Faq's Frequently Asked Questions

  • DIVORCE LAW
  • FAMILY LAW
  • PROBATE LAW

Marriage represents a thrilling milestone, marking a profound change in one’s life. Divorce can likewise bring significant changes to one’s life. This implies that in the unfortunate event of a marriage coming to an end, there’s a need for a legal process to manage the dissolution. To facilitate this process, individuals often choose to establish a legal arrangement prior to marriage, known as a prenuptial agreement. A prenuptial agreement can determine how property will be allocated in case of a spouse’s death or divorce, whether alimony is available, and if so, the amount. It’s important to note that this agreement does not control child support, parental responsibility, or time sharing under Florida law. If you’re considering entering into a prenuptial agreement, it’s advisable to enlist a professional family law attorney near you. They can address any inquiries you may have and ensure that the process adheres to all legal requirements, as the law concerning prenuptial agreements is very technical in Florida.

When making the decision to initiate divorce proceedings, you should consider several different important factors. First, you should determine whether or not you qualify for divorce before broaching the subject with your spouse. You must maintain residency in Florida for a minimum of six months prior to filing for divorce. There are special rules for spouses enlisted in the military. Second, if children are involved it is important to determine whether Florida is considered the home state pursuant to the Uniform Child Custody Enforcement Act. legal prerequisites for the divorce process. To file for dissolution, either you or your spouse must have maintained residency in Florida for a minimum of six months, or one of you must be stationed in the state as a member of the armed forces. Once this residency requirement is fulfilled, either party must believe that the marriage is irreparably damaged. Florida operates as a no-fault state, meaning you are not obligated to provide proof of marital misconduct, such as adultery or abuse, to validate the divorce. Secondly, you should be mindful of the financial aspects that will arise. Upon the dissolution of the marriage, the assets and debts accrued by both you and your spouse will be equitably distributed between the two parties. This entails a fair allocation of any financial resources that were accumulated during the marriage. If you and your spouse reach an agreement on the division of these assets and liabilities, you may be eligible for an uncontested divorce. In cases where no consensus is reached, a judge will make the final determination regarding the distribution. Thirdly, the safety and well-being of both yourself and your children should be a top priority. The divorce process can be emotionally challenging, potentially leading to anger or conflict. If you have concerns about your spouse’s reaction to the divorce, it’s essential to take proactive measures to protect yourself and your children. Self-care should not be overlooked during this demanding period.

When a marriage reaches the point of being irreparably broken, you can initiate the process by filing a petition for the dissolution of marriage. This petition outlines your specific requests to the court regarding the divorce. There are four primary types of petitions to choose from, depending on your circumstances: the Petition for Simplified Dissolution of Marriage, the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with a Dependent or Minor Child, the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with Property but No Dependent, and the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with No Dependent or Property. Following the submission of this petition, a notice is sent to your spouse, who is required to respond within a 20-day period. The response should address the stipulations outlined in the initial petition and any additional matters that your spouse wishes to resolve. Both spouses will need to provide various financial documents and an affidavit, as the division of financial assets can often be the most challenging aspect of the entire process. If you and your spouse cannot reach an agreement on asset distribution, the matter will be adjudicated by a judge. The judge will allocate both assets and liabilities based on the principles of equity, striving for a fair and just outcome. This determination may consider factors such as each party’s capacity to assume debt and their individual needs for financial support. It is often advisable to seek legal counsel to navigate this process effectively.

It’s widely recognized that divorce can have a significant impact on children, often making them feel burdened by the responsibility of their parents’ separation. Given this, the well-being of your children should unquestionably be your foremost concern when going through a divorce. The key priorities include establishing custody arrangements and determining child support. In the process of determining child support obligations, the court takes various factors into account. These factors encompass the income of both parents and the specific needs of the child, which may encompass expenses related to healthcare and education. The child’s age and the standard of living the family enjoyed before the separation will also be factors influencing these decisions. Prioritizing the children’s welfare and fostering a supportive environment during this challenging time is of utmost importance.

When parents who are in the process of separating or divorcing cannot reach an agreement regarding visitation or parenting time, the judge typically makes a decision based on various factors, always with the child’s best interests in mind. These factors include:

  • The mental and physical health of each parent.
  • The duration of time the child has resided in their current home.
  • The moral fitness of each parent.
  • The willingness of each parent to communicate and cooperate with the other, including keeping them informed about the child’s activities and fostering a strong relationship between the child and the other parent.
  • The ability of each parent to prioritize the child’s needs over their own desires.
  • The child’s history in terms of their home, school, and community.
  • Each parent’s capability to meet the child’s developmental needs.
  • The ability of each parent to establish a consistent and regular routine for the child, including meals, bedtime, and homework.
  • Whether there is any evidence of drug use, violence, neglect, or abuse in either parent’s home.
  • Depending on the child’s level of intelligence and maturity, their preference regarding which parent they would like to live with may also be considered.

Ultimately, the judge’s decision is guided by these factors to ensure that the child’s well-being and best interests are the primary focus during this challenging time.

In Florida, unlike some other states that specify a particular age (e.g., 14) at which a child’s preference regarding which parent they want to live with is considered by the court, there is no set age. Instead, the decision is left to the judge’s discretion. However, many judges in Florida tend to take a child’s preference into account around the age of 12 or 13, among other factors. The judge considers factors such as the child’s intelligence, maturity, experiences with each parent, and their understanding of the decision being made. It’s important to recognize that children vary in their maturity levels, and some may demonstrate a capacity for making important decisions at a younger age. In rare cases, an unusually articulate and intelligent 11-year-old may be given consideration by the judge. Furthermore, the judge evaluates whether the child’s choice to live with a particular parent is genuine or if it stems from rebellion against the custodial parent. The court also assesses whether one parent is attempting to unduly influence the child’s opinion. Ultimately, the judge weighs all these factors, including the child’s preference, when making a decision about custody or visitation arrangements. However, the child’s preference is typically not the sole determining factor in the judge’s decision.

In determining the amount of child support, the income of both spouses is a crucial factor, and it encompasses various sources of income. Here are some examples of income that are considered when calculating child support:

  • Employment income, which includes salary, overtime wages, tips, commissions, and bonuses.
  • Unemployment compensation.
  • Disability benefits.
  • Business income.
  • Income received from trusts, estates, and royalties.
  • Alimony received.
  • Social security benefits.
  • Pension and annuity payments.
  • Net rental income.

In cases where one party is intentionally unemployed, underemployed, or not earning their full potential in an attempt to reduce child support payments, the court may impute income. This means that the court may calculate an appropriate income for that party as if they were working at their true capacity in order to determine the amount of child support owed. However, this imputation of income is typically employed when the reduction in hours or pay is within the control of the party, and it aims to prevent the paying party from concealing their true income to pay less child support.

Probate administration is a court process.

Assets are collected, creditors are paid and beneficiaries receive whatever remains.

  • Assets = Real Estate or Personal Property
  • Two kinds of “Probate”: Summary & Formal Administration
  • The existence of a Will does not eliminate the need for probate
  • In Florida, “Personal Representatives” are in charge of “probating” the estate
  • Personal Representatives must have attorney representation (attorneys do most of the work)
  • Most probate cases are filed by mail with telephone hearings (so your attorney does not have to be in the county where probate is required)

In the absence of a Last Will & Testament, the disposition of assets may be governed by a legal concept known as “intestate succession.” When a person passes away without a Will (intestate), Florida Statutes provide a framework for determining who is entitled to inherit the deceased’s estate assets. This legal framework outlines the distribution of assets in cases where there is no specific testamentary document to guide the process.

Usually, gaining access to a safe deposit box involves presenting a court order that grants permission for inspection, or alternatively, presenting Letters of Administration (LOAs). It’s important to note that Letters of Administration also function as court orders in this context, as they provide the legal authority necessary to access and manage the contents of the safe deposit box.

Letters of Administration serve as court orders that are integral components of the formal administration process. These letters grant the appointed personal representative the legal authority to initiate the estate administration proceedings. Among their various responsibilities, personal representatives are authorized to engage with financial institutions, including banks and brokerages, to handle matters related to the estate. Importantly, obtaining Letters of Administration requires the initiation of an estate in probate court. Without opening an estate in probate court and following the formal legal procedures, one cannot obtain Letters of Administration, which are essential for managing and distributing assets in accordance with the law.

Summary Administration is a streamlined probate process that is typically employed when either the total assets of the estate are valued at $75,000 or less (excluding the value of the homestead), or when more than two years have elapsed since the date of the individual’s death. In the case of Summary Administration, there is no appointment of a personal representative to manage the estate, and it is often referred to as “small estate administration.” This process is designed to simplify and expedite the handling of smaller estates and can offer certain advantages in terms of efficiency and reduced administrative burden.

Formal administration represents the conventional and more comprehensive method of probate in Florida. In formal administration, a personal representative, often referred to as an executor, is appointed to oversee and manage the estate’s affairs. This personal representative is responsible for various tasks, including the distribution of assets, paying off debts and taxes, and handling legal matters related to the estate. This approach is typically used when the estate’s complexity or the value of assets exceeds the thresholds for simplified forms of probate like Summary Administration.

Other than attorneys fees, there may be costs/expenses for:

  • Case Filing Fees ($235-400)
  • Publication of a “Notice to Creditors” (range: $100-200)
  • Recording of Orders ($10 for the first page, $8.50 each addt’l)
  • Certification of Orders ($2.00 certification + $1.00 per page of each instrument)
  • Postage and/or FedEx
  • Costs of ordering documents (death certificates, copies of Wills.)