What is Mediation?

Mediation is an opportunity to get things done. 

What we mean by that is that litigation is time consuming, costly and many times results in an outcome that would be more advantageous if the parties were able to come to a settlement as it costs money to get to the judge. 

Mediation is that option to get the case moving in the right direction to come to a settlement. 

It takes a meeting of the minds. 

It takes restraint. 

It takes compromise. 

It also takes reason and sometimes what would seem like a little bit of luck but attorneys know that a lot of times through hard work, preparation and consistent contact with their clients prior to the mediation helps prepare them to better informed and more able to make a decision at the mediation. 

Mediation itself in Florida is confidential and privileged.  In family law and divorce cases, which is the subject of this article, the relevant rules provide for confidentiality of mediation and settlement negotiations that take place at mediation.  So if the parties do not enter into a settlement agreement, offers and counteroffers made in compromise should not be used against them later. 

Confidentiality is very helpful as sometimes parties may be more willing to offer more than they would be willing to offer when they go to court, so then they want to make sure that these offers of compromise and settlement are not used against them later if the mediation does not work out, so it gives a forum for parties to feel comfortable to make their best offer.

A mediator is neutral and works for the agreement. The mediator is NOT the Judge. The mediator does not make decisions for the parties; the mediator helps facilitate an agreement. If you can’t agree, that’s when you turn it over to the Judge for the Judge to decide.

If you are interested in mediation in Tampa, Florida, Saint Petersburg, Florida, Clearwater, Dade City, New Port Richie, Plant City, Sarasota, Bradenton, Bartow, Lakeland, Spring Hill, Hernando, please give our office a call at (813) 272-2345 to speak with a divorce and family law lawyer that deals with mediation and is experienced in settling and litigating divorce and family law issues.

By: William S. Foley, Esq.

Jurisdiction: Florida

 http://www.wfoleylaw.com

Is Florida a ‘No Fault Divorce’ State?

The concept of no fault divorce is one that has evolved over time as state legislatures attempted to redefine the legal rules surrounding the dissolution of marriages. Historically, states required parties to a divorce to prove ‘fault’ regarding the demise of the marriage. For example, New York required that a party prove cruel and inhuman treatment, adultery, confinement, or abandonment, in order to successfully dissolve a marriage. The policy reason behind this was that states wanted to protect the institution of marriage and encourage reconciliation amongst the parties.

So, what happened?

The simple answer is that state legislatures came to the realization that divorces often do not involve ‘fault’ in the traditional statutory sense. Instead, couples may often be incompatible, unhappy, and simply feel that their marriage is broken beyond repair. For this reason, states opted to introduce the concept of ‘no fault divorce.’

What is no fault divorce?

No fault divorce essentially means that the parties to a divorce only have to show that the marriage is irretrievably broken or there are irreconcilable differences between the parties.

How do I file for a no fault divorce in Florida?

In Florida, the process for filing for a no fault divorce is simple. First, a legal marriage must exist. Second, one of the parties must have been a permanent resident of the State of Florida for a minimum of 6 months prior to the initiation of divorce proceedings. Third, the parties must properly allege that the marriage is irretrievably broken or that irreconcilable differences exist within the marriage.

But what if fault exists?

Often divorces are precipitated through the fault of one of the parties. For example, adultery is a common catalyst for divorces.

So, what role does adultery or other types of fault play in divorce proceedings?

Surprisingly to most clients, adultery is not considered in the decision to grant a dissolution of marriage. However, adultery or other types of fault may play a critical role in the allocation of marital assets through equitable distribution. For example, if your spouse is engaged in an adulterous relationship, and makes expenditures on that relationship, than you may be entitled to receive a share of what your spouse spent on their adulterous relationship. While, adultery may not play a pivotal role in the decision on whether or not to grant a divorce, it can become a crucial factor in determining proper distribution of marital assets.

In Conclusion, Florida is a ‘No Fault’ State and William S. Foley, PA can help you in your divorce. Please call today at (813) 272-2345 to speak to an attorney about your divorce and family law questions.

 Click here to visit the William S. Foley, PA website for more information

Why Should I Retain a Collaborative Divorce Lawyer?

Some people think that a collaborative divorce is appropriate for 
their situation, when it may actually not be appropriate. But the 
greater percentage have never even heard of collaborative 
divorce, or if they have don’t know the benefits. So this is an 
article to go over some of the benefits of Collaborative Divorce:

Some benefits of Collaborative Divorce —-

A.        
Humane Divorce —- Some people feel that the normal 
way of litigation is a very impersonal stress-inducing, sometimes 
pretty traumatizing event that occurs in their life.  Collaborative 
divorce is not the easy thing to do and is still challenging, but is a 
much more humane way of dealing with such an emotional time 
in someone’s life.  

B.        Team Approach —- In a collaborative divorce everybody 
in the team, which would be the two attorneys, the two parties 
and two experts, one financial and one mental health expert, work 
together as a team to get to an agreement.  So, during team 
meetings where all six of the team members will sit around the 
table and try to make sure they can figure out what it is the 
parties and their children and their lives best interest.  

C.        No posturing  —- What makes this so much different 
than a normal divorce proceeding is that the aspect of attorneys 
posturing back and forth and other litigation tactics are not 
necessary and are not used as they are working towards a final 
resolution.  

D.        Carrot at the end of the stick —- The carrot at the 
end of the stick the parties to follow through to conclusion is that 
if the parties do not settle during the collaborative process, they 
must fire their attorneys and the experts and start all over to file 
for divorce.  So, this is much different than a normal divorce 
proceeding and it entices people to try to find a way, if at all 
possible, to settle.  There’s different statistics that we’ve seen, but 
it appears that somewhere between 90 to 95 percent of 
collaborative divorce cases ultimately settle and are successful.

http://www.wfoleylaw.com

The Gray Divorce: Divorce in the Golden Years of Life

            Coping with and managing a divorce at any stage of life is a difficult concept for most people to master. For some people, this may be the first time that they have had to get a job in order to support themselves. For others, it may mean that they are now single parents. The simple fact is that post marriage life can be extremely difficult to adapt to and can bring a whole list of financial and emotional worries. This is particularly true for those people who are at least 50 years old.

             According to a study by the National Center for Family and Marriage Research, the divorce rate for those aged 50 and over doubled in the United States from 1990 to 2010, and today, divorces of the 50 and older group account for approximately 25% of all divorces in the United States.[1]

            Handling and managing a “gray divorce” is something that must be done with extraordinary care. Often couples may have accumulated significant wealth at this stage in life which may have resulted in vast investment portfolios and property investments. In other cases, couples may be living on a fixed income. Whatever the individual facts of the particular case, divorces in the later stages of life involve factors that are not traditionally involved in divorces and special care must be afforded to them.

            These types of divorces can result in new, unforeseen obstacles and can cause great financial worry. As so, it is especially important that when considering an attorney, that you choose one who recognizes and has the ability to deal with the unique circumstances accompanying a divorce in a later stage of life.

           William S. Foley, P.A. has extensive experience managing and successfully resolving gray divorces. Whether you are a Fortune 500 CEO or a stay-at-home-spouse, William, S. Foley, P.A. will ensure that your rights and privileges are protected as our team helps to walk you through the divorce and settlement processes.

Do you want to change your name?

Petitions for a name change can be filed for either an adult’s name change, for a family, or for a family member such as a minor child.  There are other types of petitions for name change but the most commonly used are the name change of an adult where they wish to change either their first, last and/or middle name.

Of course, a name change can be changed back to a party’s former name within a divorce proceeding however sometimes parties do not change their names at the end of the divorce and they choose to at a later time or they choose to change their name for a whole host of other reasons.  There are many situations out there as we see in the media for celebrities and other public figures changing their names for various reasons. 

The procedure itself is not free.  You have to pay a filing fee.  In Hillsborough County, Florida it is over $400.00 for filing fee.  If you retain an attorney there would be attorney’s fees associated with the case, and if you’re changing the name of a minor child there are additional restrictions and obligations. As the primary focus of this article is changing the name of an adult for yourself, if you file for the name change, you would be filing a petition for name change and at the clerk’s office paying the filing fee. You would then would be required to set a hearing on your petition for name change, and then at that hearing in front of the judge, the judge would ask specific questions related to if you are using this name change because of any bankruptcy, criminal proceeding or any other type of nefarious activity to obtain the name change.  The court wants to make sure this is being done for no criminal or legal ulterior motives.  So at that hearing that is when they will ask the questions regarding the change of name and that is why it is necessary to have a hearing on the final name change.

Another aspect of the name change proceeding is that you will also have to be finger-printed and there is a very specific procedure for doing so, and this must all be done in most counties in Florida, at least the finger-printing portion prior to the filing of the petition.  So there’s not as many steps as some other family law proceedings, but there are still very specific steps and procedures to follow to change a name, but at that hearing when the court enters the final judgment if they are satisfied with your testimony, that is when your name would be officially changed.

By: William S. Foley, Esq.

http://www.wfoleylaw.com

Jurisdiction: Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Polk, Hernando,  Manatee, Sarasota, Orange counties - Florida

 

 

Florida Equitable Distribution of Property and Liabilities

Florida Statute Chapter 61.075 governs equitable distribution of property, assets and liabilities.  The courts take a stance that upon marriage, everything that is put into the marriage, including property, assets and liabilities, until the date that the parties file for divorce is all part of the marital pot.  Initially, the presumption is that the marital pot is to be distributed equally, therefore, 50‑50 equitable distribution.  However, if there are proven justifications that the marital pot should not be divided equally then it may be an unequal distribution.

Some of the circumstances where the parties would have an unequal distribution are if there was a depletion of marital assets for purposes of an extramarital affair, or other conduct which intentionally wasted, depleted or destroyed an asset. A few of the other factors the Court may look at is each parties’ contributions during the marriage, duration of the marriage, interruption of education or careers, or other factors to do justice between the parties.  The courts normally will take a presumptive 50‑50 stance with regard to property, assets and distribution of liabilities; however, there are circumstances where the parties might receive an unequal distribution.

By: William S. Foley

Jurisdiction: Florida

Unique Divorce Service in the Southwest

A unique service that has been offered for two decades in San Diego is now being offered in Las Vegas as well for those seeking information about a potential or pending divorce. An event titled “Second Saturday Divorce Consultation Service” hosts events on the Second Saturday of every month at different locations. So far, the events have only taken place in the Southwest. Bordering the unconventional, the purpose of these events is to inform women that divorce does not have to be as financially draining for the parties involved as is commonly understood.

Organizer Jacqueline Thornhill takes a “glass half-full” approach in educating women on the details of divorce, focusing on “moving a woman’s life forward in as positive manner as possible.” The event showcases financial planning, family therapy, mediation, and legal counsel. The event helps women to create both short and long term financial plans and provides access to expert advice and services related to divorce.

See Phelps, Laura. View. “Monthly Events Help Couples Navigate Divorce”. http://www.lvrj.com/view/monthly-events-help-couples-navigate-divorce-186041611.html

HELP! I AM IN THE MIDDLE OF A CUSTODY FIGHT!

Article Written By William S. Foley —All rights Reserved

So what happens when you find yourself in the middle of a custody fight?

Is this something that you ever thought would happen to you?

Sometimes it is inevitable in certain cases dealing with children’s issues that they turn into a custody fight. It is usually not expected and almost never wanted. However, it does happen. Why does it happen so often? Well, both parents want the same thing. They both want the child.

The love of the child may cause people to act in ways they have never acted in their whole lives. Divorce attorneys see it every single day.

Sometimes it can also prompt some people to fight for their children to make ensure that the children’s best interests are taken into account. In these types of situations where the parent is truly looking out for the best interest of the minor child a custody battle may be warranted if it is not in the best interests for the other parent to have a majority of the time, and the other side will not agree to be reasonable and look out for the best interest of the child.

Parties can only reach an agreement when both parents are on board. This is a legal system in which agreements can be set aside and therefore such agreements must be entered into knowingly and willfully. So therefore both parties must come together in a meeting of the minds in order to form this agreement on how to handle the time-sharing of their minor children.

If the parents are unable to agree on what is in the best interests of the children then sometimes the parties feel that it is appropriate to have a third person make that decision, or assist them in making the decision.

One option is to use an expert who is trained in evaluating time-sharing, custody, parenting plans and contact with the minor children and the parent. This expert can be a social worker or psychologist but foremost has to understand the family law issues and factors that go into child custody and the time-sharing determinations. This article is written in Hillsborough County, Florida therefore it follows Florida statute 61.13, which dictates the factors the court will use to decide a time-sharing and a parenting plan.

Some factors are the facilitation of time-sharing and if one parent is more likely to facility the time-sharing with the other parent. Another factor includes making educational decisions and which parent has historically made those decisions. Other factors include domestic violence, child and sexual abuse, and related issues to the time-sharing with the minor children and the parents.

So therefore the expert may make a similar determination as the court would and sometimes they can make this the primary determination before the court even look at the issues.

Some judges are very receptive to theses evaluations and find it very helpful to the court in determining what is in the best interests of the children. However, if the evaluator does not follow the appropriate methods their recommendation is not as helpful, and the court will give little weight to the evaluation in its determination. These experts may testify at a final hearing and can be deposed, but their overall purpose and charge is to create a report and recommendation that details what the time-sharing and parenting plan should be. This recommendation can be extremely helpful to the Trier of Fact (the judge).

However, sometimes even with the assistance of an expert the parties are still unable to come to an agreement. That is when the judge makes the decision. In theses circumstance the expert may come to the court to testify or in other circumstances the parties will not use an expert to look at the child custody situation and the court must make the determination on their own with the assistance of the presented witnesses and the evidence.

The parties have to understand that just as they are human so is the Judge. Judges are human and therefore the only thing the judges can rely on is what is in front of them during that final hearing. The cannot read minds, they cannot tell the future and they cannot decide on evidence that is not presented to them.

If the final hearing only lasts a few hours it is very clear the parties will be in their Sunday best, acting their best, bringing in witnesses that will say they are the best parent possible, and generally in a normal child custody battle, they will be stating that it is not in the best interest of the minor child for the other parent to have primary residence or the majority of the time-sharing. So the courts, who are learned in this regard and understand this “best image” process, want to determine in light of the evidence and witnesses that are presented at the final hearing what is in the best interests of the minor children and not solely what one party has said about the other.

Because many of these hearings come down to a “he said-she said” argument where one side said something and the other side said the complete opposite, the court has to make a determination on who is correct and who is incorrect or untruthful. The court will normally be able to do this by weighing third party testimony or evidence the evidence presented to them. This is why it is very important in a child custody battle or fight which occurs through litigation to present witnesses and evidence that supports your case.

Your Judge cannot see into your home.

Your Judge does not know how you act with your child.

Your Judge will most likely not speak to your child (unless appropriate motions are filed and granted, under certain circumstances) and therefore does not have the same view point on the situation that either: (1) the parents could if they were able come to an agreement on their own, or (2) that an expert could see since the expert is able to speak to the child, to other family members, to both parties and review all types of evidence that the court may not be able to in this legal context.

So this author feels that while there may be some cases where there is no other option but trial and a custody battle in which the judge ultimately decides, the vast majority of cases are ready and able to be settled.

When both parties take a good long hard look in the mirror at themselves, the situation, and especially at their children, most times they are able to come to the realization that they can settle this issue; without the court as a third party judge, who will most likely never see them again but will have to dictate how the next eighteen years or however many years until the child reaches the age of majority to them. So it is always suggested that the parties do everything in their power to mediate and attempt to cooperatively settle these issues for the children, even if it is with the use of a neutral child custody expert.

There are studies that suggest, as would seem to be painfully clear, that divorce litigation, custody litigation, custody fights, and just the overall litigious nature that many couples exhibit towards each other are not conducive for the child’s development, for their upbringing, in their relationships with their parents, with friends, or in their future relationships. So therefore it is of the utmost importance for parents to at all times during custody litigation and during custody “fights” to take into extreme care the children’s best interests. That means keeping the children out of it.

The children in this regard, especially young children, feel that the divorce is their fault. Often, as they get older they seem to want to blame it on someone and later in life feel they want to blame it on both parents. There are many different stages that the child may go through during a divorce and it is always a trying and emotional time for them.

In conclusion, custody fights are not easy. They are extremely complicated. Everyone is emotional and there is no easy answer or recipe for success. Every single party is different, every single child is different, and every single judge is different so therefore what works in one situation is not necessarily what will work the next time. Therefore, the very first thing the parents must do is try to settle through mediation and negotiation without putting the issue before the judge. Then if the parents are unable to settle on their own they may choose to have an expert come in and evaluate their specific situation and recommend a custody arrangement prior to bringing the issue up before the judge. If neither option is appropriate for the parties’ situation then the case must go to trial and a stranger, the judge, will do their job and apply the law to the facts presented to them. The parties must be prepared, must be ready, and must understand that the judge’s review and determination may be a painful experience, but that the parties have exhausted every other option before requesting this and felt that going forward to trial was in the best interests of the minor child.

 

Jurisdiction: Hillsborough County, FL

Copyright 2009- 2013 William S. Foley, P.A.. All rights reserved.

Artificial Insemination and Potential Financial Responsibility for the Child

“Artificial Insemination and Potential Financial Responsibility for the Child”

                  An article posted by Yahoo and written by Kevin Murphy titled “Child Support Claim Rankles Sperm Donor to Lesbian Couple” reports on a legal issue that may arise for sperm donors in a number of states that still use what are considered by some to be outdated artificial insemination statutes. The article concerns a Kansas man named William Marotta that donated his sperm to a lesbian couple, free of charge, as a generous donation after always desiring to have children of his own.

                  A Kansas statute requires that a sperm donor must provide through a licensed physician in order to avoid financial responsibility of the child and any future financial obligations. The facts creating the legal issue arose when he donated the sperm to the lesbian couple directly instead of going through a licensed physician. As a result, the state of Kansas attached financial responsibility of the child and has filed an action for child support and $6000 in past emergency medical expenses.

                  Marotta’s argument is in alignment with the legal trend, as in a majority of states and including Florida, to allow a donor protection from future financial responsibilities if there was an agreement between the donor and the recipient couple. In a 2007 Kansas case, the Court ruled against a donor for reason that he did not have an agreement with the recipient couple. Marotta is arguing since he had such an agreement, no future financial responsibility attached.

                  The outcome of this case will determine if Kansas, one of the more conservative states on the issue, is going to move toward the modern trend to allow a donor immunity from future financial responsibility of the child if not going through a licensed physician so long as an agreement exists between the parties.

See

Murphy, Kevin. “Child Support Claim Rankles Sperm Donor to Lesbian Couple” http://news.yahoo.com/child-support-claim-rankles-sperm-donor-lesbian-couple-014725388.html

Forman, Deborah. “Using a Known Sperm Donor: Understanding the Risks and Challenges”

http://www.theafa.org/article/using-a-known-sperm-donor-understanding-the-legal-risks-and-challenges/

 Madonna has been at the top of the headlines since the early 1980’s but lately a majority of her press has resulted from her impending divorce. A New York Times Article recently stated that:

But on Friday, Madonna, the singer, and Mr. Ritchie, the film director, were granted a preliminary decree of divorce by a London court, The Associated Press reported. The couple, who were married at a ceremony in a Scottish castle in 2000, were granted the decree in a brief hearing that neither attended; the divorce can become final after six weeks and one day. According to papers released by the court, the report said, Madonna petitioned for divorce, citing Mr. Ritchie’s “unreasonable behavior.” The two are expected to share custody of their sons, Rocco, 8, and David Banda, 3. Madonna also has a daughter, Lourdes, 12, from a previous relationship.

Madonna’s divorce appears to be looming closer. Divorces in London are much different than divorces in Florida. Actually, each state in the US has different rules and procedures for dealing with a dissolution of a marriage.

Click on the link above to view the New York Times Article.