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

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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

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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

Renting vs. Buying 2016

By Michael J Posner

The dream of home ownership is as American as hot dogs, baseball and apple pie.  At least that was the theory until the great recession that ruined home ownership for millions.  With the economy mostly recovered, mortgage interest rates at all-time lows and rents rising, is it now better, once again, to own or rent?

Homeownership levels continue to fall with the level of ownership hitting a 50-year low last quarter.  Currently only 62.9% of households are owner-occupied.  Ownership levels are highest for seniors, and at an all-time low for millennials at 34.1%.  We can attribute this trend to several factors:

Longevity: Determining whether to rent or own is dependent on several important factors.  First, how long do you plan to stay in your next home has to be determined, because one of the best benefits of home ownership is tied to longevity of ownership.  One key factor tied to longevity is how mortgage loans are front loaded with mostly interest.  Fixed Rate Mortgages are amortized to provide a fixed monthly payment over the life of the loan.  Initially the payments are mostly interest, with only a small amount going to principal.  A typical $250,000 house with a $200,000 loan will only have principal reduced by $19,000 if sold within the first five years.  It takes nearly 20 years to reach a 50% reduction in the loan balance. Continue reading

How To Protect Smartphone Apps & Digital Work for Hire Projects

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by Philip H. Ward III, Partner 

For many years, companies have required that employees and independent contractors hired to conduct work execute agreements which include “work for hire” provisions.  These provisions simply mean that the work for which the employee or independent contractor has been engaged belongs to the Employer, not the Employee.  Documents and work product would include engineering drawings, manuals, websites, architectural drawings, and other works.

Software development and smartphone app designs have created new issues for companies.  Recently, we negotiated a contract for a client who is developing a smart phone app.  An independent contractor was hired to design and develop the app.  In most cases, the independent contractor seeks to retain as much ownership as possible.  On the other hand, the owner needs to know that the app is theirs and won’t be copied. Continue reading

Eight Common Real Estate Mistakes

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By Michael J Posner

After more than 30 years of concentrating my legal practice in real estate matters, below is a brief listing of common mistakes I repeatedly see.  Read below and find out how a few quick fixes can save you time, money and headaches.

  1. Deeds Without Estate Status:

You want to add dad, mom or a sibling to your Florida property, so you get a Quit Claim Deed from an out-of-state lawyer, an office supply store or online, fill it out and mail it in to be recorded.  Three years later they die, and when you go to sell the property you discover that in order to clear their interest, you need to file an ancillary administration in Florida.  An easy fix could have saved you $3,000 and a few months of time.  You eventually close and share the proceeds with their heirs, however this can be avoided by using the proper language on the deed.  If you want the property to go to everyone’s heirs, do nothing, but if you want to be sure that the property goes to the surviving grantees, simply add, “joint tenants with full rights of survivorship, and not as tenants in common” after the grantee’s name. Upon their death, the title goes to the remaining grantee without probate.

  1. Second Home/Condo:

If you own a second home/condominium in Florida and are a resident of another state, you can avoid two probates by simply deeding your second Florida property to yourself for life with a remainder to your chosen heirs.  Then, when you die, no probate is necessary.  You can even keep full control of your property by adding Ladybird Powers to your Life Estate Deed, which means you can sell or mortgage your property without your remainderman’s (person who inherts property) consent. Continue reading