Latest News – Ayo and Iken was last modified: May 11th, 2017 by Howard Iken

Latest News – Ayo and Iken

Ayo and Iken Expanding in Pasco County


Ayo and Iken is proud to announce our expansion in the Pasco County area.  We have begun preparations on our new office at 4807 US Hwy 19 and expect to move our client service department within the next few weeks.  After that we will carefully plan to move our New Port Richey legal team in a way that minimizes inconvenience to our clients.

The New Port Richey office was our first location in what has become almost a state-wide law firm. We opened our office in 2005 at what is still our current location – just across the street from the West Pasco Government Center.  Over the years our firm has grown. The number of cases and clients went up significantly. It became a constant challenge working out of the same space.  Our attorneys and support team were very creative and made the best of the space we had.

The new Pasco County office will feature expanded meeting space for clients, trial preparation areas, improved file storage, and the potential for further expansion.  We will be moving to a space that is over four times the size of our original space.  Not only will the expanded space allow us to better serve our clients but it also will make us proud to see our firm name prominently displayed as the anchor tenant in the building !

Ayo and Iken NPR

Ayo and Iken Christmas Party – 2016

It is that time again. The legal team at Ayo and Iken gathered with each other and their families to celebrate the holidays. During this time we take a momentary break from the stress and sacrifices of helping our clients.

The firm gave various awards for dedicated service to clients and our community. Melinda Radebaugh received our Rising Star award, Allison Belcher received the Loyalty, Dedication, Team award, and Dionne Thompson received the Above and Beyond Award. Longtime team members Kristal Knox and Karen Trussell received awards recognizing their many years of service.

We had a great time, shared stories, and showed recognition to everyone at Ayo and Iken.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from the Ayo and Iken legal team !

Ayo and Iken Holiday Party 2016

Island of Palau Featured in Latest Ayo and Iken Case

Our Ayo & Iken Attorney Jennifer Schulte is in the news for her role in tirelessly representing the mother of a runaway teen. The case of 17-year-old Aage Jorgensen drew international headlines early this year and again this week in the Sun Sentinel newspaper.

Aage’s case grabbed interest internationally after authorities said his father, an attorney then practicing in South Florida, kicked Aage out of his car on a highway side during an argument. The father was eventually arrested on a charge of abandoning the then 16-year-old boy, but prosecutors declined to move forward. Aage later was found in March sleeping in a Vero Beach hotel stairwell and taken into custody. That same day the boy escaped from Florida Department of Children and Families custody and remained missing for months.

Aage’s tragic disappearance left his mother and Schulte’s client, Nestralda, suffering in anguish from her distant homeland of Palau, a group of islands in the North Pacific Ocean, southeast of the Philippines. Nestralda had not seen Aage since his father took him from Palau as an infant without her consent.

A tear-filled but short-live reunion with our client would, however, ensue as security found Aage in July on the campus of Daytona State College trying to get in a window, bringing police to arrest him on a burglary charge. This time Nestralda came to the United States and was allowed to see her son for the first time since he was a toddler. A tearful courtroom embrace marked the day.

“It was an incredibly emotional moment,” Attorney Schulte recalled.

A judge then released Aage to his mother and he agreed to go Palau to live with her. But in another gut-wrenching turn he again ran away during a layover in Denver, Colorado, forcing our client to return to her homeland with the terrible reality that her son had again disappeared. Attorney Jennifer Schulte will be continuing her work advocating for the mother, still residing on the island of Palau.

Island of Palau

Court Extends Same Sex Parental Rights

Our New Port Richey Attorney Allison Belcher has won a major victory in the cutting edge legal area of same-sex marriage in Florida by securing parental rights for our client Kristen Ruckey. In an Oct. 11 order, Pasco County Circuit Judge Alicia Polk ruled that Ruckey is the legal parent of her two children, who were born of a legal same-sex marriage in 2010, in Connecticut. The case is a first in Florida and breaks legal ground as follows:

After Ruckey married her partner, they moved to Florida and had two children in 2010 and 2012 through a sperm donor, before the courts ruled same-sex marriage legal. This year a divorce action began and Ruckey’s partner took their two children, ages 6 and 4, and refused to give our client access to them or knowledge of their whereabouts. Ruckey’s partner then filed a motion saying our client had no right to the children because she is not the biological mother, is not on the birth certificate, and did not legally adopt the children.

Attorney Allison Belcher argued Ruckey has rights to the children just as any other parent would of a legal marriage. Judge Polk agreed and outlined how groundbreaking these issues are in the courts calling it a “very new area of law.”

Polk wrote the mother “argues that the children are not born of the marriage because she is the one that gave birth to the children and there is no way that she and the mother, Kristen, were able to conceive a child. This argument fails. There are several heterosexual couples that are unable to conceive for several different reasons.”

The judge then picks up on Attorney Belcher’s main thrust in arguing for Ruckey’s rights: “This is arguably the same as when one party of the marriage has an affair and becomes pregnant by the third party. Case law is very clear that even in those circumstances, the biological father does not have standing with regard to his biological child because the child was born of an intact marriage,” Polk wrote.

Next up will be a hearing during which our attorneys will be arguing an emergency motion filed by Attorney Belcher for Ruckey to at last see her children. We will keep you posted.

What We Have Been Up To – Ayo and Iken

In this recap of a busy September for Ayo & Iken, we will take you through the many facets of what our attorneys have been up to from New Port Richey to Tampa and Orlando. Our attorneys handled a groundbreaking same-sex marriage case, a heartbreaking case of a child runaway, fought to protect an abused child, and taken on a case that has international implications. Our attorneys will also discuss future cases, some legal trends they are spotting, and offer a little advice in dealing with domestic violence injunctions. Allison Belcher will give an update on a same sex marriage case involving unique custody issues. Jennifer Schulte will weigh in on a case with international consequences.  Beth Clause and Jeana Vogel will share a case that spans two continents . And Jason Ponder chimed in on a case that involves protecting the rights and safety of a child.

Are other attorneys will give a heads up on the latest legal trends.

Here’s an in-depth look at what our legal team has been up to:  Read More

Ayo and Iken’s Dionne Thompson Going the Extra Mile

Our accounting manager Dionne Thompson has been put in “jail” to fight for a great cause. She is taking part in the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s “Lock-Up” drive and the firm of Ayo & Iken is stepping up to bail her out. It is going to take $3,500 to get her out of the clink and with the already numerous donations from us, we are going to get there.

Dionne is in high spirits as she sits in her cell knowing that all of our generous donations will be going to such a worthy cause. Thanks so much to our wonderful “jailbird” Dionne, as the MDA calls those that lend their time to help. Our firm is committed to getting Dionne out of jail for a great cause.

Please note below is the MDA’s mission statement. It is something we should all strive to help: MDA is leading the fight to free individuals — and the families who love them — from the harm of muscular dystrophy, ALS and related muscle-debilitating diseases that take away physical strength, independence and life. We use our collective strength to help kids and adults live longer and grow stronger by finding research breakthroughs across diseases, caring for individuals from day one and empowering families with services and support in hometowns across America.

Dionne Thompson

Howard Iken Interviewed on Bay News 9

“I believe the consequences of a minor violation, such as possession of marijuana, have far reaching consequences, a lot more than it did years ago and everyone has the potential to take away your job prospects, ruin your career, ruin your future,” he said. “And now it’s worse than ever because of the Internet any minor violation, anything, is now spread across the Internet you can’t escape it, and in the case of marijuana, it’s far over proportional to what the person actually did.”


Ayo and Iken Opens St. Petersburg Office

The Law Firm of Ayo and Iken has expanded once again.  We are pleased to announce the opening of our St Petersburg office. The office will be located in downtown St. Petersuburg in the Plaza Tower. We have always felt our firm has underserved the South Pinellas area.  We are also pleased to announce the addition to our firm of an attorney that has several decades of roots in the St. Petersburg area. Attorney Claudia Blackwell will be heading our efforts in this new office. Ms. Blackwell is well known to attorneys and judges in the PInellas courts. She also has deep ties to the community. We welcome Ms. Blackwell to our firm!

Ayo and Iken St Petersburg FL

Ayo and Iken Attorney Retained for Controversial Criminal Case


Attorney Zonald Spinks and and team consisting of Jennifer Schulte, Bruce Pzepis, and Allison Belcher have been retained to defend a client on charges of leaving the scene of an accident with serious bodily injury, and DUI with serious bodily injury. The situation has been highlighted on the news in west central Florida for the last three months.

Ayo and Iken Attorney Defends Grandparents Rights


Ayo & Iken Orlando Attorney Jason Ponder is on the cutting legal edge in seeking child visitation rights for two grandparents based on a new law signed by Florida Gov. Rick Scott in July.

Our clients have been cut off from communication with their 3-year-old granddaughter since the death of their daughter. The child’s father, fought an initial petition for visitation filed on behalf of our clients, but Attorney Ponder has since filed an amended petition based on the new law signed by Scott that is sure to be a groundbreaking legal battle in Florida.

Ponder’s petition argues that the father’s past cocaine conviction and a traffic citation of driving 105 mph in a 55 mph zone poses a “substantial threat to the minor child’s safety and welfare.” Ponder’s petition also notes that our clients granddaughter lived in their care until she was 2-years-old and the abrupt end to their visitation emotionally harmed the young child. It also states that the father, during that time, played no role in the child’s life. The amended petition leans on the new law’s parameters:

“A grandparent of the minor child whose parents are deceased, missing, or in a persistent vegetative state, or whose one parent is deceased, missing, or in a persistent vegetative state and whose other parent has been convicted of a felony or offense of violence evincing behavior that poses a substantial threat of harm to the minor child’s health or welfare, may petition the Court for court-ordered visitation with the grandchild.”

This case is likely to be one of the first tests of the new grandparents visitation law in Florida as the father’s attorney has not only filed for a denial of our amended petition, but for the court to also throw out the new law entirely as violating the Constitution. A hearing is set for Dec. 7.

For more information on this groundbreaking case contact Attorney Jason Ponder at  407-901-4507

grandparents rights in florida

Univision Interviews Alberto Ayo


Attorney Alberto Ayo gives his legal opinion on a particularly abusive situation regarding an undocumented immigrant. Celia has a work accident at a restaurant that caused burns all over her body. The owner becomes furious after she talks of the incident and in the process discloses she works at the restaurant. It turns out the worker is an illegal immigrant and was not being paid wages required under the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act. Angry that Celia talked to others about her accident, the restaurant owner hits her and ends up in jail on battery charges. Mr. Ayo discusses obligations to compensate workers fairly – regardless of their immigration status.

Univision interviews Alberto Ayo

Ayo and Iken Opens Miami Office


The Law Firm of Ayo and Iken is continuing expansion across the state. We are excited to announce the opening of our Miami office.  The office will be located in historic Coral Gables. Attorney Jackie Roys will be leading our expansion into Miami. Ms. Roys is experienced in high end family law cases. She also was the primary homicide prosecutor for St. John’s, Putnam, and Flagler county. Ms. Roys will have the backing and resources of Ayo and Iken – a large team of dedicated legal professionals with offices throughout Florida.

Ayo and Iken Miami Attorneys

Alimony Legislation Dead for 2015


In a surprise last minute twist, the proposed alimony bill is at an end for the 2015 legislative year. It was widely expected to go to the governor and be signed into law. The bill was one of the casualties of a legislative walkout over medicaid issues.

Florida Alimony Bill - Planning for 2016

New Alimony Law Update


Attorney Howard Iken gives the latest update on the Florida proposed alimony bill.

2015 Florida Alimony Bill

2015 Family Law Board Certification Review


Approximately 1,100 of the top attorneys from around the state attended the board certification review course for two days in Orlando. The group included family law attorneys, accountants, and large numbers of circuit court judges and magistrates.  The topics are at the advanced level and included cutting edge legal developments in divorce, paternity, custody, and trending financial topics. New laws were discussed as well as controversial appellate decisions across the state.

We were proud to bring the largest team of attorneys from any law firm in Florida. Our team brought their families for a weekend of dining, recreation, and advanced educational topics. The most important point was the ability to bring cutting edge developments to our legal practice.  Our team of professionals greatly benefit but more importantly, our clients benefit from our devotion to high level training.

Attorney Kristal Knox could not attend because she is currently on maternity leave. Ayo and Iken fully support family values within our organization.  Congratulations to Ms. Knox !

family law board certification

Interview of Attorney Ayo on Fox 13 News – Developing Situation


Fox 13 News Interviews Attorney Alberto Ayo on the developing domestic violence case involving Judge Eric Myers of Tampa.  Mr. Ayo discusses the Petition for an Injunction Against Domestic Violence and how it took courage to file that case against such a powerful official of the court.

Fox 13 Interviews Alberto Ayo on the Judge Myers situation

Ayo and Iken Represents Spouse of Criminal Court Judge in Domestic Violence Case


Ayo and Iken has entered the highly publicized case of domestic violence involving Tampa Criminal Court Judge Eric Myers. The judge’s spouse has filed for the issuance of a domestic violence injunction. Attorney Alberto Ayo filed a motion with the Court to move the case to Orange County Florida because of the judge’s extensive contacts in the Tampa Bay area.

* Update – The Florida Supreme Court has issued an order transferring the case and appointing a judge to hear the case. The case will proceed in Pinellas County, Florida. Supreme Court Chief Justice Jorge Labarga signed an order appointing the Honorable Jack Helinger in the Sixth Judicial Circuit, Pinellas County to hear the case.


Judge Eric Myers Supreme Court Order

“Till death do us part,” unless Facebook causes you to divorce first


ABC Action News interviews Attorney Howard Iken on how Facebook can cause divorce. A study by a law firm indicates 30% of divorces may have been started by the involvement of Facebook. Mr. Iken shares the experience of his firm, Ayo and Iken. He also discusses some of the reasons that Facebook may be to blame.

Facebook Can Cause Divorce

Howard Iken Nominated to 2015 SuperLawyers List


Attorney Howard Iken has been nominated to the 2015 list of legal rising stars in Florida by SuperLawyers. While up to 5 percent of the lawyers in a state are named to Super Lawyers, no more than 2.5 percent are named to Rising Stars. All attorneys first go through the Super Lawyers selection process. Those who are not selected to the Super Lawyers list, but meet either one of the Rising Stars eligibility requirements, then go through the Rising Stars selection process.

Appellate Victory – 2nd District Court of Appeal


The attorneys at Ayo and Iken have recently prevailed in an appeal of a trial court order entered at the end of a two day trial. The court entered an order that we considered to be unfair, and inconsistent with the applicable legal standards.  Attorney Kristal Knox worked with the client to appeal the order. An appeal consists of a detailed 20 to 30 page analysis of the trial court order as compared to previous legal decisions. The analysis is called an Appellate Brief and represents one of the most difficult parts of our work. But when trial courts make the wrong decision a successful appeal can give the client a way to reverse that decision. A successful appeal also established guidelines for the courts when facing a similar issue. Ayo and Iken is proud to have a part in defining the law in the 2nd District – an area covering 14 counties in Florida.


On The Cutting Edge of Same Sex Divorce


Partner Alberto Ayo is interviewed by ABC Action News.  Ayo and Iken has filed the first same sex divorce after the Florida constitutional ban on divorce was declared invalid as of midnight, January 5th. Mr. Ayo discusses how there is a huge pent up demand for same sex divorce and the attorneys at Ayo and Iken are busy responding to that demand.

Same Sex Divorce - New in Florida 2015

Divorce Day


In a broadcast interview, Attorney Howard Iken discusses what is rapidly becoming known as Divorce Day – the beginning of the year. Attorneys are beginning to see January 2nd as the start of divorce season, also the busiest time of the year for family law attorneys. Mr. Iken talks about the most common reasons for divorce,  the costs that many clients will face, and the fact that January 2nd is becoming synonymous with the Black Friday of Divorce.

Thousands untie the knot for Divorce Day

Impending Legalization of Same Sex Divorce


Attorney Howard Iken analyzes the current legal situation regarding same sex divorce. Mr. Iken predicts that most, if not all counties in Florida will begin to issue marriage licenses on January 6th, 2015. He also notes that as a side effect, same sex divorce can validly be filed in Florida courts on the same date.

Florida Same Sex Marriage Update

Alimony Reform Movement at Standstill for 2014


Ayo and Iken attorneys discuss the Florida alimony reform effort in Florida and the fact that it failed for the year. The new proposed law made it through all the legislative committees, was refined and modified along the way, and was presented to Governor Scott. Attorney Jennifer Schulte believes that despite the failure of the new bill, the effort behind the reform effort has caused a trickle effect in the Florida courts.

Florida Alimony Reform - New Florida Alimony Laws

Attorney Howard Iken Interviews George Zimmerman


George Zimmerman has a discussion with his Divorce Attorney – Howard Iken.  Mr. Zimmerman talks about who he really is, his aspirations, and some details about his past. In particular, Mr. Zimmerman talks about his efforts and involvement with the minority community in his Florida hometown.  He also talks about what life is like right now given the recent events.

March 2014 Zimmerman Interview

New Proposed Bill May Radically Change Alimony


Fox News interviews Attorney Howard Iken about the new proposed alimony reform bill that was recently introduced in the Florida legislature.  Mr. Iken acknowledges the proposed bill will severely affect some people in alimony cases, but also states the law may address some existing unfairness in alimony law.

Alimony Reform

Ayo and Iken Expands into Sarasota


Ayo and Iken opened a new office in the Sarasota area, part of a continuing expansion throughout Florida. The office is just off I-75 and is next door to the new, upscale regional mall, The Mall at University Town Center. The general area is known as Lakewood Ranch and consists of a moderate to high income population. Because the areas law firms are concentrated in the older downtown Sarasota area, Ayo and Iken intends to cater to the newer, more affluent population of Lakewood Ranch and surrounding areas.  The expansion brings the number of Florida counties serviced by Ayo and Iken to fifteen.

lakewood ranch sarasota

DCF Rules Against Custody in Nudist Park


A DCF contractor has prohibited foster child placements with anyone that resides in a nudist community.  Fox News interviews Attorney Howard Iken for his opinion on the situation. Mr. Iken does not know of any statute that prohibits the placement of children with nudist colony residents. But Attorney Iken acknowledges that courts place great weight on the opinion of case workers and their personal prejudices.

DCF Against Nudist Parks

Valentines Day and the Rise in Divorce Cases


ABC Action News interviews Attorney Howard Iken about Valentines Day and what it means to the numbers of divorce filings in Florida. Attorney Iken shares statistics of cases filed by Ayo and Iken.

Valentines day