March 2012 Archives

March 31, 2012

Drew Barrymore's Marriages, Engagements, and Divorces.

drew.jpgSince I just wrote about the top ten most expensive celebrity divorces, I figured why not go ahead and write about the shortest celebrity marriages. This topic may not have that much to do with my job as a Fleming Island Family Law Attorney, but it is interesting nonetheless. See the list as follows:

Actress Drew Barrymore married comedian Tom Green on July 4, 2001. Less than six months (166 days) later, Green filed for divorce.

"One Tree Hill" actors Chad Michael Murray and Sophia Bush were married on April 16, 2005 and separated five months later, merely 163 days after they said their vows.

On Aug. 31, 1994 late singer Aaliyah and R. Kelly were secretly married. The marriage was annulled by Aaliyah's parents 114 days later as Aaliyah was only 15 years old.

Nicolas Cage and Lisa Marie Presley were married in 2002. They made it less than four months or 108 days before filing for divorce.

Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries filed for divorce on Halloween, after a mere 72 days of marriage. Their wedding was believed to have cost an astonishing $10 million dollars.

American Pie actress, Tara Reid, married Zack Kehayov in Greece. Just 68 days later Reid stated the marriage was never official because it wasn't made legal in the U.S.

At 19-years-old Drew Barrymore married bar owner Jeremy Thomas. She filed for divorce a mere 39 days later. This is Drew's second appearance on this list. And present news reports have her currently engaged to Will Kopelman, her art consultant. Only time will tell if Drew will make her third appearance on the list of the shortest celebrity marriages.

Singer Sinead O'Connor announced on Dec. 27, 2011 that she was divorcing her fourth husband after just 18 days of marriage.

Actress Ali Landry and actor/host Mario Lopez were married in April 2004, but the marriage was annulled after 18 days when Landry discovered Lopez had been unfaithful.

Eddie Murphy and Tracey Edmonds married on January 1, 2008 in Bora Bora, but never had a legal ceremony. They split when they returned the United States just 15 days later.

NBA Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman and Carmen Electra were married in 1998. They divorced after 10 days.

Cher Bono filed for divorce from rock singer Gregg Allman in 1975 only 9 days after their wedding.

Pop Star and Icon Britney Spears married childhood friend Jason Allen Alexander at about 5:30 a.m. on Jan. 3, 2003 at a Las Vegas wedding chapel. The two filed for an annulment after 55 hours of marriage.

And the shortest celebrity marriage goes to.....Actress Zsa Zsa Gabor. Zsa Zsa was married to Felipe de Alba for less than 24 hours in 1983. The marriage was annulled because Gabor's marriage to Michael O'Hara had not been properly dissolved.

Whether you are seeking a divorce from a short term or long term marriage, contacting a Fleming Island Family Law Attorney should be your first step towards the single life.

Call (904) 685-1200 to schedule a free consultation.

Apple Law Firm serves the counties of Duval, Nassau, Clay and St. Johns.

March 31, 2012

The Top Ten Most Expensive Celebrity Divorces

michael jordan.jpgEver wonder how much some celebrities have paid their spouses in their divorces? As an Amelia Island Divorce Attorney I know I have. See listed below the 10 most expensive celebrity divorces:

10 - Michael Douglas and Diandra Douglas in 1988. Diandra received $45 million when they split in 2000
9 - Phil Collins and Orianne Cevey in 2003. The couple split in 2008 cost Collins almost $47 million
8 - Paul McCartney and Heather Mills finalized their divorce in 2008. Heather walked away with $48.6 million
7 - James Cameron and Linda Hamilton hold some of 'Titanic's' 11 Oscars in 1998. The couple split and Linda left with $50 million in 1999
6 - Madonna's divorce from Guy Ritchie cost between $76 million and $92 million
5 - Cindy Silva and Kevin Coster in 1992. The couple split in 1994 to the tune of $80 million
4 - Melissa Mathison and Harrison Ford in 1998. The couple split in 2004 and Mathison walked away with $85 million
3 - Amy Irving and Steven Spielberg meet Princess Diana in 1985. Amy and Steven split in 1989 and she left the marriage with $100 million
2 - Neil Diamond and Marcia Murphey in 1975. the couple split in the '90s and Marcia left the marriage with $150 million
1 - Michael Jordan and Juanita Jordan in 2000. Juanita received $168 million when they split in 2007.

You may not be as wealthy as the above listed celebrities but I'd bet you still don't want to lose a substantial amount of money in your divorce. If so, contact an Amelia Island Divorce Attorney today to schedule a free consultation.

Serving Duval, Clay, Nassau and St. Johns County.

March 30, 2012

Parental Alienation and the Risks

alien.jpgAs a St. Augustine Divorce Lawyer I am familiar with the many issues that surround child custody disputes. I also know what St. Augustine/St. Johns County Judges absolutely hate to see in child custody cases. One of the main things that divorcing parents in contested cases have a tendency to do is disparage the other parent. This is something that should be avoided at all costs. Disparaging another parent is one thing that can lead to 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 divorce and child custody cases in St. Augustine, 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 this and Parental Alienation is an issue the St. Augustine 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.

To read an article regarding this topic check out www.examiner.com.

If you are considering divorce or have just been served with divorce papers and live in Duval, Clay, Nassau, or St. Johns county contact a St. Augustine Divorce Lawyer at (904) 685-1200 to schedule a free consultation. Weekend and night appointments are available. 
Got a question and it is after regular business hours? Call our after hours line at (904) 701-8702.

March 30, 2012

Alimony and Divorce

gavel.jpgWhen deciding whether to grant alimony in a divorce case, courts in Yulee, Florida consider many factors, including the length of the marriage, the spouses' employment prospects, the age of each party, their standard of living, their marital contributions, their available income and assets, and the fairness of the situation.

Generally, the shorter you've been married, the less likely you will be awarded alimony. Similarly, age is important. If one of the spouses is about to retire, alimony might be more likely.

As a Yulee Divorce Lawyer I know Yulee, Florida courts also consider marital contributions. You might complain that your spouse watched TV all day for twelve years while you worked fifty hours a week. You might think this means your spouse should not be entitled to alimony; however, the court will likely not consider this in granting alimony. Similarly, if your spouse ran up huge credit card debt, he or she may still be entitled to alimony. The court might look more favorably to you, however, if those debts were ran up without your knowledge.

The court will also look at the available assets and income for both you and your spouse. Remember, the general purpose of alimony is to allow you and your spouse to maintain something that resembles your marital lifestyle. In other words, if your spouse has sufficient assets and doesn't need alimony, the court will likely take this into consideration.

Finally, Yulee, Florida courts are allowed to consider anything that "fairness and justice requires." There's not really a clear definition for "fairness" or "justice", so the judge in your case is allowed to consider many factors. This is why alimony can be tricky and convoluted. It is always a good idea to contact a Yulee Divorce Attorney to help you with your case.

March 29, 2012

Dennis Rodman Facing Jail Time For Non-Payment of Child Support and Spousal Support

Dennis Rodman.jpgRecent reports are suggesting that NBA Hall of Famer, Dennis Rodman, may be facing up to 20 days in jail for failure to pay his ex wife court ordered child support and spousal support. Michelle Rodman is claiming that the Hall of Famer owes $51,441 in back spousal support and $808,935 in back child support for the parties' 9 and 10 year old children. Michelle Rodman is also seeking attorney's fees for having to bring a court action against the Hall of Famer. However, the former NBA star's attorney is arguing Rodman is sick and broke and has no ability to pay the large amounts of child support and spousal support.

As a Child Support Attorney I see cases similar to Rodman's all the time. Although, many cases do not involve back child support and spousal support in the amounts claimed above. In Ponte Vedra, Florida Judges take non-payment of child support very seriously. However, these Ponte Vedra Judges are restrained by the law and can only order jail time in very limited circumstances.

For instance, to put a non-paying parent in jail a Ponte Vedra Judge must:(1) find that the parent is willfully failing to pay the ordered child support amounts, (2) make the affirmative finding that the non-paying parent possesses the ability to comply with the purge amount and (3) put the above two requirements in a written order.

You may ask what exactly is a purge amount. Well, as a Ponte Vedra Child Support Attorney I know that a purge amount is an amount of money that must be paid toward child support arrearages in order to avoid going to jail for contempt of a support order. Because punishment is not the purpose of civil contempt proceedings, a Ponte Vedra Judge must allow the contemnor (person in arrears of ordered support) an opportunity to "purge" himself or herself of contempt.

A Ponte Vedra Judge must decide how much money the contemnor can reasonably pay toward his or her child support arrearage. Frequently, a Ponte Vedra Judge will set a purge amount at a sum much less than the total amount of the child support arrearage. When the purge amount is less than the total amount of the child support arrearage, the contemnor will be required to first pay the purge amount and then make periodic payments towards the remaining arrearage.

If you don't want to end up in a similar situation as Dennis Rodman but live in the Ponte Vedra, Florida or St. Johns County area, contact a Ponte Vedra Child Support Attorney today to schedule a free consultation. Offices in Jacksonville and Jacksonville, Beach.

March 28, 2012

Could Florida's Obesity Problem Affect Your Divorce?

child obesity.jpgThere's no secret that America has a bit of a weight problem, and Florida is no exception. It seems like every time there's a slow news week, the news networks run another story about our ever-expanding waistlines. But one aspect of the problem that does not get a whole lot of attention is the role it plays in relationships. It is awkward and uncomfortable to discuss. How, exactly, is a person supposed to tell his or her spouse that some added weight is a problem?

Apparently, many of these couples choose not to communicate. This unfortunately can lead to resentment and other problems. It is not unheard of that a couple eventually divorces over their inability to communicate with each other, stemming from one spouse being upset with the other's extra few pounds.

Of course, having an overweight spouse is not a good reason to get divorced. The point is that this is just one more issue couples are facing, and it's another reason why communication is so important in your marriage.

And the problems don't end with the spouses: divorcing couples with children may find themselves fighting over custody of their child or children. This is often very contentious, and something a Family Law Attorney can help you through. During this proceeding, the court will usually consider what is in the best interest of the child, which is a passive way of saying the court might try to favor which parent is the "better" parent. This can encourage the parties to accuse each other of bad parenting, and a child's obesity can come into play.

This may seem petty, but it could be an important factor in the court's decision. For example, 2009, a boy in South Carolina was removed to foster care and his mother was charged with criminal neglect. Her crime? Allowing her 14-year-old son to weigh 555 pounds, putting him at risk of serious harm without intervention.

To summarize: junk food can cause problems you might not anticipate. If you and your spouse are having trouble, communicate with each other. Physical health often goes hand in hand with mental health, so perhaps a long walk would be a good time to talk and get moving at the same time. But, if you find yourself in need of a divorce attorney or are going through a custody battle, an Orange Park Divorce Attorney is just a call away to help you through this trying time.

March 27, 2012

Is Your Spouse Hiding Marital Assets During Your Divorce?

A few weeks ago a report came out that Dmitry Rybolovlev, one of the 100 richest people in the world, had been accused of hiding close to $100 million dollars during his divorce. If you are in a situation involving such incredible wealth, you should seriously consider a prenuptial agreement, which a Jacksonville, Florida Family Law Attorney or a Jacksonville, Florida Asset Protection Attorney can help draw up for you.

However, even if you are not on the Forbe's richest list, you obviously do not want your spouse to hide assets during your divorce. This can negatively affect division of other assets, which would not be good for you. Plus, this would be fraudulent to the court. But how do you know when your spouse is hiding assets? A recent Forbes article outlines some of the red flags. Many of the tips are somewhat obvious, but may be difficult to see unless you are looking at it from an outside prospective. Here are some tips and warnings to look for:

If your spouse maintains total control of your joint bank account information, make sure you keep track of the bank statements. Most banks have online services, so you should be able to monitor it from there. If your spouse denies you access to the password, but your name is nevertheless on the account, go to your bank and ask for a statement.

Trust your instincts, and take notice of suspect statements and actions revolving around finance. Does your spouse claim his or her business is now failing? Is quickbooks now gone from your computer with no explanation? These can be signs that something is amiss.

Look at your spouse's investments. Did he or she recently pour a ton of money into a tax-deductible retirement account? If so, your spouse may be trying to artificially lower his or salary, which could also lower the amount of money you're entitled to. Similarly, keep an eye out for purchases of big-ticket items that could be sold for a profit later on, such as artwork.

Do not fall victim to a spouse who knows how to play the system. Get all the information you can and call a Jacksonville Florida Family Law Attorney. A Florida Family Law Attorney here in Jacksonville can help you avoid some of the pitfalls during marriage, while respecting the fact that this is a trying time for you.

March 23, 2012

What Is Divorce Like For Indian Women?

india.jpgAs a Jacksonville Beach Divorce Lawyer it is interesting for me to see the stark differences in the divorce laws here in the U.S. and those in India. Such differences are not surprising given the difference in cultural norms and societal expectations in Florida and India. This is not a topic I just started thinking about one day, instead; I read an article through the New York Times titled, "For Indian Women, Divorce Is a Raw Deal." The article, written by Pamposh Raina delves into how Indian law is biased against divorcing women and how this soon may be changing. Some of the differences between Florida's divorce laws and India's are as follows:

Currently, in India there is a six (6) to eighteen (18) month "cooling off period" before a divorce will be granted. However, in Florida the "cooling off period" can be as little as twenty (20) days. Specifically, Florida courts require there be a minimum of twenty (20) days between the filing of a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage to the entry of a Final Judgment of Divorce.

In India Men have more access to the legal system than women. Whereas, in Florida both men and women have equal access to the courts.

In India, for the most part, women do not have a right to any marital property. On the other hand, in Florida, courts use the doctrine of equitable distribution when dividing marital property. Equitable distribution, however; does not necessarily mean equal division, it more so means fair division.

India's divorce laws may soon be changing. Some in India's government are currently looking to make laws friendlier to help unhappy couples get divorced faster. Specifically, changes want to be made to provide "irretrievable breakdown of marriage" as a new ground for divorce. This in turn would potentially decrease the "cooling off period."

Want a divorce and live in the Jacksonville Beach area, not India? Contact a Jacksonville Beach Divorce Lawyer today to schedule a free consultation.

March 22, 2012

Divorce and Bankruptcy.

bk.jpgAs a Jacksonville Divorce Lawyer I deal with other areas of law on a continuous basis. Specifically, I run into issues such as bankruptcy, foreclosure and domestic violence. This is because the clients I represent have a life full of issues, just as everyone else does. Recently, I've been dealing with bankruptcies and foreclosures within my divorce cases.

One of the main questions I hear from clients is can obligations of child support and/or alimony be discharged within a bankruptcy. The answer is NO! Let me say it this way: not all debts are able to be discharged (wiped away) under bankruptcy. Some of these debts include child support, alimony, or other spousal support obligations.

However, as a Jacksonville Divorce Lawyer, I also have to consider whether during a divorce it would benefit my client to file for bankruptcy, whether the parties should file for a bankruptcy jointly, or wait to file alone after the divorce is final.

When these questions are posed it is of great help to have the assistance of a Jacksonville Bankruptcy Attorney. Here at Apple Law Firm I often sit down with my clients and the firm's Jacksonville Bankruptcy Attorney to develop the best plan of action. This can be of vital importance for a client's financial well being.

If you live in the Jacksonville, Florida area and are considering divorce but are worried about the affect a divorce will have on your finances contact a Jacksonville Divorce Lawyer along with a Jacksonville Bankruptcy Attorney to discuss your case. Free consultations are available.

March 21, 2012

Who is Responsible for the Mortgage?

mortgage.jpgAs an Orange Park Divorce Lawyer I often hear client's ask, "If my spouse gets to keep the house in the divorce, can I still be held responsible for the mortgage?" The short answer to this question is, unfortunately, yes. If, in a divorce, one party is granted sole exclusive use and possession of the former marital home the other party could still be held liable in the event of a default on the mortgage.

Thus, even if the former marital home is deeded to one party the other party's name is still on the mortgage and can still be held responsible. If the party with possession of the home fails to pay the mortgage, the bank has the option to come after the other party.
During the divorce proceedings the party without the home can ask for their name to be removed but this is unlikely to occur. Also, the Court can order the party with possession of the home to try and refinance to get the other party's name off the mortgage, but in todays market this is rarely successful.

As an Orange Park Divorce Lawyer, I run into this and similar issues all the time. I know there are ways around this issue that can put my clients in the best position possible after a divorce.

Questions on this topic? Contact an Orange Park Divorce Lawyer with Apple Law Firm or call us at (904) 685-1200 to schedule a free consultation. Night and weekend appointments available.

Also, should you have questions relating more to the foreclosure process contact a Jacksonville Foreclosure Defense Attorney for answers.

March 20, 2012

What are Marital Assets?

marital property.jpgWhether or not an asset is "marital" or "nonmarital" is often a key issue in a divorce. Marital assets are generally considered jointly owned by both husband and wife, and it is usually up to the court to decide how those assets will be distributed. Nonmarital assets, however, are considered owned by only one of the spouses and are generally free from distribution in a divorce. You should be aware that liabilities --debts-- are treated the same way as assets.

Florida Statute 61.075 addresses this issue and defines marital and nonmarital assets. Marital assets include assets acquired during the marriage, the increase in value of nonmarital assets (if the increase is the result of contribution from both spouses), interspousal gifts during the marriage, and all benefits accrued during the marriage, such as retirement funds, pension, profit sharing, and insurance plans.

Nonmarital assets include assets acquired prior to the marriage, assets acquired during the marriage by gift or inheritance, assets excluded from being considered marital by written agreement (such as a prenuptial agreement), and income derived from nonmarital assets, unless the income was "treated, used, or relied upon by the parties as a marital asset."

This last nonmarital asset is often the case of litigation. As an example, let's say prior to your marriage, you had $200,000 in the bank. That would be considered "nonmarital" and therefore would likely not go to your spouse in the event of a divorce. Of course, real world situations are not so simple. In reality, your spouse would likely claim that the income was "treated, used, or relied upon by the parties as a marital asset." If you are the spouse claiming the $200,000 is nonmarital, you will bear the burden in court of proving that it is, in fact, not a marital asset. Alternatively, you might split up the money; i.e., you could agree that $50,000 is marital, but argue that the remaining $150,000 is not.

A disagreement over assets is only one part of an already complicated and draining divorce proceeding. You should contact a Florida Divorce Lawyer to ensure you are aware of all your rights and options during your divorce.

March 19, 2012

Modification of Divorce or Child Support

kids.jpgAs a Jacksonville Family Law Attorney, I am often asked whether a child timesharing order can be modified after a divorce. In short, yes, parents can change their timesharing agreement. However, if the parents do not agree about the modification, the standard under Florida Law is often difficult to satisfy.

After a final decree establishing timesharing is filed with a Jacksonville court, parents may later agree to modify its terms. Although not required, it is advisable to obtain the court's approval for the modification so that it may later be enforceable it needed. Generally, Jacksonville courts approve modification agreements unless it appears the modification is not in the best interests of the child.

If a parent wants to change an existing timesharing agreement and the other parent will not agree to the change, he or she must petition the court to modify it. Generally, a Jacksonville court will allow a modification if the parent asking for the change can show that there has been a "substantial change in circumstances." Some examples include a geographic move or a change in lifestyle.

If a majority timesharing parent makes a significant move, or a move that will seriously disrupt the stability of a child's life, the move may qualify as a substantial change in circumstances and warrant a modification of the timesharing agreement. Additionally, if substantial changes in a parent's lifestyle threatens or harms a child, a modification to the timesharing agreement may be granted. Florida courts use the "best interest of the child" as a guiding principle when making timesharing decisions. This principle trumps all other factors when making any kind of timesharing decision.

A Jacksonville parent wishing to change a timesharing arrangement under a divorce decree or paternity order has a heavy burden to satisfy. In these cases, it is essential to retain a knowledgable family law attorney. If you have any questions about specific circumstances, contact a Jacksonville Family Law Attorney today.

March 16, 2012

My Spouse Cheated! Does it matter in the terms of a Divorce?

cheater.jpgFlorida is a "no fault" divorce state. This means that either spouse may seek a divorce without showing cause for the desired separation. The petitioning spouse does not have to claim that the other spouse was the cause of the failed marriage.

The spouse seeking a divorce has the option to simply claim the marriage is "irretrievably broken." Generally, Florida courts and courts in the Jacksonville area are not concerned with which party played the greater role in causing the divorce. Jacksonville Judges do not need to know why the marriage is ending, they simply need to know that it is irretrievably broken and counseling would not help salvage it.

As a Jacksonville Divorce Attorney, I am often asked how a cheating spouse factors into a divorce in the Jacksonville area. While adulterous conduct does not factor into the court's decision to grant a divorce, it can impact other important issues raised in a divorce. What other issues?

Well, in child custody battles, a Jacksonville court considers the "moral fitness" of a parent seeking custody. Evidence of adulterous conduct can lower a party's level of "moral fitness," and decrease his or her chances of receiving custody. However, it is not an absolute bar to child custody. Often times, a larger impact will be whether the adultery had an adverse impact on the child.

Additionally, Florida Law stipulates that adultery is a factor to be considered in determining the amount of alimony awarded. In short, a higher frequency of adulterous conduct by a cheating spouse can lead to a larger amount of alimony he or she will have to pay. However, this really only comes in to play if the cheating spouse used large amounts of marital funds to further the affair.

If you are contemplating a divorce in the Jacksonville, Florida area or have concerns about the impact of adulterous behavior on your divorce, contact a Jacksonville Divorce Attorney today!

March 15, 2012

Alimony in Florida

Thumbnail image for check.jpgAs a Family Law Attorney in the Jacksonville area I am consistently asked how the courts calculate alimony. This is often a difficult question to answer. In Jacksonville and Florida as a whole there is no specific formula to calculate alimony. Instead, there are factors that Jacksonville courts look to when calculating 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.

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

If you live in the Jacksonville area and are seeking a divorce you are entitled to alimony or might have to pay alimony. You should contact a Jacksonville Family Law Lawyer today for more information. Free consultations are available.

March 14, 2012

Modification of Past Due Child Support

court.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 a Jacksonville 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 Jacksonville 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 Jacksonville 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 Jacksonville 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.

March 13, 2012

What Should You Do Before Getting Into A Custody Battle?

ptc.jpgIf you live in the Jacksonville and/or Orange Park area of Florida and are contemplating filing for divorce and have minor children of the marriage there are actions that should be taken prior to filing for divorce that can greatly help you if and when a dispute over timesharing and parental responsibility arises. You may ask what exactly is timesharing and parental responsibility? In Florida visitation schedules are termed timesharing schedules and are defined in Florida Statute 61.046 as a timetable that must be included in the parenting plan that specifies the time, including overnights and holidays, that a minor child will spend with each parent. The time-sharing schedule shall be:

(a) Developed and agreed to by the parents of a minor child and approved by the court;or
(b) Established by the court if the parents cannot agree or if their agreed-upon schedule is not approved by the court.


Parental Responsibility on the other hand covers the parental rights of the parents. There are two types of Parental Responsibility in Florida: Shared and Sole. Florida Statute 61.046 defines Shared Parental Responsibility as a court-ordered relationship in which both parents retain full parental rights and responsibilities with respect to their child and in which both parents confer with each other so that major decisions affecting the welfare of the child will be determined jointly; and defines Sole Parental Responsibility as a court-ordered relationship in which one parent makes decisions regarding the minor child.

So what should you be doing to ensure you don't end up with the short end of the stick in a custody battle? First and foremost get involved in your child's education. It is very common for teachers, coaches and the like to testify in child custody proceedings. Thus, the more these teachers and coaches are familiar with you the better. Make sure you attend parent teacher conferences, plays, games, practices and even field trips. That way if a teacher or coach is required to testify in court they will be able to say you are involved in all aspects of your child's life.

Not only are these actions beneficial to the growth and relationship with your child they can provide a Jacksonville and/or Orange Park judge with the perspective that you consider your time with your child and your child's education as nothing but important. The judge will see you are actively involved in your child's education and this can do nothing but help your case.

If you find yourself staring down the nose of the child custody barrel contact a Jacksonville Child Custody Lawyer today to schedule a free consultation. Night and weekend appointments are available.

March 12, 2012

Are You the Legal Father of Your Child?

paternity.jpgAs a Jacksonville Family Law Lawyer, I often have cases where a mother and father are not married to one another but they have a child in common. In my experience many men falsely believe simply because their name is on the birth certificate that they are legally the fathers. In Florida this is simply not the case! There is more that is required for unwed fathers in Florida to gain legal rights over their children.

Under Florida law, until a Judge signs an Order which determines that an unwed man is the father of a child, then the child is NOT legally his. As such, the man has no legal rights to the child. That includes no rights for timesharing and no rights over major decisions in the child's life. This means that if the child's mother does not want to allow the alleged father to see the child, she is under no legal obligation to do so.

In order to be recognized as the legal father in Florida it is necessary to file what is called a Petition for Determination of Paternity. Paternity actions are brought before a court in order to assist a parent in acknowledging and protecting important time-sharing and child support rights and/or obligations.

You may ask, "Who exactly can file a paternity action?" Any woman who is pregnant or has had a child, a man who has reason to believe that he is the father of a child, or even a child may bring a paternity action to determine paternity when paternity has yet to be established. With that being said, an individual can also bring a paternity action if he believes he is not the father of a child but currently has a child support order against him.

It is important to note that Paternity actions are not simple proceedings that can be easily undertaken without the assistance of a knowledgeable Jacksonville Paternity Lawyer. If you have had a child out of wedlock and are concerned about your rights and the rights of your child, contact Apple Law Firm to schedule a free consultation today!

Night and weekend appointments available. Simply call (904) 685-1200 and ask to schedule a consultation.

March 9, 2012

Domestic Violence and Divorce

green beer.jpgAs a Jacksonville Family Law Lawyer, I am well versed in the issues of Domestic Violence and its effects on Jacksonville families. Domestic Violence seems to pop up in nearly 50% of my cases; whether the case be one of divorce, paternity, termination of parental rights or modification. The possibility of domestic violence being an issue is always on my mind.

I can't help but wonder with St. Patrick's Day coming up and the large amount of beer flowing, would Jacksonville domestic violence and or alcohol related crime rates experience an increase. With this question on my mind I decided to look into the relationship between alcohol and domestic violence.I stumbled upon the Stop Violence Against Women website and read a page titled, "Myths About Alcohol and Domestic Violence."

The page read, "The relationship between alcohol or other substance abuse and domestic violence is complicated. A prevailing myth about domestic violence is that alcohol and drugs are the major causes of domestic abuse. In reality, some abusers rely on substance use (and abuse) as an excuse for becoming violent. Alcohol allows the abuser to justify his abusive behavior as a result of the alcohol. While an abuser's use of alcohol may have an effect on the severity of the abuse or the ease with which the abuser can justify his actions, an abuser does not become violent "because" drinking causes him to lose control of his temper."

I also stumbled upon some figures which do suggest that there is a correlation between alcohol abuse and domestic violence. For example, researchers have found that one fourth to on half of men who commit acts of domestic violence also have substance abuse problems. Also, the National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse found that as many as 80 percent of child abuse cases are associated with the use of alcohol and other drugs.

If over the upcoming St. Patty's Day festivities or any time you become a victim of domestic violence contact a knowledgable Jacksonville Family Law Lawyer or a Jacksonville Personal Injury Lawyer. Also, should you be charged with an alcohol related crime contact a Jacksonville Criminal Defense Lawyer.

March 8, 2012

Alimony Reform

steve hitner.jpgThe modification of alimony is a subject that has gathered much attention recently. Much of this attention can be credited to a Massachusetts man named Steve Hitner. In 1999 Hitner was ordered to pay $865 a week in permanent alimony, however; after September 11, 2001 Hitner's business crashed and he returned to court to have the payment lowered. The Massachusetts court denied his request for a reduction and even ordered his new wife to help with the payments.

Frustrated, Hitner decided to take action and organize a group called Mass Alimony Reform. Through Hitner's efforts and those of many others Massachusetts revised the state's alimony laws on March 1, 2012. The new Massachusetts alimony law does not do away with alimony. To the contrary, alimony is awarded more like child support, with guidelines based on the length of the marriage and the income of the parties. And there is room for exceptions and judicial discretion.

Hitner's efforts and accomplishments have spawned those by others across the nation. The States of Florida, New Jersey, Connecticut and Oregon are all seeing movement towards similar alimony reform. Florida has a similar organization to that created by Hitner called Florida Alimony Reform.

Florida lawmakers have taken notice and are taking the issue of permanent alimony to the legislature. Specifically, Florida lawmakers are currently considering Bill 549, which would end permanent alimony in the state.

Currently, Florida Statute 61.08 reads, "Permanent alimony may be awarded to provide for the needs and necessities of life as they were established during the marriage of the parties for a party who lacks the financial ability to meet his or her needs and necessities of life following a dissolution of marriage."

Permanent means exactly that, PERMANENT. The obligor ex-spouse pays the ordered alimony until such time the obligee ex-spouse remarries, dies or the judgment is otherwise modified.

Many Florida residents are not all that keen on Florida Statute 61.08, and therefore; are proponents of Bill 549. Bill 549 would rename permanent alimony to long-term alimony and would further have alimony not last beyond 60% of the length of the marriage.

If you're considering divorce and are concerned about your potential alimony obligation contact a Jacksonville Family Law Lawyer today.

March 7, 2012

Can Non-Parents Gain Custody of Children?

boy w bear.jpgAt times it might be necessary for someone who is a non-parent to gain custody of a minor child. This may be the situation where a remarried custodial parent dies and the stepparent has acted, for all intents and purposes, as the child's only other parent. Or perhaps the same remarried custodial parent becomes incapacitated and his or her children now require care. What options do you have? Florida allows something called temporary custody by extended family for situations such as this.

There are some specifics to how such temporary custody can be attained. The person attempting to gain custody must be an extended family member of the child. The Florida statutes define extended family as grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers and sisters and possibly even stepparents to claim temporary custody of a child. After an application for custody is filed, the court will conduct an evidentiary hearing. But before the court can make any decision, all of the child's remaining parents must be given notice and an opportunity to be heard. The court must first determine the fitness of that parent because natural parents do have a fundamental liberty interest in their children's care. But, if the court does find that parent unfit to provide for the care and control of a child, the court may grant the custody to the non-parent, all other things appropriate.

Keep in mind that the facts behind these situations are very operative, and each set of facts could bring a different result. But if you are in need of nonparent, temporary custody, the best thing to do is contact an experienced Jacksonville Family Law Attorney. You can reach a Jacksonville Family Law Lawyer, at (904) 685-1200 to discuss your case and the options available to you. The consultation may even come at no cost. Contact a Jacksonville Family Law Attorney today.

March 6, 2012

Reminder: During Divorce, Stay Away from Facebook!

fb.jpgA case out of Ohio provides a telling reminder of why you really need to stay away from Facebook during a divorce - or really any criminal proceeding. Sure, it's nice to have a place to rant and converse with your online friends. But you need to remember that what you write on Facebook is never completely private (no matter what your security settings are at) and the court can (and often does) find out about it.

The case involves a man who was ordered to stay away from his wife and to refrain from doing anything to cause her "to suffer physical and/or mental abuse, harassment, annoyance, or bodily injury." The order also affected his rights to visit with his son, so he was understandably upset. What he should have done was converse, in person or on the phone, with his friends or others who could offer emotional support. What he did do was log onto Facebook and post:

". . . if you are an evil, vindictive woman who wants to ruin your husband's life and take your son's father away from him completely - all you need to do is say that you're scared of your husband or domestic partner . . . ."

The post is a relatively thinly veiled shot at the court, basically accusing it of granting an order against him simply based on the statement of the wife. Well, the man's wife found out about the post and her attorney notified the court. The court found the man's post was abusive and harassing, and therefore the court held the man in contempt.

The man now has a choice: he can go to jail for 60 days, or he can pay his wife's attorney's fees associated with the contempt hearing and post a public apology on his Facebook wall for 30 days.

It appears that the man has taken the second option, which does indeed sound more enticing. However, some are pointing out that the constitution generally prohibits the government from forcing a person to speak; therefore, there are concerns that the judge's order in this case violates the First Amendment. Those concerns are purely academic at this point, and the man has not filed any sort of complaint.

Nevertheless, the man's story is a sober reminder that you will likely face some relatively harsh penalties if you decide to vent your frustrations on Facebook during any sort of court proceeding. To re-emphasis: don't do it. Just stay away from Facebook if you are going through a situation where the court is involved. If you don't think you have the willpower to avoid Facebook on your own, you can even deactivate your account for a period of two weeks without losing any of your information.

If you are going through a divorce, contact a Florida Family Law Attorney to help you through the process. If you're going through divorce and have made comments about it on Facebook, delete them immediately and contact a Florida Family Law Attorney. An qualified attorney here in Jacksonville, Florida, can help you with any family issues you might have.

March 5, 2012

Prenuptial Agreements All the Rage!

prenup2.jpgThe marriage of two individuals usually calls for a celebration. Amongst all the excitement and buzz, a couple is busy reserving locations, picking out color schemes and centerpieces and sending out invitations. One very important thing that people often neglect to discuss is what is going to happen should the marriage take a turn for the worst. It's safe to say that the institution of marriage is in a state of instability, as empty marriages are all the rage in the celebrity arena. With this being the case, it's time for those considering marriage to also consider entering into a prenuptial agreement.

It is estimated that 40 percent of marriage in the United States end in eventual divorce. These cases are incredibly complex and can include child care issues, housing costs, and of course, money. Typically, these issues are discussed at the conclusion of the marriage when often time's accusations are already flying, and feelings are already hurt. A prenuptial is a contract entered into before the marriage is formally entered into. The agreement will deal with things such as division of property, spousal support, and guardianship. These tender issues should not be addressed with open wounds.

Prenuptial Agreements are becoming increasingly prevalent due to their low cost and ease of execution. This Jacksonville Divorce Lawyer can do a prenuptial starting as low as $500. Don't get caught off guard in the intoxication of early romance, think with your head and not your heart in protecting the things you have worked hard for. Contact us at (904) 685-1200 to schedule an initial consultation today.

March 2, 2012

Divorce Questions and Answers

dom.jpgAs a Jacksonville Divorce Attorney I am all to familiar with the topics discussed in Georgialee Lang's article, 5 Support Arguments That Don't Matter in Divorce Court. In the article, Ms. Lang lists and describes what she deems to be the five most common complaints in divorce cases. Ms. Lang lists the complaints as follows:

(1) My wife left me to move in with her boyfriend, why do I have to pay her spousal support?

(2) My ex spouse has remarried, why do I still have to pay spousal support?

(3) Why does my ex get spousal support after my death?

(4) Why am I still paying child support for my 24 year old child?

(5) Why doesn't my ex spouse have to contribute to child support?

Ms. Lang goes into brief detail on each of the above-mentioned complaints, however, as a Jacksonville Divorce Lawyer I know these questions can be answered in numerous ways depending on what jurisdiction the case is in.

For example the answer to complaint number four listed above is different in Jacksonville, Florida. Specifically, in Jacksonville, Florida child support is paid until the child is 18. However, there are exceptions such as if the child turns 18 and is still in high school, or if the child is disabled, or if the parents previously agreed to a later termination date.

To find out more about child support in Jacksonville or any other Divorce issues contact Apple Law Firm (904) 685-1200 to schedule a free consultation. Night and weekend appointments available.

March 1, 2012

Prenuptial Agreements 101: Overcoming the Stigma

prenup.jpgOne of the best tools that a couple has in protecting their assets before marriage is the pre-marital agreement. Everyone knows the situation: one party tries to discuss a premarital agreement with his or her respective partner, and the partner will respond with any number of gripes. They range anywhere from "if you loved/trusted me like you really say you do, we would not need a prenuptial agreement" to "I will NEVER marry into an arrangement that requires me to sign a contract." So, the task at hand is now for you to show your partner the value of these agreements. What many do not realize is that marriage itself is a contract, and that without an agreement, decisions that should be yours if the marriage ends are put in the hands of the court.

In order to show your partner the value in pre-marital arrangements (yes, you should refer to them as that), try using the following analogy. You would never purchase a car without buying insurance. You would never purchase a home without homeowners insurance. One does not purchase this insurance with the intention of torching their new house or car - just as people do not enter into pre-marital agreements just to turn around and trash their marriage. Otherwise, why go through the effort and expense of getting married in the first place?!

As experienced Jacksonville Divorce Attorneys, we deal with rifts such as the one above on a daily basis. We put our clients at ease by drafting an agreement that keeps the interests of both parties in mind and by using competitive pricing. In fact, some Jacksonville Divorce Lawyers can do a pre-marital agreement starting as low as $500. To schedule an initial consultation and discuss all relevant matters related to your case, contact a Jacksonville Divorce Attorney, today.