First know:

"Divorce" is called "Dissolution" in Florida.

"Custody" is now called "time-sharing" and parents must complete "parenting plans".

You can the different "Parenting Plans" on the Twelfth Judicial Circuit Website.  The Twelfth Judicial Circuit includes Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto Counties.  www.jud12.flcourts.org.

Prenuptial Agreements are governed by statute.

Marital Settlement agreements are usually reached after mediation

Paternity - a father should protect his rights to see his child(ren)

Domestic Violence Injunction hearings require the proper presentation of prosecution or a defense.

After the Final Judgment there are specific standards to change or modify a financial issue or custody/time-sharing.

Now the Frequently Asked Questions (just some of them):

1. I have depended on my spouse for income, what if (s)he threatens to not pay for my expenses? 

This is a spousal support issue, which is called "alimony".  There is a more thorough review of the law in the "alimony" section under "Dissolution 101".

Practically speaking, when the spouse that has been the "breadwinner" has an attorney, most attorneys have advised the spouse to keep paying the necessary expenses of the household. Furthermore, there are local "standing orders" to keep the financial status quo. If the spouse does not pay and the necessary expenses are in jeopardy of not being paid (like the electric will get shut off) then a contempt motion or an emergency hardship motion for support can be filed. It is then up to the judge to decide whether to hold an expedited hearing.  In the collaborative process, we avoid court and work out the issue with the team.

2. My spouse or child(ren)'s parent has threatened to take our child(ren) and leave the area, what can I do?

If there is no court order determining your time-sharing schedule then an appropriate motion would be made to have the court take jurisdiction over your child(ren) and request the court to order the child(ren) back to this jurisdiction.  Once back in the jurisdiction, a motion for temporary time schedule should be heard for the court to order a temporary schedule and an injunction against taking the child(ren) out of the jurisdiction until agreement or further court order.  In the collaborative process, this is not an issue.  

3. I am a father, and my child(ren)'s mother is not letting me see my child(ren). What are my rights? 

There is a difference between married men and unmarried man. If you are not married to the child(ren)'s mother then, unlike a married man, you do NOT have rights of shared parental responsibility and time-sharing until you assert those rights. Under the natural guardian statute (F.S.S. 741.301(1)), an unwed mother is the primary residential custodian of the child until a court order determines otherwise. In the collaborative process, the you work with your team to fashion a parenting plan that is best for your child(ren).

4. We want a "friendly" divorce, do we have to go to court?

No, you do not have to "go to court" to fight the issues. Practically speacking, one of you may have to go to court to confirm to the judge you reached a fair agreement, but that is a formality.  There are alternative dispute resolutions to your divorce, including, kitchen table negotiations, collaboration and mediation.    

5. How much will this divorce cost me?  

How much will this divorce cost me? The Clerk's filing fee is $397.50 + credit card fees.  The Summons is $10.00 + credit card fees.  The traditonal divorce that is not agreed upon as to the substance of the entirety of the issues will be at the very least $6,000.00 ($3,000.00 retainer per side), and into the tens of thousands for courtroom litigation.  Attorney's bill by the hour, and more specifically the tenth of an hour (.1 = 6 minutes and .2 = 12 minutes), thus, if your attorney bills $300.00 per hour then 5 ten minute phone calls could cost you $300.00. If you pay a $3,000.00 retainer (they are mostly nonrefundable) then you have 10 hours on retainer for a $300.00 per hour attorney. I explain the attorney time and costs and your possible contribution to the increase in a bill and the possible contribution of your spouse's actions to the bill. You may need an expert in your case, such as, a vocational expert, forensic accountant, psychiatrist, real estate or tax attorney, which can all cause increased costs for your case. 

In collaborative law, the fees will vary based on the retainers of the professionals.  Some professionals work on a retainer and some work hourly. 

6. Can I represent myself? 

Yes.  In fact, you have that absolute right . You will be held to the same standard as if you had an
attorney. If you execute an "unfair" agreement, or the judge gives you an "unfair" ruling, you will not have as a "legal" excuse "I didn't have an attorney".

There are very few attorneys that help those people representing themselves in court.  I do provide a low hourly rate to help with forms and understanding the law.

7. What if I cannot afford an attorney? 

For divorce and paternity actions, you do NOT have a legal right to an attorney.  Some local attorneys, including me, participate in "pro bono" (free) legal service through legal aid (Manasota Legal Aid) or by court appointment to represent children.  I do not take pro Bono clients that just schedule a consult. My pro bono clients are referred to me through the courts.

8. Can you afford to not have the advice of attorney? 

Many people have asked me whether they need an attorney.  My response is "would you do surgery on yourself?"  Family law is a complicated area of law. Like other areas of law, it is governed by statutes, rule of procedure and case law.  Further, your case involves the most important relationships in your life and your finances for years to come.  The hiring of an attorney could maintain the sanctity of your relationship with your child(ren) for not only the years until your child(ren) turn(s) 18, but the enjoyment of the many years thereafter because of the investment in a professional to help you.  The good news is that you have options for dispute resolution and limited scope legal services for the services you need.   

9. I keep hearing from my family and friends different words used for rights to the children like " custody" and "full custody" and "dissolution" and "divorce", what are the proper terms?

This is the easiest question, please see "Dissolution 101" for all the proper terms.

10. I am a grandparent or concerned relative.  What rights do I have?

Agreements can be made for temporary guardianships and custody. 

11. What about child support?

These are guidelines established by the legislature in F.S.S. 61.30. I have the same program the courts use and I can run the guidelines. In general, I will need to know the gross incomes, health insurance costs, the costs of the health insurance for the child(ren), and average per year for daycare and any ongoing regular medical expenses. There is other information, but the foregoing are the basics. It will be helpful to have your paystub and your tax return and the other parent's income and deductions.

12. What if I want to relocate with my child(ren)?

The statute changed from 5 sentences within F.S.S. 61.13 to the many requirements  per F.S.S. 61.13001. 

General warning for F A Q

All information is as to the general law for family law, and is never a substitute for the hiring of an attorney to help you.   Each family is unique and the same laws will apply differently to each family.