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

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

Work for an Amicable Divorce

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

Consider an Adoption

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

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

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

Domestic Abuse Cases

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

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

Custody

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

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

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

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

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

Spousal Support and Property Division

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

Child Custody

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

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

The Ability to Negotiate with Your Spouse

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Importance of Working Towards Agreements in Divorce

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

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

Contact an Experienced Boca Raton Divorce Attorney for Assistance

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

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

Salaried Spouses

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

Commission-Paid Spouses

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

Self-Employed Spouses

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

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Under Florida law, all marital property is equitably distributed between spouses that are divorcing. Marital property includes all debts and assets that a couple accumulates during a marriage. For couples that have been together since they were in school, this often raises the question of whether professional degrees or licenses allowing one of the spouses to engage in a particular profession are considered marital property. This is particularly at issue in situations where one party to the marriage chose to forgo his or her own educational or career opportunities in order to support the other spouse in their pursuits.
In Florida and most other states, the answer to the question posed above is “no.” Importantly, while a professional degree itself is not considered marital property, there are other arguments that can be raised in order to ensure that the spouse without the professional degree or license has his or her financial needs met after a divorce.

The Florida Alimony Statute

Under the Florida alimony statute, courts are authorized to use a variety of factors in determining whether either party will be awarded alimony. In addition, alimony can be “bridge-the-gap,” rehabilitative, duration, or permanent, and can be awarded as both periodic payments or lump sum payments, or both. Courts are allowed to consider whether either spouse was unfaithful in determining how much alimony to award, and can also consider the following factors:
· The standard of living the couple had during the marriage;
· How long the marriage lasted;
· Both parties age and physical condition;
· The financial resources of each party, including both marital and nonmarital assets;
· The earning potential, job skills, and employability of each part, as well as the time it would take for either party to get the training or education that would allow that party to become employed;
· Each party’s contribution to the marriage, including homemaking, education, child care, and career building of the other party;
· The responsibility that either party will have in terms of any children of the marriage;
· The tax ramifications to either party of an alimony award;
· The sources of income available to each party; and
· Any other factor that may be necessary to do equity and justice between the parties.
As this list should make clear, courts have wide discretion in determining whether and how much alimony to award, and it specifically addresses the situation in which one spouse contributed to the education or career building of the other spouse. As a result, while a professional degree or license earning during the marriage will not be valuated and divided as part of the division of property, any contribution to that degree or license will be a factor in determining whether and how much alimony to award.
A specific type of alimony that may be awarded in a circumstance where one spouse forwent education in order to support the other is considered rehabilitative alimony. The alimony law authorizes that alimony may be awarded to a party seeking self-support through the redevelopment of previous skills or credentials or the acquisition of education, training, or work experience to develop work skills or credentials.

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

Divorce proceedings in Florida can raise a number of legal issues that may have a significant impact on a person’s life. As a result, anyone who is considering or currently going through a divorce should call Florida divorce attorney Alan R. Burton today at (954) 229-1660.

Posted in: Alimony
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In recent weeks, gossip headlines have been exploding with rumors of impending divorce for music superstars Beyonce and Jay Z. The couple married in 2008 and have one child, but media outlets report that they are currently booking separate hotels and hardly speaking. It is widely speculated that the couple is merely trying to keep up appearances due to their current joint tour.
It is not surprising that they would want to successfully complete the tour, as the pair will receive a $100 million paycheck after the tour ends in Paris in September. The tour promoter, Live Nation, has stated that a divorce during the tour would be devastating for public relations, since so many fans specifically want to see them perform as a loving couple. At this point, completing the tour together may be a feat, as they reportedly had an emergency meeting with Live Nation and a group of lawyers four days before the tour was to kick off. Four lawyers are allegedly accompanying them on tour to negotiate any conflicts that arise between the pair.

Business in the Midst of Divorce

When spouses are business partners, both parties’ livelihood is often dependent on the success of that business. If a couple divorces, the company is considered marital property and must be equitably divided. There are a couple of ways couples may choose to equitably divide their business:
· Liquidate and split the proceeds; or
· Have one spouse buy out the other spouse’s interest in the business.
Neither of the above options may be attractive to spouses in certain situations, however. If a business is particularly lucrative or meaningful to them, they may want to keep the company in operation, so liquidating is not an option. Additionally, neither spouse may want to be bought out and have to start a new business for the ground up. For such reasons, equitable division of a business can be a serious issue in a divorce.
A third option is for the spouses to end their marriage, but continue to run the business together. This option is, for obvious reasons, highly impracticable for spouses who can no longer communicate or agree in a healthy, productive manner. For couples who split amicably, on the other hand, it may be possible to continue to work together and profit from the success of the business they built. Some couples view a family business as a child–they cared for the business before the divorce and will continuing to care about it after the divorce.
It is not uncommon, however, for a divorcing couple to decide to keep working together only to have their working relationship later deteriorate. Beyonce and Jay Z thought they could remain professional and get through a tour, only to have the chances of making it to the $100 million paycheck seem slim–and they are not even divorced yet. These are all reasons why it is very important to make the correct decision regarding a family business in a divorce.
Boca Raton divorce attorney Alan R. Burton can advise you on all aspects of your divorce, including how to handle a family business. Contact our office today for help.

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While for many couples obtaining a divorce is a contentious and emotionally charged affair, some people who decide to end their marriage are able to work together to ensure that each party receives a fair outcome. For couples in this situation, collaborative or cooperative divorce may be an option. Both options are designed to avoid litigation and have the couple seeking a divorce work together with their attorneys as well as other professionals in order to reach a mutually agreeable settlement as to whatever issues they may deem critical. Although these negotiations are entered into with the best of intentions, it is still important that each party retain legal counsel to ensure that their legal rights are fully protected. Divorce law can be complicated, and there may be issues that could potentially arise of which non-attorneys may not even be aware. As a result, anyone considering divorce, collaborative or otherwise, should be sure to consult with a lawyer before entering into any legally binding agreement.

What is Collaborative and Cooperative Divorce?

The key issue in a collaborative divorce is that both parties enter into an agreement in which they commit to resolving the issues salient to their divorce without going to court. If they are unable to do so and resort to litigation, both attorneys are required to withdraw their representation. Both parties agree to deal with each other respectfully and in good faith, and also agree to use neutral specialists to resolve contested issues. As such, the parties to a collaborative divorce are heavily invested in the process, as giving up on the negotiation process would involve “starting over” with new attorneys, meaning that all attorney’s and other professional fees up to that point would have been wasted.

One of the significant advantages of the collaborative divorce process is that both parties are able to use jointly hired professional in order to resolve complicated issues such as the valuation of a business or guidance on issues regarding parenting. This is significantly different than the situation that occurs when both parties bring in adversarial experts, relying on a court to decide between two sometimes vastly opposing positions on a contested issue.

Cooperative divorce is very similar to collaborative divorce, but the parties’ attorneys are not required to withdraw, should negotiations break down.

Regardless of whether a person or a couple chooses to pursue a collaborative, cooperative, or traditional divorce, it is extremely important to retain legal representation. There are many important issues that can arise in divorce proceedings, including the following:

· Division of property;
· Child custody;
· Maintenance (alimony);
· Child support;
· Business interests;
· Relocation;
· Legal protections from domestic violence; and
· Visitation.

Many other issues could potentially arise in a divorce, and will depend on the specific circumstances of your situation.

Contact a Boca Raton Family Law Attorney Today for a Free Consultation

Anyone considering a divorce should be certain to discuss their situation with an experienced Florida divorce lawyer as soon as possible. To schedule a free consultation with Florida attorney Alan R. Burton, call our office today (954) 229-1660.

Posted in: Divorce
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On this blog, we have been closely following the numerous cases making their way through Florida courts that pose challenges to our state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. This topic is important to us because instituting marriage equality in Florida will have a substantial effect on the family courts. Last we checked in, several couples were awaiting the decisions of Judge Sarah Zabel in Miami-Dade County and of Judge Luis M. Garcia in Monroe County. Both judges have since ruled in favor of marriage equality, stating the state constitutional amendment was unconstitutional.
Both Judge Garcia and Judge Zabel ordered the Clerk of Courts in their respective counties to grant marriage licenses for same-sex couples. Both judges reasoned that the marriage ban violated the Equal Protection clause of the United States Constitution. Specifically, Judge Zabel stated the following:
· The ban serves no important governmental interest;
· The ban treats same-sex like second-class citizens;
· The law as it stands prohibits certain citizens from participating in a fundamental societal institution–marriage; and
· The ban only hurts same-sex couples and their families, discriminates against them, and deprives them of equal dignity.
In addition, Judge Zabel compared this issue to the issue of interracial marriage, which reached the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) back in 1967. At that time, SCOTUS outlawed any bans on interracial marriage based on equal protection, and Judge Zabel does not see same-sex marriage bans as any different and stated the ban violates the “principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment” as well as failing to provide all citizens with due process of the laws.

Challenges Still Ahead

While those in favor of marriage equality were cheering about these decisions, the rulings were only the first step in having the Florida constitutional ban on same-sex marriage overturned. The Attorney General of Florida, Pam Bondi, has made it clear that she will work to fight against marriage equality and will defend the state constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman. She has already filed notice with the courts of her intention to appeal Judge Garcia’s ruling, which triggers a stay that prevents clerks from issuing same-sex marriage licenses in Monroe County. Bondi is expected to file notice in Miami-Dade County, as well.

Laws Are Ever-Changing

Family laws in the state of Florida can be challenged and potentially changed at any time. Because these challenges may arise in other counties or parts of the state, lawyers may not be readily aware of the changes and how they may apply to their cases. Boca Raton attorney Alan Burton knows how important it is to stay apprised of all changes and updates in the law that affect any type of family-related matter, such as marriage, divorce, child custody, and more. Mr. Burton will make sure that you receive the best outcome possible under the law in your particular case.
If you have any concerns regarding any type of family law matter, please do not hesitate to contact our office for assistance today.

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Finances are often a huge source of stress in a marriage. If two people have different spending habits and philosophies, arguments may arise on a regular basis regarding credit card balances and other debts. Unfortunately, financial disagreements are the primary predictor that a couple will divorce, according to a study conducted by the National Survey of Families and Households. These financial troubles can not only lead to divorce, but can also cause issues for you during your divorce proceedings, as well.
In a divorce, Florida law requires that all marital property and assets by equitably divided between the divorcing spouses. The same equitable division applies to all marital debts, as well. Marital debt usually includes all debts either you or your spouse incurred during the marriage, regardless if one or both of your names is on the account. It is surprisingly common for one spouse to take out an individual credit card without the knowledge of the other, and use that credit card to make large purchases or support an unhealthy shopping habit. Unfortunately, a Boca Raton family court may likely still consider this credit card balance to be marital debt and may hold you partially responsible for repayment.

How can you get relief from debts that are not yours?

Fortunately for you, an experienced Florida family law attorney may have ways to argue that you should not be held responsible for debts that are not yours. First, the date of separation or divorce filing can be very important. For example, if you got separated or filed for divorce and your spouse proceeded to quickly rack up large amounts of debt, your lawyer could argue that your spouse was simply incurring the debt in anticipation of dividing the repayment responsibilities between the two of you. In such cases, a judge will likely decide that your spouse is solely responsible for that debt. You should always check your credit reports from all three credit bureaus prior to a divorce to show that your name was not on any of the accounts your spouse opened.
Additionally, even if the judge does divide the debt responsibility between you, your attorney can make sure the division is equitable. “Equitable” does not mean the debts will be equally divided between the two of you, but instead means the debt should be fairly divided. If a judge finds that you should repay some of your spouse’s debt, your attorney can argue that you deserve additional property in return, or that any spousal support you pay should be proportionally decreased.
Dealing with debt in a divorce is never easy, and almost every American couple has some debt in one or both of their names. Fortunately, an experienced Boca Raton divorce attorney knows how to handle debt in divorce cases to work for the best possible outcome for you.
Alan Burton is a highly committed divorce attorney with extensive experience handling all financial matters as they relate to divorce cases. If you are facing divorce, please do not hesitate to contact our office today for assistance.