3 Easy Steps to Take Advantage of Your Homestead Exemption

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By Michael J Posner

Over 300,000 new people became Florida residents in 2017, continuing a growth trend that shows no signs of slowing.  With the new tax act squeezing many residents of high tax states in the northeast, the trend of continued population growth in the sunshine state is only expected to rise in 2018.  Many new residents purchase new homes or convert their previous vacation or second homes in Florida into their primary residence.  If this purchase or conversion is completed by December 31, those new residents may be eligible to apply for a Florida Homestead Exemption the following year.

Florida has two types of homestead:

  • The first is set forth in the Florida Constitution under Article X, Section 4, which is an automatic provision to protect homeowners from claims of creditors or spouses who exclusively hold title, and to insure that a surviving spouse is not made homeless. This protection is automatic based upon purchasing a house, condominium or cooperative and making it your primary residence.
  • The second form of homestead is known as the Homestead Exemption, and it is also set forth in the Florida Constitution under Article VII, Section 6, which provides a financial exemption from real property taxation of up to $50,000 in home value. Additional exemptions are available for veterans over 65, low income senior citizens, surviving spouses of a veteran or first responder that died in the line of duty, and certain disabled persons.

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How to Protect Yourself with Seasonal Rentals

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By Dane E. Leitner

Summer break has come to an end, and children have started school again.  In South Florida this means that “season” is right around the corner.  Season is the time of year when many snowbirds come down to avoid the cold winter, as well as many international folks who are involved in the equestrian community.  It is the perfect time when investors, and others who vacate their homes for a few months, provide housing for those coming down for season as they can usually obtain a good rental premium.

 

While seasonal renting can be lucrative for landlords, it is important that they are protected while doing so.  A well-written lease agreement that protects a landlord is a must.  A useful tip for landlords with seasonal rentals, as well as yearly rentals, is to try to obtain the entire rental amount up front or as much as possible.  Besides the obvious benefit of collecting the money at the beginning and not wondering if the tenant will make the next payment or not, there is another benefit as well.  Should the lease need to be terminated, say because the tenants throw an unruly party, if the lease is properly terminated by the landlord, the landlord could be entitled to keep the remaining amount of money that was paid for advanced rent. Continue reading

Guide to Alimony Reform 2017

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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

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