What to Do Before You File for Divorce in Florida

We all know that divorce is a complicated, emotional and stressful process. Even the most amicable of divorces can still be a difficult matter. Before you file for a divorce in the state of Florida, there are a few things you are going to need to do to get prepared. These steps will help lessen the trauma for all parties involved, and ensure that everyone is treated fairly.

Stabilization Courses

The State of Florida requires all parents with children to undergo special stabilization courses. These courses are designed to help the parents find a way to make the process less traumatic for the children involved.

Some of these courses are available online, but in most cases, you will need to attend an actual class before you can proceed. These classes will also help parents put their children’s needs first, and help both parties decide what type of custody arrangements are going to be best for everyone involved.

Your attorney can assist you in setting up attendance in these courses and provide you with guidance on how to arrange custody that suits the best interests of the children involved.

Equitable Distribution

The State of Florida practices what is called equitable distribution of property in divorce cases. Unlike other states that simply divide assets down the middle, the state will determine what is fair and balanced when it comes to the division of property.

It is vital to have an attorney who is well qualified to assist you in this process. While it would be ideal if all parties are treated fairly, in many divorce cases, this just doesn’t happen. It is helpful to make a list of all of your current assets, both joint and single, to determine just what is going to be on the table. A divorce arbitrator can be helpful in this situation, particularly if it is an amicable divorce. However, if it is a contested divorce, or both parties cannot come to an agreement on equitable property distribution, this is a where an attorney is a vital part of the process.

Financial Preparedness

Divorce can easily cause havoc in both party’s financial lives. In order to minimize the impact, it is best to begin splitting up your finances as soon as you can in the process. Determine who owns what in your shared accounts and withdraw the agreed upon amount and place it in new accounts that the other party cannot access. We all like to think that we know our partners and that they wouldn’t be tempted to drain a joint account, but it happens all too often.

Shared utility bills will also need to be split. If you have your partner as a beneficiary on a life policy, now is also a good time to start the process to change the beneficiaries.

This is not an easy process, and it can be emotional. However, if both parties can realize it is for the greater good in the end, typically, it can be easier to get your financial affairs in order.

Finding the Right Divorce Attorney

You will need to have proper representation during your divorce proceedings. Many people make the mistake of thinking that in a relationship where there are no children that they don’t need an attorney, but end up finding out too late they should have had representation.

Look for a divorce attorney with a proven track record in handling many different types of family law cases. If you are a man, look for an attorney that specializes in the rights of the man during the divorce process. All too often, these cases are skewed in favor of the woman, particularly when custody battles are raging. You will need to find someone who can defend you and what is best for your children.

Irretrievably Broken

Florida law states that divorces will only be granted if the marriage is proven to be “irretrievably” broken or if one of the parties is diagnosed as mentally incapacitated. Unlike a “no-fault” state where reasons for the divorce do not have to be given, you will need to prove to the court that your marriage is over and there is no hope for reconciliation.

Your attorney will be able to present your case to the State to show that the marriage cannot be repaired and begin the process of equitable distribution, while making sure your best interests are being served.

About the author:
James M. Burns of the Law Office of James M. Burns has served clients in Florida and Alabama for nearly two decades and brings a wealth of experience and legal savvy to your side when you need a staunch supporter and smart legal representation.

Florida Needs to Open Its Doors to Adoption Info

Florida Adoption Laws

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We have all heard the old saying: “when one door closes, another one opens.” However, when it comes to Florida adoptees finding their birth parents, it seems that too many doors are slammed shut.

The Internet has made it easier than ever before for adoptees to find their birth parents. There are numerous Florida adoption registries and databases that can be used as references and social media has provided another great way for birth parents and adoptees to connect. In many states, birth records that were once sealed are now open, giving full access to adoptees to find out vital information about their birth parents.

However, Florida doesn’t happen to be one of those progressive states.

The History of Open Adoptions

Actually, most adoptions used to be open adoptions until the twentieth century. Adoption was seen as a process where one family who potentially couldn’t afford to house and feed all their children had them adopted by another family as “an apprentice.” The families met each other and often stayed in contact. Adoptions were very informal – if a woman unexpectedly became pregnant, she could give the child to whomever she wanted. There were no adoption agencies or intermediaries who facilitated the process. No legal papers were signed and there was no government involvement. However, there was also no way to check on the welfare of the child.

During the Victorian era, everything changed. An unwed mother was often sent away from her family to have her baby in secret. She was perceived a “loose” and “immoral” and her child was often taunted with names like “illegitimate” or “a bastard”.

In 1941, the US Children’s Bureau adopted a practice where birth records were sealed for confidentiality reasons, including the child’s original birth certificate. Another birth certificate was issued with the adopted parent’s name only and the original adoption record was sealed. Often adopted children didn’t even know they were adopted and grew up believing their adoptive parents were their biological parents.

During the 1960s and 1970s, the shame placed on unmarried women began to ease and women started wanting to choose the adoptive parents. At the same time, many children who were adopted wanted to know their medical histories and began to search for their biological parents. Societal rules changed once again and the trends began to move toward more “open adoptions” which in fact was a new term for an old practice.

According to the Adoption Institute, 40% of adoptions are now mediated, 55% are open and only 5% are closed. In fact, it has become so prevalent that 95% of adoption agencies now offer open adoptions.

Florida’s Views on Open Adoptions

Although open adoptions have become more popular, birth mothers in Florida and many other states have no legal rights to have ongoing contact with their children. Instead, what is known as an Ongoing Contract Agreement is formed, which is an agreement between the biological parents and the adoptive parents to have informal ongoing contact. This arrangement is not a legal binding contract. If the adopted parents decide to move or change their contact information, they are under no legal obligation to update the biological parents.

Why?

Because some people still hold to the notion that openadoptions will lead to an increase in abortion rates or that “closed adoptions” are better for women victimized by rape or incest. According to Jeanne Tate, a Tampa adoption attorney, “we have to balance the rights of adoptees to know about their past with the rights of the birth parents to confidentiality and anonymity when they chose adoption.” However, this type of rational makes it more difficult for children who are adopted to find their birth parents.

Only four states – Kansas, Alaska, Oregon and Alabama – allow unconditional adoptee access.In Scotland, adoptions have been open since 1930 and in England since 1975. Sweden, The Netherlands, and Germany are just a few of the countries that don’t prevent adoptees from accessing their own birth records. Without a doubt, Canada and the United States are far behind in opening adoption records.

A Case for Open Adoptions in Florida

Currently, Florida only has four types of adoption that are legally recognized: the entity adoption (where an agency or intermediary is involved), the step-parent adoption, the close relative and an adult adoption. Although more and more adoptions are conducted with an Ongoing Contract Agreement, Florida and many other states have yet to legalize this process even though studies show that open adoptions are preferable.

This antiquated thinking works to the disadvantage of all parties. Children who are adopted do not have access to their medical histories and too often grow up feeling abandoned, with no answers to some important questions and no contact with birth relatives. Birth mothers feel guilty and depressed if they can’t keep tabs on the welfare of their child moving forward. And for the adopted parents, they may be left to wonder what the birth mother’s intentions are moving forward.

Since adoptions are controlled at the state level, adoptive parents often have to gain approval from the state in which the child is being adopted and the state where the child will reside. This creates legal confusion.

Ideally, there will be federal laws governing adoptions that allow both open and closed adoptions. There should be a single standard for adoptions nationwide to eliminate the stress and confusion that currently plagues the adoption community.

**Disclaimer: Under Florida State Law, there is no such thing as “Open Adoption”, “Closed Adoption”, or “Semi-Closed Adoption”. We use these terms herein since they are popular terminologies, however again, they have no legal meaning under Florida State Law**

About The Author
Jeffrey A. Kasky, Esq. is a Florida adoption lawyer and Vice President of One World Adoption Services, Inc., a Florida-licensed not-for-profit child placing agency. Jeff’s diverse career experiences include co-authoring the book, “99 Things You Wish You Knew Before … Choosing Adoption” with Robert A. Kasky, Florida-certified law enforcement officer, and involvement in the autism community, including a TV show focused on helping families with legal issues related to autism called “Spectrum at Law” on The Autism Channel. A practicing attorney since 1995, he has worked on more than one thousand adoption cases.