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Family Law

          • Dissolution of Marriage (Divorce)
          • Paternity
          • Child Support
          • Stepparent Adoption
          • Prenuptial Agreements
          • Spousal Support (Alimony)
          • Custody by Extended Family Member
          • Modification of Child Support or Spousal Support
          • Support Unconnected with Dissolution of Marriage 


The topics listed that are part of the Family Law arena involve some of the most emotional and financial trauma many of you will experience.  Our job is to guide and support you through them in the most efficient manner possible while ensuring you are aware of your legal rights so that you can make the best decisions for your circumstances.


Dissolution of Marriage:  It takes two to get married and one to get a divorce.  By that I mean you can’t stop it.  Once a party to the marriage has decided they want out, it’s going to happen. All that remains to be decided is who gets the stuff and how will they continue to fulfill their responsibilities as parents if they have children. 


Florida is a “no-fault” divorce State.  One person says they have “irreconcilable differences” and the divorce is granted.  What are those?  The law doesn’t really care; it doesn’t know or want to know.  Discussing them or trying to “prove” them just gets people attacking and tearing each other down.  Your kids don’t need to see their parents doing that and the fact of the divorce itself is emotionally painful enough that it’s pointless to twist the knife.  So, accept what’s happening and plan how best to move forward.  We’ll try to help you with that.


I will not tell you what you want to hear if it’s not the truth or reality, nor will I persist in advocating for you a position that based on my experience in these matters and knowing what courts do, will be unreasonable.  To do so would just waste your time and run up your bill.  I want to get you through these events as emotionally and financially intact as possible and reasonable so that you can move on with your life and begin to rebuild.  I’ll also try to protect you from yourself. Often a person is so hurt in a divorce situation that they just want to hurry and get it over with, so they agree to unwise things that they later regret and which make their ongoing life especially trying.  I try to be the rational and forward thinking voice for you.


Child Support:  There’s a chart in the Florida Statutes that determines how much child support is paid.  It’s based upon the combined incomes of the parents, the number of children and, to some extent, the amount of time the children spend with each parent.  I’m often amazed at the selfishness of parents and the lengths to which they’ll go to try to minimize or avoid taking care of their kids.  They don’t realize that it is NOT their money!  It belongs to and is for the kids.  A common tactic is to insist upon 50/50 timesharing, thinking that by doing so they won’t or shouldn’t have to pay any support to the other parent.  They’ll dress up their motivation claiming to want to be an involved parent and that’s why they insist upon equal timesharing, but that’s usually not the real reason.  Time is only one of the factors used to determine support; the driving force is the respective incomes of the parents.  So, even with equal timesharing on paper (it rarely is exercised in reality) a parent with substantially larger income than the other can still expect to be required to pay some support to the other; the child shouldn’t be punished by having to have a substantially lower standard of living just because they’re spending time with the parent with less income.  


Custody:  We don’t really have that inFlorida anymore.  It’s just something to fight about and to use as a tool to try to “punish” the other parent. Florida recognizes that the divorce is between Mom & Dad, not the kids.  The kids still need both parents.  So, except in those very rare cases where the court believes it would really be detrimental to the child to have the other parent involved in their lives, Florida expects parents to share responsibility for raising their children.  It’s going to require you to come up with a Plan for doing that that will address timesharing, decision making, parental conduct, where the child lives, and all the other aspects involved in raising children.  I’ll help you with that.


Spousal Support: Some places call this Alimony. The days of having a lifetime income just because you got married are pretty much gone.  People are generally expected to support themselves, so permanent alimony is very rare now.  More often you’ll see some amount of alimony awarded on a temporary basis primarily for the purpose of helping a party make the adjustment from married to single life, or to enable them to complete education or job training that they gave up to be married so that they can qualify for a job that’ll enable them to support themselves.


The Stuff:  Who gets what in a divorce? Florida uses a scheme of Equitable Distribution. While the starting point is an equal division of the assets and liabilities (debts) of the parties, the word is “equitable,” not “equal.”  Sometimes equal isn’t equitable (fair.)   It could be because one party has a huge advantage in education, job experience, income and earning capacity, and so has a better ability to recover from the financial impact of the divorce, or has “wasted’ assets that the parties had.  Wasted means they’ve used it in ways that they shouldn’t have that didn’t contribute to the family or relationship. The most common example of that is money spent pursuing an extramarital relationship.  Since money that could have been used for the benefit of the family has been spent on the new squeeze, the innocent party may get a bigger portion of what’s left.  That’s NOT done to “punish” the offending party; it just considers that party to have already gotten some of their share and spent it.


Paternity:  Guys, if a girl has a baby and you had sexual intercourse with her about nine months earlier you could face a paternity suit seeking to establish that you are the biological father and have the obligation to support the child.  If you are, man up; meet your obligation.  Now pay attention….just because you’re shown to be the biological father does not give you any parental rights to that child. You have an obligation, but no rights.  If you want those and want to be involved in that child’s life as a parent you must have a court order establishing those rights.  And Girls, now you pay attention….just because a guy can make a baby doesn’t make him a father.  You can bring a legal action to establish biological paternity and child support without also establishing parental rights for the Baby Daddy.  So, unless he’s a fine upstanding specimen of the kind of man you’d like to have guide, mold and shape your child into a young man or woman leave establishing parental rights up to him.  I hear girls plaintively say, “I want my child to have a father!”  That would be good, but just because a dude can make a baby doesn’t make him worthy or capable of being a father.  If he wants to be that, let him prove it and step up to claim that role.  I have yet to have a girl disregard this piece of advice and then not live to regret it. 


Stepparent Adoption:  I like this.  I was adopted by my stepdad; he IS my Dad. It was a great thing to have happen to me.  Sometimes you do better in picking a partner next time around and are blessed to have one that loves your children as their own and wants to make them their own.  If you think that’s the case with you, let’s talk about it.  Maybe it is and is the best thing that could happen to your kids as it was for me.


I’ve got some other topics listed up there.  I’d love to answer your questions and talk with you about them if you think they may apply to your situation.  So call; set a time to come see me.