What Happens After the Loss of Parent?

No matter the circumstances, having a parent pass away is an emotionally challenging time for the whole family. There are additional challenges for children of divorced or separated parents: what will happen now, where will they live, what else is going to change?

Government-Provided Benefits for Children

The United States Social Security Administration provides survivors benefits to unmarried children under the age of 18 and disabled children who were diagnosed before the age of 22. These benefits are calculated based on what the deceased parent would have received in social security upon retirement.

The State of Florida takes special interest regarding children of divorced and single parents to ensure that their day-to-day life remains as stable as possible during a separation. When a parent has passed away the state has also created guidelines regarding child support and custody to prevent additional stress for children and their family.

How is Child Support Affected?

The death of a parent will automatically end the obligation to pay child support for the deceased parent. If that parent failed to make some or all of their child support payments before they passed away, any past-due child support will be the responsibility of the decedent’s estate.

What Happens When the Custodial Parent Passes Away?

If the parent the child primarily resides with has passed away, placing the child with their living parent is the first choice. When the other parent is not available and there is a will in place clearly identifying a guardian, the State of Florida will try to follow those wishes as closely as possible. If there is no will and the other parent is not eligible to care for the child, the State of Florida will try to identify other relatives or close family friends for the child to live with.

Whether the loss of a parent happened suddenly or was due to a long illness it is still an emotionally charged time for children and their families. Knowing what to expect for your children can provide a sense of comfort and is one less thing to stress about.

Why Establishing Paternity Matters

Why Establishing Paternity Matters

According to the CDC, about 40% of children are born to unmarried women. In Florida, the mother of a child born out of wedlock is the natural guardian with sole legal rights in respect to the child unless paternity is established.

So, what is paternity? And how does it affect you as an unmarried father? The definition of paternity according to Merriam-Webster is the “quality or state of being a father.” In Florida, paternity is the court accepted legal fatherhood of a child above and beyond being the biological father. Unless the biological father who is not yet the “legal father” establishes his paternity, he has no rights or obligations to the child.

How do you establish paternity in the eyes of the Florida courts? There is the opportunity to voluntarily establish paternity at birth or after if both sides agree and then sign an acknowledgment of paternity. Paternity can also be established through an administrative or judicial order that utilizes genetic testing to confirm paternity.

So what happens if…

  • You receive a Notice of Proceeding to Establish Administrative Support Order from the Florida Department of Revenue to request child support for a child.

– The Administrative Tribunal is in place to determine paternity as well as order you to pay child support. The Administrative Tribunal does not have the jurisdiction to award you visitation, custody or any other important parental rights.

  • You have a child with a woman who was and is married to another and they are claiming that the child is a product of the marriage and you have no parental rights in regards to the child.

– To protect the child, Florida law requires that every reasonable presumption be made in favor of legitimacy. This means that a child born during a marriage is presumed to be legitimate and the husband is believed to be the father. It can be more difficult to assert parental rights for the biological father in this situation, but not impossible.

Why Should You Establish Paternity?

By determining paternity early, you can avoid issues like the two examples above. Raising children can be an enjoyable and rewarding experience. Establishing paternity provides you with the knowledge that, in the eyes of the Florida courts, your child is not only biologically yours, but also legally – giving you equal rights and responsibilities.

By proving paternity, you have the assurance that you will be able to spend time with your child, no matter the status of your relationship with the mother. You are also an integral part of decision making for matters that involve your child, like health care and education. Aside from the benefit of having their father involved in a child’s life, establishing paternity can also entitle the child to health insurance or government benefits that the father receives.

Whether you need to establish paternity or have any family law concerns, the caring lawyers at LaFrance Law are experienced and skilled at asserting and protecting your parental rights.


Why Do I Need a Divorce Lawyer?

Why Do I Need a Divorce Lawyer?

It can be tempting to forego consulting a lawyer when preparing for a divorce, but representing yourself in any legal matter is not as easy as it may sound. Those who choose to represent themselves in legal procedures without the aid of an attorney are known as “pro se”. Although you have the right to represent yourself in a court of law, many do not understand that choosing to do so means that the courts will expect you to follow the same rules and procedures that an attorney must follow.

Representing yourself in court requires researching precedents on local, state and federal issues relevant to your case that must be followed by Florida judges. Judges are not permitted to give any legal advice, as this may violate the principle of impartiality. Court staff are also restricted from providing legal advice. Even filling out forms is considered legal advice and you will need to seek the assistance of a licensed attorney if you have any questions before submission.

The knowledge of the system is why finding an experienced divorce lawyer is so important. Unfortunately, it is very common to consult with an attorney after the divorce is finalized only to learn that you have given more than you should have or failed to maximize things like time with your children or alimony. The lawyers at LaFrance Law are trained in the various laws and regulations in Florida, including property and debt division, alimony awards, child custody and more. We understand the procedural rules that must be followed when raising issues during the divorce process.

Although the desire to put your divorce behind you as quickly as possible or minimizing legal fees makes representing yourself seem like the best option, you may find yourself in an agreement that you do not fully understand. By finding an experienced lawyer to represent you during your divorce you can avoid mistakes or regrets.

LaFrance Law is familiar with the rules and regulations that the Family and Dependency Courts in the Tampa Bay area expect. We understand that every case calls for a unique approach in order to reach the best possible resolution. Contact us via the sidebar form or by giving us a call at (813) 930-5542.

What happens to the house in a divorce?


What happens to the house during a divorce if you bought it before you were married? Courts in Tampa and throughout Florida apply the principal of equitable distribution when dividing the assets and debts between husbands and wives during a divorce.  Before the assets and debts are equitably divided, it is necessary to first determine what assets and debts are nonmarital and which are marital.  Generally, any asset and debt acquired during the marriage is considered marital and subject to equitable distribution between spouses.  Under certain circumstances there can be exceptions in equitable distribution, these can include inheritance, gifts received by one spouse from someone other than their spouse and assets or debts that existed before the parties were married.

A common issue that can occur is a situation where you or your spouse owned your home prior to the marriage.  Since the home was purchased prior to the marriage, does this mean the other spouse has no interest?  Not necessarily.

  • If the deed to the home now includes both spouses’ names the home will most likely be considered marital property and subject to equitable division.
  • If the deed is only in one name, the unnamed spouse may still have an interest in the residence. If the non-titled spouse spent wages earned after the marriage on the mortgage, then they may have an interest at least to the extent the mortgage was paid down during the marriage. For example, if $10,000 was spent on the mortgage during the marriage, the non-titled spouse could be entitled to receive back half of those funds in an equitable division of the marital assets and debts during the divorce.
  • Also if the home has appreciated in value, either because of market forces or due to the efforts of the non-titled spouse, the non-titled spouse may have an interest in that appreciated value and be entitled to an equitable share of one-half of the appreciated value.
  • Further, if marital income (i.e. wages earned during the marriage) was used to make improvements to the residence, this may create an interest in the home for the non-titled spouse.


But there are no absolutes when dividing assets in a divorce and you should consult with LaFrance Law to discuss your interest in the marital residence or any other issues you may be facing during your divorce.

Divorce Advice: Avoiding Common Mistakes

Most people that have been through a divorce will tell you that during the divorce process they made many mistakes. Some heart-wrenching and some financially costly. The good news is that you can easily avoid many of the most common mistakes that people make. Here are our top mistakes to avoid:  

  1. Leaving a digital trail

It is very easy to get into a “digital” argument with your ex. But, please, don’t do it! This is our TOP mistake to avoid. Anything you write, can be used against you in a court of law. There are many times that people blurt out things in a text or an email that are venomous and beyond what they would voice in an argument. Let me say it again, ANYTHING YOU WRITE CAN BE USED AGAINST YOU. It is not necessarily erased and can be used out of context to set-up support for behavior patterns that your spouse wants to prove.

  1.     Venting on Social Media

A divorce is a time to go MIA on social media. Just like in text messages, all of your posts can be used against you in a court of law. They can be used out context to prove a negative pattern. Don’t post pictures, hateful comments, partying photos, and definitely not your new significant other. Lay low on social media until the divorce is finalized.

  1.      Increased Spending

While you might feel you need a major vacation or new shoes to recover from the stress of the divorce, don’t do it. Increased spending on joint assets does not reflect well in a court of law.  You need to be establishing an air of responsibility and financial stability.

Once your divorce is complete, you will be able to move with more freedom. But until that time, it is best to be smart and avoid these common mistakes.

Top 5 Things To Know For Divorce

If you are going through a divorce and overwhelmed with emotions, please know you are not alone. Divorce is an emotionally trying time for everyone. It can seem overwhelming when first presented with this new reality, or be tempting to take action without actual consideration of the future results.  Here are our top 5 things to know when going through a divorce:


  1. Gather your financial documents.

You should have a good understanding of your finances when you begin the divorce process, as your assets and debts will be taken into account during the divorce proceeding and help determine the outcome of your divorce.  You should have copies of all documents that reflect your assets and debts, such as tax returns, bank account records, retirement statements, pension or retirement funds and investment account records. If you were not responsible for the finances in your house, you will need to take an inventory of your assets and debt — including taking photographs of your home, property, and any valuables you may have inside your home — and request a credit report so you know where you stand financially.   Knowing your financial situation will also help get you started on the right foot once the divorce is granted.


  1. Trust your attorney.

We often turn to our friends when we are going through a difficult situation.  While it may be tempting to rely on the advice of a friend that already went through a divorce, every case is different. While their advice may be well-intentioned, it may not apply to your situation. That is why it is important to hire an experienced divorce attorney.  Your divorce lawyer will know the details your specific case and the laws that apply in your state and present the best options to you.


  1. Be patient, the divorce process can be long and confusing.

Statistics find that the typical divorce lasts one year. While we find many of our clients have closure before that time frame, it is important to keep in mind that the process takes time. Your attorney must follow court procedures which mean you may not get to court immediately. Your lawyer will work diligently to make sure the divorce process moves along as swiftly as possible.


  1. Stop and consider the long term ramifications, and don’t just settle your case for the sake of moving on.

Since the divorce process can be lengthy, many people are simply worn out from the emotional turmoil and seek a quick resolution. Settling your case when are high can lead to regret down the road.. A lawyer can help you make clear-headed decisions that will be more beneficial to you in the long-term.


  1. Don’t go on a spending spree as all assets and debts are shared until during the divorce proceedings.

Assets and debts are mutually shared until you or your spouse files a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. You or your spouse may continue to acquire an interest in any communal assets, even if when you are separated. It’s also equally valid, if you or your spouse incurs debt, you may continue to be exposed to a determination you are responsible for a share of that debt.


It’s important to stay in the moment and not get lost in analyzing the future. Make sure you when you feel scared or anxious to take several deep breaths, knowing you will get through this time.


Top 5 Things To Look For In a Divorce Attorney

There are so many good lawyers in a given county that are all working hard to help people navigate through the laws of their country and state. When you are going through a divorce, it can be overwhelming to determine who is going to be the best lawyer for you. There are several things to consider when choosing a divorce attorney.

  1. Find an attorney that makes you feel comfortable

Googling divorce attorneys will bring you the list of lawyers who have the best websites and most marketing resources, but not necessarily the best lawyer for you. Identifying early in the separation that you need a lawyer will allow you time to seek recommendations. Meet with lawyers to see who you feel most comfortable with and can trust.

  1. Find an attorney that communicates well

Your divorce attorney should return your phone calls and emails promptly and work diligently to move your case along. Your divorce lawyer should be able to explain the laws, the process, the issues, and give you recommendations. You should feel like your input on the issues is acknowledged and taken into consideration.

  1. Find an attorney that is straight forward in billing

You want a lawyer that will be transparent in their billing. Giving you numerous itemized billing statements, so you know the work being done and the money being spent.

  1. Find an attorney that is not afraid of trial

While you will want to complete your divorce as quickly as possible, you want a lawyer who is not afraid to take your case to trial and let the judge rule on issues that you haven’t been able to resolve. A lawyer that tries to force you to settle your case is not a good divorce lawyer.

  1. Be sure to hire an attorney that specializes in Family Law and Marital Divorce

Most lawyers can help you with divorce, but one that specializes has the most relevant knowledge and will know many of the judges.

Getting through this emotionally draining time trusting that you have the support and knowledge of a lawyer by your side, will save you some of the turmoil and heartaches that can accompany messy divorces.

4 Important Financial Divorce Advice You Should Follow At Any Cost

One of the biggest concerns of both parties going through a divorce is what their financial future holds. Moving from a marriage where assets, bank accounts, and debts are shared with a world where it is split in two can be extremely stressful. To ease the financial stress, you must analyze your present finances and then also estimate your future living needs.

Here is how to keep your financial worries low:

  1. Make a list of joint assets, accounts, and liabilities

When you make a list of your joint assets and accounts, ensure that you have access to them with the correct passwords. Knowing all passwords is an important way for you to access accounts.

  1. Establish credit and close the joint accounts

Once you have your list of joint accounts, you need to close them and begin creating your banking and credit accounts, at a new bank than you previously used. Until the divorce papers are signed, those accounts can negatively affect your credit rating and increase your debt.

  1. Figure out what your future expenses will be

Your future expenses list will have everything down from monthly bills to average spend per month for groceries, gas, childcare, etc.

  1. Establish a Cash Emergency Fund

A consideration in the divorce settlement should be in a lump sum emergency cash fund. Your emergency cash fund will give you access to cash when you have an unexpected circumstance like a medical need, a housing repair, etc. It will give you peace of mind knowing that there is some cash available for emergency situations.

Keep in mind that once the divorce papers are signed, you will feel more in control of your finances and cash flow. It is the interim that will require vigilance and organization.

Five Important Things to Do When Filing for Divorce

Ending your marriage is not a decision you enter lightly.  The dissolution of marriage has not just legal repercussions, but emotional side effects as well.  However, if you are thinking about filing for divorce, there are steps you can take to better prepare you for the legal proceedings that will follow.

  1. Know Your Financial Situation: Having a detailed and documented knowledge of your assets, income and expenses will be helpful to you and your legal team as the process moves forward. A record of and access to your financial records, such as bank statements, credit card statements, and tax returns will help your legal team devise a strategic plan for your case.


  1. Update Estate Planning Documents: Update important documents such as wills, trusts, pension documents, and advanced medical directives as soon as possible and make sure to take care of important financial transactions prior to filing for divorce.


  1. Set Money Aside: It is important to set aside money if you are planning to file for divorce and place valuables in a safety deposit box. You never know if your spouse will attempt to freeze your assets or restrict your access to joint bank accounts once divorce proceedings are underway.


  1. Keep a Journal: If child custody needs to be determined during your divorce proceedings – and especially if child custody requests will be challenged during the process – it is a good idea to keep a written journal that demonstrates how involved you are in your children’s daily lives. Keeping a history of your parental involvement can help a judge decide child custody agreements and parental visitation arrangements.


  1. See a Therapist: Divorce can be an emotionally trying and stressful time. Having a safe and confidential space where you can freely share your thoughts and feelings can help you during the divorce process.  Talking to a therapist can help you feel more confident and in control during a divorce.


Being prepared will help you feel more in control of the next phase of your life and how your divorce proceedings will go.

Military Divorce In Florida

Living in Tampa, many of our clients are in the military personnel on assignment at MacDill Air Force Base. We understand the unique challenges that face our military families. While moving every two years might feel exciting at first, after six or seven moves, a marriage can become strained. Deployment and the stress of a military career can take its toll on even the strongest of marriages. Some marriages can’t take the pressure and a divorce is sought. In these cases, a military divorce attorney will help you navigate the laws associated with a military divorce — especially if you have children together.


Florida Statutes address military service and deployment with laws that place emphasis on the best interest of the children while still recognizing the impact military service will have on time sharing.


Devising a time-sharing schedule into the parenting plan is a high priority during a military divorce, especially if one of the parents will be moving. These parenting plans look at the school year with consideration for how weekends, summers, and holidays will be handled. They address future deployments and moves with a detailed future plan in place.


Besides a parenting plan, a military divorce requires an understanding of the child support calculation based on the military member’s income and benefits. Being clear on the equitable distribution of retirement pay, addressing the Survivor Benefit Plan and the possible retention or receipt of this benefit and the allocation of its cost is important.


We can help you through your military divorce. Our main focus is resolutions that bring less disruption to your children’s lives and allow you to co-parent in a way that is best for everyone.