Ft. Myers Family Law Blog


Alimony Overview

At present, there are four types of alimony in Florida – bridge the gap, rehabilitative, durational, and permanent.  Bridge-the-gap alimony is intended to allow a party to make the transition from being married to being single and it cannot exceed two years.  Rehabilitative alimony assists a party in establishing the capacity for self-support by acquiring education or redeveloping prior skills, and there must be a clear plan detailing the cost and duration of the rehabilitation.  Durational alimony is meant to provide financial support for a specific period of time, not to exceed the length of the marriage.  Permanent alimony is intended to assist a party who is unable to meet his or her needs and necessities of life following a dissolution and is most appropriate for marriages longer than 17 years.

The starting point for any type of alimony is a need by one party and the ability to pay by the other.  There is no set guideline for determining amounts of alimony after need and ability to pay have been established.

This may soon change.  Currently, the Senate  (SB1248) and House  (HB943) are each considering their own versions of alimony reform bills.  If the bills pass the legislative houses, then the two bills must be “harmonized” to create one bill for the Governor’s consideration.  If the Governor signs the bill into law, it would take effect October 1, 2015.

Both versions of the bill propose guidelines amounts for alimony awards and require that the combination of child support and alimony do not exceed 55% of the payor’s income.  Most notably, the measure would limit the duration of alimony payments to between 25% to 75% of the length of the marriage, thereby ending permanent alimony.  There would be equitable exceptions.  There would be presumptions of no alimony for marriages shorter than two years and an entitlement of alimony for marriages longer than two years.

The need and ability to pay analysis would still apply to requests for temporary alimony during the pendency of the dissolution litigation.  However, final awards would primarily be determined by the statutory guidelines.

The Senate version of the bill would require a presumption of “approximately equal” time-sharing with minor children by both parents to be in the best interest of the child.  This provision was stricken in the House version.  It will be interesting to see if this “sleeper provision” makes it way into the combined version of the bill.

Contact us for more information on alimony or any other family law issues.

Posted in Alimony, Divorce |

Divorce Via Facebook?

On April 6, 2015, CNN reported a New York judge has said Facebook is an acceptable way for a Brooklyn woman to serve her husband with divorce papers. In his decision, Justice Matthew Cooper said the “advent and ascendency of social media,” means sites like Facebook and Twitter are the “next frontier” as “forums through which a summons can be delivered.” The story details how the woman has been trying to divorce her husband for several years, but cannot find him to serve him the papers. The couple never lived together and she is not seeking any money. After exhausting other ways of serving him the papers, the woman filed an application asking for “service by alternate means,” in this case, via social media. Before the judge agreed to her using Facebook, she had to prove the Facebook account belongs to her husband, and that he consistently logs on to the account and would therefore see the summons. Click HERE for original story.

In Florida, if a party cannot be located, constructive service of process may be used if there is no issue of child support or alimony.  It is first necessary to search for the absent spouse and file a sworn Affidavit of Diligent Search and Inquiry with the court.  Then a Notice of Action must be published once a week for four consecutive weeks in a newspaper where the court is located.

Our Family Law Attorneys have experience helping men and women with their family law needs including divorce, custody, paternity, parental relocation, alimony and all other divorce issues.  Call today for a free consultation and let us help you protect your family.

 

Posted in Divorce |

Social Security at a Glance

Daniels 2015

Social Security disability benefits are payable to people who cannot work because they have a medical condition that is expected to last at least one year or result in death. Many people do not realize that Social Security offers two distinct disability programs.

The Social Security Disability Insurance program, also called DIB or Title II disability benefits, is based on a person’s earnings record. To qualify for these types of benefits, a person has to be insured, meaning he or she has worked and paid Social Security taxes to earn sufficient “quarters of coverage.” The younger an individual, the fewer quarters of coverage he or she is required to have to be insured for disability benefits. If a person becomes disabled before age 22, he or she may qualify for benefits based on a parent’s record. Because these benefits are based on earnings, income and assets amounts do not matter. A person could be a millionaire and still qualify based on a disability. For more information, read SSA’s brochure at http://ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10029.pdf.

On the flip side of the coin, there is the Supplemental Security Income program, also called SSI or Title XVI benefits. While SSI has the same disability requirements, it is a program for those with limited resources (income and assets). The Social Security Administration does not count a person’s home, one vehicle used for transportation, or household goods when determining if he or she meets the financial requirements for SSI. There are other exceptions, but these are the most common. You can learn more by reading SSA’s brochure at http://ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-11000.pdf.

DIB benefits are connected with Medicare insurance coverage. Medicare coverage is available 24 months after a person becomes entitled to payment of DIB disability benefits.

SSI benefits are connected with Medicaid coverage, which is generally available immediately upon entitlement to SSI benefits.

There are other differences between the two programs and other ways to qualify for benefits than discussed in this brief overview. To learn more about how to qualify for Social Security disability benefits, contact me or call me at the number above. I would be happy to discuss your unique situation and how our firm can assist you with a claim for benefits.

Posted in Florida Social Security Programs |

Families Battle Over Custody of 7-Year-Old Girl

Child custody can get very complicated, especially when both parents of a minor child are deceased.  It doesn’t have to be a battle, but custody can easily become a storm of allegations and counter-allegations.

In the case of this Florida girl, Dad shot and killed Mom in 2007.  Dad was sent to death row, and lives in solitary confinement at a Florida State Prison.  But according to the Florida Department of Children and Families, his parental rights have not been terminated. 

The little girl had been living with her maternal grandparents since Dad’s sentencing in 2011, up until recently, when she was removed from the home for probable cause of being endangered, and transferred to her paternal grandmother.   More details and background are available in this original story in the Daytona Beach News-Journal. 

This story is very public because of the grim backstory, but there are 100 variations on this theme every week.  The Florida DCF and the judges and court personnel in the justice system work hard to find equitable outcomes in almost impossibly complicated situations.

There are many ways to smooth this process.  A good family law attorney can work with opposing counsel to find options that are better for the child, and for the families involved.  Make sure you get good legal representation.

Posted in Child Custody |

The Economy Rises, and Divorce Rates are Along for the Ride

For the past 10 years now, the economy has been a roller-coaster of ups and downs. Banks have fallen, the housing market collapsed and grew again, countless businesses have closed, and governments the world over have instituted stimulus packages aimed specifically at propping up ailing markets.

Along for the ride with the economy is an unexpected passenger: The divorce rate.

As many attorneys are finding out, with the recent boosts to the economy, the divorce rate has been climbing after hitting a 40-year low in 2009.

In many ways, the rise in divorces makes sense. During tough economic times, people are likely to lose their jobs, have their hours or pay docked, their family businesses shrink, and their expendable income disappear. All of that is likely to scare people away from making any sort of life-altering decision.

On the flip-side, when the economy is doing well, employment is easier to find, and expendable income is high. In addition, when things are bright and sunny, people are more likely to see hope outside of their unfulfilling current situations.

Many experts are saying that this increase in divorces is due to individuals playing “catch-up,” given that they would have gotten divorced in years past, were they able.

According to Moody’s Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi, “as the economy normalizes, so too do family dynamics. Birth rates and divorce rates are rising. We may even see them rise strongly in the next couple of years, as households who put off these life-changing events decide to act.”

It is unknown how the market will swing in the future, but it goes without saying that as the market continues to fluctuate, so too will family dynamics.

Posted in Divorce |

Is “The Custody System” Biased Against Single Fathers?

daddy-girlOn behalf of the firm

The most recent Census Bureau figures say that 23.4 million children – a quarter of the children in America – live with a custodial parent, and only 18% of those parents were fathers.  4% of children in the US live with single fathers, as compared to 24% with single mothers.  Child support is awarded to mothers 3 times as often as to fathers.  What’s going on here?  Are the cards stacked against dads?

Before you get up in arms, realize that child custody is usually agreed by parents with no interference from the family courts.  It’s really not a case of “the system” working against the father.  There are biases in our culture, but attitudes are changing, and old assumptions are being challenged.

The complete absence of a positive male role model is often a crisis in a child’s life, and can have far-reaching effects.  Recognition of this is growing, and men are stepping up to their responsibilities to their children.

If you are a single dad struggling with custody issues, and are perhaps losing hope, please read the article below, and take heart.  Get in touch with an experienced family law attorney in the area and explore your options.  Your efforts are likely to make a big difference in the life of your child.

Original, extensive article

Posted in Child Custody |

National AMBER Alert Awareness Day

Header_MEPICNEWLogo

On behalf of the firm

On Oct. 8, 2013, a child was taken by her non-custodial mother from Fort Myers, Fla. and an AMBER Alert was issued. The child was recovered following a traffic stop when a state employee recognized the vehicle from the AMBER Alert.   This instance is an example of the genius of the Amber Alert system.

Child custody can become contentious.  For the safety of your children, and all children, please pay close attention to all Amber Alerts.  Know how to keep your children safe.

January 13 is when the US Department of Justice commemorates the abduction and murder of Amber Hagerman, 18 years ago, in Texas.  This somber event was the spark for a nationwide system that alerts the public to make abduction more difficult.  Highly alert citizens, organized into action by this system, have saved thousands of young lives.

You can sign up to receive email alerts from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.  Over 200,000 Florida residents have already signed up.  Fifty-five children have been located in Florida, since the inception of the Florida Amber Plan in 2000.  In 2013 alone, 10 Amber Alerts and 26 Missing Child Alerts were issued in the state of Florida.

 Original story on WCTV.tv

Posted in Child Custody, Family Safety |

About the Harry Chapin Food Bank

Our firm recently donated to the Harry Chapin Food Bank of Southwest Florida, which in turn provides needed support to families throughout Southwest Florida.   It’s one of many such community organizations we support, and which we encourage you to check out and support, too.

Harry Chapin was more than a recording artist.  You may not know the extent of his charitable work, which continues to bless the lives of millions around the world, long after his passing in 1981.  (More than 30 years ago, already?)

His hit song “Cat’s in the Cradle” makes every Dad, everywhere, feel guilty every single time it plays.  But his forceful and energetic work for charity should also make each of us reconsider whether we should personally do more.  You can make a one-time donation, or set up a recurring monthly donation on the Food Bank’s website.  There are also opportunities to volunteer and get involved in other ways.

It only takes a little action, today, to change the world, or your world, today.  Nothing much happens on the internet.  It’s what you do in the real world that counts.  The lawyers and staff who make up our firm believe in putting our ideas into action, for a better Southwest Florida community.

Posted in Uncategorized |

Florida family wants answers in teens death after Tasering

In Miami beach, the family members of a Florida teen, Israel Hernandez who died after being Tasered by a police officer, wants answers from authorities.

Officers saw aspiring artist Israel Hernandez spray-painting the side of a vacant McDonald’s off Collins Avenue, according to the Miami Beach police. The officers ordered him to stop but he started walking and the officers pursued him until he was caught.

In a statement police said, “In order to affect his arrest, an officer deployed his conducted electrical weapon (TASER) but afterward, Hernandez displayed signs of medical duress”. He was transported to a hospital at about 6 a.m. on Tuesday where he was pronounced dead.

Hernandez’s father told CNN, “We’re in a country that defends human rights – a country that sets an example and dares to ask countries that use excessive force. That is my son’s case. Excessive force”.

According to his sister Offir Hernandez, “He was an amazing artist, a very passionate person, a very passionate artist. It’s unfair to end his life for something he loved”.

The case is under investigation, said Miami Beach police. The medical examiner’s office told CNN that Autopsy and toxicology results for Hernandez are pending.

According to a statement, City officials have been in contact with the Hernandez family “to personally extend their condolences and provide assurances of a full and fair investigation”.

Jorge Mercado was the police officer who used a Taser; he has been placed on paid administrative leave.

A police spokesman said, “We’ve never had someone die from a tasing before. We’ve only had Tasers eight or nine years. Now everyone is issued one when we start working here”.

A friend of Hernandez, Thiago Souza, said police looked “almost like they were proud of what they did” after using that force to control Hernandez. “They’re all congratulating each other and all that. They were all clapping over his body and like giving high fives and laughing”.

According to a 2006 report by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, ECDs “are not likely to cause serious injury or loss of life for suspects or law enforcement officers, except in situations where certain medical conditions and drug use are factors”. But according to the human rights group Amnesty International, forty two individuals in the U.S died after being shocked with Tasers in 2012.

Hernandez’s critics said that he should stop when he was ordered but Hernandez’s girlfriend said, “He was the farthest thing from a thug. He ran because he was scared. You know, he’s just a kid. He only weighed 140 pounds. He was just a child in so many ways. He was such a pure and innocent person”.

Author Bio:

Michael Kramer is a highly successful criminal defense attorney specializing in DWI, armed robbery, theft, battery and domestic violence problems, among other types of cases.

Posted in Uncategorized |

The Top Five Financial Mistakes to Avoid During a Divorce

A divorce is an incredibly stressful time in an individual’s life. It can also be an incredibly expensive time in one’s life as well if you make poor financial decisions.

During your divorce, you will be faced with many decisions that will immediately or in the long run, affect your financial security. Many financial decisions you can make on your own, but there are those decisions that you will need to seek financial advice from a qualified professional.

The most common financial mistakes made by divorcing couples are the following:

  1. Ignoring or underestimating your expenses: The majority of people know how much they make each month, but really do not know how much they spend each month. Write down every current expense, develop a realistic budget, and then consider the cost of your future living expenses.
  2. Believing that the parent with more custodial time should keep the family home: No matter how attached you are to the family home, staying in the home may not be the best move financially.
  3. Assuming that an equal division is a fair division of property: An asset’s value may not be defined or limited to its current market value. Compare apples to apples when you trade assets in a divorce negotiation.
  4. Deciding financial issues one at a time: When you look at an asset or source of income separately, you miss the interaction of such items as taxes, capital gains, investment losses, timing issues, inflation, etc. You need to look at a comprehensive picture of all your finances to better understand how each financial decision you make may affect another decision, and determine how and when to divide assets.
  5. Failing to secure spousal support and child support payments with insurance: Request that your spouse obtain both disability and life insurance policies to ensure these payments will continue in the event of his death or disability.

Divorce is a difficult, stressful process, a process that will change your life. When you are contemplating divorce, speak with an experienced Florida family law attorney. An experienced attorney can explain the options available to you, can assist in protecting your interests, and help you through this emotional time in your life.

Posted in Uncategorized |