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Collaborative Law Rules at Florida Supreme Court

Collaborative Law Rules Approved by Florida Supreme Court

On May 18, 2017, the Florida Supreme Court published an opinion approving collaborative law rules.  The collaborative law rules are the last step necessary before Florida’s Collaborative Law Process Act goes into effect.

The opinion approves Rule Regulating the Florida Bar 4-1.19 and Florida Family Law Rule of Procedure 12.745.

Rule Regulating the Florida Bar 4-1.19

Florida Bar Rule 4-1.19 is a rule of professional conduct.  It creates certain obligations of attorneys representing clients within the collaborative process.  Among other things, the rule requires collaborative lawyers to do the following when contemplating collaborative practice with a client:

  • Provide sufficient information about the benefits and risks of the collaborative process;
  • Explain alternatives to the collaborative process, including litigation and mediation;

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Lie in Hernando County Family Law Court Leads to Jail Time

According to a report in the Tampa Bay Times, a woman in a Hernando County Family Law Court was seeking to get a domestic violence restraining order against her mother when she made some odd statements.  When asked about her extensive criminal background, the woman claimed that she was a DEA agent.

Hernando County Judge Stephen E. Toner gave the woman several opportunities to change her testimony, but she did not.  The family law judge then requested that the Sheriff’s Office check on the woman’s claim, which turned out to be bogus, and the woman was found to be in contempt of court and sentenced to 5 months and 29 days in jail.

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Rights Recognized in Tampa’s Domestic Partnership Registry

As President Obama today expressed his support for gay marriage, the State of Florida continues to define marriage as “a legal union between one man and one woman,” leaving homosexuals in loving relationships in a state of legal limbo.  Attempting to fill in the gap, many local county and municipal governments are passing “domestic partnership registries” which codify certain rights to heterosexual and homosexual partners.  Tampa, for one, has passed an ordinance creating a domestic partnership registry.

Related:  Five Legal Steps Florida LGBT Parents Should Take

[Related:  In A Florida Child Custody Case, Does It Matter That I Am Gay?]

[Related:  In Which County Should I File My Florida Adoption Case?]

Tampa’s domestic partnership law recognizes the following rights for registered partners (to the extent that these rights are not superseded by other laws or ordinances or by contract):

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TMH v. DMT: Florida Appellate Court Recognizes Parental Rights of Both Lesbian Mothers in Case of Fertilized Egg Transplant

Here’s the story:  Two women are in a committed lesbian relationship when they decide to have a child together using reproductive technologies.  One woman (the “Genetic Mother”) supplies the egg and has it fertilized.  That egg is then implanted into her partner (the “Birth Mother”) who gives birth in 2004.

Related:  Five Legal Steps Florida LGBT Parents Should Take

[Related:  In A Florida Child Custody Case, Does It Matter That I Am Gay?]

[Related:  In Which County Should I File My Florida Adoption Case?]

The child is given a hyphenated last name, combining the names of the Birth Mother and Genetic Mother.  Birth announcements are sent out, proclaiming both partners to be mothers of the child.  The partners reside with one another and the child in Florida, and they all live happily ever after.

Until 2006, when the Birth Mother and Genetic Mother break up.

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No Changes to Florida Alimony Laws

In previous posts, I had written about proposed changes to the Florida Alimony Statute (section 61.08, Florida Statutes) that were under consideration in Florida Senate Bill 748 and Florida House Bill 549.

Well, as it turns out, neither of these bills passed in the Florida Legislature’s 2012 session. On March 9, the Senate Bill died in Rules, while the House Bill died in Judiciary.

If you have questions concerning your Florida alimony case and you are looking to retain a Tampa Bay alimony attorney, contact The Law Firm of Adam B. Cordover, P.A., at 813-443-0615 or by filling out our online form.

Can Smoking Affect Your Child Custody Case?

As a former cigarette smoker, an article in the Washington Times regarding smoking and child custody piqued my interest. Below is an excerpt:

States are increasingly factoring in cigarette smoking in making decisions about who gets custody of minor children. The group Action on Smoking and Health, an anti-tobacco advocacy group, surveyed custody issues involving cigarettes and tobacco use.

  • In at least 18 states, courts have ruled that subjecting a child to tobacco smoke is a factor which should be considered in deciding custody.
  • No judge and no court has ever ruled that subjecting a child to tobacco smoke should be ignored in deciding custody.
  • In thousands of cases, courts have issued orders prohibiting smoking in the presence of a child, especially in vehicles.

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Update to Changes Proposed to the Florida Alimony Statute

I previously wrote about a Florida House of Representatives Bill that proposed vast changes to the alimony statute and the “supportive relationship” standard to terminate alimony.

The Florida Senate has a competing bill, SB-748, which makes slightly fewer changes to the alimony standard and is somewhat less controversial than the House Bill.  The Senate summarizes SB-748 as follows:

  • Revises the factors that a court must consider in awarding alimony to include the net income available to each party after the application of the alimony award.
  • Requires the findings that a court must make in determining to award alimony be in writing.
  • Revises the circumstances under which a court may consider adultery by either spouse in its determination of the amount of alimony. Read more

Hillsborough County Family Law Judges Begin Utilizing Skype

As a family law attorney, I often have clients in a Florida matter that reside outside of the state.  I recommend that clients attend their hearings in person, as it gives the judge a face to match with a voice (humanizing the client) and it allows the client to see non-verbal cues from the judge, opposing counsel, or myself.  However, there are times when an out-of-state client cannot make it to a hearing; for these times I often request that the client appear by telephone, and the judge usually grants the request.

Some of the family law judges of the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit (covering Hillsborough County) have announced that they are now equipped and prepared to use Skype in the Courtroom for those clients who cannot appear in person.  This program allows the client to participate in a hearing via webcam.  Though I still recommend that clients appear in person whenever possible, this technology gives a great alternative.

The following family law judges have posted procedures for Skype:

Below is an announcement for the technology posted on Judge Ward’s profile:

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Vast Changes Proposed to Florida Alimony Statute

Permanent Alimony?  A thing of the past.  Standard of living during the marriage?  That factor is so passe.  Payments past retirement?  Not any more.

These are just a few of the vast changes that will be made to section 61.08 of the Florida Statutes (the “Alimony Statute”) if the current version of House Bill 549 is passed and signed into law.  Below you will find the proposed changes to the Alimony Statute (proposed additional language is underlined while proposed deletions are stricken):

61.08 Alimony.—
(1) In a proceeding for dissolution of marriage under s. 61.052(1)(a), the court may grant alimony to either party, which alimony may be bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, durational, or long-term permanent in nature or any combination of these forms of alimony. In any award of alimony, the court may order periodic payments or payments in lump sum or both, which may not exceed 20 percent of the payor’s monthly net income to include all sources of income averaged over the last 3 years of the marriage. The court may consider the adultery of either spouse and the circumstances thereof in determining the amount of alimony, if any, to be awarded. In all dissolution actions, the court shall include findings of fact relative to the factors enumerated in subsection (2) supporting an award or denial of alimony.

Pew Report Observes Non-Resident Fathers

A recent report conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Social and Demographics Trends project makes some interesting findings:

  • “Absent” or “non-resident” fathers are defined as those that do no live with their children;
  • The number of children not living with their father has doubled from 1960 to 2010;
  • Four in ten non-resident fathers communicate with their children several times a week, while one in five spend time with their children more than once a week;
  • One in three non-resident fathers report that they talk or exchange e-mail with their children less than once a month; and
  • Twenty-seven percent of absent fathers say they have not seen the children at all in the past year.

In Florida, generally speaking, each parent has a right to spend time with his or her children, and each parent has a responsibility to contribute financially to the child’s support.  If there is a court order pertaining to child custody, these rights and responsibilities can usually be enforced by contempt.

If you have questions regarding paternity or child custody and you wish to speak with a Florida family law lawyer, contact The Law Firm of Adam B. Cordover, P.A., by calling us at (813) 443-0615 or filling out our online form.