September 22, 2012

Divorce and children, and what is important to them

Divorce often times becomes a power struggle for control over the children. Issues such as time sharing, educational decisions, sports activities, religious upbringing, and medical care are just a few of such issues.

Anger between parents also brings the children into the middle of things. What role should the children play in their parent's divorce? Whose side should they take, and for whom should they speak on behalf of

The answer to these questions should be apparent. They are not the ones "getting divorced"; their parents are divorcing. It is not their battle, and they should not be a part of the proceedings.
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Divorcing parents in Florida must participate in state mandated parenting education courses before their divorces are finalized by the judge. It is better to participate in this required program early on in order to avoid as much conflict as possible throughout the proceedings.

HBO will be airing a documentary throughout the month of October which deals with divorce from the children's perspective. Kids will explain the impact of divorce on them, and they offer advice to parents on how they should conduct themselves during the difficult process of divorce.

Any parent who wants to clearly understand what impact the divorce process has on their own children should not miss this HBO documentary, "Don't Divorce Me! Kid's Rules for Parents on Divorce."

If you need any additional information, or assistance in the divorce process, and reducing the potential harm to children, contact an experienced attorney, one who is an advocate for children's rights. Alan R. Burton, Esq., an attorney with offices in Boca Raton, Florida is ready to advise and assist you.


September 22, 2012

Child support is a serious business

Paying child support in a timely fashion is important; not only is it important to the well being of your children, it is also important to your continuing freedom.

Although the Florida Constitution prohibits one from being imprisoned for a debt, the constitution will not protect you from being imprisoned as a result of non payment of your child support.

Although the Florida Constitution does provide safeguards for unlawful imprisonmement, if it is determined that the refusal to pay is willful, you most likely will be incarcerated for a period of time until something towards the child support arrears has been paid.

The local and national news is full of stories that deal with amnesty programs and other plans which are designed for and to encourage delinquent obligors to come forward with their child support payments.

However, these programs should not be considered as weakness or being lax on the part of the state enforcement divisions for the collection of child support. For example, Waynesboro, N.C. man was recently "brought down" by police tasers as he attempted to flee from police on a felony warrant for non-payment of child support. He is currently being held with no bond.777968_alcatraz.jpg

Some people will employ any means possible to avoid their child support obligations. Outside of Atlanta, a former government employee had his paychecks altered in order to avoid showing an increase in his income, which would ultimately lead to paying a smaller amount of child support.

This indiscretion on his part has ultimately landed him with a felony indictment for forgery, a first degree felony. Read the complete story about Freddie Ashmon, Jr.

The easiest way to not run afoul with the law is to pay your child support.

August 19, 2012

Statistics show that marriages are on the decline in Florida

More and more people, especially in Florida, are opting for the single life.

In Florida, there were 7.3 marriages per 1,000 people in the year 2010. Compare this rate to the 17.1 marriages per 1,000 people in the year 1940..

At the same time marriages are declining, the rate of divorce is increasing. In Florida, the divorce rate was 4.2 per 1,000 people in the year 2009. Just last year the divorce rate was an astonishing 76% of all marriages. You can read more about these statistics in a recent article reported in the Ledger.com.
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If you are contemplating marriage you need to be aware of these statistics. You need to prepare yourself for the worst and hope for the best. Prenuptial agreements may be a good idea in light of these kind of statistics. Plan ahead for the worst scenario, and protect yourself and your assets prior to making the important commitment that a marriage commands.

A prenuptial agreement is like an insurance policy, so to speak. You are insuring yourself against the potential for financial disaster should things not go your way. An experienced Boca Raton, Florida or Fort Lauderdale , Florida attorney, who has years of experience, can protect your interests. Make the call today to insure your future.

August 19, 2012

Modifying your child support obligation

A modification of child support, or alimony as well, is based upon an unforseen, involuntary, permanent and substantial change in circumstances. Florida statute 61.14 provides the statutory basis for a modification of child support and alimony.

If the court, after entertaining a petition for modification of support, either upward or downward, finds that there was a change in circumstances, or the financial position of either party has changed, the court can enter an order, retroactive to the date of filing the petition, granting the modification.

Often times it takes a considerable amount of time to have a matter scheduled for hearing before the court. The length of time varies between the particular judge and the courthouse in which the petition is pending.
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This is the rational behind the rule that petitions , if granted, are retroactive back to the date of filing. There is one important exception to this rule. If a parent seeks an upward modification of child support when the obligor is not exercising the agreed upon time sharing, the modification of that particular support obligation is retroactive to the date when the obligor first stopped adhering to the agreed upon time sharing schedule.

Terrell Owens, a well known player in the NFL
, was recently seeking a reduction of his child support obligations. His claim was based upon his current state of financial affairs. His efforts to reduce his support obligations would most likely have been successful, but for the fact that he most recently signed a new contract with the Seattle Seahawks for a reported sum of $1,000,000.00.

The case of Terrell Owens illustrates the point well. In order to obtain financial relief, there must be a certain degree of permanency in the change of one's financial picture, not merely a temporary one.

If you have circumstances that you believe would warrant either an increase or decrease in your support obligations, you can call the law office of Alan R. Burton anytime. With over thirty years of experience in family law matters, Mr. Burton is well qualified to assist you with your questions. He maintains offices in Boca Raton and Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Feel free to call him today. He will be available to discuss your case.


August 9, 2012

Continuing as partners in the family business after divorce

Married couples acquire many things together over the course of their marriage, including homes, vacation homes, bank accounts, automobiles, and stock portfolios. They frequently start businesses together as well.

What happens to the family business after divorce? How does it get valued, how does it get divided, who gets to continue to run the business .... these are just a few of the questions that need to be addressed in this situation.

Generally speaking, the courts do not like to keep the parties together in a business after a divorce. That being said, the business would have to be valued by a professional, and one party would have to make arrangements to buy out the other party's interest. This is the scenario which plays itself out most often.
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There are those rare occasions when divorcing couples can, however, continue to operate a business together if they can agree on that arrangement. A story was reported today in the New York Post that dealt with the continuing operation of the Philadelphia Eagles by the divorcing owners, Jeffrey Lurie and his wife.

Although their particular situation is not generally the norm, it does occur. If you have questions about your particular business, professional practice, or any other jointly owned enterprise, it would be a good idea to obtain some professional advice from an attorney experienced in these matters.

August 7, 2012

The importance of a prenuptial agreement

Why is a prenuptial agreement important and what purpose does it serve? A prenuptial agreement is a contract between two adults, and it can cover a myriad of issues, limited only by the imagination of the contracting parties.
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A prenuptial agreement most definitely, and frequently will, alter the rights of the parties should a divorce subsequently occur. Many agreements provide for the complete waiver and relinquishment of alimony and other support obligations from one party to the other. However, under Florida law, a waiver of temporary alimony under an agreement is unenforceable. You may wish to confer and consult with an experienced divorce attorney regarding this, as well as any other aspects of a prenuptial agreement.

Valuable property rights can also be given up under the provisions of a prenuptial agreement. In Florida, marital assets are most frequently divided 50-50 upon a divorce, so if one party feels that they will be contributing to the marriage in a greater proportion, they might want to provide for that contingency.

The actress Courteney Cox, who is involved in a divorce proceeding with David Arquette, apparently overlooked the importance of a prenuptial agreement. You can read her story now by following the link to her story in Forbes.

Although a marriage is considered a "partnership", that partnership does not necessarily have to be an equal partnership. This, in essence, is what a prenuptial agreement is all about. Courteney Cox may learn an expensive lesson in failing to participate in the execution of a prenuptial agreement.

Prenuptial agreements must, at a minimum, include complete financial disclosure by both parties; be executed without duress; and each party should have independent legal advice. Many times the validity of agreements are challenged, so a financial sanction should be assessed against the challenger who does not succeed in their endeavor to void an agreement.

Further information may be obtained on this area of the law by contacting Alan R. Burton, Esq. directly. Appointments are available in Boca Raton and Fort Lauderdale.

August 7, 2012

Modification of support orders

Support orders in Florida, including child support and most alimony awards, are subject to modification, based upon a change in circumstances.

There is a statute on point in Florida which governs the procedure for modifying support orders. See Florida Statute 61.14.

The statute is broad, but the essence of the law is to provide for a modification when there is a material and substantial change in circumstances, which was unanticipated, or when the financial circumstances of the parties warrant a modification.

Divorce in Florida is conducted in "courts of equity", and fairness to all those involved is an underlying characteristic of these proceedings.

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If an obligor who is paying support has fallen on bad times through no fault of his or her own, the court should be readily willing to make the appropriate adjustment in support, either on a temporary permanent basis.

August 7, 2012

Collecting child support is not always a simple matter

The payment and collection of child support in Florida as well as around the country is not always an easy process. Its surprising to see all the stories in the media today, which deal with individuals in the "public eye" who are not paying their child support.

For example, the gold medal champion, Gabby Douglas, made a recent announcement at the Olympics, that her father was a "deadbeat dad",who neglected his responsibilities. This story was recently reported in the New York Post.

This is just one of the many stories I have come across this week, all of which deal with either celebrities or prominent sports figures who, for one reason or another, seem intent on neglecting their most important resources...their children.
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Former NFL star Warren Sapp reportedly filed bankruptcy recently, where it was disclosed by Mail Online that he owed substantial child support to four different women.

We are all familiar with the Michael Jackson story, but are not as familiar with all of the collateral stories, until now. Randy Jackson is embroiled in litigation with his family over the Michael Jackson estate. It may not be a coincident that he allegedly owes over $500,000.00 in back child support.

These figures obviously represent the accumulation of child support arrears, over an extended period of time. If you are the recipient of child support, the lesson to be learned here is to act fast. Don't sit back waiting for a miracle......be proactive, and "nip the problem in the bud" before it becomes an impossible situation to ever rectify.

As an attorney with an active divorce practice in Boca Raton, Florida, and all surrounding areas, including Delray Beach, Boynton Beach, and Fort Lauderdale, with over thirty years of experience, I can implement a strategy for collecting child support payments which are due and collecting child support arrears.

Don't let this problem escalate to astronomical numbers and act today!

August 6, 2012

Time sharing and technology

Time haring with minor children in Florida is keeping up with technology. As a matter of fact, there is a specific statute in Florida that deals precisely with this issue.

Florida Statute 61.13003 is titled as "Court ordered electronic communication between a parent and a child.

This type of communication can be ordered by the court when the situation is appropriate. Some of the court ordered factors that are considered are whether it would be in the best interests of the child; whether or not the electronic equipment is readily available and affordable to the parties involved; and any history of drug use or domestic violence involved in the case.
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Notwithstanding anything to the contrary, there is a rebuttable presumption that telephone communication is in the best interests of a minor child. None of this is , of course, designed to take the place of face to face time sharing and contact; it is designed to supplement the contact.

Frequently electronic communication issues arise in the context of relocation cases. Having years of experience in trying many cases in Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale, and Broward, and Palm Beach County, Florida, you can rest assured that you will have a competent lawyer to represent your interests.

August 6, 2012

Set offs and credits from the marital home in Florida

A person claiming entitlement to any credits or set offs fom the marital home must provide for these items in their marital settlement agreement.

1387294_rural_yellow_villa.jpgIf there is no agreement, and this issue is to be resolved by the court, the court will consider the factors in Florida Statute 61.077.

Among those factors are the following:

Whether exclusive use and possession of the home is being awarded
Whether or not alimony is being awarded
Whether child support is being awarded
The value of the use and occupancy to the person in possession
The value of the loss of use and occupancy to the person not in possession
Which party will be able to claim the deductions associated with the property, such as
Taxes, interest, etc
Capital gains taxes
Any other factor necessary to do equity

Many of these items can be overlooked when you are involved in the mediation process, and considering the disposition of the marital home. Don't overlook the importance of having a competent, well qualified attorney to represent your interests in your divorce case. There are many issues that an inexperienced litigant can easily overlook.


August 6, 2012

Custody litigation should become extinct in Florida

Child custody issues, or extensive litigation in order to "win" the title of primary custodian should become a thing of the past. All of the reasons to litigate these issues have been abolished under Florida law.

Instead, Florida has adopted what is now referred to as time sharing with minor children, which is established under the provisions of a parenting plan. The requirements for a parenting plan are found in Florida Statute 61.13.
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Furthermore, the trend today is approximating an equal time sharing arrangement whenever possible. Each case would be decided on its own merits, but if it is geographically feasible based upon the distance between the parents home, and consideration of other statutory factors as found in Florida Statute 61.13, the most likely outcome will be a 50-50 split.

The best interests of the child will always be the guiding principal in consideration of the court approving a parenting plan. The plan, at a minimum, must establish how the daily tasks associated with the upbringing of the child are to be apportioned; the times each parent is to have with the child; who is to be responsible for the health insurance for the child; and which parent's address is to be utilized for school purposes.

A parenting plan can be as detailed as the parties require, or it can simply cover the minimum requirements under Florida law.

August 5, 2012

Can Facebook ruin your marriage?

Yes!

Facebook is mentioned in at least 33% of all the divorce cases filed in the United States in 2011. This is according to a story aired by ABC News.

There is no doubt that social networking and facebook are and will continue to play an integral part of all of our lives now, and well into the future. Privacy rights are now the exception, rather than the rule. Technology has taken over all aspects of our lives.

Someone is always watching you, and in a divorce proceeding, there are countless ways in which your actions can be used against you by your spouse. Custody and time sharing issues, and marital waste are just too examples.

Information, both helpful and useful, as well as damaging to your case, is just a click away.

August 5, 2012

Divorce, a private matter

Generally speaking, a divorce should be a private matter. The proceeding often times involves sensitive and personal issues, which should not be made public. However, in Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale and in other courtrooms throughout south Florida, contested divorce proceedings are conducted everyday.

1267479_broken_heart_pic.jpgMany times someone will say something, in a fit of anger or for other reasons, and then their statement comes back to haunt them in court. Never say anything that you do not want repeated in open court.

Not only are your statements admissible in court, but all of your postings, photographs and comments that you place in the public arena on social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, become open game. Be careful what you say or do during a divorce....it could harm your case and significantly impact the outcome.

Most recently there has been a barrage of public divorce cases and separations involving celebrities, including Tom Cruise, Stevie Wonder, and Kristen Stewart, just to name a few.

You do not want to achieve your notoriety in the context of your divorce case.

August 4, 2012

Equitable distribution of retirement benefits, 401(k)

Equitable distribution of retirement accounts in Florida, including 401(k) accounts, is governed by Florida Statutes 61.075.

To first determine if in fact a particular retirement account is a marital asset, you first have to understand the definition of a marital asset. A marital asset is defined as any asset acquired during the marriage, either individually or in joint names. Although there are other aspects to this definition, this is the primary definition.

Marital assets also include all vested and non vested benefits, rights, and funds accrued during the marriage in retirement, pension, profit-sharing, annuity, deferred compensation and insurance plans and programs.

We can see that retirement accounts, including a 401(k) account, even if it is in the name of one party, it will be considered as a marital asset if all of it or a portion of it was acquired during the marriage.
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Giving up any portion of a retirement account that was accumulated during the course of a marriage can be a "difficult pill to swallow." The usual reaction by an individual is that "I worked hard my whole life for that money", and "I'm not going to give up one penny of of it."

You may not necessarily have to give up a portion of the asset, but you most certainly will have to give up 50% of the value, and offset it against other assets.

Psychologically, I know it is difficult to surrender an asset many consider to be very personal. A recent article from a Jamaican Newspaper demonstrates the global aspects of an individual's view of his or her retirement accounts. They will fight to the end to protect what they perceive as their own individual assets.

August 4, 2012

Relocation with minor children in Florida

The divorce process becomes more complicated when there are minor children involved. This is especially true when one parent wishes to relocate.

Relocation with minor children in Florida is governed by Florida Statute 61.13001.

If a parent wishes to relocate from south Florida cities such as Boca Raton, Delray Beach, Fort Lauderdale, or from anywhere else in Florida, they must comply with Florida Statute 61.13001 if the move is more than 50 miles from their current residence.

The easiest way to comply with the statute is to obtain the written consent from the non-relocating parent, If that consent will not be given, you will then have to file a petition for permission to relocate. The petition is filed in the County that granted the initial divorce decree.

These cases are factually intensive, and each individual case will be heard on its own merits. Some of the relevant factors for the court to consider is whether or not child support is being paid and whether or not it is current; the reason for the requested move; whether or not alternate time sharing arrangements can be made, and who will be paying for those addidtional expenses.
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Relocation cases are important. Do not take them lightly or for granted. BE PREPARED! Feel free to call me if you have unanswered questions about the process, or whether you require any assistance in your quest to either relocate or to defend against such a proceeding.