The hope of alimony reform seems to surface in Florida each year, much like the famous groundhog who comes out each year to tell us his weather predictions, however; in Florida the forecast for alimony reform always seems to be the same, “not this year.” Once again, there is a discussion in Tallahassee about overhauling Florida’s alimony system, which most observers say would include the elimination of permanent alimony, but like Groundhog Day, the patterns of the past seem to be on repeat.
Under current Florida law, alimony comes in several different forms, including: (1) Durational – lasting for a specific term of years; (2) Rehabilitative – which is designed to help a receiving spouse obtain the skills and education necessary for them to be self-supportive in the workforce; (3) bridge-the-gap – intended to last only for two or three years to help a spouse transition back into being fully self-supportive; and (4) Permanent – which would last until the death of one of the parties. Unfortunately, there is little structure set in these laws that provides uniformity in alimony awards throughout the state, or even within counties, as alimony remains largely discretionary, meaning that the Judges can individually choose not only if they will award alimony, but they will also decide the amount of alimony and how long it should last.
While there are specific statutory factors that the Courts must consider in their alimony determinations, there is no set mathematical equation to help assist the Judges in their determination of alimony amounts and duration, as there is with child support calculations. For child support, Florida law utilizes a mathematical formula, using the parents’ incomes and the amount of time the children spend with each parent, taking into consideration health insurance and child-care related costs, to get to an end number of support that would be uniform regardless of where in Florida your case is decided. Many believe that a similar analysis needs to be applied in alimony determinations.
Some of the issues that have prevented the passage of alimony reform in the past have little to do with the underlying issues of permanent alimony, but rather are centered are other issues, including: (1) How to treat existing alimony payments and specifically if alimony reform laws would be retroactive, which many fear would create uncertainty in existing alimony orders and send an influx of cases back to the Courts; (2) The possible inclusion of timesharing provisions, including, as has been tried in the past, the creation of a presumption of equal, 50/50 timesharing between parents; and (3) the fear that the elimination of permanent alimony may work to shift the costs of support from a former spouse to the State, with the thinking on this being that if permanent alimony is eliminated, then a spouse who may have been eligible for permanent alimony under our now existing laws could then have to apply for government assistance to make up for any alimony they may have lost out on, which would in turn increase the costs to the State.
While discussion of alimony reform in Florida continues, until some of these issues raised above can be adequately and sufficiently addressed, we may not see any substantive reform actually get passed. Attorney Russell J. Frank is a partner at CPLS, P.A., and focuses his practice areas on family and marital law. Contact Attorney Frank today at email@example.com to discuss any family or marital legal issues you may be experiencing.
“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” -2 Corinthians 4:17-18.
With a heavy heart, how do you focus on probating the estate of your loved one in the Virgin Islands? Why should you spend energy on probate? Well, probate comes with its benefits. The probate process provides evidence of title transfer, protects creditors, and distributes the loved one’s property after the creditors are paid.
In the Virgin Islands, a few processes can be used to probate an estate. The processes are summary administration, disposition of estate without administration, ancillary administration, administration of a testamentary estate, and administration of intestate estate. Provided below is a broad overview of the prerequisites for each process.
The summary administration process is the quickest. The value of the estate must be below $100,000. Look at the property’s tax bill to get an idea of what the property may be worth. This process may be pursued with or without a will. If there is a will, the will needs to provide for the executor (or administrator C.T.A.). Further guidance can be found at 15 V.I.C. § 167, 15 V.I.C. § 191, and Virgin Islands Rule of Probate and Fiduciary Proceedings 22.
Disposition of Estate Without Administration:
Here, the heirs agree to take on the loved one’s debts (or the loved one had no debts). This process may be pursued, according to 15 V.I.C. § 191 if there is no will. Further guidance can be found at 15 V.I.C. § 191 and Virgin Islands Rule of Probate and Fiduciary Proceedings 23.
This process is pursued if the loved one lived outside the Virgin Islands but owned property in the Virgin Islands. The will is ordinarily first probated in accordance with the laws of the jurisdiction in which the person lived. Next, the ancillary probate process begins. There are two types of ancillary administration – 1) recognition of a foreign will and 2) ancillary probate with administration. Virgin Islands Rule of Probate and Fiduciary Proceedings 24 can provide further guidance.
Administration of Testamentary Estate:
This is the administration of an estate where the loved one left a will. This process is used when the processes above cannot or should not be used. Virgin Islands Rule of Probate and Fiduciary Proceedings 3 may be used for further guidance.
Administration of Intestate Estate:
This is the administration of an estate where the loved one did not leave a will, and the above processes cannot or should not be used. Virgin Islands Rule of Probate and Fiduciary Proceedings 4 may be used for further guidance.
Probating the estate of your loved one can have many benefits. Speak to an attorney about which probate process may be right for you.
It’s important to speak with an experienced attorney to discuss your specific case and circumstance. Come see us at CPLS, P.A. Attorney Jalicha Persad is a member of the firm’s Estate Planning Practice Group. Contact Attorney Jalicha Persad at 407-647-7887 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Pros & Cons of Hiring a Lawyer v. Doing It Yourself (Pro Se)
Like in all other areas of law, individuals always have the option of representing themselves instead of hiring a lawyer. However, just because they can, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they should. Here are some of the pros and cons that should be considered when deciding whether to hire a lawyer or not.
HIRING A LAWYER
GOING PRO SE
If you would like to talk to an attorney to determine if post-conviction is available to you or your loved one, contact Attorney Evelyn J. Pabon Figueroa at (407) 647-7887 or email@example.com.
We are certainly living in a different time right now. Sheltering in place, social distancing, and wearing masks. And as many areas begin to reopen and relax restrictions, life will start to look much like it did before. One of the places that are not reopening and may not be for a while are the Courts. Since these are places where large gatherings are common, these may be the last to resume operations.
For many, the closure of the courts has had no effect. For others, this has had a huge impact. Those in the middle of a divorce have had their cases put on hold indefinitely. When the courts do reopen at some point, there will be a backlog of cases already the system such as those whose scheduled hearings and trials were canceled as well as those that need to be scheduled. The partial or full resolution of the cases will be delayed indefinitely. Those who have just decided to move ahead with their divorce cannot begin their cases until the courts have opened. When the courts do restart, these cases will be the last to be heard due to the backlog of existing cases when this pandemic began.
For those who are beginning their divorce journey and even the ones that are already in the process, there are alternative paths than using the courts to resolve their case. Mediation with or without attorneys is one option. The spouses can utilize this dispute resolution opportunity whether their divorce has been filed in court or not. There is a significant reduction in cost if attorneys are not used. The most significant benefit of mediation is that the parties and only the parties decide the outcome of their case instead of a judge. Who best to know how to resolve their divorce issues effectively? Another benefit is that the parties decide when to meet and not allow the courts to dictate the speed or lack thereof of their case. The parties also decide when to end their case. Frequently, their case takes significantly less time to come to a resolution than if their case was in court. Many times, their cases can be resolved in one meeting. The swiftness, direction, and outcome of their case are totally in the hands of the parties who use mediation to resolve their divorce.
The time is now to move ahead with your divorce even though the courts may be closed. Mediation is one option to resolve your case. Next week, I will focus on another opportunity to resolve your divorce without using the courts.
As a Certified Family Law Mediator, I have facilitated and worked with many couples toward a successful outcome of their divorce through mediation. Having previous experience as a CPA allows me to provide additional support in developing financial options with them.
If you’d like more information on how to move forward with your divorce or any other family law matter contact Attorney Anthony Diaz today at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss any family or marital legal issues you may be experiencing.
As almost every aspect of our lives continues to be impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, many people are finding it hard to make ends meet as they wait for the economy to re-open. This is particularly true for those that must still try to manage on-going Court ordered financial obligations such as child support. I have received a lot of questions lately from parents eager to learn about whether they can modify their existing support payments due to loss of income during Covid-19, and while the general rule in family law cases is that child support can be modified, people seeking Covid-19 related modifications may face certain hurdles.
Florida law permits the modification of child support obligations, either up or down, based on a substantial, unanticipated, long-term change of circumstances. In most cases, child support modification requests are based on a reduction in a parent’s income usually caused by a change in or elimination of employment. If such a change in employment has occurred, then the proper avenue to pursue is to seek a modification through the filing of a Supplemental Petition for Modification. In such a petition, the parent seeking modification must fully state the reasons as to why they can no longer make their Court-ordered support payments, including indicating when the income reduction started and how long the situation may be expected to last.
There are two main issues with requesting child support modifications during the Covid-19 pandemic that I can see. The first issue is whether or not a parent’s reduction in income would constitute a long-term change or a change that is more permanent in nature, versus a temporary reduction in income that has the potential, in the near future, to go back to pre-Covid 19 levels. This is evaluated on a case-by-case basis and determined by the industry in which a paying parent works, including the ability of that industry to get back going again. For example, if a parent is furloughed from their employment, but expected to return to work by June, then it may be difficult to argue to the Court for a modification of your support obligations. If however, you work in an industry, or at a job that may not bounce back quickly, or at all, then your chances of obtaining a modification of your child support amounts would be greatly increased.
The other main issue that could arise, depending on the county in which you live, is how to access to Court system during Covid-19. Back in March, the Florida Supreme Court issued orders that effectively closed courthouses throughout the State for all but essential court proceedings through the end of May. Under the guidelines provided by the Florida Supreme Court, the lower courts throughout Florida are to try to continue court services and proceedings using whatever technology is available to them. This means many non-essential hearings, such as child support issues, may be able to be heard telephonically or even by video until the Courts reopen to the public.
Each county is handling these issues slightly differently, with some counties moving full steam ahead with video and telephonic hearings, while others are only hearing essential matters, so if you have questions about your child support during Covid-19 it’s important to speak with an experienced family law attorney to discuss your specific case and circumstances. Attorney Russell J. Frank is a partner at CPLS, P.A., and focuses his practice areas on family and marital law. Contact Attorney Frank today at email@example.com to discuss any family or marital legal issues you may be experiencing.
Great news! If you look at some models, the peak for coronavirus deaths in Florida has already passed, and we have flattened the curve. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, suggests we passed the peak for new deaths on April 2, 2020, with 77 deaths that day. The White House has used these Metrics before, and I believe this all sounds promising for we Floridians. See FLORIDA POLITICS
We here at The Center for Professional Legal Services, CPLS P.A., where I practice estate planning and probate law, are ready to serve you. We have a team that can go in the field to safely handle the execution of your estate planning documents, or you can travel to our office and remain in another room and have our witnesses watch through the glass to complete your estate plan documents. As of now, we are unable to accept electronically signed Wills, as that law is not set to start until July 1, 2020. But we can do everything else.
We are open to the public; however, we are not meeting the public face to face, just yet. It has never been a better time to get your estate planning documents in order. Come see us at CPLS, P. A., downtown Orlando Office, it’s important to speak with an experienced attorney to discuss your specific case and circumstances. Attorney Hallie Zobel is a member of the firm’s Estate Planning Practice Group. Contact Attorney Hallie today at firstname.lastname@example.org give her a call, at 407-647-7887.
USCIS Policy Update regarding False Claim of Citizenship
On April 24, 2020, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced it is updating its policy in order to follow the Board of Immigration Appeals’ (BIA) decision in Matter of Zhang. This decision held that false claims of U.S. citizenship do not need to be knowingly made to make a non US citizen (USC) deportable under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). This will also apply to the false claim to U.S. citizenship ground of inadmissibility.
Under the INA, a non USC is inadmissible or deportable if they falsely claim to be a citizen of the United States for any purpose or benefit under immigration law or under other federal or state law. A waiver may be available for some individuals.
Under the change in policy, is not necessary for the government to show that the individual had the intent to claim to be a USC. This could have been done without knowing that they were falsely claiming to be a USC.
Non USC’s should consult with an immigration attorney before applying for immigration benefits in order to consider the possibility that this ground of inadmissibility or deportability could apply to them. This is especially important for those individuals that have signed Form I-9 as part of the hiring process and might not have realized that the employer selected the USC option.
If you have questions about your immigration case, it’s important to speak with an experienced immigration attorney to discuss your specific case and circumstances. Attorney Evelyn J. Pabon Figueroa is an Associate in the Orlando office of CPLS, P.A. She is a member of the firm’s Immigration Practice Group. Contact Attorney Evelyn today at email@example.com to discuss any immigration issues you may be experiencing.
There is a lot of uncertainty throughout the world right now during this unprecedented pandemic caused by Covid-19. As we continue to navigate the unknown and deal with societal changes that could represent some new norms, many parents are having real concerns over how to effectively co-parent during this pandemic. As I try to tell my clients, the most important thing that parents can do during this time is to try to have effective communication with their co-parent. Now I know sometimes that is a lot easier said than done, but effective and regular communication regarding the issues that we are all concerned with now, including finances, schooling, child care issues and getting the essentials we need from day-to-day, can help assist parents in ensuring that their children are being taken care of during these times.
In cases where the Court has already entered a final judgment, a parenting plan should breakdown timesharing schedules, but if your case is still pending, you may not have that clarity. If you are a parent that does not have your child the majority of time, then it is possible you are being denied timesharing during the Covid-19 pandemic. If that is the case, then what options do these parents have at this time? Any parent can always file a motion in court to enforce timesharing or present any other issue related to a child that is being affected by this pandemic. While the hearing may not take place in person, many courts will hear the disputes over telephone or video if the parties can agree on conducting a hearing in such a way. If a parent is being denied physical timesharing, then virtual timesharing should, at a minimum, take its place, if not increase during the length of time that timesharing cannot occur.
If you are being denied reasonable contact and access during Covid-19, most Courts will take these denials of timesharing very seriously. The Court has broad powers under contempt and enforcement proceedings to fashion remedies to make sure that a parent who is being denied access will get that made up, whether that is by extended timesharing over the summer or holidays, or when the stay-at-home orders are lifted. If you are being denied access, it is important to understand what rights you have during these very uncertain times to continue having the ability to access and parent your children for as long as Covid-19 continues to be a significant issue for our society.
If you have questions about Covid-19 and your family law case it’s important to speak with an experienced family law attorney to discuss your specific case and circumstances. Attorney Russell J. Frank is a partner at CPLS, P.A., and focuses his practice areas on family and marital law. Contact Attorney Frank today at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss any family or marital legal issues you may be experiencing.
I Pled Guilty, Can I File a Motion for Post-conviction Relief?
You were charged with committing a crime. After consulting with your attorney and based on their advice, you pled guilty. The judge sentenced you, but it was not the sentence you were expecting. Now what?
If you are in Florida, you can file a motion for post-conviction relief or, as it is sometimes referred to, a 3.850 motion. With this motion, you are asking the court to vacate your guilty plea and order a trial.
Florida rules provide reasons that can be used to support your request, but, because you pled guilty, the reasons that you can argue are a lot more limited. And you only have 2 years after losing your appeal to file this motion. If you do not file the motion on time, you will lose this option, making the possibility of vacating your plea and getting a trial, much more difficult.
If you or a loved one pled guilty and wants to vacate their plea, contact Attorney Evelyn J. Pabon Figueroa at (407) 647-7887 or email@example.com to discuss your case and decide if post-conviction relief is available to you.