to get him healthy and drug free.

If the unfortunate reality of incapacity is on the horizon for you or a loved one, contact a Jacksonville Guardianship lawyer to discuss your best options. Establishing a durable power of attorney, and a designation of health care surrogate now could potentially save a lot of time, effort, and money in the future.

November 14, 2011

Social Media and Divorce

facebook evidence.jpgThe popularity of Facebook and other "second lives" people lead on the internet has given rise to social media playing an increasingly prevalent role in the courts. Earlier this month, a judge in New Jersey ruled that a woman could be prosecuted for identity theft after apparently creating a fake Facebook account for her ex-boyfriend. She used the account to insinuate that he had herpes, visited prostitutes, and was "high" all the time. The man was a narcotics detective, so the claims were especially problematic for him.

Similarly, a Michigan case recently saw a judge order both parties in a divorce to exchange passwords to their Facebook accounts. The parties are fighting over custody of their children, and the father claims his ex-wife's social networking history will show that she is incapable of taking care of the children. The judge ordered the two of them to exchange passwords and also told them they must refrain from posting messages in the other party's name.

It's only a matter of time before these issues start popping up in Florida. It's very important to remember that anything you post on line can be accessed by someone else. Nothing you post is completely anonymous and it will remain on the Internet forever. Be professional and think before saying things, especially if you are involved in a dispute.

If you are involved in a divorce or custody issue, a Florida Family Law Attorney can help you through the process. Contact a Florida Family Law Attorney today to schedule a free consultation.

November 11, 2011

Sexual Assault Victim Ordered to Pay Her Attacker Alimony

News stations out of San Diego, California are reporting on an interesting case that caught my attention. Crystal Harris, a Carlsbad, California resident was raped by Shawn Harris, her now ex-husband, yet the Judge in their divorce case awarded Shawn $1,000 a month in spousal support (Alimony). So when Shawn gets out of prison for the felony he committed against Crystal, Crystal will have to pay him $1,000 a month!

How could this have happened? Well, under California law, "there is only one way Crystal Harris could have avoided paying her ex-husband: if he had tried to kill her". After presiding over the parties' divorce, Family Law Court Judge Gregory Pollock stated, "I can't look at a 12-year marriage where one side is making $400 a month, the other side is making over $11,000 and say no spousal support, that would be an abuse of discretion."

San Diego County District Attorney, Bonnie Dumanis is currently petitioning California lawmakers to address and change this loophole so something like this doesn't happen again.

If you are curious about Alimony laws in Florida, contact a Jacksonville Divorce Lawyer today.

November 10, 2011

Divorce, Seperation, and Restraining Orders

jessica jacobsen.jpegIn Jacksonville, Florida injunctions (commonly known as restraining orders) can be very beneficial and are often times necessary for victims of domestic violence. However, as a Jacksonville Family Law Attorney, I know with injunctions come obstacles.

For example, lets say Husband and Wife with two children decide to get a divorce. The Husband has been both emotionally and physically abusive to Wife. Wife secures an injunction for protection against Husband. Due to the physical and emotional abuse the Family Law Judge in the divorce grants Husband temporary supervised timesharing (visitation) with the children. How are the children going to be exchanged for Husband's timesharing?

In Jacksonville we have the Family Nurturing Center (FNC). The FNC serves as a meet up point for supervised exchanges. Precautions are taken to ensure that the Husband and Wife have no contact with each other.

Baltimore, Maryland is now working on there own form of the FNC. Unfortunately, this came to late for Jessica Jacobsen and her two children. In 2007, Jessica Jacobsen filed for divorce from her husband, Jeff Jacobsen, as well as secured a restraining order against him. Jeff Jacobsen's timesharing with the children was then to be initiated by exchanges supervised by a third party. During an exchange, supervised by Jeff's Jacobsen's father, Jeff Jacobsen shot and killed Jessica Jacobsen then himself in front of the parties' minor children. See, "City to Create New Child Custody Handoff Center" for more on this tragic story.

Contact a Jacksonville Family Law Lawyer for more information on this topic or other Jacksonville family law issues. Also, feel free to contact Law Office of David M. Goldman at its after hours Family Law line at (904) 701-8702.

November 9, 2011

Texas Judge Beating Disabled Daughter Caught on Tape.

Judge Adams.jpgThe other day I stumbled upon a disturbing article titled, "Revenge of the disabled daughter: Video of 'family law judge brutally beating girl' sweeps web after she posts it on YouTube".

Apparently, 23 year old Hilary Adams recently posted a video on YouTube which showed her father and mother ruthlessly beating her with a belt when she was 16 years old. The beating was prompted when Ms. Adams was caught downloading music onto her computer. Evidently, beatings like this must have occurred previously as Ms. Adams intentionally set her webcam up in order to catch the abuse.

Sound bad enough? Regrettably, not only does Ms. Adams suffer from cerebral palsy, her father is the Honorable William Adams of Aransas County, Texas. A Family Law JUDGE!!!

As a Jacksonville Family Law Attorney, I find this particularly troubling. Family Law Judges are in a position to help families and most importantly help minor children who are not in the position to speak for or defend themselves.

Contact a Jacksonville Family Law Attorney to learn more on this topic or any family law related issue.

November 8, 2011

Child Obesity and Custody Issues

According to a recent news report, parents are increasingly arguing the issue of child obesity in child custody cases. In many states, including Florida, family courts are often burdened with deciding the rights of parents following a divorce. Couples should figure these terms out on their own, but the court may, in some instances, have to make the decision for them. In Jacksonville the court makes this decision based on the best interest of the child standard and considers arguments from both sides as to which parent should get which rights.

Parents are generally free to offer any sort of evidence (provided it complies with the rules of evidence) for the court to consider, and some parents are beginning to argue that the other parent has contributed to the child's obesity. They can show this in any number of ways; for example, by referencing the child's weight, by showing the sort of diet the other parent provides the child, or showing the other parent lets the child sit inside to play video games all day. For example, one case from Oregon saw a judge limit rights of a parent who was providing fast-food meals to the child for nearly every single meal.

It is important to note that a child's obesity is just one factor the court might consider. But if a child's parent is encouraging unhealthy behavior, there are likely other issues to consider as well. If you are going through a child custody case or a divorce, contact a Florida Family Law Attorney to discuss your case.

November 7, 2011

Who Gets to Keep the Engagement Ring?

Thumbnail image for proposal.jpegThere are two situations where you might like to get back the rather expensive ring you bought your bride before your relationship ended: a broken-off engagement or a divorce. The answer to "who gets the ring?" is different in each situation.

Broken-Off Engagement: engagement rings are considered "conditional gifts." In other words, the gift becomes final upon the condition that your bride eventually marries you. Prior to the vows, however, that condition has not been completed, so you can still revoke the gift. So, if the engagement is called off, you should legally be able to get back the ring.

Divorce: after the vows are said and the marriage license is signed, the condition of that conditional gift has been fulfilled. The ring is now considered a gift. Further, because it is a gift, it is a nonmarital asset for distribution purposes if the two of you ever get divorced. That means that the ring's value will likely not be split between the two of you during a divorce. Instead, it belongs to your spouse. This was true even in a case (Randall v. Randall) where the ring was the former husband's family heirloom.

If you are going through a divorce and have questions about division of assets or any other topic, contact a Florida Family Law Attorney to discuss your options.

November 4, 2011

Will My Divorce Automatically Eliminate a Former Spouse as Beneficiary of a Life Insurance and Retirement Plan?

401k.jpgBecause the beneficiary designation was never updated post divorce finalization, the Supreme Court of Florida has ruled a former spouse still entitled to death benefits payable from a retirement plan. Unambiguous language in the Marital Settlement Agreement can avoid a beneficiary designation even where a spouse has neglected to remove their now ex-spouse.

However, some designations can be revised prior to a divorce, but Federal law does not allow the changing of a beneficiary designation on some financial plans without written spousal consent, which is difficult to get when something like a 401(k) is in dispute. This spousal consent rule can create a small hurdle; most beneficiary designations can be changed and should be as soon as possible after a divorce.

An experienced Florida Family Law Attorney should be sure to ask you about beneficiary designations before finalizing a divorce. Be sure to ask the attorney working on your divorce if you are unsure about certain designations. If you are not currently working with an attorney, the most advisable practice is to secure an experienced Jacksonville Family Law Attorney as soon as possible.

November 3, 2011

Modification of Past Due Child Support

Past due child support.jpgDuring a Jacksonville divorce, many facets of a couple's life are controlled by an order of the court. Things like time-sharing for the kids, alimony for a spouse, and distribution of assets. Something the court cannot control is the way a father chooses to live his life, even if he is making choices that sacrifice the life of you and your child after the divorce is finalized. Take the following as an example.

Wife gets pregnant and shortly after goes through a dissolution of marriage with her husband. Wife has been raising her child for the last 2 years with her child's father paying support. Lately, husband has been missing his payments and is about $5,000 behind in child support payments. He has been out of rehab and spent some time in jail, for which he also lost his job. Since that is the case, husband is petitioning the court to lower or reduce the amount of child support he owes.

A situation like this raises a few questions: will the court not enforce the arrearages of $5,000 because he can't pay? The answer most likely not. A court will not usually reduce past due support payments unless the husband is able to show he is entitled to a reduction for a compelling reason, such as lack of capacity to enter the marital settlement agreement, which prevented him from filing a motion prior to the support payments due date.

But, a Court could reduce or modify the husband's payments that are not yet due if there is has been a substantial change in circumstances that would justify reducing them. This could be for a job loss that leads to a reduction in income or a serious health condition that prevents the husband from working. The Judge will also review the circumstances behind the convictions and rehabilitative stays to decide whether a lower future support payment is necessary.

The best safety net when arguing over these issues is to be represented by an experienced and professional Jacksonville Family Law Lawyer. A good attorney can ensure that you are asserting all of the proper rights and defenses in your favor at a support hearing. Contact a Jacksonville Family Law Lawyer where you may schedule a free consultation.

November 2, 2011

Reports Suggest Terrell Owens Is Not Paying Child Support

to.jpgNew reports suggest football and reality tv star Terrell Owens has not been making court ordered child support payments. Apparently, the mother of Mr. Owen's child filed a contempt action against him in a Georgia Court.

Many reports have been quick to label Mr. Owens as a dead beat dad, however; it is important to remember there are always two sides to a story.

Mr. Owens publicist sent out a press release which stated the following:

Mr. Owens is not a dead beat Dad. Up until very recently, Mr. Owens paid every child support in full, never missing a payment, with inflated amounts based on a past income he had not been earning for years. It was not until very recently he requested modification due to his current financial challenges. Douglas Kepanis of the New York based Kepanis Law Firm is currently representing Mr. Owens in all child support cases. "Mr. Owens has a valid defense as to why the full amount of child support has not been paid in the last few months." stated Mr. Kepanis. He also feels that "no family case should be tried in the media, but since Melanie Smith's attorney believes in trying cases in the court of public opinion before a judge even hears both sides of the story", Mr. Kepanis felt compelled to respond that, in his opinion, "Terrell Owens will be vindicated in both the Court of public opinion and the Court of law." This is an important matter to Mr. Owens and he hopes to resolve all child support payment modification as soon as possible. Mr. Owens is not currently signed to an NFL team and in the past few years of playing has earned much less than what he did in 2007. It is unfortunate that because of his profile, Ms. Smith finds the need to share this information with the media. This is a private family matter.

As a Jacksonville Child Support Lawyer I deal with contempt actions all the time. If you are in a situation similar to Mr. Owens or his child's mother contact a Jacksonville Family Law Lawyer today.

November 1, 2011

Kim Kardashian Files Divorce After a 72 Day Marriage

kim k.jpgYou may remember the four-hour wedding special and countless front-page tabloid appearances. But alas, true love does not always last: Kim Kardashian filed for divorce from Kris Humphries as of today, October 31. Citing "irreconcilable differences," apparently the couples' TV show and focus under the spotlight was just too much to handle.

Details are scarce, but the couple apparently had a prenuptial agreement. Prenuptial agreements allow couples to make agreements prior to their marriage regarding any number of things, though they are often used to protect one of the parties who may have substantially more assets than the other and does not want those assets to be divided in the event of a divorce.

Her attorneys likely advised Ms. Kardashian on her best options, but in states like Florida, a marriage for such a short period of time could be drawn to a close through an annulment. Annulments are available primarily when the marriage was never valid in the first place; however, such instances can be difficult to prove.

If you are considering a divorce or would like to learn more about annulments, you should contact a Florida Family Law Attorney to discuss the best options available.

November 1, 2011

What is Parental Alienation Syndrome?

parental alienation.jpgIn many of my Jacksonville divorce cases I run into the all to common problem of Parental Alienation Syndrome. ParentalAlienation.org defines Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) as "a disorder that arises primarily in the context of child-custody disputes. Its primary manifestation is the child's campaign of denigration against a parent, a campaign that has no justification. It results from the combination of a programming (brainwashing) parent's indoctrination and the child's own contributions to the vilification of the targeted parent."

In my past Child Custody Cases in Jacksonville, I have unfortunately seen parents make degrading remarks about the other parent to the child, make false accusations to the Department of Children and Families (DCF) and refuse to comply with time-sharing agreements.

In cases where Parental Alienation is an issue the Court needs to be made aware of what exactly is occurring and the severity of the problem in order for the Court devise a remedy.

Contact a Jacksonville Child Custody Lawyer today for further information.