Boca Raton Divorce Lawyer Blog
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This past summer, a Broward County judge ruled to strike down Florida’s same-sex marriage ban by issuing a decision to allow two women (legally married outside of Florida) to divorce within our state. This decision meant that Florida courts would have to recognize the validity of the same-sex marriage in order to dissolve the marriage, which goes against the state constitutional ban. Unfortunately, the decision was vacated and the divorce case was dismissed in September based on a procedural technicality–not on the merits of the case.

On December 8, 2014, however, Judge Dale Cohen reissued a decision in the refiling of the divorce case that mirrors his August decision to grant the same-sex divorce between wives Heather Brassner and Megan Lade. In his decision, Judge Cohen declared both the constitutional and statutory bans on same-sex marriage and recognition of same-sex marriages in Florida unconstitutional and unenforceable. Brassner is expected to file a request for a Final Judgment of Dissolution as soon as possible and her attorney hopes to have Judge Cohen grant the final divorce prior to the beginning of 2015.

Same-sex Marriage in 2015

Aside from the Brassner-Lade same-sex divorce case, other developments are taking place that may help same-sex couples receive equal marriage rights in Florida in early 2015. Also last August, a federal judge for the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida in Tallahassee entered a ruling that struck down Florida’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, stating the constitutional amendment was “an obvious pretext for discrimination.” However, the judge also stayed his decision at that time in order to provide the Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi time to appeal the ruling on behalf of the state of Florida.

As the end of the stay order on January 5, 2015 approaches, the 11th United States Circuit Court of Appeals recently released its decision not to extend the stay order past that date. This means that if the Court of Appeals does not reverse the decision before January 5th and the stay is lifted, same-sex couples should be able to legally obtain a marriage license in Florida on January 6th. If the Court of Appeals upholds the lower court decision, the same-sex marriage ban will expectedly be effectively struck down in Florida since the Supreme Court of the United States declined to review Appeals Court decisions regarding this subject earlier this year. Many court clerks throughout the state of Florida have stated their offices are preparing to issue same-sex marriage licenses if the stay is lifted on January 6th.

Contact a Boca Raton Family Law Attorney for Assistance

The legalization of same-sex marriage (and same-sex divorce) in Florida will likely affect a large number of people who may have questions regarding the legal implications of marriage, divorce, custody, and more. If you have any type of question related to family law or if you are facing a family law case, experienced Boca Raton attorney Alan R. Burton can assist you. Please do not hesitate to call our office today at (954) 229-1660 for assistance.

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Just because you are not married to the mother of your child does not mean that you do not wish to play a role in your child’s life. Unfortunately, in order to legally gain parental rights, you must take certain steps under the law in the state of Florida. In some cases, gaining legal paternity can be relatively simple and will requiring signing a form and filing it with the state. If the mother of your child tries to fight against you paternity claim, however, you may find yourself facing a legal battle in court. One recent case that was resolved shows how difficult some paternity cases may become.

Jason Patric Wins Paternity Case

Jason Patric is an actor who had been fighting for legal paternity rights to his biological son for two years. When Patric’s former girlfriend wanted to have a child, he agreed to offer his sperm for her to use for in vitro fertilization (IVF), which resulted in the birth of a son. Patric was not listed on his son’s birth certificate and he and the mother did not sign a parenting agreement. However, Patric states that the two parents rekindled their relationship and that he participated in raising the boy. When the relationship again soured, Patric states that the mother refused to allow him to be in contact with her son.

Patric filed a paternity claim that resulted in a battle in court. The mother claimed that Patric was never involved in the boy’s life and that he was verbally abusive. The lower court originally ruled that Patric had no parental rights because the court decided that he was merely a “sperm donor.” On appeal, Patric won the right to a retrial and this time the court ruled in his favor. He was granted parental rights to his son and stated he plans to seek custody and visitation rights.

In 2013, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that an egg donor had legal parental rights. In that case, one woman provided eggs and her same-sex partner carried the child. After the relationship broke up, the birth mother took the daughter to Australia, which led to the mother whose eggs were donated to seek parental rights. The case led the Florida Supreme Court to rule that Florida’s Assisted Reproductive Technology Statute did not apply to cases in which it was clearly intended that the egg or sperm donor would have a role in the child’s life, such as in many same-sex couples. The law still stands in relation to anonymous donors, however.

Contact a Boca Raton Family Lawyer for Assistance

If you are facing a paternity suit, you do not want to risk losing your parental rights to spend time and build a relationship with your child. Instead, you should always consult with an experienced family law attorney in Boca Raton who has a thorough understanding of Florida laws and how they will relate to your case. Call the office of Alan R. Burton for all of your family law needs today.

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Divorce is an emotionally difficult process for many people. As you approach the holiday season, the pain and flux of divorce is often magnified exponentially. The following are some tips for separated or divorcing individuals to get through the holiday season and still enjoy this time of year.

Make New Traditions

Holidays are often about long-lasting rituals and traditions. However, with the substantial changes you are facing in your life and family, it is unrealistic to expect that the holidays will continue to be exactly the same. Think about what new traditions may fit the new form of your family and do not be afraid to make some changes.

Talk with Your Children

The holidays are a very important time for your children, as well, and they may be confused and even scared about how things will change if their parents are separated or divorcing. Make arrangements for time-sharing as simple as possible so your children do not become overly exhausted or stressed out traveling back and forth. Accept that there will be times that your children are with the other parent, and assure them that you will be fine while they spend time with their other parent. Explain to them that even though some things may be different, the holidays will still be celebrated. At all times, you and your spouse should consider whether the best interests of your child are at the forefront of your mind.

Take Good Care of Yourself

Holidays are already stressful without the strain of divorce, so it is no wonder that individuals going through a divorce can feel easily rundown during this time of year. Make sure you are eating well, getting enough sleep, and taking time to relax. While you may have to put on a brave face at times during holiday events, do not ignore your well-being if you are struggling. Ask for help from family or friends if you are feeling particularly depressed or lonely. Have a support system in place and try not to isolate yourself during this potentially difficult time.

Have Realistic Expectations

Too many of us expectations that all holidays will be picture-perfect. This is a challenge even when everything else is going smoothly in our lives and is certainly difficult to achieve if you are in the middle of a painful divorce. Tell yourself that it is okay if everything is not perfect throughout the holiday season. Take some pressure off of yourself by letting others host the celebrations or by sharing responsibilities. Remind yourself that the holidays are not about being perfect and take this season one day at a time.

Contact an Experienced Boca Raton Divorce Attorney for Help Today

Having an experienced divorce attorney handling your case can give you reassurance that everything is being properly taken care of on the legal side of things. This can give you more time to spend enjoying the holidays and building new traditions with your family. Alan R. Burton is committed to helping individuals in Boca Raton get through a divorce as efficiently as possible, so please do not hesitate to contact our office today for help.

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Engagement and wedding rings are often an important symbol of a marriage. While these items often lose meaning after a married couple decides to file for divorce, they are often valuable pieces of property and each spouse may wonder who gets to keep the rings after the separation is finalized The answer to this question will depend on the particular circumstances surrounding your divorce, and an experienced attorney can better advise you after learning the specific details of your situation.

Are rings non-marital or marital property?

Rings are property just like a home, assets, furniture, or other valuables. Under most circumstances in Florida, each spouse is able to keep his or her own belongings brought into the marriage. Such belongings are referred to as non-marital or separate property. Florida divorce laws, however, require that all marital property be equitably divided between the two spouses. Equitable does not mean equal, and courts will take many different factors into consideration in deciding how to divide property.

In order to help determine what happens to engagement and wedding rings, a court must first determine whether each is non-marital or marital property. First, an engagement ring is generally given to a bride-to-be months before the marriage, thus she owns the ring while she is still single. Even though the future groom purchased the ring, the future bride takes ownership when she receives it as a gift. Therefore, an engagement ring is generally considered separate property and the bride tends to keep the engagement ring.

On the other hand, wedding rings are exchanged at the marriage ceremony, so Florida courts generally consider these rings to be marital property. For this reason, the value of the wedding rings would need to be equitably divided, just like any other piece of jewelry or property the couple acquired during the marriage.

Coming to an Agreement with Your Spouse

In many cases, divorcing couples are able to work together to decide how to divide marital property so that the court does not have to intervene. In these situations, the couple may acknowledge that each spouse should keep their own wedding rings, regardless of the value. This type of situation is almost always preferable as each spouse’s feelings may be better respected and they will be able to do what they wish with their own wedding rings.

Even if you and your spouse cannot immediately agree on issues such as property division, an experienced attorney has many options to help you come to a settlement agreement, including mediation, negotiation, or arbitration.

Contact an Experienced Boca Raton Divorce Attorney for Help Today

Engagement and wedding rings are likely only one piece of a substantial amount of property that couples will need to divide equitably in a divorce. In order to ensure that you receive the best deal in your divorce possible, you should always contact the office of experienced divorce lawyer Alan R. Burton in Boca Raton. Mr. Burton is committed to helping divorcing couples come to satisfying and efficient resolutions, so call today to discuss your case.

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Each divorce case is different, and therefore each case may require different tools and resources to achieve specific goals. However, you may not even be aware of certain resources that may significantly improve your chances of receiving the rulings that you deserve regarding many different issues, such as child support, spousal support, and the equitable division of marital property. One such resource that can be extremely helpful in divorces with complicated financial issues is the assistance of a forensic accountant.

Helping Divide Complex Portfolios

Dividing property can be hard enough for couples who simply have a home, two cars, personal belongings, checking accounts, and credit card debts. As you can imagine, such property division may become substantially more difficult for a couple who has a complex financial portfolio. Some assets that may be more difficult to divide include:

  •         Restricted stock or stock options;
  •         Closely held businesses;
  •         Professional practices;
  •         Retirement accounts;
  •         Various types of trust accounts;
  •         Life insurance plans;
  •         Properties in different states or countries;
  •         Accounts in different states or countries; and
  •         Valuable art, antique, or jewelry collections.

In some cases, a spouse will present complicated financial records that may be quite disorganized and may take time for an attorney to sift through, therefore driving up attorney’s fees. A forensic accountant will have a better ability to analyze complex financial statements, organize appraisals and valuations, and testify to the state of the couple’s overall financial affairs.

Helping to Identify Hidden Assets

In some cases, a spouse may unfortunately try to hide assets in order to avoid making them subject to division. Some ways spouses may attempt to hide assets include the following:

  • Opening secret or off-shore accounts
  • Changing accounts to the name of a friend, family member, child, or other party so the assets are not attributed to the spouse
  • Voluntarily delaying commissions or paychecks until after the divorce is final
  • Secretly making large purchases for gifts (that will be returned after the divorce)
  • Dumping money into a business or other venture and then increasing expenses

If you have any suspicions that your spouse may be attempting to hide assets, a forensic accountant can review all of your accounts and identify any suspicious changes or inconsistencies that may expose the hiding of assets or other marital property that should be rightfully and equitably divided. Even if the funds cannot be exactly located, an accountant can testify to the inconsistencies and other red flags to demonstrate to the court that your spouse may be unlawfully hiding assets.

Forensic accountants are only one type of professional that can help in your divorce case. An experienced divorce attorney can evaluate all of the circumstances of your case and can identify any resources or professionals that may help you receive a more favorable result. Boca Raton divorce lawyer Alan R. Burton has experience in both relatively simple divorces with little property, as well as complex divorce cases with high assets at issue. No matter what type of divorce you are facing, do not hesitate to call our office for assistance today.

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Many couples wonder, for one reason or another, whether or not they should sign a premarital agreement (also known as a prenuptial agreement or “prenup”) prior to tying the knot. The following are some reasons you may want to consider having such an agreement in Florida.

  1. To know what you are getting into. Though engaged couples are ideally in love and know each other very well, some people may keep some important information secret. For example, one spouse may be embarrassed of significant debt or poor financial habits. A premarital agreement allows you to sit down and put financial issues out in the open so there are no surprises after marriage. If your partner does, in fact, have a high amount of debt, a premarital agreement can state that only your partner will be responsible for the repayment of that debt if you get divorced.
  2. To protect your property. If you have property that you owned pre-marriage and you plan to make it the family home, your spouse will likely be entitled to a share of it in the event of a divorce. Premarital agreements can state that you will retain full ownership of your property should a divorce occur.
  3. To protect a business. In the same way that you likely want to protect your property, you also want to protect any businesses that you own with a premarital agreement.
  4. You and your partner have significantly different wealth. If you are substantially wealthier than your partner, a premarital agreement can limit their access to your fortune if you get divorced. Not only will this preserve your wealth for you, but it can also assure you that your partner is marrying you for the right reasons, and not for your money. On the other hand, if your spouse has more wealth than you, you can use a premarital agreement to protect yourself in the event of a divorce.
  5. To protect your estate plan. If you have a specific estate plan that you would like to protect that may involve leaving certain heirlooms or property to individuals other than your spouse, you can address this in a premarital agreement.
  6. To plan to be a stay-at-home parent. If you and your partner have discussed this and you plan to quit working and stay home to care for your children and the household, you will inherently give up future income, job experience, and other professional opportunities that may make more challenging for you to support yourself if you get divorced. A premarital agreement can protect you by setting alimony that will ensure you are able to support yourself until you begin working again.
  7. To make a divorce easier. Many different issues are involved in a divorce and arguments over these issues can drag on. If you decide many issues ahead of time in a premarital agreement, it will help the divorce process go faster and more smoothly.

If you have any questions regarding premarital agreement, do not hesitate to call Boca Raton family law attorney Alan R. Burton for assistance today.

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Harold Hamm is a 68-year-old oil magnate who is CEO of Continental Resources, an oil-exploration company that is known as a pioneer in the oil industry. Hamm has been on the cover of Forbes magazine, served as energy advisor to presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and is estimated to have a net worth of around $15 billion, making him one of the wealthiest men in the United States. Hamm married Sue Ann, an attorney in 1988 and, though he claims they have been separated since 2005, Sue Ann filed for divorce in 2012.

The divorce dragged on for over two years, culminating in a trial over the summer that lasted over two months. On November 10, 2014, a judge in Oklahoma City ordered that Hamm should have to pay his former wife a settlement of $995.5 million, which is one of the highest divorce settlements in history. The judge ordered Hamm to pay at least $320 million by the time 2014 ends, with monthly payments continuing at least $7 million per month until the settlement is paid off. The judge placed a lien on a substantial amount of Hamm’s stock in Continental Resources to ensure he comes through with the payments.

The Decision Could Have Been Worse

Though $995.5 million is an astronomical amount of money to most Americans, the settlement could have been more. Forbes reports that the highest divorce settlement ordered in the history of the world was $4.5 billion, which took place in the case of a Russian fertilizer tycoon. Hamm’s settlement comes in at the fourth largest that has been reported in the world thus far.

Rumors had been circulating regarding the divorce for months, most of which predicted Hamm would lose much more. For example, because most of his fortune is tied up in Continental Resources stock, some people estimated he would lose enough stock to fall below 50 percent ownership in the company (he currently owns over 70 percent). Losing majority ownership in the company he built would have been devastating. Additionally, others predicted that Sue Ann would receive around half of the $15 billion dollar fortune, and in reality she only received about seven percent of his net worth. Hamm released a statement thanking the court and stating they all believed this was a “fair and equitable” decision and result in their case.

High Asset Divorces Can Be Complicated

Most high worth divorces are complex because they can involve many different kinds of assets, including business ownership interests, real property, stock, funds in offshore accounts, and much more. For this reason and more, you should always have an experienced family law attorney representing you to ensure that any property division or support determinations are fair and equitable. Alan R. Burton is an experienced divorce attorney in Boca Raton who knows how to handle high worth divorces and stand up for your best interests. Call our office today for help if your are facing divorce.

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Everyone knows that divorce can be emotionally charged and stressful for everyone involved. Cases may be especially difficult if one spouse files for divorce while the other wishes to remain married. One recent Florida news story reminds us how sometimes tension in a divorce can become dangerous and lead to domestic violence and tragedy.

Violence in Port Orange

After 25 years of marriage, David and Cynthia Mohney were facing divorce and Cynthia and her attorney were preparing for mediation sessions, which are used to attempt to reach a settlement between divorcing spouses outside of court. Reports indicate that David Mohney was unhappy about the divorce and made numerous comments stating the couple would be back together and that the divorce must stop.

In mid-October, David woke up his sleeping wife and brought her to the kitchen of their home, where he showed her a gun and reportedly stated, “If you don’t come back to me and stop the divorce, I will kill our children.” Cynthia had no access to a phone, so she ran to a nearby neighbor’s home for help.

While she was gone, David shot all three of their children and then himself. Their 14-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son both died from their injuries, as did David. A 9-year-old daughter has been reported to be in a medically-induced coma yet in stable condition.

Courts can help many domestic violence victims

The Mohneys’ tragic situation reminds us all that even threats of violence from a spouse or partner against you or your children should always be taken seriously. You should not wait until it is too late to ask for help. Florida courts can issue injunctions of protection–commonly referred to as restraining orders–against the potentially violent family member to prohibit them from coming within a certain distance of you and can force them to move out of the family home.

While an injunction for protection cannot ever fully guarantee protection for you, such orders help numerous victims of domestic violence stay safe every year in Florida. You can obtain a temporary injunction or protection at any time of night and even on weekends or holidays. An attorney will know how to contact a judge during work hours or off-hours to help you.

How a lawyer can help

If you have experienced or fear you or your children are in danger of domestic violence, you should contact the authorities as soon as possible. You should also contact Boca Raton family law attorney Alan R. Burton for assistance in obtaining the necessary court orders to protect your and your family from possible violence.

Even if you are not experiencing threats of domestic violence, an experienced family law attorney can help make the divorce process go as smooth as possible to try to keep tensions low whenever possible. He can also assist you with finding counseling resources that you may need to get you through the process. Divorce is never easy, but we can help, so please do not hesitate to call our office today for assistance.

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Previously on this blog, we have discussed the complicated divorce of Alan Grayson, a United States Representative elected out of Florida. Grayson had accused his wife of bigamy and was seeking an annulment and for the marriage to be found void. He alleged that his wife had still been married to her first husband at the time of the their marriage and therefore claimed that his marriage was never valid. Bigamy is also a criminal offense in Florida. Grayson’s wife, Lolita, asserts that her first marriage had been dissolved and that they require a divorce, not an annulment.

Prior to the bigamy allegations, Lolita accused Rep. Grayson of pushing her and obtained a restraining order against him. However, a video of the incident reportedly showed Lolita Grayson pushing her husband and charges were never filed.

Newest financial allegations

The latest allegations in this public, messy divorce seem to revolve around finances and Rep. Grayson’s monetary support–or alleged lack thereof–of his wife and four minor children.

Lolita Grayson and her children live in a large home in Orlando. Lolita is a stay-at-home mom with no income at all, so she relies upon her estranged husband to financially take care of her and their children, as she has for the entirety of their 24 year-long marriage. She now claims that since he left the family home, Rep. Grayson has allowed the house to fall into a state of disrepair, including broken windows, a leaking roof, and a mold problem due to the rain seeping into the house. She went as far as to call her husband a “slumlord” for his lack of financial contribution to repairs.

Rep. Grayson, on the other hand, denied that he has failed in financially supporting his children and soon-to-be former wife. He claimed that he spends more than $10,000 every month on the following for his family:

  • Child support for the four minor children;
  • College tuition for their oldest son;
  • Monthly mortgage payments;
  • Utility bills for the house; and
  • Other miscellaneous household expenses,

He went further to state that any problems with the home are due Lolita being a poor housekeeper and not due to any lack of support on his part.

These are only the latest allegations in the very public divorce and it seems that the divorce will only get more contentious as the process continues. Acrimonious divorces may often be more expensive and more stressful as they may require additional filings and proceedings in court. Having an experienced divorce lawyer can help you solve issues agreeably and secure the support you deserve or your family.

Call Boca Raton attorney Alan R. Burton for help today

Divorces can be extremely messy with numerous allegations, true or false, from both parties to try to get the best financial outcome possible. Alan R Burton is an experienced divorce attorney committed to helping the residents in and around Boca Raton with a wide variety of family law matters. If you are facing divorce or any other family-related legal matters, please do not hesitate to call our office for help today.

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When two people decide to end their marriage, one of the most contentious issues can be child custody. Florida law does not recognize the concept of “custody” when it comes to children, but rather imposes a “time-sharing” scheme that determines how much time a child or children will spend with each parent.  The law gives Florida courts wide discretion in ordering time-sharing determinations, which must be made by considering the “best interests of the child.” Time-sharing can range from equal time-sharing to sole parental responsibility for a child based on the particular circumstances of a case. The relevant statute lists a variety of factors that the court may consider, including the following:

Any other factor that is relevant to the determination of a specific parenting plan, including the time-sharing schedule.”

As a result of this provision, the court may consider anything it deems relevant to a time-sharing schedule, including a parent’s financial problems, criminal history, tendency towards domestic violence, substance abuse problems, or other issues that could affect the best interests of the child. On the other side of that coin, a court may also consider a parent’s efforts and demonstrated ability to manage and ameliorate these and other issues. While it is obviously true that individuals can make positive life changes without the intervention of professionals or support programs, these are often effective ways to establish the existence of positive change to courts making time-sharing schedule determinations between parents. Some of the types of activities that can influence a court making a time-sharing determination include the following:

Participation in a 12-step program – For parents who have had issues with substance abuse that has affected their perceived ability to parent their child or children, participation in a 12-step program may be the type of evidence that a court could consider in determining whether these issues still exist. Often, the testimony of a sponsor or other member can help establish that the parent is successfully abstaining from substance abuse.

Credit counseling – In some cases, a court may be hesitant to award a parent a significant amount of time-sharing with a child or children due to poor living conditions caused by financial problems. For example, a parent could be in living in substandard conditions or have a history of having utilities disconnected due to nonpayment. Participation in credit counseling courses and a period of financial responsibility may be sufficient to allay any concerns the court may have that a parent’s financial situation could be detrimental to his or her ability to parent.

Anger management or other forms of counseling – The relevant statute specifically mentions that domestic violence convictions create a rebuttable presumption of detriment to the child. This means that the burden rests on the parent convicted of domestic violence to present evidence that time-sharing with that parent would not constitute a detriment to the child. In addition, other acts of violence may also be considered by the court. Participation in anger management or other forms of counseling may be sufficient to convince a court that a parent is adequately dealing with any violent tendencies that may have existed in the past.

Contact a Boca Raton Family Law Attorney Today to Schedule a Free Consultation

Florida family law attorney Alan R. Burton is dedicated to helping people with family law issues resolve them as favorably as possible. Do not hesitate to contact our office today to schedule a free consultation.

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