Florida divorce rates are declining, while marriage rates are increasing, according to a recent article by WCTV.  This has been the case for the past year, according to a Department of Health report.  Jacksonville divorce lawyers are familiar with the fact that divorces are tough.  It is a wonderful thing for the numbers to decrease, even if only by a small amount.  Divorces cases are emotionally taxing on families.  Divorces are also financially harmful to families.

jacksonville divorceIn Florida, the divorce process is a simple one.  It may not always be easy to actually go through it, but the concept is simple.  If one person out of the couple believes that the marriage is broken, then there is grounds for a divorce.  Some other states require a bit more.  This could be one of the reasons why Florida’s divorce rate is slightly higher than the national average.

The major issues that come up in divorce cases are (1) child custody and visitation, referred to as parental responsibility and time-sharing; (2) child support; (3) alimony or spousal support; and (4) the division of assets and liabilities.  At the Law Office of David M. Goldman, PPLC, we have experienced Jacksonville divorce lawyers that can help you navigate through the simple, but stressful process of divorce in Florida.  Call us today for a free consultation.  Our experienced Jacksonville divorce lawyers can help you understand your rights and obligations regarding your divorce.  As much as we wish you a long healthy marriage, we realize that things happen and plans change.  Let our divorce lawyers get you on the right track.  Call today.

Mediation in divorce and family law cases is a way for the people involved to directly take part in the outcome.  Otherwise, strangers who know very little about the true nature of the dispute will make decisions for those involved in the case.  Mediation is a process where you have a neutral third person acting as a referee of sorts to help the parties involved see if an agreement can been reached.  Any issue can be resolved in mediation, from child support and alimony to the division of marital assets.  The mediator is not on anyone’s side, but uses logic, experience, and his or her knowledge of family law to help each side understand the other person’s viewpoint and what could possibly happen if the case were to go to trial.

Mediation in Florida

Balance through mediation

Mediators can differ a lot in style, but in general, he or she will start with one side and explain the rules and the process to the person.  The same will be done for the person on the other side.  In a typical divorce case, the parties involved will be the husband and his lawyer on one side and the wife and her lawyer on the other side.  Although with same sex marriages being more prevalent, variations of this scenario are possible.  Some mediators will do the initial process disclosure with both parties present in the same room in order to save time.  Afterwards, the parties are split, and each side will explain its position and may make an offer to the other party, or they may send an invitation to receive an offer from the other side.

Mediation is not strictly required under Florida law, but the Family Law Rules of Procedure, in rule 12.740, give judges discretion to send parties to mediation prior to cases being set for trial.  With as much to do as the average family law judge, mediation is an attractive idea.   It saves the judge time, and it gives the parties a chance to participate in the result.  Also, mediation allows the parties to get creative and have more flexibility regarding an outcome than the judge has.   Most judges I’ve practiced in front of as a Jacksonville divorce lawyer are patient, insightful, and all other things that make good judges.  They all have also been human, however.  In light of the possibility for human error or for something to appear different than what it really is, mediation is a good way to protect yourself from the possibility of not having things go your way in court.  In the spirit of reaching a resolution, there has to be a willingness to compromise in some regards.  Keep in mind that no one can be forced in mediation to do what he or she is unwilling to do.  If no agreement is reached, the parties are free to set the case for trial.

Most people have had buyer’s remorse from time-to-time. The moment a person realizes he or she has made a bad deal can be very disappointing. As a Jacksonville divorce lawyer, I can tell you that settlement agreements in divorce cases can leave a person feeling the same way. Marital settlement agreements can be used to resolve any issue in a divorce case. Some subjects, like custody or time-sharing, may have to be approved by the court before being made a part of the final divorce decree. Child support, for example, that is normally based on guidelines can be more than what the law requires, if both parties have agreed to it.  A father that has agreed to pay $200 additional in child support per month will typically be stuck with the terms of the agreement he signed.  divorce_pic

Florida courts have long held that a signed settlement agreement in divorce cases will bind both parties.   This is so, because courts prefer people to work the cases out themselves, rather than rely on the court to solve problems through litigation. Jacksonville divorce lawyers would all hope that their clients won’t enter into agreements without the divorce lawyer having an opportunity to review and advise the client about the agreement, but divorce lawyers are sometimes faced with having to search for ways to get a client out of a settlement agreement the lawyer was not involved in.   Unless certain circumstances exist, a person is bound by a signed settlement agreement in divorce cases. Things that can make a settlement agreement unenforceable include fraud, duress, misrepresentation, and overreaching.

For example, a situation where a husband threatened to turn his wife and her business partners in to the IRS unless she signed the marital settlement agreement was found to be duress, and the agreement was set aside. Where one party has lied about what assets are available, courts are likely to invalidate those agreements, as well. Experienced Jacksonville divorce lawyers at the Law Office of David M. Goldman, PLLC can help you maneuver through the issues in your divorce case. Free consultations are available. Call us today at (904) 685-1200.

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.


“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.


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