It is no secret that going through a divorce is expensive.  Although there is very little that you can do about certain costs of your divorce, such as what you may or may not lose during property division hearings, there is one area of expenses you can control.  That is your legal fees and costs.  All divorce attorneys in Jacksonville will charge something to legally represent you during the process, and the advice and counsel they bring to your case is invaluable.  Still, there are some ways that you can keep the legal costs down, so you do not face unexpected charges in the future.  Your Jacksonville divorce lawyer can explain to you in your initial consultation how to keep your legal costs down but here are some basic tips.

Call and Email Only When You Have To

            Most divorce lawyers in Jacksonville will charge you for every time they devote to answering your phone calls and emails.  However, you likely want them to spend this time preparing for your trial, mediation, or other aspects of your case.  You will have may questions during the divorce process, and you deserve to have them answered.  Instead of incurring fees every time you have a question, prepare a list of questions, and ask them all at once.  Your Jacksonville divorce lawyer will still charge you, but you will likely incur fewer legal fees.

This month is National Make-A-Will Month.  Although most Americans realize the importance of estate planning, it is estimated that 50-60% do not have a will.  If you do not yet have an estate plan, now is the time to act!  Your Jacksonville family or estate lawyer can assist you with creating this plan.

Why is it important?

            The entertainer commonly known as Prince died unexpectedly at the age of 57 years old.  Since he had not established an estate plan before he passed, Prince was unable to designate how his fortune would be shared.  Prince’s estate is still tied up with legal battles some five years later!  Not having a will can lead to family disputes and, as was the case with Prince’s estate, costly litigation.  Having your final documents in order before it is too late is an expression of love and compassion for your family and friends.

Do You Know Your Rights in Child Support Court?

In a child support case, one cannot be incarcerated if they do not have the present ability to pay.  Bowen v. Bowen, 471 So.2d 1274 (Fla. 1985).  Although this case is binding on Florida courts, the author believes that self represented individuals do not get the benefit of legal protections against incarceration or cancellation of a driver’s license or professional license.  The author believes that one reason for this is because laymen tend to believe that an administrative agency must take a neutral position (similar to a judge).  This is not the case when it comes to collection of child support by the Florida Department of Revenue.  The author, in the next paragraph is going to summarize the case of Bowen v. Bowen to give readers a clearer understanding of child support issues when the Florida Department of Revenue is involved.

The Case of Bowen v. Bowen.

Have you been taken advantage of by someone in a purchase or contract?  This happens often when someone purchases something over the internet.  Florida has a very large population of elderly individuals.  Because many elderly persons are vulnerable and subject to exploitation some of Florida’s laws are more stringent than in other states.  While elderly persons are the most preyed upon, anyone can be taken advantage of in a given situation and their money taken.  If this has happened to you, you may have remedies under Florida’s Civil Theft Statute.  Contact your local Jacksonville elder law attorney to find out if you have a case.

Florida’s Civil Theft statute can be found at §772.11 titled Civil remedy for theft or exploitation.  This statute provides that any person who can prove by clear and convincing evidence that he/she has been injured in any fashion by reason of any violation of Florida’s criminal statutes §812.012-812.037 or §825.103(1) has a cause of action for threefold (or 3 times) the actual damages sustained and, in any such action, is entitled to minimum damages in the amount of $200, and reasonable attorney’s fees and court costs in the trial and appellate courts.  The criminal statute that covers theft is §812.014 and that generally is the statute you look at to determine if you have a civil theft case.

There are procedures that must be followed before making a civil theft claim.  You must send a demand letter to the potential defendant and give them 30 days to make payment on the treble damages you will be alleging in your complaint.  If that person complies and makes payment, a written release from civil liability for the specific act of theft or exploitation must be given to the defendant.  You should consult your Jacksonville family law attorney for assistance if you believe you are the victim of civil theft.

It is not uncommon in a divorce case for one of the spouse’s not to want to end the marriage.  One partner may think that there is a chance of working things out and resolving their differences, or they may not want to legally dissolve the marriage for other reasons.  If your spouse has started divorce proceedings, and you really don’t want a divorce, your options may be limited but there is something you can do.  Florida is one of seventeen states that follow No-Fault laws in divorce cases.  The Petitioner only has to allege that the marriage is irretrievably broken. If you really do not want a divorce you should answer the Petition for Dissolution by alleging you do not believe the marriage is irretrievably broken.  Florida Statute §61.052(2)(b)1 allows you to request the Court to Order you and your spouse to marriage counseling.  It is rarely done and there are specific requirements that must be met.  Your Jacksonville Family Lawyer can assist you in understanding this law and representing you in Court.

In order for a spouse to utilize this statute, the parties must have a child together.  If the Court grants the request for marriage counseling, psychiatrist, priest, minister, rabbi, or any other professional the divorce will be placed on hold for approximately three months to allow the counseling to take place.  Florida Statute §61.052(2)(b)2 allows the Court to continue the proceedings for a reasonable length of time not to exceed 3 months, to enable the parties themselves to effect a reconciliation.  During any period of continuance, the Court has jurisdiction to make appropriate orders for the support and alimony of the parties; a parenting plan, support, maintenance, and education of any minor children of the marriage; attorney’s fees; and the preservation of the property of the parties.  Consult your Jacksonville Family Lawyer for assistance with your case.

As previously stated, the above statute is rarely used.  This is because if one person wants to end the marriage, counseling is usually not effective.  By the time a person has made the decision to start the divorce process, they have usually given it a lot of thought and intend to go through with it.

What is Domestic Violence?

Under the Florida Statutes, Domestic Violence is defines as “any assault, aggravated assault, battery, aggravated battery, sexual assault, sexual battery, stalking, aggravated stalking, kidnapping, false imprisonment, or any criminal offenses resulting in physical injury or death of one family or household member by another family or household member.” F.S. 741.28.

Is Domestic Violence Criminal?

In this day in age, many people are being forced to allow family members to live with them for what is supposed to be a temporary stay until they get on their feet again.  They allow them to reside in their home without a lease out of the goodness of their hearts and then the good Samaritan gets taken advantage of by the temporary resident.  What was meant to be a temporary stay turns into a longer period of time and when the Good Samaritan property owner asks the person to leave the home they refuse to do so.  What can a person do under those circumstances when there is no lease in place?  Eviction is not an option if there is not a lease.  When there is no lease in place and the person refuses to leave you will have to file an Unlawful Detainer action or Ejection using Florida Statute.  Your Jacksonville family law attorney can assist you with this type of case.

Unlawful Detainer cases are entitled to what is called summary procedure under Florida Statute §51.011.  Under Summary procedure the defendant must file an answer with five (5) days after service of process.  Normally, most complaints the defendant has 20 days to file an answer or respond.  Under Florida’s unlawful detainer statute §82.03(4) the Court shall advance the cause on the calendar.  This means that the Court is required to move it up on the docket and deal with it immediately.  If the Defendant fails to answer after 5 days from being served, the Plaintiff (Homeowner) can file a Motion for Default Judgment.  If the defendant answers the complaint the Court must conduct a hearing immediately to determine the legitimacy of the defendant remaining on the property.   If the Court enters a default, the Plaintiff then receives a Final Judgment and requests the Judge enter a Writ of Possession.  The sheriff then serves the Writ of Possession on the defendant and requires them to leave the premises.  If the Court holds a hearing and finds that the defendant has no legitimate right to remain at the property, it will enter a Final Judgment of Possession on behalf of the Plaintiff.  At that point, the Plaintiff submits a Writ of Possession to the Court which is entered and served on the Defendant by the Sheriff and if necessary, the Sheriff will remove the defendant from the premises and charge them with Trespass.

Since the pandemic hit, foreclosures and evictions have been stalled due to the Governor enacting a stay on foreclosure and eviction procedures based on the recommendation of the CDC.  Unlawful detainers are not affected by the Order of the Governor stalling foreclosures and evictions.  If you have family or friends that you have been gracious enough to allow them to stay in your home and they are refusing to leave and they do not have a lease or rental agreement with you, consider filing an Unlawful Detainer action.  Your Jacksonville Family law attorney can assist you in taking back your property legally.

 

This is a question that is often asked by custodial parents.  If you live in Florida the answer is yes.  Florida has a relocation statute, and it is found at §61.13001 in the Florida Statutes.  If you have a minor child and you are divorced or no longer in a relationship with the other parent, you cannot move more than 50 miles from the current residence without obtaining permission from the other parent or consent from the Court.  This condition applies to both the custodial parent and the non-custodial parent.  Your Jacksonville family attorney can assist you in determining how you can comply with the relocation statute to enable you to move.

The statute requires that unless there is an agreement between the parties, a parent or other person with time-sharing rights seeking relocation must file a petition to relocate and serve it upon the other parent, and every other person entitled to access to or time-sharing with the child.  The pleadings must meet the following requirements:

a)  The petition to relocate must be signed under oath or affirmation under penalty of perjury and include:

What is Support without Dissolution?

Section 61.09 allows a married individual to file for support (child support and alimony) where a person does not seek a dissolution.  This statute allows a party to seek alimony or child support.  However, that party may or may not request the entry of a parenting plan.  A final judgment of support does not include distribution of marital assets.  This type of action is sometimes referred to as separate maintenance.

“If a person having the ability to contribute to the maintenance of his or her spouse and support of his or her minor child fails to do so, the spouse who is not receiving support may apply to the court for alimony and for support for the child without seeking dissolution of marriage, and the court shall enter an order as it deems just and proper.”  F.S. 61.09.

This Jacksonville family law attorney’s office represents parents seeking shared parental responsibility and sole parental responsibility.  In all child custody matters, the parties or the Court must determine what type of parental responsibility the parties will have.  The two types of parental responsibility are Shared Parental Responsibility and Sole Parental Responsibility.  It’s important that all parents understand the difference between the two types.  Shared Parental Responsibility means that the parties will confer with each other regarding all matters concerning the minor child that they share.  This includes such things as educational decisions, residence decisions, religious decisions, and medical decisions.  If sole parental responsibility is granted to one parent, that parent does not have to confer with the other parent about anything.  Check with your Jacksonville family law attorney about this issue before making a decision.

Most family law Courts believe that the parents should share these types of decisions and they order shared parental responsibility unless there is some good reason not to have the parents share in the decision making.  Florida statute 61.13(2)(e)(2) allows the Court to grant sole parental responsibility if the “court determines that shared parental responsibility would be detrimental to the child, it may order sole parental responsibility and make such arrangements for time-sharing as specified in the parenting plan as will best protect the child or abused spouse from further harm”.  An example of a good reason not to order shared parental responsibility in a case would be if one of the parents has exhibited poor decision making regarding the child in the past.  Some examples of poor decision-making would-be things like 1) failing to register your child for school or home schooling, 2) failure to provide appropriate caregivers for when you are not present and able to care for the child yourself, or 3) failure to get medical treatment for a child when it needs medical care.  Some more serious reasons for ordering sole parental responsibility are if there is a history of domestic violence, or a parent is incarcerated.  In those instances, there is a rebuttable presumption of unfitness that will arise that shifts the burden of proof to the defending party to show they are not unfit.  There may be other practical reasons to give one parent decision making powers over the other parent in certain areas.   An example would be if one of the parents is not educated and is unable to assist the child with their education, the Court might give one parent ultimate decision making in the educational area.  Contact your Jacksonville family law attorney to advocate on your behalf what is in the best interest of your child.

When reaching an agreement regarding parental responsibility, the parent should be careful not to relinquish their rights regarding this issue as it is very difficult to change the parental responsibility division once it is agreed upon or ordered by the Court.  To change anything regarding the minor children once it is established by the Court, you must show that there has been a substantial change in circumstances that makes it detrimental to the welfare of the child not to change the parental responsibility.  This is a very high burden of proof that lies somewhere between the preponderance of the evidence (or more than 50%) and beyond a reasonable doubt (or 99%).  As always, before attempting to maneuver through the legal system alone, it is advisable to consult with a family law attorney first.  Your Jacksonville family law attorney is here to advise you, guide you and advocate for you.

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