Boca Raton Divorce Lawyer Blog
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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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Many couples who get married later want to end their legal relationship. Generally speaking, the first option that people consider is divorce, but in certain situations there may be other options available. One of the most commonly used alternatives to divorce is known as “annulment.” Just like divorce, an annulment dissolves the legal relationship between a married couple, but in an annulment the court is in essence declaring that a valid marriage never existed. For some people, is it important to avoid divorce due to the perception that it may involve some sort of social disgrace. Others may have personal religious opposition to divorce or may believe that their faith requires an annulment rather than a divorce. Annulment can be much more complicated than divorce, and often requires much more intensive assistance from an attorney. Consequently, it is important for anyone who is considering pursuing an annulment to discuss all of their options with an experienced Boca Raton family law attorney.

What are the Grounds for Annulment?

Not every marriage can be annulled. Interestingly, Florida statutory law details the procedures through which a couple can obtain a divorce, but is silent as to what reasons justify annulment. The law has been developed through court decisions interpreting common law, which are binding on lower courts through the doctrine of precedent. Some of the common grounds for annulment recognized by Florida courts include the following:

  •         One spouse was still married to someone else
  •         One of the parties to the marriage was underage
  •         The marriage was illegal
  •         Consanguinity
  •         One spouse engaged in fraud or misrepresentations in order to induce the other spouse to get married
  •         The marriage was never consummated
  •         Lack of capacity due to mental issues or intoxication

What are the benefits of obtaining an annulment rather than a divorce?

Because Florida annulment law can be very complicated, it is important for anyone who believes they may be entitled to an annulment to discuss their circumstances with an experienced lawyer. Some of the benefits of annulment over divorce include the following:

  •         The complications regarding the division of property or child custody are limited
  •         No obligation to support the other party after the annulment has been granted
  •         Avoidance of any social stigma that you believe may be associated with a divorce
  •         If the grounds for annulment are agreed-upon, the avoidance of legal battles with the other party to the marriage

While these advantages may make a significant difference to some couples, for others they may not. In some cases, it may be simpler for two people who agree that a marriage never should have happened in the first place to simply obtain a divorce instead of an annulment. This way, they can agree to the terms of the divorce through a settlement agreement and incorporate that settlement into the divorce decree, making it binding. Of course, each case should be thoroughly reviewed by an experienced attorney in order to determine what course of action is best based on your specific circumstances.

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

Florida lawyer Alan R. Burton has been helping people with legal issues related to family law for over three decades. To schedule a free consultation, call our office today at (954) 229-1660.

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Many people who must pay child support mistakenly believe that their payments should only ever be used to pay for a child’s basic needs, such as food, shelter, and clothing. Though child support laws intend for the support payments to contribute to basic necessities, the Florida family courts have busy schedules and do not generally have the time to monitor how parents are spending their child support payments. Therefore, in reality, child support funds may go toward supporting many more aspects of a child’s life.

It is generally up the custodial parent receiving the child support how to best put the child support payments to use. Some parents may use these funds specifically for the needs of the child, while others may combine child support payments with household earnings in order to pay rent, utilities, or make purchases for the entire family. The following are common parts of a child’s life that child support may cover.

Education

Child support payments may go toward tuition, uniforms, or other costs. Even if the child attends public school, support payments may help cover lunch money, books, school supplies, and more.

Transportation

Children need to be transported to school, activities, visits with the non-custodial parent, and other appointments in a safe and secure manner. Therefore, a parent may use child support to cover fuel, car insurance, car maintenance, and more.

Childcare

If neither parent is able to stay home with the child on a regular basis, it makes sense that child support would contribute toward the costs of daycare centers, babysitters, nannies, or other childcare arrangements.

Medical expenses

Child support is often used to pay for any out-of-pocket medical expenses including deductibles, co-pays, special medications or treatments, or any bills that exceed the limits of insurance coverage.

Entertainment

Parents often use child support to pay for technology and activities that are age-appropriate for the child’s entertainment. These may include iPods, computers, gaming consoles, or trips to the amusement park or a movie theater.

Extracurricular Activities

The costs of sports programs, camps and other activities are generally shared between parents in Florida. The parents must usually come to an agreement on how these extra costs will be handled as part of their parenting plan. If they cannot reach an agreement, a family court may order each parent to pay a certain percentage.

The only time a custodial parent’s use of child support may come into question is if the other parent suspects the child’s basic needs are being neglected or that the receiving parent is engaging in some type of criminal or wrongful activity with the child support funds. If a parent suspects that any such situation is occurring, he or she may request that a court or child support agency review how the child support was being used and monitor future use of the funds. Misuse of funds may lead to a modification of a child support order or of child custody arrangements.

If you have any questions regarding child support or any other family law issues, please call the Boca Raton office of experienced family law attorney Alan R. Burton for assistance today.

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On Monday, October 6, 2014, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) declined to hear a number of cases involving marriage equality. The Court gave no explanation for this decision, though its refusal to be involved in the same-sex marriage debate means that the decisions by the Courts of Appeals invalidating same-sex marriage bans will stand.

Several Courts of Appeals had ruled in favor of marriage equality, striking down any same-sex marriage bans on the basis that such bans violate the constitutional rights of gay couples. Specifically, courts reasoned that bans violated the rights of homosexual couples wishing to marry to equal protection of the laws. Many of the states within these judicial districts had appealed the decision to allow gay marriage, asking SCOTUS to review the rulings.

Though SCOTUS has refused to hear gay marriage cases at this point, this may change in the future if a Court of Appeals decides to uphold a state’s same-sex marriage ban. In that case, the high Court will likely have to sort out the conflicting decisions.

The Quick Expansion of Same-sex Marriage Rights

When SCOTUS declined to review the Courts of Appeals rulings, the justices opened the door for same-sex marriage to be quickly legalized in numerous states. The effect of the decision was noticed almost immediately, as same-sex couples gained the right to legally marry in several more states over the next 48 hours. Courts in Virginia reportedly started issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couple only hours after SCOTUS announced its decision. In addition to this immediate effect, many states have had court rulings in favor of same-sex marriage and though additional action is required, the path is open for marriage equality to take effect in the near future.

At this time, same sex marriage is fully legal in the following states: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Virginia, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, and Washington, D.C. Several other states are expected to see their bans invalidated in the next few days. Additionally, the other federal court circuits who have not yet issued decisions are expected to rule on the issue in the coming months.

What does this mean for Florida?

In Florida, the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage currently remains in place for the time being. Several judges in lower courts have ruled in favor of marriage equality. These cases are now pending review by the appellate courts, which can either uphold or reverse the decision. The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit is also expected to review a decision on gay marriage and any pro-marriage equality ruling in that court would affect the state of Florida, as well.

Though same-sex couples do not yet have the right to marry nationwide, it seems to be only a matter of time following the SCOTUS decision. If you have any questions regarding marriage or divorce of any kind, please call the Boca Raton family law office of Alan R. Burton for help today.

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In any Florida divorce that involves any type of financial issues such as property division, debt division, child support, and more, each spouse is required to disclose certain information regarding their finances to the other spouse. This trading of information is referred to as Mandatory Disclosure and is required by the Florida Family Courts Rule of Procedure 12.285.

In accordance with Mandatory Disclosure Rules, both spouses must submit the following:

  •         A financial affidavit using a particular long form for income over $50,000 or another short form for income under $50,000. The information on these forms includes a detailed breakdown of your gross monthly income, monthly deductions, expenses, liabilities/debts, and assets.
  •         Three years’ worth of personal federal, state, and personal property tax returns.
  •         Three years’ worth of corporate or other business tax returns if applicable.
  •         Evidence of income for the past three months, such as pay stubs.
  •         Leases, promissory notes, or deeds in which the spouse has or recently had an ownership interest.
  •         Any loan or credit applications prepared within 12 months.
  •         Three months of statements for any credit cards, loans, leases, or other types of debt.
  •         Certain number of account statements for all checking accounts, savings accounts, certificates of deposit, money market accounts, brokerage accounts, and more.
  •         All life, health, or dental insurance policies covering you, your spouse, or any dependent children.
  •         Statements for all retirement accounts including pensions, 401(k), IRA, 403(b), and more.
  •         Any court orders for current child or spousal support obligations.

In addition to the above information, if you or your spouse is claiming that certain property is nonmarital and thus not subject to equitable distribution, evidence supporting that claim must be submitted as part of the mandatory disclosures. Also, a spouse must submit any premarital agreements they claim are will come into play in the divorce.

While it may seem daunting to have to compile and disclose all of the above financial information, your spouse must also do the same. These Mandatory Disclosures ensure that your spouse is not lying about his or her financial situation in order to avoid paying certain support or to influence a property division determination. Such disclosures will give both sides a clear view of the whole financial picture of the marriage, which can help ensure that any division or support decisions are fair.

There are certain situations in which Mandatory Disclosures may be waived, including simplified divorces and collaborative divorce proceedings. A financial affidavit may still be required in those situations, though the additional paperwork may not be necessary depending on your situation.

A Boca Raton Divorce Attorney Can Assist You

You always want to make sure to give an accurate picture of your situation in Mandatory Disclosures to ensure that you receive the property and support that you deserve in your divorce. Additionally, correctly reporting all of your liabilities may help make sure the court does not require you to pay more support than you can afford. Alan R. Burton is an experienced divorce attorney in Boca Raton who can help you through every step of the divorce process and make sure your rights are protected. Contact our office today for a free consultation.

 

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In many divorces between celebrities, business moguls, or other individuals with significant assets, the media reports numerous headlines regarding long, drawn-out court battles for property, spousal support, and more. High worth divorces are often associated with acrimonious couples who each want a large settlement. However, some celebrity couples have been able to divorce in an amicable manner.

Media outlets recently reported that reality television stars Bruce and Kris Jenner have filed for divorce after 23 years of marriage and after living separately for over one year. Together, the couple has substantial wealth and property resulting from various professional endeavors. Additionally, the couple reportedly did not sign a premarital agreement prior to their 1991 wedding. In many cases, the lack of a premarital agreement in a high asset divorce can easily create more complications and drama since there is no clear guideline for the equitable division of assets. However, the media reports that the Jenners have come to an amicable agreement on all aspects of their divorce without heading into court.

The parents have agreed to have joint legal and physical custody of their only minor daughter and neither spouse is requesting any spousal support. Additionally, property division determinations have been reported as follows:

  • Real property—Kris is keeping their home in Hidden Hills, CA; Bruce keeps their home in Malibu
  • Assets—Kris gets $50 million; Bruce gets $20 million.
  • Personal property—Kris is keeping five luxury cars and her own jewelry; Bruce is keeping two luxury cars.
  • Retirement accounts—Each will keep retirement investments worth $10 million apiece.

Sources state that Kris Jenner is receiving more assets because of her greater contributions to their wealth due to her role as manager of their daughters. If the family court approves their settlement agreement, the Jenners may be a seemingly rare example of an amicable celebrity divorce.

Complications in High Asset Divorces

Many divorce cases involving substantial wealth can be complicated for the following reasons:

  • Many different types of property must be divided, including business interests, investments, vacation properties, and much more.
  • Generally one spouse requests significant spousal support.
  • One or both spouses may try to hide assets in offshore accounts or other methods.
  • Spouses in such a situation may not be opposed to spending money on lengthy litigious battles.

Not every high-end divorce needs to be unpleasant and drawn out, however. If you have a skilled attorney handling your case, there are many methods of dispute resolution that can help you reach a settlement outside of court. In short, high asset divorces do not have to be highly unpleasant experiences.

Consult with an Experienced Divorce Lawyer Today

The assistance of an experienced attorney can be invaluable in settling high assets divorces without costly litigation. Boca Raton family law attorney Alan R. Burton is highly experienced in all types of divorce cases, including those involving a substantial amount of property and assets. If you are considering divorce, please do not hesitate to call our office at (954) 229-1660 to schedule a free consultation today.

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When most people think of divorce, they may immediately think of long, drawn-out battles in court, with each spouse accusing the other of wrongdoing and fighting for every piece of property and custody of the children. However, the truth is that most divorce cases in Florida are much less dramatic and much more amicable than what you see in movies and on television shows.

In fact, many couples are able to agree on the major issues in their split, and thus are able to proceed with a relatively uneventful uncontested divorce. One photo that recently went viral on the Internet actually shows a Florida couple taking a “selfie” after their divorce was finalized. The former spouses both appear to be happy, getting along, and they stated they were celebrating the time they had together as a married couple.

The Uncontested Divorce Process in Florida

“Uncontested” means that the spouses can agree on all major issues of the divorce. Such issues include:

  •         Parent time-sharing;
  •         All aspects of the parenting plan;
  •         How all marital debts will be divided;
  •         How all marital property will be divided;
  •         The amount of all child support and how long the support will last; and
  •         The amount of all spousal support and how long the support will last.

If you can come to agreements on all of these issues, an attorney can submit your proposed agreement to the Florida family courts. If the court approves the settlement agreement, you may have your divorce finalized without any major court hearings. This means that couples who are able to complete an uncontested divorce often save time, money, and stress associated with numerous court appearances. Uncontested divorce still requires couples to provide full financial disclosure and also requires six months residency of at least one spouse in the state.

Unfortunately, uncontested divorce does not work for every couple. If there are substantial debts or marital assets, it may be more difficult to agree on how such debts and property will be equitable divided. If domestic abuse is an issue, a court may wish to step in on custody determinations to make sure all arrangements are in the best interests of the child. If the spouses have significant power struggles, it also may be hard to reach a settlement. This is often the case when one spouse has a much higher potential for earnings or employment opportunities than the other, or when one spouse is seeking significant financial support.

Deciding What is Right for You

Whether or not you and your spouse believe that you may succeed in an uncontested divorce, an experienced Boca Raton family law attorney can help you explore your options for as simple a case resolution as possible. Options such as simplified divorce, collaborative divorce, mediation, arbitration, and more can help you avoid costly litigation regarding any contested issues and come to your own arrangement with your spouse without extensive time spent in court.

If you are considering divorce, call the Boca Raton office of family lawyer Alan R. Burton for assistance. We offer free consultations, so please call us today at (954) 229-1600 to set up a meeting.

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Many divorces involve heated custody battles regarding time-sharing with the children between the two parents. Florida law presumes that sharing time and fostering a relationship with both parents is in the best interest of the children, unless sufficient evidence is presented to the contrary. However, courts in Florida are significantly less concerned with the well-being of “children” of the furrier variety—namely pets, such as dogs and cats.

Dogs and cats often have very close relationships with their owners, much like a parent-child relationship. Often, couples who do not have children consider themselves parents of their pets. Therefore, if a couple divorces, the question often arises: How is time with the pet shared? While some states have laws regarding time-sharing of pets, Florida does not have any laws specifically addressing this issue.

Florida Courts Not Very Concerned About Pet Time-Sharing Determinations

In the 1990s, one Florida couple became involved in a fierce battle over the custody of their dog in the case of Bennett v. Bennett. The court gave the husband primary custody with visitation rights to the wife, however both parties filed numerous motions for modifications of the custody arrangements and took up a great amount of time in court. Finally, a Florida Court of Appeals decided that it is not a job for the courts to spend time deciding custody disputes over pets. The appellate court stated that courts have a difficult enough time resolving custody matters involving children, and they should not waste resources regarding pets. Instead, the decision stated courts should treat pets like any other type of marital property and divide ownership equitably.

Pets Often Treated as Property

Because Florida courts will generally not make pet custody decisions, pets are treated like marital property in a divorce. Because marital property is equitably divided between the spouses according to state law, the pet usually ends up solely with one spouse or the other. Since both spouses may have equally close relationships with a pet, they may each be willing to fight at length for possession of that pet. For this reason, pet ownership can lead to costly litigation in divorce cases.

If you and your spouse can come to your own agreement regarding sharing time with a pet, you may both get to spend continued time with the pet and the property determination will not be left up to the court. For this reason, it is always best for a divorcing couple to work on a compromise regarding pet time-sharing. If you are unable to come to a compromised agreement on your own, dispute resolution techniques such as mediation or collaborative divorce may assist you.

Pet custody is only one issue in a divorce that many couples do not foresee to be a contested matter. An experienced Boca Raton divorce attorney can help you negotiate to come to a favorable agreement so that you can continue to spend time with your beloved pet without the need for expensive litigation. If you are facing a divorce, call the law office of experienced attorney Alan R. Burton for assistance today.

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Domestic violence is an extremely serious criminal offense in Florida. However, the consequences of domestic violence accusations or charges may reach far beyond the criminal courts. Such allegations may additionally affect any pending family law matters, as well as your personal and professional reputations. You may risk losing custody of your children or even your job. If you have been the victim of domestic violence, the safety of you and your children is at risk. For these reasons, all parties in a domestic violence case should always have an experienced family attorney handling their case.

Domestic Violence in the Sports Spotlight

In recent weeks, star running back Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens NFL team has made headlines due to allegations that he was physically abusive to his then-fiancée, now-wife Janay Rice. The NFL had originally suspended Rice for two games due to the allegations. This short suspension angered some advocates, however the NFL claimed they had no proof based on which to suspend him for a longer period of time.

However, gossip site TMZ recently released video footage showing Rice knocking out Janay in an elevator and dragging her body into the hallway. Even worse, proof has been offered that the NFL secretly had access to these videos and lied about it to support a shorter suspension. Since the release of the videos, the Ravens team has released Rice and he has been placed on “indefinite suspension” by the league.

Though the Rice case has video footage serving as proof of domestic violence, not all cases have such substantive proof. In fact, some cases may be fabricated to get the upper hand in a divorce case or to inflict pain on a domestic partner. One possible example of this is the recent case involving Boca Raton UFC fighter, Thiago Silva, who has faced accusations of attacking and pointing a gun at his then estranged wife. UFC officials originally swore that Silva would never be allowed to fight for the league again.

After reporting the incident to the police, however, Silva’s now ex-wife began acting erratically. She stopped responding to prosecutors and investigators and eventually moved back to Brazil without informing the authorities she was leaving. Without her testimony or other assistance, prosecutors decided to dismiss all charges against Silva. Silva claims that she falsely accused him because she wanted more money in their divorce agreement. Silva has been re-signed with the UFC for Boca Raton. This is one example of how false accusations may have ruined a person’s reputation and professional opportunities.

Contact an Experienced Boca Raton Family Lawyer for Help with your Domestic Violence Case

Whether you have been the victim of domestic violence charges or whether someone has falsely accused you of domestic violence, you should always have an experienced family law attorney representing you for any ancillary family court matters. Alan R. Burton is a highly experienced Boca Raton family lawyer who can assist you with a wide variety of matters in family court. Please do not hesitate to contact our office for help today.

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For many people, going through a divorce can be an extremely acrimonious process. After all, if you and your spouse were getting along, you would likely not be getting a divorce in the first place. Divorce can affect almost any aspect of a person’s life, including his or her living situation, access to any children of the marriage, finances, and may even require that a person reenter the workforce after a significant hiatus. These are serious issues, and the outcome of any divorce proceedings can have a significant impact on all of them. As a result, it is important that anyone going through a Florida divorce discuss their options with an experienced divorce attorney who is familiar with our state’s often complicated and difficult to understand divorce laws. Here are some of the ways that a divorce lawyer may be able to help you:

Act as an Objective Advocate

When a couple decides to end their marriage and divorce, emotions can run high. In many cases, an argument over “who gets the house” may not be about the house at all, but rather be about years of unresolved conflict clouding each party’s judgment. An attorney, while advocating for his or her client’s interests, is not emotionally involved in the relationship. As a result, communicating through a lawyer to your partner’s lawyer can often result in much more fruitful negotiations than speaking directly to your spouse. Successful negotiations outside of the courtroom can often keep litigation costs down and can also result in an outcome which is more favorable to both parties than one imposed by a judge.

Ensure that your Legal Rights are Protected

Individuals who are ending a marriage have certain legal rights as to marital property, parental rights, and the ability to request alimony. Florida divorce courts have wide discretion in many areas and are authorized by statute to consider “all relevant factors” in many of these determinations. An attorney who understands how judges make these determinations can make sure that your case is presented in the best light possible. In addition, the assistance of a lawyer can make sure that you are not taken advantage of in any settlement that may occur outside of court.

Help You Find Alternatives to Litigation

Litigation can be extremely expensive, often costing thousands of dollars. There are many alternatives to going to court to determine the ancillary issues often raised when a married couple decides to divorce. Informal negotiation, mediation, and collaborative divorce are just a few of the options that an experienced family law attorney can help you explore. In many cases, employing these alternatives to litigation can help keep the divorce process as inexpensive as possible while ensuring that your legal rights are protected and your needs are met.

Contact a Boca Raton Divorce Attorney Today to Schedule a Free Consultation

Anyone who is considering a Florida divorce should contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible. To schedule a free consultation with family law attorney Alan R. Burton, call our office today at (954) 229-1660.

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