July 24, 2014

Is Divorce More Expensive in Florida?

When you get divorced, your finances naturally take a hit. Not only does Florida law require you to equitably divide all of your hard-earned marital assets and property with your soon-to-be former spouse, but there are also many costs associated with getting the divorce itself finalized. There are ways to minimize the costs of divorce, however, and a qualified divorce attorney will advise you on how to do so.

Costs of Divorce in Florida

Media recently reported on the top ten states for the most expensive divorces--and Florida unfortunately fell in the number one spot. These rankings were solely based on the basic fee for filing a divorce petition in family court in every state, which in Florida is at least $409, depending on the particular court. You can compare this to the filing fee just to the north in Mississippi, which is a mere $52. Unfortunately, filing the petition usually only gets the divorce started, and there are typically many other costs you may face beyond that initial fee.

In addition to the basic court costs, you may also have to pay for attorney's fees, guardian ad litem costs, and much more. If any issues are contested in your divorce, fees for paperwork, negotiations, and court hearings can easily spiral out of control. It is estimated that an average divorce can easily cost $25,000--about the cost of an average wedding.

Ways to Save

The good news is that many divorcing couples in Florida are able to keep costs low with the guidance of an experienced divorce lawyer. First, you may qualify for a simplified dissolution of marriage. You attorney can advise you if you qualify and generally the following factors must apply:

· You both agree to end the marriage;
· You are not expecting a child together and have no minor children;
· You both agree on the division of property, assets, and debts;
· Neither of you are asking for alimony; and
· Both of you waive your right to a trial.

In a simplified dissolution, your attorney can provide guidance on the best way to divide your assets, so your best interests are still protected. He will also draw up a petition, which you both sign and present to a judge. All the judge has to do is approve the final order.

If you and your spouse do not qualify for a simplified dissolution because you disagree on issues in the divorce but you still want to avoid costly court hearings, you may want to try mediation. Mediation can help you reach an agreement on major issues so that you may then file for a simplified dissolution. Though you will have to pay mediation costs, it is much less expensive and less contentious than taking issues to court.

Alan Burton is a highly experienced Boca Raton divorce attorney who always strives for the best outcome for every client. Mr. Burton knows that divorce can be expensive, therefore it is important to keep costs low and resolve issues as quickly as possible. If you are facing divorce, please contact our office for help today.

July 21, 2014

How to Get a Marriage License in Boca Raton

When you get married, you likely want everything to be perfect. While many couples focus on every detail of the ceremony and reception, some fail to focus on the legal requirements and implications of a marriage. It is highly important to take all the proper steps prior to a marriage to ensure that your marriage is valid and legal. One such step is obtaining the proper marriage license.

How to Obtain a Marriage License

Though you must be a resident of Florida to get a divorce, you do not have to be a resident of Florida to get married in the state. In fact, many people have destination weddings in the area and should remember that, if they are getting married in Florida, they must apply for a marriage license in Florida and not in their state of residence.

If you are getting married in Boca Raton or anywhere in the area, you may apply for a license at any of the Palm Beach Clerk & Comptroller locations. Both you and your spouse-to-be must be present at the time of application. Each of you must identify yourself by providing one of the following:

· Passport;
· United States driver's license; or
· Other state or federal identification card.

If one or both parties are under the age of 18, they must also provide a birth certificate and a parental consent form. Additionally, the parents must be present with their own identification, which must match the name on the minor's birth certificate. For minors under age 16, they must also provide proof that they are the expectant parents or parents of a child.

Couples from outside of Florida have no waiting period and may receive their license immediately. Generally, Florida residents must wait three days to obtain a license, however this waiting period is not necessary if the couple shows proof that they attended a registered premarital course. All couples may also receive a discount on the marriage license fees if they show proof of completion of a premarital course.

It is imperative that you follow all of the marriage license guidelines prior to getting married, otherwise your marriage will not be recognized by the state of Florida--or by any state, for that matter. Not having a legally valid marriage can cause significant complications down the road, especially if you ever decide to get divorced. If you failed to get a marriage license and were never legally married, you will not be granted a divorce and the state laws regulating dissolution of marriage will not apply. This means you never legally had any marital property, and will not necessarily be entitled to equitable division of property. Additionally, you will not be eligible for any type of spousal support. These are only some complications that may occur if you do not have a valid marriage.

Contact an Attorney for Help

Experienced Boca Raton family law attorney Alan Burton handles all matters that relate to pre-marriage, marriage, divorce, and more. If you are planning to get married and have any questions or legal concerns, do not hesitate to contact our office for help at 888-341-5223 today.

July 18, 2014

Florida Awaits Another Marriage Ruling

Floridians took another step toward challenging the definition of marriage under the state constitution. Due to a constitutional amendment in 2008, the constitution currently states that marriage is defined as between one woman and one man, and that the Florida state government will not recognize marriages between two people of the same sex "for any purpose." This amendment has not only barred same-sex couples from legally marrying in Florida, but also has prohibited same-sex couples who were lawfully married in other states from obtaining benefits or getting divorced in Florida.

Several lawsuits have been filed across the state, challenging Florida's gay marriage ban, both in an attempt to marry and to get a divorce. A hearing was held on July 2, 2014 in one of the most recent cases to be heard, Pareto v. Ruvin.

Specifics of the Case

Pareto v. Ruvin is a lawsuit filed by the Equality Florida Institute and the National Center for Lesbian Rights on behalf of six same-sex couples residing in Florida. The plaintiffs filed a motion requesting the court to rule that the same-sex marriage ban violates citizens' rights to equal protection under the laws, and is therefore unconstitutional. Judge Sarah Zabel heard oral arguments from both sides at the July 2 hearing.

The defense argued that Floridians voted by 62 percent to amend the constitution, and that vote should be respected. The attorney for the plaintiffs countered by stating the vote is simply using a majority for oppression of a minority. He also pointed out that there are thousands of state laws from which same-sex couples may never benefit if their marriages are not recognized in the state. Such laws involve inheritances, health care, taxes, and much more. The plaintiffs' side also stated that this case is not about gay marriage, but instead about equality for all people.

The trend across the United States has been in favor of same-sex marriage. To date, 19 states and the District of Columbia recognize marriage for all couples. Additionally, lower courts in the following states have ruled a gay marriage ban unconstitutional and are in the appeals process: Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin, and Virginia. Depending on Judge Zabel's ruling, Florida could be the next state to join the trend toward marriage equality. The ruling is not expected for weeks or months, and even if Judge Zabel rules in favor of the plaintiffs, the decision will still have to get through the Third District Court of Appeals, the Florida Supreme Court, and even possibly the Supreme Court of the United States.

A Boca Raton Family Lawyer Can Help

If Florida courts do, in fact, overturn the ban on same-sex marriage, the decision will affect the application of countless laws in the state. Same-sex couples will likely have many questions and require assistance regarding issues such as marriage, children, benefits, and divorce. Experienced Boca Raton family law attorney Alan Burton stays aware of all changes in the law and can help anyone facing family issues. Whether you have a case or simply a question, do not hesitate to contact our office today.

July 15, 2014

What Happens to Your House in a Divorce?

Going through a divorce is almost always an extremely difficult process. Often, people going through the breakdown of a marriage may have significant uncertainty about the most important aspects of their lives. Divorce can have significant financial implications for both parties, as you must divide the property and assets you have worked so hard to accumulate. Florida law requires the equitable division of all marital property, which includes most of the assets or debts that are acquired during a marriage. Because of the potentially serious financial consequences associated with ending a marriage and property division, it is important for anyone considering or already involved in a divorce to discuss their situation with an experienced Boca Raton divorce attorney.

Division of a Home in a Divorce

For many people, a home is the largest purchase they will make in their lifetime. When a home is purchased after a couple has gotten married, Florida law treats the home as marital property, regardless of whether the home is titled to one or both spouses. In addition, there are certain situations in which a home purchased prior to a marriage may convert from separate to marital property, making it part of any division of property that may occur in a divorce proceeding.

As marital property, the value of a couple's home will be split equitably between the parties. Of course, there is no way to literally split the home in two, so there are many options that a couple or a court may consider when dividing the value of real estate that is marital property. Some of the most common options include:

· Liquidation - The parties could agree to sell the home and each take their equitable share of the proceeds. The challenge to this option is that selling a house can sometimes take months or years, so the parties may have to work together and pay the mortgage until a sale is complete.
· One party buys out the other - Another option involves one party purchasing the other's share by providing the other party with cash or other assets equivalent to their share in the home. If the party keeping the home does not have the immediate capital necessary to buy out the other's share, they may agree to a structured settlement or other monthly payment plan, which also provides additional support for the spouse giving up ownership of the house.
· Offset the value of the home with other marital property - With this option, one party keeps the house and the other gives up ownership, but instead of one spouse buying out the other with cash, they can agree to give up other property in exchange for the house. For example, if one spouse gets the house, the other may keep all of the investments.

Many factors may be relevant in deciding what to do with the family home. For example, it may be preferable to keep children in the home. Experienced Boca Raton divorce lawyer Alan Burton can help you make the best decision for you regarding your home and any other issues in a divorce; contact our office today for help.

July 10, 2014

Domestic Violence Injunctions in Boca Raton

Few things are more frightening than violence or the threat of violence against you or your children. When that violence or threat comes from a spouse or member of your family, you may be even more afraid and not know how to protect yourself and your family. Fortunately, Florida law provides protections for residents who are victims of domestic violence in an attempt to keep them safe from their volatile family member. This protection comes in the form of an Injunction for Protection, and is often referred to as an order of protection or a restraining order.

What exactly is domestic violence?

Before you apply for an Injunction, you should be aware of the law's definition of domestic violence. Florida law defines domestic violence as any of the following actions against a family or other household member:

· Assault
· Battery
· Sexual assault
· Stalking
· Kidnapping
· Any criminal offense resulting in injury
· Aggravated assault
· Aggravated battery
· Sexual battery
· Aggravated stalking
· False imprisonment
· Any criminal offense resulting in death

The law also defines "family or household member" as any of the following:

· Spouses or former spouses;
· Two people related by marriage or blood;
· People living together as a family, or who previously lived together as a family in a
single housing unit; or
· Parents of the same child, whether they are married, divorced, or were never

If you have suffered any of the above actions, or have a reasonable fear that you are in immediate danger of one of the above actions by a family or household member as described above, you may file a petition for an Injunction for Protection with the court. You do not have to be seeking a separation or divorce or criminal charges against the spouse of family member to qualify for court protection. A judge may award a temporary Injunction without the presence of the other party if the judge deems it necessary.

A temporary Injunction prohibits the offender from any further acts or threats of violence against you, may order them to leave if you share a residence, can prohibit them from showing up at your home, work, or school, and can also award you temporary custody of any minor children who may be involved. Your immediate Injunction is only temporary, however, and in order to obtain a final Injunction, you will have to attend a full hearing in front of a judge. The other party will be able to present their own case against an injunction at this hearing, so it is always important that you have the assistance of an attorney.

If you have been the victim of domestic violence, your first move should call the police or otherwise make sure you and your children are safe. However, your next step should be to contact the Boca Raton law office of domestic violence attorney Alan R. Burton. Mr. Burton can help domestic violence victims obtain an Injunction for Protection and can help to enforce that Injunction to ensure you and your children are safe from harm. Dealing with domestic violence can be difficult, but you do not have to face the issue alone. Call dedicated attorney Alan Burton today for help.

July 7, 2014

The Role of Vocational Experts in Divorce

When you are facing a divorce, it is always important to have a skilled, experienced attorney handling your case. In addition to knowing the rules and procedures of family courts, a qualified attorney has many resources that may help you get a favorable outcome in your divorce. One such resource is a vocational expert.

What is a vocational expert?

A vocational expert is a professional who studies which skills are most in demand in the current job market and, additionally, how much income a person should potentially be able to earn with those skills in certain careers. A vocational expert will examine an individual's education level, professional experience, interests, abilities, and other factors and compare those with others in the job market. As a result, these experts can estimate for which jobs a person may qualify and how much money that person may expect to earn.

How does a vocational expert help in divorce?

When a person is facing divorce, there are several ways a vocational expert may help. First, if you are seeking alimony, your spouse may insist that you do not need support. Even if you have been staying at home for years, a spouse may assert that you are qualified for a career with a large income and therefore can fully support yourself. A vocational expert can give an objective opinion on your chances of securing work in the current employment market and the kind of income you may expect to receive. This evidence can help show the court that you will need spousal support to pay the bills, at least for a certain period of time.

Additionally, your spouse may attempt to avoid paying spousal or child support by suddenly reporting a significant decrease in income. It is not unheard of for a high-earning spouse to actually resign from a position and take a lower-paying job to try to influence the court to order less child support or alimony. A vocational expert can examine your spouse's true earning potential based on available jobs and your spouse's qualifications and report their findings to the court. This can help expose any devious tactics your spouse may be using to avoid paying the true amount of support you deserve.

Finally, if your spouse reports a change in circumstances post-divorce that may modify court-ordered child or spousal support, a vocational expert may analyze the situation and determine whether there was truly a necessary change of circumstances. Additionally, if you have suffered a change in circumstances that renders you unable to pay court-ordered support, a vocational expert can corroborate the fact that your circumstances have truly changed due to illness, injury, or other factors that may affect employability.

If you believe you are on the brink of divorce, your first call should be to the Boca Raton office of Alan R. Burton. Mr. Burton provides the highest quality of representation for divorces and all family law matters and works to ensure that every client receives the best possible outcome. Do not hesitate to call our office for assistance today.

July 3, 2014

Common Terms You May Hear in Family Law Cases

Family law is an area of the law unlike any other. Florida has very specific laws dealing with matters of the family, including dissolution of marriage, child custody, child support, and more. Family courts also have their own rules and procedures that may be different from regular civil courts. For these reasons, issues involving your marriage or children require special attention from an attorney who has extensive experience with such cases.

Florida family laws cover a wide range of topics and set out specific provisions for the handling of family matters by the courts. Therefore, the vocabulary regarding family law cases is very specific, and may include numerous terms with which most people may be unfamiliar. The following are just a few common terms that you may hear throughout your family law case, as well as a brief explanation of their meanings.

Abandonment: A term that refers to when one party has deserted their spouse and children and has failed to provide support or to have a substantial or meaningful relationship with them.

Alimony: Another term for spousal support or maintenance following a divorce. Under certain circumstances, a court may order one of four types of alimony--bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, durational, or permanent.

Arbitration: The process in which a neutral third party acts as a private judge to rule on a divorce agreement out of court. An arbitration agreement is legally binding with limited exceptions.

Collaborative law: Divorcing spouses and their attorneys agree in advance not to take the case to court and work together to come to an agreement. If the case does go to litigation, each party must find a new attorney.

Contested divorce: A divorce in which the parties cannot agree on one or more provisions of the divorce agreement, including custody, property division, support, and more.

Ex-Parte: A divorce proceeding that can take place, under limited circumstances, with only one of the spouses involved.

Guardian Ad Litem: A person a court may appoint to advocate for a child's best interests in custody or support proceedings.

Mediation: A process using an impartial third party who is trained to assist parties in negotiating a divorce agreement without having to litigate.

No-Fault Divorce: Type of divorce in Florida in which a spouse does not have to allege that the other party did something wrong, such as adultery.

Parenting Plan: A plan the court approves that details how each parent will share and be responsible for the daily upbringing of the child, including visitation schedules.

Petition: The document filed with the court requesting the dissolution of your marriage.

Prenuptial Agreement: A contract drafted and signed before marriage that set out provisions should the couple get divorced.

Restraining Order: A court order that can protect a victim of domestic violence and their children from contact with the abuser.

Uncontested Divorce: A divorce in which both spouses agree on all terms of the divorce agreement without requiring litigation, mediation, or other negotiations.

These are only some of the terms that you may hear in family law matters. If you have any type of family issue or questions regarding the law, contact experienced Boca Raton and Fort Lauderdale family lawyer Alan R. Burton for help today.

June 30, 2014

How Does Divorce Affect Social Security Benefits?

Everyone in the United States should be planning for retirement to ensure they can support themselves after they leave the workforce. No matter how carefully you plan, there may always be events or factors that throw your plan off course. One such event is a divorce, especially if you and your former spouse planned for retirement together. If you have divorced, you may worry that you will lose all benefits associated with your former spouse's Social Security. Fortunately, this is not always the case, as the Social Security Administration lets you collect under your former spouse's Social Security record as long as certain criteria are met.

Receiving Social Security Benefits as a Former Spouse

The amount of Social Security benefits to which you are entitled upon retirement is based on your record of employment during your working life. The more you paid into Social Security via paychecks, the higher your benefits may be. In marriages where one spouse worked significantly more than the other, the spouse who stayed home is entitled to receive benefits based on their spouse's work record. A spouse may receive 50 percent of the benefits to which the working spouse is entitled.

If you were counting on a spouse's work record to receive Social Security benefits, yet then you divorced, you may worry that you are no longer eligible for those benefits. The good news is that you may still be eligible, whether or not your former spouse has remarried, as long as the following criteria apply:

· You are at least 62 years of age;
· You were married for at least 10 years to your former spouse;
· You have not remarried, or any subsequent marriage ended in annulment, divorce, or death. If you had more than one marriage end, you may receive benefits on the record of one of those former spouses, but not both;
· Your former spouse qualifies for either retirement or disability benefits from Social Security;
· The benefits you would receive based on your former spouse's employment record are higher than the amount you would receive based on your own work record;
· If your former spouse is qualified to receive benefits but has not yet applied to do so, you may apply for benefits on their record two years after the date of divorce; and
· If you apply for benefits on a former spouse's record while you are still working or before you are at full retirement age, a limit will be placed on the benefits you receive.

An experienced divorce lawyer can assist you in figuring out whether it is in your best interest to apply for benefits under your former spouse's record.

Contact a Family Law Attorney in Boca Raton or Fort Lauderdale for Help

If you have any questions or concerns regarding retirement benefits or any other issue related to divorce or family law, experienced Florida attorney Alan R. Burton can help you. At our office, we handle a wide array of family law cases and strive to achieve the very best results possible for each of our clients. Do not hesitate to call us today to schedule a free consultation.

June 26, 2014

Florida Attorney General Speaks Out Against Marriage Equality

Marriage equality has been a hot topic in Florida ever since a same-sex couple requested that a Florida family court approve their agreed-upon divorce settlement. The couple had been legally and validly married in Massachusetts, however moved to Florida shortly thereafter. You must file for divorce in the state in which you are a resident, so they filed for divorce in Florida.

Florida, however, has a constitutional provision that only recognizes marriage as between a man and a woman. Because the state does not recognize that a same-sex marriage exists, the court decided there was no marriage to dissolve and therefore refused to grant them a divorce. They would be unable to file for divorce in Massachusetts unless one of them moved back there for at least one year, an option the couple states is impossible because of professional obligations.

The couple is appealing the decision and the Florida Supreme Court will examine the issue, as well as the validity of the constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

Arguments in the Case

Pam Bondi is the Attorney General for the state of Florida and is defending the state's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in the case. Bondi has argued that recognizing same-sex marriages from other states would be disruptive and that it would "impose significant public harm." Specifically, Bondi has indicated that same-sex couples do not provide the same stability or enduring family units. Ironically, Bondi herself has been divorced two times and is currently on her third marriage.

LGBT rights groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Safeguarding American Values for Everyone (SAVE) have criticized Bondi for her illogical and false arguments regarding the link between same-sex marriage and unstable households for children. SAVE called her reasoning nothing but "discriminatory rhetoric" and not a valid legal argument. Instead, the couple's attorney and rights activists have pointed out that many same-sex couples raise biological children of at least one of the spouses, so procreation is not a persuasive reason to prohibit same-sex marriage.

Bondi also argues that recognizing same-sex marriages from other states would cause problems for the state's pension and health insurance programs. However, human rights groups counter that the harm to same-sex couples who are denied such benefits far outweighs the inconvenience to the state of adapting its systems.

Courts in numerous states are questioning existing bans and limits on same-sex marriage in recent months. Federal judges in Ohio and Kentucky recently ordered that out-of-state same-sex marriages should be recognized within the states, and a federal appeals court will be ruling on a number of gay marriage cases.

As the decisions involving same-sex marriage keep coming both in Florida and across the United States, the scope of family laws will likely change significantly, bringing numerous issues related to same-sex marriage into the courts.

Alan Burton is an experienced family law attorney who stays up to date on all changes in the law and knows how to handle a wide variety of family-related cases. If you have any type of family law concern, contact our office for help today.

June 24, 2014

Divorced Parents Fight Over Child's Ashes

Property division is often a sensitive topic in a divorce. Couples tend to treasure their hard-earned assets and property and, in many cases, property division causes significant conflict in divorce cases. Also, property division determinations are unique in each divorce case as couples will never have the exact same property as other couples. Therefore, the details of each individual case are very important and a decision should be tailored specifically for that particular couple.

Couple Repeatedly Back in Court

William and Lili Wilson divorced in 2007 in Florida. The divorce was very adversarial, with the couple fighting over nearly every piece of property, including baseball cards. However, their divorce was only the first in a line of dramatic and traumatic events that would lead them back into the courtroom again and again.

In 2010, their 23-year-old son, Scott, was driving when an impaired driver slammed into his car, causing it to tumble into a canal. The drunk driver was a billionaire who walked home and failed to call 911 for an hour, all while Scott drowned in the canal. First, the parents brought a wrongful death claim against the billionaire in civil court and split the $46 million award evenly between the two of them.

Next, the drunk driver faced a criminal trial, after which he was sentenced to 16 years in prison. However, a juror published a book shortly after the trial, in which he admits to misconduct that involved drinking the same number of drinks as the driver allegedly had to see if the driver had actually been impaired. Now, the driver is on house arrest while he waits for a new trial, scheduled for later this year.

Fight Over the Remains

After all of that, William and Lili Wilson are back in court again, this time arguing over who gets to have control over and choose where to bury their son's cremated remains. Lili wants to bury his remains in Florida, while William wants him to be buried in a family plot in Georgia that already has his son's name on the headstone, and simply needs the dates of death filled in.

William was willing to divide the ashes, and asked the court to declare the remains "property" that could be divided evenly between the two. However, his former wife did not want to divide the ashes due to religious beliefs. A Florida appeals court decided that human remains cannot be considered assets or property and, therefore, would not divide the ashes. A lower court is expected to make a final decision on the matter on where the remains will finally come to rest.

Contact a Boca Raton or Ft. Lauderdale Family Law Firm Today

As you can see, some divorces can get very complicated and couples may face issues stemming from their split for years afterward, especially if there are children involved. If you have any type of concerns involving divorce, property division, child custody, or any other family law issues, do not hesitate to contact the office of experienced attorney Alan Burton for assistance today.

June 17, 2014

Students Loans and Divorce

In recent years, the subject of ever-increasing student loan debt among the young people of the United States has been the focus of many conversations, news articles, and debates. The Institute for College Access and Success reported that for the college graduating class of 2012, approximately 70% of students had borrowed money to help pay for their educational costs, and the average debt per borrower was $29,700. If two spouses each have student loan debt, that debt can become a huge factor in their financial success and also in the case of divorce.

Many couples ask the question: Who is responsible for student loan debt after a divorce? The answer to this question is not always simple and depends on the circumstances of each individual case. There are several factors to examine in order to determine what will happen to student loan debt.

When was the debt incurred?

If two people each enter into a marriage with student loan debt they took on prior to the marriage, that debt will usually be deemed separate and each spouse will be held responsible for only their respective loans.

If the student loan debt was incurred during the marriage in only one spouse's name, the loans may be seen as marital or separate property depending on other circumstances. Even though most debt incurred during a marriage is seen as marital debt, if a student loan only benefitted one spouse, the court may rule that spouse is solely responsible for paying it back.

The situation becomes more complicated if both spouses signed for the loans. For instance, imagine a husband and wife co-signed student loans for the husband's degree. During divorce negotiations, they agree that the husband will be solely responsible for making his own student loan payments. However, the husband does not have enough income to qualify for a refinance of the loans in only his name. Therefore, even though the divorce settlement states the loans are only his responsibility, the former wife's name remains on the loans even after the marriage has been completely dissolved. In many cases, the former spouse's name will remain on the loans for the life of the loan.

If the former husband defaults on his loans, the student loan company can still try to come after the former wife for the payment of the loans. Any negative payment information will also bring her credit score down, and challenging negative marks on your credit can be very challenging, even with a divorce decree that states the loans were not your responsibility. As you can see, the issue of student loans in divorce can be complicated and you always want to have representation by an experienced lawyer.

Call Experienced Divorce Attorney Alan R. Burton Today

If you are facing divorce in the Boca Raton or Fort Lauderdale areas, you should contact Alan R. Burton for assistance as soon as possible. Mr. Burton has extensive experience handling all aspects of divorce cases, especially the financial issues. He provides the highest quality of representation and will work to make sure you receive the best possible outcome in your divorce case. Contact our office today to schedule your free initial consultation.

June 13, 2014

The Benefits of No-Fault Divorce

In the past, a court would only grant a divorce if one spouse showed "grounds" for the divorce. Grounds meant that the other spouse did something wrong and was at fault for the breakdown of the marriage. Traditionally, grounds may have included emotional or physical abuse, adultery, abandonment or desertion, mental illness, imprisonment, and more. In order for a judge to allow the divorce, the spouse seeking divorce would have to allege certain grounds and then would have to adequately prove those grounds in court.

As you can imagine, proving serious wrongdoing on the part of the other spouse could be difficult and expensive. For example, if you believed your spouse had been unfaithful, you would have to be able to prove it to a certain degree. This proof could come in the form of witness testimony or physical evidence, both of which could be difficult to obtain. People often had to hire private investigators to spy on their spouses to gain the evidence they need. If witnesses were used, the matter could easily become an acrimonious he-said, she-said situation in which each spouse tried to discredit the other on by airing all of their dirty laundry. This only caused tension to rise between the spouses even more, and that tension would often make it even more challenging to successfully negotiate a divorce agreement.

No-Fault Divorces

Fortunately, fault-based divorces are a thing of the past in Florida. Now, the Florida Dissolution of Marriage law only requires that one spouse claim one of the following:

· The marriage is irretrievably broken; or
· One of the spouses is mentally incapacitated and has been so for at least three years.

Using the general "irretrievably broken" instead of specific wrongdoing as grounds has several benefits for divorcing couples in Florida. First, it limits the time and money necessary to complete a divorce within the state. Additionally, it allows a victim of domestic abuse to get out of their marriage more easily than if they had to prove fault. In many situations, no-fault divorces also tend to make the entire divorce process less acrimonious, as the spouses are not necessarily pointing blame at the other.

However, tensions can soar even in no-fault divorces. Though grounds are no longer necessary, the parties can still try to hide assets, make false accusations to try to get full custody of children, and more.

Contact a Boca Raton and Fort Lauderdale Divorce Attorney for Help

Though no-fault divorces may often be less complicated than the previous fault divorce system, that does not mean that a Florida divorce will necessarily be simple. In fact, many complex issues may arise, especially if you have children or a substantial amount of property. You should always have an experienced Florida divorce lawyer handling your case so you do not risk an unfavorable result in your divorce settlement and to make sure you comply with all court rules and procedures. Do not hesitate to contact Alan R. Burton, Attorney at Law today for assistance with all of your family law needs.

June 10, 2014

High Risk in High Asset Divorces

Property division is one of the main issues to settle in most divorces. If a couple does not own a home or have much money saved, property division determinations may be relatively simple. However, the stakes get significantly higher for couples who have a high net worth, and division of property may be extremely complicated with both sides fighting for a substantial piece of the marital wealth. Many couples earned their wealth after marriage, so they do not have a prenuptial agreement in place to predetermine property division. If you believe you may be facing a high net worth divorce, you should always have a divorce attorney who has experience in this type of case on your side.

Russian Tycoon Fights to Keep Fortune

Dmitry Rybolovlev is a fertilizer tycoon who has been involved in an adversarial divorce for about six years, which has been commonly referred to as the most expensive divorce in history to date. A Geneva court recently awarded his estranged wife a $4.5 billion divorce settlement. Rybolovlev plans to appeal the ruling, and his attorney expects the case to drag on potentially for another decade. However, when billions of dollars are at stake, one can hardly blame Rybolovlev for fighting the ruling.

Huge Settlements in the United States

Though that ruling took place outside of the United States, the U.S. has seen some seemingly astronomical divorce settlements. The following are some of the highest settlements reported:

· Frank McCourt, owner of the LA Dodgers--$131 million
· Neil Diamond--$150 million
· Michael Jordan--$168 million
· Arnold Schwarzenegger--rumored between $250-$375 million
· Mel Gibson--$425 million
· Steve Wynn--$741 million
· Rupert Murdoch--$1.7 billion

Issues in High Net Worth Divorces

Couples with a high net worth often have a wide variety of assets and property, which must all be identified and properly divided. Some types of assets at issue in high stakes divorces include the following:

· Real property, such as a primary residence, vacation houses, and residential and commercial investment properties;
· Personal property, including all types of motor vehicles, recreational vehicles, collections of art or antiques, jewelry, furniture, among many other things;
· Personal bank accounts;
· Retirement accounts, vested or unvested;
· Investments, including international investments;
· Business entities, including all business accounts, assets, and properties; and
· Stocks or stock options.

Determining the value of all of a wealthy couple's assets can be extremely complicated, as the couple may have international accounts, properties, businesses, and investments across the world. Additionally, one spouse may deceitfully try to hide assets in offshore accounts or conceal certain sources of income from federal tax returns in order to avoid division of that property. For this reason, you should always seek out the assistance of an experienced divorce attorney who can use financial experts to fully identify all marital assets to ensure equitable distribution.

Contact a Divorce Lawyer in Boca Raton or Ft. Lauderdale

Attorney Alan Burton has experience handling all types of divorce cases, including those where significant assets are at stake. Do not hesitate to contact our offices in Boca Raton and Ft. Lauderdale for assistance with your divorce today.

June 6, 2014

Missing Girl, Mother Reunited after more than 4 Years

In a happy ending to a story that ends badly all too often, a Florida girl was reunited with her mother after being missing for more than 4 years. According to a report published by CNN, Cara Cox was 8 years old when she was taken by her father during a scheduled visit per a court-imposed custody order in August of 2009. While her mother, Jodie Borchert, had full custody, her father had weekend visitation rights. Her father was supposed to drop Cara off at a daycare in Volusia County, Florida, but instead vanished with his daughter. While Cara's mother continued to hold out hope, authorities had no leads and the case went cold for nearly 5 years.

Bochert continued to search for her child, even employing the wide reach of social media by creating a Facebook page titled "Have you Seen Cara Cox?" On that page she shared several photos of Cara and Cara's father, including sharing an age-progressed photo of what Cara may look like today on Mother's Day of this year. The following day, a tip came in to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children indicating that Cara and her father were residing in a remote area in Hidalgo, Mexico, about two hours outside of Mexico City. A few days later, U.S. authorities went to the residence and arrested Cara's father and extradited him to Florida. He will be returned to Volusia County, where the initial abduction took place, and federal authorities are exploring whether any federal criminal actions could also be filed.

Florida Visitation Arrangements

Custody and visitation arrangements are a common facet of divorce proceedings when children are involved. In addition, non-married parents may also establish these types of arrangements through the family court system, provided that paternity is established. While in many cases these arrangements are honored and both parties comply with their terms, sometimes they are not, potentially resulting in serious consequences. Courts take into account the best interests of the child or children when deciding child custody issues, and also have the ability to modify their orders should circumstances change.

While the case of Cara Cox is an extreme example, these things can happen, and children and parents can both suffer as a result. The early intervention of an attorney in a child custody case can ensure that both parents' interests are adequately represented, potentially avoiding an acrimonious situation at a later date. Additionally, these situations rarely occur spontaneously and without warning signs, and an attorney can help obtain a temporary modification or a restraining order, should the circumstances warrant it.

Contact a Ft. Lauderdale Family Law Attorney

Anyone with a child custody or other family law issue should discuss their situation with an experienced Boca Raton family law attorney as soon as possible. With over 30 years of experience practicing in family law, attorney Alan Burton has the skill and experience required to bring your case or issue to a successful resolution. To schedule a free consultation with Mr. Burton, call our office today at 888-341-5223. To send us an email, please fill out and submit the contact form on the right side of this page.

June 4, 2014

Florida Representative Seeking Annulment

Earlier this year, Florida Representative Alan Grayson was accused by his wife of domestic assault, specifically pushing her against a door. Shortly afterward, Grayson revealed a video of the incident that showed his wife was the one who escalated the domestic altercation, and she took back her allegations. Now, Grayson has filed his own court documents with some interesting accusations against his wife.

Aside from alleging abuse, libel, and slander stemming from the domestic incident, Grayson seeks to end their marriage after 24 years by requesting an annulment. Grayson accuses his wife of bigamy, which means being married to more than one person at one time. Grayson claims that his wife was secretly married to another person but told him she was single at the time of their marriage. Court documents state that she did not get a divorce from her first husband until several years after she married Grayson.

Reasons for Annulments

Some people seek to end a marriage simply because they no longer get along, while others may have more serious reasons. As we have previously discussed on this blog, some of these serious reasons may lead the court to grant an annulment instead of simply a divorce. An annulment does not simply end a marriage, but renders the entire marriage null and void. An annulment works retroactively, as well, so once it is granted, it is as if the marriage had never occurred.

Some reasons why an annulment may be granted include:

· Bigamy;
· Incest;
· Fraud;
· Coercion;
· One or both parties is under age 18; or
· One or both parties otherwise lacked the capacity to marry.

Bigamy in Florida

A person lacks the capacity to marry if they are currently married to another individual. Being knowingly married to two different individuals at the same time is not only grounds for an annulment, but it is also against the law in Florida.

Bigamy is a criminal offense, which may be charged as a third degree felony and may be punishable by up to five years in Florida state prison. People convicted of bigamy may also face probation, significant fines, and other consequences. However, the crime of bigamy must be prosecuted while the person is still married to two people. Therefore, if Grayson's wife was actually divorced from her first husband years ago, she will not face criminal charges.

If the court discovers that Alan Grayson's allegations are true, it may grant him an annulment. Grayson also seeks full custody of his five children and more than $15,000 in damages.

Contact a Florida Family Law Attorney for Assistance

No matter what type of issues may arise in your divorce, experienced divorce attorney Alan R. Burton can assist you with every aspect of your case. He knows how to address serious concerns and claims such as bigamy or fraud, and to get you the best outcome possible in your divorce case despite any negative claims against you. If you are thinking about divorce in Boca Raton or Ft. Lauderdale, contact our office today as soon as possible for help.