Q: Why do you charge $100 for a consultation?
Q: Why do you charge $100 for a consultation?
A: Our consultations are extensive. We don't do free 15 minute consultations. Instead, we take the time to tell you what you might expect both from us and from the law. We'll help you make an informed decision regarding how to proceed with your legal issues.
What are the legal requirements for me to file for divorce in Florida?
A: In order to obtain a divorce in Florida, you must have resided in Florida for at least six months. If you have been here less time, you must wait.
Q: What if my spouse lives in another State?
A: You may still be able to obtain a divorce here. This can be a little tricky if you are seeking anything other than a divorce, for example, child support, alimony, or a division of assets. If you want the court to order any of these things, you must have your spouse personally served. Be warned, however, unless that spouse has significant contacts with Florida or meets additional requirements, personal service may be insufficient to obtain anything other than a divorce decree. That is, you may not get the other things you have requested.
Q: Do I need to prove that my spouse was/is unfaithful or violent towards me?
A: The short answer is no. Florida works under a “no-fault” system. There is no requirement to show anything other than the marriage is over. The term is “irretrievably broken” Maybe irreparably broken might have made more senses but that is the language in the statutes.
Q: I live in Miami-Dade but I work in Broward, does that mean I can file for divorce in either county?
A: No. A divorce must be filed in the county where you and your spouse last resided together as a couple. If you do not, the other side can file a motion to transfer which will require payment of filing fees in the correct court.
Q: How can I avoid getting wiped out financially in a divorce?
A: There are two components to this question. It does little good to “win” and get what you are seeking in court if the price you pay is too high in terms of legal fees, time lost from work, and general aggravation.
One thing you can do is insist on early mediation. That is where both sides and their lawyers meet with a neutral mediator to try to reach a quick and amicable divorce.
Most cases settle at mediation, but only if everyone is ready to settle. An early mediation may be just the thing to ensure that animosity has not reached a critical level. Ask your prospective attorney what he/she believes about mediation. If it is not brought up-run! Get another lawyer.
Q: What documents will I need to provide?
A: To properly handle your case, you must provide property deeds, banking records, pension/retirement accounts, tax returns, credit report, credit card statement, and a list real and personal property which was acquired during the marriage. You will review all this information with your attorney. After the initial meeting, additional items may be required but you leave the meeting with most of your questions answered.
Q: Can I get “full custody” over my child?
A: The term “custody” is no longer used in marital proceedings in Florida. But more importantly, what do you mean by wanting to have “full custody”? If you wish for your spouse to have little or no contact with the child and have little or no say in the child-rearing decisions, then you will need to provide the court with a good reason.
You see, the State of Florida believes that, generally speaking, two parents are better than one. Having both parents participate in the child-rearing decisions is part of what Florida calls “shared parental responsibility” and that is what the judge will order unless there is sufficient proof of abandonment, abuse, or neglect by the other parent such that the child would be harmed if that parent were allowed to participate. In that case, the court may award sole parental responsibility. Shared parental responsibility is what is ordered, or agreed to, in the vast majority of cases.
Q: What is a Guardian ad Litem and what role does he/she play in my divorce?
A: A Guardian ad Litem is a professional, typically a lawyer, but not always, who is court appointed to assist the court in determining what may be in the best interest of a child. Guardians are typically appointed in relocation cases or cases where one part alleges that the other is abusive or unfit. The guardian’s report and recommendation will carry a lot of weight with the court so it is important to cooperate with the guardian and to present yourself properly to avoid misunderstandings.
What kind of visitation can I expect?
A: Well, for starters, it is now called “time sharing” A better term if you think about it. How much you can expect will depend on many factors, the overriding of which is “what is best for the child?” It used to be that fathers, (I’m not trying to be sexist here, just speaking historically) would get the “standard visitation schedule." This was not an official term but everyone knew what it meant. It consisted of alternating weekends from Friday through Sunday evening and maybe a dinner-only session mid week.
Times have changed. Fathers are seeking, and in many cases, getting more time with their children. Most times, the schedule is agreed to by the parents and reflects the reality that allowing the child more time with the other parent (gender neutral) is often in the child's best interest.
Q: Does the amount of time spent by the child with each parent affect child support?
A: Yes. Florida law allows for a reduction in child support which corresponds to the number of overnights which each parent has with the child. A parent who spends 50% of the time with a child will pay less, all other factors being equal, than a parent who only spends 20% of the overnights with the child.
Q: What other factors affect child support?
A: Child support is based on the income of both parents, the number of overnights which each parent has with the child, the cost of medical insurance, and the cost of daycare. See the links section to access an online calculator. One warning here, if a parent agrees to a number of overnights in order to reduce his/her child support obligation and then does not live up to the terms of the agreement, or court order, then that is a violation which may result in the imposition of sanctions and which may be grounds to increase the amount of support.
Q: Am I entitled to or do I have to pay alimony?
A: Ah, the very word can send chills up some spines and put a smile on an others' face. The main factor in determining whether a spouse is entitled to alimony is whether that spouse has a need and if so, whether the other spouse has the ability to pay it. Check the articles section of the site for the latest information concerning the proposed changes to the alimony statutes.
Q: Can I get my spouse out of the home right away?
A: The short answer is maybe. The worse things are at home, the more doable this will be. If there is domestic violence, this can be accomplished on the same day. Please see below for more information about domestic violence. Otherwise, the court will look to the situation at home and the availability of alternative housing. This situation is very case-specific.
Q: Are there typical stages in a divorce?
A: Yes. The first stage is the filing stage. This is where one side files for divorce and has the other served with a copy of the petition. That other party then files a response which may include a counter-petition. This is the end of the pleading stage.
The next stage is discovery. This second stage is where a lot of time and effort is spent. Much of the information which you provided to your attorney will be provide to your spouse’s attorney. Some of the information to be exchanged is mandatory, that is, required by the rules of procedure (Rule 1.540, Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure). One party may seek additional information which may include standard interrogatories and a request for production. See the forms section for actual ones.
The next step is really where the case can go in different directions depending on the issues and the lawyers. I prefer to set up mediation and try to work things out at this point. I will have already filed a temporary motion prior to the mediation, just in case your case is one of the 20% that does not settle at mediation. If the case does settle, pending hearings are canceled and the case is set for uncontested divorce (UCD). This is a very short hearing where the judge signs the divorce decree which adopts the agreement of the parties. If the case does not settle, then the temporary hearing is kept on the calendar. At this hearing a temporary order may be entered involving parental responsibility, child support, alimony, attorney’s fees, etc. Some lawyers prefer to attend a temporary hearing first and then attend mediation.
The last stage is trial. The old adage “A marriage is grand, a divorce is ten grand” often applies. It is expensive to litigate. Sometimes it is necessary-but always expensive. See the section on “Keeping fees down." A trial can take hours or days depending on the complexity of the case and the number of witnesses involved.
Many factors may be present which may delay your case and/or cause the normal flow to be disrupted. For example, the filing of a petition for a restraining order may cause for a shift in strategy. Allegations of abuse will certainly cause things to play out differently. There are many variables.
Q: Is there an advantage to being the first to file?
A: The only advantage to filing first is that that party gets to present his/her evidence first at trial. This is sometimes seen as an advantage. If the case settles before it gets to trial, then filing first provided no advantage.
Q: Can I obtain a divorce if I don't know my spouse's whereabouts?
A: The short answer is yes; however, without your spouse's address, you will only be able to obtain a divorce. You will not be able to obtain child support, alimony, or division of assets and debts.
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