Orlando Family Team discusses what you should expect at a child support modification hearing.

What Happens at a Child Support Modification Hearing?

Child support is court-ordered and must be paid to the custodial parent. After a child support order is entered, it can only be modified by the court under certain circumstances. A parent may only petition the court for child support modifications if one parent has experienced a “substantial change in circumstances.” Usually, this means something like one parent has experienced something like a job loss or a job change that affected their income. At the child support modification hearing, the court will determine whether there has been a substantial change in circumstances that merits modifying the existing child support order. 

Child Support Modification

One parent may have remarried or lost a job. A parent may be experiencing a period of financial hardship caused by something like an illness or a serious injury. One parent may even have been incarcerated. Whatever the substantial change in circumstance may be, both parents will have to present their case at the child support modification hearing. At a child support modification hearing, the court will hear from the parents. If either of the parents has chosen to retain a lawyer, the lawyers will represent them in court. Children are not usually present at child support modification hearings.

Child support is calculated using the income of both parents. This means that at a child support hearing or a child support modification hearing, both parties will need to present evidence about their current income levels and financial status. This evidence can be documentation including tax returns and pay stubs. The court will also need to see a copy of the custody agreement.

At the modification hearing, the parent who is requesting the child support modification will present a statement relating to the request and present any documentation supporting the basis for requesting the modification. Each parent will have the opportunity to present arguments to support his or her stance on the modification being proposed.

After weighing all of the evidence and arguments presented, the court will rule on the requested modification. The request may be denied. In this case, the child support order already in place will continue to be enforced as is. The request may be granted. If the modification is granted, the new child support amount will be paid as soon as the judgment is filed by the court. This, however, can take up to several months.

Florida Child Support Attorney

If you are looking to modify an existing child support order, talk to the dedicated child support attorneys at the Orlando Family Team. We can go over your situation with you and help you gather the documentation you need to present a solid case for modification. There is a lot of information to sift through when you are dealing with the family court system. You can count on us to clarify the often murky waters of family law. Contact us today.

Orlando Family Team discusses why some domestic violence cases get dismissed.

Why Would a Domestic Violence Case Get Dismissed?

Domestic violence, pursuant to Florida law, is any assault, battery, stalking, or any criminal offense that results in physical injury or death of a family or household member by another person who is or was residing in the same home. The penalties you face when up against a domestic violence charge are steep and that is completely separate from the judgment and stigma you will face from just being charged with this kind of a crime. 

Florida takes these kinds of cases seriously and aggressively pursues alleged perpetrators of domestic violence. However, the system is not perfect. Sometimes mistakes are made. Misunderstandings happen. In certain situations, a domestic violence case can get dismissed.

Reasons for Why a Domestic Violence Case Would Be Dismissed

First, let’s clarify a point about how domestic violence charges actually work. The alleged victim of domestic violence has no authority to drop a domestic violence charge. Once the State prosecutor’s office has issued the charge, the victim has no authority to drop the charges. Domestic violence is a criminal offense. The State issues criminal charges, not the victim. Since the State issued the charges, the State alone has the authority to drop the charges. The State must decide whether to proceed in formally charging and pursuing a case against an alleged perpetrator of domestic violence. The victim still plays a critical role in the case as the judge will likely invite the victim to speak to a decision on whether an abuser should or should not be released from custody.

The State may choose, in some cases, to drop domestic violence charges. If there is sufficient evidence of something like self-defense, the charges may be dropped. In cases of self-defense, there would be evidence that the person standing accused of domestic violence only initiated physical contact in order to protect themselves from harm. Proof of defense of others may be another reason to have charges dropped. If you were justified in the violence committed against a family member because you were protecting someone else, you may have the charges against you dropped. It may also be the case that an estranged family member was trying to break into your house. In this case, the act of alleged domestic violence may be justified pursuant to Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law. This law allows the use of deadly force on a “violent intruder” who is breaking into your home or car.

There is also the possibility that the State may choose to drop the charges because there is a strong possibility that you were falsely accused. Evidence that may support this kind of assertion often comes in the form of conflicting witness testimony. There may be also conflicting evidence that does not support the victim’s account of what actually happened. If a prosecutor is not comfortable completely dropping a domestic violence charge, there is still a chance that you can negotiate a lesser charge.

Florida Domestic Violence Attorneys

Suffering a domestic violence incident is very serious. Being charged with committing domestic violence is also very serious. The attorneys at the Orlando Family Team are committed to getting justice for our clients. We are here to talk. Contact us today.

Orlando Family Team discusses the current efforts for alimony reform in Florida.

The Fight for Alimony Reform in Florida

One of the most hotly contested issues in a divorce is alimony. Alimony is paid by one spouse to the other spouse during the divorce process or for a period of time after the divorce is finalized. It is usually required of the higher earner to pay the spouse who is the lower earner in order for him or her to maintain a lifestyle similar to the one that was had during the divorce.

Temporary alimony is paid while the divorce is pending and one spouse requires continued financial support during the proceedings. Temporary alimony ends when the divorce is finalized. There is also bridge-the-gap alimony that starts when the divorce becomes final but is short term. The maximum time frame for bridge-the-gap alimony to be paid is two years. Additionally, rehabilitative alimony may be ordered in some cases. It has the specific purpose of helping the recipient spouse get the necessary training and education to obtain gainful employment. Also, durational alimony is an option. This type of alimony is awarded when the other types of alimony will not be sufficient to meet the needs of the spouse.

There is also permanent alimony. The intention of permanent alimony is to financially provide for a spouse who lacks the ability to become self-supporting and live at a standard at least closely comparable to that which was had during the marriage. Permanent alimony has come under fire in recent years and many have been fighting it. Various Florida advocacy groups have taken up the cause of either fighting to maintain or fighting to get rid of permanent alimony.

Alimony Reform: Eliminating Permanent Alimony

The Florida Family Law PAC is mostly comprised of those who pay alimony along with their second wives. They are fighting for legislation that would eliminate permanent alimony as well as introduce guidelines to spousal support that would function much like child support guidelines in the child support calculation. The group asserts that alimony based on one spouse’s needs and the other spouse’s ability to pay is the cause of substantial inconsistency in the result. Furthermore, the higher-earning spouse can also be ordered to pay for attorneys’ fees for both sides on top of an alimony payment obligation that extends beyond retirement.

The Florida Family Law PAC further reminds the public that judges paid with taxpayer money are spending their days resolving alimony disputes related to missed payments, among other things. These disputes can go on for years and end up exhausting the bank accounts of all parties. Additionally, alimony enforcement is limited, which means that so people are in arrears of substantial amounts. A spouse will stop paying and the other will be forced into debt.

If Florida eventually decides to adopt an alimony formula, it will not be the first state to do so. Other states have adopted formulas that include such factors as the length of the marriage and the difference between the income levels of the spouses. Furthermore, Indiana has limited spousal support in most cases to three years. Massachusetts, in 2011, agreed to not only limiting alimony based on the length of the marriage but also having it end upon the retirement of the payer.

Florida Divorce Attorneys

The fact that alimony is a hotly contested issue in divorce is not going to go away any time soon, if ever. It is a fiercely litigated issue and one which the spouses involved feel very passionate about. The fact that alimony can become so heated is one of the many reasons why you need dedicated divorce counsel by your side. The dedicated divorce attorneys at the Orlando Family Team are here to help clients in all aspects of divorce. We will always fight for your best interests. Contact us today.

Orlando Family Team discusses what you should expect during divorce mediation.

What Happens During Divorce Mediation?

Divorce court battles can be expensive and fuel contention between the parties. That is likely why mediation is one of the most commonly used methods of negotiating a divorce settlement. In mediation, you and your spouse, along with a neutral third party, the mediator, work together to discuss and resolve divorce issues. The role of the mediator is to guide and facilitate negotiations between you and your spouse in order to reach mutually agreeable solutions.

Not only is mediation often much less expensive than divorces requiring court intervention, but the mediation is confidential, it allows you and your spouse control over the process, and it is much more likely to preserve whatever positivity is left in your relationship with your spouse (which is critical if there are minor children resulting from the marriage and there will be a need for effective co-parenting after divorce).

Divorce Mediation

The divorce mediation will begin with the mediator walking you and your spouse through what will go on during the mediation process. During this initial meeting, the mediator will likely want to take care of some clerical details such as signing confidentiality agreements, etc. You will also be granted a chance to make a brief statement about your situation and your goals. Your spouse will have this same opportunity. These initial statements are likely to generate further questions by the mediator who will be seeking clarification and looking to gather further information.

In order to start off the actual process of mediating to reach an agreement, the mediator will need to ascertain what areas you and your spouse already agree on and what areas still need to be resolved. Once the mediator has ascertained what areas still need to be worked out, the mediator may request that you and your spouse gather more information relating to these areas. The information will usually be brought to the next mediation session.

Once the mediator has more information on all outstanding issues relating to the divorce, the mediator will go over the order in which the issues will be addressed. Some mediators prefer to deal with the simpler issues first. During the negotiation process, it is important to remember that you came to the negotiation to resolve some tough issues. Be open to compromise. You may not agree with your spouse’s point of view, but you should at least try to understand where he or she is coming from. Upon completion of negotiations, an agreement will be drafted. The agreement will be included in the rest of the requisite divorce paperwork and be incorporated in the final divorce decree.

Florida Divorce Attorney

Whether mediation is right for you is a big decision. The trusted divorce attorneys at Bernal-Mora & Nicholaou will help provide legal counsel so you can make informed decisions about your options for the divorce process. Contact us today.

The Orlando Family Team discusses why couples should consider a postnuptial agreement.

Why Should You Consider a Postnuptial Agreement?

A postnuptial agreement is similar to a prenuptial agreement, but it is established after the marriage has taken place. It is a legal agreement, a contract, that protects property rights and interests in the event you and your spouse should ever divorce. A postnuptial agreement can contain a variety of provisions that will dictate how assets will be divided in the event of divorce. It can even include things such as division of household labor and other expectations for the marriage.

Most of the time, a postnuptial agreement is executed instead of a prenuptial agreement simply because many couples want to avoid the topic prior to the wedding. Planning for a wedding celebration, the happiest day of many people’s lives, can be dampened by needing to discuss what will happen should things not work out. 

To avoid the unpleasantness and discomfort prior to the big day, many couples just wait until after the wedding and establish a postnuptial agreement instead. However, even if you never considered a prenuptial agreement or postnuptial agreement, things may change. There are a variety of reasons why you should consider a postnuptial agreement, even if you have never done so before.

Postnuptial Agreement

After the wedding, life will eventually proceed as normal. You will fall into a new routine. You’ll go back to work and move on with the plans you’ve had in place. As with life before marriage, circumstances will change. You may start a new business. You may come into some kind of financial windfall. These can be major financial developments that change things from how they were prior to marriage. Because of these kinds of changes, you may want to reconsider a postnuptial agreement. You may now have something that you wish to protect with a postnuptial agreement.

Another big reason why you should consider a postnuptial agreement is if you find that you and your spouse are progressively fighting more over money. Fighting about finances is a leading cause of divorce. Many times couples find that they are just not on the same page with financial issues. There may be a disagreement over spending habits, saving habits, or lack of income-earning. Whatever the reason for the continued stress over finances, a postnuptial agreement may be able to help alleviate the problem. A postnuptial agreement can help establish and clarify mutual financial goals and how both spouses will play a role in meeting these goals. Creating a postnuptial agreement forces a couple to confront attitudes they have about finances and the financial behaviors of each other.

You may also want to consider a postnuptial agreement to encourage improved behavior for your spouse. Your spouse may be struggling with something like alcoholism or addiction. Your spouse may have had an affair or you may suspect them of having an affair. Putting a postnuptial agreement can be a kind of warning for your spouse that if the behavior is not ceased, there will be repercussions as outlined in the postnuptial agreement. The postnuptial can act as motivation to change and, if things do not change, the postnuptial agreement can protect your interests.

Florida Divorce Attorneys

Prenuptial agreements and postnuptial agreements can provide peace of mind, protection, and motivation to try your best to make your marriage work. If the marriage doesn’t work, these agreements can protect you and manage expectations during divorce proceedings. For all of your prenuptial, postnuptial, or divorce legal counsel needs, the dedicated attorneys at the Orlando Family Team are here for you. Contact us today.

The Orlando Family Team discusses the best way to prepare for divorce.

How to Prepare for Divorce

Preparation is often key to making things in life easier and divorce is no different. If you are considering filing for divorce, there are certain steps you can take to help the road ahead not be quite so bumpy. Even under the most amicable of terms, divorce is difficult. It is a major life change and you will be so grateful for planning ahead and easing the process, even if it is just a little bit. Additionally, preparing for divorce can help not only protect your financial interests but can also help you financially prepare for what will likely be a large shift in your finances.

Divorce preparation

Much of what you can do to prepare for divorce involves getting organized and gathering documentation. First and foremost, you should take steps to fully understand your finances. This means that, if you don’t already do so, start to track your family finances. Work out how money is spent each month. In addition to expenses, know what assets and debts both you and your spouse have. 

Additionally, find out how much your spouse makes each month. You will also want to gather any relevant financial documents such as bank statements, pay stubs, and tax returns. Should your spouse try to hide any assets or income during divorce, these financial documents can help uncover them. This documentation can also help your attorney best prepare for divorce proceedings and protect your best interests.

You will also want to prepare financially for the big change divorce will bring. Divorce can be expensive. Going from a two-income household to a one-income household will be a big change. First, you will want to open a separate bank account and start depositing your paychecks in there. Make sure your spouse does not have access to this account. Start putting money aside so that you can be prepared to pay your own bills during and after divorce. Start reducing your unnecessary expenditures. Definitely avoid things like splurges or large expenditures as you prepare for divorce. You may also want to draft a mock budget of how you will plan for your future finances. Make a plan and stick to it.

If there are children that are a product of the marriage, you will also want to prepare for potential custody disputes. Keep a record of who takes on childcare tasks such as scheduling and bringing them to appointments and extracurricular activities. Note who attends school functions and parent-teacher conferences. Gather any documentation that relates to how you are involved in the lives of your children. 

If there has been anything that will show the other parent may be unfit to have custody of the children, gather documentation relating to it. This may include a police report or drug evaluation. Also, unless there are safety concerns, stay in the marital home. Stay with your children. Courts may sometimes wish to “stay the course” if a certain living arrangement is already in place and working out well. Moving out of the marital home and away from your children may jeopardize custody arrangements.

Florida Divorce Attorneys

The trusted divorce attorneys at the Orlando Family Team begin protecting and advocating for our clients even before a divorce petition is filed. We will help you prepare for divorce proceedings and always fight for your best interests. Contact us today.

The Orlando Family Team discusses the key differences between an annulment and a divorce.

Difference Between Annulment and Divorce

In the State of Florida, a marriage can end by divorce decree or annulment. The two have key differences and, while both come at the end of a marriage, the results are quite different as well. Additionally, not everyone will qualify for an annulment. It cannot simply be that two people agree to end a marriage. There are specific circumstances that would lead to two people qualifying for an annulment.

What is the difference between an annulment and divorce?

The key difference between a divorce and an annulment is actually quite simple. With a divorce, a court is declaring that, while a valid marriage existed, that marriage has ended. With an annulment, the court is declaring that a valid marriage never existed and is thus void. A marriage eligible for annulment is either void or voidable. A void marriage is one that has always been void. A voidable marriage is one that may be voided by the court should either party seek an annulment ending things. If both parties to the voidable marriage wish to continue to be married, they are legally able to do so. Simply put, a divorce will dissolve a marriage, but an annulment will declare that a valid marriage never even existed.

What Grounds are there for an Annulment?

There are several reasons an annulment may be granted. For instance, if either party to the alleged marriage was under the age of 18, the marriage would be void. Florida law prohibits the marriage of minors without the consent of his or her parent or guardian or court approval.

An annulment may be granted if it is proven that the marriage was the result of fraud or duress. A valid marriage is one that must have been entered into freely and voluntarily. If a person entered into the marriage under false pretenses, such as a material lie, the marriage may be determined to be a product of fraud and thus eligible for annulment. If a person entered into a marriage under the force of threat or coercion, the marriage may be found to have been the product of duress and would be eligible for annulment.

There are several other grounds for an annulment, including if either party lacked the capacity to consent to the marriage due to being under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Bigamy and incest are also grounds for annulment as the marriage would be found void in the first place. Whatever grounds under which you are seeking an annulment, you will need to file a petition for annulment with your local county court. In the petition, you will be required to state background information about the marriage and why you are seeking an annulment. You will also need to specify any marital assets involved and whether or not there were children resulting from the marriage. If there are significant assets or children resulting from the marriage, you may be required by the court to seek a divorce instead of an annulment.

Orlando Divorce Attorney

There are many reasons you may be considering ending your marriage. Whatever that reason may be, the dedicated divorce attorneys at the Orlando Family Team will stand by your side at a time when you most need a trusted advocate. Contact us today.

The Orlando Family Team discusses how you can change the name of a minor child in the state of Florida.

How Do You Change the Name of a Minor Child in Florida?

The requirements for changing the name of a minor child are specific. In order to streamline the process and have a successful outcome, you must comply with these requirements. If the proper procedure is followed and all required documents are filed, completing the name change should move along quickly and without any foreseeable problems. Where things can get a bit more complicated, however, is when one parent or guardian does not consent to the name change. 

Minor Name Changes

To change the name of a minor, a person under the age of 18, a parent or guardian of the child will need to get a court order approving the change. To get this, one parent or guardian will need to file a Petition for Name Change (Minor Child) with the family court that is located in the county where he or she resides. The petitioner must also get fingerprinted with an approved agency and submit them for a national and state criminal background check. The petitioner must also pay for the cost of fingerprinting. 

Both parents or guardians must consent to the name change of the minor child. The petitioner must obtain written consent from the other parent on a form called “Consent for Change of Name (Minor Child). The signed form must be filed with the court. If the other parent does not consent to the name change, he or she must be formally served with the Petition for Name Change (Minor Child) and provided with notice of the hearing. If you cannot locate the other parent, he or she can be served through constructive notice. Constructive notice is most often accomplished by publishing in the newspaper regarding the name change action. Two copies of the petition and necessary attachments, such as the fingerprint card of the petitioner and the consent form or proof of service, must be submitted to the Circuit Court Clerk’s office.

Once everything is filed, a hearing will take place. If the other parent has consented to the name change, it is more likely than not that the judge will approve the name change and sign the Final Judgment ordering the name change. If the other parent has not consented and has appeared at the hearing, the judge will hear from both sides as to why the name of the minor should be changed or not changed. As with all family court decisions involving a minor, the best interest of the child will be applied to determine whether or not the name change will be approved or denied.

Florida Family Law Attorneys

Name change proceedings can be fairly easy to accomplish. You need to know, however, the proper procedures to follow. If the name change of the minor is being contested, things will get even more complicated. The knowledgeable family law attorneys at the Orlando Family Team are here to help you navigate name changes and any other proceedings you face in family court. We are here to answer any of your questions and advocate on your behalf. Contact us today.

The Orlando Family Team gives an overview of a domestic violence injunction.

Domestic Violence Injunction

An injunction, commonly known as a restraining order, is a court order restricting someone from taking certain actions. In cases of domestic violence, a court will put an injunction in place to restrict the abuser from taking certain actions relating to the victim. A domestic violence injunction order may award the victim temporary, but exclusive use of the home. It may also do things like requiring the abuser to surrender weapons to law enforcement. The nature and extent of the restrictions put in place by the injunction will vary based on the individual circumstances of a specific case. Failure to honor the injunction may result in criminal charges.

How to Obtain a Domestic Violence Injunction

To obtain a domestic violence injunction, you must first get the required forms. These are available at the courthouse and are often available online as well. The forms will include the petition which is your formal request for an injunction. This must be carefully filled out as the judge will use the information contained in the petition to decide what, if any, kind of protection you need. The petition will ask for information regarding the abuser such as a current address and whether or not the two of you were ever married. You will also need to provide a detailed description regarding the circumstances that led to you seeking the injunction. Be as clear and specific about the details as possible. The forms must be signed and notarized. You must submit them to the clerk of the circuit court where:

  • You currently live;
  • Your abuser lives; or
  • The domestic violence occurred.

The service of process must occur on the abuser before any kind of injunction or hearing on the petition can take place. The clerk of court provides all necessary paperwork to law enforcement who will deliver the papers to the other party. The service papers will provide the date and time of the hearing on the injunction petition.

Once the forms have been filed and the other party has been served, a judge will review the petition and, if necessary, issue a temporary ex parte injunction. This will happen if the judge finds that there is an immediate threat of violence to you or a family member. The temporary injunction will be in place for no more than 15 days. A full hearing on your petition will be scheduled prior to the expiration of your temporary injunction. A hearing is required before you can be granted a long term injunction.

At the hearing, which you are required to attend, you will be asked to testify about the abuse and/or harassment you have experienced as well as other things that were included in the petition. The abuser has the opportunity to not only be present at this hearing but to present evidence and testify as well. If he or she does not show up at the hearing, a judge may still proceed in granting a final injunction.

Dedicated Domestic Violence Injunction Legal Counsel

Filing for a domestic violence injunction can be an emotionally and logistically overwhelming experience. It is important to make sure all paperwork is properly prepared and accurately reflects your situation. The attorneys at the Orlando Family Team will stand by your side and guide you through the entire process.  Contact us today.

The Orlando Family Team discusses how marital property is divided in divorce.

How Is Marital Property Divided in a Divorce?

One of the most contentious issues to resolve in a divorce is how to divide the marital property. Florida is an equitable distribution state, which means that the property must be divided fairly, however, this does not mean a 50-50 split. If you are divorcing, the best way to protect your property rights and your future is to consult an experienced family law attorney. 

The Differences Between Marital Property and Separate Property

To understand how marital property is divided, it is important to differentiate between marital property and separate property. Marital property includes:

  • Property purchased by either spouse during the marriage, regardless of how title is held
  • Property jointly acquired by the couple while they were married (e.g. a house, car)
  • Each spouse’s income during marriage
  • Retirement benefits (e.g. 401(k)s IRAs) earned by either spouse during the marriage

While family businesses and professional practices are also subject to the rules of equitable distribution, splitting up a business may not be a workable solution. Therefore, the courts typically award the business to the party who runs it, while awarding additional property or a lump sum payment to the other spouse as compensation. 

By contrast, each spouse retains his or her separate property, which includes:

  • Property acquired by either spouse before the marriage
  • Property received by either spouse individually, such as an inheritance or gift
  • A monetary award from a legal settlement
  • Property specified under a valid prenuptial agreement

To arrive at an equitable distribution of the marital property, however, the court has the discretion to consider the value of each spouse’s separate property and grant on of the parties a reasonable monetary award. 

Factors Involved in Equitable Distribution

The courts consider a number of factors in determining equitable distribution, not the least of which is each spouse’s financial status, income, and earning capacity. Other factors include the duration of the marriage, each party’s contribution to acquiring marital property, each spouse’s future financial needs, and whether one party is receiving spousal support. 

The Takeaway

Although the division of marital property in Florida is governed by the rules of equitable distribution, it is crucial to have proper legal representation so that your interests are protected. At Orlando Family Team, we have extensive experience preparing prenuptial and post-marital agreements and leveraging our negotiating skills to arrive at a fair and equitable divorce settlement. When you work with our husband and wife team, you have peace of mind knowing that our experienced family law attorneys are on your side.