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Legal Guardianship for Adults

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Most adults are responsible for themselves when it comes to legal matters. Once you are a legal adult, you can make decisions based on the law in cases of money or property without someone else making those decisions for you. However, if an adult in the state of Florida becomes incapacitated due to injury or illness, there are measures set in place to ensure that someone will become responsible for the legal rights of the incapacitated person. In Florida, a guardianship is a legal proceeding where someone is appointed to make decisions and handle the legal matters of a person who becomes incapacitated, otherwise known as a “ward.”

How & Why is a Guardian Appointed?

If an adult becomes incapacitated, that means that he or she has been judicially determined to lack the capacity to manage their property, legal matters, and issues related to health and safety. A court can determine that someone is entirely or partially incapacitated depending on the findings of an expert committee.

Anyone can file a petition to the court stating that the incapacitation of another deems him or her eligible for a legal guardian, but it is up to the court to decide and enforce guardianship. Once a petition has been filed, a committee of three expert members is formed to review the case of the potential ward, which includes a physical, mental, and functional assessment. This committee is usually made up of two physicians and another expert in the condition of the person in question. The committee will submit a report to the court with these findings related to the capacity of the individual.

After the report is presented to the court, a judge will decide if a person is wholly or partially incapacitated, if at all, based on the factual evidence discovered by the committee. If someone is deemed to be in full capacity of him or herself, then the judge will throw out the petition for guardianship.

Who Can Be a Guardian?

Any adult resident in the state of Florida and some family members outside of the state may be appointed guardian of a ward as long as they have not been convicted of a felony, and are fully capable of handling the duties of being a guardian. A nonprofit entity may be granted guardianship in certain situations, and a bank trust can be appointed guardian of an individual’s property.

What Does a Guardian Do?

Ultimately, the court will decide what the ward is incapable of doing and assign the rights and responsibilities to the guardian. A guardian will be required to report regularly on the property and health of the ward. He or she will also be responsible for the medical, mental, and personal care of the ward, as well as determining the best place for the ward to live depending on the requirements of the court.

A guardianship does not have to be a permanent arrangement, as some wards may recover and become capable of exercising their own rights after some time. In this case, the court would conduct another assessment to determine whether the ward has recovered from their incapacitation and release them from the guardianship if there is a full recovery.

If a guardianship is petitioned or necessary, it’s important to hire an attorney who is experienced in the area of family law and guardianships. The guardian is also required to have representation by an attorney throughout the process. In legal documentation, the person who becomes the ward can also designate their preferred guardian before an incapacitating event.

References:

Consumer Pamphlet: What Is Guardianship? – The Florida Bar. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.floridabar.org/public/consumer/pamphlet030/#WHAT IS A GUARDIANSHIP?

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Alimony in the State of Florida

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A former Miami Dolphin was in the news recently, not for making plays on the field, but for skipping out on an alimony payment to his ex-wife. Jason Taylor was divorced from his wife of 14 years back in 2015. At the time, a judge ordered Taylor to pay his ex-wife $8.67 million in a lump sum alimony payment. This summer, his ex-wife filed a lawsuit in Broward County claiming that Taylor still owes her $3.4 million, and despite attempts to retrieve the money peacefully, she has not had any success in obtaining the funds owed to her.

Alimony Controversies

Alimony has been a hot topic lately as many argue that that statutes and conditions of traditional alimony are outdated now that women have a higher earning power. Some may say that permanent alimony keeps ex spouses tied to each other until death, and often brings children and current spouses into unnecessary legal fights.

For example, in one Florida case, a woman is suing her former husband’s current wife for legal fees stemming from her alimony case. According to her lawsuit, her ex- husband neglected to pay alimony for years, and when he was ordered by a court to pay his ex hundreds of thousands of dollars in back alimony, he transferred many of his significant financial assets to reside under his current wife’s name so that he could escape collection of his debts. Hi ex-wife claims that she is attempting to retrieve what is owed to her by the lawsuit against the current wife’s assets.

What is alimony?

In the state of Florida, alimony, or maintenance, can be granted to either party after the dissolution of a marriage. The purpose of awarding alimony can range from acting as a “bridge-the-gap” payment, which is set in place until the recipient is able to get to a better financial situation after the marriage, to a permanent alimony structure, meaning one spouse pays the other until death. Alimony can also be durational with a stop date, or rehabilitative, with a structured plan in place to get the recipient from one status to another with regards to employment or disability. A court can order that the payments are made on a monthly basis, or in a lump sum, as the Taylor case represents.

What factors are considered in awarding alimony?

A court will decide if either party needs financial maintenance and whether the other party has the ability to pay. There are many factors that are considered when determining alimony. A court may look at some or all of the following factors:

  • Standard of living established during the marriage.
  • Duration of marriage (less than seven years is considered a short-term marriage, seven-17 years is a moderate marriage, and 17+ years is long-term)
  • The age, physical, and emotional state of each party.
  • Financial resources of each party, including marital and non-marital assets.
  • Earning capacity, education, and skill level of each party.
  • Contribution to the marriage, including homemaking and childcare.
  • Responsibility of each party to minor children.
  • Sources of income and tax treatment of each party.
  • Any additional factors that account for equity and justice between parties.

Additional Alimony Requirements

A court may require the payer of alimony to purchase or maintain a life insurance policy as a way to secure the alimony payments. It’s important to note that any alimony payments cannot cause the one who is paying to have a significantly lower income than the recipient unless there are exceptional circumstances as noted by the court.

If you are considering a divorce, it’s imperative that you contact an experienced family law attorney. Your attorney will explain the options available to you throughout the process of the dissolution of your marriage.

References:

LAMBIETjose@gossipextra.com, J. (n.d.). Miami Dolphins legend Jason Taylor secretly divorced in 2015. Now, he’s being sued. Retrieved August 10, 2017, from http://www.miamiherald.com/entertainment/ent-columns-blogs/jose-lambiet/article165207992.html

Joseph, S. (2017, July 18). Lawyer’s Ex-Wife Asks Court to Make New Wife Pay Her Legal Fees. Retrieved August 10, 2017, from http://www.dailybusinessreview.com/id=1202793290507/Lawyers-ExWife-Asks-Court-to-Make-New-Wife-Pay-Her-Legal-Fees

(2017, August 10). Retrieved August 10, 2017, from http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0000-0099%2F0061%2FSections%2F0061.08.html

 

5 Things to Know About Adopting a Child in the State of Florida

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The decision to start a family is a major life-changing decision. If a couple, or even a single person decides that they would like to either become a parent or grow their family, it can completely alter everything from routines to finances to the order of your home. However much your life may change, the choice to have a child, whether biologically or by adoption, is a beautiful decision that will hopefully bring mostly positive changes to your life.

In the state of Florida, if a person or couple decides to adopt a child, there are many benefits beyond the love of family to look forward to. Adoption is a selfless gift to a child who needs a permanent home. Those who choose to adopt have made a promise to care for a child as if he/she were their own, and raise a family in a healthy manner. If you are interested in adopting, here are some benefits for you to consider.

1. Common Interests

If you choose to adopt, you can ask for a child that shares some of your common interests. This may give you an immediate bonding point that you can start with in your journey as a parent.

2 Legally Secure

Children are not available for adoption until the courts have legally terminated the parental rights of the biological parents. Therefore, you do not have to worry about the biological parents claiming any rights to the child.

3. Financial Assistance

Many children in the care of the state qualify for monthly subsidies until age 18 in order to offset some costs of care. The program that offers these subsidies is called, “Florida’s Adoption Assistance Program.” Subsidies are decided on a case-by-case basis.

4. Free College

Children adopted from state care are eligible for free tuition at any Florida state university, community college, or vocational school in Florida up until age 28. Some private institutions also offer free tuition to students who are adopted from foster care.

5. Older Children/Siblings Adoption

There are also great benefits to adopting older children and groups of siblings. Older children give you the opportunity to enjoy having a child beyond the baby years. You can expect more time having conversations and sharing interests, and less time changing diapers and potty training.

If you choose to adopt a group of siblings, you are giving yourself the opportunity to instantly grow a big family of children who already have a bond with each other. This is a great option for anyone who wants to have multiple children and enjoy a big family feeling.

Adoption can be very rewarding, but it is a major decision, and should not be taken lightly. Throughout the adoption process, it is a good idea to consult with an experienced family attorney. Your attorney will help you navigate through the family law requirements of adding a new child to your family.

References:

Explore Adoption. (n.d.). Retrieved May 19, 2017, from http://www.adoptflorida.org/faq.shtml

Explore Adoption. (n.d.). Retrieved May 19, 2017, from http://www.adoptflorida.org/benefits.shtml

http://www.adoptflorida.org/faq.shtml

http://www.adoptflorida.org/benefits.shtml

Is Divorce Seasonal? Study Finds There Are Peak Periods

divorceSociologists at the University of Washington have performed new research finding that divorce may actually be seasonal. The data collected is said to be the first ever quantitative evidence proving that there are biannual filings for divorces. The study was performed between the years of 2001 and 2015 and noted that the majority of divorce cases peaked during the months following winter and summer holiday seasons.

Peak Times for Divorce Revolve Around Holidays and Kids

According to statistics, many couples see holiday seasons as a time to hold to traditional family values. Splitting up is the last thing they want to do so in an effort to make it work they attempt family trips or outings. The usual presumption is that things will get better, but as time passes it becomes more apparent that it’s probably best to make the split.

Generally, couples filing for divorce will take some of the strain off of themselves by agreeing to separate close to when the children are going back to school. In their opinion this has a lower impact on the family dynamic, which accounts for the spike that occurs just after summer holidays.

However, the researchers involved were still trying to discover what causes the post winter divorce spike. Experts claim that the longer days of winter months drive people’s motivations to act; the conclusion was reached after taking notice that suicides also increase during this same time.

Is Seasonal Divorce a Common Phenomenon Nationwide?

Birnes, one of the active scientists in the study, claims that the end goal wasn’t necessarily to find a pattern in divorce. The study’s aim was to investigate the effect of the recession on marital stability. Their results, however, turned up with seasonal filings for divorce cases.

Since happening upon this phenomenon (which was restricted to 39 counties in Washington), Birnes wanted to know if this trend also took shape in other states around the country. They decided to examine Arizona, Minnesota, Ohio, and Florida. Each of the states showed a similar trend in comparison to the state of Washington.

If you’re considering filing for a divorce in, consult an experienced family lawyer. Spatz Law Firm specializes in family law and can aid in the multidimensional aspects of divorce. Don’t hesitate to contact us for a consultation in your family law case in Miami.

Reference Article:

Is divorce seasonal? UW research shows biannual spike in divorce filings. (n.d.). Retrieved August 31, 2016, from http://www.washington.edu/news/2016/08/21/is-divorce-seasonal-uw-research-shows-biannual-spike-in-divorce-filings/

 

 

Governor Rick Scott Vetoes Alimony Reform Bill

For the second time in three years, Florida Governor Rick Scott vetoed an alimony reform bill passed by the House and Senate. The reason for the veto was due mainly to a controversial child custody component in the bill.

Alimony overhaul on pause

The bill would have altered the alimony system by establishing a formula for alimony payments which would weigh the length of the marriage and the combined income of both spouses.  It also would have eliminated permanent alimony, and limited the duration of alimony to a percentage of the length of the marriage.

Scott says equal time for parents isn’t best for kids

The bill failed to pass due to a proposed child-sharing amendment.  The change to the law would have established the premise that children should spend equal amounts of time with each parent, instead of one parent having primary custody.

Scott vetoed the bill on the grounds that the child sharing concept put the desires of parents over the needs of children. Marie Gonzalez, Family Law Section Chairwoman and supporter of the veto, said that if the amendment were to have become law it would have caused more litigation. She praised the veto saying, “So when mom and dad come in front of the judge the best thing they can have is a clean slate and have a judge consider the uniqueness of the family, and also the needs of the particular family and come up and craft a good parenting plan, a good time-sharing schedule that works best for that family.”

Child custody issues to be removed from next version of the bill

Advocates for alimony reform are disappointed, and some say they will attempt to keep any child custody issue out of the next version of an alimony reform bill. In an interview with the Palm Beach Post, Family Law Reform founder Alan Frishner said, “We still believe, as an organization, child sharing is important. We just don’t want it to hurt our chances for alimony reform, which is what happened this session.”

Family law issues stemming from divorce such as child custody and alimony are complex questions. An experienced attorney can help you reach a resolution that is best for you and your loved ones.

Sources:

Scott vetoes overhaul of Florida alimony, child custody laws. (2016, April 15). Retrieved April 26, 2016, from http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/news/state-regional-govt-politics/scott-scuttles-florida-alimony-overhaul-citing-chi/nq6Mh/

Dunkelberger, L. (2016, April 15). Scott vetoes alimony overhaul, again. Retrieved April 26, 2016, from http://politics.heraldtribune.com/2016/04/15/scott-vetoes-alimony-overhaul-again/

3 Things to Know About Florida Child Custody Law

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Divorce is difficult for all parties, but particularly on children. In Florida, the legal system is structured with the intent to look out for the best interests of the child in divorce and custody agreements. Upon that basis, decisions are made about where a child lives, who makes decisions for the child’s welfare, who pays for their needs, and so forth. A few of the main concepts of Florida divorce law are explained below.

  1. Determining what’s in the best interest of the child

In Florida law, it is assumed that it is in the best interest of the child to have contact with both parents, with both parties involved in parental decisions. When determining best interest, the courts take into consideration issues of health and safety, emotional development, and environment. Of course evidence of violence, abandonment, or neglect can prevent a parent of being granted custody, but the court also considers the ability of each parent to provide for their child’s emotional, developmental and material needs.

  1. Understanding the types of custody

Legal custody refers to parental right to make decisions for the minor – such as schooling, medical care, and religious teaching. Physical custody refers to the residence of the child. It is considered in the best interest of the child if both parents make legal decisions on their behalf, though that isn’t always possible. Sole custody is when the child lives with one parent, and in joint custody, a child lives with both parents. The division of time between the two homes varies widely, depending on such factors as the child’s school and the parents work and travel commitments.

  1. Child support

Child support is determined by the courts based on the parents’ joint income as well as the needs of the child. If one parent has a significant change of income or the child’s living expenses suddenly rise (such as for a health issue or a change in education expenses) child support may be adjusted. A multitude of factors are taking into consideration for child support. The state of Florida has a calculator that helps to determine what the child support share should be, but there are many variables in this formula.

Regardless of your situation, the services of a family law attorney well-versed in Florida child custody and divorce law is essential. A family lawyer can make sure you understand your legal rights and responsibilities as a parent so that you can make the best decision for your child(ren).

Sources:

The Basics of Florida Child Custody Law. (n.d.). Retrieved March 28, 2016, from http://www.attorneys.com/child-custody/florida/florida-child-custody-law-basics/

Bishop, S. (n.d.). Child Custody in Florida: Best Interests of the Child | DivorceNet.com. Retrieved March 28, 2016, from http://www.divorcenet.com/resources/child-custody/child-custody-florida-best-interests-child.htm#b

5 Things to Know Before Filing for Divorce in Florida

Filing for divorce is a difficult process for most. Knowing what to expect, and having the trusted guidance of an attorney throughout the proceedings can make it a little less painful. Here are a few key things you should know before filing for divorce in Florida:

  1. Where to file: Each local circuit court has a Family Department. One spouse can file a “Petition for the Dissolution of a Marriage.” The other spouse will be served papers and then they may respond.
  2. Average length of process – Depending on the type of proceeding, a divorce can take anywhere from four months to years. An uncontested divorce—where the parties involved have no dependents and agree to the divorce and division of their assets—can be completed in four months. Initially contested cases, in which one party disputes either the divorce or its terms, are generally resolved in mediation prior to a final hearing. These take about six months, sometimes more. Contested cases take the longest, as they typically end up in court. In these cases, a year or more is not uncommon.
  3. Alimony – A court may order alimony depending on how long a couple was married, what their standard of living was, and the age and health of each spouse. Alimony can be short or long term, and may be awarded to allow one spouse an adjustment period, such as in the instance where education or retraining expenses which may be required by a spouse who did not work outside the home during the marriage. Durational or permanent alimony can be awarded, particularly for longer marriages.
  4. Assets – Assets and debts acquired over the length of the marriage are to be divided fairly between the divorcing parties. These are “marital assets.” “Non-marital assets” include whatever the couple entered into the marriage with. Each party is entitled to keep their non-marital assets, as long as they were not used to acquire marital assets (such as shared property).It is important to have all documentation – tax returns, bank statements, mortgage information, and any other significant financial information when filing
  5. Custody and Child Support – In Florida, the term “custody” is no longer used in courts. Instead, the concept is referred to as “timesharing.” When it comes to timesharing, if you and your ex-spouse cannot come to an agreement, the court will make a ruling based on what it determines the “best interest” of the child or children. Unless there is a reason one party is incapable of caring for the children, timesharing is generally divided up as a shared responsibility. Factors taken into account are each individual’s fitness as parents, preferences of the child, and ability to provide for the child. As for child support, it is determined upon a variety of factors. Florida’s standard needs table assesses child support amounts based on the child’s age, health, and child care costs. Judges use those guidelines to determine how much each parent is obligated to pay.

In a perfect world, divorce would be swift and painless. In reality, it can be a trying time. An well-versed family law attorney can provide practical levity at a time when their clients may be inclined to emotional decision-making.

Sources:

10 Things to Know About Divorce for Florida Residents, www.attorneys.com

Getting a Divorce in Florida, www.divorcenet.com, Lina Guillen

How Long Does a Divorce Take in Florida?, myfloridalaw.com