Saturday, November 10, 2012

Marital Property and Equitable Distribution

    What is Marital Property? Marital Property is all income, property, and possessions acquired during the span of a marriage. Upon the dissolution of marriage, marital property will be divided among spouses.  Property acquired before the marriage, will remain as non-marital property at the time of the divorce unless it has been co-mingled during the marriage.

     Florida distributes all property in a divorce through equitable distribution. This means that all marital property will be dispersed evenly between the two spouses at the time of their divorce. Florida State Statute adheres to this principle, unless justification can be provided to permit an unequal distribution judgment. Factors that may contribute in determining asset distribution:

  •          Length of marriage
  •           Financial circumstances of each spouse
  •           The contributions to marital assets made by each spouse during the marriage
  •           Any other relevant factors in determining appropriate distribution

This list may not be inclusive based on individual circumstances.

Friday, November 2, 2012

November is National Adoption Month

            National Adoption Month raises awareness for children in the foster care system, awaiting placement within a permanent, loving, and stable home.  National Adoption Month has increased recruitment efforts for foster parents and permanent adoption through meeting events, adoption learning sessions, and adoption celebrations nationwide. These efforts have resulted in thousands of children being adopted in the United States and around the world over the past 22 years since the creation of National Adoption Month.

            Regardless of whether the adoption occurs from the foster care system or from a private source, adoption is key in providing many children with an opportunity to be part of a functioning, loving family.

National Adoption Day is Wednesday, November 21, 2012. This year’s theme is Adoption in the Digital Age. For more information on adoption, events in your area, and to help celebrate adoption, visit the National Adoption Month website at:

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) is defined as a condition found in children who have been significantly neglected and unable to form an emotional connection with their caregivers. When a child is born, an emotional bond is created between child and parent when the child is held, fed, nurtured, and loved. It is at this time the child becomes attached emotionally and learns to trust the parent. When an infant is neglected of these basic comforts and affection, it can cause problems with their emotional stability in the future. Neglected, abused, and orphaned children most commonly have a higher risk of developing RAD.

Symptoms of RAD in Infants & Children:

  •        Detached
  •        Unresponsive to comfort
  •        Calm when left alone
  •        Engages in self-soothing behavior
  •        Displays controlling behavior
  •        Aggressive towards other toddlers

This list is not inclusive based upon your individual circumstances.

Effects of RAD in Adulthood:

  •        Low self-esteem
  •         Depression
  •         Anxiety
  •         Promiscuous
  •         Frequent job changes

This list is not inclusive based upon your individual circumstances.

While a child will suffer with RAD indefinitely, there are treatment options to help manage the symptoms and stabilize the disorder. Some treatments may include medication and/or play therapy for the child and educating the parent on skills to improve the relationship and help develop the attachment needed. If you think your child has RAD you should seek advice from a medical professional. In most cases you will need to consult with a RAD specialist or a mental health psychiatrist.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Step- Parent Adoption: What About The Other Natural Parent

A step-parent adoption always requires one natural parent to lose parental rights. The natural parent losing rights must consent to the termination of rights to the child. If the natural parent does not consent, one of the following must have occurred to proceed with the adoption:

Natural parent has abandoned the child financially or emotionally
Natural parent has been incarcerated for the majority of the child’s life
Natural parent is deceased (Must provide Death Certificate)
Natural parent is prohibited from having a relationship with the child

In circumstances where the natural parent is unlocatable, a diligent search must be executed. After the search, if the whereabouts of the natural parent are not discovered, Florida law requires one to serve constructively by advertising for the individual.  A newspaper ad must appear in the area where the natural parent was last seen, once a week for four weeks.

Upon completion of the search, if the natural parent has been located, he/she must be served with notice of the adoption. Receiving legal notice allows the natural parent to respond to the proceeding. If he/she does not respond within the designated time allotted and appear at the proceeding, he/she waives their legal rights. 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Florida Adoption Home Study
An adoption home study is completed to assess your ability to provide a safe and stable environment in which to raise a child. A home study begins with a social worker. The social worker will come into the home and conduct an interview with the prospective parent(s). The social worker can be a privately hired social worker or a government social worker with the Department of Children and Families depending on the type of adoption.
While there, he/she will ask questions in regards to your parenting philosophy, criminal history, financial circumstance, and other relevant information. A tour of the home is also required to assess the environment and child safety.  In addition, the prospective adoptive parents will need to provide fingerprints and criminal background checks. The social worker will then assemble the evaluation notes and requested documentation into a written report, which will be submitted to the adoption agency and/or attorney assigned to the adoption case. A child cannot legally be placed in the home without a completed home study.
A Home Study will include:
·         Home Visit with Personal Interview
·         Criminal Background Check
·         Documentation: Finances, Employment, Marital Status, and Personal References
This list may not be inclusive based on circumstance.
            In the state of Florida, the type of adoption and your familial relationship to the potential adoptee will determine if a home study is required by law. Florida State statute requires all non- related prospective parents to undergo a home study evaluation. A home study is not required in cases of relative adoption within three degrees of relation and step-parent adoption.
A Home Study IS required if:
·         You are privately adopting from a licensed adoption agency (non-relative)
·         You are publicly adopting from The Department of Children and Families (unless waived)
·         You are adopting internationally (relative and non-relative)
Home Study is NOT required if:
·         You are adopting a step-child or a relative within three degrees of relationship
·         You are a foster parent adopting your foster child (a home study has already been completed to become a foster parent)

Monday, August 27, 2012

Florida Domestic Partnership & Cohabitation Agreements
A Domestic Partnership Agreement, also referred to as a Cohabitation Agreement, is a binding contract in which the legal rights and responsibilities of the two unmarried partners are defined. This agreement is commonly used in establishing and protecting the rights of homosexual couples legally unable to marry in the state of Florida or heterosexual couples that choose not to marry.
Couples can register to receive official recognition of their relationship and health care rights on the Orange County Domestic Partnership Registry ( 
However, to secure the protection of rights concerning child custody, finances, property distribution, and other personal legal matters establishing a Domestic Partnership Agreement is imperative. In the case of life altering circumstances, such as death or dissolution of the relationship, a Domestic Partnership Agreement can resolve the uncertainty of an individual’s rights and responsibilities. A Domestic Partnership Agreement will allow both parties involved to have a clear understanding of their rights regarding finances, parental rights and property. A Domestic Partnership packet should be considered which would include registering on the Domestic Partnership Registry, Wills, Power of Attorney documents for use in places without a Domestic Partnership Registry, and a Domestic Partnership Agreement which includes property distribution, parenting plans and support plans.
This list is not inclusive based upon your individual circumstances.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Step-parent Adoption In Florida

        As our culture changes into a multi-dimensional family, the idea of step-parent adoption comes up more and more frequently. Step-parent adoption always requires that the natural parent losing his/her rights consent to the adoption of the child by the step-parent. If the natural parent is deceased, a death certificate must be supplied in lieu of consent. A home study is not required for a step-parent adoption in Florida. Additionally, the termination of parental rights of the natural parent and the adoption finalization can be completed in one hearing. It is always better to complete an adoption of any type with an attorney to assure that the process is done correctly. Some items to gather for a step-parent adoption are:

Certified Birth Certificate Of The Child Being Adopted
The Address History Of The Child Being Adopted
The Complete Contact Information For The Natural Parent Being Terminated

This list may not be inclusive based on circumstance.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Is It Legal For A Service Contract to Automatically Renew?

            Many states are enacting legislation dealing with automatically renewing service contracts. Without specific legislation, it is legal for a service provider to have automatically renewing contracts. Florida passed House Bill 751 in May, 2010 that governs auto renewing service contracts. It specifies that the terms of any auto renewal must be in "clear and conspicuous" language.
            Additionally, the service provider must give the client 30-60 days notice of the auto renewal so the client has the opportunity to cancel the contract. If the client does not cancel the contract, it will legally auto renew on the time specified in the notice. If notice is not provided and the client wishes to cancel the contract, any funds paid due to the auto renewal may be refundable. If you have an auto renewable service contract that you wish to cancel and did not receive notice about the auto renewal, contact an attorney to cancel your contract and request any funds paid due to the auto renewal.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

India - A Parent Child Abduction Risk

India - A Parent Child Abduction Risk

            If you are worried that your ex-spouse could possibly abduct your child by taking them to India, it pays to take heed to your worries. India has not signed the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Currently, The Hague seeks to return children to their residency country when there is a dispute over child custody. However, India does not participate in this practice.
            In fact, India fashions its child custody decisions after the religious beliefs of the parents. For example: If the family is Hindu, the Indian court favors the child to be with the mother up to age five but not necessarily afterwards. If the family is Muslim, the Indian court favors the child to be with the mother up to the age of seven or until puberty but not necessarily afterwards and a male child could differ.
            In the United States, we favor a policy of the best interest of the child, which includes but is not exclusive of the relationship of the child with each parent, the residency established by the child and the basic daily needs and habits of the child. In India, United States custody orders are not automatically enforced and there is no registration process to secure the jurisdiction of the child. Additionally, parent child abduction is not a criminal offense in India; therefore, a parent child abductor would not fall under an extradition agreement with the United States. 
           As a result, parent child abduction is a very real risk when one or both parents are Indian citizens and desire to take the child back to India. Of course, this risk varies by family because of family resources and relationships. If this is a risk that concerns you, please seek legal advice to protect yourself. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Re-adoption for Foreign Adoption

          When adopting a child overseas, it is extremely important to understand the status of your child's adoption and the home state's requirements for re-adoption. Whether or not a child is adopted under an IR-3 or IR-4 visa is the beginning of that understanding. An IR-4 visa requires that the child be re-adopted in the United States; whereas, an IR-3 visa does not require re-adoption in the United States. IR-3 visas are only issued by overseas consulates, where the complete adoption proceeding has occurred in the other country, and the parents have been present to see the child in the country of adoption.
            With IR-4 visas, a child is admitted to the United States under immigrant status and their citizenship cannot be established until a formal re-adoption has occurred in the United States establishing a permanent connection with the adoptive parents. Children admitted to the United States under IR-3 visas become United States citizens when they enter the country with their adoptive parents. As a result, children who are in the United States under an IR-4 visa are not afforded the complete protection of the United States and may not have the same legal or inheritance rights that IR-4 visa children have.
            In addition to basic legal rights, there are some convenience issues also wrapped into re-adoption. When a family chooses to re-adopt their child in the United States after an overseas adoption, the family will receive a United States adoption decree and birth certificate. The certificates will always be available through the vital statistics department and are much easier to access than international decrees. Also, the child's legal name can be changed and established during a re-adoption. The new birth certificate will list the adoptive parents as the child's legal parents. Although an international birth certificate will be accepted in the United States, an English written birth certificate with easier access certainly makes life easier in the long run when signing up for school, sports and other activities.
            States vary on whether or not an international adoption decree will be accepted, so it pays to know your state. Some states require a re-adoption of an overseas adoptee where other states may allow re-adoption, but don't have specific requirements. Generally, Florida recognizes decrees granting legal guardianship, termination of parental rights and adoption given by foreign countries and other states. The re-adoption of the adoptee will fall under the specific laws set forth in the Florida Adoption Statutes.