Alimony-New law Cuts both Ways

The new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), cuts both ways on the issue of alimony. If you are a paying spouse, new divorces that are final post 12/31/2018, cannot deduct the alimony paid on their tax return. If you are a receiving spouse, the alimony payment you receive (if entered or modified post 12/31/2018, is no longer taxed. So, if a spouse is ordered to pay $1200 per month, $1200 is actually what will be received.

It will be interesting to see how the new law is received once its terms become effective.

https://www.marketwatch.com/story/new-tax-law-eliminates-alimony-deductions-but-not-for-everybody-2018-01-23

Activated? Deployed? TDY? Read here.

I’m really excited to announce that Florida’s legislature, only one of 13 other states, has adopted the Uniform Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act. It allows for parents who are activated, deployed or TDY to designate a family member, stepparent or relative of the child by marriage to exercise their time-sharing with the child on their behalf.

I see this as a huge boon to US military servicemembers. It will allow children to maintain the stability, their routine, even though a parent is absent due to their Service to our country. No longer can a parent refuse to allow the step-parent contact while the other is serving our country.

https://laws.flrules.org/2018/69

In a divorce, who pays the child’s college?

In Florida, once your child graduates highschool and turns 18, he or she are on their own. There is no requirement that either parent pay for college. However, if you are that parent who can help, the path is not clear for how to get financial aid.
The following are tips to help you navigate:
1. The parent where the child has lived the most for the past 12 months is the parent who files for aid.
2. It doesn’t matter which parent claims the child on their taxes. (Refer to #1).
3. If the parent where the child lived the most remarries,you have to include the step-parent’s income on the financial aid form.
4. Same sex parents are subject to the same rules.
5. Some colleges require both parents’ incomes even if divorced. Follow this link for the list:https://profile.collegeboard.org/…/part…
6. If the child lived equally with both parents, the parent who spent the most on the child’s care is the parent who fills out the form.

The following links are helpful.
https://www.cbsnews.com/…/how-does-div…/
https://studentaid.ed.gov/…/parent-info…

Can my child under the age of 18 be charged as an adult?

Even if a child is under the age of 18, the State Attorney’s office can choose to direct file with the adult court.  The state has the power to allow the child to be prosecuted in the juvenile system or transfer them to adult court.  The difference may not seem drastic, but it is. Generally, more severe charges are the ones that are direct filed. The state looks at the child’s background and can send them to adult court. That child now has a criminal record that absent certain circumstances, stays with them forever. If the case remains in Juvenile, those  criminal proceedings are not subject to public disclosure (with some exceptions).

The true downside to direct filing, is that the State has no check or balance. It is their decision, and theirs alone. A judge cannot return the child to the juvenile system.  The one saving grace is that a Judge can sentence a child in the adult system to juvenile sanctions.  The state attorney’s office in Escambia County leads the rest of the state by prosecuting 1 out of every 20 juveniles as an adult. The rest of the counties in Florida are 1 in 50.

Hire an experienced attorney to represent your child.  It is one of the best decisions you can make to invest in their future.

 

https://www.pnj.com/story/news/crime/2017/12/20/report-1-20-escambia-juveniles-charged-adults/963005001/

To Collaborative divorce or not? That is the question:

To Collaborate or not to Collaborate,

that is the question.

Many have heard about the new collaborative divorce process available in Florida and other states. The claims from attorneys who advocate for this type of law believe that the new process is cheaper, avoids the uncertainty of a court’s decision and avoids the nastiness which comes with a contested proceeding.

Cheaper?

I must debunk the notion that collaborative divorce is cheaper than a regular divorce. The filing fee for a collaborative divorce and a regular contested divorce cost the same. Each spouse hires an attorney. Each spouse has to pay the attorney. Sometimes both spouses and both attorneys meet together. It still costs each attorneys’ hourly rate to do so.  It is true that in a collaborative, you try to agree on an expert rather than hiring two, such as a CPA. You still have to pay the CPA though.   In a collaborative divorce, the emphasis is on settlement rather than litigation. That ideal certainly benefits the spouses and their children, if they have any.  Collaborative should reduce the animosity the parties experience in a contested divorce. However, a contested divorce, the parties will still attend a mediation before a trial is scheduled. Collaborative divorces also attend mediation and yes, it costs the same.

Avoids uncertainty:

Any time two spouses settle their divorce, they avoid the uncertainty of a Judge’s decision. Again, in a regular contested divorce, the parties attend mediation where settlement can occur. It all depends on the parties.

Avoids nastiness:

When two people are divorcing, clearly they have problems with each other. Requiring them to meet often in the same room with therapists, attorneys and experts, may just throw gasoline on the fire. If two married people can be civil during their divorce, there is no reason why they cannot direct their attorney to try settlement.

Bottom line:

The ultimate downside to collaborative divorces: If you fail to reach a settlement- You cannot use your attorney or experts you hired. You have wasted all that money and time. You literally start over. You and your spouse have to hire new attorneys. My goal is for the best outcome, via settlement or trial.In the 18 years of practicing law, I’ve had hundreds of divorce cases. Only 3, were truly uncontested. Those 3 couples literally agreed to each issue. The rest fell somewhere between settling or trial. The majority of the cases will settle. I don’t recommend Collaborative Divorce because ultimately it can cost you twice what a regular case costs and you have wasted the time. Divorce should be like a bandaid.  Rip it off, don’t slowly pull one hair at a time.

I swear, she said she was 18!

In Pensacola, Spring Break brings tourists for miles. College students and high school students are a large part of them.  They meet new people and sometimes engage in sexual relations. In Florida, the age of consent is 18 years of age. For minors ages 16-17, Florida statutes provide an age-gap provision that allow a 16 or 17 year-old to legally consent to sexual conduct with a person 16-23 years of age. If a person is over the age of 23 and has sexual relations with someone ages 16-17, it is a Second Degree Felony which can require the defendant to file as a sexual offender. In Florida, a Second Degree Felony is punishable by up to 15 years in jail. The statute is gender neutral. Women as well as men can be charged.

The most important part about this post: The defender cannot shield him/her from the charge even if they did not know the age of the victim or the victim portrayed themselves to be older. Florida Statute 794.021. Don’t rely on their ID either. Our firm has defended gentlemen who saw an id, later known to be fake, stating the age to be 18.  Be careful, but if you need find yourself in this predicament, call our firm at 850-469-8118 for a free consult.

https://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0700-0799/0794/Sections/0794.05.html

Is it safe to confide in my parent or best friend during my divorce?

During your divorce or custody action, everything you say to your best friend, parent or boy/girl friend can be disclosed. You don’t have the luxury we did growing up of being able to ask your friend to keep your secrets. Your best friend can be subpoenaed to court and compelled to recount your conversations.

Who can you talk to during your divorce? There are people you can talk to and not have the conversations replayed.  Your attorney cannot disclose anything you say without your permission. If you have a therapist, he/she cannot be compelled to disclose information about you. Your priest/minister/rabbi cannot be compelled to tell your secrets. Even your accountant can hold your secrets. To read more in depth on who you can talk to, see https://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0000-0099/0090/Sections/0090.501.html

Unless your confidant falls into one of the exceptions, he or she can be called as a witness. They can be required to provide documents.  I point these hidden dangers because friendships change. Families choose sides in a family law matter. Your current spouse, if you aren’t divorcing,  cannot be required to divulge your secrets.

Talk to your attorney about your case. Attorneys are counselors at law and are accustomed to listening.  The best person to discuss your case is with your attorney and I am a good listener.

What happens if I violate my probation?

If you violate your probation you can be facing jail or prison time.  The outcome depends on what you were on probation for, the nature of the violation and other factors considered by the Judge.  Often times people on probation violate because they are arrested on a new charge.  If this is the only violation, I typically recommend resolving the new case before the violation of probation is heard.  The outcome of the new charge determines what happens on the violation of probation.  If the prosecutor dismisses the new charge, 9 times out of 10, the prosecutor will not proceed on the violation.  In that case, the probation is often restored.  If convicted of the new law violation, you face some period of incarceration.  If you violated due to a “technical” reason, such as having not paid costs/fines or completing court ordered classes, the Judge may give you an opportunity to complete these by a control date.
The Constitution of the United States guarantees you a hearing.  The burden is on the state to prove the violation.  However, the burden of proof on a violation is less than in a regular criminal case.  This makes it easier for the state to prove.
A good attorney will explore the multiple factors and moving parts/options for resolution of a violation of probation.  No attorney can tell you what the outcome of your case will be until the Judge decides. Every case is different, from the prosecutor to the Judge. It is important to have an experienced Attorney evaluate your case and provide you with all of the information necessary to make an informed decision to best resolve your case.  Please feel free to contact me, Chris Ferry, if you have any questions related to a violation of probation you or a family member/friend might have and need assistance with.
https://www.ferryandferry.com/practice-areas/criminal-defense/
https://www.ferryandferry.com/2018/02/716/

What happens after I have been arrested?

What happens after I have been arrested?
Often times people are unsure of the procedure or how the court process works after they have been arrested.  Assuming that you are given some type of bond and post it after your arrest, the jail will provide you with your first court date, which is your arraignment.  If you plan on hiring private counsel, it is wise to consult with them prior to your arraignment so that they can file a notice of appearance on your behalf and waive your arraignment, which means you would not have to attend that court date.  If you have not retained counsel prior to your arraignment, you MUST attend or the court will issue a failure to appear and will likely revoke your bond. If you go to your arraignment, having not hired private counsel, the court will inquire as to whether your wish to use the services of the Public Defender.  If you qualify financially, the court will appoint a Public Defender on your case. Procedurally, the arraignment date is when the State formally charges you with what law(s) they believe you have broken based upon your initial arrest.  At the arraignment the court will also announce your next court date which in county court (for misdemeanor charges) is called your plea day and it is typically a month or so out from your arraignment date.  In circuit court (for felony charges) the next court date is called docket day and it is typically a couple of months out from your arraignment.  In between your arraignment and your docket day, your attorney conducts discovery, takes depositions, negotiates plea offers and files any legal motions that might be available on your behalf.  Assuming the case is not resolved via dismissal prior to plea/docket day, it is your decision at that point based upon discussion with your attorney/advice from your attorney, whether or not you would like to accept a negotiated plea offer or take your case to trial.  If you have any further questions about the court process or other matters involving a crime you have been accused of, please contact me at Ferry & Ferry and I will gladly provide information based upon my 18 years of experience practicing criminal defense.
Chris Ferry, Attorney at Law
https://www.ferryandferry.com/practice-areas/criminal-defense/

Do step-parents have any rights?

In Florida statutes, only the biological parents have parental rights unless there is a court order detailing otherwise. For instance, two gay men can adopt a child, thus terminating the biological parents’ parental rights. The Department of Vital Statistics will change the child’s birth certificate listing both men as the child’s parents. If a child is born before the marriage of two parties, unless the step-parent adopts the child, the step-parent not only has no rights for parenting time after a divorce, but also has no obligation to support the child financially.  If the step-parent adopts the child, he or she is now entitled to parental rights regarding that child as if he/she was the biological parent.  See our blog for other issues. https://www.ferryandferry.com/practice-areas/family-law/The below statute gives a little guidance on who can adopt and the definition of parent.

https://www.leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0000-0099/0063/0063.html