Do you offer free consultations for family law issues?
Yes. We offer a free 15 minute phone conference with an experienced family law attorney. During the initial phone conference, we will determine proper venue, discuss your situation and needs, and determine if an office consultation will be advantageous.
If you come in for an office consultation, we will spend up to 90 minutes with you, getting to know each other, finding out more about your case, and discussing how the law can help you achieve your goals. With our consultations, you leave our office understanding your options and what happens next. The fee is $250.
Can I get a legal separation from my spouse?
In Florida, legal separation is not recognized by law, however there are options for procuring support from your spouse without a formal dissolution of marriage. First, if your spouse has abandoned you but you do not wish to be divorced, you can file a petition for support (both child and spousal) unconnected with a divorce under certain circumstances. Second, if you wish to stay out of the court system and you and your spouse can agree on an amount of support, we can help you draft an enforceable contract. Either way, our experienced family law staff can help you.
Does it matter who filed for divorce first or who wanted the divorce?
No. In determining the financial outcome of your divorce and where your children will live, the judge is required to determine “equitable distribution of assets” and “the best interest of the children” to make a final judgment of dissolution of marriage. There are many factors they consider, however among them is not who wanted the divorce, who filed first, or even the cause of the divorce.
Will my spouse be forced to move out of the house or if I move out of the house, is that “abandonment”?
If there has been no violence in your marriage, the court may allow both of you to live in the house while the divorce is pending. You are always free to move out, but it could be that the court will not let you take the children with you if custody of the children is being contested. Most importantly, you may not lock your spouse out of the house unless the court gives you the exclusive possession of the house. These types of decisions should always be informed by having a consultation with your attorney.
At what age can my children choose where they want to live?
The judge will usually take a child's preference for primary residence under advisement only if the child is fourteen years or older. Younger children may also be able to voice their opinions if they can demonstrate a high level of maturity. However, the child’s preference is only one of many factors the court considers in determining where the child will live. Children are, after all, children.
Can both spouses use the same lawyer if a divorce is “uncontested”?
No. An attorney cannot represent opposing parties even if they can agree on the issues. If you want to pay for only one attorney to help you through the process, one spouse will be represented and the other will be pro se, meaning self-represented.
What is mediation? Will I be required to attend mediation?
Mediation is a process where you and your spouse along with your attorneys meet with a mediator, who is a neutral third person with experience in family law (usually another attorney, mental health professional, or accountant) to try to settle your case prior to trial. This process is usually required by the court, in an effort to alleviate the judge’s caseload. The length of your mediation will depend upon the complexity of the contested issues in your case. Most family law cases do settle during mediation or some time before going to trial. It is important to know that offers of settlement made in mediation cannot be used against either one of you if your case go to trial.
How can I get my spouse to support me or pay the bills during our divorce?
Before a lawsuit has been filed, there is no mechanism for forcing your spouse to provide support. Once the dissolution of marriage has been filed, you can petition the court for temporary support. Both child support and spousal support can be sought where appropriate. Temporary support is an estimate of what the final judgment will provide, however the amounts can change substantially as the judge gets more information during trial to make the final decision.
Can my spouse be forced to send the children to college?
No. Since children become adults once they turn 18 or graduate from high school (even if they are up to 19 years old) neither you nor your spouse can be forced to support your children in any way, including paying for college or post high school education.
Will I get more support or assets in the divorce, because my spouse has committed adultery?
Maybe, but only if you can prove that your spouse spent a lot of marital money on or gave assets to their “friend”. If you can't prove a depletion in assets due to the infidelity, it will not impact your distribution. An experienced attorney can help you gather the necessary documentation and present it in court to support your claims.
How can I make sure my spouse doesn't take more than his or her fair share? Should I prepare for a divorce?
It is a good idea to gather all of your financial records and any valuable items that belong solely to you and keep them in a safe place prior to filing for divorce. If you have joint accounts, you may want to take half of the balance and open your own account. You might also want to cancel joint credit cards and lines of credit.
If my spouse wanted the divorce, will they have to pay the attorneys fees?
Who pays attorney fees is a complicated matter. Your attorney will likely require you to pay a retainer fee prior to starting on your case, and if your case is complex he or she may ask for more as the case proceeds. If you make substantially less or have fewer assets than your spouse, the court may require your spouse to reimburse you for some or all of the cost of your attorney. Your attorney can make a motion for attorney fees as the case proceeds, but it is likely that the judge will reserve this issue until the end of the case.
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