Monday, August 21, 2017

Co-Parenting: For the Sake of Your Children

Divorce is a heart wrenching experience.  I am speaking not only as an attorney, but also from personal experience.  It is even harder when you are undergoing it with children involved.  You tend to think that you know what is best for your children and that you are the parent that is doing things the “right way” for them.  It can be hard to remember that your children, in most cases, have another parent that loves them just as much as you do.

It is hard to put your own hurt and emotional baggage aside and remember the best in our ex-spouse.  But you need to…for the sake of your children.  If you are just starting the process of divorce, I know this is difficult, but if your children are young, you may have 10 or more years that you are going to have to co-parent with your ex-spouse. You might as well make the best of it.  You would much rather get along with this person, I assure you.  And your children will appreciate and love you that much more for it. 

It gets even harder when your ex-spouse brings a new person into your child’s life.  Feelings of jealousy begin to erupt.  Instead of succumbing to pettiness, think of it as another person to put love into your child’s life.  This may be very difficult, but be the better person.  Your children will grow to be healthier adults because of all the love they had. 

See these articles for my inspiration:





If you are in need of a family lawyer, call Heather Bryan Law today for your confidential consultation, 863-825-5309, or contact us online.  Heather will stand beside you every step of the way.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Top 10 Things NOT To Do During A Divorce

A divorce is one of the most significant and emotional experiences that a person can go through.  Not only are you going through this life-changing event, but you have concerns about your finances, moving, belongings, and most importantly your children.  It is important not let this process turn you into a person that you don’t want to be—a person that you don’t even recognize.  Be the better person, even if your soon to be ex-spouse is not.  In the long run, you will be a healthier, happier person.  The following list is a compilation of my suggestions of how NOT to act during a divorce.

10. Don’t go pro se…if your spouse has hired an attorney, you have a lot of assets, debt, or income, or if you have children.  Too many things can go wrong.  It is best that you have a skilled attorney that knows the law and can represent your interests and advocate in your behalf.

9. Don’t disparage your spouse or discuss your divorce on social media.  You are hurting and this may seem like a great idea in the moment, but more than likely will come back to haunt you, especially if you have children.  You really don’t want your disparaging posts read in open court. 

8. Don’t flaunt a new partner. You are eager to put yourself back out there and excited when you find that someone.  However, do NOT post pictures of you with that someone on social media, bring that person to court proceedings, and most definitely do NOT bring that person around your children during the divorce process. These activities will instantly turn the most civil divorce into the most contested, drawn out divorce imaginable.  You do not want that.  You can wait until the divorce is final. (And for your own personal health, you really should anyway, but that is another blog topic).

7. Don’t attempt to hide your assets.  MORE than likely, they will be found.  Your spouse’s attorney will hire an expert and the divorce process will get costly and drag on.  You might even end up having to pay for your spouse’s fees and costs.  It is not worth it and you end up paying anyway. 

6.  Don’t fight over the television.  Stuff is stuff.  Is it really worth it?  Are you arguing over items because you are hurting?  Are you really going to pay your lawyer $300.00 per hour over that item?  You could have already replaced that item.  Think about it.  Relinquish your attachment to replaceable items and let the healing process begin.

5. My ex needs to “pay” for what happened. Divorce is painful. You may be hurting from abuse or an affair.  However, for the most part, no fault divorces under Florida law are NOT designed to punish parties.  Assets and liabilities are distributed equitably and alimony is awarded by need and ability to pay. 

4. Don’t wipe out the bank accounts. You are not entitled to all of the money in your bank accounts.  Even if your spouse did not earn the money in the accounts, you are not entitled to all of it.  Florida follows what is called equitable distribution of the assets.  All assets, and debts, will be divided up equitably.  If you and your spouse cannot come to an agreement, the court will decide, and the court does a good job of making sure that is pretty equal.  If you have wiped out all of the accounts and left your spouse with nothing, it will upset the judge and make you look bad, which might not go over so well for you at a future court date.  If you feel like you need to protect money that is in your bank accounts, contact an attorney immediately to find out how to do so.

3. Don’t go into the marital home after you have moved out and take things without your spouse knowing.  Once you have officially separated, you and your spouse need to agree before you just go back into the home and take items.  If you cannot agree, and it is an item that you need, you can talk to your attorney about how to get the item prior to a final judgement. 

2. Don’t disparage your spouse in front of the children.  No matter how hurt you are or what your spouse has done, even if it is illegal, he or she is still the parent of your children.  Nothing will ever change that.  And your children will love their parent, as they should.  If you think, even if rightly so, that your spouse is being a horrible parent, your children do not need to hear that from you.  If you can’t say anything nice, just don’t say anything at all.  One day, your children will figure it all out on their own. And they will love you and appreciate you more for it.

1. Don’t think of the children as “my” children and that your way is the only way. The children are both you and your spouse’s children.  And the court is presumptively going to give you and your spouse shared parental responsibility.  There is probably no way around that, unless you can prove that your spouse is somehow unfit.  It is best that you figure out a way to get along and to find a way to raise the children together.  Understand that in most cases, the court will order a parenting plan that puts both parents in the children’s lives.  So get used to it.  And read this article.

If you are in need of a family law attorney, contact Heather Bryan Law online or call 863-825-5309. 


Thursday, May 4, 2017

Think Before You Post

Documenting our lives on social media has become second nature.  When an event occurs, we immediately take a picture and post it to some sort of social media account.  Most people do not consider the legal consequences of what they put on their social media accounts.

I recently put a meme on Instagram that read, “Dance like no one is watching; email like it may one day be read aloud in a deposition.”  I would apply this quote to all social media outlets.  If you would not want what you are about to post to be read aloud in a deposition or shown to a jury one day in open court, it is probably best not to post it.

The courts have had to rule on privacy issues when it comes to Facebook and other social media outlets.  The trend has been, in federal courts and in Florida, that if you choose to post something on social media, you are waiving your privacy, even if you have your privacy settings set to the most private.  The courts have rationalized that you are putting it out there for the world to see; and therefore, you are waiving your constitutional privacy rights.

For example, if you have been injured in a car accident and are involved in personal injury litigation, defense counsel will more than likely request that you produce all social media pictures from the date of injury to present.  The courts have ruled this request is relevant as it can show whether in fact you are injured.

Courts have issued similar rulings in all types of litigation from family cases to criminal cases.  There must be a finding of relevance, which is not hard to do.

One final piece of advice, if you know you are preparing for litigation, it is a very bad idea, to think, “I need to clean up my social media accounts.”  If you start deleting posts and pictures, you are destroying potential evidence.  This could get you into more trouble, and is potentially illegal.  Keep your accounts to the most secure settings, and just think before you post.

Heather Bryan is an experienced criminal and family lawyer.  Contact us online or call us at 863-825-5309 for your consultation.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Be Careful What You Sign: Protecting Yourself and Your Assets

Sometimes people just sign documents without even reading them.  This practice is a dangerous one, especially when it comes to a power of attorney.

Be wary of general power of attorney documents that give broad power and have no expiration date.  I have seen two situations with horrific outcomes: 1), where a person did not even realize he or she was signing a power of attorney document, as it was done by trickery, and 2), where a person just did not thoughtfully choose the proper person to which to give the power of attorney.  In both situations, the people were stripped of their assets by others they thought they could trust. Both situations could have been prevented.

First and foremost, read everything you sign.  Do not trust anyone, even loved ones and family members when they put something in front of you and tell you they just need your signature. When money is involved, unfortunately people can become selfish.  People can become quite nasty and unrecognizable when it comes to something they think they are owed.

Second, when you need to assign a power of attorney for a specific purpose, limit the document both in scope and time. Some examples may include for the purpose of taking care of certain finances while away on an extended trip or to make health care decisions during a hospital stay.  Consult an experienced attorney to draft this power of attorney document for you and your best interests.  It is ill advised to have the person in which you are giving the power of attorney draft the document.  Finally, sign the document in the presence of witnesses and have it notarized.

If you are in need of a power of attorney, contact us online or call Heather Bryan Law at 863-825-5309 for your consultation.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Premarital Agreements

I have recently been asked a lot about premarital agreements.  I personally have mixed feelings about them.  My optimistic side, that wants to believe in the happy ending, sees them as setting your marriage up for failure.  But then my lawyer side kicks that version of myself right back to reality.

Depending on how you look at the statistics, approximately half of all marriages will end in divorce.  No matter what your hopes and dreams are, you cannot control the marriage or your partner.  It is important to protect yourself and your rights.  I can't help but think of the song by Kanye West, "Gold Digger" as I type.  The lyrics say, "If you ain't no punk holla we want prenup, we want prenup!"  This song happens to be about women, but it is equally applicable to men as well.

As a general rule, premarital agreements are enforceable in Florida.  A well drafted agreement can protect your assets, reduce the potential for litigation, and clearly define your obligations.

Unfortunately, some people find themselves in a situation where they have signed an extremely unconscionable premarital agreement based on the empty promise of forever.  In addition, the spouse did not provide full disclosure of their finances prior to signing the agreement, and the premarital agreement left the other spouse with nothing.  This situation is one where the premarital agreement can be challenged.

If you have questions about premarital agreements, would like to draft a premarital agreement, or need to challenge an unfair premarital agreement, contact Heather Bryan Law online or call us at 863-825-5309 for a consultation.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Time Sharing and Suitcases

Let me preface by saying I am not a child psychologist--I am just a lawyer.

I came across this article in the Huffington Post yesterday and I paused.  In my job, I work with parents who underneath it all, want what is best for their children. But sometimes, because of their own hurt and anger, they get sidetracked and lose sight of that.  This article demonstrates what happens to children when parents lose sight of putting their children first and start nitpicking about material things, such as items of clothing.  Children end up living out of suitcases.    

In Florida, the best interest of the child is always the primary standard used when it comes to determining time-sharing.  Judges will also look to other factors such as:

1. The moral fitness of the parents.

2. The mental and physical health of the parents.

3. The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship, to honor the time-sharing schedule, and to be reasonable when changes are required.

4. The anticipated division of parental responsibilities after the litigation, including the extent to which parental responsibilities will be delegated to third parties.

5. The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to determine, consider, and act upon the needs of the child as opposed to the needs or desires of the parent.

6. The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity.

7. The geographic viability of the parenting plan, with special attention paid to the needs of school-age children and the amount of time to be spent traveling to effectuate the parenting plan. This factor does not create a presumption for or against relocation of either parent with a child.

8. The home, school, and community record of the child.

9. The reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient intelligence, understanding, and experience to express a preference.

10. The demonstrated knowledge, capacity, and disposition of each parent to be informed of the circumstances of the minor child, including, but not limited to, the child’s friends, teachers, medical care providers, daily activities, and favorite things.

11. The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to provide a consistent routine for the child, such as discipline, and daily schedules for homework, meals, and bedtime.

12. The demonstrated capacity of each parent to communicate with and keep the other parent informed of issues and activities regarding the minor child, and the willingness of each parent to adopt a unified front on all major issues when dealing with the child.

If parents are telling the child, "that's Daddy's shirt; make sure that shirt comes back to Daddy's house," or "where are Mommy's shoes? I paid $50.00 for those shoes?," the child will feel like he or she does not have a home.  These statements are definitely not in the child's best interest and do not provide a stable environment.

If you are in the middle of a custody battle and time-sharing is yet to be determined, take a moment to reflect upon the statements you are making when you are sending your child to his or her other home or when it is time for him or her to come back.  Be mindful of calling it Dad's house or Mom's house. Your child will begin to feel like he or she doesn't have a home.

If you are in need of a family lawyer, you need the help of an experienced family law attorney. Contact Heather Bryan Law today at 863-825-5309 for your consultation.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Shared Parental Responsibility


You may have heard the term "shared parental responsibility" when it comes to child custody. This doctrine means that each parent keeps full parental rights and responsibilities with respect to the child and both parents must communicate with each other so that major decisions affecting the welfare of the child will be determined jointly. Examples of decisions that are typically subject to shared parental responsibility include decisions concerning the child's daycare, healthcare, school, education, summer camps, and activities.  A Florida family law attorney would explain that many courts take the view that day-to-day decisions, such as bedtimes, diet, exercise, clothing, and choice of friends, are not subject to shared parental responsibility in normal cases. 

Extreme circumstances regarding certain day-to-day decisions may justify a court getting involved.  Courts frequently take differing views regarding religion, allowing each parent to expose a child to the parent's own religion during that parent's time-sharing.  If a particular type of decision is important to a parent, be sure to include that decision in the parenting plan as one that must be shared by the parents, or conversely be certain that either parent can make the decision during his or her time-sharing.

 In Florida, it is public policy that parents have shared parental responsibility.  A court, when determining parental responsibility for the child, will not have a certain presumption for the mother or father.  The days of courts granting primary decision-making to mothers simply because they are mothers are long-gone.  The court will take many factors into consideration.  The primary factor is always the best interest of the child. 

It is relatively rare for a court to grant sole parental responsibility to either parent.  The court must find that shared parental responsibility would be detrimental to the child.  Frequently, conduct that one parent may consider immoral, harmful, or inappropriate, does not meet the objective standard of being a detriment to the child.  The courts consider the child's relationship with both parents of great importance.

If you a Lakeland divorce lawyer or Polk County family law attorney, get someone with experience by your side. Contact Heather Bryan Law at 863-825-5309 for your consultation.