Boca Raton Divorce Lawyer Blog
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For many people, going through a divorce can be an extremely acrimonious process. After all, if you and your spouse were getting along, you would likely not be getting a divorce in the first place. Divorce can affect almost any aspect of a person’s life, including his or her living situation, access to any children of the marriage, finances, and may even require that a person reenter the workforce after a significant hiatus. These are serious issues, and the outcome of any divorce proceedings can have a significant impact on all of them. As a result, it is important that anyone going through a Florida divorce discuss their options with an experienced divorce attorney who is familiar with our state’s often complicated and difficult to understand divorce laws. Here are some of the ways that a divorce lawyer may be able to help you:

Act as an Objective Advocate

When a couple decides to end their marriage and divorce, emotions can run high. In many cases, an argument over “who gets the house” may not be about the house at all, but rather be about years of unresolved conflict clouding each party’s judgment. An attorney, while advocating for his or her client’s interests, is not emotionally involved in the relationship. As a result, communicating through a lawyer to your partner’s lawyer can often result in much more fruitful negotiations than speaking directly to your spouse. Successful negotiations outside of the courtroom can often keep litigation costs down and can also result in an outcome which is more favorable to both parties than one imposed by a judge.

Ensure that your Legal Rights are Protected

Individuals who are ending a marriage have certain legal rights as to marital property, parental rights, and the ability to request alimony. Florida divorce courts have wide discretion in many areas and are authorized by statute to consider “all relevant factors” in many of these determinations. An attorney who understands how judges make these determinations can make sure that your case is presented in the best light possible. In addition, the assistance of a lawyer can make sure that you are not taken advantage of in any settlement that may occur outside of court.

Help You Find Alternatives to Litigation

Litigation can be extremely expensive, often costing thousands of dollars. There are many alternatives to going to court to determine the ancillary issues often raised when a married couple decides to divorce. Informal negotiation, mediation, and collaborative divorce are just a few of the options that an experienced family law attorney can help you explore. In many cases, employing these alternatives to litigation can help keep the divorce process as inexpensive as possible while ensuring that your legal rights are protected and your needs are met.

Contact a Boca Raton Divorce Attorney Today to Schedule a Free Consultation

Anyone who is considering a Florida divorce should contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible. To schedule a free consultation with family law attorney Alan R. Burton, call our office today at (954) 229-1660.

Posted in: Divorce
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In the midst of contested and adversarial divorces cases, judges are expected to be the neutral, impartial, objective party who make decisions when divorcing couples cannot agree. Generally, you are able to trust that if both sides make arguments defending their position to a judge, that judge will properly weigh the evidence and arguments to make a fair ruling for the parties. However, judges are human just like anyone else, and at time some judges may unfortunately make poor choices and be wrongfully influenced in their rulings. In such cases, it is highly important to have an experienced divorce attorney on your side who can identify unethical behavior on the part of the judge and challenge the fairness of the ruling.

The “Facebooking” Judge in Florida faces Charges

Earlier this year, Circuit Judge Linda Schoonover was removed from a divorce case that had a large amount of money at stake. Judge Schoonover went on Facebook and submitted a “friend” request to the wife in the case, Sandra Chace, a successful commercial real estate agent. Unsure of what to do, Chace consulted with her attorney, who advised her to deny the friend request.

Apparently upset that Chace rebuffed her request, Judge Schoonover then ruled that Chace should be responsible for the majority of the marital debt, as well as ordered Chace to pay her husband an excessive alimony award. Chace requested that the judge remove herself from the case, and successfully took the request before the Florida Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that Judge Schoonover participated in unethical ex parte communications with Chace by contacting her on social media.

Ex parte communications are any material communications between a judge and a party or attorney in a case without a record of the communication or notice to all involved parties of the communication. Such communications can affect the impartiality of a judge in a case, or at least can make one party fear that they are not receiving a fair adjudication. For this reason, ex parte communications are prohibited and deemed unethical. If a judge participates in such ex parte communications, an attorney can make a strong argument for the removal of that judge from the case.

Apparently, this was not the first time Judge Schoonover had inappropriately participated in ex parte communications via social media. Previously, the judge friended a City Commissioner while she was presiding over her divorce case. The Commissioner apparently updated her status to say that she hoped “justice comes swiftly” to her husband, and the judge inappropriately commented, “Yep, justice comes swiftly.” In that case, the judge did remove herself at the husband’s request once he heard of the Facebook comment.

Judge Schoonover now faces numerous ethics charges stemming out of the Chace divorce case, as well as other “bizarre” and “paranoid” behavior, including installing hidden cameras in her chambers and calling law enforcement to report her office had been bugged.

The ethics charges demonstrate that not every judge is capable of being impartial in every case, so you should always have a family lawyer handling your case who can identify troubling behavior from the court. If you have a family law case, contact experienced Boca Raton attorney Alan R. Burton today

Posted in: Family law
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Florida child support laws include a specific formula by which to calculate child support orders. The formula takes into account factors such as the number of children at issue, each parent’s income, expenses, costs of child care, costs of the child’s healthcare, any special needs of a child, and more. These calculations are meant to cover the basic necessities of the child. Generally, a court is expected to follow the guidelines for child support, however the court does have a limited amount of discretion to stray from the guidelines if it finds the circumstances justify such a decision. In most situations, however, the court may only deviate from the set formula by five percent.

Good Fortune Child Support

There are some circumstances under which a court may divert more substantially from the child support formulas and order child support amounts that cover more than just a child’s basic needs. This is referred to in Florida as “good fortune” child support, and is often awarded in cases in which one parent is particularly affluent. Courts have determined that children of such parents deserve to benefit from that parent’s wealth and success, especially since they would enjoy such benefits if the parents were married.

Benefits from a wealthy parent may include private education, travel opportunities, amenities, or other special activities that are above and beyond basic necessities. Additionally, higher child support payments may help establish savings and trusts for the children of a wealthy parent, even if they reside primarily with the other parent. However, there are limitations to good fortune child support awards. A court will limit its order to an amount that supports an appropriate lifestyle for the child, and will not require a wealthy parent pay an unnecessarily excessive amount simply because they can. For example, if a child already has all of his or her special expenses adequately covered, a court will not continue to increase the child support just because a parent’s wealth increases.

The following is an example of a case in which a court may be warranted in ordering good fortune child support. Tramar Lacel Dillard is a popular rapper commonly known as “Flo Rida,” and he has an estimated net worth of $30 million. Recently, model Natasha Georgette Williams established via a court ordered paternity test that Flo Rida is the father of her newborn son. Williams has filed suit in Florida requesting good fortune child support based on the rapper’s significant net worth and success. The court has yet to rule on that request, however, though it seems like it may be an appropriate case for such support.

Contact a Boca Raton Child Support Attorney for Assistance

If you are seeking good fortune child support for your child or are facing any other type of child support determination, it is imperative to have a family law attorney handling your case who understands how child support laws in Florida operate. If you have any family law matter, please do not hesitate to call experienced lawyer Alan R. Burton at (954) 229-1660 or (954) 295-9222 today for assistance.

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Upon divorce, Florida law requires that all marital assets and property be equitably divided between the spouses. First, the court must determine which assets are considered to be marital property and which assets are separate (or non-marital) property. Generally, the courts will then start by presuming that all marital property should be divided 50/50, but may then adjust the division after carefully considering several factors. Such factors include each spouse’s financial situation, contribution to the marriage, and support of the other spouse’s pursuit of higher education or career opportunities.

If a spouse loses a loved one, they may have received an inheritance, which may include liquid assets, property, investments, titles, and more. While inheritances can have substantial financial value, they also may have significant emotional value, as well, especially in the case of family homes, businesses, heirlooms, or other meaningful property. If you receive an inheritance and are considering divorce, it is only natural that you may be concerned about the fate of the inherited money or property.

Is an Inheritance Marital or Non-Marital Property?

The answer to the above question varies from case to case. Generally speaking, an inheritance is assumed to be non-marital property, which means it is not subject to division in divorce and you will get to keep the entirety of the inherited property. However, there are two main exceptions in which an inheritance may be deemed marital property.

First, if the inheritance was written in both of your names, it will be deemed marital property even if it came from a deceased loved one on your side of the family. This is occasionally the case in longer marriages where the spouses had close relationships with their in-laws, who included the spouses’ names together in a last will and testament.

Second, your inheritance may be converted to marital property if it was “commingled” with other marital funds. To commingle is to blend non-marital and marital funds in a single account or investment, so that they can no longer be distinguished. Additionally, if you put your inherited assets toward a marital purpose, such as buying a house or paying off joint debts, the court may consider that property to be commingled and divisible upon divorce.

If your inheritance has been commingled but you still believe it should be considered non-marital property, you will have the burden of proving why the court should not divide those assets or property. In such cases, you always want to have a divorce attorney who has extensive experience handling cases involving inheritances and other complex property division issues.

Contact a Boca Raton Divorce Attorney for a Free Consultation Today

Boca Raton divorce lawyer Alan R. Burton understands how important your assets—and particularly inheritances—are to you and your future. Mr. Burton knows how to fight to make sure you retain both the marital and non-marital assets you deserve in your Florida divorce case. If you are facing divorce, call our office today at (954) 229-1660 to schedule your free case evaluation as soon as possible.

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At the Boca Raton office of family law attorney Alan R. Burton, we have been keeping a close eye on the new developments in the many cases taking place in Florida regarding same-sex marriage. Currently, our state constitution defines marriage as only between opposite sex partners and prohibits the state from recognizing same-sex marriages. This caused an issue for two women who were legally married in Massachusetts, moved to Florida for some time, and wished to end their marriage. Florida family courts denied the women a divorce because their marriage itself was not recognized, so there was no legal union in Florida to dissolve. The couple appealed their case.

Additionally, several same-sex couples who wish to marry in Florida have brought cases challenging the constitutionality of the gay marriage ban. As we have previously discussed on this blog, two county judges in Florida ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, stating that the ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, serves no important government interest, and is unnecessarily discriminatory against same-sex couples and their families. The Florida Attorney General, Pam Bondi, immediately announced her intentions to appeal these decisions on behalf of the state and its current constitution.

Florida Supreme Court may Hear First Same-sex Case

The couple wishing to divorce, Mariama Monique Changamire Shaw and Keiba Lynn Shaw, requested that their case skip the Court of Appeals and go directly to the Supreme Court for an ultimate decision. After taking a second look at the case, the Court of Appeals voted 10-3 to pass the case through the appellate level and instead requested that the Florida Supreme Court decide the issue. Skipping the Court of Appeals will significantly speed up the process, possibly by years.

The majority explained that the case should be rushed as it is a matter of “public importance” and a swift resolution is vital to the “proper administration of justice.” Specifically, the majority stated that with the increasing number of states allowing valid same-sex marriages, more and more people may seek out divorces in Florida if they have moved there.

One dissenting appeals judge stated that this case is not about whether gay marriage should be legal in Florida, but is instead about whether the amendment denies same-sex couples their right of access to the courts, which is a constitutional right. He stated that since there were fewer same-sex couples seeking divorce in Florida than seeking to get married, this case was not one of “public importance” and should not be rushed to the top of the state justice system. The majority stated the dissenters underestimated the effects a delay in deciding the case may have.

Advocacy groups hope that the Supreme Court will not only agree to hear this case, but will also expedite other same-sex marriage cases to the highest state court and decide the many cases together. We will keep you updated on any new developments by the Supreme Court on this important family law issue.

If you have any type of family law matter, please do not hesitate to contact the office of Alan R. Burton for legal assistance today.

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Imagine the following scenario: A woman with a one-year-old daughter marries a man who is not the biological father of her child. The stepfather takes an active role in parenting the little girl and considers her to be his own child. The biological father does not play a significant role in his daughter’s life. After twelve years of marriage, the woman decides to get a divorce and wants to cut all ties with her former spouse. The stepfather wants to seek visitation rights of the child he has considered to be his own for many years.

With the constant blending of families in recent decades, a stepparent’s right to visitation with a stepchild is a common issue that arises in divorce cases. Many people seek legal advice asking the following question: Do I have visitation rights regarding my stepchild following a divorce? Unfortunately, in Florida, the short answer to this question is no. Florida is actually one of four states that provide no rights to stepparents for visitation or parenting following a divorce. Though a stepparent will not have any legal rights regarding stepchildren on which to fall back, there are certain steps that a person can take to have a better chance of preserving the ability to visit with stepchildren after a divorce.

Work for an Amicable Divorce

Just because a stepparent has no legal rights to visitation does not mean that the divorcing spouses can never agree to visitation on their own terms. There are many tools that allow couples to decide their own fate in divorce and leave the decision-making power out of the hands of a judge. If you work to keep the peace with your spouse and engage in positive problem-solving techniques such as mediation or cooperative divorce, there is a better chance your spouse will recognize your honest desire to continue a relationship with your stepchildren and will agree to visitation.

Consider an Adoption

If the biological parent is truly not in the parenting picture and is willing to give up parenting rights, you may be able to adopt your stepchild as your own during the course of the marriage. Once you adopt a child, you will have the full rights and responsibilities of a biological parent, including rights to visitation and shared custody following a divorce. Though stepparent adoption is not an option in every case, it is always an option worth pursuing to ensure you retain access to your stepchildren should your marriage relationship sour.

If you are a stepparent who wishes to make sure you preserve a relationship with your stepchildren should you face divorce, it is a good idea to explore your options well before marital problems start, if possible. If you wish to pursue an adoption or simply want advice for an amicable divorce, experienced Boca Raton family law attorney Alan R. Burton can help you. We work for creative family law solutions that are the best result for everyone involved, so please do not hesitate to contact our office for help today.

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Alcohol abuse on the part of a spouse or parent may often lead to divorce, custody battles, or other events that may lead you into family court. Alcohol abuse, however, may cause unique issues to develop in your family law case, and it is always important to have an attorney who understands the effect that alcohol-related allegations may have on your case and life in general. Whether you are alleging alcohol abuse on the part of your spouse or you have been accused of drinking too much yourself, such allegations will likely play a large role in the strategy and logistics of your case.

Domestic Abuse Cases

Alcohol abuse is often linked with instances of domestic abuse. If you believe that your partner’s alcohol abuse has placed you or your children in immediate risk of harm, an attorney may help you apply for a temporary order prohibiting your spouse or partner from contacting you or your children. An order may also issue you temporary possession of the family home and temporary custody of your kids until you can have a formal hearing. At a formal hearing, a family law attorney can help you present evidence of your partner’s alcohol abuse and resulting threats or physical harm.

Sometimes, people make false allegations of domestic abuse to start to get the upper hand in an upcoming custody battle. If you have been falsely accused of domestic abuse, you may be facing serious consequences such as losing access to your children or criminal sanctions. You should always seek the help of a lawyer if false domestic abuse allegations have been made.

Custody

If you believe that your spouse has an alcohol problem, you may argue that shared custody or even unsupervised visits are not in the best interests of your child. On the other hand, you may have a spouse who is trying to keep your children away from you by falsely alleging that you abuse alcohol. Either way, it is important to have an attorney representing you.

If your spouse abuses alcohol, an attorney can help you get a court order that he or she may not consume alcohol while in contact with your children. This can be done by requiring an alcohol monitoring system, such as a SCRAM bracelet, a portable device that tests your breath for traces of alcohol, or through regular urine tests. Conversely, if your spouse has accused you of alcohol abuse, you may demonstrate that you are not using alcohol by using SCRAM or other tests. Regular clean test results can be strong evidence to present to a court that your spouse is making false allegations of alcohol abuse and that your children are safe around you.

Alan R. Burton is an experienced family law attorney who is dedicated to helping Boca Raton residents protect the well-being of their families in divorce, custody, and abuse cases. Mr. Burton has experience handling cases involving alcohol abuse allegations or any other issues that may complicate your case. If you are experiencing any family law issues, do not hesitate to call our office today for assistance.

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In previous decades, divorcing spouses may have hired private detectives or other surveillance to catch their spouses in lies or questionable behavior. In recent years, however, such resources have become almost unnecessary since many Americans tend to broadcast nearly every detail of their lives online. Social networking sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, and more allow people to post statuses and photos that allow a look into their daily activities. Such posts can make it very easy for divorcing spouses to catch each other in lies or combat arguments made to the court.

No matter how often divorce attorneys warn clients to stay off social media, we are constantly surprised by how many people ignore this basic advice. Some clients believe their online activities are okay because they “defriended” or “blocked” their spouse. However, you likely still have some online contacts in common with your spouse, and those “friends” may always report information back to your spouse. Information online is widely discoverable, so it is always the best idea to stay off these sites or even suspend your profile until after your divorce is final. The following are some issues that social media posts may adversely affect in your divorce.

Spousal Support and Property Division

If your spouse has significantly greater earning capacity than you, you may likely want to seek a greater portion of the marital assets and property or spousal support. However, social media posts may belie your claims of financial hardship and need for support. Photos of you on vacation, at concerts, or even a simple “check-in” at an expensive restaurant may give your spouse ammunition to fight against any spousal support orders.

Child Custody

If you and your spouse are arguing about any custody or time-sharing issues, you never want to risk looking like an unfit parent. For example, if you post any status updates or pictures that may indicate you are participating in excessive use of alcohol, drugs, or other partying activities, your spouse may use those to try to demonstrate that you are not acting in the best interests of your children.

Additionally, even if you do not post your own photos, there is always the chance that a friend will tag you in a post or photo. Even associating with questionable people can cast doubt on your reputation and your ability to act as a fit parent and role model.

The Ability to Negotiate with Your Spouse

It is often very tempting to air dirty laundry on social media sites. When emotions are running high, people may post negative messages regarding their estranged or separated spouse. This may cause tensions to rise and can make your spouse less likely to want to work together to come to agreements in divorce. Such acrimonious relationships often lead to litigation and lengthy battles to decide even the smallest of issues in a divorce.

In short, it is always best to stay off social media sites during a divorce and never risk that something you post may be taken the wrong way. If you are considering divorce, experienced Boca Raton divorce attorney Alan R. Burton can assist you with every aspect of your case.

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When most people think of divorcing couples who own homes, they may likely think of the question: who will get the house? This question usually implies that one spouse or the other will remain in the family home, while the other spouse must find a new residence. However, there is another option that many spouses do not consider—that neither spouse will get the house.

If a couple cannot reach an agreement regarding who may stay in the home, the issue will have to be litigated in court. The court will look for a way to most equitably divide the property in accordance with Florida divorce law. Often, this may require the couple to sell the family home at fair market value, pay off the mortgage, and then divide the net proceeds equitably, if there are any.

Note that equitable distribution of property is not always 50/50 as the court considers many factors when deciding how to fairly divide property. For example, if one spouse had an affair, gambling problem, shopping addiction, or other factor that caused them to waste marital funds, the court may award that spouse significantly less proceeds for the home sale.

Selling the home may not always be preferable for divorcing spouses, especially if there are children who do not wish to be uprooted or if there will not be enough net proceeds for future down payments on separate properties. While a court will examine all of these circumstances, there is always a chance that the judge will order the sale of the family house in a Florida divorce even if it is against the wishes of the spouses.

The Importance of Working Towards Agreements in Divorce

Divorce can be complicated, especially if you and your spouse own a home or other substantial property. If you cannot agree on certain matters, such as who will remain living in the house, you risk leaving those decisions up to the divorce court. The decision by the court may not be the solution either of you preferred, so it is always better to negotiate and work together to agree on important matters. Working together may be difficult if your relationship has deteriorated beyond a certain point, and in such situations, an experienced divorce attorney can work to negotiate on your behalf.

An attorney will not let emotions cloud his judgment during the divorce process and is therefore able to focus on what is best for you. Spouses who have qualified attorneys often have a better chance of coming to agreements and avoiding litigation. This is usually preferable as litigation can be costly, time-consuming, stressful, and will often end up in a less desirable result—such as selling the home and dividing the profits.

Contact an Experienced Boca Raton Divorce Attorney for Assistance

Alan R. Burton is a highly experienced divorce attorney who has many resources to try to keep divorcing spouses out of court and come to agreements on their own. If you are facing divorce, contact our office today for help.

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Determining the requirement for and amount of child support and/or spousal support is an important part of many Florida divorces. The amount of income the paying spouse earns is highly important to these determinations, as it helps show their ability to pay a certain amount. Unfortunately, many soon-to-be former spouses use certain methods to lower the amount of income they earn or to misrepresent their earning power in order to avoid orders of high amounts of child or spousal support.
Specifically, many spouses develop “RAIDS,” a term commonly used in family law that stands for “Recently Acquired Income Deficiency Syndrome.” RAIDS occurs when a high-earning spouse suddenly reports a decrease in income, thereby expecting lower support requirements. Depending on their employment situation, spouses may have different methods of achieving this deceptive goal.

Salaried Spouses

The most common way for spouses receiving a salary or hourly wages to hide income is to suddenly decrease overtime hours. Regular overtime can substantially increase earning potential. If a spouse declines to work overtime for a period of time prior to a divorce, their paystubs will clearly reflect less income. Such spouses often return to their regular overtime hours and income immediately following a court ruling.
Salaried spouses may also renegotiate their contracts to temporarily receive some of their income as additional benefits, expense reimbursement, or some other form of compensation not readily identifiable as income on a paystub.

Commission-Paid Spouses

Spouses who work as salespeople and receive much or all of their income in the form of commissions may also develop RAIDS. This is often achieved in one of the following ways, among others:
· Not selling up to their full potential for a period of time;
· Continuing to make sales, but delaying the finalization of sales (and payment of commission) until after the divorce is final; and
· Having a fellow salesman take credit and receive commission for a sale, and then pay the spouse the commission in cash that you are unaware exists.

Self-Employed Spouses

It is perhaps easiest for self-employed spouses to significantly reduce or hide income. First, many self- employed individuals often transact in cash for at least some of their business deals, and they may easily hide this income by simply not reporting it to the IRS on their taxes. At that point, you may have to look to personal logbooks or other records of cash sales to prove that income. Additionally, self-employed individuals may substantially increase their business expenses, which works to lower their overall “income” on their tax returns.
These are only some examples of how spouses can use RAIDS to reduce the amount of support they are ordered to pay. An experienced Boca Raton family law attorney knows how to examine tax returns, pay statements, and other financial documents to identify RAIDS and make an argument to the court in favor of the child or spousal support that you truly deserve. If you are facing a divorce, do not hesitate to call the office of Alan R. Burton as soon as possible for assistance with your case.