Guide to Alimony Reform 2017

pexels-photo-173666

By Eddie Stephens

The Florida Legislation is attempting “Alimony Reform” for the third time.  On Wednesday, January 18, 2017, Representative Burton filed HB 203 and on Friday, January 20, 2017, Senator Passidomo filed SB 412.

Governor Rick Scott vetoed similar efforts in 2014 and 2016, in part, because the bills contained a presumption or premise for equal timesharing,  a hotly contested item that has nothing to do with alimony.

So far…this year’s legislation has NO MENTION of timesharing…yet.

Of course politics is politics, and this is subject to change.  Stephens’ Squibs will be keeping a close eye on these bills and will report any news as it develops.  The last day of the Florida Legislature Session is May 5, 2017.  It will probably be a bumpy ride.

Click here for all the details:  www.EddieStephens.com/alimony-reform

And check back often for updates.

Eddie Stephens is a partner at Ward Damon who is Board Certified in Family and Marital Law and has developed a successful family law practice focused on highly disputed divorces. Most importantly to Stephens is litigating in a manner that minimizes the impact of divorce on children.  If you need help with marital or family matters you may reach Eddie at EStephens@warddamon.com

What Can Happen When a Commercial Lease Defaults?

hands-1063442_1920

By Labeed Choudhry

Modern commercial leases can be dozens of pages long and contain a vast number of provisions spread over many paragraphs.  Some of these provisions, such as those relating to the amount of rent and operations of the premises, are looked at and negotiated quite thoroughly by the parties.  Most of the other provisions however are routinely ignored as dense legalese and the parties, especially the tenant, pay little attention to what they say.

One often overlooked provision relates to the acceleration of rent upon default in payment by the tenant.  While language can vary according to the specifics of a lease, the general function of an acceleration provision is to allow the landlord to make a claim for the entire rent due under the remaining life of a lease if the tenant defaults during the middle of lease term rather than having to wait for rent as it comes due before making a claim for it.  For example, if a tenant defaults after one year of a five-year lease where the rent was $1,000 a month, the landlord can demand $48,000 (the amount to be paid under the remaining term of the lease) immediately without having to demand an additional $1,000 every month for the remainder of the lease term. While the accelerated rent is usually reduced to its present value, it can still be a hefty sum. Continue reading

1 in 17:  Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD) in Family Court

1-in-17-photo

By Eddie Stephens, Esquire and Dr. Michael O’Hara Jr., Psy.D.

Originally published in the Family Law Section’s, The Commentator (Fall, 2016, page 23).

Stephens: Antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) is a personality disorder defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) as a pervasive pattern of disregard for, or violation of, the rights of others. An impoverished moral sense or conscience is often apparent, as well as a history of crime, legal problems, and/or impulsive and aggressive behavior.

Approximately 3% of males and 1% of females in the United States suffer from this disorder.  As with any psychological disorder, the stress of a divorce often magnifies harmful consequences that accompany the behaviors associated with this disorder.

For every 17 divorce cases an attorney handles, 1 of the parties will be affected by this disorder. When an attorney comes across 1 of the 17, it is important for that attorney to have an understanding of the psychopathy in order to navigate the many obstacles this scenario presents. Continue reading

Florida Court Affirmed for Prohibiting Father from Discussing Religious Matters with his Children

pexels-photo-27633.jpg

By Eddie Stephens

Florida Courts have historically protected a parent’s right to practice their religious beliefs with their children no matter how unconventional and regardless of the other parent’s objection.  In the matter of Koch v. Koch, 41 Fla. L. Weekly (Fla. 1st DCA 2016), the trial court was AFFIRMED for prohibiting the father from discussing “ANY religious matters during visitation with his children.”

The constitutional limitation to protect a parent’s right to expose their children to their religious beliefs was clearly established in Rogers v. Rogers, 490 So. 2d 1017 (Fla. 1st DCA 1986) where the Appellate Court concluded:  “In family law proceedings, a court may not restrict a post-dissolution parent’s religious beliefs, no matter how unconventional.”

In 2014, the First District provided some level of protection for children if the exposure to the parent’s religion was harmful by concluding “restrictions upon a noncustodial parent’s right to expose his or her child to his or her religious beliefs have consistently been overturned in the absence of clear, affirmative showing that the religious activities at issue will be harmful to the child.”  Pierson v, Pierson, 143 So.3d 1201 (Fla 1st DCA 2014).

And then came Michael Koch. Continue reading

How the Brad Pitt / Angelina Jolie Divorce Will Impact Family Law

pexels-photo-87308

By Eddie Stephens

When you spawn with another you will be tied to them forever.

This gets complicated when the relationship between the parents fails.

The State of Florida protects parents and their relationships.  In fact, Florida Law provides:

It is the public policy of this state that each minor child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents separate or the marriage of the parties is dissolved and to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities, and joys, of childrearing.

Establishing parental responsibility over the children is a major issue in the dissolution of a marriage.  Parental responsibility includes who gets to make decisions over a child’s life, such as what school the child(ren) should attend or what medical treatment(s) are appropriate.

Decision-making authority can be granted to one parent if the decision making of the other parent has proven to be detrimental to the child(ren).

This does not mean one parent is granted sole custody if the other parent is seemingly not as good a parent or has a substance abuse issue or has a volatile temper. Continue reading