When do you need a Family Law attorney?
Bad things can happen to good people at anytime. There are some times during the course of a marriage or relationship where the marriage breaks down or there are issues in the marriage that lead to a break up of the family unit. This can also happen for unmarried couples who share a minor child. It is always better to have someone else on your side when you are facing a family conflict.
A Family Law Attorney is a Domestic Relations Attorney. Family Law refers to divorce, paternity, dependency, adoption, child support, relocation, domestic violence injunctions, temporary custody by a family member, and family planning. It is a broad term for anything that affects the family unit in any way.
There are many ways that you can find a good attorney. You can simply look in the yellow pages or online for a listing of the local attorneys in your area. You can call around until you find one that is willing to help you with your situation. Another way to find a good firm is to get referrals. You can ask around for some good advice from people that have used one before. This is usually a good way to get help with this kind of need.
There are lots of reasons why someone may need to hire an attorney. It can be anything from a simple child support issue to more serious things like domestic violence, time-sharing (custody), or to reconcile complex marital estates that include many different real estate investments, stock portfolios, and alimony. For Family Law, you can consult with an attorney to know what your rights are regarding property, alimony, what may happen to your children in a divorce, and what child support obligations you may have.
Whatever the reasons may be, you should find an attorney that only handles certain kinds of law. Some attorneys will specialize in a specific part of law. This is always going to be the best way to go when you are trying to get the best possible representation.
Most attorneys do require a retainer paid up front before they perform any services. This is going to be a fee that is usually a few thousand dollars. This will cover some of the up front costs so that they can get started on fighting your case. This is a formality so you should make sure that you can afford the attorney before you decide to choose them.
Getting an attorney is going to be the best way to handle any legal problem that you may have. You should never go at anything alone and having someone on your side is the best way to make sure that you are taken care of.
Divorce or Dissolution of Marriage refers to the dissolution or the legal end of a marriage. Every state has its own legal requirements governing when a divorce may be granted. These legal requirements may include a residency requirement, grounds or a reason for the divorce, among others.
Florida is a “no fault” State that grants divorces based on irreconcilable differences. Your divorce could be the most important financial decision in life, as well as one of the most nerve wrecking. In such a circumstance, the key person who can see you through this is a divorce lawyer.
The divorce lawyer helps you in making extremely important financial and emotional decisions like time-sharing (custody), property divisions etc. You must choose a lawyer well versed and specializing in Family Law.
You can look for a good lawyer by asking around, consulting your friends, relatives and acquaintances. A divorce lawyer with references will be more helpful than the one who is completely unknown to you and all people around.
When you first meet the lawyer, give all case facts. The fee quoted by the person will be a rough approximate as the amount of legal work involved is not very clear. Usually, they charge by the hour, and a retainer fee as an advance payment may be required by the lawyer. You are at liberty and encouraged to interview a few lawyers before choosing one to represent you in court.To be on the safe side, it’s a good idea to enquire from the lawyers the following facts:
The relevant experience he/she has in Family Law and number of years of practice in this field.
Steps involved in the divorce process as well as expected time frame and legalities involved.
Filing fee and the fee that any additional legal assistants employed will ask for.
Inquire about the Retainer Agreement policy of the lawyer/firm.
Billing cycle of the lawyer.
A good lawyer will answer all queries, and will try to address any concerns that you may have about legal implications or your case in general.
A good divorce lawyer:
Will always be prepared for all your hearings.
Will know exactly what your expectation from the case is.
Will not be able to win all hearings.
May not be able to answer your calls 24*7*365.
Once you and your spouse start the proceedings, do not sign any paper from your partner without express knowledge of your divorce lawyer. Litigation and negotiations are subjective so ask your lawyer about his/her policy in this matter.
A good divorce lawyer is invaluable to your case, so you should choose one carefully. In case you are looking to change divorce lawyers, make sure that you get all information from the previous divorce lawyer such as who is the judge, necessary papers etc, so a smooth transition is possible. Once you place your trust in a lawyer, do it completely and assist him/her. After all, it is your own life.
First, while we use the term “custody” because that is how people generally recognize the term, Florida uses the term “time-sharing” and the concepts of custody and visitation are no longer a part of Florida law in the Family Law/Domestic Relations courts. Because most citizens recognize the term “custody” still, we use the term in this article. However, the first sign of a good Family Law Attorney is one who quickly tells you that custody is no longer a legal term in Florida in dissolution and paternity actions.
A custody order (parenting plan) establishes both the parental responsibility and parenting time arrangement for the children. When an unmarried mother has a child, the mother has legal custody of that child until a court says otherwise. The father must take affirmative steps to establish his legal paternal rights.
During divorce or paternity, the issue of child custody often becomes a matter for the court to determine. The Court must consider the best interest of the children in every original child custody matter. The court retains the power to alter the custody arrangements when there is a substantial change of circumstances until the child turns 18 or is emancipated.
The Florida Supreme Court has expressed a public policy that parents are encouraged to create their own custody (time-sharing) parenting plans rather than have a Court make the final determination. A study found that only when parents were still actively fighting did joint custody exacerbate children’s feelings of being torn between parents. However, when both parents favor cooperative time-sharing, it can be a good solution for the children. Some parents have chosen a joint-custody (equal time-sharing) arrangement in which the child spends an approximately equal amount of time with both parents.
Because of the complexity of child custody (time-sharing) matters and the importance of the outcome, it is highly advisable to contact an attorney. The attorney should know several child custody evaluators or guardian ad litems that they have worked with successfully. If you proceed with a child custody action without an attorney, you are acting as your own attorney.
In a child custody dispute, there are rarely winners, frequently everyone is a loser, and the biggest losers are often the children. Having an attorney that can help you protect your children’s interest while still steer you in the direction of what is in the best interest of the children will be priceless.
Whether it’s across the country or down the block, moving can be stressful. Experts agree this is particularly true for young children, who often fear leaving their friends and familiar surroundings for a new home. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 10 million children relocate each year, leaving many parents to struggle with how to create a smooth move for their kids.
In Florida, you must have express permission from the other parent or permission from the Court if you are going to move more than fifty-miles from your current residence and you are the primary residential parent.
Allied Van Lines has teamed up with Thomas Olkowski, Ph.D., a top child psychologist and author of “Moving with Children,” to offer expert advice designed to help parents ease their youngsters through the relocation process.
“While moving to a new home is exciting, it often means a new school, new friends and a whole new life for children,” says Dr. Olkowski. “It’s natural for them to feel nervous. Luckily, there are a few simple steps parents can take to calm their child’s fears and make the transition easier for the whole family.”
Tell children about the move as soon as possible-a child should never overhear the news by accident.
Schedule regular family meeting times to discuss the move with kids, sharing the details, encouraging their questions and listening to their suggestions.
Position the relocation as an exciting adventure with fun opportunities for the family.
For younger children, consider reading children’s books about moving, and talk about the pictures and how the people in the pictures may be feeling.
Before moving to a new home, it is critical that children have a chance to say goodbye. Consider hosting a moving party and give children an opportunity to create scrapbooks and photo albums with their friends.
Provide children with address books and autograph books to use when saying goodbye.
If you are already divorced or already have a parenting plan or other Court order regarding time-sharing (custody), and you anticipate moving farther than 50 miles away, you must plan ahead. Florida’s relocation statute is complicated and creates a difficult burden to meet. Please consult a qualified Family Law attorney that has experience in child relocation several months before your anticipated move.
Child support is an amount of money that one parent is obligated to pay the other after a divorce. The money is used to pay for the cost of the expenses relating to the children. This includes basic living expenses, clothing, food, and extra items that we all know kids ask for on a regular basis. The amount of money that has to be paid out for child support will depend on many factors.
In Florida, the amount of child support is governed by statute based on the gross income of both parties. The parties must seek permission from the Court to deviate more than five percent (5%) of the statutory guidelines regardless of the parties’ wishes and agreement. The calculations are readily available and easy to comprehend through the Florida Supreme Court’s Child Support Guidelines Worksheet. Sometimes the Florida Department of Revenue will represent a party who is seeking child support assistance.
Generally the parent who has the children the majority of the time will be receiving the child support payments. Even if the parties have equal time-sharing (custody), Florida has a “gross up” method of calculation that still may require one party to pay another. The decision to have to pay child support depends on the amount of money that each party is making. If they have other children from another marriage to consider that has to be calculated in as well.
There is a great deal of controversy surrounding the issue of child support though. It seems to be one of those bitter issues that continues to affect the relationship of the adults long after the marriage has ended.
Some individuals refuse to pay the court ordered child support. They don’t think their ex-spouse uses it for what it was intended for. They also do it as a control issue that affects their ex-spouse. They want to make it financially difficult for them to get by. This is often a form of retaliation for getting a divorce.
Others simply can’t afford to pay the child support for one reason or another. They may have too many other bills. The cost of paying for all the living expenses for yourself can be very hard. When you have a huge amount of child support to pay on top of it, you may find it almost impossible to make ends meet.
Changes in a person’s finances such as changing jobs, getting laid off, medical problems, and even getting married again can really affect the amount of disposable income available. Millions of dollars in unpaid child support are owed to parents all over the world. Some locations go to extremes to get people to pay what they owe at any cost.
For example a parent may lose their right to drive, to hunt, or to obtain an income tax refund if they owe child support. This is because so many people are relying on public assistance due to not getting the amount of child support that is owed to them. For many divorced people, child support can be a financial burden.
As a result they may try to get the courts to change things in their favor. For example they may ask for more parenting time so that they can pay less in child support. There are those that don’t get to see their children very often as it is. So they choose to terminate their parental rights as part of a deal with the other parent. They agree not to have any say in their children’s lives in exchange for not having to pay any child support. This can leave children feeling like they weren’t wanted as they don’t see the financial severity of the issue.
Consulting a Family Law attorney is very important if you want to establish, modify, or enforce child support orders. While Florida has attempted to make the child support process simple, it still contains many different issues that only a Family Law attorney is trained to handle.
MODIFICATION OF DIVORCE OR CUSTODY
After an initial custody determination was made (for older divorces) or a time-sharing schedule was established (for more recent divorces), the best interest of the child is not the first aspect of time-sharing the court will consider to modify the time-sharing/custody.
Rather, you must first show a substantial change of circumstances. Section 61.13, Florida Statutes, specifically states: “A determination of parental responsibility, a parenting plan, or a time-sharing schedule may not be modified without a showing of a substantial, material, and unanticipated change in circumstances and a determination that the modification is in the best interests of the child.”
There are three critical words:
The easiest term to define is the term “unanticipated.” If the parties knew of the circumstances at the time the original divorce was entered, and now one party wants to use it against the other party at a later time, the conditions were anticipated. For those that have access to court opinions, the cases of Paskieicz v. Paskiewicz, 967 So. 2d 277 (Fla. 3rd DCA 2007), and the Florida Supreme Court case of Wade v. Hirschman, 903 So. 2d 928 (Fla. 2005), are insightful. For example, if you knew the other parent had a substance abuse problem at the time the initial custody order was entered, you cannot then six months later claim you are the more fit parent because of the other parent’s substance abuse problem.
As to “substantial” and “material,” your judge’s definition of these terms are very important. As the Florida Supreme Court stated, the trial court’s determination on what changes are substantial and material carry a lot of weight in the final determination on whether the court can then consider the best interest of your child.
However, what we do know is that before you decide you want to change time-sharing, you need to have a lot more evidence than simply believing that your child will be better off. Some instances where I can envision a substantial change in circumstances would include a parent that develops an addiction problem, enters into an abusive relationship where the child is exposed to the abuse, or where the parent continuously interferes with the other parent’s time-sharing. These are substantial, material to the child, and were unanticipated.
Mediation is a confidential process that allows parents, spouses or couples to create their own law or agreement. If you feel that your case could be settled without the necessity of litigation or a judge deciding your fate then mediation is a great option. You can select mediation as an option prior to filing an action for divorce or child disputes. In fact, prior to having the judge decide your fate after filing a dispute with the court you will most likely be required to attend mediation. Instead of leaving your future and the future of your children to the decision of a judge that knows nothing about your family, try negotiating and agreeing on terms that you and your children can live with. Mediation is especially valuable when there are children involved because it allows the parents to make the rules specific to their family dynamics.
Some families are able to reach an agreement about division of assets, child custody, and spousal or child support through mediation. If an agreement is reached then the mediator will draft a settlement agreement and the parties can then submit the agreement to the judge as a unified front without throwing mud in the courtroom. If an agreement is not reached, or only partially reached, the parties may still submit their dispute to the judge. Sometimes parties can resolve some, but not all, of their issues through mediation and submit the remaining disagreements to the judge.
Mediations occur at different times during the separation process whether it is at the time the parties separate, years after separation, before a divorce action is filed, after a divorce action is filed or prior to taking one parent back to court for issues. Almost all cases can benefit from mediation and mediation is required in practically all contested divorces in Florida.
What is the Mediator’s Role?
A mediator is that of an impartial individual acting as a communicator for the parties to try to resolve the issues before them without the necessity of a judge deciding for them. Mediators do not give advice, make decisions or force settlements, but they do aid the parties in a collaborative and cooperative way moving towards an agreeable resolution.
Erin Catey, Esq. is an attorney certified by the Florida Supreme Court to conduct family law mediations. Erin has acted as an attorney in hundreds of family law mediations representing her clients and has since seen the value in mediation. Her experience as a divorce trial attorney allows her to fully understand the legal ramifications of a family law case and assist you in amicably resolving those issues. If you believe that mediation is right for you and your family, please call the office at 727-372-4722 to schedule a free telephone consultation to discuss the mediation process.
If you and your spouse have agreed that the marriage is over and know how you wish to settle all issues regarding the divorce then you have an uncontested dissolution. Now you are probably wondering, what next?
Mediation can be a cost-effective and less stressful alternative for divorcing couples. In an uncontested dissolution mediation, you and your spouse will meet with our mediator and enter into a written marital settlement agreement and, if children are involved, a parenting plan, resolving all of your disputes.
Many individuals have attempted to handle uncontested divorces on their own, only to face significant problems filing the necessary paperwork or with terms of the agreements after the final judgment. Attending a mediation conference with a certified mediator can assist in limiting such consequences in the future. Now a mediator cannot provide legal advice but the mediator can ensure that the terms of the parties agreement are properly written in settlement papers to ensure future enforcement is available.
Erin C. Catey, Esq., is a Florida Supreme Court Certified Family Law Mediator as well as a family law attorney that can handle your uncontested divorce for you. As a mediator, she can assist you and your spouse in completing the paperwork, advising of the current law and explain the language of marital settlement agreement and parenting plan. However, if Erin is acting as a mediator she cannot provide either of you with legal advice including explaining what the judge might do in your case and applying your specific facts to the law. However, uncontested dissolutions through mediation with a family law attorney is a low-cost alternative to costly divorce while still protecting your and your family’s interests.
Simons & Catey, P.A.
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Simons & Catey, P.A.
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8040 Old County Road , New Port Richey,
Pasco County, Florida 34653
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Office : 727 372 4722
Email : Service@SimonsLawFirm.com