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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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Florida Same-Sex Marriage – Will I Be On My Child’s Birth Certificate?

It has long been the law in Florida that when a child is born during an intact marriage between a man and a woman, the husband shall be placed on the birth certificate.  Generally, this is the case even if the husband is not the biological father of the child; the right of the child to be considered “legitimate” is so strong that it does not matter whether there is an actual genetic connection between the child and the father.

Now that Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage has been declared unconstitutional by a federal judge and marriage licenses are being provided to same-sex couples, will a hospital put a woman on a birth certificate if her wife gives birth?

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What is the Purpose of Florida Family Law?

Anyone who has gone through a divorce, paternity, or other family law proceeding in Hillsborough County or elsewhere in Florida may have wondered: What is the purpose of Florida Family Law?

Well, section 61.001(2) purports to have an answer:

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Tampa Same Sex Divorce Case First DOMA Challenge Certified to Florida Supreme Court

Can two women who were married in Massachusetts but now are residents of Florida divorce in Florida?  That is the question that my Tampa client and her wife were looking to have answered in the affirmative.  The trial judge determined that she did not have the power to dissolve a marriage that the State of Florida did not recognize.

When we appealed, we asked a panel of judges to skip the normal appellate process and go straight to the Florida Supreme Court.  Our argument was that this case involves issues of such public importance, and that determining whether married couples of the same sex can divorce affects the administration of justice throughout the state.  Our request for the expedited process was denied.

And then we got word yesterday.  The judges of the Second District Court of Appeals decided en banc (with the input of all of the judges of the Court, excluding a judge who had recused himself) that this case should go straight to the Florida Supreme Court.

Below are portions of the brand new ruling:

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How Old Do You Have To Be To Marry In Florida?

If you have wondered how old you need to be to get hitched in Florida, section 741.0405 of the Florida Statutes has that answer:

741.0405 When marriage license may be issued to persons under 18 years.—
(1) If either of the parties shall be under the age of 18 years but at least 16 years of age, the county court judge or clerk of the circuit court shall issue a license for the marriage of such party only if there is first presented and filed with him or her the written consent of the parents or guardian of such minor to such marriage, acknowledged before some officer authorized by law to take acknowledgments and administer oaths. However, the license shall be issued without parental consent when both parents of such minor are deceased at the time of making application or when such minor has been married previously.

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The Military, Florida Divorce, and Residency Requirements

Florida Statutes Section 61.021 imposes a residency requirement for divorce cases:  One of the parties must have lived in Florida for at least 6 months prior to the filing of the petition for dissolution of marriage.  This generally means that a spouse will have to be physically present in Florida fort six months and have the intent to remain a permanent resident of Florida.

However, Florida does provide exceptions for members of the military.

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Modifying Florida Alimony

Now that Senate Bill 718 on alimony reform has been vetoed by Florida Governor Rick Scott, many Tampa Bay residents are wondering whether there is any way to modify or terminate their alimony obligations.  The answer, in many cases, may be yes.

Chapter 61 of the Florida Statutes states that most types of alimony may be modified or terminated when there has been a substantial change in circumstances that affects the receiving spouse’s need for alimony or the paying spouse’s ability to pay. Case law tells us that a “substantial change in circumstances” means a change that was unanticipated at the time the alimony was ordered by the Court, and a change that is permanent, involuntary, and material. Examples of substantial changes in circumstance that may justify upward or downward modification include health issues, long-term unemployment, a big raise, or a large inheritance.

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Florida Alimony Reform: How Long is a “Long-Term” Marriage?

As Senate Bill 718 – which deals with Florida alimony and child custody reform – looks likely to be signed by Governor Rick Scott, this blog is exploring the various parts of the bill and discussing how they may affect Tampa Bay divorce and family law cases.

One area that this bill changes is the way that marriages are categorized as short-term, moderate-term, and long-term.  The reason this matters is because the Florida Statutes prescribes the type, quantity, and duration of alimony that a judge is likely to award depending on the length of the marriage.

See Related: Child Custody Reform * Supportive Relationships

Right now (before the changes of Senate Bill 718), the law defines the length of marriage and the presumed appropriate types of alimony (after a judge has determined that one spouse has a need for alimony and the other spouse has the ability to pay) as follows:

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Legislative Update: Summary of Changes to Florida’s Adoption Laws

Logo of Florida House of RepresentativesMany bills relating to family law were proposed this past legislative session.  Many, if not most, of the bills died, while some, including House Bill 1163, passed both houses and were signed into law by Governor Scott.  House Bill 1163 (now Chapter 2012-81 of the Laws of Florida) made the following changes to Florida’s adoption laws (as summarized by the Florida Senate Committee on Children, Family, and Elder Affairs):

  • Requires that a petition for termination of parental rights contain facts supporting the allegation that the parents of the child is informed of the availability of private placement of the child with an adoption entity;
  • Removes legislative intent that all placements of minors for adoption be reported to the Department of Children and Family Services (DCF or department);
  • Amends certain definitions in ch. 63, F.S.;
  • Exempts adoption proceedings which were initiated under ch. 39, F.S., from the requirement to search the Florida Putative Father Registry if the search was previously completed;
  • Requires the use of an adoption entity for all adoptions of minor children, unless the adoption is by a relative or stepparent;

Disparaging The Other Parent Hurts Your Child And Your Florida Child Custody Case

Rosalind Sedacca, a divorce and parenting coach and author, writes about why parents should not bash one another in front of their children:

When you put down their other parent, your children are likely to interpret it as a put-down of part of them. When both parents are guilty of this behavior, it can create a great confusion along with a sense of unworthiness and low self-esteem. “Something’s wrong with me” becomes the child’s unconscious belief.

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