toolbox.gifIn family law, there are several remedies at the court’s discretion that comprise the toolbox of Family Law. One of these tools is the Child Support Lien.

A “lien” is a recorded claim against property such as real estate. This property can be seized or sold to satisfy and discharge the lien. This process, in the child support context, is just like a foreclosure.

If a parent of your children owes back child support and has no income, the family law court may decide to investigate any real property he owns. The Court would then place a lien on that property which would be recorded in the Office of the Clerk of Court in the county where the property is located. The child support lien, once it has been recorded, is just like a mortgage on a house. In a traditional foreclosure, if a homeowner falls behind on house payments, the bank can, after meeting certain procedural requirements, foreclose on the house. By filing a child support lien, the parent filing the lien is in effect stepping into shoes just like the bank. You can foreclose after meeting procedural requirements.

The state of Florida is a member of the Child Support Lien Network, which helps enforce child support liens across state lines.

For much of 2012, the news of the Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes divorce was almost inescapable in the news media. The stories in the media all seemed to follow a similar arc -Katie Holes was brainwashed and had become a sort of zombie for Scientology. She had broken free to raise her child away from the Church. The story almost seemed like it could be from an episode of Mission Impossible –a secretive exit from her home with her child in tow to a downtown Manhattan apartment, switching cell phones and keeping Mr. Cruise in the dark. But somewhat lost in the motion picture-like drama is what may have caused the split, and how you might learn from Mr. Cruise and Ms. Holmes mistakes.

Ms. Holmes was raised a Catholic, but converted to Scientology after getting engaged to Mr. Cruise in 2005. Once the couple married and started planning to raise their daughter the problems arose.
468px-Katie_Holmes,_2009.jpg
For about 18 months prior to their split, the couple had frequent disagreements over how to raise their six-year-old daughter. Ms. Holmes seemed to bristle at the demands of raising a child according to Scientology’s rules. When Holmes exited the marriage, the couple’s settlement agreement gave her the lead role in choosing how their daughter would be educated. Holmes report ably has become a Catholic again.

This story is not unlike many other mixed faith marriages. Even in relationships where one partner converts, the relationship can seem to be on sound footing until children enter the picture. A crisis can erupt with the birth of the first child. Most often that happens when the couple has not come to decisions related to child rearing, religious faith and education.

Because of the trauma that may result in a mixed faith relationship, couples might want to talk about these issues once the relationship becomes serious. An agreement should be reached before the engagement of a mixed faith couple, which should include issues as to how the holidays are to be celebrated, what religious milestones or ceremonies will become a part of their lives and which house of worship the couple and their children will attend.

Cruiseonoprah.jpg

By thinking about the issues and pitfalls of a mixed faith relationship, problems that creep up for other couples may be avoided.

During the holidays, the stress level for many Florida families inevitably goes up. With the much of Florida still stuck in the 2009 recession, unemployment still very high and the foreclosure rate in and around Jacksonville still at record levels, when family problems creep into the picture, stress can go through the roof. Add a separation or dissolution of marriage to the picture and the situation can seem unbearable.

Competing parents can make this unseeingly unbearable situation far worse by fighting over sharing time with their children. But a wise parent, with their eye on the long term will add perspective to their thought process. How do you add that perspective? By remembering two things. First, just because the holidays do not seem like a joyous time right now, does not mean that your children feel the same way. Find ways to hide this stress from your children. Don’t make them associate the holidays with economic and marital stress.

Second, instead of fighting with the competing parent, why not talk things through? Most parents don’t want their children to go through the stress of a divorce and when both parents share that attitude, the stress of sharing time with their children decreases with the level of cooperation.

Right now, if you are going though a separation, think about what really is important to you, and act on that. Don’t act on a temporary situation. You will thank yourself that you had the presence of mind to talking things through, instead of fighting things out.

Getting good legal representation is not inexpensive. Attorneys have overhead, just like everyone else. There are bills to pay, student loans to pay off, rent and payroll to meet, just like any other business. But the cost of making a bad decision may be even more costly. But that does not mean that you cannot afford to seek legal advice regarding your family law needs. There are ways to minimize the costs of family law so that almost anyone seeking the advice of an attorney can budget for their legal needs.

A good family attorney is always looking for ways to minimize costs to his clients. Keeping the case out court and working out the problems related to a legal separation or dissolution of marriage can save many thousands of dollars in a family law case. Also helpful in keeping costs down, is hiring an attorney who has experience negotiating agreements. An attitude that family court is a court of last resort also helps.

What also helps is a client who has reasonable goals and does their level best to try to avoid letting the emotional trauma of family law matters affect their judgment. If your goal is obtaining what is in the best interest of your children, that in itself can keep cost down. A true proverb in family law is that the party that most wants to punish the other in a family law matter is the party most likely to be disappointed with the outcome is a true maxim.

We try to keep your legal expenses low. We have many different types of agreements to help fit your needs including no surprise pricing. In certain cases, we will quote one flat fee for the entirety of your case. No surprises when you get your bill…

Alimony in Florida
Alimony can be one of the most contentious issues in a Florida divorce. Alimony, also known as spousal support, is designed to provide the lower-income spouse with money for living expenses over and above the money provided by child support. Spousal support differs from child support in that child support is a simple mathematical calculation using guidelines published by the state, where as spousal support is discretionary and requires balancing multiple factors.

Though there is certainly no rule saying so, it is generally seen as rare that spousal support is awarded in marriages that lasted only a few years. It is also rare to see it awarded in cases where the incomes of the parties are close to equal. Alimony is typically reserved for situations where one spouse has been economically dependent on the other for most of a lengthy marriage. Again though, this is not a hard and fast rule and exceptions do exist, especially when one party’s bad behavior was responsible for the dissolution of the marriage.

There is a possibility of rehabilitative alimony for shorter marriages. Rehabilitative support is a means that some courts use when one of the spouses needs some time to transition back into the job market. The court can order modest alimony for a set period of time to allow the other spouse to finish school or get back to work and get on his or her feet.

As we mentioned earlier, there is no formula for determining the amount of spousal support; instead, the decision comes down to the discretion of the trial court judge. Alimony will be granted only on a showing of need by one party together with a corresponding ability to pay by the other. Some of the factors that go into consideration include the standard of living the spouses enjoyed during the marriage; how long the marriage lasted; the age, as well as the physical and emotional condition, of each spouse; each spouse’s resources, including non-marital assets; the time it would take a spouse needing support to get education or training necessary to support him or herself; the contribution each spouse made to the marriage, including homemaking and child care and contributions to the other spouse’s education and career; and all sources of income either spouse has. The court has the option to consider other factors it deems necessary to be fair to both spouses.

Unless there is a specific agreement stating otherwise, alimony is modifiable, though not easily and it is generally not discharge-able in bankruptcy. Changing alimony requires a showing of a substantial change in circumstances. Typically this involves cases where the person paying the support has seen their income decline substantially for reasons not their fault. In such instances, the court can decide to reduce or totally eliminate the spousal support. Alimony stops completely if either party dies, or when the spouse receiving alimony remarries or enters into a supportive relationship.

If you have questions about a divorce proceeding and would like a divorce attorney to assist you in the matter, contact us today by email or by calling at (904) 685-1200.

Custody ModificationsFlorida courts will consider modification of a child custody order only if the parent requesting the custody modification is able to prove a substantial change in circumstances. Under Florida law, a “substantial change in circumstances” means a substantial, permanent and involuntary material change. In other words, the change cannot be temporary, it cannot be caused by something the parent voluntarily did and the change must be big enough to warrant the court changing the original parenting plan or custody agreement.

Only after the court has been satisfied that the change in circumstances is substantial, will it then move on to consider what is in the best interest of the child. The reason for this is to prevent constant back and forth motions to change custody which would be destabilizing for the children. It also helps prevent the court from becoming overburdened with frequent and repetitive modification requests.

Parent relocation is one of the most common grounds for seeking a change in custody. The modification request may be submitted by a relocating parent who wants to take the child with them, or a parent opposing relocation who wants the child be placed with them. Some courts switch custody from one parent to the other, although the increasingly common approach is to ask the parents to work out a plan under which both parents may continue to have significant contacts with their children.

Another thing that can prompt a modification is if there is a significant change in the lifestyle of the custodial parent, which the other parent feels will adversely affect the child. For instance, if the custodial parent finds a new job that has longer working hours or the parent is leaving the child alone for long periods of time the court will consider modifying custody based on these factors. Also, if one parent begins drinking heavily or taking drugs, the other parent may file a request for modification of the visitation order. What amounts to a substantial enough change to warrant a revision can vary greatly depending on your jurisdiction and even your particular judge.

If you have questions about a divorce proceeding and would like a divorce attorney to assist you in the matter by calling us at (904) 685-1200.

Celebrity Divorce Lessons
Many celebrity marriages are over in the blink of an eye. What can average citizens learn from the divorce mistakes of the rich and famous? Plenty.

1. Get a prenup

When Mel Gibson divorced, he was reported to have cut his $900 million fortune in half. Madonna’s ex, Guy Ritchie, is said to have walked away with an extra $90 million for his time spent with the singer. Kelsey Grammer, of Frasier fame, had to shell out $50 million to a former Playboy Playmate. Why did they all pay so much? Not because of their generosity, that’s for sure. All these people foolishly lacked prenuptial agreements. Even if you don’t have the amount of money they have, a prenup can help secure the assets you will need if your marriage fails.

2. Don’t trash your ex in public

Kim Kardashian and the rest of her family have wasted no time trash talking her ex, Kris Humphries since their 72-day marriage ended months ago. All the talking causes the process to drag on longer than necessary and leads to emotions running high along the way. Rather than hurting feelings more than has already happened, keep quiet and tell your friends and family to do the same, at least until the papers are signed.

3. Follow your child custody agreement
Follow whatever agreements you reached in court. When Alex Baldwin and Kim Basinger split, Basinger tried to keep their daughter away from him. This move resulted in a very prolonged and nasty dispute between the two and led to hurt feelings all around. If you don’t hold up your end of the bargain your ex can drag you right back to court, costing you time and money, as well as damaging your relationship with your child along the way.

4. Don’t film a reality show about your marriage

Have any doubts about the dangers of letting cameras document your every move? Just ask Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey or the Gosselins how it turned out. Though most of us aren’t interesting enough to have television crews knocking down our doors the larger lesson still applies: avoid involving others in your private marital issues.

If you have questions about a divorce proceeding and would like a divorce attorney to assist you in the matter call us today at (904) 685-1200.

Source: “Celebrity Divorce: What It Can Teach Us,” by Silvana Raso, published at HuffingtonPost.com.

Grounds for Florida DivorceFlorida statutes were designed to encourage amicable settlements and to make it easier to end a marriage, all with the aim of reducing potential harm to children and spouses during the messy divorce process. In Florida, the dissolution process begins with one party filing a “Petition for Dissolution of Marriage” with the family division of the local circuit court. The other spouse is then served with divorce papers and given time to respond before the process proceeds.

The divorce system in Florida is based on the principle of “no-fault,” meaning that a divorce will be granted if either party believes that the marriage is over. According to Florida Statutes 61.052, marriages in the state can be dissolved based on only two grounds: 1) the marriage is irretrievably broken; or 2) there is mental incapacity of one of the spouses for a preceding period of at least three years.

For the first basis, no one needs to have a specific reason for wanting the divorce and no one needs to be blamed for the collapse of the marriage. That being said, it must be shown that the marriage is “irretrievably broken,” meaning that the spouses have differences that cannot be settled. This decision does not have to be mutual; only one spouse is required to have the intent to end the marriage. As is the case for any divorce in Florida, one of you must have been a resident of Florida for at least six months.

If one of the spouses is deemed mentally incapacitated in some way, which requires adjudication of incapacity, the petitioning spouse can only dissolve the marriage after a three year period of incapacity. Given the time requirements in Florida, mental health as a basis for divorce is not used very often.

Many states require a “cooling-off” period of separation for a certain period of time before no-fault divorce proceedings can commence. During this time, the couple is required to live separate from one another with the intent that the separation will be permanent. In Florida, there is a waiting period of 20 days before finalization of the divorce can take place. This waiting period can be waived if injustice would otherwise occur. I have used this exception to divorce a couple in 17 days.

If you have questions about a divorce proceeding and would like a divorce attorney to assist you in the matter, contact us by calling today at (904) 685-1200.

Source: “The 2012 Florida Statutes,” published at Leg.State.FL.US.

Military Divorce and PensionsDeciding how to split up a couple’s accumulated assets is a challenging but necessary task before any divorce can be finalized. This already tough job can be made even more complicated if one or both spouses is an active duty or retired member of the military. In such situations, one of the couple’s biggest assets is likely the military spouse’s pension. This pension, and all the rules that come along with it, make military divorces generally more complex than those of nonmilitary families.

Military pensions are often worth significant amounts of money and, as an added bonus, are guaranteed for the rest of the military spouse’s life. The Wall Street Journal says that a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force who has put in 30 years of service will receive a pension worth $72,288 a year. The pensions are not paid in lump sums, but if they were, the present value of the pension may exceed $1 million. What makes this even more valuable is that there is no minimum retirement age. It’s in the realm of possibility that someone who enlisted at 18 could retire at 38 and go on to receive a pension, including yearly cost of living increases, for decades into the future.

The length of the marriage is another factor that can contribute to the difficulty of dividing up the military retirement pension. When the marriage overlaps the military spouse’s service period by 10 or more years, the nonmilitary spouse may receive benefit payments directly from the government. If the marriage lasted fewer than 10 years of the service period, then the government may not enforce a court order from the nonmilitary spouse for a share of the retirement pension. In such cases, if the military spouse does not agree to provide a share of the retirement benefits directly to the nonmilitary spouse, then the matter will have to be settled in a divorce court in the appropriate state.

Military retirement pensions are also governed by a complex system of both state and federal rules. Therefore, even when a nonmilitary spouse gets court ordered retirement benefits, state and federal rules can still make collecting those benefits a challenge.

If you have questions about a divorce proceeding and would like a divorce attorney to assist you in the matter, contact us at (904) 685-1200.

Source: “Divorce: Splitting Up a Rich Military Pension,” by Ellen Schultz, published at WSJ.com.

Bride, Groom, Conflicts of InterestA recent Reuters article says that if you see divorce headed your way it’s best not to waste any time before hiring an attorney, even if the papers haven’t officially been filed yet. The reason is an attorney ethical conflict known as “conflicting out.”

It’s possible that if your spouse is clever and devious, he or she could make it very hard for you to find a divorce attorney that you actually want. Even if your ex is nice, it’s still possible that he or she could inadvertently prevent your from getting the lawyer you desire.

To explain the importance of conflict, you must first turn to the rules of professional conduct, a kind of ethical handbook for lawyers. These rules say that attorneys must decline to represent an individual if “there is a significant risk that the representation … will be materially limited by the lawyer’s responsibilities to another client, a former client or a third person…” The rules also require that lawyers keep any and all information they learn confidential, even information that is obtained during an initial consultation.

The nightmare scenario is as follows: Your spouse schedules meetings with the best divorce attorney in town. They get together and discuss the marriage, the reason for its dissolution, what he or she wants, the kids, their innermost thoughts and feelings, etc. Once this happens, it does not matter whether your spouse actually hires that attorney; they are now ethically required to keep any information they learned confidential. The problem is that this will likely mean they are ethically required to decline representing you. The reason being that they may believe the amount of information they learned from your spouse (which they must now keep secret) will prevent them from fulfilling their responsibilities to you as a zealous advocate.

After a few consultations your spouse could prevent you from hiring some of the best attorneys in town. Even if your spouse isn’t so devious, the same result could come from unintentional lawyer shopping. If you don’t start looking early, your spouse may beat you to the punch.

If you have questions about a divorce proceeding and would like a us to assist you in the matter, call us at (904) 685-1200.

Source: “Waiting to Hire a Divorce Attorney Could Cost You,” by Stephanie Rabiner, published at Reuters.com.

Contact Information