Boca Raton Divorce Lawyer Blog
Boca Raton Divorce Lawyer Blog
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Situations change and individuals can go through unexpected periods of financial downturn. Losing your job, having a medical emergency in your household, and many other similar events can make it difficult to cover your bills. In such times, you may also struggle to make your court-ordered child support payments.

The court orders a certain amount of child support based on your situation at the time of the ruling, and the courts do not attempt to anticipate your future financial circumstances. Therefore, if you lose income or your other expenses increase, it is understandable that paying child support may become challenging or even impossible in the future. Unfortunately, failing to pay child support can have serious consequences in Florida, but you have legal options to try to make your child support more manageable to avoid these consequences.

Possible Actions Against You

The Florida Department of Revenue has a Child Support Enforcement team that can take various actions if you are not making your payments on time. This department can take the following actions against you:

  • Wage or bank account garnishments
  • Suspension of your driver’s license
  • Suspension of a professional or business license
  • Interception of your tax refund
  • Interception of any lottery winnings over $600
  • Withholding of a certain amount from worker’s compensation or unemployment benefits
  • Liens on your personal property
  • Reporting the late payments to your credit bureau
  • Disallowing you from receiving a passport
  • Requesting that the civil court enforces the order and hold you in contempt if you do not comply
  • Seeking assistance from the Office of the Inspector General to impose fines and/or jail time

Child Support Modifications

Fortunately, you have other options when you cannot pay your child support than simply facing the above consequences. If you have had a substantial change in circumstances, Florida law allows you to petition to court to modify the amount of support ordered in light of the change. This will require you and the other parent to go back into court, however, and the other parent will have the opportunity to argue that the support should not be lowered. Additionally, you should note that, if you have quit your job or are underemployed by your own choice, the court will likely not approve a modification. However, if your new circumstances are beyond your control, you will likely be eligible for a modification so that you can resume making payments.

Call an Experienced Boca Raton Child Support Attorney to Discuss Your Situation

If you realize that you cannot afford to pay your full child support payments, you should never simply stop paying and ignore the situation, as that can result in serious, often irreversible consequences. Instead, your first call should be to a qualified family lawyer who can help you explore your options for making your payments more manageable. Attorney Alan R. Burton in Boca Raton understands Florida laws and how to best apply them to your situation to protect your best interests. Please call our office for assistance at 954-229-1660 to learn how we can assist you.

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Child custody is often a complex and hotly contested issue in family law cases. In many situations, parents involved in a custody case are getting divorced or ending a dating relationship and, too often, one parent may want to limit the custody of the other. One parent may allege that the other engages in misconduct or is otherwise unfit to parent the child. Though Florida law presumes that joint custody and relationships with both parents is preferable, the courts will look into such allegations to ensure that the custody determination is truly in the best interests of the child. In these situations, the court may order a custody evaluation.

Custody evaluations involve the appointment of a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) to protect the rights and best interests of the child. A forensic psychologist may also be appointed to help evaluate the situation. These professionals are expected to remain impartial regarding the two parents and focus solely on what type of custody arrangement may be best for the child.

An evaluation may include the following depending on the particular situation:

  • Interviews with the child
  • Interviews with each parent
  • Observing the way the child interacts with each parent
  • Interviewing doctors, teachers, or others who may help shed light on the parent-child relationships
  • Psychological testing
  • Alcohol and drug evaluations

When the evaluators feel they have gathered enough information to issue a recommendation, they turn a report in to the court.

Custody evaluators can take many different factors into consideration when making their recommendations, including each parent’s background, approach to parenting, opinions of the other parent, position, mental health status, as well as any incidences or accusations of domestic abuse or alienation of affection. They can also recommend that one or both parents attend parenting courses or therapy sessions as part of the arrangement.

Consult With an Attorney Before Your Evaluation

It is only natural that you will be nervous and stressed going into any evaluation interviews. However, there are certain things you should remember in order to receive the most favorable custody determination possible. An experienced family law attorney who understands how the Florida family courts handle custody evaluations can help prepare you for your interviews or meetings. A lawyer can advise you of common questions so that you are not surprised in the interview and inadvertently make a comment that can hurt your case.

Contact a Boca Raton Family Law Attorney for Assistance as Soon as Possible

Custody determinations are extremely important as they often directly affect your ability to develop and maintain a lasting relationship with your child. For this reason, you never want to go into a custody evaluation unprepared. Experienced family lawyer Alan R. Burton has helped numerous parents obtain positive custody arrangements that work for them and their children. Mr. Burton can also handle all other aspects of your divorce or family law case. If you are facing a divorce or custody case, you should not delay in calling our Boca Raton office at 954-229-1660 for help today.

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German media recently reported a story regarding an angry husband who decided to take the division of property into his own hands following a split with his wife of 12 years. The man posted a video on Youtube that showed him taking a chainsaw to many of his and his wife’s possessions and literally cutting them in half. The video shows the resulting half of a bicycle, a couch, a bed, a laptop, an iPhone, a teddy bear, and even their car. The husband claims he sent one set of halves to his wife and posted his own set on eBay.

While this husband’s video entertained millions of viewers and his actions garnered international attention, pulling such a stunt is not advisable in the face of divorce from a financial and legal standpoint. In fact, in a Florida divorce case, that husband would likely face financial consequences for destroying marital property in such a manner.

Property Division in Accordance with Florida Law

Florida law mandates that division of all marital property must be equitable. Equitable does not mean equal (and especially does not mean cutting everything directly in half), but instead means that the division should be fair. What is fair will depend on many factors including the nature of the property, the length of the marriage, contributions to the household, and much more.

Many angry spouses may have the desire to destroy some of their marital property simply to keep their spouses from having it. This can include spending lavish amounts of money or physically destroying personal property. However, courts will take such behavior into consideration when making other determinations regarding the divorce case. For example, if you waste money or property, a court may award your spouse more of the remaining property to make up for it. Courts may also award your spouse additional alimony due to your wrongdoing. Furthermore, vengefully destroying property can also affect how a court views your character when making custody determinations. The court can also take into account whether you seem to be uncooperative in the divorce process when deciding what is fair and equitable.

In short, while sawing your property in half may make for an entertaining viral video, it will likely cause difficulty in your divorce case. It is always important to consult with an experienced divorce lawyer before taking any action regarding your property, especially before doing anything dramatic or impulsive that may affect your case.

An Experienced Boca Raton Divorce Attorney Can Help You

One of the main functions of a qualified divorce attorney is to advise you on what to do and what not to do throughout the course of your divorce case. A Boca Raton divorce lawyer will be able to provide an objective point of view with Florida’s divorce laws in mind to ensure you receive the most favorable outcome possible. If you are facing divorce or want to discuss any matter involving family law, call the law office of Alan R. Burton at 954-229-1660 for assistance today.

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On June 11, 2015, Governor Rick Scott signed the bill that will remove the language banning gay couples from adopting children from Florida law. Though a judge for the 3rd District Court of Appeal in Miami ruled that the ban was unconstitutional and state officials stopped actively enforcing the ban in 2010, the language remained codified in Florida law. Florida was the only state in the U.S. to have such a ban and, though removing the language is largely a formality, gay rights advocacy groups celebrated the fact that the “lingering insult” of the decades-old law will be gone.

Another Threat to Gay Adoption Failed in 2015

Earlier this year, there was another bill on the table in Florida regarding same-sex couples adopting, though that proposed law would have threatened gay adoption rights, not preserved them. HB 7111 would have allowed private adoption companies to deny adoption for gay couples by citing “religious or moral convictions or policies” without risking losing their adoption agency license from the state. Though the bill was presented as a protection of religious freedom, opponents maintained that it was no more than a thinly veiled attack on the equal rights of same-sex couples.

HB 7111 passed overwhelmingly in the Florida House of Representatives though it could not get passed in the Senate to be sent to Gov. Scott’s desk. Gov. Scott, however, has been a vocal supporter of the bill and would most certainly sign it if it passed through the legislature. Gov. Scott has stated that he hopes the bill will be proposed again in upcoming legislative sessions but, for now, private adoption agencies cannot legally deny adoption to couples because they are gay.

Family Law Rights Improve for Same-Sex Couples in Florida

In addition to formally lifting the ban on gay adoption, same-sex couples also received the right to legally marry and get divorced in Florida this year. The extension of numerous family law rights to gay couples also means that more same-sex couples may be headed into the state family courts to resolve any family-related legal disputes. These cases should be handled in the same manner and in accordance with the same family laws as any case involving opposite-sex spouses or parents.

Call an Experienced Florida Family Law Attorney for Assistance Today

Families can face many different types of legal issues, including adoption, paternity, divorce, child custody, domestic violence, and more. Boca Raton family law lawyer Alan R. Burton understands that many of these issues can be costly and stressful and he strives to handle every case in the most efficient manner possible. Mr. Burton thoroughly understands the ever-changing Florida family laws and knows how to apply them to your case to achieve the most favorable result for you. If you are facing a family law matter in Florida, call for a free consultation at 954-229-1660 today.

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87-year-old Martin Zelman of Palm Beach has filed for divorce from his wife of 15 years, though now Florida family courts will have to decide whether or not he truly wants one. Last year, another Florida judge declared Zelman mentally incompetent and appointed his son and daughter as his guardians. With this declaration, Zelman lost the right to make most decisions for himself, however, he retained the right to file legal claims, which allowed him to file a divorce petition. His wife, 80-year-old Lois Zelman, is challenging the validity of the divorce filing as she claims Martin does not, in fact, want to get divorced. She asserts that his three children are behind the divorce and that they have purposefully isolated Martin and fabricated stories that she abused him.

If Lois remains married to Martin until his death, she would retain access to their homes in Palm Beach and New York City, their cars, their club memberships and art, and will receive an estimated $10 million. If the judge grants the divorce, Lois will receive none of Martin’s $50 million dollar estate based on a prenuptial agreement they signed prior to marriage and his children will instead inherit all of his wealth. The judge stated that he will have to determine whether or not each side is simply fighting over money or whether they truly have Martin’s best interests in mind. Each side, of course, claims the case is not about the money.

Divorce Involving an Incapacitated Person in Florida

Florida has a law in place intended to protect mentally incapacitated individuals whose spouses try to divorce them while they cannot defend their rights. The statute requires the filing spouse to wait until the incapacitation has lasted for at least three years before a court can grant a divorce. However, the incapacitated person is generally not the one who is seeking the divorce in the first place.

Even though the probate judge last year found that Martin Zelman had the capacity to file legal claims, the family court could decide that Martin is an incompetent witness, which would halt the divorce proceedings. If the court finds that he does not have the adequate capacity to get divorced, the judge could also potentially make them wait at least three years under the law. It is not clear what this waiting period would accomplish in this particular case, however, as Lois does not want to get divorced. We will have to wait and see what the court decides at an upcoming hearing.

An Experienced Boca Raton Divorce Attorney Can Help You With Your Case

Divorce cases can have many unique issues and you always want to have a lawyer handling your case who thoroughly understands Florida divorce laws and how they apply to your unique situation. Family law attorney Alan R. Burton knows how to handle even the most complicated divorce cases and will always zealously defend your rights. If you are facing divorce or any other type of family law matter, please call our Boca Raton office today at 954-229-1660 to discuss how we can assist you.

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After same-sex marriage became legal in Florida on January 6, 2015, it seemed to many to be only natural that same-sex couples would also have the right to dissolve their marriages in Florida, as well. However, the ability to grant a same-sex divorce was still up in the air on the trial court level, stemming from a case that was regularly in the news throughout last year.

In that case, Danielle Brandon-Thomas was trying to get a divorce from a marriage granted in Massachusetts and her wife Krista was trying to block the divorce. Though Krista wanted to stop the divorce for child custody reasons, she used the argument that because Florida law did not recognize gay marriage, it should not dissolve a gay marriage either. Attorney General Pam Bondi stepped in and argued for Krista, and the trial court denied the divorce request.

Now, however, the state appellate court has issued its decision that overturns the trial court decision for several reasons. Some of the reasons are as follows:

  • Married couples in Florida–same-sex or not–deserve equal access to the courts to dissolve their marriages as opposite-sex couples.
  • The spouses had many different complicated issues regarding intertwined financial affairs and custody questions regarding their daughter that needed to be settled for the best interest of the child.
  • The court found that there was no legitimate reason offered for Florida to refuse to give full faith and credit to a marriage validly entered into in another state by Bondi or Krista Brandon-Thomas.

Though Danielle Brandon-Thomas was thrilled with the appellate decision allowing her to get divorced, the couple must now face all of the many issues that any other divorcing couple must face, including custody, visitation, parenting plans, child support, spousal support, division of assets, and more. They will face all of the same legal questions and procedures that any other couple may face when they seek a divorce in Florida.

Though the couple’s divorce is far from settled, the case does represent overcoming the major hurdle to same-sex divorce in the state of Florida for couples married within or outside the state. With the increasing amount of same-sex couples seeking marriage licenses in Florida, it only makes sense that more couples may have to seek divorce in the coming years, so it is a positive step that the issue of same-sex divorce has been somewhat clarified.

Experienced Boca Raton family law attorney Alan R. Burton can help with your case

Whether you are part of a same-sex or opposite sex couple, it is highly important that you have the assistance of a skilled and committed Florida family law attorney if you are considering divorce. Divorce cases have many important issues that need to be settled and you should always have a lawyer who is familiar with the ever-changing laws in Florida guiding you through the process. Please do not hesitate to call the law office of divorce lawyer Alan R. Burton to find out how we can help you today.

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A woman in New York wanted to divorce her husband for years, however, she had repeated difficulty serving him with divorce papers as he had no permanent residence, no known employer, and could not be physically located. She reportedly tried for a long time to somehow serve the divorce papers with no success. To help her finally dissolve her marriage, Ellanora Baidoo and her attorney made an unusual request to the family court–could she serve her husband Victor on Facebook?

Successful service of divorce papers is an essential part of any marriage dissolution case because of the highly significant familial and financial effects that ending a marriage may have on an individual’s life. Though the civil procedure rules generally only specify that service of process can occur in person, by posting, or by mail, there have long been alternate arrangements allowed by the courts when the above methods proved unsuccessful. Over the past decade, email has become an increasingly used alternative option for service of process when other methods prove challenging.

Now, the judge hearing Baidoo’s case agreed that she could use Facebook to try to serve her divorce papers with some conditions:

  • Baidoo had to sufficiently prove that the Facebook profile she found for her husband was, in fact, actually connected to her husband’s account; and
  • She must demonstrate that he checked his Facebook account regularly so that it would be likely that he would see the service of process before the deadline to respond passed.

Baidoo was able to use her regular communications with her husband via his Facebook account as both proof that the account belonged to him and that he logged on regularly.

The judge in the case noted that the court had the right to direct how service of process may be completed and that perhaps social media was the “new frontier” in electronic service options. If Baidoo’s husband still chose not to respond to the divorce summons, she may likely be able to secure a default divorce against him as she seeks no financial compensation but merely the end of her marriage. Though Facebook service should not be expected to be allowed in many different cases, it may be an innovative tool to complete service in particularly challenging situations in which a spouse may not be located.

Find out how an experienced family law attorney can help with your divorce case

Many divorce cases have unique issues–such as service of process challenges–that may require creative solutions like using social media or other resources. An experienced divorce attorney will know how to resolve a wide range of issues that may arise throughout the course of your divorce case and will be able to communicate with the court to ensure your needs are met and your rights are upheld. Family lawyer Alan R. Burton routinely helps clients facing unique family law matters and will always work for the most favorable outcome in your case. Call our office in Boca Raton at 954-229-1660 for a free consultation today.

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With the days getting warmer and longer, it means that the end of the 2014-2015 school year is approaching. Parents in Florida and across the United States are making plans for trips, choosing summer camps, and planning other activities to make sure their children have an enjoyable summer. If you have divorced your child’s other parent or were never married, however, summer vacation can present substantial challenges relating to child custody and visitation. If you have joint custody, both parents may want to make plans for vacations and or other outings and conflicts may arise regarding scheduling and similar matters. In order to avoid constant disputes and aggravation–which can have an effect on both you and your child–you should always plan ahead to try to best coordinate a custody schedule that will work for everyone involved. The following are only a few of many things you can do to make the most out of your child’s summer break.

Plan way ahead — Many couples decide to tackle the issues and possible complications of summer custody from the very start–during the original custody case. When they are negotiating the initial parenting and time-sharing plan to be approved by the family court, parents can try to foresee any scheduling issues over the summer and can come up with solutions that are set out in the agreement. If a conflict arises at a later date, they can refer to the parenting plan to resolve the issue.

Plan your summer calendar in advance — If you want to take your child to a concert, festival, or on a camping trip, you should try to fill out your calendar of events as early as possible. While being spontaneous can be fun, events may conflict with something the other parent wishes to do or may fall during the other parent’s custody time. For example, you do not want to both plan a weekend getaway for Fourth of July, expecting that the other one will agree to it. Instead, discuss your calendar and solve any conflicts up front before summer begins.

Always give notice of a vacation — If you plan a vacation during your scheduled custody time, there may be no conflicts about scheduling at all. Too many people believe that this means they do not have to inform the other parent that they are leaving town with the kids. However, it is important to inform the other parent of your trip for safety and emergency purposes. If you fail to inform them, you may find yourself in court having to explain yourself or, in more serious situations, may face accusations of interference with custody.

If you and the other parent are still having issues regarding summer vacation custody rights, you can consult with an experienced family law attorney who knows how to best negotiate and resolve custody disputes in a favorable way. At the law office of Alan R. Burton in Boca Raton, we can help you to plan for an enjoyable and hopefully conflict-free summer vacation with your children. Call our office for help today at 954-229-1660.

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According to tradition, a wife would change her name after marriage to take her husband’s last name. Changing a name was supposed to help identify a family unit and, in theory, made naming children easier. However, in more recent times, many women have increasingly made the decision to keep their last name or to come up with another name-changing option that works for them. Some women believe that changing their name takes away their personal identity, some may think it means they “belong” to their husbands like property, or others simply like their own original last name more. Whatever the reasoning may be, deciding whether or not to change your name is a personal decision and an important one. Whatever you choose can have legal, practical, and emotional implications.

Couples have become more creative when making name-change decisions. Some couples choose to hyphenate both names, some men take their wife’s last name, and others come up with a completely new name to share. Whatever you decide, the following factors should be considered:

  • Romantic traditions
  • An already-established professional reputation and identity
  • Both parents having the same last name as your children
  • Cultural importance or other meaning attached to your maiden name
  • Whether a new last name is aesthetically pleasing
  • Societal implications of giving up your independent identity
  • The inconvenience of a name change (and maybe changing it back if the marriage fails)

You should weigh all of factors seriously before making a decision because a legal name change cannot easily be undone.

If you make the decision to change your name after marriage, you should be sure to take all the necessary steps. You will have to go through the process of changing your name on all of the following and more:

  • Investment accounts
  • Health and life insurance
  • Post office
  • Estate planning documents
  • Payroll
  • Tax withholding documents

These will need to be handled in a particular order, as you will likely need your update identification in order to successfully change your name on most accounts. You will likely need a certified copy (or multiple copies) of your marriage certificate to present to different agencies. Additionally, you should always wait to start the name change process until after your honeymoon. If you purchased any tickets prior to marriage under your maiden name, you will need identification with a name that matches your tickets and reservations. In the event that you decide to get divorced and you have changed your name, you will need to go through the name change process again, provided you decide to return to your maiden name. This will require a certified copy of your divorce decree showing that the judge granted you the ability to go back to your maiden name.

If you need any assistance or advice regarding changing your name or any other legal issue related to marriage, divorce, or family, please do not hesitate to call the law firm of Alan R. Burton in Boca Raton at 954-229-1660 for help today.

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The recent controversy in Indiana centers around a new law that allows private businesses to refuse service to same-sex couples or homosexual individuals based on the religious beliefs of the business owners. While proponents state that the bill is focused on the freedom of religious expression, opponents claim the bill is simply a protection for business owners to openly and blatantly discriminate against gay people. Certain legislators in Florida have proposed a bill that would allow same-sex discrimination that may hit much closer to home–by private adoption agencies.

House Bill 7111, approved by the House Judiciary Committee on April 2, 2015, would allow any private adoption or child-placement agency that receives state funds to cite moral or religious grounds to deny adoptions to gay couples or individuals without risking their funding. The bill seems to be a direct and hasty response to the House of Representative’s vote to strike down the Florida ban on adoption by same-sex couples. Democratic legislators and organizations such as Equality Florida is speaking out against the bill as openly allowing discrimination. Representative Dave Kerner stated that any adoption agents who would discriminate should not be in the adoption business.

Adoption can be stressful

Private adoption is already a lengthy and stressful process for prospective parents. Costs are high and wait times are long and, generally, only couples who truly want to give a child a good home are willing to go through the difficult process. With 82 private adoption agencies in the state, the restriction on gay couples who can provide a good home could be significant if agencies were to claim religious or moral reasons. Supporters of the bill advise same-sex couples to seek adoption through the Florida Department of Children and Families. However, many birth mothers choose to go through private agencies and placements for those children may become more limited.

Other opponents believe that this bill may be a slippery slope to allow other types of discrimination in adoption, including based on race, previous divorce, or other factors that should not necessarily come into play in adoption decisions. The bill will now go to vote in both the Florida House of Representatives and the Senate before it can go to the Governor to sign into law. The eyes of the nation will be watching to see if Florida follows in Indiana’s footsteps in passing a religious freedom law that potentially limits the ability of same-sex couples to adopt children.

Contact an experienced Boca Raton family law attorney for help today

If you have any legal question or issue related to family law matters, including child custody, adoption, divorce, and more, you should never hesitate to call an experienced family lawyer for advice and assistance. At the law office of Alan R. Burton, we are committed to helping families in Florida obtain the best possible outcome in any legal case. We understand how stressful family issues can be and will always stand up for your best interests. Call our office in Boca Raton today for help.