Articles Posted in Divorce Procedure

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Many individuals who are facing divorce have never been to court before. While some simpler, uncontested divorces may only require one, or even no court appearances, other cases that are contested and/or involve complex issues can require both spouses to be present at numerous hearings before their dissolution of marriage is final. While court hearings may be inconvenient and may interfere with work or other schedules, it is highly important that you take these appearances seriously. Additionally, if your spouse fails to appear in court, there can be consequences for them and effects on your case.

The consequences of failing to appear without previously notifying the court can vary depending on the type of hearing scheduled, the reason for the hearing, and the reason for the failure to appear. For example, the following can occur:

  • If your spouse fails to appear at the first court appearance and has also not filed a written answer to your divorce petition, you may request that the judge enter a default judgment granting the divorce. While your marriage may be dissolved with a default judgment, other issues including child custody or property division may not be settled
  • If your spouse does not come to a hearing to decide certain issues in the divorce, the judge may either reschedule the hearing or may decide the issue based on your testimony alone, which can often work in your favor.
  • In some cases, if the you believe your spouse is intentionally not showing up to hurt the case, you can ask the judge to hold them in contempt of court and they may face criminal penalties and an arrest warrant can be issued.

A former Florida state senator was held in criminal contempt after he failed to show up at two different divorce hearings and failed to give one of their dogs to his wife as ordered by the court. His appeal of the contempt finding went all the way to the Florida Supreme Court and has recently been sent back to the trial court due to due process considerations. This case goes to show how a failure to appear can drag out legal issues as the failure to appear occurred in 2011 and the case is still persisting. Continue reading →

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Often, a divorce may be the first encounter you have with the court system and legal process. You will likely not be familiar with the many laws in Florida that govern divorce and set out your rights and responsibilities during and after the dissolution of your marriage. For these reasons, you should always seek out assistance from a highly skilled and experienced Boca Raton divorce attorney who can ensure that your best interests are protected in your divorce.

Many individuals may not know where to begin in selecting a divorce attorney and how to make sure they make a quality choice. While you may be tempted to simply do a quick internet search and choose the first name, this may or may not be the right decision for you. Divorce is a sensitive legal matter that can have significant and long-lasting effects on your life, so you should always choose an attorney as carefully as you would choose a surgeon or other life-changing professional. The following are some things you may want to consider when you are deciding you will represent you throughout your divorce.

Do Your Friends Have Recommendations?

Asking friends or family members who have been divorced for attorney recommendations may be helpful. However, you should only seek advice from individuals whose divorce situation was similar to yours. For example, if a friend had no kids and no property, his or her legal needs are likely very different from a person who owns a home, has assets and investments, and/or has children. Every divorce is different, so take that into consideration when listening to recommendations.

Do You Get Along With the Lawyer?

In your first consultation, make note of the family law attorney’s likability, temperament, and whether you think they can relate to you. Divorce can be a long and emotional process and you want to be able to get along with and feel supported by the individual who is representing you.

Do They Listen to Your Goals?

Some individuals want to get a divorce finalized as quickly and efficiently as possible, while others are determined to obtain certain property or spousal support even if it takes more resources to do so. Find out whether the attorney has experience in handling divorces with your particular goals. Additionally, if you do not wish to battle it out in court, ask whether the lawyer regularly engages in alternative dispute resolution methods, including mediation or collaborative divorce.

Contact a Boca Raton Family Law Attorney to Discuss Your Case Today

At the family law office of Alan R. Burton in Boca Raton, we understand that choosing the right divorce attorney for you can be a daunting process. We will always be open and honest with you in answering your questions and helping you decide whether we are the best fit for you in your divorce. We have extensive experience handling a wide range of divorce and family law matters, including child custody, child support, spousal support, division or property, and more. Please call today at 954-229-1660 to find out more about how we can help you.

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With the recent breach and data leak regarding approximately 32 million subscribers to the “married dating” website Ashley Madison, many married couples have likely been facing difficult situations as news of possible infidelity became exposed. It would not be surprising, in fact, if numerous couples end up in divorce court over a leaked Ashley Madison subscription. This leads to the common question: What role, if any, does a spouse’s adulterous behavior play in a subsequent divorce case?

Questions of Fault

In Florida, you must file for divorce on a “no-fault” basis, which means that no specific reason–such as adultery–can be given for the divorce. Insteading of blaming one spouse, all divorces are based on the assertion that the marriage is irretrievably broken. For this reason, adultery has no effect specifically on basic questions of fault in a divorce.


Though adultery cannot be considered for fault purposes, it can be considered when the family court is making other determinations, such as whether to award alimony. However, the court cannot award alimony simply as a punishment for a cheating spouse. Instead, the court must further find that the adultery affected the non-cheating spouse’s need for financial support.

Child Custody Determinations

In addition to alimony determinations, a court may consider infidelity as a factor in deciding how to award physical and legal custody. For example, courts regularly examine the moral fitness of each parent when deciding what type of custody arrangement will be in the best interests of the child. Adultery, especially flagrant or particularly scandalous behavior, may lead the court to doubt the moral fitness of the spouse who cheated and may influence a decision to limit custody or timesharing if the court believes the affair had an adverse effect on the child’s well-being.

Division of Property

Florida law requires division of marital property to be equitable and fair based on the particular circumstances of the spouses. If the court finds that the unfaithful spouse spent marital assets on an affair that otherwise would have been divided, the court can award the other spouse more assets and property. Similarly, if the cheating spouse incurred debts to pay for an affair, the court may find that those debts are the sole responsibility of that spouse instead of dividing the debt balances between the two parties.

Call a Boca Raton Divorce Attorney for Help

As you can see, adultery can play a role in a divorce case. If you suspect that your spouse has been unfaithful or if your spouse has accused you of adultery, it may cause a number of potential complications throughout the divorce process. It is important that you have the representation of an experienced Boca Raton divorce lawyer and keep your lawyer fully informed regarding any possible issues or accusations that may arise during your divorce. Florida family law attorney Alan R. Burton understands how to face such issues head-on with your best interests in mind. Call our office today at 954-229-1660 to talk about your case for free.

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In a divorce case, every individual wants to obtain a decree with the most favorable terms possible so that he or she may move on with financial stability and quality relationships with his or her children. Unfortunately, many people make mistakes during their divorce cases that hinder the outcomes. The following are only some of the errors that commonly affect the outcome of a divorce case.

Having unrealistic expectations — If you march into a courtroom demanding an exorbitant and unjustified amount of spousal support or sole custody of your children when shared custody is appropriate, your case may be affected in many ways. First, if you refuse to agree to reasonable terms, your case may be delayed and many issues may be placed into the hands of the family law judge, who may not find in your favor. An attorney can help provide a realistic view of the potential terms of your divorce decree.

Assuming your spouse will cooperate — Many people optimistically expect their spouse to be cooperative and fair when discussing and agreeing upon the many terms of their divorce. Unfortunately, the divorce process can incite a lot of negative emotions and many spouses become difficult and resentful before the divorce is finalized. You should never fail to have an attorney simply because you expect fairness from your spouse. Having the representation of an experienced divorce lawyer will ensure that you have the needed legal support if your spouse becomes unreasonable.

Accepting a settlement agreement without the advice of an attorney — The legal system can be intimidating and, too often, lead you to agree to divorce terms that are actually unfair. Your spouse’s attorney may try to deflect from unfavorable terms or insinuate that you will not be able to obtain a better offer in order to convince you to sign an agreement. Do not allow yourself to be bullied by your spouse into signing anything without the advice of a qualified divorce attorney who has reviewed your case.

Making false claims against your spouse — If you want to receive a more favorable child custody arrangement or spousal support order, you may be tempted to exaggerate the faults of your spouse to the court or even to fabricate details. This is never wise, however, as such allegations must be adequately proven for a court to consider them. If you do not have evidence to support your claims against your spouse, a court will view your allegations unfavorably and may take action against you.

Call a Boca Raton Divorce Attorney for a Free Consultation

There are many legal mistakes individuals can make throughout the divorce process that can have potentially long-lasting consequences. At times, these mistakes can be irreversible and can affect your finances and relationship with your family. To avoid such errors, you should always have the guidance of a highly experienced family law attorney throughout your divorce case. If you are considering or facing divorce, please do not hesitate to call the office of Boca Raton divorce lawyer Alan R. Burton for assistance today.

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The Florida Department of Health released information recently indicating that, while the marriage rate in Florida is rising, the divorce rate fell to the lowest it has been in decades. Per every 100 marriages, there were 54 divorces finalized in Florida last year. This is the lowest divorce rate since 1960. In contrast, the number of marriages per year increased in 2014 for the first time after declining each year for the past ten years.

Divorce Rate in Florida Higher Than the National Rate

Even though the percentage of marriages that ended in divorce last year hit a long-time low, the divorce rate for the state of Florida is still higher than the rate for the entire United States. People are still filing for divorce on a regular basis and still face all of the legal issues that can be related to a divorce case. Only some of the legal issues in a divorce include as follows:

  • Division of property — Florida law requires that all marital property must be divided in an equitable manner between the spouses. Identifying all marital property and deciding on a fair way to divide it can be complicated.
  • Custody and parenting agreements — Courts are expected to seek out a custody and parenting arrangement that is in the best interests of the child. An agreement must be signed that sets out many details of parenting, including time spent with each parent, who will make certain decisions, and more.
  • Child support — In most cases, one parent will have to provide child support to the other based on a specific formula set out by law. The formula takes into consideration the respective income and expenses of the parents as well as the necessary expenses for each of their children.
  • Spousal support — In some instances, one spouse may have to provide alimony to the other depending on the length of the marriage, their respective contributions to the marriage, and their respective ability to support themselves immediately following the divorce.
  • Enforceability of a premarital agreement — If the spouses signed an agreement prior to marriage regarding the division of property and alimony in the event of divorce, one spouse may claim that the agreement is not enforceable for a variety of reasons and the other spouse will have to defend the enforceability of the agreement.

Some divorces can be more complicated and have unique issues based on the circumstances of the marriage. It is important to have an attorney on your side who can identify and handle any issues that may arise in your divorce case.

A Skilled Family Law Attorney in Boca Raton Can Help You

If you are facing a divorce, child custody issues, child support disputes, or any other family law-related legal matter, you should not wait to consult with qualified family lawyer Alan R. Burton in Boca Raton today. Mr. Burton has extensive experience handling a wide array of divorce and family-related cases and will always stand up for your best interests throughout your case. Your family is important, so call today at 954-229-1660 for assistance.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.