Areas of Practice
Divorce: Contested & Uncontested
In Florida, divorce, or what is referred to as "Dissolution of Marriage", is no fault. One must allege that the marriage is "irretrievably broken" in order to obtain a divorce; the parties do not have to allege and prove a reason why the marriage is over, such as adultery, mental anguish and/ or impotence. The mental incapacity of a spouse may also serve as a basis for a divorce if that party has been adjudicating incapacity by a Court and at least three years has elapsed.
In some instances, one spouse may have to pay support to the other spouse. Each case is unique and is dependent on its own facts. If required, support may be permanent or rehabilitative in nature. The Court may also award "bridge-the-gap" alimony (transitioning a party from married life to single life). The entitlement to alimony and the amount to be awarded is determined upon a consideration of several "economic factors" such as: the parties' standard of living during their marriage; the duration of the parties' marriage; the age and the physical and emotional condition of each party; the financial resources of each party, including the division of their respective non-marital and marital assets and liabilities; if necessary or required, the time necessary for either party to acquire sufficient education or training to enable such party to find appropriate employment; the contribution of each party to the marriage; and all sources of income available to either party.
A party's non-marital assets must first be set aside to that party. Generally, marital assets and liabilities are then divided equally between the parties. Marital assets do not necessarily have to be sold/ liquidated in order to achieve an equal distribution. Envision a scale: the Husband's side (ABC) must weigh (be equal to) the Wife's side (XYZ). If one side of the scale is heavier (has more value), then the Husband/ Wife (one with the heavier side) may have to make an equalizer (cash) payment in full or in installments to balance out the scale.
- “Parenting Plans” and “Time Sharing” arrangements. Effective October 1, 2008, Florida no longer designates one parent as the custodian (formerly known as the “primary residential parent”) and the other as the visiting parent (formerly known as the “secondary residential parent”).
Parenting Plans set out specific details regarding decisions impacting the child(ren)’s schooling, day/ after care, health, religion, and extracurricular activities. Some plans may set out additional detail if the parents reside a great distance from each other and other plans will provide further detail for parents in high conflict situations. Within each parenting plan, “time sharing” arrangements will set out specific days and times each parent will spend with their child(ren) throughout the school year, if applicable, as well as specific holiday and summer schedules. Here is a basic Florida parenting plan and a Florida supervised parenting plan. I will carefully review the Parenting Plan and time sharing arrangement options with you as part of my service.
- Child Support. Both parents have a legal duty of support for their minor child(ren). Child support is calculated pursuant to statutory guidelines and take into consideration the parties' respective net incomes. Child support may also include a contribution towards day/ after care if same is incurred due to employment or an educational pursuit as well as a contribution towards health care and special needs of the child(ren), if applicable.
- Domestic Violence. Spouses, former spouses, persons related by blood or marriage, persons who are presently residing together as if a family or who have resided together in the past as if a family or who have resided together in the past as if a family, and persons who are parents of a child in common regardless of whether they have been married, constitute a "family or household member". A "family or household member" who reside together in a single dwelling unit or in the past have so resided together (except for parents of a child in common) may seek protection against domestic violence by filing a sworn petition at the Clerk of Court's office. If the Court believes that an immediate and present danger of domestic violence exists, then a temporary injunction ex parte may be granted for a period not to exceed 15 days, during which period of time a full (return) hearing shall be had.
- Repeat Violence. A person who is a victim of repeat violence may also file a sworn petition at the Clerk of Court's office. "Repeat violence" includes two incidents of violence or stalking committed by the Respondent against the alleged victim or his or her (victim's) family, one of which must have been within 6 months of the filing of the Petition.
A paternity cause of action may be brought by the Mother, the man who believes himself to be the father, or the child, to determine whether the man is the biological father of the subject minor child(ren). Paternity may be acknowledged by affidavit or stipulation of both parents; in other instances, scientific testing may be performed to determine paternity. If the man is found by the Court to be the father, then the father has a legal duty of support for the child(ren). Child support is determined in the same fashion as if the parents were Husband and Wife and seeking a divorce.
- Child Support. Child support may be modified (increased or decreased) if the modification is in the child's best interests, the child(ren) has reached the age of majority or a substantial change in circumstance of the parties has arisen. The modified child support may be set in accordance with the statutory guidelines as in an initial proceeding (divorce or paternity). Regarding enforcement, if a parent does not pay his or her court ordered child support, then her or she may be in contempt of court. In this instance, and upon a full hearing, the Court has the power to incarcerate the non-compliant party and order a "purge" amount to be paid. The non-compliant party must have the ability to pay the purge amount.
- Alimony. Alimony/ spousal support is based on one party's ability to pay and the other party's need for the support. If the party paying the support (obligor) has a diminished ability through no fault of his or her own and said change is "substantial", then that party/ obligor may seek a downward modification and/ or termination of the obligation. On the other hand, if the receiving party (obligee) has an increased need for more support, then he or she may seek an upward modification. Like child support, alimony for support purposes is also enforceable via the Court's contempt powers.
Many people do not or cannot legally marry (currently, Florida law only recognizes legal marriage between one man and one woman) but nonetheless reside together in a committed, "marriage-like" relationship. In these instances, parties may commingle separate, individual property/ assets and/ or purchase jointly held property upon residing together. Upon separation, issues may arise as to which party takes what asset or which party has a claim to the other's property, if at all. Unmarried cohabitants do not have the benefit of Florida's divorce law (Chapter 61, F.S.) but certain causes of action do exist for their protection.