Articles Posted in Divorce

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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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A woman in New York wanted to divorce her husband for years, however, she had repeated difficulty serving him with divorce papers as he had no permanent residence, no known employer, and could not be physically located. She reportedly tried for a long time to somehow serve the divorce papers with no success. To help her finally dissolve her marriage, Ellanora Baidoo and her attorney made an unusual request to the family court–could she serve her husband Victor on Facebook?

Successful service of divorce papers is an essential part of any marriage dissolution case because of the highly significant familial and financial effects that ending a marriage may have on an individual’s life. Though the civil procedure rules generally only specify that service of process can occur in person, by posting, or by mail, there have long been alternate arrangements allowed by the courts when the above methods proved unsuccessful. Over the past decade, email has become an increasingly used alternative option for service of process when other methods prove challenging.

Now, the judge hearing Baidoo’s case agreed that she could use Facebook to try to serve her divorce papers with some conditions:

  • Baidoo had to sufficiently prove that the Facebook profile she found for her husband was, in fact, actually connected to her husband’s account; and
  • She must demonstrate that he checked his Facebook account regularly so that it would be likely that he would see the service of process before the deadline to respond passed.

Baidoo was able to use her regular communications with her husband via his Facebook account as both proof that the account belonged to him and that he logged on regularly.

The judge in the case noted that the court had the right to direct how service of process may be completed and that perhaps social media was the “new frontier” in electronic service options. If Baidoo’s husband still chose not to respond to the divorce summons, she may likely be able to secure a default divorce against him as she seeks no financial compensation but merely the end of her marriage. Though Facebook service should not be expected to be allowed in many different cases, it may be an innovative tool to complete service in particularly challenging situations in which a spouse may not be located.

Find out how an experienced family law attorney can help with your divorce case

Many divorce cases have unique issues–such as service of process challenges–that may require creative solutions like using social media or other resources. An experienced divorce attorney will know how to resolve a wide range of issues that may arise throughout the course of your divorce case and will be able to communicate with the court to ensure your needs are met and your rights are upheld. Family lawyer Alan R. Burton routinely helps clients facing unique family law matters and will always work for the most favorable outcome in your case. Call our office in Boca Raton at 954-229-1660 for a free consultation today.

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According to tradition, a wife would change her name after marriage to take her husband’s last name. Changing a name was supposed to help identify a family unit and, in theory, made naming children easier. However, in more recent times, many women have increasingly made the decision to keep their last name or to come up with another name-changing option that works for them. Some women believe that changing their name takes away their personal identity, some may think it means they “belong” to their husbands like property, or others simply like their own original last name more. Whatever the reasoning may be, deciding whether or not to change your name is a personal decision and an important one. Whatever you choose can have legal, practical, and emotional implications.

Couples have become more creative when making name-change decisions. Some couples choose to hyphenate both names, some men take their wife’s last name, and others come up with a completely new name to share. Whatever you decide, the following factors should be considered:

  • Romantic traditions
  • An already-established professional reputation and identity
  • Both parents having the same last name as your children
  • Cultural importance or other meaning attached to your maiden name
  • Whether a new last name is aesthetically pleasing
  • Societal implications of giving up your independent identity
  • The inconvenience of a name change (and maybe changing it back if the marriage fails)

You should weigh all of factors seriously before making a decision because a legal name change cannot easily be undone.

If you make the decision to change your name after marriage, you should be sure to take all the necessary steps. You will have to go through the process of changing your name on all of the following and more:

  • Investment accounts
  • Health and life insurance
  • Post office
  • Estate planning documents
  • Payroll
  • Tax withholding documents

These will need to be handled in a particular order, as you will likely need your update identification in order to successfully change your name on most accounts. You will likely need a certified copy (or multiple copies) of your marriage certificate to present to different agencies. Additionally, you should always wait to start the name change process until after your honeymoon. If you purchased any tickets prior to marriage under your maiden name, you will need identification with a name that matches your tickets and reservations. In the event that you decide to get divorced and you have changed your name, you will need to go through the name change process again, provided you decide to return to your maiden name. This will require a certified copy of your divorce decree showing that the judge granted you the ability to go back to your maiden name.

If you need any assistance or advice regarding changing your name or any other legal issue related to marriage, divorce, or family, please do not hesitate to call the law firm of Alan R. Burton in Boca Raton at 954-229-1660 for help today.

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

No privacy rights to Facebook photos

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

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

Boca Raton divorce attorney Alan R. Burton can help you

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

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Divorce is an emotionally difficult process for many people. As you approach the holiday season, the pain and flux of divorce is often magnified exponentially. The following are some tips for separated or divorcing individuals to get through the holiday season and still enjoy this time of year.

Make New Traditions

Holidays are often about long-lasting rituals and traditions. However, with the substantial changes you are facing in your life and family, it is unrealistic to expect that the holidays will continue to be exactly the same. Think about what new traditions may fit the new form of your family and do not be afraid to make some changes.

Talk with Your Children

The holidays are a very important time for your children, as well, and they may be confused and even scared about how things will change if their parents are separated or divorcing. Make arrangements for time-sharing as simple as possible so your children do not become overly exhausted or stressed out traveling back and forth. Accept that there will be times that your children are with the other parent, and assure them that you will be fine while they spend time with their other parent. Explain to them that even though some things may be different, the holidays will still be celebrated. At all times, you and your spouse should consider whether the best interests of your child are at the forefront of your mind.

Take Good Care of Yourself

Holidays are already stressful without the strain of divorce, so it is no wonder that individuals going through a divorce can feel easily rundown during this time of year. Make sure you are eating well, getting enough sleep, and taking time to relax. While you may have to put on a brave face at times during holiday events, do not ignore your well-being if you are struggling. Ask for help from family or friends if you are feeling particularly depressed or lonely. Have a support system in place and try not to isolate yourself during this potentially difficult time.

Have Realistic Expectations

Too many of us expectations that all holidays will be picture-perfect. This is a challenge even when everything else is going smoothly in our lives and is certainly difficult to achieve if you are in the middle of a painful divorce. Tell yourself that it is okay if everything is not perfect throughout the holiday season. Take some pressure off of yourself by letting others host the celebrations or by sharing responsibilities. Remind yourself that the holidays are not about being perfect and take this season one day at a time.

Contact an Experienced Boca Raton Divorce Attorney for Help Today

Having an experienced divorce attorney handling your case can give you reassurance that everything is being properly taken care of on the legal side of things. This can give you more time to spend enjoying the holidays and building new traditions with your family. Alan R. Burton is committed to helping individuals in Boca Raton get through a divorce as efficiently as possible, so please do not hesitate to contact our office today for help.

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Each divorce case is different, and therefore each case may require different tools and resources to achieve specific goals. However, you may not even be aware of certain resources that may significantly improve your chances of receiving the rulings that you deserve regarding many different issues, such as child support, spousal support, and the equitable division of marital property. One such resource that can be extremely helpful in divorces with complicated financial issues is the assistance of a forensic accountant.

Helping Divide Complex Portfolios

Dividing property can be hard enough for couples who simply have a home, two cars, personal belongings, checking accounts, and credit card debts. As you can imagine, such property division may become substantially more difficult for a couple who has a complex financial portfolio. Some assets that may be more difficult to divide include:

  •         Restricted stock or stock options;
  •         Closely held businesses;
  •         Professional practices;
  •         Retirement accounts;
  •         Various types of trust accounts;
  •         Life insurance plans;
  •         Properties in different states or countries;
  •         Accounts in different states or countries; and
  •         Valuable art, antique, or jewelry collections.

In some cases, a spouse will present complicated financial records that may be quite disorganized and may take time for an attorney to sift through, therefore driving up attorney’s fees. A forensic accountant will have a better ability to analyze complex financial statements, organize appraisals and valuations, and testify to the state of the couple’s overall financial affairs.

Helping to Identify Hidden Assets

In some cases, a spouse may unfortunately try to hide assets in order to avoid making them subject to division. Some ways spouses may attempt to hide assets include the following:

  • Opening secret or off-shore accounts
  • Changing accounts to the name of a friend, family member, child, or other party so the assets are not attributed to the spouse
  • Voluntarily delaying commissions or paychecks until after the divorce is final
  • Secretly making large purchases for gifts (that will be returned after the divorce)
  • Dumping money into a business or other venture and then increasing expenses

If you have any suspicions that your spouse may be attempting to hide assets, a forensic accountant can review all of your accounts and identify any suspicious changes or inconsistencies that may expose the hiding of assets or other marital property that should be rightfully and equitably divided. Even if the funds cannot be exactly located, an accountant can testify to the inconsistencies and other red flags to demonstrate to the court that your spouse may be unlawfully hiding assets.

Forensic accountants are only one type of professional that can help in your divorce case. An experienced divorce attorney can evaluate all of the circumstances of your case and can identify any resources or professionals that may help you receive a more favorable result. Boca Raton divorce lawyer Alan R. Burton has experience in both relatively simple divorces with little property, as well as complex divorce cases with high assets at issue. No matter what type of divorce you are facing, do not hesitate to call our office for assistance today.

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Harold Hamm is a 68-year-old oil magnate who is CEO of Continental Resources, an oil-exploration company that is known as a pioneer in the oil industry. Hamm has been on the cover of Forbes magazine, served as energy advisor to presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and is estimated to have a net worth of around $15 billion, making him one of the wealthiest men in the United States. Hamm married Sue Ann, an attorney in 1988 and, though he claims they have been separated since 2005, Sue Ann filed for divorce in 2012.

The divorce dragged on for over two years, culminating in a trial over the summer that lasted over two months. On November 10, 2014, a judge in Oklahoma City ordered that Hamm should have to pay his former wife a settlement of $995.5 million, which is one of the highest divorce settlements in history. The judge ordered Hamm to pay at least $320 million by the time 2014 ends, with monthly payments continuing at least $7 million per month until the settlement is paid off. The judge placed a lien on a substantial amount of Hamm’s stock in Continental Resources to ensure he comes through with the payments.

The Decision Could Have Been Worse

Though $995.5 million is an astronomical amount of money to most Americans, the settlement could have been more. Forbes reports that the highest divorce settlement ordered in the history of the world was $4.5 billion, which took place in the case of a Russian fertilizer tycoon. Hamm’s settlement comes in at the fourth largest that has been reported in the world thus far.

Rumors had been circulating regarding the divorce for months, most of which predicted Hamm would lose much more. For example, because most of his fortune is tied up in Continental Resources stock, some people estimated he would lose enough stock to fall below 50 percent ownership in the company (he currently owns over 70 percent). Losing majority ownership in the company he built would have been devastating. Additionally, others predicted that Sue Ann would receive around half of the $15 billion dollar fortune, and in reality she only received about seven percent of his net worth. Hamm released a statement thanking the court and stating they all believed this was a “fair and equitable” decision and result in their case.

High Asset Divorces Can Be Complicated

Most high worth divorces are complex because they can involve many different kinds of assets, including business ownership interests, real property, stock, funds in offshore accounts, and much more. For this reason and more, you should always have an experienced family law attorney representing you to ensure that any property division or support determinations are fair and equitable. Alan R. Burton is an experienced divorce attorney in Boca Raton who knows how to handle high worth divorces and stand up for your best interests. Call our office today for help if your are facing divorce.

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Everyone knows that divorce can be emotionally charged and stressful for everyone involved. Cases may be especially difficult if one spouse files for divorce while the other wishes to remain married. One recent Florida news story reminds us how sometimes tension in a divorce can become dangerous and lead to domestic violence and tragedy.

Violence in Port Orange

After 25 years of marriage, David and Cynthia Mohney were facing divorce and Cynthia and her attorney were preparing for mediation sessions, which are used to attempt to reach a settlement between divorcing spouses outside of court. Reports indicate that David Mohney was unhappy about the divorce and made numerous comments stating the couple would be back together and that the divorce must stop.

In mid-October, David woke up his sleeping wife and brought her to the kitchen of their home, where he showed her a gun and reportedly stated, “If you don’t come back to me and stop the divorce, I will kill our children.” Cynthia had no access to a phone, so she ran to a nearby neighbor’s home for help.

While she was gone, David shot all three of their children and then himself. Their 14-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son both died from their injuries, as did David. A 9-year-old daughter has been reported to be in a medically-induced coma yet in stable condition.

Courts can help many domestic violence victims

The Mohneys’ tragic situation reminds us all that even threats of violence from a spouse or partner against you or your children should always be taken seriously. You should not wait until it is too late to ask for help. Florida courts can issue injunctions of protection–commonly referred to as restraining orders–against the potentially violent family member to prohibit them from coming within a certain distance of you and can force them to move out of the family home.

While an injunction for protection cannot ever fully guarantee protection for you, such orders help numerous victims of domestic violence stay safe every year in Florida. You can obtain a temporary injunction or protection at any time of night and even on weekends or holidays. An attorney will know how to contact a judge during work hours or off-hours to help you.

How a lawyer can help

If you have experienced or fear you or your children are in danger of domestic violence, you should contact the authorities as soon as possible. You should also contact Boca Raton family law attorney Alan R. Burton for assistance in obtaining the necessary court orders to protect your and your family from possible violence.

Even if you are not experiencing threats of domestic violence, an experienced family law attorney can help make the divorce process go as smooth as possible to try to keep tensions low whenever possible. He can also assist you with finding counseling resources that you may need to get you through the process. Divorce is never easy, but we can help, so please do not hesitate to call our office today for assistance.

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