Can I really be arrested if I violate the social distancing on the water or land?

Yes! It is a second degree misdemeanor if you violate one of the social distancing orders. As recently as this past Saturday, law enforcement officers responded to Ft. McRee where several people had gathered. The officers required the boaters to separate their boats by 50 feet. A second degree misdemeanor is the lowest crime level assigned to an offense in the state of Florida. One can be facing 60 days in the County Jail or up to 6 months probation.

https://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0300-0399/0381/Sections/0381.00315.html

Is it legal to send naked pictures of myself to someone else?

If you send naked pictures of yourself and are 18 years of age or older, then no. It is legal to do so. However, if you are under that age, a naked picture even if it’s of your self, is considered child pornography. Each picture is a separate count and is punishable as a 3rd degree felony. For parents, monitor your children’s social media. Our firm has represented a young man whose girlfriend sent him a picture of herself in her underwear. He sent back a picture of his private parts. The mother of the girlfriend found the picture and pressed charges. It is charged as a sex offender. If he were convicted, that would label him a sex offender. Parents please have this discussion with your children.

https://www.fdle.state.fl.us/FCCC/Child-Pornography

Does a sperm donor have parental rights to the child?

The linked article sheds light on a area of law that is becoming more common, sperm and egg donation. More women are waiting later to have children. When my mother was younger, it was normal for women to get married in their teens and become parents in their late teens early 20’s. This may be why infertility treatments weren’t as utilized as it is now. There was no need. A woman’s fertility doesn’t decrease until her late 20’s, but when she reaches 35, her ability to have a child decreases more quickly. According to reproductivefacts.org, “Each month that she tries, a healthy, fertile 30-year-old woman has a 20% chance of getting pregnant. That means that for every 100 fertile 30-year-old women trying to get pregnant in 1 cycle, 20 will be successful and the other 80 will have to try again. By age 40, a woman’s chance is less than 5% per cycle, so fewer than 5 out of every 100 women are expected to be successful each month.” Everyone knows that men can father a child well past that of a woman, some fathering children well into their 70’s.

Then there is the issue of how can a woman who wants to get pregnant, achieve pregnancy. In the state of Florida, sperm donors have no legal claim to their offspring. In fact, the father may not know how many times his sperm is used or not. If you are a woman who wants no contact with the father of your child, this is the route to take. The consequences of obtaining sperm in any other method will subject you to the father’s potential claim to establish paternity. It won’t even matter if the father waits years after the child is born to establish his rights. Until 2018, a married woman who became impregnated by a man other than her husband, could block the biological father’s rights to the child at all. Florida’s Supreme Court held in 2018, in Perkins v. Simmons, that a biological father does have the right to establish paternal rights to a child conceived to a married mother.

When determining how to become a parent, choose wisely.

https://caselaw.findlaw.com/fl-district-court-of-appeal/1876459.html

https://www.reproductivefacts.org/news-and-publications/patient-fact-sheets-and-booklets/documents/fact-sheets-and-info-booklets/age-and-fertility/

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/when-it-comes-to-starting_b_12999092

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.