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Situations change and individuals can go through unexpected periods of financial downturn. Losing your job, having a medical emergency in your household, and many other similar events can make it difficult to cover your bills. In such times, you may also struggle to make your court-ordered child support payments.

The court orders a certain amount of child support based on your situation at the time of the ruling, and the courts do not attempt to anticipate your future financial circumstances. Therefore, if you lose income or your other expenses increase, it is understandable that paying child support may become challenging or even impossible in the future. Unfortunately, failing to pay child support can have serious consequences in Florida, but you have legal options to try to make your child support more manageable to avoid these consequences.

Possible Actions Against You

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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:

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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

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On June 11, 2015, Governor Rick Scott signed the bill that will remove the language banning gay couples from adopting children from Florida law. Though a judge for the 3rd District Court of Appeal in Miami ruled that the ban was unconstitutional and state officials stopped actively enforcing the ban in 2010, the language remained codified in Florida law. Florida was the only state in the U.S. to have such a ban and, though removing the language is largely a formality, gay rights advocacy groups celebrated the fact that the “lingering insult” of the decades-old law will be gone.

Another Threat to Gay Adoption Failed in 2015

Earlier this year, there was another bill on the table in Florida regarding same-sex couples adopting, though that proposed law would have threatened gay adoption rights, not preserved them. HB 7111 would have allowed private adoption companies to deny adoption for gay couples by citing “religious or moral convictions or policies” without risking losing their adoption agency license from the state. Though the bill was presented as a protection of religious freedom, opponents maintained that it was no more than a thinly veiled attack on the equal rights of same-sex couples.

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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

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After same-sex marriage became legal in Florida on January 6, 2015, it seemed to many to be only natural that same-sex couples would also have the right to dissolve their marriages in Florida, as well. However, the ability to grant a same-sex divorce was still up in the air on the trial court level, stemming from a case that was regularly in the news throughout last year.

In that case, Danielle Brandon-Thomas was trying to get a divorce from a marriage granted in Massachusetts and her wife Krista was trying to block the divorce. Though Krista wanted to stop the divorce for child custody reasons, she used the argument that because Florida law did not recognize gay marriage, it should not dissolve a gay marriage either. Attorney General Pam Bondi stepped in and argued for Krista, and the trial court denied the divorce request.

Now, however, the state appellate court has issued its decision that overturns the trial court decision for several reasons. Some of the reasons are as follows:

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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:

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With the days getting warmer and longer, it means that the end of the 2014-2015 school year is approaching. Parents in Florida and across the United States are making plans for trips, choosing summer camps, and planning other activities to make sure their children have an enjoyable summer. If you have divorced your child’s other parent or were never married, however, summer vacation can present substantial challenges relating to child custody and visitation. If you have joint custody, both parents may want to make plans for vacations and or other outings and conflicts may arise regarding scheduling and similar matters. In order to avoid constant disputes and aggravation–which can have an effect on both you and your child–you should always plan ahead to try to best coordinate a custody schedule that will work for everyone involved. The following are only a few of many things you can do to make the most out of your child’s summer break.

Plan way ahead — Many couples decide to tackle the issues and possible complications of summer custody from the very start–during the original custody case. When they are negotiating the initial parenting and time-sharing plan to be approved by the family court, parents can try to foresee any scheduling issues over the summer and can come up with solutions that are set out in the agreement. If a conflict arises at a later date, they can refer to the parenting plan to resolve the issue.

Plan your summer calendar in advance — If you want to take your child to a concert, festival, or on a camping trip, you should try to fill out your calendar of events as early as possible. While being spontaneous can be fun, events may conflict with something the other parent wishes to do or may fall during the other parent’s custody time. For example, you do not want to both plan a weekend getaway for Fourth of July, expecting that the other one will agree to it. Instead, discuss your calendar and solve any conflicts up front before summer begins.

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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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The recent controversy in Indiana centers around a new law that allows private businesses to refuse service to same-sex couples or homosexual individuals based on the religious beliefs of the business owners. While proponents state that the bill is focused on the freedom of religious expression, opponents claim the bill is simply a protection for business owners to openly and blatantly discriminate against gay people. Certain legislators in Florida have proposed a bill that would allow same-sex discrimination that may hit much closer to home–by private adoption agencies.

House Bill 7111, approved by the House Judiciary Committee on April 2, 2015, would allow any private adoption or child-placement agency that receives state funds to cite moral or religious grounds to deny adoptions to gay couples or individuals without risking their funding. The bill seems to be a direct and hasty response to the House of Representative’s vote to strike down the Florida ban on adoption by same-sex couples. Democratic legislators and organizations such as Equality Florida is speaking out against the bill as openly allowing discrimination. Representative Dave Kerner stated that any adoption agents who would discriminate should not be in the adoption business.

Adoption can be stressful