Florida Same Sex Separations and Collaborative Family Law

Though the U.S. Supreme Court recently struck down portions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”), state DOMAs were not affected by the ruling.  This means that same sex couples cannot get legally married in states, such as Florida, that enacted a DOMA.

This also means that gay and lesbian couples cannot get divorced in many DOMA states and oftentimes do not have any legal remedy to separate.  If the domestic partners did not adopt each other’s children, even if both partners had been considered the parents of the children, then child custody, visitation, and child support laws usually will not apply.  Equitable distribution laws (laws related to division of marital assets and debts) do not apply, so separating property and liabilities can get real messy, real quick.  Further, alimony and spousal maintenance laws do not apply, so a partner who spent years homemaking and taking care of children may suddenly become destitute.  So what are separating same sex couples to do?

Domestic partners who are dissolving their relationship should seriously consider entering into a collaborative family law process.

Collaborative family law is a form of private dispute resolution that allows clients to enter into agreements and achieve results that could never be attained through a court process. Each client retains a separate attorney who advises and counsels the client and helps in the negotiating process.  A neutral facilitator, who is a mental health professional or mediator, helps the clients focus on their interests, such as the welfare of clients’ children, continued relationships with each other’s family members, or financial stability.  If there are substantial assets or debts or a business, a neutral accountant or financial planner will be brought in to educate the parties in finances, help fairly and cost-effectively divide property and liabilities, and, if requested, develop a budget for the clients’ future.

As you can see, collaborative family law is a holistic process that takes into account not only the legal, but also the emotional and financial needs of the clients.

The crux of collaborative family law is that the clients agree at the beginning that they will not seek to resolve their dispute through court battles, but rather they will come to a mutually agreeable settlement through this private process.  The clients, and their attorneys, enter into a participation agreement which disqualifies the attorneys from representing the clients in any contested court action.  This provides a safe space in collaborative meetings because each client knows that the other client’s attorney is not conducting opposition research and is committed solely to helping the clients reach a mutually acceptable agreement.  This allows clients to feel more comfortable offering and listening to potential solutions.

In truth, the disqualification clause has much more of an effect on heterosexual couples who are getting divorced, rather than homosexual couples who are separating.  This is because, as stated above, most DOMA state courts just do not have remedies that would properly address the clients’ concerns, and so attempts to fight it out in court will oftentimes be dismissed.

If you are experiencing a same sex separation, make sure to speak with an attorney who offers collaborative family law, and check to see whether the attorney has received collaborative law training that meets at least the minimum Basic Training standards of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals.

If you have questions regarding a Tampa Bay collaborative family law process, or you want to learn more about your Florida family law rights, schedule a consultation with The Law Firm of Adam B. Cordover, P.A., at (813) 443-0615 or fill out our contact form.

Adam B. Cordover currently serves as Research Chair of the Collaborative Family Law Council of Florida and Vice President of the Collaborative Divorce Institute of Tampa Bay.  Adam successfully spearheaded an effort of the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit of Florida to draft an administrative order safeguarding the principles of collaborative family law (just the fourth such administrative order in Florida) and has completed over 40 hours of basic and advanced collaborative family law continuing legal education credit.

 

How to Seek Child Support during a Separation

(U.S. Law and Generally) When your spouse leaves you and your children, it’s not long until you feel the financial pinch in your pocketbook. In your new role as a single parent, taking care of your children and your household expenses on a single paycheck soon becomes challenging, especially since you no longer have your spouse to help you financially.

How to Receive Child Support

If you have asked for money for your children and your spouse refused to help out, you can get a court to order your spouse to pay child support while you are separated. Here are steps you can take to start receiving child support:

1. Locate the OCSE in your area. In some states, the Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) is called the Friend of the Court (FOC) and is located in the county courthouse. Find your local OCSE by conducting an Internet search of your city or state or call the clerk’s office of your local courthouse.

2. Complete an application. OCSE has applications for child support online that you can print out and complete prior to meeting with a caseworker.

3. Schedule an appointment. The OCSE takes new cases by appointment, but some offices allow “walk-ins.” If you visit the office as a walk-in, be prepared to wait since most offices are very busy. Be prepared to pay a fee since OCSE’s charge an annual service fee to the custodial parent to open a child support case.

4. Bring relevant information. Your case worker will need information such as your spouse’s address, telephone number, employer’s name, annual income and type of vehicle he or she drives. This information will be used to locate your spouse should he or she fail to either receive or respond to child support papers served on him or her. Child support payments are usually collected through the non-custodial parent’s paycheck. You will also be asked to provide information such as your employer’s name, health insurance information and whether you have received child support in the past. The case worker will also give you other documents to complete.

5. Attend your court hearing. Your case worker will take you through the child support process, which includes filing your documents with the court, serving your spouse with a copy of the papers and scheduling a court hearing. Your spouse will have an opportunity to respond to the papers you filed as well as attend the court hearing.

Consider getting Legal Advice

Filing for help from an absent parent, whether it’s California or New Hampshire child support, is a lengthy process and can become complicated, particularly if your spouse objects to paying support. If your spouse had a larger income and carried health benefits for the family, consider filing for a legal separation rather than a divorce, at least for the time being. There are several financial benefits to getting a legal separation for both of you, but this is something that you should discuss with a family lawyer.

An attorney experienced in family law will get your OCSE case moving along while advising you of the legal separation process. The ultimate decision to file for a legal separation is up to you, but in the meantime, your attorney can relieve your financial pressure by getting court-ordered support from you spouse so that you can better provide for your children.

Mother of two and author, Molly Pearce knows the challenges that single parenting presents. She shares this info in the hopes that it can simplify the child support process for readers. New Hampshire child support lawyers, Tenn and Tenn, P.A., also hope to make the seperation and divorce process easier by providing knowledgeable and experienced representation to families in need.

Occupy Mum Walks away from Family, Gains $85,000 in Divorce Settlement

Stacey Hessler, the mother who abandoned her four children, banker husband and warm bed in Florida to join protesters in the Financial District close to Zuccotti Park has made headlines again. This time, Hessler is in the news for divorcing her husband of 19 years, relinquishing custodial rights to him and literally taking him to the cleaners with a whopping $85,000 settlement. Many might recognize the stark irony of the divorce settlement. Here is a “professional protester” as the divorce filing lists her occupation, raking money in from the very institution she protests against on Wall Street! It is the height of contradiction. Listing her (ex) husband as a banker on an annual salary of $65,000, the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ employee’s annual income was recorded as $0 on the divorce filing initiated by her husband, Curtiss.

The reason for the divorce is reportedly listed as “irreconcilable differences”, which does not come as a surprise, given that Hessler’s chosen life style since abandoning her family to join Occupy has become significantly different. Chosen life style, divorce payout and other facts aside, Stacey Hessler raises, yet again, the issue that we are most concerned about at Provda Law Firm; the real casualties of divorce. Stacey has left four children without a mother to become a professional protester and to pursue her own interests. Divorce, one can safely assume, became the unavoidable for a variety of reasons; all associated with Hessler’s choice. While there is no scrap of evidence or fact to suggest that Curtiss, the ex-husband, will be unable to adequately cater for the financial, emotional and other needs of the children, the fact remains that they stand a higher risk of being psychologically affected by what must seem to them as a mother’s rejection. Research confirms that children from broken homes suffer emotional and behavioural needs more than their counterparts from homes where the parents remain together.

The direct implication is felt on society in many ways, including the vicious cycle in the relationships and marriages of many of the affected children. At Provda Law Firm, we encourage parents going through divorce to always put their children’s interests first; to think beyond the pain, hatred, anger, disappointment or any other negative emotion they have towards the other party and to focus on their children’s future. The salient question should be whether or not the other party is able to contribute positively to the children’s lives. An answer in the affirmative means that concerted effort must be put into ensuring that the children do not suffer more than they necessarily have to on account of the divorce.

Stacey Hessler may have abandoned her four children and husband, she may be nearly $90, 000 richer directly or indirectly from the institutions she now fervently protests against, she may be many things to different people, depending on the view point, however by giving custody of the children to her apparently more stable ex-husband, it would seem that she had their best interests at heart at the end of the day. Although some might say she has a rather funny way of showing it.

This article was written by Bruce Provda, a New York divorce attorney. For advice on divorce, child custody, support and maintenance as well as other related family law issues in the State of New York, call Bruce Provda at Provda Law Firm, 40 Wall Street, 11 Floor, New York, NY 10005, (212) 671-0936 or visit his divorce law website.

A Tampa Collaborative Divorce Can Save You Money

When most people think of divorce, they envision scenes from War of the Roses or Kramer vs. Kramer. Yet more people in Tampa Bay are learning that there is another way, collaborative divorce, which is just a sensible method to resolve private family disputes. However, just as mediation was characterized in the 1980’s and 1990’s as a rich person’s option, many people think that the collaborative process is only for the very wealthy. Not only attorneys, but also a collaborative facilitator and financial professional are retained, so only the very rich can afford the collaborative model, right?

Wrong.

A four year study conducted by the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals found that 87% of female participants and 47% of male participants of collaborative family law cases had an annual income of less than $100,000.

Though the collaborative process may not be the cheapest in all cases, it has a substantial opportunity to save you money as compared to the courtroom battles we have all come to associate with divorce.

First, child issues, such as custody schedules and decision-making authority, are some of the most emotional and costliest issues in family law matters. Lawyers in courtroom cases tend to prepare interrogatories (questions) to be answered under penalty of perjury, set depositions, conduct opposition research to put the other spouse in the worst possible light, and prepare for trial. Attorneys’ invoices pile up along each stage of this process. Alternatively, these fees and costs can be greatly reduced in the collaborative process where facilitators, who usually are licensed mental health professionals, can cut through the clutter of emotionally-charged issues and bring the clients (and lawyers) to focus on the future and best interests of the children.

Similarly, a financial professional (who is usually either an accountant or financial planner) adds cost-saving value to the process. In litigated cases, lawyers prepare “requests for production of documents and things” that demand reams of financial documents which could conceivably be relevant. Searching for those documents cost clients tremendous time and money while, when received, the requesting attorney will spend countless billable hours meticulously combing through the documents. In the collaborative process, on the other hand, the financial professional will only request documents that are necessary to make an informed settlement option. His or her expertise in finances enables the financial professional to review and assess the documents and develop settlement options more quickly (and often times at a lower rate) than attorneys.

Finally, the dirty little secret in family law is that the vast majority of litigation cases eventually settle. However, because having a judge decide on the parties’ personal matters always remains a threat, in traditional courtroom divorce the attorneys will always work on two tracks: (i) attempt to settle the case while (ii) conducting opposition research and preparing for the courtroom battle in case the parties cannot come to an agreement. In the collaborative process, attorneys are retained solely for the purpose of settlement and are contractually barred from taking disputes to be decided in court, and so they are not racking up those billable hours planning to fight it out in court.

Now, back to the question, is collaborative divorce only for the wealthy? Absolutely not, and I would be happy to speak with you and talk more about how the process can help your family.

If you have questions regarding how a Tampa Bay collaborative divorce process can help you, schedule a consultation with attorney Adam B. Cordover at (813) 443-0615 or fill out our contact form.

Adam B. Cordover is Vice President of the Collaborative Divorce Institute of Tampa Bay and is a member of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals. Adam spearheaded the taskforce that drafted the Hillsborough County collaborative family practice administrative order signed by Chief Judge Manuel Menendez.

5 Things Social Workers Need to Understand About Hate Crimes

5 Things Social Workers Need to Understand About Hate Crimes

Though many people consider “hate crimes” to be relatively new phenomena thanks, in part, to tougher laws being enacted around the country, the truth is this: Hate crimes in America are as old as the country itself. Crimes have been committed against individuals and groups based on race, gender, religious preference, sexual orientation and cultural background for centuries. If social workers hope to help people dealing with hate crimes, a deeper understanding must be had. Here are five things that social workers need to understand about this brand of crime:

1.Diversity Education

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One of the ways to prevent children from turning into perpetrators of hate crimes is to teach them about acceptance at an early age. Social workers can work in conjunction with teachers and families to ensure that young, elementary-aged children learn to respect each other’s differences, celebrating them rather than berating them. The NCPC has excellent lessons for children in grades one through five that center around diversity.

2.What Constitutes a Hate Crime?

Most of us are aware that a crime committed against a person because of their race or sexual orientation is considered a hate crime. But what else may constitute a hate crime? This information is important for every social worker to have. A victim of a hate crime is singled out because of perception. The perpetrator holds a certain perception about the proposed victim’s race, color, national origin, religion, age, sex, physical handicap, mental disability, marital status, personal appearance, family responsibility, political affiliation or matriculation.

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Hate crimes do not have to be violent. Examples of non-violent hate crimes include verbal abuse, telephone harassment, the painting of swastikas or other hate symbols, the use of racial slurs and cemetery desecration. A hate crime need not be violent to have a profound effect on the victim and friends and family of the victim.

3.Victim Responses

Just as with reactions to illness, death and other devastating events, people respond differently when they, or the ones they love, become victims of a hate crime. Victims of hate crimes typically report feelings of anger couples with feelings of betrayal. There can be an overwhelming sense of powerlessness, resentment, isolation and sadness. Victims of hate crimes may also have an aroused, even paranoid, sense of suspicion. Victims of hate crimes report drastic changes in lifestyle as a result of their attack, whether mental or physical. As a social worker, it’s important to sit back and listen to the victim, gaining an understanding of just what effect the crime has had in order to provide the best therapy.

4.The Right Not to Report

Much like a victim of rape has the choice whether or not to report the crime, regardless of the seeking of treatment, a victim of a hate crime is not required to file a report with law enforcement. Regardless of personal beliefs, social workers must support whichever choice the victim makes. In some cases, medical personnel may be required to report the attack, however, it is still the victim’s right to not pursue hate-crime related charges.

5.Victim Assistance

Social workers should seek out resources of assistance within their local communities for victims of hate crime. Having this information on hand and immediately available will make the therapeutic process less stressful for the victim. Beyond local resources, social workers should know about national programs such as Network of Victim Assistance, National Center for Victims of Crime and the American Civil Liberties Union.

For social workers, understanding hate crimes is an important facet of the profession. Along with understanding what constitutes a hate crime, social workers must understand their impact and the resources available for victims and their families. For more information on hate crimes, be sure to visit NOVA, an all-encompassing site for victim assistance.

Robert Neff is a writer who brings awareness to world events such as hate crimes. Social workers help victims of the crimes. If you are interested in a career as a social worker check out Case Western’s online MSW degree.