Boca Raton Divorce Lawyer Blog
Boca Raton Divorce Lawyer Blog
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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.

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Divorce attorneys have long been advising their clients to refrain from posting status updates or photos on social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter during their divorce cases. Too many people ignore this advice, however, and post things they find harmless that only comes to hurt their case in some way. For example, relatively innocuous photos of you having a margarita on the beach in Mexico could possibly be used as evidence of your financial situation (that you can afford to take vacations) or to question your fitness to be a good parent (due to a “party” lifestyle). A recent case out of Florida only reaffirms the fact that courts are willing to use social media evidence to decide cases.

No privacy rights to Facebook photos

The Fourth District Court of Appeals of the State of Florida ruled on a case earlier this year that involved a woman’s attempt to keep her Facebook photos and profile information from the other party following a discovery request. The woman claimed that, even though the photos were on the internet, she had set her account to “private” and, therefore, her photos should remain private. The court held that she had no privacy rights to photos or Facebook profile and that they did not constitute any type of privileged information. Because her profile contents could reasonably lead to discoverable evidence, the court held she had to turn over access to her account.

Many people believe that privacy settings will protect them from social media contents playing a role in a legal case. The decision in the above case illustrates how privacy settings provide a false sense of security for anyone involved in a legal matter. Though the above example was a personal injury case, the same ideas ring true for divorce and custody cases, as well. Divorce attorneys often like to take pieces of information to paint a picture for the judge of your situation. For this reason, obtaining little snippets of information from your Facebook page can be harmful, even if the photos or status updates were taken completely out of context. These are the reasons why you should always listen to your divorce lawyer and stay off social media during the course of your divorce case.

Boca Raton divorce attorney Alan R. Burton can help you

Many people in the midst of divorce do not realize how much Facebook or social media posts can affect their cases. For this reason and more, you should always have an experienced divorce attorney handling your case who can advise on how and how not to act until your divorce is final. An attorney will know the risks of social media during a divorce, as well as other factors that may adversely affect your case, and will work to make sure your best interests are protected. If you are facing a divorce or any other kind of family law issue, call the law office of Alan R. Burton in Boca Raton for assistance today.

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When two parents divorce or are unmarried, the Florida family courts will carefully consider many factors in deciding how much time each parent will get to spend with the child. Though the courts often try to split the parental rights between the parents as equally as possible, they always have to keep the best interests of the child in mind when making physical custody and visitation determinations. Sometimes, if a parent disagrees with a custody or visitation order, they will take the matter into their own hands and try to interfere with the order. Florida courts take interference with custody or visitation very seriously and parents who interfere with court orders can face serious consequences.

Common interference

Custody interference most often occurs when one parent refuses to follow the schedule for visitation set out by the court in the parenting plan. This can include not taking the child to see the other parent when they are supposed to or even refusing to allow the child to communicate with the other parent on the phone. If your custody or visitation rights are being denied by your child’s other parent, there are different steps you can take to enforce the parenting plan schedule. For example, you can file an emergency motion with the courts to enforce the custody order. The court can even place the other parent in contempt and impose sanctions if they continue to interfere with custody.

Criminal interference

If a parent secretly or forcibly takes a child without authority to do so under the parenting plan or consent by the other parent, they could end up facing serious criminal charges as well as consequences in family court, including complete loss of custody rights. Florida criminal law sets out interference of custody as a third degree felony, which can mean up to five years in prison. Furthermore, some parents who physically take their children without authority face kidnapping charges, which is a first degree felony and could mean a very long prison sentence. A father recently made headlines for taking his children from New Jersey to Florida and keeping them for six weeks without authority, and he is now being held on $800,000 bail and facing kidnapping charges. As you can see, in some cases, custody interference can be extremely serious.

An experienced family law attorney in Boca Raton can help with your case

If your child’s parent has tried to disobey the custody or visitation order in your case, you should call an experienced family law attorney as soon as possible to find out how to proceed. The best way to ensure that as few issues will arise as possible is to make sure a fair and favorable custody determination is set forth in the first place. Boca Raton family lawyer Alan R. Burton can help with all aspects at any stage of your custody case, including enforcement of an existing order. If you have any type of family law issue, call our office today to discuss how we can help you.

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The Florida Senate and House of Representatives will consider a newly proposed bill that would effectively end lifetime alimony awards in our state and make several others changes to existing alimony laws. Florida is currently one of only a few remaining states with laws that allow awards of lifetime alimony. A similar bill failed in 2013, however the new bill does not retroactively affect individuals already receiving alimony, which was a major issue that concerned Governor Scott and other opposition in previous versions. In fact, the new bill is largely supported by lawmakers

Under the new law, courts would also have significantly less discretion in alimony awards and the formula would instead closer resemble child support determinations, which are based on a specific income-driven formula. Instead of arbitrarily choosing alimony amounts and the length of awards, courts would use a formula that considered the income of each spouse, the length of the marriage, and other specific factors. Courts would still have the discretion to go outside the guidelines when they believe there is justification to do so. However, the guidelines would largely help to standardize alimony awards so spouses would have a better idea of what to expect in a pending divorce case. Additionally, there would always be an end date for an alimony award.

Some of the other changes to alimony laws that would take place should the bill pass include as follows:

  • Courts would need to consider whether parties are living up to their earning potential prior to awarding them alimony.
  • Alimony increases will not be simply tied to increases in income for the payer.
  • If the alimony payer remarries, a new spouse’s income and assets will not be considered as a factor in increasing alimony.
  • Retirement will constitute a “substantial change in circumstances” that allows the payer to request a reduction or elimination of payments.
  • No alimony will be awarded to a spouse married less than two years unless extreme circumstances exist.
  • No individual will have to pay combined alimony and child support over 55 percent of their net earnings.

Such alimony reform will likely ease the fears of spouses divorcing after lengthy marriages that they will be handing over large payments indefinitely. However, the bill is not meant to solely benefit the alimony payer. Due to the standardized formula, many spouses will be awarded greater alimony than they may have been otherwise. The bill aims to promote fairness and balance between both payer and payee, though whether it will become law is yet to be seen.

An experienced Boca Raton family law attorney can answer your questions

Many people considering divorce in Florida may have concerns about the changes in the family laws and may wonder whether it is better to file for divorce before or after the potential change in the alimony laws. An experienced divorce lawyer can evaluate your individual situation and provide advice on what is in your best interests, as well as guide you through the divorce process. Please do not hesitate to call Boca Raton attorney Alan R. Burton for assistance today.

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Congressman Alan Grayson of Florida has been in the midst of an extraordinarily acrimonious divorce since last year, and he is reportedly preparing to make accusations of bigamy against his wife, Lolita, at trial. Though he had previously expressed his suspicions of bigamy, Grayson claims he will present these suspicions to the judge and request a legal annulment instead of a dissolution.

Specifically, Grayson claims that his wife married him in 1990 and did not legally divorce her first husband, Robert Carson, until 1994. These claims are based on divorce records discovered in Broward County, Florida for “Lolita B. Carson.” His wife claims that the divorce involved a different Lolita Carson and that she was actually divorced in Guam in 1981. Neither Grayson nor his wife have been able to locate Robert Carson to testify in the matter.

Effects of an annulment

If Lolita Grayson was actually still legally married when she wed Alan Grayson in 1990, the second marriage would be legally invalid and the court would issue an annulment. While both a divorce and an annulment serve to dissolve a marriage, an annulment treats the parties as if they had never been married in the first place. This has the following legal effects:

  • No property would be considered “marital property” and equitably divided under Florida’s property division laws.
  • No inheritance rights would exist based on marital status.
  • Neither spouse would have claims to insurance, retirement, or similar benefits.

Annulments do have some similarities to divorces, however. For example, custody issues are treated in the same manner and children of an annulled marriage are considered legally legitimate. Additionally, a judge can award temporary alimony in some cases, especially if one spouse was a victim of fraud on the other’s part.

Rep. Grayson is likely pursuing an annulment for a few reasons. First, his worth is reportedly valued at $31 million and he would not have to divide his assets with his wife. Second, by accusing his wife of wrongdoing, he is likely hoping to draw attention away from his wife’s own accusations against him of battery, financial abandonment, and more. Overall, the Grayson divorce seems rife with bitterness, dramatic allegations, political and financial motives, and other complications. The trial has been delayed numerous times for various reasons ranging from changes of attorneys to leaking breast implants. Some of the issues have been so extraordinary that the presiding judge even likened the dramatic case to the political drama House of Cards. We will be watching whether the case actually moves forward to trial and whether Grayson’s bigamy allegations will garner an annulment.

Contact an experienced Florida family law attorney for help

If you are considering seeking a legal annulment or a divorce in Florida, you should always have the assistance of an experienced lawyer who understands all of the state laws related to dissolution of a marriage. As demonstrated by the above case, divorce cases can have many unique legal issues and complications and you should have an attorney who knows how to protect your rights in such situations. Please call the law office of Alan R. Burton in Boca Raton for a free consultation today.

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Paige Laurie, the granddaughter of Walmart founder James “Bud” Walton, married Patrick Bode Dubbert in a reportedly over-the-top ceremony in 2008. Prior to the marriage, the couple signed a premarital agreement that stated, should the marriage end, Laurie agreed to pay $30,000 per month in spousal support for half of the time the marriage lasted. Last spring, after nearly six years of marriage, Laurie filed for divorce.

Though Laurie has reportedly agreed to abide by the spousal support guidelines agreed upon in the premarital agreement, Dubbert has been trying to invalidate the prenup. While it may seem illogical to fight against an agreement that awards you nearly $1.1 million, Dubbert apparently believes that he requires substantially more support than previously agreed upon. Specifically, Dubbert has filed a lawsuit that requests support for the following “necessities” every month:

  • $40,000 – $60,000 for a rental home
  • $80,000 for entertainment
  • $30,000 for vacations
  • $10,000 for furniture
  • $6,700 for a personal chef
  • $5,000 for clothes purchases
  • $4,000 for a personal driver
  • $2,500 for a personal trainer
  • $1,000 for a personal stylist
  • $2,500 for charitable donations

These are only some of the necessities Dubbert cites, as the total amount amount adds to about $240,000 per month after taxes ($400,000 before taxes). Dubbert argues that because he no longer works for Laurie’s company, he requires such support to find a new way to support the lifestyle to which he has become accustomed.

Can a premarital agreement be invalidated?

Like any other type of contract, a premarital agreement has certain requirements in order to be enforceable. If such requirements are not met or other certain circumstances exist, it may be possible for one spouse to invalidate the agreement. The following are examples of reasons a prenup may be invalid:

  • One party signed under duress or coercion
  • One party did not have independent representation by an attorney
  • There was not full disclosure of a party’s financial situation
  • Terms are ambiguous or unconscionable
  • Promises made in the agreement were not kept
  • The agreement was not in writing

Specifically, Dubbert claims that he had originally retained legal counsel to review and negotiate the prenup but that Laurie had convinced him not to use the attorney due to a lack of experience with high-asset marriages. Dubbert also claims that he signed the premarital agreement under duress since Laurie’s parents allegedly presented him with an ultimatum that they would not pay for the wedding expenses if he did not sign. Whether or not these reasons will be enough to invalidate part or all the prenuptial agreement remains to seen, and even if the spousal support portion is invalidated, it seems unlikely that a court would approve Dubbert’s extravagant requests.

Contact a Boca Raton family law attorney today to schedule a free consultation

One does not need a Walton-esque family fortune to be able to benefit from a well-crafted premarital agreement. As a result, anyone considering getting married should discuss their circumstances with an attorney, as circumstances can and often do change. Alan Burton has been practicing family law in Florida for over 30 years and maintains offices in Boca Raton and Fort Lauderdale. To schedule a free consultation with Mr. Burton, call our offices at (954) 229-1660 or (954) 295-9222.