“Next Generation Divorce” Takes On A New Meaning At St. Pete Pride

Last Sunday, I met a lot of people who had a lot of questions regarding their parental and family law rights.  My law firm sponsored a booth at the St. Pete Pride festival in St. Petersburg, Florida, where I discussed topics such as adoptions, name changes, and LGBT child custody rights.  I also had the chance to talk about collaborative family law, a private form of dispute resolution which I have used to help same sex partners amicably separate.

20140706-153645-56205458.jpgAt the pride festival, I was wearing a metal name tag that I received from my collaborative family law practice group, Next Generation Divorce.  Next Generation Divorce is comprised of over 100 caring attorneys, mental health professionals, and financial professionals dedicated to helping parents and divorcing spouses handle difficult issues amicably and with their dignity intact.  I happen to be Next Generation Divorce’s current president and, needless to say, I strongly support the organization’s drive to help folks resolve disputes respectfully through the collaborative process.

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What Your Florida Divorce Lawyer May Not Be Telling You

The vast majority of divorce attorneys in Tampa Bay and around Florida are good, hardworking people with their clients’ best interests always at mind.  However, there is one divorce option that more and more financial and mental health professionals agree is the best way to handle a family law matter, and yet many attorneys will not tell their clients about it:  collaborative divorce.

Collaborative divorce is a private form of dispute resolution where each spouse hires their own attorney only for the purposes of helping to negotiate a marital settlement agreement. Collaborative attorneys are contractually prohibited from going to trial or bringing any contested issues to be decided by a judge.

Trial Divorce = Big $$ for Attorneys

This is one reason why there are a lot of divorce trial lawyers who are against collaborative divorce:  attorneys make a lot of money billing time for trial-related activities such as depositions, interrogatories, witness preparation, exhibit analysis and selection, and trial itself.  Trial attorneys bill this time even though they know that 95% of all divorce cases end in settlement, even sometimes after trial but right before a judge issues a ruling.   Continue reading

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Florida Transgender Community Aided by President Obama

The Tampa Bay Times is reporting that President Obama has worked to advance the rights of transgender individuals in Florida and elsewhere:

With little of the fanfare or criticism that marked his evolution into the leader Newsweek nicknamed “the first gay president,” Obama became the first chief executive to say “transgender” in a speech, to name transgender political appointees and to prohibit job bias against transgender government workers.

Also in his first term, he signed hate crime legislation that became the first federal civil rights protections for transgender people in U.S. history.

Since then, the administration has quietly applied the power of the executive branch to make it easier for transgender people to update their passports, obtain health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, get treatment at Veteran’s Administration facilities and seek access to public school restrooms and sports programs – just a few of the transgender-specific policy shifts of Obama’s presidency.

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Sample Florida Child Custody Schedules

In each Florida family law case (such as divorce or paternity) that involves the custody of a child, Florida law requires that a parenting plan be established.  One of the most important elements of a parenting plan is the child custody schedule, now known as a “time-sharing” schedule.

Family Law Tip:  You should never let a judge decide your child’s time-sharing schedule.  A judge does not know your family dynamics and bases such decisions on very limited information, and usually the judge is seeing parents, especially divorcing parents, at the worst time in their lives.  Instead, you and your co-parent should use a private form of dispute resolution, such as collaborative family law.

As I tell clients who come to my Tampa office, there are many different types of time-sharing schedules.  Below are some samples provided by the 12th Judicial Circuit (which includes Sarasota and Manatee Counties).  The parent who is listed in a box is the one whom the child will be staying with overnight:

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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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Who Started Collaborative Divorce?

Ever since my first basic collaborative divorce training in Tampa in 2011, I have been enthusiastically offering the collaborative process to my clients as a better way to handle family law matters.  I have also tried to become a student of the process, reading every book I can get my hands on that discusses collaborative divorce.

Right now I am reading The Collaborative Way to Divorce: The Revolutionary Method That Results in Less Stress, Lower Costs, and Happier Kids – Without Going to Court.  This book is written by Stu Webb, the founder of collaborative divorce, along with Ron Ousky, one of the early leaders of collaborative practitioners.

In the introduction of the book, Stu discusses how he came up with the collaborative method:

In 1989, I had been a divorce lawyer for about eighteen years – and was getting pretty sick of it.  I saw what the adversarial court battles that were the focus of divorce were doing to my clients, and I knew the resulting negativity was having an effect on me, too.

In traditional litigation two lawyers (or teams of lawyers) hash out the divorce in a court of law.  The actual parties to the divorce – the husband and wife – have almost no direct contact with each other, and what little interaction they have is usually bitter and unproductive.  Tension, fear, anger, and recrimination prevail.  This traditional process makes it almost impossible for the parties to have anything remotely resembling a healthy relationship after the divorce, even when there are children involved.

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Consequences of Not Paying Florida Child Support

If a court orders you to pay child support, I have two words for you: Pay It.  Child support is taken so seriously by the Florida and federal government that it is one of the few types of debts that cannot be discharged in bankruptcy proceedings, and it can be enforced against you no matter which state in this country you live in or move to.

The Florida Statutes and Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure provide several consequences of not paying support.

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BREAKING NEWS: Tampa Same Sex Divorce Dismissed by Trial Judge; Parties to Appeal

Many people have been following a matter that I am involved in, the same sex divorce case in Tampa, Florida.  Well, the judge just issued her ruling, and she dismissed the amended petition for dissolution of the parties’ marriage.

In her order, Judge Lee writes the following:

The Petitioner filed her initial Petition for Dissolution of Marriage on January 15, 2014.  Thereafter, the parties entered into the collaborative divorce process and successfully completed that process.  As a result, the parties voluntarily entered into a Collaborative Marital Settlement Agreement on March 14, 2014.  Subsequently, on March 17, 2014, the Petitioner filed her Amended Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and asked the court to accept jurisdiction of the subject matter, dissolve the marriage of the parties, and adopt and incorporate the Collaborative Marital Settlement Agreement into a Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage.

RELATED: Tampa Same Sex Divorce and Collaborative Practice

As alleged in the Amended Petition, the parties married …in the State of Massachusetts.  The parties are a same-sex couple. While the State of Massachusetts authorizes and recognizes same-sex marriages, by current law the State of Florida does not authorize or recognize such unions.

Specifically, in 2008, Florida citizens amended Article I of the Florida Constitution by voter initiate to provide as follows:

Inasmuch as marriage is the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife, no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized.  Art. I, s. 27, Fla. Const.

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Could Chelsea Manning Have Received A Legal Name Change in Florida?

A couple of weeks ago, the Washington Post reported that an army soldier convicted of leaking classified materials had changed her legal name from Bradley Manning to Chelsea Elizabeth Manning.  Ms. Manning’s name change has come after her public acknowledgment that she is transgender.

So could Chelsea Manning have been granted a name change in Florida?

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Florida Bar Video: Collaborative Divorce

The Florida Bar’s Young Lawyer Division has produced the following video which discusses collaborative divorce, the growing private and respectful method of resolving family law disputes.  The video features collaborative attorney Elaine Silver, with whom I serve on the Collaborative Family Law Council of Florida.

(Click “Continue Reading” to View Video)

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