Family Law

Family is the most essential entity in the life of a person. Laws pertaining to this indispensable entity are crucial and sensitive. From property disputes to divorce and child custody, the metropolitan families are plagued by a plethora of issues. The American state family law is intricate and exhaustive, addressing the everyday issues interwoven with the familial ties of its residents. It is essential for its citizens to be aware of the details regarding these various issues. As we walk you through the essentials of family law, your queries about the same will be addressed.

Family law comprises of a large number of statutes that aids various legal matters called codes. The prevalence of these codes such as family code, domestic relations code, marital and children’s code is very essential for taking effective legal decisions.

Lawyers specializing in various issues like elder law, probate, guardianship and family planning are available to serve the public in Volusia County, New Smyrna Beach, Port Orange and Daytona.

Marriage-laws

With lifestyle changes, one of the major issues that is encountered by many is the dissolution of marriages. It is a sensitive issue that requires to be handled with extreme care and caution. The state marital law in America is comprehensive with provision for no-fault divorce as well as fault-divorce based on abandonment, cruelty and others. The state law also specifies that marriage is considered void if either party are not eligible, or are mentally unsound.

Child support and custody

With the rising divorce rate, related issues like child custody and support come into play. Joint and sole custody are offered to parents in case of divorce. In most scenarios, one parent is not given prevalence over the other. But under unique circumstances, the law – “Tender Years Doctrine” – enables the court to give custody to the mother. In these situations the court rules in the favor of the mother because it considers the child’s future to be more secure.  Child support is equally important if both the parents do not have legal custody. It is the minimum amount that the non-possessory parent should provide to the possessory parent to secure the child’s future. Matters like health insurance and life insurance are also to be considered under this law. Child support is usually terminated post the child turns 18.

Domestic violence

In the recent times domestic violence is no longer uncommon in society. Many are forced to deal with the evils of domestic violence. It not only includes harassment of adults but also child abuse. Protective orders are issued by the court in these scenarios. Statute laws are also available that enable law enforcement agencies to ensure that court orders are being followed. Laws are also available that enable medical professionals to report domestic violence to authorities. Each state has specific protocol to deal with child abuse and neglect.

Estate planning

Irrespective of being wealthy or poor, planning about one’s property is of paramount importance. Various tools like wills, trusts, powers of attorney, healthcare directive, living wills,  unmarried or same sex partner planning and others are available to safeguard one’s rights.

Elder-law

Old age and disability necessitates the existence of the Elder law. Elder-law -planning, helps people deal with various problems regarding property management. Issues such as the status of assets if one of the spouses require long term care or is incapacitated and others are dealt with. These laws help the old and those dealing with disabilities effectively manage their property issues.

Family law is a state issue. The codes and statutes are unique to every state in America. It is essential for every citizen to be aware of these various laws to enrich their quality of life.

To contact attorney Debra G. Simms, P.A. in Port Orange or New Smyrna Beach, FL please call 877.447.4667.

Alimony reform is back in Florida.  The Florida House passed a bill in January and the Senate version is coming up for a vote.  The proposals revise the factors used for awarding alimony in Florida.  Following are the highlights of the Senate version:
    • Alimony is taxable to the recipient and deductible by payor
    • Life insurance to protect the recipient of alimony only awarded in special situations
    • Bridge-the-gap and durational alimony to be terminated once the recipient is in a supportive relationship (now only the case in permanent alimony)
    • Eliminates permanent alimony in favor of “long term” alimony
    • Clarifies the existing law regarding reinstatement of alimony.  If the supportive relationship terminates, alimony cannot be reinstated.  The Court cannot reserve jurisdiction to reinstate it.
    • Sets out factors that the Court must consider when the payor spouse retires.
    • Makes this law applicable to certain existing alimony awards and provides time frames that are based on the length of the marriage.
    • Limits the Courts ability to award the divorce and then determine the issue of alimony at a later date.

The House Bill has differences.  The House Bill increases to 20 years what is considered a long term marriage up from the current 17 years.  The House version also presumes that alimony should be durational and not long term.

Stay tuned!  Your alimony award might be subject to modification under the new law.

Divorce after retirement

Over recent years, the rate of divorce after retirement has become more and more prominent. Statistics from the Office of National Statistics show that the overall rate of divorce in the United States is dropping – in every age group except those over 60. This may come as a surprise to some, but for those of us who work in a profession that deals with divorce – attorneys- it is not that shocking. Many of those getting divorced at this late stage have children who have grown up and left the home. They have been married for somewhere around 30 to 40 years.
Influences on late-stage divorce are various. One is the longer life expectancy seniors in the United States are experiencing. In 1955, life expectancy was around 70 years, but today both men and women are living nearly two decades longer. Because of this, many are choosing to divorce for their golden years. This is closely tied into a second influence, feelings of personal fulfillment andhappiness. Seniors may feel that they are in an unhappy marriage, and as retirement offers more years to enjoy themselves, they are more likely to divorce instead of staying in the relationship.

 Senior women feel more independent

Another influence may be the  changing role of senior women. Senior women feel more independent after their children have “left the nest” and are looking to forge their own identity and enjoy life. They may have achieved financial independence.  Some women also report that they need to escape the “retired husband syndrome”.  Women complain that they feel as if they are trapped with husbands who are now at home all the time just when they have just finished raising their children.  Whatever the reason, it is clear that divorce for those who have retired will remain steady for some time to come.

   At the Law Office of Debra G. Simms, we assist seniors who are going through divorce.  We offer collaborative divorce for those couples who are able to agree on most issues.  For those couples facing conflict, we aggressively represent both men and fight hard to obtain the best possible legal outcome.
   If you have any questions about divorcing in your senior years, contact us now.
To contact attorney Debra G. Simms, P.A. in Port Orange or New Smyrna Beach, FL please call 877.447.4667.

Florida Alimony Reform (FAR) Update

TAVARES, Fla., March 12, 2012 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Florida Alimony Reform (FAR), the state’s leading alimony reform organization, and the largest such group in the country, today vowed to press on fighting to update Florida’s antiquated alimony laws, despite the Senate’s failure to bring the House-passed reform bill, HB 549, to the floor last week, in the final week of the legislative session.

“I’m hugely disappointed on behalf of our members,” said the group’s spokesman, Alan Frisher, a Licensed FinancialAdvisor and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA). “After the House passed the bill that we supported, by a vote of 83 to 30, I expected the Senate to follow suit. But our opposition had another plan.”

The effort’s primary opponent is the Florida Bar Association’s Family Law Section, headed by attorney David Manz. Last week in the New York Times, Mr. Manz was quoted as saying that alimony reform advocates are a “very vocal, persuasive minority.”

“Florida is very much behind the times in its alimony laws,” said Mr. Frisher. “And despite opposition from the Family Law Section, many Florida divorce lawyers know this and believe there should be serious revisions to current law.”

Mr. Frisher accepted part of Mr. Manz’s description and took issue with part. “We are vocal indeed, because the state’s permanent alimony laws are backwards, out-of-touch and hugely unfair to everyone in this picture but the lawyers. As far as being a minority, every divorce affects the entire family, and when alimony never ends and payers lose their houses and go bankrupt because they can’t afford their payments, the consequences are devastating to children, grandchildren, stepchildren and new spouses. Even when circumstances are not that dire,” Mr. Frisher continued, “the animosity between ex-spouses over lifetime alimony is terribly destructive.”

FAR Law Factors Now Considered

FAR intends to support future legislation that will end permanent alimony and replace it with alimony based on the length of the marriage and the income of the parties, as the new law does in Massachusetts. The emphasis will be on generous transitional alimony for the lower earner, with the goal of making lower earners self-sufficient, as is the case in most states throughout the country.

In addition to limiting alimony, FAR supports provisions that would lower or end alimony when a recipient is cohabiting for an extended period. Under current law, cohabiting ex-spouses may collect alimony until death, even if they are living permanently with new partners. FAR also supports establishing a meaningful right to retire, so that alimony payers are not forced to work until death to make their payments, as they are now, even after divorced couples have divided marital assets and given the lower earner assets, pensions, and the Social Security payments that all lower earners receive after ten years of marriage.

For more on FAR’s efforts to bring Florida’s alimony laws into the 21st century, please visithttps://www.myfloridalaw.com/alimony/florida-alimony-reform/.

The Florida Alimony Reform logo is available athttp://www.globenewswire.com/newsroom/prs/?pkgid=11350

To contact attorney Debra G. Simms, P.A. in Port Orange or New Smyrna Beach, FL please call 877.447.4667.
divorce lawNew legislation proposed in the Florida House of Representatives would significantly alter many provisions of Florida’s existing alimony laws. The bill’s big changes could affect people going through divorce after the law is enacted as well as people with alimony orders going back as far as 12 years.

Existing Florida Alimony Laws When Getting a Divorce

Currently, when a married couple gets divorced in Florida, a judge may grant alimony, sometimes known as spousal support, to either former spouse. In deciding whether to award alimony, Florida law requires judges to make factual determinations as to whether either person has an actual need for alimony and whether either person has the ability to pay it.

If so, the judge will award a type and an amount of alimony based on these factors listed in Florida statute:

    • The standard of living established during the marriage.
    • The length of the marriage.
    • The age and physical and emotional condition of each person.
    • The financial resources of each person, also considering the division of marital property.
    • The earning capacities, education, vocational skills and employability of each person as well as the time necessary for each person to acquire education or training sufficient to find appropriate employment.
    • The contribution of each person to the marriage, including services rendered in homemaking, child care, education and in support of the other person’s career.
    • The child-care responsibilities of each person regarding minor children they have in common.
    • The tax treatment of paying and receiving alimony.
    • All sources of income available to each person.
    • Any other factor necessary to do equity and justice between the parties.

Types of Florida Alimony

Florida Statutes also define four types of alimony, which may be combined in any form.

The first type is bridge-the-gap alimony, which may be awarded to support one former spouse in the transition from being married to being single. It is intended to help with legitimate, identifiable short-term needs, and it may not be awarded for a period longer than two years. Bridge-the-gap alimony awards are not modifiable, and the obligation to pay this type of support ends on the death of either former spouse or when the person receiving the alimony remarries.

The second type is rehabilitative alimony, which may be awarded to help a person become capable of self-support after divorce through the redevelopment of previous skills or credentials or the acquisition of education, training or work experience necessary to develop employment skills. Before rehabilitative alimony is awarded, a specific rehabilitative plan must be created. Florida statute states that rehabilitative alimony orders may be modified or terminated upon a substantial change in circumstances or upon failure to follow or completion of the rehabilitative plan.

The third type is durational alimony, which may be awarded to provide economic assistance to a former spouse for a set period of time after the dissolution of a marriage of less than 17 years. The amount awarded may be modified or terminated if there is a substantial change in circumstances, the duration of the award cannot be changed except under exceptional circumstances, and it cannot exceed the length of the marriage. Durational alimony terminates if a former spouse dies or if the recipient remarries.

Finally, permanent alimony may be awarded to provide for the needs and necessities of a former spouse’s life as they were established during the marriage. An award of permanent alimony is somewhat rare except following marriages that lasted 17 years or more. Permanent alimony awards may be modified or terminated if either former spouse dies, there is a substantial change in circumstances, or if the recipient remarries or is in a “supportive relationship” with another person as defined by Florida law.

Proposed Changes to Florida Alimony Law

The changes proposed in House Bill 549 would considerably alter Florida alimony. Perhaps most noteworthy, the bill would cap all alimony payments at a maximum of 20 percent of the payor’s average monthly net income over the last three years of the marriage. Also, the obligation to pay alimony would end when the payor reaches retirement age, even if he or she may continue to work.

The bill also would eliminate permanent alimony and replace it with long-term alimony for 60 percent of the duration of the marriage except in limited circumstances. In addition, it would make bridge-the-gap alimony modifiable, reduce the period of durational alimony to half the length of the marriage and increase the definition of a long-term marriage to 20 years or longer.

The proposed legislation states that the alimony award “may not leave the payor with significantly less net income than the net income of the recipient” unless exceptional circumstances exist. Further, when evaluating the financial resources available to each person, only assets and debts acquired during the marriage would be considered.

These possible changes could result in significantly lower alimony awards. Because the bill would prohibit consideration of the standard of living established during the marriage as a factor in determining alimony amounts, there could be much less alimony awarded to someone who married a spouse with significant assets coming into the marriage. The bill also would remove consideration of equity and justice when determining alimony amounts, which may limit the ability of judges to tailor awards to the unique circumstances of each case.

Another possible result would be greater flexibility to modify alimony awards. Conceivably, the 20 percent limitation would allow people paying alimony to modify the amounts if their economic situations change, such as losing a job or owning a business that has drastically lost revenue in the recession.

Finally, the proposed legislation also would open the door to re-evaluation of existing alimony awards, which may be revisited for possible modification under the new rules. If you are going through divorce or have an existing alimony award, contact my office for a consultation to learn how the proposed law might affect you!

Contact Us

Port Orange Office:
Prestige Executive Center
823 Dunlawton Ave. Unit C
Port Orange, FL 32129
Local: 386.256.4882
Toll Free: 877.447.4667
New Smyrna Beach Office:
629 N. Dixie HWY
New Smyrna Beach, FL 32168
Local: 386.256.4882
Toll Free: 877.447.4667

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