According to a national Pew Research Center report done in 2013, 40% of new marriages included at least one partner who had been married before. In 2010, a Pew Research Center survey found that 42% of the American adults interviewed have at least one step relative in their family, whether it be a stepparent, a step or half sibling, or a stepchild. Having a stepfamily is not something most of us plan for, and the reality of being in a stepfamily can be quite different than our expectations. But different doesn’t mean worse. All stepfamilies have to go through an adjustment period together.
A stepfamily is formed as a result of a loss of a previous marriage or relationship. Children and adults have to be able to grieve the changes that happen as a result of death or divorce. Children especially may feel a loss of stability as a result of living in two households. They may be left wondering where they fit in with a new parent and new siblings. A child moving into a stepparent’s home may feel like an outsider or unwanted guest. In situations where the stepfamily moves into the child’s existing home, the child may feel like “unwanted visitors” are invading, and the child may feel resentful. One way to make the transition easier on all family members is to start fresh in a home that is new to all. But because this is not always feasible or practical, here are some ways to help make the transition into a blended family a little easier:
- Try to make the home more welcoming to all. If you have pictures on the wall, be sure the pictures accurately reflect all members of the family, not just the ones who have always lived in the house
- Take on a redecorating project together, to make the home “yours” as a family
- Try to incorporate furniture and furnishings from both homes
- Be patient and sensitive regarding children’s feelings. The blending of a family is a big change, and to the child it may feel like things are moving really fast. If the child now has to share a room, this can be a particularly difficult adjustment. Try to lower your expectations about “happily ever after,” at least in the beginning. Remember, there will be an adjustment period for all family members!
Being empathetic and understanding of each family members concerns and needs will go a long way. You are all in this together. With a few adjustments, you will be able to fine-tune your home to better include all family members.
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Professionalism is a hot topic right now. It is on the agenda at every lawyer and judicial seminar or continuing education conference, and professional law journals consistently cover the concept. Over the years, numerous surveys have shown the public’s declining trust in the legal profession. In response to these surveys, leaders of the American Bar Association, the Florida Supreme Court, and The Florida Bar have rallied together to encourage Florida attorneys to adhere to aspirational standards of professionalism. This is an admirable goal, yet these institutions offer no clear definition of what professionalism actually IS, leaving many confused about how to implement an undefined concept.
Defining the concept of professionalism is tricky. In general, professionalism today seems to be defined by its lack of a definition, following the lines of, “I know it when I see it.” Rule 19-1.1 of The Rules Regulating The Florida Bar states, “This rule is adopted in recognition of professionalism as the ultimate hallmark of the practice of law. The purpose of this rule is to create a center to identify and enunciate non-mandatory standards of professional conduct and encourage adherence thereto. These standards should involve aspirations higher than those required by the Rules of Professional Conduct.” The rule clearly highlights the importance of professionalism, but again the actual definition of professionalism is left vague.
The Florida Bar’s rules now require members to obtain 5 credits in ethics, professionalism, substance abuse, or mental illness awareness training, as well as the “Practicing with Professionalism” program. Some argue that this merely encourages procedural professionalism, meaning lawyers do not have to BE professional; they simply must complete required training. There is also confusion swirling about how to implement an undefined concept, especially since the aspirational goal of professionalism is looking more and more like a mandate.
While the concrete definition of professionalism may still be up in the air, one thing is for certain: the attorneys at The Llabona Law Group are highly professional. You will know it when you see it.
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If you find yourself in a legal situation, whether it be child support battles, domestic violence, divorce, or adoption, and English is not your first language, it is vital to find an attorney who understands you, both in language and in subtle cultural differences. As the non-English-speaking segment of the population continues to grow, the need for bilingual lawyers grows as well. Being truly bilingual isn’t just about being able to translate the meanings of words; it’s about being sensitive to differences in culture and understanding the subtleties of speech.
Although English is the primary language of the U.S., the U.K., and Australia, the meanings of certain words and their usage differs between the three countries. Within the same language, the same word can have slightly different meanings. Beyond word translation, cultural beliefs make a difference as well. Mannerisms and behaviors common to other cultures require a flexible, open mind to understand and interpret.
Especially when dealing with something as personal and sensitive as divorce, the need for an attorney who fully understands you is necessary to establish trust. Being able to fill out legal paperwork in the language in which you are fluent, and knowing that your attorney will be able to accurately translate the information, means one less thing to stress about in an already stressful situation such as divorce. The lawyers and staff at the Llabona Law Group speak English and Spanish. If you are in need of a Spanish speaking family law attorney, contact the Llabona Law Group today.
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Heather Figueroa’s ex-husband owes her $57,000 in child support.
You can imagine her surprise, then, when the Florida Department of Revenue froze her accounts and attempted to take the money from her, rather than the other way around.
Rather than being short on money, waiting patiently for legal teams to track her ex down and make him pay, she became entirely out of money and destitute, due in large part to the state’s inability to track the man down.
Figueroa is baffled by this, seeing as how he has a regularly-updated Facebook page, which lists his employer, and even his home address. She is convinced that despite the Department of Revenue (DoR)’s protestations, she herself could find out how to get to his house and show up unannounced without difficulties.
According to the DoR, however, shutting off her bank account was not an oversight or a mistake. It turns out that Figueroa’s ex-husband was still listed on the account, so they had to make sure that he was in no way still financially involved in the account.
She provided proof that she was the sole individual involved in that account, so the process began to restore her access to it. She was worried that she would have to cancel her Son’s birthday celebration at Disneyland, and that her family would have to survive on the bits of cash in her wallet, but her access was restored quickly.
She is still looking forward to that $57,000 from her ex-husband, but for now, she’s had his name removed from her account, and she is relieved to simply be able to access her own money.
Alimony has always been a controversial topic. While the reasoning behind it is very logical and sound, various interpretations of how it should be applied have been met with anger, hostility, and fear.
Well, if you find yourself experiencing one of those emotions, you may be in luck. Some proposed changes to Florida’s alimony laws intend to soothe some nerves and modernize the system.
While fights over alimony laws have certainly made headlines before, it seems as if many of the various involved camps are finally on-board with a new plan: To eliminate permanent alimony, and determine payout amounts based on the length of the marriage, and a couple’s combined earnings. Not everyone is optimistic about the measure (HB 943), saying that the new system favors those who make the money.
Republican Rep. Colleen Burton disagrees that it favors any one side, saying that the new measure will “streamline, as much as possible, a difficult process for any family that’s going through a divorce, all the while, leaving the final determination in the hands of a judge.”
The details of the measure are quite complex, but distilled down, it is as follows:
- Temporary alimony will remain unchanged, while eliminating bridge-the-gap, durational, permanent, and rehabilitative alimonies.
- Marriages under 20 years will be considered short-term, while 20+ years will be long-term. Short-term payment amounts are less than long-term, as is the time period in which payments will occur.
- Alimony amounts will be determined by taking the higher-earner’s salary minus the lower-earner’s salary, and then factoring in the length of the marriage.
There are many other factors that come into play, such as the length of time alimony must be paid, but the main point of the measure is to simplify the rules of how alimony is applied.
Existing alimony agreements will not be affected, but any active modifications will be subject to the new rules, as will any new alimony agreements. Keep in mind, this measure has not passed yet, but it does have a lot of support behind it.
If you ever have any questions or concerns about alimony agreements, do not hesitate to get in touch with an experienced family law attorney. They will be able to put to rest any concerns you might have.
Sometimes bad things happen to good people. It’s quite possible for 2 individuals, who their respective friends and family would call “the nicest, most honorable person in the whole world,” to get locked together in a bitter divorce proceeding.
You could even be one of those individuals, and you could have every facet of the moral high ground supporting you. You could have everyone you know, including your spouse’s friends/family, backing you up with emotional support.
However, the judge does not know that, and given your limited interactions with the judge, they will likely never know that. All the judge knows is what is in the filing, and unless it is specifically spelled-out for a valid reason, an individual’s character is relatively unimportant.
That is why it is critical to put everything down on paper. Ask as many questions as you possibly can (especially when signing documents), fact-check every single thing you are told (especially when coming from your spouse), and do not expect anyone to see things from your perspective.
This often seems to be particularly tricky when you are trying for a cooperative divorce, but it’s really not. It is one thing to treat your spouse with civility, and quite another to blindly accept every word they say. You can still work together while you keep a cool, wary distance. The alternative is to get embroiled in a nasty, heated battle which will benefit no one. Just remember, divorce is a very serious event, with life-altering consequences, so take nothing on blind faith, and double (maybe even triple) check everything you can.
The court will not see things from your perspective, but if you and your attorney work together, you should be able to spell the situation out in language that any judge could understand.
Child support can be a major expense for anyone. What happens, though, when it is not just difficult to pay, but impossible?
By far the most common approach is to have the court hold them in contempt, and thrown in jail. There is a potential problem with this, however. Being thrown in jail prevents them from being able to earn any money in order to pay future child support, and chances are that once they’re released, they will be unemployed and with a criminal record to boot.
For many lower-income families, this can mean that the only way to pay back child support is to work 2 or even 3 jobs.
Luckily, however, there is a new trend that is slowly making its way around the country, and that is finding employment for individuals in order to pay off child support balances rather than throwing them in jail.
The latest example of this has shown up in Virginia, and it is a collaborative effort between social service agencies, the courts, and even fatherhood groups/programs.
While it is certainly a crime to neglect to pay child support, there is often much more going on than appears at first glance, and offering individuals the chance of working to pay off debts rather than spending time behind bars can only be seen as a good thing.
There are already dozens of success stories that have taken place in Virginia, and as the success of this program spreads, it is undeniable that it will continue to shift its way to other states. Keep your eyes peeled, because Florida could be next!
When going through a divorce, an individual will likely have a thousand questions running through their minds. Who will get custody of our kids? How long will this take? How are we going to split assets? Is the family going to split, or stay close? Will I have enough money to live off comfortably afterwards? What about child or spousal support?
One of the questions that often is glossed over, however, is who will be paying for college?
According to Florida law, parents are legally required to provide support and education for their children. That means housing, food, clothes, other basic necessities, and schooling.
The problem is that this legal obligation stops once the child is no longer considered a dependent. This can be when the child turns 18, or it can be later if the child is still in high school or has a disability preventing self-support.
For most parents, though, child support stops around 18 years of age. This can be a problem for parents that have custody of their children and are receiving support payments from their ex-spouse. All of a sudden, the child is no longer dependent on you, and even though you want to be able to send your child to college, you’re facing the daunting bills all on your own.
This is where collaboration can really come in handy. It may be possible to have a court ordered stipulation where child support will continue past 18 for college expenses, but it’s much easier to simply sit down and discuss with your ex-spouse the desire to send your child to college. It’s in every parent’s best interest to see their child succeeding in college, so it’s important to do everything possible to ensure that future.
There are no hard-and-fast rules for solving these complex issues by yourself, but if you mention your concerns with your attorney, they will be able to provide you with the insight you need.
One Florida woman’s recent arrest is the perfect example of how lying to a family court is never a smart idea, even when it means protecting your children.
The incident in question involved a woman who won full custody of her child after she showed police threatening messages she had received from her then-husband via Facebook and email.
The trouble came when police looked into the exchanges a little more closely and found that the woman was lying. She had created fake accounts for her husband, and used them to send herself threats, intentionally in order to win full custody.
She was found guilty of perjury, and was sentenced to a 5-year suspended sentence.
This whole situation highlights a very important issue: There is a point where fighting for your children ends up hurting them.
If she had let the divorce proceedings play out normally, even if she was not awarded custody, she would have been able to visit with her child, and been a part of their life. Instead, now she will be in jail, and her child will grow up these early years not really having a mother, and having to live with the social stigma of a parent in jail.
Protecting your children is paramount, and you should always exercise every legal right you have to protect your kids, but as this case points out, don’t push too hard or visitation hours could mean an entirely different thing.
With a skilled family law attorney on your side, you can be assured that every possible measure will be taken to ensure the well-being of your children.
Going through any sort of family change can be rough, whether it’s a divorce, or changing a child support arrangement, or nullifying an existing spousal support agreement. Whenever loved ones are put into the middle of a situation, it can get very stressful very quickly.
While it is understandable that a lot of that stress comes merely from the subject matter at hand, recently a group of individuals gathered to protest, saying that a lot of the difficulties are the fault of the general state of family law in Florida.
One particular individual, Ray Granstrom, was not happy with how his child custody agreement came out. He considers himself to be a loving, active father, but the state considers him nothing more than a visitor in his children’s lives.
Libertarian governor candidate Adrian Wyllie showed up at the protest as well, declaring that the current system creates “fathers that have absolutely no role in the children’s life, and these are good fathers. And mothers, though a rarity it happens as well, who are shut out of their children’s lives. Not for any real cause, not for neglect, not for mistreatment, but by arbitrary decisions of a court that has too much power.”
Wyllie went on to state that he thinks the power of decisions like these should not be in family courts, but rather simply left to the civil courts.
Even though there were only a few individuals who showed up to protest, the fact that there were any people who felt as if the state failed them is somewhat alarming.