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Winston Law PA
561-670-9375

Family Law

If you are considering a Prenuptial Agreement or Domestic Partnership Agreement, are facing the difficult decision of divorce, or need to modify an already existing timesharing, custody, child support or spousal support agreement, please contact Winston Law at (561) 670-9375 or email at susan@winstonlawpa.com.

Prenuptial Agreements

Also known as premarital agreements, a prenuptial agreement is a marriage contract entered into before the marriage.  Within a prenuptial agreement the parties can predict division of assets in case of divorce.  Prenuptial agreements create certainty and prevent expensive divorce proceedings.

Domestic Partnership Agreements

Domestic partnership agreements are similar to prenuptial agreements.  Their purpose is to protect parties who chose to live together in long term relationships rather than marry.  Domestic partnership agreements can determine how assets and debts should be divided if the relationship dissolves, how assets should be acquired by the couple during the relationship, monetary support during and after the relationship, healthcare issues, guardianship and much more.

Divorce Overview

Getting divorced is a legally and emotionally complex process.  The goal in any divorce is to decide the issues in the marriage; which may include equitable distribution of the assets and liabilities, alimony or spousal support, child custody and timesharing, child support and any other issues that may be specific to your marriage.  These issues can be decided through negotiation, mediation or trial.

Simplified Dissolution of Marriage

In less legally complex cases, the State of Florida currently employs a procedure known as simplified dissolution of marriage.  Just like it sounds, a simplified dissolution of marriage is a simplified procedure for divorce designed to quickly dissolve certain types of marriages.

If you qualify for a simplified dissolution of marriage it is important that both parties are aware they are giving up certain legal rights entitled to them in a regular dissolution of marriage.

Uncontested and Contested Divorce

Florida recognizes two types of divorce, uncontested and contested.   An uncontested divorce is one in which both parties agree to all the issues that may arise in their divorce.  Depending on the circumstances those issues may include, equitable distribution of the assets and liabilities, spousal support (alimony), parental responsibility, timesharing and visitation.

A contested divorce is one in which each party does not agree on the issues that may arise in the divorce.  Contested divorces are often more costly and stressful on both parties.  The parties will likely be required to go to mediation.  If they are unable to resolve their issues at mediation the court will have to decide.

Equitable Distribution of Assets and Debts

In the State of Florida, marital property is divided based on the concept of equitable distribution.  This is much less clear cut than in some states that divide property 50/50.  In order to divide property, it must first be determined which assets and debts are marital and which are non-marital.

Marital assets are any assets acquired during the marriage and marital debts are any debts incurred during the marriage.  These may include houses, cars, stocks, bonds, pensions, retirement plans, annuities and businesses.

Non-Marital refers to any assets and debts acquired or incurred before the marriage.  This may include property owned before the marriage, any gifts given to one spouse during the marriage, or any inheritances held by one spouse.  Non-marital assets become marital if they are comingled with marital assets.

Once the marital assets and debts are determined they are each valued by the Court and distributed equally between the parties, unless there is a reason enumerated by statute for an unequal distribution.

Alimony/Spousal Support

Spousal support is defined as payments from one spouse to the other on a temporary or permanent basis.  Its purpose is for each spouse to live in the life style they enjoyed during the marriage.

Permanent spousal support is paid on a monthly basis and is most common in longer marriages.  Temporary support can be paid from one spouse to the other during the divorce proceeding, until one spouse can further their skills or education to obtain a better job, or to bridge the gap between marriage and being single.

Parental Responsibility and Child Custody

If you and your spouse are contemplating divorce and have minor children, you will have to make difficult choices regarding your children including where they live and how decisions about their future will be made.  To do this, the court will require you to create a parenting plan with your spouse.  A parenting plan is a document governing the roles, responsibilities and decision making authority of each party when making major decisions in the lives of their children.  The parenting plan also includes a timeshare schedule for each minor child.

Child Support

Parents owe a duty of support to their minor children.  The amount of support each parent must pay is determined by Florida Child Support Guidelines which can be found in Florida Statute 61.30.  Child support amounts are calculated based on income and adjusted to take into account health insurance, daycare and parental timesharing.

Mediation

Mediation is used as an important tool to keeping divorce more cost effective.  Mediation involves the use of an independent and neutral mediator to help negotiate a settlement between the divorcing parties.  The goal of mediation is to reach an agreement that both sides can be happy with, resolving the issues within the divorce in an amicable and confidential manner.

Attorney’s Fees

If one party has more resources than the other, Florida Law allows the court to order that one party pay the other’s attorney’s fees.  The idea behind this law is that each party should have access to equal representation.  The court will balance one party’s need with the other’s ability to pay.

Modification

After finalizing your timesharing, child support and alimony agreements, it is possible that your needs and situation may change over time.  You will need to petition the court to change your current agreement.  In order to modify any current settlement agreement the party seeking modification must show a substantial change in circumstance.

Enforcement of Court Orders

There are several different court orders that may stem from a divorce case.  Those orders may deal with child custody and timesharing, property distribution, alimony, and/or child support.  It is very frustrating to have a court order resolving an issue and your ex-spouse does not follow it.  Not complying with a court order can result in serious consequences including attorney fees, bank account levies, loss of driver’s license, tax return seizures or jail time.

Paternity and Father’s Rights

If you are a father to a child and not married to that child’s mother, it is important to be aware of your rights in Florida.  According to Florida Law, if you are not married to your child’s mother at the time of the child’s birth your rights may be limited.  Even if your name is on the birth certificate, if you are not married to the child’s mother, you may have trouble seeing your child or making decisions about your child’s upbringing.  That is why it is important to establish paternity as soon as possible.

Grandparent and Relative Custody

While Florida Law does not specifically provide for grandparents and other relatives to have visitation or timesharing rights with their grandchildren, there are certain situations where grandparents and other relatives can seek custody of the children to protect them from an unsafe environment.

Domestic Violence Injunctions

Domestic Violence Injunctions are court orders requiring a person not to threaten, batter or harass another.  An injunction can require a party to have no contact with the person filing the injunction or limited phone contact.  Further, at an injunction hearing, the Court can require a party to vacate a shared home or award temporary child custody.  Because an injunction hearing requires evidence and witnesses, it is important for both victims of domestic violence and those accused of domestic violence to have representation at the hearing.

If you or a loved one need a knowledgeable and experienced attorney please contact Winston Law by calling (561)670-9375 or by emailing susan@winstonlawpa.com

 

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