Many Florida family law matters can be resolved out of court using a number of different methods, such as mediation or collaborative law. But there are cases in which the parties simply cannot settle their issues, or in which an out-of-court solution is not ideal. In matters like these, you need a family law litigation attorney who is prepared to defend your interests in front of a judge.
Orlando Family Team has experience handling numerous different family law cases in court. We work with our clients each step of the way, explaining their rights and helping protect what matters most to them.
Family Law Cases That May Require Litigation
Although every family law case is different, some types seem to be more prone to litigation than others. Here are some matters which may require court action:
Child custody and visitation. Parents who separate or divorce need to decide how child custody and visitation will be shared. Custody tends to be an emotionally thorny issue, and it only gets worse when issues like these are thrown into it:
- One parent accuses the other of being unfit
- Allegations of abuse or neglect
- Allegations of drug use
- A parent’s work schedule allows little time to be spent with the child
- One parent begins dating someone new
Child support. Courts use child support calculators to determine how much one parent will need to pay the other. But the parents may disagree as to how much they earn, or how much the child really needs. There could be allegations that a parent is hiding income or refusing to work. Or one parent may disagree about how much the child’s health insurance costs really are.
Equitable distribution. If spouses can’t decide how to fairly split up assets and debts, a judge might need to. Courts have to decide which property is marital, what it’s worth, and who should get what. The ultimate goal is to equitably (fairly) divide everything between the spouses. But with so many factors at play, it’s easy to understand why these cases often end up in court.
Spousal support. Unlike child support, there’s no calculator in Florida for determining alimony. The parties have to decide whether, for how long, and in what amount, spousal support will be paid. There are factors that must be considered, but spouses often don’t even agree on whether one or the other party really needs alimony.
What To Expect In Family Law Litigation
Litigation is not limited to the above matters, of course. If you and the other party are unable to settle the issues between you, a judge may need to get involved.
The lawsuit, whether it’s for custody or for some other matter, begins when the plaintiff files the complaint and summons. The complaint lays out the factual allegations and requests for relief, while the summons notifies the defendant of the complaint and orders him or her to respond. Both must be properly served on the defendant.
The defendant has a certain amount of time, generally 20 days, to answer the complaint. In the answer, the defendant can admit or deny the allegations made against him or her. The defendant can also set forth their own claims against the defendant, known as counterclaims.
After both the complaint and the answer have been filed, the parties can begin the discovery process.
What Is Discovery?
Parties in a lawsuit need to obtain certain information, from each other and from third parties, that’s relevant to the issues in the case. That’s where discovery comes in. It’s a process of exchanging evidence and finding out information about the other party’s claims.
There are various discovery tools that Florida family law attorneys use, including:
Interrogatories. These are written questions that are used to find out important facts and details related to the arguments and allegations made in the lawsuit. For example, one spouse may ask the other to list all of his or her employers so that income information may be obtained to calculate child support.
Requests for production. These are requests to turn over certain documents like bank account records or emails. The party to whom this request is sent is obligated to turn over anything in their possession or control.
Requests for admission. These are statements that the other party must admit or deny. The purpose of these requests is to determine which issues are agreed upon and which are in dispute, so that time and resources can be more efficiently allocated.
Depositions. Think of a deposition as someone giving formal testimony outside of a court setting. A witness will be asked a series of questions, and a transcript of the answers given may be provided to the parties.
Is Settlement Still Possible?
Litigation means the parties will ultimately appear before a judge at least once to decide issues in the case. However, that’s not a foregone conclusion. Even after the lawsuit is filed, the parties can still settle their issues outside of court. In fact, settlement can come at any point in the process. Sometimes the parties can settle some issues without a trial while others have to go to court. Your attorney will work with you to decide the best approach to resolving the claims in your case.
If Family Law Litigation Is In Your Future, Count On Us
Litigation is complicated, and you need a battle-ready attorney looking out for you. Turn to Orlando Family Team. We’re prepared to handle your family law case in court while exploring other possible solutions that may fit your situation. Give us a call today to get started.