Articles Posted in Divorce Procedure

Published on:

Child custody is often a complex and hotly contested issue in family law cases. In many situations, parents involved in a custody case are getting divorced or ending a dating relationship and, too often, one parent may want to limit the custody of the other. One parent may allege that the other engages in misconduct or is otherwise unfit to parent the child. Though Florida law presumes that joint custody and relationships with both parents is preferable, the courts will look into such allegations to ensure that the custody determination is truly in the best interests of the child. In these situations, the court may order a custody evaluation.

Custody evaluations involve the appointment of a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) to protect the rights and best interests of the child. A forensic psychologist may also be appointed to help evaluate the situation. These professionals are expected to remain impartial regarding the two parents and focus solely on what type of custody arrangement may be best for the child.

An evaluation may include the following depending on the particular situation:

  • Interviews with the child
  • Interviews with each parent
  • Observing the way the child interacts with each parent
  • Interviewing doctors, teachers, or others who may help shed light on the parent-child relationships
  • Psychological testing
  • Alcohol and drug evaluations

When the evaluators feel they have gathered enough information to issue a recommendation, they turn a report in to the court.

Custody evaluators can take many different factors into consideration when making their recommendations, including each parent’s background, approach to parenting, opinions of the other parent, position, mental health status, as well as any incidences or accusations of domestic abuse or alienation of affection. They can also recommend that one or both parents attend parenting courses or therapy sessions as part of the arrangement.

Consult With an Attorney Before Your Evaluation

It is only natural that you will be nervous and stressed going into any evaluation interviews. However, there are certain things you should remember in order to receive the most favorable custody determination possible. An experienced family law attorney who understands how the Florida family courts handle custody evaluations can help prepare you for your interviews or meetings. A lawyer can advise you of common questions so that you are not surprised in the interview and inadvertently make a comment that can hurt your case.

Contact a Boca Raton Family Law Attorney for Assistance as Soon as Possible

Custody determinations are extremely important as they often directly affect your ability to develop and maintain a lasting relationship with your child. For this reason, you never want to go into a custody evaluation unprepared. Experienced family lawyer Alan R. Burton has helped numerous parents obtain positive custody arrangements that work for them and their children. Mr. Burton can also handle all other aspects of your divorce or family law case. If you are facing a divorce or custody case, you should not delay in calling our Boca Raton office at 954-229-1660 for help today.

Published on:

German media recently reported a story regarding an angry husband who decided to take the division of property into his own hands following a split with his wife of 12 years. The man posted a video on Youtube that showed him taking a chainsaw to many of his and his wife’s possessions and literally cutting them in half. The video shows the resulting half of a bicycle, a couch, a bed, a laptop, an iPhone, a teddy bear, and even their car. The husband claims he sent one set of halves to his wife and posted his own set on eBay.

While this husband’s video entertained millions of viewers and his actions garnered international attention, pulling such a stunt is not advisable in the face of divorce from a financial and legal standpoint. In fact, in a Florida divorce case, that husband would likely face financial consequences for destroying marital property in such a manner.

Property Division in Accordance with Florida Law

Florida law mandates that division of all marital property must be equitable. Equitable does not mean equal (and especially does not mean cutting everything directly in half), but instead means that the division should be fair. What is fair will depend on many factors including the nature of the property, the length of the marriage, contributions to the household, and much more.

Many angry spouses may have the desire to destroy some of their marital property simply to keep their spouses from having it. This can include spending lavish amounts of money or physically destroying personal property. However, courts will take such behavior into consideration when making other determinations regarding the divorce case. For example, if you waste money or property, a court may award your spouse more of the remaining property to make up for it. Courts may also award your spouse additional alimony due to your wrongdoing. Furthermore, vengefully destroying property can also affect how a court views your character when making custody determinations. The court can also take into account whether you seem to be uncooperative in the divorce process when deciding what is fair and equitable.

In short, while sawing your property in half may make for an entertaining viral video, it will likely cause difficulty in your divorce case. It is always important to consult with an experienced divorce lawyer before taking any action regarding your property, especially before doing anything dramatic or impulsive that may affect your case.

An Experienced Boca Raton Divorce Attorney Can Help You

One of the main functions of a qualified divorce attorney is to advise you on what to do and what not to do throughout the course of your divorce case. A Boca Raton divorce lawyer will be able to provide an objective point of view with Florida’s divorce laws in mind to ensure you receive the most favorable outcome possible. If you are facing divorce or want to discuss any matter involving family law, call the law office of Alan R. Burton at 954-229-1660 for assistance today.

Published on:

 

87-year-old Martin Zelman of Palm Beach has filed for divorce from his wife of 15 years, though now Florida family courts will have to decide whether or not he truly wants one. Last year, another Florida judge declared Zelman mentally incompetent and appointed his son and daughter as his guardians. With this declaration, Zelman lost the right to make most decisions for himself, however, he retained the right to file legal claims, which allowed him to file a divorce petition. His wife, 80-year-old Lois Zelman, is challenging the validity of the divorce filing as she claims Martin does not, in fact, want to get divorced. She asserts that his three children are behind the divorce and that they have purposefully isolated Martin and fabricated stories that she abused him.

If Lois remains married to Martin until his death, she would retain access to their homes in Palm Beach and New York City, their cars, their club memberships and art, and will receive an estimated $10 million. If the judge grants the divorce, Lois will receive none of Martin’s $50 million dollar estate based on a prenuptial agreement they signed prior to marriage and his children will instead inherit all of his wealth. The judge stated that he will have to determine whether or not each side is simply fighting over money or whether they truly have Martin’s best interests in mind. Each side, of course, claims the case is not about the money.

Divorce Involving an Incapacitated Person in Florida

Florida has a law in place intended to protect mentally incapacitated individuals whose spouses try to divorce them while they cannot defend their rights. The statute requires the filing spouse to wait until the incapacitation has lasted for at least three years before a court can grant a divorce. However, the incapacitated person is generally not the one who is seeking the divorce in the first place.

Even though the probate judge last year found that Martin Zelman had the capacity to file legal claims, the family court could decide that Martin is an incompetent witness, which would halt the divorce proceedings. If the court finds that he does not have the adequate capacity to get divorced, the judge could also potentially make them wait at least three years under the law. It is not clear what this waiting period would accomplish in this particular case, however, as Lois does not want to get divorced. We will have to wait and see what the court decides at an upcoming hearing.

An Experienced Boca Raton Divorce Attorney Can Help You With Your Case

Divorce cases can have many unique issues and you always want to have a lawyer handling your case who thoroughly understands Florida divorce laws and how they apply to your unique situation. Family law attorney Alan R. Burton knows how to handle even the most complicated divorce cases and will always zealously defend your rights. If you are facing divorce or any other type of family law matter, please call our Boca Raton office today at 954-229-1660 to discuss how we can assist you.

Published on:

When you get divorced, your finances naturally take a hit. Not only does Florida law require you to equitably divide all of your hard-earned marital assets and property with your soon-to-be former spouse, but there are also many costs associated with getting the divorce itself finalized. There are ways to minimize the costs of divorce, however, and a qualified divorce attorney will advise you on how to do so.

Costs of Divorce in Florida

Media recently reported on the top ten states for the most expensive divorces–and Florida unfortunately fell in the number one spot. These rankings were solely based on the basic fee for filing a divorce petition in family court in every state, which in Florida is at least $409, depending on the particular court. You can compare this to the filing fee just to the north in Mississippi, which is a mere $52. Unfortunately, filing the petition usually only gets the divorce started, and there are typically many other costs you may face beyond that initial fee.
In addition to the basic court costs, you may also have to pay for attorney’s fees, guardian ad litem costs, and much more. If any issues are contested in your divorce, fees for paperwork, negotiations, and court hearings can easily spiral out of control. It is estimated that an average divorce can easily cost $25,000–about the cost of an average wedding.

Ways to Save

The good news is that many divorcing couples in Florida are able to keep costs low with the guidance of an experienced divorce lawyer. First, you may qualify for a simplified dissolution of marriage. You attorney can advise you if you qualify and generally the following factors must apply:
· You both agree to end the marriage;
· You are not expecting a child together and have no minor children;
· You both agree on the division of property, assets, and debts;
· Neither of you are asking for alimony; and
· Both of you waive your right to a trial.
In a simplified dissolution, your attorney can provide guidance on the best way to divide your assets, so your best interests are still protected. He will also draw up a petition, which you both sign and present to a judge. All the judge has to do is approve the final order.
If you and your spouse do not qualify for a simplified dissolution because you disagree on issues in the divorce but you still want to avoid costly court hearings, you may want to try mediation. Mediation can help you reach an agreement on major issues so that you may then file for a simplified dissolution. Though you will have to pay mediation costs, it is much less expensive and less contentious than taking issues to court.
Alan Burton is a highly experienced Boca Raton divorce attorney who always strives for the best outcome for every client. Mr. Burton knows that divorce can be expensive, therefore it is important to keep costs low and resolve issues as quickly as possible. If you are facing divorce, please contact our office for help today.

Published on:

In 2010, Keiba Lynn Shaw and Mariama Changamire Shaw married in Massachusetts, where their same-sex marriage was valid and lawful. The next year, the couple moved to Tampa, Florida and they separated in October of 2013.
In order to file for divorce in a state, one or both spouses must live within that state for a certain period of time, which is one year in Massachusetts. Neither spouse in the Shaw marriage was able to move back to Massachusetts for a year, so they would be unable to seek a divorce in that state.
For this reason, the couple decided to seek a divorce in Florida instead. They came to a divorce settlement agreement through a collaborative divorce process, and all they needed was for a judge to sign off on the agreement.

Florida’s Same-Sex Marriage Laws

In 2008, Florida amended its state Constitution to ban same-sex marriage within the state. The amendment states that no union will be valid or recognized as a marriage unless it is between one woman and one man. Therefore, even though the Shaws’ marriage was valid in Massachusetts, Florida courts will not recognize that the couple is married at all. Because there is no valid marriage, the court reasoned that no divorce could be granted. The family court judge dismissed their petition for divorce earlier in May. Many people are criticizing the denial of same-sex divorces in Florida, suggesting that it may deter same-sex married couples from moving to our state for fear they will not be able to end their marriage if they choose.
Mariama Changamire Shaw plans to appeal the decision, and hers would be the first divorce case to challenge the marriage ban in Florida. Similar challenges took place in Wyoming and Missouri, both in which same-sex couples did not wish to marry, but to instead end their marriage. Both states ended up granting the divorces while keeping their respective marriage bans intact. The ultimate decision in this case could have a significant effect on thousands of couples who may wish to divorce in Florida.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida has also filed lawsuits on behalf of several same-sex couples seeking to have Florida recognize their marriages, though these couples are not seeking divorces. With all of the upcoming challenges to the same-sex marriage ban, and with the general trend toward acceptance of same-sex couples, we could be seeing the courts overturn the Constitutional amendment in the near future.

Contact a Florida Divorce Lawyer for Help

No two marriages are alike and, as a result, no two divorces are alike either. While some divorce cases are relatively straightforward and are quickly wrapped up, others may have complicated issues or unique questions of law. For this reason, it is always highly important to have a skilled family law attorney who can handle any issues that may arise. If you are facing a divorce in the Ft. Lauderdale or Boca Raton areas, experienced family law attorney Alan Burton can help you with every aspect of your case. Contact our office today for assistance.

Published on:

In Florida, there is no specific statute that deals with the annulment of a marriage. There is however, a body of case law, which has developed from the common law, and which provides a basis for the annulment of a marriage.

Generally speaking, you must either have the legal capacity to marry or you must consent to marry. If you can prove that you lacked the capacity or were unable to give your consent to marry, there is a strong probability that you will be successful in having your marriage annulled in Florida.

An example of lack capacity would be getting married, while you are still married to someone else. This is an example of bigamy, when you have more than one spouse. This is a crime in Florida, and is a perfect example of lack of capacity to marry.

You also must be at least 18 years of age to marry in Florida, subject to a few limited exceptions.

Another common exception, that most people are familiar with, is intoxication. If an individual is so intoxicated that he is he or she is incapable of confirming our ratifying a marriage, the marriage may be subject to annulment.

Aside from capacity, the parties must consent to the marriage. If fraud or deceit is committed by one party upon the other, the consent may very well be lacking, and could negate the validity of the marriage.

Annulment cases are extremely factually intensive, and there are a multitude of different circumstances and scenarios that one could conjure up as a basis for an annulment.

Contact a Family Law Attorney in Fort Lauderdale or Boca Raton

Experienced attorney Alan R. Burton is dedicated to helping individuals promptly get on with their lives, whether it be as a result of annulment of their marriage or divorce, so please contact our office today to schedule your free consultation to see how we can help you.

Published on:

I know I am. Do we all know what it means? Do we know where the term originated? Do we know who created that term? The phrase is seen or heard almost on a daily basis.

I think by now we all know that Gwyneth Paltrow, the well known and talented actress, created it, or at least brought the term to the public forefront. Does the phrase actually have a clear defined meaning?

179691879.jpg

What comes to my mind, as a divorce lawyer, is that the separation and split of the parties will be an amicable one. There will be no fighting and hostility. The parties will most likely conclude their marriage with an uncontested divorce proceeding.

Many of the articles I have read about the use of this phrase interprets it as some sense of superiority or pretentiousness. To me it simply signals the ability of the adults to consider their children’s interests, and not to lay blame for the failure of the relationship to endure. It is the ability to understand that it is never just one person’s fault, but a multitude of reasons, on the part of both parties.


Source:
The Huffington Post, “What the Hell is Conscious Uncoupling”, Anyway?, Dr. Sonya Rhodes, PhD, April 2, 2014

Published on:

Welcome to the 21st Century! With the popularity of Facebook, Twitter and the internet in general, your life has become an open book. You may need to seek the services of a seasoned attorney when social media becomes a central issue in your case.

588890_caution sign.jpg

Postings to your facebook page can become fodder for your spouse’s lawyer, especially when there are minor children involved. Don;t be fooled thinking that what you are posting is off limits to your spouse. It’s not. As equally important are postings by others, which may have a direct link back to you, whether you were aware of it or not. One such example may be a posting of your underage child under the “influence at a party”. Who was the parent “on call” at the time?

Everything on-line becomes a record, which may be used either in your favor or against you, as the case may be. The electronic age is not limited to social media, but to all aspects of your life, including financial matters.

Banking records are easily reproduced, which will clearly document a trail of your finances.

Privacy today simply does not exist. Be careful what you say or do, as it will most surely be used against you in court.

Source: The Huffington Post, “The Divorce Mistakes You Don’t Even Know You Are Making“, Taryn Hillin, March 18, 2014

Published on:

A Guardian ad litem is usually appointed by the court in a dissolution of marriage action. Florida statute 61.401 provides that in an action for dissolution of marriage or the creation, approval, or modification of the parenting plan, if the court finds it is in the best interests of the child the court may appoint a Guardian ad litem to act as next friend of the child, investigator or evaluator, not as attorney or advocate.

A Guardian ad litem is generally an attorney who is a member of the Florida Bar. A Guardian ad litem may also be an individual certified by the Guardian ad litem program.

A Guardian, when appointed by the court shall act as next friend of the child, investigator or evaluator, not as attorney or advocate but shall act in the child’s best interest.

The Guardian once appointed is giving certain powers, privileges, and responsibilities, as follows:

The Guardian ad litem may investigate the allegations of the pleadings affecting the child
The Guardian ad litem, through his attorney, may petition the court for orders to obtain various records concerning the child or either of the parents
The Guardian ad litem may request expert examinations of the child or the child’s parents
The Guardian may help the court in obtaining impartial expert examinations
The Guardian ad litem can address the court and he or she can make a written report to the court. A written report has to be provided to everybody 20 days before any scheduled hearing
A Guardian ad litem is presumed to be acting in good faith and therefore a Guardian who was participating in a court proceeding is immune from any kind of liability, civil or criminal.

Published on:

Both the husband and the wife should be entitled to have equal access to the court system when proceeding with a divorce.

Often times, one spouse controls substantially most of the financial wealth that has been accumulated during the marriage. This makes it difficult for the other spouse to retain and seek the advice of a lawyer.

There is a remedy available to a spouse who has little or no access to funds, but who still requires an attorney. The remedy is found under Florida statute 61.16, which provides for the award of attorney’s fees, suit money, and costs.

The statute general generally provides that the court may from time to time, after considering the financial resources of both parties, order a party to pay a reasonable amount for attorneys fees, suit money, and the cost to the other party of maintaining or defending any proceeding under this chapter, including enforcement and modification proceedings and appeals.

Don’t become a victim simply because you do not have the financial resources immediately available to hire an attorney. I would urge you to call me and schedule a free consultation, so that you can be educated as to what your rights are in your divorce case, and to further discuss options available to you in the engagement of a competent, family law attorney to handle your case.

I have offices located in Boca Raton and Fort Lauderdale Florida. You have nothing to lose by calling me and scheduling an appointment for a free consultation.