If your divorce case goes wrong, you made need to appeal the judge’s decision. Judges don’t always get it right. I’ve witnessed this as a Jacksonville family and divorce lawyer. Whenever, cases have reached a final conclusion, our legal system allows a person to appeal the decision. In family cases, judges listen to evidence at trials and must decide what is in the best interest of a child when considering time-sharing or child custody issues.  Florida Statute 61.13(3) lists the factors that the judge should use. The trial judge has discretion to do what he or she sees fit and in accord with the facts and the law in each case.

system_failureWhen cases are appealed, the appeals court will look back at the decision made by the trial judge and decide whether the judge abused his or her discretion. In the recently decided case of Niekamp v. Niekamp, the Second District Court of Appeals overruled a Leon County, Florida judge regarding several issues.  The judge in the Niekamp case awarded no time-sharing to the Husband in the case, but did not implement a plan for reunification of the Husband and the children. The appeals court deemed the lack of a reunification plan as an abuse of discretion.  Although the trial judge found that no time-sharing was appropriate for the time, there was no evidence that it was in the children’s best interest to never be reunited with the Husband.

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Divorce is an unfortunate reality.  It happens to people of all walks of life from the average Joe to household names like celebrity couple Gwen Steffani and Gavin Rossdale.   According to TMZ.com, Gwen filed for divorce on Monday.  Gwen and Gavin are both successful musicians and have been married for over 13 years, but sources report that Gwen complained that Gavin was a cheater and was on tour with his band too often.  Gavin claims that Gwen spent time on the road, as well.  Reasons for divorce vary as much as the couples that get them, but there are a few reoccurring themes in divorce cases.  Financial issues, cheating, domestic violence, substance abuse, and simply growing apart are the ones I hear most often.  Whatever the reason, divorces are common, but knowledge about the process and rights each person has is not common.
imagesThe process of getting divorced is legally simple.  What is complicated at times, is accomplishing the task.  The emotions that go along with the process can make matters difficult, especially where one party is being spiteful or is suffering from emotional pain that enhances the legal battle.  Pushing aside the emotions that come along with a divorce, the major issues to be decided are:

  1. Child child custody and visitation (referred to as “time-sharing” in Florida)
  2. Child support
  3. Spousal support (alimony)
  4. Division of marital property (equitable distribution)

Time-sharing is based on what is in the best interest of children.  A list of factors to be considered can be found in Section 60.13(3), Fla. Stat.   Child support is determined by a formula and is based on the parents’ incomes and the children’s needs, amongst other factors.  Spousal support (or alimony) is based on the length of the marriage, the parties’ needs and ability to pay, and more.  MArital property (and marital debt too) is generally divided equally between the parties, but there can be a deviation from this scheme, depending on the circumstances.

For more information on your rights and responsibilities, and general information on divorce in Florida, contact the Jacksonville divorce lawyers at the Law Office of David M. Goldman PLLC at (904) 685-1200.  Initial consultations are free.  Our attorneys can help you navigate through the process, while protecting your rights.  Call us today to schedule an appointment.

money

“Why is divorce so expensive? Because it’s worth it. “- Unknown

As a Jacksonville divorce lawyer, I can tell you that the average person that is thinking of divorce worries about the cost of  divorce.  The ugly truth is that divorce can be expensive, but divorce does not have to cost a lot.  There are things that you can do to help keep the costs down during your divorce.

1.  Be Reasonable

Some things in life are certain… like death and taxes.  Other things are mostly certain.  In divorce cases that involve minor children, child support is one of those things that will be mostly certain.  Each parent has a legal obligation to support children.  Florida has developed guidelines that are used to calculate child support.  The right of the child to be supported by parents cannot be negotiated away by husband and wife during divorce, since the right to receive support belongs to the child.  There are circumstances where child support could potentially be little to nothing, but they are not commonly present in my experience.  Therefore, be reasonable.  For example, fighting to pay no child support where there are three small children involved in a case is unreasonable and will be a waste of financial resources in most instances.  There are plenty of examples of unreasonable positions that can be held in a divorce case. Here, I only want to make the point that the more unreasonable you are– the more the fighting that takes place– the more fighting that takes places– the higher the attorney fees will be.

2.  Don’t Be Spiteful

Being angry at your soon-to-be ex-spouse is normal during a divorce.  People have hurt feelings.  People are sad for their lost. And for most divorcing couples, the decision to end the marriage is a big deal.  However, the time to be spiteful and do annoying things to get back at your spouse isn’t during the divorce.  Being spiteful leads to unreasonable decisions.  Tip number one above explains why this can be an expensive thing to do.

3.  Find a Close Friend or Family Member to Talk With

Although lawyers are commonly referred to as “Attorney and Counselor at law”, you don’t want to use your lawyer as your counselor.  Spending time explaining to your lawyer all of the things that make your spouse horrible should not happen often.  Your attorney should focus on addressing the legal issues that protect your interest.  Focusing on the issues at hand rather than talking about your feelings with your divorce lawyer is the ideal situation.  Lawyers understand the stress that comes during this time in your life.  Most will accommodate your request and talk with you when they are available, but keep in mind that this is considered as time dedicated to your case.  You will likely be billed for the counseling session.

These are just a few ways money can be saved.  For more information or for help with a divorce or other family law issue, contact the Law Office of David M. Goldman, PLLC at (904) 685-1200.  Our experienced family lawyers can help.

Separation and Bankruptcy in Florida: Can I file without my spouse if we are separated?

In addition to being emotionally draining for most people, divorces can cause a myriad of issues with the most substantial problems being financial issues.  Sometimes couples split, but don’t legally divorce.  Some states recognize legal separation, but Florida does not.  Living separately from your spouse while still being married is fine, but in Florida it does not have any special legal recognition.  When an individual who is simply living separate from his or her spouse (or is going through a divorce) considers bankruptcy, they often want to know if they can proceed with a bankruptcy without involving their spouse.

The current bankruptcy laws allow a debtor to file an individual bankruptcy regardless of whether he or she is married or in the process of getting a divorce. A debtor is allowed to file a joint or individual bankruptcy during a marriage or during an ongoing divorce.  Generally, when a person is married and filing bankruptcy, either individually or jointly, the income of both spouses determines what type of bankruptcy a debtor can file; either a Chapter 7, 13 or 11. This is known as household income in bankruptcy. Even if only one spouse is filing bankruptcy, the income of the other non-filing spouse will be taken into consideration and must be disclosed to the trustee and court.

Having the income of both parties included can create a huge problem when a married couple is separating and living apart and one spouse wants to file bankruptcy. They may be able to qualify for a Chapter 7 alone, but not when their non-filing spouse’s income is taken into consideration. When married couples are living separately, this means there are two houses and two sets of expenses.

Luckily, Florida has something called the “marital adjustment” in bankruptcy. The marital adjustment allows a spouse who is filing individually to subtract from their non-filing spouses income expenses that solely belong to the non-filing spouse. For example, if the non-filing spouse has a monthly car payment for a vehicle owned exclusively by the non-filing spouse, these type of expenses may be subtracted from the couples total income. This allows the filing spouse to not be penalized for expenses that are not for his or her benefit.

Call the Law Office of David Goldman PLLC today at 904-685-1200 for more information.  Our experience divorce lawyers and bankruptcy lawyers can help.

by Kendal Sander, Esq.

movingkidsIn Florida, the biological fathers of children born out of wedlock have few, or no rights, regarding the children until the court establishes paternity.  Florida Statute 744.301 makes a child’s mother the natural guardian when a child is born to unmarried parents.  Mothers are deemed to have automatic custody when the child is born. This means a single mother has the parental responsibility to make important decisions regarding the child’s wellbeing and the child lives with the mother.  Generally, there are two methods for a biological father to gain parental rights. He can formally petition the court for these rights, or he may establish through an informal method with the mother’s consent.

Petitioning the court.

A father may take legal action to establish his parental rights. He can prove that he is the biological father and petition the court for parental rights. In Florida, a father can file a Petition to Establish Paternity to establish parental rights. The court may then issue a parenting plan, which will describe in detail how the mother and father will be responsible for the daily upbringing of the child, the time-sharing schedule, and methods of communication with the child.

After a court has established paternity through this method, the father has the same rights as he would if he were married to the child’s mother. The mother can also ask the court to order the father to pay child support. The amount of child support to be paid usually depends on the father’s income and guidelines established by state law.

What does it mean to be a putative father?

In Florida, the term “putative father” means an individual who is or may be the biological father of a child whose paternity has not been established and whose mother was unmarried when the child was conceived and born. In order to establish rights as a father, the putative father must file a notarized claim of paternity form with Florida’s Department of Health, which maintains the Florida Putative Father Registry. A claim of paternity may be filed at any time prior to the child’s birth, but a claim may not be filed after the date a petition is filed for termination of parental rights. Once a claim is filed with this department, the registrant expressly consents to submit to DNA testing upon the request of any party, the registrant, or the adoption entity with respect to the child referenced in the claim of paternity, according to Florida Statute 63.054.

A claim of paternity form does require the alleged father provide some information such as the name, address, date of birth and a physical description of the mother and the father. It also must provide the date, place, and location of conception of the child if known. Continue reading

Child custody and time sharing battles in Florida divorces are always stressful situations for the people involved.  Jacksonville divorce lawyers and custody lawyers zealously represent clients who each want something different when it comes to custody or time sharing.  The judge hearing the case has to decide what is in the children’s best interest.  This is the standard that is always applied.  What the parties want, including the children, is not the controlling factor.  When the husband and wife are both fit parents and can provide a stable environment for children, difficult decisions have to be made.   So what factors will the judge consider in determining child custody and time sharing battles in Florida divorces?

man-woman-heart-5-1056041-mFlorida Statutes 61.13(3) lists several factors that judges can consider, but gives judges discretion to consider any facts that the judge deems relevant.  Click the link above to view the complete list and the full body of the statute.  Florida’s state policy is that each parent is afforded the chance to build a strong relationship with children.  The first factor on the list of things the judge is to consider is, “The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship, to honor the time-sharing schedule, and to be reasonable when changes are required.”  In view of the State policy and the importance of having both parents actively in children’s lives to help produce healthy, emotionally balanced children, it is no coincidence that this factor is listed first.  Other factors include the future division of parental responsibility, the reasonable preference of the children, school and community records of children, moral fitness of parents, and more.

For help with child custody and time sharing issues, contact the Law Office of David M. Goldman, PLLC today at (904) 685-1200.  Initial consultations are free.  Our experienced Jacksonville divorce lawyers can help you understand your rights as a parent and coach you through a stressful divorce.  Our attorneys have years of litigation experience and are prepared to fight for you when needed, but are also skilled in assisting you with uncontested divorces or collaborative divorce.  Schedule a consultation today.

Reasons for a name change can vary widely.  The reasons a for a name change could be as unique as snowflakes or fingerprints.  Sometimes a woman going through a divorce wants to change her name back to her maiden name, or someone with dreams of becoming a big shot movie director may want a name that is worthy of success.  The most common is a name change associated with a stepparent adoption or adoption in general.  Whatever your reason for a name change, the process of getting a name change in Florida is pretty simple and straight forward.  A name change is also a relatively inexpensive process.  Our experienced Jacksonville name change lawyers at the Law Office of David M. Goldman, PLLC can help.  The Process has three parts: (1) The Petition for Name Change; (2) Fingerprinting/Criminal History Check; and (3) The Hearing.

whats in a nameThe petition submitted to the court must have certain information about the petitioner, including current name, the name you wish to use, prior addresses, mother’s and father’s names, professional license, information, criminal history, and bankruptcy information, among other things.  The petitioner must swear that his or her name is not being changed for some illegal or improper purpose, such as to escape an outstanding warrant or to avoid creditors.

A petitioner has to have his or her fingerprints taken and a criminal history records investigation done by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE).  The results will be sent directly to the court.  Being dishonest about your criminal history can be a reason to have the Petition for Name Change denied.

Once the results of the fingerprint/criminal history check have been sent to the court, your case can be set for a hearing.  Testimony must be submitted to the court about the basic information contained in the petition for name change and the reason for the name change.  If the court is satisfied that the request for name change is legitimate, the court will grant the petition and sign an order changing your name.  Certified copies of the order must be provided to agencies like Vital Statistics so that your personal records, such as your driver’s license, can be updated. Call us today at (904) 685-1200 for a free consultation.

 

Can children choose what parent to live with after a divorce?  The short answer is probably “no”.  Most child custody lawyers would agree that custody and visitation are probably the most highly contested issues between people when relationships don’t work and the couple has had children.  Whether there is a genuine belief by a parent that children will be better off with him or her, or whether a parent is being spiteful when requesting majority timesharing, one argument that comes up is that the children prefer to live with one parent over the other.

Section 61.13, Florida Statutes states that a child’s reasonable preference about what parent to live with may be considered; however, the child’s choice will not control the court’s decision.  The court will weigh and relevant factors and decide what is in the child’s best interest.  A child’s desire to live with the “fun parent” won’t simply be taken at face value.  A child’s preference doesn’t always come into the equation, but when the preference is at issue, a child’s age, maturity level, and so on will be taken into account.  In practice, the child’s preference is likely to have little bearing on the court’s decision without there being more objective evidence that shows that the child’s preference is in line with the child’s best interest.  There are many things that come into play when the child’s best interest is being decided.  Typically, giving a child continuity and stability will be high on the priority list.  Things like whether one parent is likely to encourage a loving and nurturing relationship between the children and the other parent is important too.

For more information on child custody, visitation, divorce, and family law issues, called the experienced family lawyers at the Law Office of David M. Goldman, PLLC today at (904) 685-1200 for a free initial consultation.

150502_hand-in-handI live life with the blessing of being fascinated by small, simple things.  I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am about the new seedlings that have sprouted in my garden.  It’s a very warm and fuzzy feeling, but It’s not quite like bringing a new child into the world.  If you are a parent yourself or have shared in the experience of welcoming a child to life, you know that the new addition to the family brings in an avalanche of beautiful emotion.  What you may not be aware of is that Stepparents often feel a similar sense of elation when they adopt their spouse’s children.

I’ve had the pleasure to assist many families with stepparent adoptions as a Jacksonville family lawyer.  Although in every situation that I’ve been a part of, the stepmother or stepfather has been a part of the child’s life for years, when the adoption is final, the new parent is overwhelmed with joy.  Once the adoption is final, a legal parent-child relationship is created to go along with the emotional bond that already exists.  The child even gets a new birth certificate with the stepparent’s name on it.  The court records are then sealed, as all adoptions are private matters. Continue reading

498955_holding_moneyAlimony Reduction and Termination: Alimony is often one of the most contested issues in divorce cases.  For many people, the idea of paying money to financially support an ex-spouse is a disgusting idea.  When the love and reverence turns to hate and disdain, making alimony payments to the ex-spouse is painful.  The pain is only magnified by a judge’s ruling that the payments are to be permanent.  An award of permanent alimony normally stays in place until the re-marriage of the recipient or the death of one of the parties.  However, under some circumstances, modification or termination of permanent alimony payments can be accomplished.

Florida Statute 61.14 authorizes the circuit court to reconsider alimony when the parties’ circumstances or financial ability change.  Courts interpret this by requiring three things: (1) a substantial change in circumstances; (2) the change was not anticipated at the time of the final judgment; and (3) the change is sufficient, material, permanent, and involuntary.  Applying this test, alimony can be either decreased or increased.

Florida courts have deemed that a former wife’s increased living expenses related to her condominium were enough to justify an increase in alimony.  It has also been determined that a former husband who voluntarily retires after reaching retirement age and has less income as a result should have that fact considered when the former husband asks for a reduction in alimony payments.  For more information, or for a free initial consultation regarding the specific facts in your case, call the Law Office of David M. Goldman, PLLC at (904) 685-1200.  Our experienced Jacksonville alimony lawyers and divorce lawyers can help you or a loved one work toward the best outcome in your case.

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