Boca Raton Divorce Lawyer Blog
Boca Raton Divorce Lawyer Blog
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The Florida Senate and House of Representatives will consider a newly proposed bill that would effectively end lifetime alimony awards in our state and make several others changes to existing alimony laws. Florida is currently one of only a few remaining states with laws that allow awards of lifetime alimony. A similar bill failed in 2013, however the new bill does not retroactively affect individuals already receiving alimony, which was a major issue that concerned Governor Scott and other opposition in previous versions. In fact, the new bill is largely supported by lawmakers

Under the new law, courts would also have significantly less discretion in alimony awards and the formula would instead closer resemble child support determinations, which are based on a specific income-driven formula. Instead of arbitrarily choosing alimony amounts and the length of awards, courts would use a formula that considered the income of each spouse, the length of the marriage, and other specific factors. Courts would still have the discretion to go outside the guidelines when they believe there is justification to do so. However, the guidelines would largely help to standardize alimony awards so spouses would have a better idea of what to expect in a pending divorce case. Additionally, there would always be an end date for an alimony award.

Some of the other changes to alimony laws that would take place should the bill pass include as follows:

  • Courts would need to consider whether parties are living up to their earning potential prior to awarding them alimony.
  • Alimony increases will not be simply tied to increases in income for the payer.
  • If the alimony payer remarries, a new spouse’s income and assets will not be considered as a factor in increasing alimony.
  • Retirement will constitute a “substantial change in circumstances” that allows the payer to request a reduction or elimination of payments.
  • No alimony will be awarded to a spouse married less than two years unless extreme circumstances exist.
  • No individual will have to pay combined alimony and child support over 55 percent of their net earnings.

Such alimony reform will likely ease the fears of spouses divorcing after lengthy marriages that they will be handing over large payments indefinitely. However, the bill is not meant to solely benefit the alimony payer. Due to the standardized formula, many spouses will be awarded greater alimony than they may have been otherwise. The bill aims to promote fairness and balance between both payer and payee, though whether it will become law is yet to be seen.

An experienced Boca Raton family law attorney can answer your questions

Many people considering divorce in Florida may have concerns about the changes in the family laws and may wonder whether it is better to file for divorce before or after the potential change in the alimony laws. An experienced divorce lawyer can evaluate your individual situation and provide advice on what is in your best interests, as well as guide you through the divorce process. Please do not hesitate to call Boca Raton attorney Alan R. Burton for assistance today.

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Congressman Alan Grayson of Florida has been in the midst of an extraordinarily acrimonious divorce since last year, and he is reportedly preparing to make accusations of bigamy against his wife, Lolita, at trial. Though he had previously expressed his suspicions of bigamy, Grayson claims he will present these suspicions to the judge and request a legal annulment instead of a dissolution.

Specifically, Grayson claims that his wife married him in 1990 and did not legally divorce her first husband, Robert Carson, until 1994. These claims are based on divorce records discovered in Broward County, Florida for “Lolita B. Carson.” His wife claims that the divorce involved a different Lolita Carson and that she was actually divorced in Guam in 1981. Neither Grayson nor his wife have been able to locate Robert Carson to testify in the matter.

Effects of an annulment

If Lolita Grayson was actually still legally married when she wed Alan Grayson in 1990, the second marriage would be legally invalid and the court would issue an annulment. While both a divorce and an annulment serve to dissolve a marriage, an annulment treats the parties as if they had never been married in the first place. This has the following legal effects:

  • No property would be considered “marital property” and equitably divided under Florida’s property division laws.
  • No inheritance rights would exist based on marital status.
  • Neither spouse would have claims to insurance, retirement, or similar benefits.

Annulments do have some similarities to divorces, however. For example, custody issues are treated in the same manner and children of an annulled marriage are considered legally legitimate. Additionally, a judge can award temporary alimony in some cases, especially if one spouse was a victim of fraud on the other’s part.

Rep. Grayson is likely pursuing an annulment for a few reasons. First, his worth is reportedly valued at $31 million and he would not have to divide his assets with his wife. Second, by accusing his wife of wrongdoing, he is likely hoping to draw attention away from his wife’s own accusations against him of battery, financial abandonment, and more. Overall, the Grayson divorce seems rife with bitterness, dramatic allegations, political and financial motives, and other complications. The trial has been delayed numerous times for various reasons ranging from changes of attorneys to leaking breast implants. Some of the issues have been so extraordinary that the presiding judge even likened the dramatic case to the political drama House of Cards. We will be watching whether the case actually moves forward to trial and whether Grayson’s bigamy allegations will garner an annulment.

Contact an experienced Florida family law attorney for help

If you are considering seeking a legal annulment or a divorce in Florida, you should always have the assistance of an experienced lawyer who understands all of the state laws related to dissolution of a marriage. As demonstrated by the above case, divorce cases can have many unique legal issues and complications and you should have an attorney who knows how to protect your rights in such situations. Please call the law office of Alan R. Burton in Boca Raton for a free consultation today.

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Paige Laurie, the granddaughter of Walmart founder James “Bud” Walton, married Patrick Bode Dubbert in a reportedly over-the-top ceremony in 2008. Prior to the marriage, the couple signed a premarital agreement that stated, should the marriage end, Laurie agreed to pay $30,000 per month in spousal support for half of the time the marriage lasted. Last spring, after nearly six years of marriage, Laurie filed for divorce.

Though Laurie has reportedly agreed to abide by the spousal support guidelines agreed upon in the premarital agreement, Dubbert has been trying to invalidate the prenup. While it may seem illogical to fight against an agreement that awards you nearly $1.1 million, Dubbert apparently believes that he requires substantially more support than previously agreed upon. Specifically, Dubbert has filed a lawsuit that requests support for the following “necessities” every month:

  • $40,000 – $60,000 for a rental home
  • $80,000 for entertainment
  • $30,000 for vacations
  • $10,000 for furniture
  • $6,700 for a personal chef
  • $5,000 for clothes purchases
  • $4,000 for a personal driver
  • $2,500 for a personal trainer
  • $1,000 for a personal stylist
  • $2,500 for charitable donations

These are only some of the necessities Dubbert cites, as the total amount amount adds to about $240,000 per month after taxes ($400,000 before taxes). Dubbert argues that because he no longer works for Laurie’s company, he requires such support to find a new way to support the lifestyle to which he has become accustomed.

Can a premarital agreement be invalidated?

Like any other type of contract, a premarital agreement has certain requirements in order to be enforceable. If such requirements are not met or other certain circumstances exist, it may be possible for one spouse to invalidate the agreement. The following are examples of reasons a prenup may be invalid:

  • One party signed under duress or coercion
  • One party did not have independent representation by an attorney
  • There was not full disclosure of a party’s financial situation
  • Terms are ambiguous or unconscionable
  • Promises made in the agreement were not kept
  • The agreement was not in writing

Specifically, Dubbert claims that he had originally retained legal counsel to review and negotiate the prenup but that Laurie had convinced him not to use the attorney due to a lack of experience with high-asset marriages. Dubbert also claims that he signed the premarital agreement under duress since Laurie’s parents allegedly presented him with an ultimatum that they would not pay for the wedding expenses if he did not sign. Whether or not these reasons will be enough to invalidate part or all the prenuptial agreement remains to seen, and even if the spousal support portion is invalidated, it seems unlikely that a court would approve Dubbert’s extravagant requests.

Contact a Boca Raton family law attorney today to schedule a free consultation

One does not need a Walton-esque family fortune to be able to benefit from a well-crafted premarital agreement. As a result, anyone considering getting married should discuss their circumstances with an attorney, as circumstances can and often do change. Alan Burton has been practicing family law in Florida for over 30 years and maintains offices in Boca Raton and Fort Lauderdale. To schedule a free consultation with Mr. Burton, call our offices at (954) 229-1660 or (954) 295-9222.

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Like any other parent, a divorced parent may wish to take their child on an international vacation to allow them to experience other countries. However, traveling to a foreign country with your child may be more complicated if you share custody with your former spouse. In certain cases, traveling with your child can even have serious legal consequences if you do not take the adequate steps prior to your trip. The following are some issues related to foreign travel that you may face.

What does your parenting plan say about travel?

Sometimes, divorcing parents may foresee that one or both will want to travel internationally with their child and may address the issue in the parenting and time-sharing plan that was signed by the court. If your parenting plan requires the other parent’s consent to leave the United States with your child, you should always abide by that plan and obtain consent. If the other parent refuses to give consent for the vacation, you may have to seek a court order before you can travel. If you do receive a signed letter of consent or a court order allowing international travel, you should always take those documents with you on your trip should an immigration officer at another airport ask to see them.

Does your child need a passport?

If you wish to leave the country and your child does not already have a passport, you may need the consent of the other parent if your child is under 16. United States laws require both parents to appear in person and sign the form applying for the child’s passport, or at least requires a signed consent form if one parent is not able to personally appear. If the other parent does not consent to your child being issued a passport, you generally have to demonstrate court-ordered sole custody to obtain one on your own.

Possible Consequences of Failing to Obtain Consent

If you ignore the above and leave the country with your child without the proper consent from the other parent, that parent may have the ability to initiate an international parental abduction case with the U.S. State Department. You and your child may also be entered into a database called the National Crime Information Center, managed by the FBI, as a possible kidnapping case. This means that law enforcement officers will likely be notified and apprehend you when you try to re-enter the country with your child. As you can imagine, international child abduction cases can have a profound effect on both you and your child and you do not want to risk being under suspicion of kidnapping when you were simply trying to take a vacation.

An Experienced Child Custody Lawyer in Boca Raton Can Help You

If you wish to travel internationally with your child and are concerned about the legal issues that may arise, you should not hesitate to consult with an experienced Florida family law attorney. Alan R. Burton is a skilled attorney who is thoroughly familiar with the custody laws in Florida and can help you plan for your international vacation. Call today at 954-229-1660 to discuss your situation today.

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After lengthy litigation, procedural complications, and back-and-forth court decisions, same-sex marriage became legal in Florida on January 6, 2015. Numerous same-sex couples set off to legally obtain marriage licenses and tie the knot throughout the state right away. While it is understandable that couples would be in a hurry to marry the individual they love, same-sex couples should always take the time to consider the same legal and financial implications of marriage as heterosexual couples. The following are some issues that any couple should consider prior to marriage.

Are you legally eligible to marry?

There are many factors that may make you legally ineligible to marry in the state of Florida, including the following:

  • Age — You must be at least 18 years of age to marry in Florida without parental consent.
  • Family relationship — You may not marry individual who is a direct descendant, a sibling, or an aunt/uncle or nephew/niece.
  • Prior marriage — You may not be married to two individuals in Florida at once so, if you were previously married, that marriage must have been properly dissolved or annulled.
  • Mental capacity — Both parties must be of sufficient mind to make the decision to marry.

Clarify Property Ownership

Many couples who plan to marry have already lived together for some time and likely have combined finances and possessions. However, it is always a good idea to clarify what property and what debts belong to each spouse prior to marriage. For example, if one individual owns a business, he or she may want to keep sole ownership of that business during and after the marriage. Similarly, one individual may have trust payments or other inheritances that they do not want to become marital property. During a marriage, it is easy to commingle property, so planning ahead can help prevent this.

Should you draft a premarital agreement?

There are many reasons why couples should consider a premarital agreement, as we have discussed previously on this blog. Some of the most basic reasons include:

  • Either you or your partner have substantial property
  • There is a significant wealth discrepancy between you and your partner
  • You own a business
  • You have children from a previous marriage
  • You have a specific estate plan you want to uphold

Solemnization

Finally, you have to ensure you take all of the steps necessary to make sure your marriage is legal. You must apply and obtain a marriage license from an authorized court clerk or judge and must have an officiated marriage ceremony within 60 days days of obtaining the license.

Consult with an Experienced Boca Raton Family Law Attorney Today

If you are planning on getting married and wish to seek advice regarding the many legal and financial implications of marriage or discuss a premarital agreement, please do not hesitate to call the office of Alan R. Burton in Boca Raton for assistance today. Mr. Burton is an experienced lawyer handling a wide variety of family law issues related to marriage, children, and divorce, so please call today at 954-229-1660 for a free consultation today.

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In Part One of this article, we examined a few of the factors that Florida family courts consider when making time-sharing and custody determinations. The following is a brief overview of some additional factors that play a role in decisions regarding what is in the “best interest of the child.”

Moral Fitness of each Parent

Under Florida time-sharing laws, courts should examine the moral fitness of each parent when deciding how parenting responsibilities and custody should be shared. “Moral fitness” can refer to many different aspects of a parent’s life, including but not limited to the following:

  • Substance abuse;
  • Verbal or emotional abuse;
  • Having undesirable visitors in the home;
  • Having frequent, numerous casual romantic relationships with several different partners;
  • Unlawful behavior or association with individuals who participate in unlawful activities; and
  • Adultery, if the adulterous relationship had a negative effect on the child’s life.

A court wants to ensure that the child has a healthy environment in which to live and that the child is not exposed to immoral or undesirable behavior.

The Ability to Communicate with Each Other and Co-Parent

Because Florida laws favor a shared parenting relationship, courts want to make sure that two parents have the ability to communicate with one another and share parenting responsibilities in a healthy manner. This may include the willingness to abide by the court-approved time-sharing and visitation schedule. Additionally, if changes need to be made to the schedule, the court will try to determine whether the parents will be able to agree and work together regarding changes or whether they will want to drag the issue back into court each time a conflict arises.

Furthermore, each parent should be willing to keep the other fully informed of any developments or issues in the child’s life and to make decisions together regarding important parenting matters. Each parent should be supportive of the other parent’s relationship with the child and should not make disparaging remarks regarding the other parent to the child. This is all meant to limit the damage and stress of the divorce or custody battle on the child’s life.

All parents in Florida who will share time with a child must have a written parenting plan that sets out numerous guidelines, including:

  • The specific time-sharing schedule;
  • Which address will primarily be used for school and extracurricular activities;
  • How the parents will communicate with the child and with each other;
  • How the parents will decide on education and health care matters; and
  • Who will be responsible for which daily parenting tasks.

Courts must approve a parenting plan before it can go into effect.

Contact an Experienced Family Law Attorney for Assistance with Your Custody Case

Because of the wide array of factors a court may consider when making time-sharing and custody decisions, you should always have the assistance of an experienced Boca Raton family law attorney who knows how to handle this type of case. Working together with the other parent can often lead to the best results, and an experienced lawyer can help negotiate a parenting and time-sharing plan that works for everyone. If you are facing any type of custody case, do not hesitate to call the law office of Alan R. Burton today to discuss your case.

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Parents may face child custody proceedings for many reasons. While many custody determinations occur as part of a divorce case, others may occur following a paternity determination or to later modify a previous custody arrangement or parenting plan. While family court judges must evaluate each case based on its individual circumstances, the child time-sharing laws in Florida require the courts to use the same standard in every case. This standard is referred to as the “best interests of the child.”

Courts generally presume that it is in the best interests of a child to maintain contact and relationships with both parents and neither favor the mother nor the father. Additionally, it is generally preferred for both parents to be involved in the decision-making process regarding how the child is raised. The courts will consider many different factors relating to parenting and the needs of the child in question when determining what arrangement is in the child’s best interest. Though the law offers some suggestions regarding factors to analyze, the court has discretion to consider any factor it deems relevant to the situation. The following are some examples of factors that are regularly considered:

Safety and Health

First and foremost, the time-sharing agreement and parenting plan should keep the child healthy and safe. If a court finds that a relationship with one parent may put the child at risk, it will not favor a shared parenting arrangement. For example, some of the following factors may cause a parent to lose custody and visitation rights:

  • History of domestic violence;
  • History of sexual violence;
  • Any evidence of child neglect, abandonment, or abuse;
  • Evidence of substance abuse in the home of a parent; and
  • Mental or physical conditions of the parent that may keep them from adequately caring for the child.

If the court has concerns, it can allow visitation though require the visits to be supervised to ensure the child is safe.

Developmental and Emotional Needs of the Child

Courts want to make sure that a parent desires to foster and maintain a meaningful relationship with their child. For this reason, courts often examine how involved a parent has been in the different aspects of a child’s life thus far. This may include whether a parent has played an active role in the child’s education or extracurricular activities, whether a parent has a relationship with the child’s teachers, coaches, medical providers, and other important figures in their life, and whether a parent is familiar with and encourages a child’s friendships, hobbies, and other healthy activities.

Additionally, the court may examine each parent’s ability to provide a stable routine for a child, including maintaining current schedules for school and activities. Courts try to minimize the disruption in a child’s life and, therefore, will consider the geographic location of each parent’s home, whether the child will have to switch schools, whether constant travel between the homes will be exhausting for the child, and more. Whenever possible, a court tries to allow the child to remain in their current community and school.

The above are only some examples of factors that courts may consider when making custody determinations. We will explore more in Part Two of this article. If you have any questions regarding child custody, call the Boca Raton office of family law attorney Alan R. Burton for help today.

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This past summer, a Broward County judge ruled to strike down Florida’s same-sex marriage ban by issuing a decision to allow two women (legally married outside of Florida) to divorce within our state. This decision meant that Florida courts would have to recognize the validity of the same-sex marriage in order to dissolve the marriage, which goes against the state constitutional ban. Unfortunately, the decision was vacated and the divorce case was dismissed in September based on a procedural technicality–not on the merits of the case.

On December 8, 2014, however, Judge Dale Cohen reissued a decision in the refiling of the divorce case that mirrors his August decision to grant the same-sex divorce between wives Heather Brassner and Megan Lade. In his decision, Judge Cohen declared both the constitutional and statutory bans on same-sex marriage and recognition of same-sex marriages in Florida unconstitutional and unenforceable. Brassner is expected to file a request for a Final Judgment of Dissolution as soon as possible and her attorney hopes to have Judge Cohen grant the final divorce prior to the beginning of 2015.

Same-sex Marriage in 2015

Aside from the Brassner-Lade same-sex divorce case, other developments are taking place that may help same-sex couples receive equal marriage rights in Florida in early 2015. Also last August, a federal judge for the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida in Tallahassee entered a ruling that struck down Florida’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, stating the constitutional amendment was “an obvious pretext for discrimination.” However, the judge also stayed his decision at that time in order to provide the Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi time to appeal the ruling on behalf of the state of Florida.

As the end of the stay order on January 5, 2015 approaches, the 11th United States Circuit Court of Appeals recently released its decision not to extend the stay order past that date. This means that if the Court of Appeals does not reverse the decision before January 5th and the stay is lifted, same-sex couples should be able to legally obtain a marriage license in Florida on January 6th. If the Court of Appeals upholds the lower court decision, the same-sex marriage ban will expectedly be effectively struck down in Florida since the Supreme Court of the United States declined to review Appeals Court decisions regarding this subject earlier this year. Many court clerks throughout the state of Florida have stated their offices are preparing to issue same-sex marriage licenses if the stay is lifted on January 6th.

Contact a Boca Raton Family Law Attorney for Assistance

The legalization of same-sex marriage (and same-sex divorce) in Florida will likely affect a large number of people who may have questions regarding the legal implications of marriage, divorce, custody, and more. If you have any type of question related to family law or if you are facing a family law case, experienced Boca Raton attorney Alan R. Burton can assist you. Please do not hesitate to call our office today at (954) 229-1660 for assistance.

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Just because you are not married to the mother of your child does not mean that you do not wish to play a role in your child’s life. Unfortunately, in order to legally gain parental rights, you must take certain steps under the law in the state of Florida. In some cases, gaining legal paternity can be relatively simple and will requiring signing a form and filing it with the state. If the mother of your child tries to fight against you paternity claim, however, you may find yourself facing a legal battle in court. One recent case that was resolved shows how difficult some paternity cases may become.

Jason Patric Wins Paternity Case

Jason Patric is an actor who had been fighting for legal paternity rights to his biological son for two years. When Patric’s former girlfriend wanted to have a child, he agreed to offer his sperm for her to use for in vitro fertilization (IVF), which resulted in the birth of a son. Patric was not listed on his son’s birth certificate and he and the mother did not sign a parenting agreement. However, Patric states that the two parents rekindled their relationship and that he participated in raising the boy. When the relationship again soured, Patric states that the mother refused to allow him to be in contact with her son.

Patric filed a paternity claim that resulted in a battle in court. The mother claimed that Patric was never involved in the boy’s life and that he was verbally abusive. The lower court originally ruled that Patric had no parental rights because the court decided that he was merely a “sperm donor.” On appeal, Patric won the right to a retrial and this time the court ruled in his favor. He was granted parental rights to his son and stated he plans to seek custody and visitation rights.

In 2013, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that an egg donor had legal parental rights. In that case, one woman provided eggs and her same-sex partner carried the child. After the relationship broke up, the birth mother took the daughter to Australia, which led to the mother whose eggs were donated to seek parental rights. The case led the Florida Supreme Court to rule that Florida’s Assisted Reproductive Technology Statute did not apply to cases in which it was clearly intended that the egg or sperm donor would have a role in the child’s life, such as in many same-sex couples. The law still stands in relation to anonymous donors, however.

Contact a Boca Raton Family Lawyer for Assistance

If you are facing a paternity suit, you do not want to risk losing your parental rights to spend time and build a relationship with your child. Instead, you should always consult with an experienced family law attorney in Boca Raton who has a thorough understanding of Florida laws and how they will relate to your case. Call the office of Alan R. Burton for all of your family law needs 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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