Custody & Education

As a former teacher, I saw many different family structures. The best students were the students who had active parents who were concerned with their child’s education. Sometimes these parents were not “together” but put the child’s education goals FIRST. If you are going through a custody issue with the other parent, it is best to make sure the questions and concerns you have are for your children and not for what best fits your needs. I always tell clients that you have to make sure the child’s interests are being put first because children may be young now, but they will always remember when mommy and daddy are fighting about their school.

Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes: Who has Jurisdiction?

California or New York - which lucky court and which lucky judge will be the one interpreting the prenuptial agreement of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes or be in charge of the court proceedings? The concept of Jurisdiction deals with which court has the authority to hear and rule on the matters at hand. Each state has its own laws when it comes to divorce, even though they may have similar laws; the biggest issue in this case, like many high profile cases, deals with privacy issues.

No one wants their personal issues to be aired out in the courtroom but more importantly I do not think either party wants the media to be in the courtroom for the blow for blow. ( that includes Tom and Katie)

In the state of New York, files can be sealed and the public may have limited access to the divorce proceeding; however, in California, the privacy rights are not as stringent.

Generally, each state has its own requirements for Jurisdiction. For example, in Florida, in order to obtain a divorce either party has to be a resident of the State of Florida for at least 6 months, along with other factors needing to be met for the dissolution.

Also, if there was a prenuptial agreement, it may have a provision as to which state may have jurisdiction and/or how the divorce will play out, at least to the financial concerns; the child may be another story.

Just Served With Divorce Papers…

For many people, being served with divorce papers can be scary and unexpected. For others, it may be something that was expected from their partner. I usually hear the confusion and the scared voice in a client’s initial call. The most important thing I tell a client is a response is needed immediately, not just move the process along, but also because it is required by law. Once you have been served with divorce papers you have 20 days to respond.

Ignoring the paperwork you have been served with is the WORST thing a person can do. If you do not respond to the paperwork you are only digging yourself into a deeper and more costly hole.

So if you have been served with divorce papers you need to take action and not ignore what is going on and thing it will go away. The best option is to find a family law attorney who you feel comfortable with and can trust. Unfortunately, this may not be what you want, but you have to move forward and address the current situation.

Divorce, Kids, and Pets...

I just read a great article on Pet Custody and Divorce and agree with the commentators. See a copy of the article below: Pet custody: Divorce battles get hairy


THEY still fight like cats and dogs in divorce court. But more and more they are fighting about cats and dogs.

Custody cases involving pets are on the rise across the United States.

In a 2006 survey by the 1600-member American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, a quarter of respondents said pet custody cases had increased noticeably since 2001. The academy is due for another survey, but there is no doubt such cases have grown steadily since then, said Ken Altshuler of Portland, Maine, a divorce lawyer and AAML president.

If there is a child involved in a divorce, many judges will keep the pet with the child, lawyers said.

"But what do you do when the pet is the child?" Mr Altshuler asked.

Breakups in same-sex marriages, civil unions and domestic partnerships are among reasons pet custody fights have become more common, lawyers said.

Pet custody cases have grown as much as 15 per cent in his office over the last five years, said lawyer David Pisarra of Santa Monica.
He is his own best example. He shares custody of eight-year-old Dudley, a longhaired standard black-and-tan dachshund, with his ex, who has remarried and introduced a step-dog to Dudley.

Pet consultant Steven May hired Mr Pisarra six years ago to handle his divorce. Besides a daughter, May and his ex worked out custody of three dogs, two cats and Tequila the parrot.

Mr Pisarra and Mr May became good friends and often take their dogs for walks in Santa Monica. They also teamed up last year to write a book about co-parenting a pet with an ex titled "What About Wally?"

Pets are considered property in every state in America. For years, they have been divvied up like furniture during divorce proceedings. But times are changing.

"Judges are viewing them more akin to children than dining room sets. They are recognising that people have an emotional attachment to their animals," Altshuler said.

"There is a shifting consciousness," Mr Pisarra said. "Pets are being given greater consideration under the law."

Florida House Bill 549 and Florida Senate Bill 748: Florida’s New Proposed Alimony Laws

States throughout the nation are revisiting their Alimony Laws and Florida is no different. Late last year, Florida Representative Ritch Workman and Senator Diaz de la Portilla filed similar bills that would change how alimony is calculated. Representative Workman filed Bill 549 and Senator Portilla filed Bill 748. See: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2012/748

Those who oppose the Bill

Critics of the new piece of legislation stated that the new bill might pigeonhole women and men into relationships they do not want to be in anymore, because they may not be able to financially support themselves, thereby possibly having to stay in an unhealthy marriage. Currently, if there is a need for alimony and the other party can pay alimony, than alimony may be granted. In the current form, the bill would end permanent alimony; however, one can still receive payments for a certain time period.

Those who support the Bill

Supporters, such as the Florida Alimony Reform Organization, support the new legislation                                                                             ( http://www.floridaalimonyreform.com/florida-alimony-reform-bill-2012-hb549-sb748.htm). Supporters of the bill argue that it is not fair for a person to pay alimony for the rest of that person’s life and there has to be some point of “end time,” similar to child support. Currently, child support payments generally end at the age of 18 or 19, depending on high school graduation.

My Thoughts

I do believe that there should be some change to the Alimony Laws on the books, however, how far that change should go is the question. Currently there is language in the SB 748 that states:


The court must reduce or terminate an award of alimony if it determines upon specific written findings by the court that since               the granting of a divorce and the award of alimony a supportive relationship has existed between the obligee and a                                 person with whom the obligee resides.

This proposed portion of the law makes sense if a party moves on with his or her life, and supports that the financial support from the ex-spouse should change as well. However, supportive relationship is defined a

A person is deemed to maintain a supportive relationship when he or she shares a primary residence together with or without            another person for a period of at least 3 continuous months in a common household.

I do not know if 3 months is enough time to modify or terminate alimony and establish that a supportive relationship has been established. However, the SB 748 states:

If an alimony award has been modified to terminate due to a supportive relationship and that supportive relationship does not             produce a marriage, the obligee is not  entitled to reinstatement of alimony from the obligor.

In the end, either side, supporters or non-supporters, will have valid arguments and finding that happy medium will be key; however, the best thing both parties should do before getting married to plan ahead for such concerns is enter and sign a PRENUPITAL AGREEMENT.




Domestic Violence and Divorce

DV PSA  ( Video Click on the Link )

My spouse has been physical with me

More than often I hear potential clients or my clients make the statement, “ my spouse has been physical with me but I never reported it.” As an attorney who practices family law, the incidents of domestic violence are not a rare occurrences; domestic violence is a form of abuse that is pervasive and unpredictable. If your spouse hits you, you need to report it. Sounds simple, but people always come up with reasons not to report the abuse. If your spouse hits you, statistically it will not be the last time. People who commit physical abuse towards their spouse need help.

Divorce and Kids

Sometimes people with kids are hesitant to call the cops because of the kids the couple may have together. However, this reasoning may not work well if there is a dissolution of marriage action filed. Under the best interest standard, the court will look at incidents of domestic violence when determining time-sharing and parental responsibility. Florida Statute 61.13 states

“Evidence of domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect, regardless of whether a prior or pending action relating to those issues has been brought. If the court accepts evidence of prior or pending actions regarding domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect, the court must specifically acknowledge in writing that such evidence was considered when evaluating the best interests of the child.”

It is important not only to contact the police if there is an issue of domestic violence but also, to document (take pictures, videotape, etc.). Remember that taking those steps are not just for your safety but for the safety and well being of your children.

Marriage and Alimony

What is Alimony? Alimony/Spousal Support is where one spouse (husband or wife) financially helps the other spouse during or after a final order for a dissolution of marriage. Sometimes that assistance can take on different forms.

Different types of Alimony

Depending on the circumstances the following types of alimony may be awarded: bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, durational, or permanent in nature. In any award of alimony, the court may order periodic payments, payments in lump sum, or both. The court may consider the adultery of either spouse or the circumstances thereof in determining the amount of alimony, if any, to be awarded.


The length of the marriage will play a vital role in whether or not a person may be eligible for alimony. In order to award alimony, there has to be a need for the alimony and the ability of the spouse to pay for the alimony.In determining a proper award of alimony or maintenance, the court shall consider all relevant economic factors, including but not limited to the following factors:

-The standard of living established during the marriage.

-The age and the physical and emotional condition of each party.

-The financial resources of each party, the nonmarital and the marital assets and liabilities distributed to each.

-When applicable, the time necessary for either party to acquire sufficient education or training to enable such party to find appropriate employment.

-The contribution of each party to the marriage, including, but not limited to, services rendered in homemaking, childcare, education, and career building of the other party.

-All sources of income available to either party.

-The court may consider any other factor necessary to do equity and justice between the parties.

Alimony can be something that is used to help one party get back on his/her feet and become financially stable.