“I signed a Quitclaim deed so I’m not responsible for the mortgage anymore”.  That  statement is one of the most common mistakes that people make when it comes to Real Estate transactions.  Quitclaim deeds are used most often between family members such as an owner of property adding their spouse to property after marriage or transferring property in a dissolution of marriage.  Many people think that signing a quitclaim deed relinquishes them from any obligation regarding the property that is the subject of the quitclaim deed.  A quitclaim deed can quickly remove you from a property’s title and terminate your ownership interests. A quitclaim does not however, remove you from the mortgage or the responsibility to make payments.  Your Jacksonville Family law attorney can assist you with understanding and preparing the correct deed.

Another common mistake is that the Grantee of a quitclaim deed gets a right to the property when they really do not have any guarantee that he/she actually has an interest in anything.  A person that transfers property by quitclaim deed makes no promises that he or she owns or has clear title to the property. So the drawback, quite simply, is that quitclaim deeds offer the grantee/recipient no protection or guarantees whatsoever about the property or their ownership of it. Maybe the grantor did not own the property at all, or maybe they only had partial ownership.  A quitclaim deed transfers title but makes no promises at all about the owner’s title. It essentially says that I am transferring whatever interest I have in the property described to whoever is the Grantee.   A person who signs a quitclaim deed to transfer property they do not own, results in no title at all being transferred since there is no actual ownership interest. The quitclaim deed only transfers the type of title you own.  A property search can be done to determine what ownership interest the grantor of a Quitclaim deed actually has in the property.  Your Jacksonville Family law attorney can assist you with the research regarding the property and drafting the appropriate deed.

Quitclaim deeds are also utilized as an estate planning tool instead of leaving property to family members through a Will or other estate document.  Instead, the property owner simply signs a Quitclaim deed, which must be notarized and recorded with the county recorder. Quitclaim deeds are not taxable when they transfer ownership to a spouse or a qualifying charity. Other transactions may be liable to property and gift taxes. Once the quitclaim deed is signed and notarized, it is a valid legal document.  The Grantee must also have the quitclaim deed recorded in the county recorder’s office or with the county clerk in order for the document to take full legal effect and notify the public of the transfer of interest in the property.  If you want to make sure that you have the appropriate deed and it is filed correctly, call your Jacksonville Family law attorney to assist you.

Why Timesharing is Important?

A dissolution can be a very emotional experience for some.  This is especially true when a divorce involves children.  The current rules require that when parties have children, a parenting plan must be developed.  The parenting plan details parental responsibility, timesharing (formally referred to as visitation), and child support.  It may also include additional details unique to a particular child or children, or it may address a unique family situation.  Although the Court system attempts to equalize timesharing between parents, this is not always possible.  Parents may work or live so far apart that a 50% timesharing schedule would be impractical.

What Are the Different Types of Timesharing?

Florida is an “at will” employment state. What that means is that an employee can quit at any time and an employer can fire an employee at any time for any reason as long as it is not an illegal reason. Some examples of illegal reasons would be discriminatory reasons (i.e., Race, sex, religion) other examples of illegal reasons are because an employee files a worker’s compensation claim, or because an employee reports illegal activity on the part of the employer. Employees who have contracts with their employers are governed under those contracts. There are also specific contracts known as Non-compete agreements that bind an employee during and after employment with an employer.

Florida has a Non-compete Statute which can be found at Florida Statute 542.335. This statute governs the enforceability of non-compete agreements. The basic premise of the statute is that the agreement must be reasonable. Reasonable as to time and reasonable as to geographic location. It also must be ”reasonably necessary to protect the legitimate business interest” of the employer. Florida courts have essentially decided these cases on a case-by-case basis look at each case and its specific facts to determine the reasonableness of a non-compete agreement. There is no “bright line” test as to what will be held to be a valid non-compete agreement. Your Jacksonville employment attorney can assist you in determining whether or not your non-compete agreement is valid or questionable. Case law has set some guidelines for the employee and employer to follow but the area of the law is still somewhat ambiguous. For example, case law has indicated that a two-year term following the employee’s termination from employment was a reasonable timeframe. In regard to geographic location, the courts have held in some cases that even a statewide provision was reasonable depending upon the whether the employer does business statewide and whether it has regional offices within the state. Most litigation regarding non-compete agreements hinge on what is a protectable legitimate business interest.

In a recent case, White vs Mederi Caretenders Visiting Servs. Of Southeast Florida LLC, 226 So.3d 774 (Fla. 2017), the Supreme Court of Florida held that a company’s referral source may be a protectable legitimate business interest. In making that ruling, the Court encouraged the active involvement of trial courts in assessing the enforceability of non-compete agreements. The Court emphasized that trial courts were best able to apply the statute to specific fact situations and that the Florida Non-compete Statute and the legislative intent behind the statute “grants trial courts fairly wide discretion to fashion the appropriate context-dependent remedy.” A Non-compete agreement can include an employee’s agreement not to work for the employer’s competitors, an agreement not to solicit the employer’s customers or other employees of the employer and a confidentiality clause. Florida’s Non-compete statute identifies five items that are considered legitimate business interests and they are: trade secrets; valuable confidential information; substantial relationships with customers, patients and clients; goodwill; and extraordinary or specialized training. If your employer is asking you to sign a non-compete agreement, you should take the agreement to a Jacksonville employment lawyer for review before signing it.

How do you and your spouse share the finances?

Most married couples have their finances mixed together. For instance, it is not unusual for a married couple to share credit cards, savings and checking accounts, real estate, and other property.  When parties go through a dissolution, these finances must be untangled.  The process of distributing assets to each party is known as equitable distribution.  The process of exchanging financial information with the opposing party is known as mandatory disclosure.  The Family Law Rule of Procedure, Rule 12.285 details what information must be disclosed as well as the time periods for disclosure.

What forms do you need to complete?

Florida Guardianship is a legal process used to protect individuals who are unable to care for their own wellbeing due to the fact that they are a minor, are incapacitated or developmentally disabled.  A Court will appoint a legal guardian to care for the individual, who needs special protection.  The individual is known as a Ward.  Legal guardians have the legal authority and fiduciary responsibility to make decisions for their Ward regarding personal and financial interests.

Florida is a state that regulates guardianships very strictly.  Regulations vary from state to state regarding guardianship law, but Florida has very stringent requirements of Guardians.  In fact, the basic premise in Florida regarding guardianships is that the Court is charged with making sure that the least restrictive means are utilized when dealing with an individual who is determined to be incapacitated or is developmentally disabled.  Florida has a large population of elderly people and the guardianship laws are purposely strict to protect those people who are most vulnerable such as elderly people, developmentally disabled persons and minors.

There are essentially four types of Florida guardianships, they are Plenary, Limited, Advocacy and Guardianship for Minors.  The Plenary guardianship is a guardianship over the person and their assets.  It is a two-step process that starts with the person being determined to be incompetent or incapacitated.  Once the person is determined to be incapacitated, the Court must then determine what specific rights must be removed and what rights will be retained.  The specific rights that the Court addresses and determines whether the alleged incapacitated person is capable of exercising are:  1) Right to marry; 2) Right to vote; 3) Right to contract; 4) Right to travel; 5) Right to sue and defend lawsuits; 6) Right to have a driver’s license; 7) Right to determine his/her residency; 8) Right to seek or retain employment; 9) Right to consent to medical treatment; 10) Right to personally apply for government benefits; 11) Right to manage property or to make any gift or disposition of property; and finally 12) Right to make decisions about his/her social environment or other social aspects of his/her life.  The guiding principle in determining what rights to take away from the incapacitated person is utilizing the least restrictive means necessary.  The Limited Guardianship limits the guardian’s authority to certain areas regarding the Ward’s life such as limiting the guardian to authority over the Ward’s finances.  The guardian advocacy is a guardianship that is established when a person is born developmentally disabled such as a person born with mental retardation, Autism or some other mental disease that prevents them from growing mentally.  The Guardianship of a Minor is generally established when the minor receives a money settlement or has lost both parents and needs someone to look out for their health, welfare, maintenance and assets.

What is a Prenuptial Agreement?

A prenuptial agreement is a contract between two persons that are contemplating marriage that predetermines how property and other issues are to be dealt with upon divorce.  Prenuptial agreements require full disclosure by both parties.  This means that each party should be ready and willing to provide their present financial picture to the other.  Without such disclosure, the agreement may be susceptible to legal challenge.

What are the advantages of such an agreement?

Jacksonville Adoption Attorney, Neil Weinreb helps clients understand what is an adoption under Florida Law?

In Florida an adoption is a process whereby an individual can become the legal parent of a child.  It can result in a greater level of fulfillment to the lives of adoptive parents.  It can also provide a loving and stable home to a child suffering from poverty or neglect.

What types of adoption are available in Florida?

There are three (3) categories of adoption.

  1. There are non-relative adoptions,
  2. there are adoptions that occur as a result of a dependency case, and
  3. there are step parent adoptions.

Continue reading

Can I modify time-sharing for my children in Florida?

In Florida, it is the public policy of the state that each minor child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents separate or the marriage of the parties is dissolved and to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities, and joys of childrearing. We live in a pretty mobile society and oftentimes when divorce or separation occurs one of the parents is in another state or even another country. When that occurs, it is important that Jacksonville parents keep the child’s best interest at the forefront of their minds, taking that into consideration in fostering the parent-child relationship with the non-custodial parent. The parents and your Jacksonville divorce attorney need to get creative in crafting a Parenting Plan that will both work for the parents and foster the relationship between the child and the non-custodial parent.

How to Communicate better with long-distance time-sharing in Florida.

Few people want to accept responsibility for a lifelong obligation that they were not responsible for.  There is more than one way under Florida law to create a parental relationship with a child.  Not all relationships in today’s society follow the model that involved a two parent family whereby the husband was the bread winner and the wife was a stay at home mother.  Today, the norm has changed, and single parent households are much more commonplace than they were traditionally. 

There are a number of ways that paternity can be established.  When a woman is married and she becomes pregnant, there is a legal presumption that the husband is the father.  This is true even where the husband could not physically have impregnated the wife.  Section 742.10 of the Florida Statutes covers all of the ways that paternity of a child can be established.  In short, paternity can be established when a married woman has a child, by consent, by court order, or by the legal father signing the birth certificate and notarized documents admitting paternity. 

When a woman has a child out of wedlock and applies for governmental assistance, she may find that the agency or agencies she is applying through will require her to participate in a legal proceeding to establish the paternity of the child.  In part, this is because the government wants to make the father responsible for supporting the child.  Both parents are responsible for their child and a father or mother can be required to support their child until they reach majority.  In some rare cases, they may have legal responsibility beyond the age of majority.  The author of this article has handled numerous child support cases over the last 16 years and he has seen some people have their lives wrecked after they were required to pay child support (an Obligor).  When an Obligor discovers that the child they are supporting is not theirs, disestablishing paternity may be an option for them.  Although disestablishing paternity will terminate an ongoing support obligation, it will not extinguish any child support obligation which has accrued.  Even when disestablishing paternity is successful, an otherwise Obligor may still have to pay a large arrearage. 

Can I modify my child’s time-sharing because of COVID?

Many parents in Jacksonville are in a dilemma about what to do about time-sharing during the COVID-19 Pandemic.  What do you do if the other parent is positive for COVID-19 and they insist on exercising their time-sharing rights?  What do you do if the primary residential parent tests positive for COVID-19?  What do you do about time-sharing if the minor child tests positive for COVID-19?

Under Florida statute 61.13 (2)(c ) the basic premise of family law is that the Court will look at what is in the “best interest” of the minor child(ren).  As a Jacksonville Divorce Attorney, we must also look at how this conforms with the public policy of the state that each minor child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents separate or the marriage of the parties is dissolved and to encourage parents to share the rights, responsibilities, and joys of childrearing.  See 61.13 (2)(c ) (1)

Contact Information