If you are going through an uncontested divorce in Pasco County, Florida, normally the final step is the divorce hearing. Many people wonder if they can avoid a hearing, especially if both spouses agree on all of the issues and have signed all of the necessary paperwork.

Unfortunately, a hearing is required. Both spouses do not have to attend, but at least one spouse must be there for the divorce to be granted. Typically, the Petitioner is the one who attends the hearing. At the hearing, the final divorce order will be signed by the judge.

Fortunately, the hearing is normally very simple. The judge will want to make sure that the residency requirements are met, as well as that the paperwork is in proper order. The judge will want to see the agreement(s) that have been signed by both spouses.

The party who is present at the hearing will be asked basic questions about the marriage, such as whether there were children involved, when the parties were married and how long the marriage lasted, and whether or not the marriage is irretrievably broken.

Although typically uncontested divorce hearings are straightforward, this is not true in all cases. It’s usually better to have a lawyer represent you at the hearing in order to ensure that the process goes smoothly and that the divorce is finalized.

A mistake can cost you not only time but also money, and an experienced family law attorney can advise you on the proper steps to take. If you are in Pasco, Hernando, Pinellas or Hillsborough Counties, call Florida divorce attorney Dale Bernstein at 727-478-3250. He will be happy to speak with you about your case. Call to schedule a consultation.

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Under Florida law, you are allowed to represent yourself in your divorce or alimony proceedings. Fortunately, Florida has family law forms online and at local courthouses throughout the state. However, just because you can legally represent yourself doesn’t mean you should.

If you are seeking to adjust your alimony, either the amount you pay or the amount you receive, it means that you have already gone through a divorce which may have been lengthy and expensive. It’s understandable that you may not want to hire an attorney again.

However, representing yourself is usually not wise. The forms provided for free to the public may appear simple; however, many clients end up using those forms only to spend more money in the long run than they would have spent if they had hired an attorney from the outset of the case. Alimony adjustment is not a simple issue, and there are very specific requirements that must be followed in handling the case.

You will need to introduce evidence showing why the alimony should be adjusted. The stronger your case, the better the odds are that the court will grant you the relief that you are seeking. An attorney can help advise you on the best way to build a strong case.

In addition, although attorney’s fees and court costs may seem high, if you end up losing your case, the amount of alimony that you either miss out on collecting, or that you have to pay, could exceed the attorney’s fees by a great deal. It’s almost always best to hire an attorney in your Florida alimony dispute.

Call Florida alimony attorney Dale Bernstein, at 727-478-3250 to discuss your options. I work in Pasco, Hernando, Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties in Florida, and will be happy to help you learn more about your options.

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How Can You Tell If You’re Ready For A Divorce?

Although I am a divorce attorney and not a psychologist, I work on a daily basis with clients who are divorcing. Some clients aren’t quite sure if they want to divorce, but they want to discuss their legal options before they make any decision. Other clients are completely sure they want to divorce, and need an attorney’s help with the process. Some clients do not want a divorce at all, but their spouse has filed for divorce, and they seek my legal guidance with the process.

If you are not sure if you truly want a divorce, ask yourself if you have tried everything possible to save your marriage. If you are willing to work towards a better marriage, and your spouse is willing to put in the work too, the odds are good that the marriage can be saved. You should also consider how the divorce will affect the entire family, especially the kids, but also your parents and your siblings. Divorce can affect everyone in an extended family.

You should also consider what your life will be like without being married to your spouse. You need to think about the fact that you will be alone, and that there’s a chance that your life could actually become worse. Although you shouldn’t stay in a miserable marriage just for money, there’s a good chance that you will be worse off financially after a divorce. It’s easy to fantasize about a great future once your spouse is gone, but is that realistic?

If it’s possible that your marriage can be saved, do not hastily file for divorce. Instead, attempt to work things out. If, however, the marriage cannot be saved, hire an experienced Florida divorce attorney to help you receive the assets, alimony, child support, and child custody rights to which you are entitled under Florida law.

I work in the divorce courts in Pasco, Hernando, Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties in Florida. Call me, Florida divorce attorney Dale Bernstein, at 727-478-3250 to discuss your case.

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A pension earned during a marriage is a typically considered a joint asset of both spouses in a Florida divorce. A Florida divorce court will decide how and whether pensions are divided. If a court does decide to divide a pension in a divorce, it usually must be done at the time of the divorce when all of the other assets are being divided.

Typically, pension rights, either vested or unvested, are split equally between the parties. However, if you want to withdraw them early, it can be a complex process to try to avoid facing penalties and/or additional taxes because of the early withdrawal.

In order for the pension benefits to be paid directly to divorced spouses, the court order dividing the pension must meet certain requirements. If it does meet those requirements, it is called a Qualified Domestic Relations Order, or QDRO. Typically, payments can be made for the lifetime of the employee, and also after death.

In some state, city, and county retirement plans, they are forbidden from making payments directly to a former spouse. Dividing a pension can be complicated and the rules can vary a lot, depending on the circumstances and when the divorce occurred. Many couples who are divorcing overlook the pension, with retirement being far into the future.

However, pensions are worth fighting for – aside from the house, retirement assets are usually the largest asset in a marriage. If a spouse forgets to fight for a part of his or her ex-spouse’s retirement plan during the divorce, he or she can’t try to claim a part of it later.

If you are divorcing in Florida and you have questions about your right to a spouse’s pension, call Florida divorce attorney Dale Bernstein at 727-478-3250. He works in Pasco, Hernando, Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties in Florida and will be happy to speak with you about your case.

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In most cases in which alimony is awarded in Florida, the alimony is awarded in periodic payments. That means that the alimony is paid in a certain amount at regular intervals, such as monthly, weekly, bi-weekly, quarterly, etc. This is what I see most often in Pasco County or Hernando County.

Lump sum alimony is the payment of alimony in one or several payments. Any type of alimony can be awarded in a lump sum, including permanent, durational, and bridge-the-gap. One limitation on lump sum alimony is that it can’t be used to satisfy any debts between the spouses.

In order for lump sum alimony to be awarded, there must be a showing of unusual circumstances that would require the alimony to be paid in a lump sum, as well as a showing of need and the ability to pay in a lump sum.

Some cases in which lump sum alimony may be appropriate would be if the payor spouse had the funds to pay the alimony in a lump sum and was proven to be very unreliable in the past, if there was a history of one spouse wasting assets, or if the parties hated each other to such an extent that it would be in the best interest of both to have no further contact in the future.

With periodic payments of alimony, if there’s a change in the financial circumstances of either or both parties, they can go to court to have the alimony modified. Obviously, if the alimony is paid in a lump sum amount, the parties cannot go back to court later to try to have it adjusted because of a change in circumstances. Therefore, lump sum alimony is much less common than periodic payment alimony.

In some cases, lump sum alimony may be appropriate. If you believe that lump sum alimony is appropriate in your situation, call your Florida divorce attorney to learn more about your options.

If you are in Pasco, Hernando, Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties, call Florida alimony attorney Dale Bernstein at 727-478-3250. He can help walk you through your options. Call today.

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It can be extremely frustrating when a former spouse fails to pay the alimony owed. This is especially true if the spouse has the money or assets with which to pay the alimony, but simply chooses not to. If your spouse is refusing to pay you alimony that you are owed, there are a variety of legal processes you can use to enforce the alimony award.

In Florida, one of the processes you may choose to use is a Writ of Execution. Using a Writ of Execution means getting the sheriff’s office to seize and sell the property of the non-paying spouse. You can use a Writ of Execution for a variety of different types of property. However, some assets are exempt from seizure, which includes your former spouse’s home. Some types of property that can be seized in Florida include buildings, land, cars, boats, or personal property such as jewelry.

Using a Writ of Execution can be expensive and time consuming. You will pay money up front for your attorney (if you use one), to the sheriff’s office, a fee for moving and storing the property, and the cost of the sale. You will only get your money once the items are sold. Usually, it’s best to use another way to collect alimony, such as wage garnishment, if at all possible, but in some cases a Writ of Execution is the best or only way to collect unpaid alimony. This is particularly true if your former spouse owns a lot of valuable personal property.

Is your former spouse refusing to pay alimony? Does he or she have a lot of personal property that could be sold in order to pay the alimony? Call Florida divorce attorney Dale Bernstein at 727-478-3250. He works with divorce clients in Pasco, Hernando, Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties, and will be happy to help you with your alimony and alimony enforcement issues. Call to learn more.

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If you changed your name when you got married, and now are getting a divorce, you may be anxious to change your name back to your maiden name or another previous name you used. The easiest way to change your name in Florida is to have the issue placed in your divorce decree.

If it is, the divorce decree is your proof of the name change, and you will use it to change your driver’s license, social security card, etc.

If the name change is not in your divorce decree, contact the attorney who handled your divorce to see what can be done. If you did the divorce yourself or don’t wish to contact your attorney, contact the court in which your divorce was handled to ask if the decree can be amended to include a name change.

If it can’t, you will need to file a petition for a name change. This involves getting fingerprinted, signing a name change petition in front of a notary, and filing those documents with the Clerk of Court in your county. Later, you will attend a hearing, a judge should sign an order granting the name change, and you will personally use that paperwork to change your name on your driver’s license, your social security card, your bank, and anywhere else that you wish to change your name.

It’s much easier (and cheaper) to change your name in the divorce decree. An experienced attorney will help you with that issue, as well as many others, that could save you a great deal of time and money in the future.

If you are seeking help with your divorce in Pasco, Hernando, Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties in Florida, call Florida divorce attorney Dale Bernstein at 727-478-3250. He is an experienced divorce and family law attorney who can help with your divorce issues, including alimony, child support, property division, and other issues. Call to set up a consultation.

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Alimony pendente lite is alimony that is paid after a couple separates until the divorce is final. Divorces can take months or even years in some cases, and one spouse may need alimony during that period. That spouse can request alimony pendente lite.

Alimony pendente lite lasts until the divorce is over. However, a spouse cannot drag out the divorce for the purposes of prolonging the alimony. In order to receive alimony pendente lite, a spouse must ask the court during the divorce proceedings. The court will look at the issues it usually considers when determining whether to award other forms of alimony, such as the length of marriage, the standard of living during the marriage, the assets and income of both spouses, and other issues.

It’s important that if you are divorcing, you ask for all assets to which you are entitled. If you believe you are entitled to alimony pendente lite, it’s important to seek it, not only to help paying your current bills, but also because alimony pendente lite often becomes the alimony that is awarded in the divorce settlement. If you receive a high amount of alimony pendente lite, it is more likely that you will receive a higher amount of alimony when the divorce is finalized.

Spouses may choose to agree on a voluntary amount of alimony pendente lite instead of it being determined by the court. In lieu of alimony pendente lite, the spouse with the higher income and assets may simply agree to pay certain expenses until the divorce is finalized. Alimony pendente lite could also be used for paying legal fees.

If you have questions about alimony pendente lite in Florida, call Florida divorce attorney Dale Bernstein at 727-478-3250. Dale Bernstein works with clients in Pasco, Hernando, Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties, and can help you with your legal issues. Call to learn more about your legal situation and options.

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For many people in Pasco Couty or Hernando County, their 401(k) or IRA is their largest asset, or their largest asset besides their home. They are often worried about protecting the retirement account in the event of a divorce. If you aren’t married yet, the best way to protect your 401(k) is using a prenuptial agreement. A prenuptial agreement covers what will happen to your assets in the event of a divorce. A prenup can specify that the 401(k) is your separate property in the event you get divorced.

If you are already married and don’t have a prenuptial agreement, and you are contemplating divorce, there are some steps you can take to protect that prenuptial account. You should consider discontinuing contributions to your 401(k) as soon as possible after you decide you wish to divorce. If you continue making 401(k) contributions and the divorce drags on for months or even years, the money that you are currently contributing could end up in the pocket of your spouse.

You should also fight for your 401(k) in the divorce. If you had a substantial amount in your 401(k) before you were married, fight to retain that portion for yourself, and consider dividing up only the portion that was contributed after your marriage. Keep your 401(k) records so that you can show how much the account was worth before you got married.

Careful planning before your marriage, or if you are already married, before your divorce, can help protect your 401(k) from your spouse’s claims. If you are interested in protecting your 401(k) in the event of a divorce, call Florida divorce attorney Dale Bernstein at 727-478-3250. He helps clients fight for their 401(k)’s in Pasco, Hernando, Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties. Call today to learn more.

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There is a lot of confusion among the general public about what an annulment is. Many people connect annulments with churches. Religious annulments can only be granted by members of the clergy or churches and don’t affect a person’s legal status. Civil annulments are legal and binding on the individuals involved.

An annulment is different from a divorce, although the end result is the same – the marriage is over. In a divorce, a marriage ends an existing marriage. In an annulment, a relationship that everyone believed was a marriage is proven to not be a marriage at all. An annulled marriage is legally considered to have never existed at all.

Florida law doesn’t explicitly provide for annulments. However, Florida courts have issued decisions about annulments that are binding. In Florida, some grounds for annulment include:

  • One spouse was underage and lacked parental consent;
  • One or both spouses got married as a joke;
  • One spouse is impotent and the other spouse was unaware of the impotence;
  • One of the spouses lied in order to trick the other into getting married;
  • One of the spouses lacked the mental ability to enter into a marriage because of a mental problem or drugs or alcohol;
  • The spouses were of the same sex;
  • The marriage is bigamous or incestuous; and
  • One of the spouses is permanently mentally incapacitated.

In order to get an annulment, annulment papers must be filed in a Florida court, and the process is fairly similar to a divorce. However, annulments are often harder to get than divorces, because there is a higher burden of proof that the parties must show. The court will decide about child support, custody and visitation in an annulment case. The court also has the power to grant temporary alimony in annulment cases. Permanent alimony is not ordinarily awarded in annulment cases, but it can be.

If you are interested in an annulment or divorce in Florida, call Florida alimony attorney Dale Bernstein. He can be reached at 727-478-3250. He is a qualified divorce attorney and works with clients in Pasco, Hernando, Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties. Call our team today to learn more.

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