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Family Law (Divorce, Alimony, Etc.)

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Family Law

Divorce or Dissolution of Marriage

Florida is a “no-fault” divorce state, which means you only have to cite irreconcilable differences or that one of the parties is incapacitated as a basis for divorce.   

To seek a divorce in Florida, one of the parties must have been a resident of the State of Florida for six (6) continuous months prior to the date of filing the petition for dissolution of marriage.  The required basis for a divorce in Florida is that either the marriage is “irretrievably broken” (which means that the marriage cannot be saved) or that one of the parties is incapacitated (which means the party is generally helpless and cannot act by themselves). 

During the dissolution process, the Court addresses all issues involved, such as the division of personal and real property; debts; custody of minor children and other issues concerning the children, such as the maintenance of health insurance and time-sharing; restoration of former/maiden name; and the payment of child support, alimony and attorney’s fees.

Division of property and debts during a divorce is based on the principle of equitable distribution, which means what is fair (taking into consideration the specific factors involved in your case). Property purchased during the marriage is generally considered “marital property” and will be equitably divided.  Property acquired before the marriage is typically considered “non-marital property” and will often be awarded to the spouse that originally owned the property.  Personal gifts and inherited property are also considered non-marital so long as the gifts or property were not comingled.  However, it is possible to claim appreciation in value of “non-marital” property, such as homes and businesses.  The Court will take into consideration the specific financial circumstances of your case when determining the division of the property. 

Although it is not required that you hire an attorney to represent you in a divorce proceeding, most divorces require the assistance of an experienced family law attorney. At Grant Law Partners, we will guide you through the often complicated and emotional process of a divorce and are always available to answer your questions. 

Alimony

At the time of dissolution of marriage, the Court can enter an award of alimony for either party. Alimony is not automatic and can be argued for or against by either party. The Court may award several different types of alimony, and can also specify whether the amount will be made in the form of a lump sum, periodic payments, or a combination of both.

The Court considers many factors when determining alimony. These include the duration of the marriage; the established standard of living reached during marriage; the age and physical/emotional state of both parties; the total income and other financial resources and obligations of the parties; the earning capacities of each party, including their educational levels and vocational skills; the potential time required by either party to acquire skills necessary to pursue gainful employment; and many other factors.

There are five types of alimony: permanent periodic, rehabilitative, bridge-the-gap, lump sum and durational.

Permanent Periodic Alimony is usually paid in monthly payments that continue until the recipient dies, the payor dies, the recipient remarries, or the recipient cohabitates with another individual in a supportive relationship. There are three requirements for permanent periodic alimony: (1) long-term marriage, which is usually more than 15 years; (2) income disparity between the parties; and (3) the recipient’s income from all sources does not meet the need established during the marriage. Again, each case differs due to the parties’ specific incomes and circumstances. A party must understand that alimony is awarded on a case-by-case basis.

Rehabilitative Alimony is used to provide the recipient with money to eventually become self-supporting. To receive rehabilitative alimony, the spouse seeking the alimony must establish a specific rehabilitative plan.

Bridge–the–Gap Alimony is probably the most common in a shorter duration marriage, or those in which both spouses have more significant financial resources independent of the marriage relationship. The purpose of bridge-the-gap alimony is to help the recipient meet short-term financial difficulties associated with the transition from married to single life.

Lump Sum Alimony is a “lump sum” amount not subject to modification. Lump sum alimony is awarded in three ways: (1) an award of a property interest; (2) a monetary support payment; or (3) awarded to ensure an equitable distribution of marital property. There are two requirements for lump sum alimony: (a) the award must be identified as either necessary for support or to equalize the party’s status or (b) unusual circumstances that would require a non-modifiable award of support. Lump sum alimony frequently arises as a way to award the marital home to one spouse.  It can be paid in monthly installments or all at one time.

Durational Alimony is essentially a form of financial security for a party for a term of years. It is intended to be used in the marriages of longer duration when permanent support is not appropriate for some reason.

Modification of Alimony

The Court has the ability to modify the amount of financial support, either up or down that, a spouse receives. Under Florida law, if the finances of either party or their circumstances change substantially, and this change was not anticipated at the time the alimony was awarded, either spouse may request a modification of the alimony payment. Reduced or increased income of a payor spouse is not enough on its own for modification of alimony. Alimony may also be modified or terminated if the spouse required to pay support can prove the other spouse is involved in a supportive relationship with another individual.

The experienced attorneys at Grant Law Partners can guide you through this difficult and sometimes complex process.

Child Support and Custody

Child Support

Parents of minor children are obligated by Florida law to provide financial support for their children. This obligation is the right of the child and cannot be waived by either parent. Child support is calculated according to child support guidelines set forth by statute and takes into consideration both parents’ income, the cost of daycare, if any, and the cost incurred to maintain health insurance for the benefit of the children. The Court also considers the amount of time each parent spends with the children.

Child Custody and Parenting Plans

Addressing child custody issues can be a challenge. While the parents each have their own intense emotions to contend with, they also have the children, and must incorporate the other parent into their custody and parenting plan proposals.

To help address these conflicting interests and provide a more streamlined process for parents across the state, Florida has adopted a “Parenting Plan” scheme to make time-sharing determinations. According to Florida law, a Parenting Plan is required for all cases that involve time-sharing with a minor, even when time-sharing is not in dispute. The goal of this requirement is to provide a more progressive system whereby parents carve out parenting time with each parent, rather than favoring one over the other, when possible.

The Parenting Plan contains a time-sharing schedule and should also address other issues relating to the child, such as how decisions will be made regarding his or her education, health care, physical, social, and emotional wellbeing.

There are generally four types of Parenting Plans:

Basic Parenting Plan – This plan is intended for parents who live within 50 miles of each other; do not have a history of violent or angry encounters; do not have a history of drug or other types of abuse; can communicate directly; and are able to discuss decisions related to major parenting decisions

Long Distance Parenting Plan  This plan is intended for parents who live more than 50 miles apart, which makes the prospect of visiting with the other parent less likely during the week. This plan also assumes that the parents are able to engage in direct communication and decision making regarding their children.

Safety Focused Parenting Plan – As the name suggests, this plan is intended for use when there are concerns regarding one of the parent’s prior history of violence, abuse, or other harmful actions towards the other parent, child, or others. Options include supervised parenting time or unsupervised parenting time with no or limited overnight stays.

Highly Structured Parenting Plan – This plan is intended for parents who have difficulty reaching parenting decisions together; communicate almost solely through formal means and by keeping written records, and generally have reservations about the other parent’s parenting style and related concerns.

The foregoing Parenting Plans are intended only to be guidelines. Determining how to structure a Parenting Plan is different for every family and is not a cookie-cutter process. Additionally, the Court retains the authority to make final decisions regarding these matters, even if the parties have come to their own agreement.

Modification of a Parenting Plan or Child Support

Modification of a Parenting Plan or child support is based on a substantial, unanticipated change in circumstances that occurs after the entry of final judgment. Modification of child support can be either an upward or downward change in the amount of support a minor receives. The Court may modify child support payments upon a substantial change in the financial ability of either party or other various factors.

Relocation

According to Florida law, once a final order has been entered regarding time-sharing, a parent cannot move the child’s residence more than fifty (50) miles from the child’s address at the time of entry of the order without the other parent’s written consent or a Court order. Failure to either obtain the other parent’s written consent or an order approving the move could result in the Court requiring you to return the child to the area from where you moved.  Florida law dictates the process for relocation of a minor child; therefore, you should seek the advice of an attorney if you have any questions or concerns.

The experienced attorneys at Grant Law Partners are here to help and will guide you through this difficult and sometimes complex process.

Dependency (DCF)

Juvenile Dependency

Juvenile “dependency” proceedings are civil actions against the parents, custodian, or guardian of a child who is dependent on the State of Florida or the petitioner for protection, services, safety and/or welfare.

We represent individuals in all proceedings relating to Chapter 39, Florida Statutes, such as:

  • representing accused parents;
  • representing grandparents;
  • representing the children or child (as attorney ad litem);
  • shelter hearings;
  • termination of parental rights proceedings and trials; and
  • adoptions

Juvenile Proceedings

The juvenile court proceedings generally are as follows:

Shelter Hearing – The shelter hearing must occur within 24 hours from the time the State of Florida/petitioner takes temporary protection or custody over the child(ren).

Shelter Review – When a regular Juvenile Dependency/Circuit Judge did not preside over the shelter hearing, within 72 hours of the shelter hearing, the case must be reviewed by a regular Juvenile Dependency/Circuit Judge.

Arraignment – When a child has been sheltered by order of the Court, an arraignment hearing must be held no later than 28 days after the shelter hearing, or within 7 days after the date of filing of the dependency petition (if a demand for early filing has been made by any party), for the parent or legal custodian to admit, deny, or consent to findings of dependency alleged in the petition. At the arraignment hearing, if the child is in an out-of-home placement, the Court shall order visitation rights absent a clear and convincing showing that visitation is not in the best interests of the child.

Adjudicatory Hearings  Adjudicatory hearings will be conducted by the judge without a jury, applying the rules of evidence in use in civil cases. In a hearing on a petition in which it is alleged that the child is dependent, a preponderance of evidence will be required to establish the state of dependency. Any evidence presented in the dependency hearing which was obtained as the result of an anonymous call must be independently corroborated. In no instance will allegations made in an anonymous report of abuse, abandonment, or neglect be sufficient to support an adjudication of dependency in the absence of corroborating evidence.

Every parent should be aware that one of the legal consequences of a dependency proceeding is the possibility that the Court may terminate their parental rights to their child. This may result in adoption of the dependent child(ren). An attorney can help explain the timeline and intricacies of juvenile dependency proceedings and their sometimes severe legal consequences.

The experienced lawyers at Grant Law Partners can guide you through this difficult and sometimes complex process.

Paternity

Any woman who is pregnant, or any man who has reason to believe he is the father of a minor child, may file a paternity action if paternity of the child has not already been established by a Court. To establish paternity, the Court may require the child, the mother, and the alleged father to submit to scientific DNA tests.

A determination of paternity for a child born out of wedlock will typically include a requirement for the father to pay child support and provide the father with time-sharing rights; however, the father could eventually be ordered equal time or a majority of the time-sharing with the minor child.

A man who believes he is the biological father of a child born out of wedlock is allowed to claim paternity of the child by filing with the Florida Putative Father Registry. This claim of paternity may be filed at any time prior to the child’s birth. An unmarried biological father who wishes to maintain his paternal rights should file with the Florida Putative Father Registry immediately. 

Florida law also permits the disestablishment of paternity. If a man who was previously found by a Court to be the father of a child and ordered to pay child support learns that he is not the natural father, he can file a petition with the Court to disestablish paternity, thereby terminating his obligation to pay child support. A disestablishment of paternity will also terminate any rights to the child, including any time-sharing that was previously granted. There are several conditions precedent to the filing that must be satisfied.

The experienced lawyers at Grant Law Partners can guide you through this difficult and sometimes complex process.

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AGGRESSIVE REPRESENTATION

Grant Law Partners provides aggressive representation to those that require the experience and attention of legal counsel who will listen to your needs and work tirelessly to achieve your objectives.