Parental Kidnapping“Forum Shopping” occurs when a party attempts to choose a judge or court because they feel that judge or court will favor their position over the other party. This is looked down upon by the courts, but isn’t often addressed. There are strict rules when it comes to which judges have jurisdiction, but jurisdiction over a case can change if the parties relocate.

What used to happen a lot in Florida was situations where a child’s parent would move to a state far away from the other parent and take the child with them. This would force the non-moving parent to sell their home and quit their job if they were to have a good chance to get visitation rights with their child.

People complained to the Florida Legislature and to address the issue they proposed and passed Florida Statute 61.13001 which permits a judge to enter an injunction against a party moving move than 50 miles from the other parent. If court permission to move is not granted and a move still occurs, the court can order the return of the child to the jurisdiction.

Unfortunately, many people are unaware the statute exists and when too much time passes, the jurisdiction over the child may change to the new state. As the saying goes, “If you sit on your rights, you lose them.” Meaning that you must take action if you wish to preserve your right to claim something or else you lose that right.

Personally, I have seen too many children’s relationships with their parents damaged by the other parent’s inability to cope with the strong negative emotions they have for their ex. Many people want to take their children away and start a new life. Unfortunate as it is, a child is part of both parents and though the other parent may seem terrible at the job, it takes an impartial judicial system to determine what role that person should have in the child’s life.

Halle BerryAmerican Actress and Model Halle Berry has been engaged in an emblazoned custody battle with her former boyfriend Gabriel Aubry. Berry has asked that their child, four year old Nahla, be permitted to leave with Berry to live in France. The Los Angeles Court must determine that the move is in the best interest of the child to permit it. The same standard is used here in Florida to permit a moving parent to relocate more than 50 miles away from the other parent.

Proving “best interest of the child” is not always an easy standard. It typically involves a weighing of the pros and cons of moving or staying. In Berry’s case, she argues that France has stronger protection for Nahla from the great amount of media attention she would otherwise get here in the states. This sounds like a good argument. Surely, a great amount of media attention and privacy invasion is bad for a child.

Mr. Aubry argues that the real reason for the move is Berry following her new fiance, Oliver Martinez, whom is a french film actor. He cites the fact that she has had two earlier failed marriages which is evidence that this marriage too, is likely to fail.

The courts are also considering the relationship Nahla will be able to have with her father when she lives in France, vs. the relationship they’d have if she remained here. This is a common problem in Family Law where a parent seeks to relocate to a different state with their new partner, often alienating the parent who remains behind.

A Child Custody Evaluation’s findings showed that it was not in the best interest of the child to move away, however Judge’s may not be bound by the evaluators recommendations.

Nearly every decision when it comes to Florida children is made based on the “best interest of the child” standard. If you have questions about your unique situation and how we may be able to argue the best interest of your child, contact us at (904) 685-1200 for a free initial consultation.

gay colors and gavel.jpgAmong the various legal documents that will ensure that you and your gay or lesbian Florida partner are protected, a change of name through a legal proceeding is also an available option. The change of name statute is found at Florida Statutes, Section 68.07.

The Petition must be verified (sworn under penalty of perjury) by the person requesting the name change. The petitioner must be a resident and domiciled in the county where the change of name is sought. The petitioner seeking a change of name (other than the restoration of a former name) must submit a set of fingerprints for the purpose of processing a state and national criminal records check. These results are then transmitted to the clerk of court.

A Petition for name change that is “facially sufficient”, follows the requirement established by the statute and is not filed for a wrongful or illegal purpose must be granted. Although the trial court has the authority to deny the petition, denial will not be upheld without evidence that the petition is being filed for an illegal or wrongful purpose or that granting it would result in harm to others.

A hearing on a petition for restoration of a former name may be held immediately after the filing of the petition. The hearing on any other petition for a name change may be held after the clerk receives the results of the criminal history records check.

After the final judgment has been granted and filed, if the petitioner was born in Florida, the clerk of the court must send a completed form provided by the Department of Health to the Office of Vital Statistics. The form must contain sufficient information to identify the original birth certificate of the person, and the new name. The report is then filed by the department and becomes a part of the vital statistics records of this state.

The clerk of court must also send a report of the judgment to the Department of Law Enforcement, which must then forward a copy of the report to the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

If you have been contemplating a change of name, contact a Jacksonville Gay and Lesbian Estate Planning Lawyer to learn more about the legal process and how easy it is to get started.

Alimony IssuesEvery person in the state of Florida, who is either thinking about getting married, engaged, or already married is concerned about the battle over the state’s alimony laws. WJHG.com recently reported about a man, who wished to remain anonymous, that was required to continue to pay his ex-wife $2000 in alimony payment even though he had been injured in an accident and could not even pay his medical bills. Despite his obvious change in financial circumstances, he is still required by law to meet his alimony obligations because Florida is one of the few states in the nation that allows for permanent alimony.

Because of these laws, the Florida Alimony Reform Group has surfaced and has made the reformation of Florida’s alimony laws its primary purpose. Their website states their legislative and political goals. One of the goals is to limit the amount of discretion that judges have in awarding alimony in divorce cases. The group believes that antiquated attitudes regarding gender roles and stereotypes have influenced the way that Florida adjudicates alimony claims. The group expresses its concerns in the following way: “While divorces in Florida are technically ‘no-fault,’ they reflect attitudes and realities from America in the 1950s, when the divorcing husband was the sole breadwinner and always considered ‘the bad guy’ in divorce, while the wife was considered ‘the helpless victim.’ These antiquated stereotypes still drive much of what happens in the state’s family courts. Because of these laws and attitudes, it is common for healthy, employed women in their 30s and 40s to receive permanent alimony.”

This year, the Florida Alimony Reform Group suffered a major setback when it proposed legislation that would drastically reform the state’s alimony provisions, but the bill failed to pass the Senate. Now the group must wait for at least one year before it hopes to see any changes in the alimony laws. The family law section of the Florida Bar is prepared to fight to support the law as it is now.

If you have questions about a divorce proceeding and would like a Jacksonville Divorce Attorney to assist you in the matter, contact the Law Office of David M. Goldman PLLC today at (904) 685-1200.

Source: “Alimony Battle Continues in Florida,” by Bryan Anderson, published at WJHG.com.

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Social Media Pressures Get Jewish DivorceSome creative Boca Raton residents are using social media pressure to get one woman’s husband to sign their divorce papers. A Jewish woman has found out the hard way that her husband is not willing to grant her a Jewish divorce. Although she has received a civil divorce, Jewish divorce laws require that the husband sign a Get, a Jewish divorce decree, which would allow his ex-wife to remarry.

Yomin Postelnik and Leah Postelnik went through a tumultuous divorce and Yomin refused to grant his wife a Get, even though a host of rabbinical courts handed down orders for him to sign the document. A rabbi in Boca Raton heard about the case and mounted a social media campaign against Yomin to pressure him into signing the document. He urged several in the South Florida Jewish community to blackball Yomin until he granted Leah the divorce.

The Postelnik’s are not the only Jewish couple going through a divorce and who have experienced social media pressure. Tara Epstein and Aharon Friedman had a similar experience to the Poselniks. Friedman refused to grant Epstien a religious divorce. The social media campaign against Friedman was so aggressive that some were even demanding that he be fired from his job with United States Representative Dave Champ, R-Mich.

While this case involves Jewish litigants, it is possible that social media could be used to harass and pressure divorce litigants regardless of their faith. It is not advisable that anyone engage in such an aggressive campaign. When going through a divorce proceeding, it is important that litigants be careful what they post on social media websites. If that information is available to the public, it can be used against the poster in future legal proceedings.

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

Source: “Desperate for a divorce,” by Lois K. Solomon, published at Sun-Sentinel.com.

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Yulee Divorce Attorney: Divorce Concerns

Most Jacksonville, Florida residents thinking of filing their own divorce haven’t heard the phrase, “He who represents himself has a fool for a client.” Unfortunately the court system is complicated, but it’s complicated because our lives are complicated. Some people say that their divorce is a “simple” one, some attorney’s say that there’s no such thing as a “simple divorce”. Just as I don’t dare to do simple mechanic work such as an oil change because I’m not a mechanic, a non-lawyer has to remember that a case that might be considered simple by an attorney isn’t necessarily simple for them.

There are complex pleadings that are required to make a divorce judgment final. Just because it says “Final” in the title doesn’t make it so. You can’t depend on a judge to tell you if you’ve made a mistake either, they’re not allowed to give you legal advice and are often so busy with their heavy case loads that they’ll sign almost anything you agree to.

A recent case I saw was that of a woman who had become pregnant from an adulterous affair while living with her husband. Under Florida law, the only people who have the right to contest the parentage of a baby born during a marriage while the couple is cohabitation is the wife and husband. This is because Florida values the interest of preserving the marriage above the rights of unmarried fornicators to raise their own children.

In my case, the husband allowed himself to be named on the birth certificate but a year later when they divorced, he had a DNA test done and submitted it to the court so that the former-wife could execute a name change for her son. The court denied the name change as they hadn’t done their pleading correctly. What the former-husband didn’t realize is that by providing a DNA test showing that he was not the father he started the clock on his ability to disestablish his paternity. He failed to bring an action to disestablish his paternity within one year of submitting that DNA test and is now the legal father of that child, liable for child support etc., until the child becomes an adult. By trying to save money and taking matters into his own hands, he instead made himself liable for child support (a debt not discharged in a bankruptcy) for eighteen years.

If you or a friend are attempting to take legal matters into their own hands, you should know the risks. Contact a Jacksonville Divorce Attorney or call us at (904) 685-1200 for a free initial consultation.

gay_divorce_2006_thumb.jpgSame-sex marriage is only legally recognized in a few states. However, many gay and lesbian couples reside in Florida. As a Jacksonville Gay and Lesbian Issues Lawyer, I receive numerous calls from same-sex couples that live in Jacksonville, Florida seeking a divorce.

Florida, like the majority of states that don’t recognize same-sex marriage, does not recognize same-sex divorce. This is because granting a same-sex couple a divorce is basically a legal recognition that the couple was married in the first place. If you live in Florida and have been married in a state which allows for same-sex marriages, getting a divorce in Florida is not possible. Obtaining a divorce might require, among other conditions, that you establish residency in the state in which you were married. Generally speaking, most states require residency in their state for six months, a year, or even more.

If you were married in California, however, you may have a new option. California’s governor Jerry Brown recently signed into law a bill that allows couples who were married in California to file for divorce in California — even if the couple no longer lives there. For example, if you were married in California’s Orange County, moved to Florida’s Orange County, and are now seeking a divorce, the California County that married you still has jurisdiction to grant your divorce.

While this is good news for couples that were married in California, couples married in other states will still have trouble securing a divorce. If you and your partner have decided to draw your relationship to a close, talk with a Jacksonville Gay and Lesbian Issues Lawyer to discuss some of your options.

gay rights button.jpgAs a Jacksonville Gay and Lesbian Estate Planning Lawyer it is satisfying to report positive actions that benefit the LGBT communities in Florida. The Volusia County Council just approved Central Florida’a first countywide domestic partnership registry. This registry will take effect July 1, 2012, and will extend legal protections to gay and lesbian families who reside in Volusia County.

Days ago, the City of Gulfport in Pinellas County also passed a domestic partnership registry. Domestic partnership registries give protections to same-sex couples and non-married couples that most heterosexual couples take for granted. Among these safeguards are: making medical decisions for an incapacitated partner, being notified in a life threatening emergency, hospital visitation rights and participating in the care of your “non-legal” children.

Bringing it closer to home, there will be Jacksonville City Council public hearing on Tuesday, May 22, 2012 at 5:00 to discuss the inclusion of gender identity and sexual orientation in the Jacksonville Human Rights Ordinance.

To learn more about how you can look after your family with estate planning and other legal documents designed to protect you and your loved ones, contact a Jacksonville Attorney who focuses on gay and lesbian issues.

Thumbnail image for money.jpgA recent study showed that a total of $35 billion in child support is owed all across the US, but only 41% is actually paid. This is down from about 60% in 2009, largely due to the economic downturn over the past several years.

One thing many parents behind on child support don’t realize is that the court can, and will, alter your child support requirements if you legitimately cannot pay them. If you had a well-paying job when the court first established the numbers, it is not fair that you have to pay that same amount if you lost your job and cannot find another one.

The key is speaking with a Jacksonville Florida Family Law Attorney as soon as you can to help negotiate your payments. The court often will only lower your payments, but not reduce any outstanding amount you already owe. If your income drop is only temporary, this might not be an issue; however, if you cannot find new work, you are simply adding more and more money to what you will eventually have to pay.

Courts consider other factors when determining the level of support to pay. For example, the court may consider how often you have custody of the child — more time means you likely have higher expenses. But the court needs help in making this calculation, and a Jacksonville Florida Family Law Attorney can help you in that court proceeding. If you have a custodial issue and would like to speak with an attorney, contact a Florida Family Law Attorney here in Jacksonville.

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