Marital and Family Law

The break-up of a family can be one of the most stressful situations a person can face. We understand this and have consistently helped our clients end their marriages and successfully transition to new lives. We pride ourselves in our family practice, the personal service we provide our clients, our record of achieving successful outcomes through negotiation and litigation and our ability to secure the financial futures of our clients and their children.  When children are involved in a marital dispute, we pursue strategies to ensure their best interests are met. Our team of attorneys include the best attorneys and are have a large amount of experience with complex marital litigation with property settlements encompassing millions of dollars.   Clients benefit from their knowledge, experience and strategic approach, from the initial stages of divorce, to mediation, and even through trial if necessary.  We employ in-house experience with forensic and tax accounting as well as real and personal property evaluation to help our clients achieve a fair and equitable distribution of property.

We also offer financial and asset planning services prior to marriage, including pre-marital agreements. We can help you protect the assets you bring into your marriage and structure the financial management of your married life in order to minimize finance-related strife.

Areas of Family & Marital Law Practice

Alimony
Appeals
Child Support
Custody / Timesharing / Relocation
Divorce
Enforcement of Final Judgments and Orders
Equitable Distribution
Marital and Post-Nuptial Agreements
Modification of Alimony, Child Support and Timesharing
Paternity
Prenuptial /Premarital Agreements

Divorce Law

Ending a marriage can be painful and traumatic.  We understand the tough situations our clients are in. We’ll work with you to create the best outcome possible for you and your children, whether that requires negotiation, mediation or litigation.

Divorce
Florida is one of many states that has abolished fault as a ground for divorce (or “dissolution of marriage”). The only requirement to dissolve your marriage is to prove that your marriage is “irretrievably broken.” Fault may be a factor in the award of alimony, equitable distribution of marital assets and liabilities and determination of parental responsibility.  If the spouses cannot agree on the terms of their divorce, a trial will result in a decision by a judge on those terms. Results vary from case to case. In each case, the issues are different, which can include the division of property, parental responsibility and time-sharing with children. 

Equitable Distribution of Property
This issue can be hard fought amongst spouses and we fully protect our clients’ rights to a fair share of marital property. Florida statutes and case law require an “equitable distribution” of marital assets and liabilities. Generally, any asset or liability acquired during the marriage is considered marital and subject to distribution. The parties may also have assets or liabilities that are considered non-marital and should be awarded to only one party. The distribution should be fair and equitable, but it won’t necessarily be equal. The court is required to consider a long list of factors before deciding what distribution is equitable when considering alimony.

Alimony
When awarding alimony, a court considers many factors: the parties’ prior standard of living, length of the marriage, age, physical and emotional condition of the spouses, financial resources, income producing capacity of the assets they receive, and the services rendered in homemaking, child rearing, education and career building of the other spouse.  Alimony may be ordered for a limited time or to be paid until the remarriage or death of either party. It may be paid in a lump sum or over time.

Paternity, Custody, & Child Support Law

Courts make decisions about children based on their best interests. Married parents who are divorcing, or unmarried parents going their separate ways, may see those interests very differently.  You want the best for your child, and we will work with you to help ensure your child’s needs are met, whether through amicable agreement or litigation.

Paternity
If you’re the mother of a child and need help supporting that child, we can help you establish paternity and receive child support.  If you think you’re the father of a child and want to establish your legal rights as a parent, we can help you too.  In Florida, any woman who is pregnant or has a child and any man who has reason to believe he is the father of a child may start proceedings in the circuit court to determine the paternity of the child. In Florida, there are five ways to establish paternity:
  • Marriage:  The parents are married to each other when the child is born,
  • Acknowledgement of Paternity:  An unmarried couple signs a legal document acknowledging the child is theirs, 
  • Administrative Order Based on Genetic Testing:  Paternity is ordered if a genetic test proves fatherhood
  • Court Order:  A judge orders paternity in court,
  • Legitimation:  The mother and natural father get married to each other after the child is born and update the birth record through the Florida Office of Vital Statistics.
Child Support
Children need more than love and emotional support; they need financial support as well. We can help make sure the responsibility of financial support is shared by both parents. Child support may be by direct payment or by indirect benefits, such as mortgage payments, insurance or payment of medical and dental expenses. Normally the obligation to support a child ends when that child reaches age 18, marries, is emancipated, joins the armed forces or dies. There may be instances where the custodial parent wants an increase in child support and the non-custodial parent claims an inability to maintain a level of support due to changed circumstances. We can help parents in either situation make sure their interests are fully defended.

Child Custody
For a parent, the only thing more important than money to help raise a child is time spent raising and loving the child. The who, when, what, where and how of child custody and visitation can be difficult to resolve. In most cases, parental responsibility for a minor child will be shared by both parents so that each retains full parental rights and responsibilities with respect to their child. Shared parenting requires both parents to communicate so that major decisions affecting the child will be decided jointly.  The court will approve a parenting plan submitted by the parents, change it, or devise its own plan that includes responsibility for the daily tasks of child rearing, the time-sharing schedule, and the parents’ decision-making ability.  If a custodial parent wants to move with the child more than 50 miles away for longer than 60 days, the other parent must be notified before the move. If the noncustodial parent consents, the parents must file a written agreement with the court. If the parents can’t agree, there could be a hearing and a judge would decide whether to allow the move. If the move is viewed as negatively impacting the child or the relationship with the other parent, the judge may not approve the relocation.

Marital Agreements

An agreement before or during a marriage concerning assets, liabilities and children can make life transitions much more predictable and less prone to conflict. In the event of a divorce, an agreement could greatly simplify what could otherwise be an overly complex and traumatic situation.

Prenuptial Agreements
If you’re planning on marrying, seriously consider creating one of these documents, especially if this is not your first marriage and you’ve built up assets you wish to protect.  Under such an agreement, spouses can agree how assets or income will be handled during their marriage and what will happen to them if there’s a divorce or one spouse dies before the other. Under Florida law, a couple can include in such an agreement whether there will be spousal support after a marriage, ownership rights to a death benefit from a life insurance policy and that assets will be handled a certain way in a will. Creating such a document forces those getting married to talk about difficult subjects (like finances) and plan ahead.  If there is a divorce, it could greatly simplify the situation.

Marital and Post-Nuptial Agreements
A postnuptial agreement is much like a prenuptial agreement, but written during the marriage.  It’s a written contract created after a couple is married to settle the couple's affairs and assets in the event of a divorce. Like a prenuptial agreement, its contents can vary widely, but normally include provisions for division of property and spousal support if there’s a divorce or death of one of the spouses. If one spouse later challenges the agreement, a court will view it like any other contract to see if it was validly created and agreed to. In the event of a divorce, such an agreement should set expectations for both spouses.

Appeals, Modifying Judgments & Enforcing Orders

Divorce and child custody issues can drain time, money and energy from both sides of the dispute.  If a court makes a decision or issues an order, you may think a long road has finally come to an end. Unfortunately, it’s not always so simple.

Appeals
If a judge renders a decision or issues an order in a family or marital law case, that’s not necessarily the end of the legal process.  If one or both parties are sufficiently dissatisfied, and the decision is arguably based on mistakes of fact or law that impacted the final outcome, one or both parties may appeal the decision to the District Court of Appeal. An appeal may substantially delay the outcome of the case and come at a heavy cost, so the issue and outcome needs to be of great importance to the party. We represent both parties in appeals: the party attempting to overturn a decision and the party seeking to have it enforced.

Modifications
A couple may have very amicably reached a divorce agreement and easily resolved child custody and support issues. But as time passes, the situation may change.  What was agreed to in the past may no longer be tolerable for one or more parties. If a parent has become involved in drugs or arrested, the other parent may want sole custody of a child. A parent whose job is lost and income is greatly reduced may want child support payments decreased. As long as some kind of relationship exists between parents or ex-spouses and time passes, there’s a good chance one party or another will want some aspect of an agreement or order modified. We can help parties who feel changes are needed and also help parties who want to maintain the status quo.

Enforcement of Final Judgments and Orders
A judgment or order of the court, in and of itself, is only a piece of paper if it’s not enforced. If the opposing party is unhappy with the results and ignores it, it would seem all the time, energy, emotion and resources spent going through the legal system was wasted.  It may take additional legal action to change the behavior and get results.  We can and will enforce judgments and orders for our clients.  Our clients don’t resort to the court system lightly; they need results.  An enforcement action might be able to achieve those results.

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