How to File for Divorce in Florida

You can learn how to file for divorce and do it yourself if you and your partner agree to an uncontested divorce. The “Simplified Dissolution of Marriage” makes it possible to get divorced in as little as 30 days without the added expenses of divorce attorneys.

The filing of divorce papers can seem a bit daunting or confusing, and the government’s website does not always simplify the process. The attorneys at Brodzki Jacobs & Brook can help you navigate the process with simplified instructions for how to file for divorce in Florida.

You can start by looking at the checklist below to ensure you meet the requirements for a do-it-yourself divorce:

  • One spouse is a Florida resident with a minimum of six months residency
  • You both agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken
  • Both partners agree to the divorce and all terms
  • There are no children under 18 or dependent children, and no one is pregnant
  • No alimony is involved
  • Both parties agree to waive all rights to a trial or appeal

What Forms Are Necessary When Filing for a Simplified Divorce?

Divorce advice can be invaluable. Before filing, you may wish to speak with a divorce attorney to ensure that all necessary forms are properly completed in a timely fashion.

The necessary documents that must be filed when beginning the process of filing for divorce include:

  • Petition for Simplified Dissolution of Marriage signed by both parties
  • Civil Cover Sheet for Family Law Cases
  • Written Settlement Agreement (or parties may choose only a verbal agreement, or choose to keep their written agreement private and not filed with the Court at their option)

How and Where Do I File for Divorce?

You will file for divorce in the county in Florida in which you reside. The first step in the process is the completion of the “Petition for Simplified Dissolution of Marriage.” The individual who files the papers will be referred to as the “petitioner.” The spouse is the “respondent.”

You may download and complete online divorce papers before filing them with the court. Include your name and address, spouse name and address, residency statement, and statement of the fact that the marriage is irretrievably broken with your petition.

Since Florida is a no-fault state, divorce laws do not require a reason for the dissolution of the marriage. All that is required is stating that the marriage is irretrievably broken. The other grounds for the divorce is the mental incapacitation of one spouse for at least three years.

After you and your partner have discussed and agreed to all terms of the divorce, you will prepare a signed settlement agreement that details any and all debt and property division, or you may have only a verbal agreement if you choose. It is always advisable to put even the simplest agreements in writing, signed by both parties. However, you are not required to file a written agreement with the court and you may elect to keep even a written agreement private.

The local circuit court clerk in your county of residence can provide exact instructions for how to file for divorce. The divorce petition you present to the court must be signed and notarized, and you will pay the filing fee at that time. Always keep copies of the petition for you and your partner. Every Circuit in Florida participates in an electronic filing system, which can be found at www.myflcourtaccess.com.

Getting divorced does not have to be difficult, but you must be aware of a few facts. Once you file the divorce papers with the court, they cannot be changed without Court permission. That is why we recommend having a divorce attorney, or at least a registered paralegal, look over your forms before filing. The small expense up front can save thousands of dollars in the long run if you make a mistake that a lawyer must later be hired to fix.

If you contemplate getting a divorce, we can help. Whether you are looking for a simplified, do-it-yourself divorce or require the services of an attorney, Brodzki Jacobs & Brook is here to provide answers to your questions. Contact us at (954) 344-7737.

Power of Attorney: Do You Need One?

While not everyone needs a durable power of attorney, most people can benefit from having one. Why is a POA important? It ensures that someone whom you trust can handle your affairs and act on your behalf if you should become incapacitated or unable to take action at a designated time.

Individuals over the age of 18 are considered legal adults. They can sign legal documents and conduct their own business. Many situations can arise in life where you would want someone to hold a power of attorney for you, including:

  • If you are a single parent, you will want to assign someone to hold the POA for your finances and legal matters if you become incapacitated or are out of town when something arises that must be dealt with immediately.
  • Married individuals who own sole property or assets will want someone to have power of attorney to handle their affairs if they are not able.
  • Young adults who are at college or travel away from home may require someone to handle their affairs while gone.
  • Military personnel should assign power of attorney to someone who can conduct their transactions while they are away, or in the case of incapacitation.

No Power of Attorney – Now What?

In situations when you do not have a power of attorney in place prior to an incident occurring where you are unable to appoint one, the court will designate a guardian or conservator to handle your affairs.

The outcome of this arrangement may not be as you would like. If you are incapacitated, you have no way of designating how you want things to be handled. Your affairs become public knowledge. A power of attorney is a contingency document that is valid only in during your lifetime.

Do not mistake a will for a POA. A will does not go into effect until after your death. The power of attorney is no longer valid after you die. At that time, the executor of your estate takes over.

If you are married and hold joint ownership with your spouse on bank accounts, property, and stocks, he or she will handle any transactions if you are unable. Sole property requires you to set up a POA in advance to conduct any necessary transactions.

Setting Up a Power of Attorney in Florida

We always recommend that you speak with an attorney to ensure that you get the necessary coverage when setting up a power of attorney. Online forms and other templates can satisfy legal requirements but may not provide the coverage you need.

Trust is a crucial factor when selecting someone to be your power of attorney. Remember, that person will have unrestricted access to your bank accounts, house, personal property, securities, and business.

You will want to contact all investment companies, banks, and other institutions you conduct business with to ensure that any POA you enact will be honored. You may be required to fill out in-house forms at these institutions.

Please contact Coral Springs attorneys Brodzki Jacobs & Brook to evaluate your personal needs and estate planning. We are here to provide answers to your questions. Contact us at (954) 344-7737.

USCIS Recall of 8,543 Green Cards with Incorrect Date Printing

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced on May 14, 2018, that it would recall the green cards of 8,543 permanent residents due to a printing error. The cards in question contain an erroneous “Resident Since” date that could cause affected individuals to wait longer than they should to apply for U.S. citizenship. The USCIS recall of 8.543 green cards affects cards mailed between February and April 2018.

Here are the facts you need to know about the USCIS recall of 8.543 green cards:

  • The affected cards were issued to spouses of U.S. citizens who used Form I-751 – the petition to remove the conditions of residence.
  • Notices of the recall will be sent from the USCIS to affected green card holders and their attorneys of record (if they have one).
  • A prepaid envelope will be provided to return the card for reissue.
  • You may also visit a USCIS field office to return your recalled green card.
  • Return your card to USCIS within 20 days of receiving the notice.
  • A corrected replacement green card will be issued within 15 days of USCIS receiving the incorrect card.
  • The USCIS recall of 8.543 green cards will not impact residency status.
  • If you are planning travel outside the US during that time, please call the USCIS Contact Center at (800) 375 – 5283 to see if additional proof is required.
  • Impacted individuals can schedule an appointment with a local USCIS field office to receive a passport stamp for travel and proof of status of lawful permanent residence.
  • Keep the USCIS recall of 8.543 green cards letter as further proof of lawful residence.

The incorrect dates on the recalled green cards can extend the application for naturalization of spouses of U.S. citizens. Eligible to apply for naturalization is following three years of permanent residency. Additional requirements must also be met.

For additional information or help, please contact Coral Springs attorneys Brodzki Jacobs & Brook to discuss your options. We are here to provide answers to your questions. Contact us at (954) 344-7737.

13-Step Estate Planning Checklist

If you have never considered estate planning, now is the time. You never know what tomorrow will bring. For that very reason – you must be prepared for the unimaginable.

Our estate planning checklist provides you with action steps you need to take now to ensure that your loved ones are protected if something should happen to you.

Think for a minute about all the ways you already protect your family. You have insurance for your home, car, and health. Perhaps you also have a life insurance policy in place to provide for their needs.

Now you need to plan for what the future would look like without you, as hard as that may be. Whether you have millions in stocks, funds, and bank accounts, or just a few pieces of jewelry you wish to pass on, you need to get it all in writing.

What happens if you do not preplan for the unexpected?

Anything you have could end up in the wrong hands through intestacy. What is intestacy? Intestate distribution occurs when you do not have a will stipulating where your property will go at the time of your death. At that time, the court will appoint an executor of estate, and all your assets could be frozen by the court until the case is settled. Estate planning is crucial to protect your loved ones.

Your 13-Step Estate Planning Checklist

Our 13-step estate planning checklist will help you get all your affairs in order – long before you need to worry about them.

  1. Will – this legal document details the beneficiaries of your property and assets. A Will also directs who you wish to care for your children in the event neither parent is alive.
  2. Living Will – here you make the decision ahead of time what life-saving measures you agree to implement should you become incapacitated. The living will states your wishes regarding the use of life-sustaining measures when you cannot speak on your behalf. You may also want a “do not resuscitate (DNR) form if you do not want cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if your heart stops beating or you are not breathing.
  3. Designation of Health Care Surrogate – as with the living will, this document provides for a situation when you cannot state your own You will name the person or persons who will make your healthcare decisions on your behalf.
  4. Beneficiary Designations – although you may have already provided beneficiary names on your bank accounts, IRAs, 401 (k) plans, and life insurance policies, situations can change. You want to review and update your beneficiary designations regularly. Life-changing events such as the birth of a child, marriage, divorce, or death can necessitate the updating of beneficiaries so that the assets transfer upon your death.
  5. Revocable Living Trust – this trust allows you to make changes or cancel the trust during your lifetime. A trust enables you to avoid probate, designate disposition of assets, and keep your affairs private.
  6. Irrevocable Trust – consider this trust that eliminates your control of the assets if you are concerned about Medicaid and tax planning. You cannot make changes or cancel an irrevocable trust while you are alive.
  7. Life Insurance – provides financial security to your designated loved ones upon your death. Life insurance can help cover debts, final expenses, and assist with estate tax planning.
  8. Durable Power of Attorney – provides for a designated agent to handle your financial affairs, such as signing tax returns, paying bills, and selling assets if you are unable to act on your own
  9. Estate Tax Plan – by speaking with a certified public account or financial advisor, you can avoid federal estate taxes after your death.
  10. Business Succession Plan – have a written plan to transition your business operations and ownership upon your retirement or unexpected incapacity or death.
  11. Funeral Expenses – at some point, everyone will need this. The reason to prepare and plan for this in advance is to save your loved ones the expense and stress that accompany these plans at the time of death.
  12. Document Storage – keep all documents in a safe, secure place, alerting someone as to where these documents are stored. Always destroy old, outdated documents to avoid conflict, hurt feelings, and litigation.
  13. Digital Footprint – you likely have many online or digital accounts. Keep all passwords and login information in a secure place. Provide the location of this information to someone who can act to cancel all accounts upon your death.

Please contact Coral Springs attorneys Brodzki Jacobs & Brook to discuss your estate planning options. We are here to provide answers to your questions. Contact us at (954) 344-7737.

Dying Without a Will: What You Need to Know

We know you do not want to think about death and dying – no one does. Unfortunately, death is as much a fact of life as living. It is essential to understand the consequences of dying without a will, and what it can mean for your family.

At the end of life, there are potential debts that must be paid and assets and property to distribute. If you do not have a will, your estate will go into probate court, and a judge will appoint an executor for your estate, and a statue will direct the division of your assets.

If you die without a valid will, you have no say in how your estate is divided, and who gets what. You can control what happens after your death by contacting an attorney to prepare a will.

Consequences of Dying Without a Will

If you are a parent, the consequences of dying without a will could be dire for your children. As much as we plan to be there for our children, unfortunate accidents do happen. What would happen to your children if both parents were to die suddenly?

If you do not designate a guardian for your children, the other legal parent will be given full legal rights upon your death. When both legal parents die, a guardian must be appointed, which can be provided for in a will. Without this designation, the court will intervene and select a family member or foster parent to care for the child. It is important to plan around these circumstances to prevent your child from being placed into a home that you would otherwise not select.

Dying without a will can also impact your home. Today, couples do not always marry. If you live together, and your home is in the name of only one person, your partner will not have the first claim on the property. Children, parents, and siblings typically have first legal right to any solely owned property unless stated otherwise in a will. Each state has interstate succession laws that often give the property to one’s closest living relatives. The spouse and children of the deceased usually come first in the succession line, followed by parents and siblings.

If you do not have a will, you also risk future family disputes. Money can make enemies out of loved ones. By establishing a will, you are putting your wishes into effect after you pass. This also includes specifying who will get what belongings. One person explained how her father wished for his watch to go to his best friend, but since it was not in a will, there was no recourse when another family member took it. A single item such as this may seem petty to some people, but for others, it holds great importance.

Why Does Dying Without a Will Costs More Money?

If you die without a will, chances are you have not made other important end-of-life preparations. This includes funeral and cemetery expense which usually cost more at the time of need rather than by pre-planning. There is also an emotional toll on loved ones who now must deal with a funeral as well as their loss.

Another financial aspect of dying without a will is higher tax burdens and fees that could be avoided by preplanning. If there are legal challenges to your estate, the proceedings could drag on for years. The legal costs could eat away at the estate you want to leave to your loved ones.

Even if you do not believe you have assets necessary to protect, you should speak with an attorney for guidance. The result of death without a will could have far-reaching ramifications that you may not have considered.

Wherever you live in South Florida, please call Coral Springs attorneys Brodzki Jacobs & Brook to discuss your options. We are here to provide answers to your questions. Contact us at (954) 344-7737.

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