How To Help Your Family Law Attorney During Trails And Hearings

Do you want to win your hearing or trial?

Your actions, responses, and overall court room etiquette are just as important to the quality and skill of your family law attorney in the courtroom. Cases are won by having the most compelling evidence and making the least number of mistakes. Everything you do in the courtroom alongside your attorney should help, not hinder, what you are trying to accomplish. To get a better understanding of what your family law attorney’s duties are during a day in court lets delve into their responsibility’s…

 

The Lawyer’s Responsibility’s during Your Family Law Trial
  1. Thinking, multi-tasking, focusing, strategizing, exhausting the brain on your case, making sure you win.

  2. Connecting with the judge, figuring out what the judge likes or dislikes, getting the judge on your side.

  3.  Making sure your evidence is heard properly.

  4.  Prepping you on your case so you avoid providing inadvertent statements that could work against you.

  5. Making sure that the opposing party admits to facts and statements that will help your case.

  6. Coming up with and providing legal arguments that relate to your case.

  7. Making sure your direct examination is effective, complete and helpful.

  8. Making sure the cross examination of your spouse damages their case.

  9. Listening to the other side’s case to effectively defend against it.

  10. Making objections and submissions during the trial based on appropriate law.

  11. Making objections to inappropriate or irrelevant questions or evidence.

  12. Strategizing answers and questions for all witnesses at trial.

  13. Informing you of all the steps that are required for a trial.

How to Help Your Family Lawyer During Your Family Law Case
  1. Dress like it matters. Dress like you want to win your case– Men: should have a suit, that fits them, with dress shoes and a nice tie, nothing flashy. If you don’t own a suit go buy one at men’s warehouse for $99.00. Get a haircut and be clean shaven.  If you have a beard make it tidy and well-groomed. Women: should have a suit coat, nice blouse, and either a skirt at or below the knee or suit pants. Heels should be no higher than half an inch. The look you are going for is professional, not flashy. The judge shouldn’t be able to tell who the attorney is.

  2. Stay positive. Whether the case seems to be going good or bad, you should always maintain a positive attitude with a mix of humility, always.  Keep a poker face no matter how much you disagree, how badly they are lying, or how you feel the ruling was.

  3. Judges. Judges have very keen senses, they hear everything and see everything in the courtroom, be cognizant of this always.  Never, never, never do any of the following: mumble under your breath, roll your eyes, make a face of disgust, or make an outburst of any kind as these actions will certainly hinder your merit. Lastly, the judge should be respected always and be referred to as “your Honor” whenever you speak to them.

  4. Please at all costs avoid asking your lawyer “What do you think will happen?”, “Do you think we will lose?”, “Do you think we will win?”. These questions should be asked prior to the trial, not during it. These questions stress out the lawyer who is trying to keep focused on the facts and arguments of your case. Therefore, if you require more clarity of your chances of success, please discuss those with your lawyer prior to trial, and preferably by way of email so that if you forget something or have questions, you can re-read the email as a refresher. Please do not ask the lawyer about theory, strategy and what she is going to do during the trial. Trust your lawyer and follow her instructions. Don’t forget that there are no guarantees in trial, and sometimes judges make rulings no one could have predicted.

  5. Provide Evidence. During trial and in many occasions, more documents are needed to prove your case. Therefore, if the lawyer asks you to provide further documentation, please do so as your first priority and in an urgent manner.

  6. Read and Prepare Your Evidence. Your lawyer will go through the evidence you need to provide at your direct examination and your cross examination. Often the lawyer will type out the questions and the answers to those questions. It is your responsibility to read through such questions, read all your previous affidavits, all the examination for discovery transcripts and all the affidavits of other witnesses and opposing party. Failure to do so can be fatal to your case. If your answers to the same questions or facts are inconsistent, you may lose credibility at trial and therefore lose your case.

  7. Stay Focused and Give Direct Answers. If you are asked a question, only answer that question, let me say that again ONLY ANSWER THAT QUESTION and do not depart from what is being asked from you. Do not elaborate too much and do not talk about things that are not relevant to the question. When you are being questioned by opposing counsel their best hope is that you run off on a tangent and dig your own grave. Be short in your answers. The less you say the better.  If there is more information that needs to come out, let your lawyer ask it on cross or re-direct (the next time you’re questioned by your lawyer).  Imagine that you would rather tell a story or give information to your lawyer and not theirs.

  8. Do Not Attack Your Ex’s Character. No one including the judge cares about what type of a person your spouse is or what type of a person you are, it just looks petty. The judge’s job is to resolve your case with facts and law in order to figure out how much money needs to be distributed or who gets custody. Calling your spouse names, saying he/she betrayed you, attacking your spouse’s character will only damage your case and your character. So, stay factual. Do not use adjectives (once again, don’t elaborate). Do not give opinion no matter how much you are provoked to give it, or if you are specifically asked using the words opinion. If characterization is needed, your lawyer will do that job during his/her oral and written arguments.

  9. Give Your Family Lawyer Space to Think and Concentrate: During court breaks, it is best to let the lawyer take a break and regroup. So, unless something is absolutely urgent, let the lawyer rest her brain. However, if the lawyer asks you any questions, please provide precise answers.

  10. Take Notes: If you hear evidence which is untruthful or you have something to say about it, please write it down during trial and hand over your notes to the lawyer during breaks so the lawyer knows what questions to ask. Again, as said previously, do not make an outburst, roll your eyes, make a “tssst” sound in disgust, etc. it will only hurt your case, the judge will see it and it will look unfavorably upon you.

Bottom line … follow these rules, stay calm, trust in your attorney, and you will reach the favorable outcome you seek. Good luck!

 

If you have questions, or need advice, contact me in Orlando, Florida today. I’m here for you.

When Should You Speak With A Child Custody Attorney

Child custody cases can be an emotional and stressful process. It is only natural that you do not want to share your child, however, Florida custody laws favor joint custody. As a matter of fact, Florida does not even use the tradition concept of custody, instead they made determinations of shared parenting based on the best interests of the minor child. It can be difficult to know when it is time to call an experienced child custody lawyer and the following are only some examples of when it may be wise to call for help.

Facing Divorce or A Paternity Case

If you are getting divorced and you have children, child custody will certainly be a major part of your case and you always want an attorney who has experience with child custody matters. In addition, even if you have never been married, you may suddenly be facing a paternity case. This can happen if you are a mother and a man is claiming paternity and wants to have time sharing and other parental rights to your child, or if you are a father seeking rights to shared parenting and a time-sharing schedule. Either way, seeking skilled legal representation is important.

Ex Wants To Move With Your Child

If your child’s other parent has majority time sharing and wants to move away with your child, it can severely limit the amount of time that you spend with your child and can completely change your time-sharing arrangement. Whether you want to fight the move or consent to the move, you should still speak with an attorney as the shared parenting agreement will have to be revised and you want to protect your rights to ensure that the time-sharing schedule can increase in other areas – such as expanded time over the summer, holidays, and school vacations.


Want To Relocate With Your Child

If you have majority time sharing and want to relocate due to a job, to be closer to family, or another important reason, you must get permission from your child’s other parent prior to moving, or request leave of court. This can be challenging and you want to have a child custody lawyer who has experience with relocation cases on your side.


Your Child’s Schedule Has Changed Substantially

As your child gets older, their activities and schedule will almost certainly change. For this reason, a time-sharing and parenting plan that worked when they were younger may no longer be practical. In such cases, you can seek to have to the parenting plan and time-sharing schedule modified to better suit the needs of your child and you should consult with a child custody lawyer for help in doing so especially if your child’s other parent is fighting against any modification of the agreement.


Call Our Orlando Child Custody Attorney For Help

Shared Parental Responsibility can be a complex issue that can have long-term effects on your relationship with your child and in many other aspects of their life, including your schedule and potentially where you live. At the Law Office of Erin Morse, our experienced child custody attorney has helped to resolve many custody disputes both as part of a divorce case and as a separate matter with unmarried parents. If you are facing any type of case involving your child, your first call should be to schedule an initial consultation with Erin Morse, Esquire.

Common Misconception: We Both Agree so We Don’t Need to Go To Court

Not too many people battling over child custody really ever want to go through the courtroom experience. Ending a relationship can obviously be challenging and the thought of going to court can be quite scary for many people, especially when it involves the possibility of losing their children. That’s why some individuals would much rather resolve things without having to go to court.

 However, there is a common misconception that going to court is not necessary if both parties agree on the terms. While it is true that many couples use family law attorneys or mediation to come to a settlement without the help of a judge, there are some issues that really should be settled in court no matter what. For example, when child custody and child support are part of your breakup, having a court oversee those issues is a very smart choice.

 You might ask: “if we already agree on everything, then why do we need to waste our time in court? Of course, being able to come to an agreement together, as two levelheaded and responsible adults is a great idea for both you and your children. However, what happens if things don’t go as planned a few months, or a year, down the road?

 For example, let’s say you or your ex suddenly decides that the child custody arrangement isn’t so fair after all? Then what happens? Or, perhaps your ex who agreed to pay child support decides he doesn’t want to pay as much, doesn’t want to pay at all, or wants to condition the child support on your doing something for him? How would you handle that situation? These are the kinds of things that can happen after couples split up, and if there is no court order in place, then there’s little to no recourse you can take to remedy the problems.

 Plus, when feelings are hurt and emotions run high it becomes a lot more difficult for angry, former partners, to reach a new agreement. That’s why it is so important to go to court and have a judge make everything official, even if you already have an agreement in place that everyone is happy with.

 In fact, if you already have a plan that both parties agree upon then the court process should be much simpler and quicker to manage (i.e., less costly!). Plus, in the event that your ex isn’t happy with the agreement, or decides to renege on his promises to you, you will now have protection in place in the form of a court order, which cannot be changed without the court’s permission.

 While most people would rather avoid the courtroom, going to court is very helpful with child custody and child support matters. If you need assistance in Orlando and the surrounding areas, contact us today at (407) 900-7451 or click here to connect with us online. You can depend on the Law Office of Erin Morse to help with your child custody and child support matters.

Establishing Paternity In Florida

The legal relationship between a father and his child is called paternity. Paternity laws in Florida are complicated and counter-intuitive. We receive lots of inquiries requesting assistance in establishing paternity, after being frustrated trying to figure it out alone.

 

Under What Circumstances Must Paternity be Established

 According to the Florida Law, if the mother is married at the time the child was either conceived or born, then the spouse is presumed to be the father of the child and has to prove otherwise if disputing paternity. If, however, the mother is not married at the time the child was conceived or is born, then the named father is considered only the “alleged father”.

 

How do You Establish Paternity?

 There are a few ways for interested parties to establish paternity. One way is through a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity form, which both parents complete, sign, and have witnessed and dated. This is the easiest way to establish paternity, and the Acknowledgement of Paternity can be filled out at the hospital at the time of childbirth. There are instructions on the form and an explanation of parental rights and responsibilities. Parents usually do not need legal assistance with this. 

 Another way is by having an order of paternity entered in court by a judge. We are usually called when parties need to go through the court system to establish paternity. For anybody who requires assistance establishing paternity using any of these three methods, free assistance is available by the state of Illinois. If, however, you have exhausted your options and would like paternity and child support attorneys to help you establish paternity, through whatever method you choose, we are standing by to assist you.

 

Why is Establishing Paternity Important?

 It is important to have the paternity relationship established for a number of reasons. First, every child deserves the benefits that derive from a legal father-child relationship, and every mother and father deserve this as well. Second, establishing paternity protects the rights of both parents. It provides the mother with a method to obtain child support so she is not the sole person responsible for the welfare of the child. It provides the father with access to the child and access to medical information that he would otherwise not be entitled to. Establishing paternity also secures any possible future benefits the child may be entitled to if the father dies, such as Social Security, veterans’ benefits, and inheritance.

 

How Can Attorney Morse Help You?

 If you are unable to establish paternity through use of a Acknowledgement of Paternity and have exhausted all of your other options, you need an experienced family law attorney. We can help establish paternity either through a Court Order or if necessary, a court Order. If you are located in Orlando or the surrounding areas of Central Florida and would like to discuss your options for establishing paternity, please contact the Law Office of Erin Morse by calling (407) 900- 7451 or clicking here to schedule a 1-on-1 consultation with Attorney Morse.

Time Sharing & Visitation During The Holidays

Do You Have A Holiday Visitation Schedule?

We can help you make a holiday schedule to show where your child will spend holidays and special occasions. This schedule has priority over the residential schedule. Whether through negotiations, mediation or collaborative law, Attorney Morse can work closely with you to devise a comprehensive and detailed schedule that is practical, workable, and enforceable. Our lawyers also prove to be effective advocates in court when an agreement cannot be reached. We can also be of help when a parent is seeking to modify the timesharing or parenting schedule.

 Modifications are difficult but not impossible. We know how to gather the evidence and present a persuasive case regarding whether a proposed modification should or should not be adopted. With our years of experience handling domestic violence cases and representing fathers’ rights in child custody, we are prepared to tackle any issue in your divorce regarding timesharing and parenting.

Make Your Holiday Schedule Now

 Here are some common ways that parents divide and share holiday time:

  • Alternate holidays every other year. You can assign holidays to each parent for even years and then swap the holidays in odd years. With this arrangement, you won’t miss spending a holiday with your child more than one year in a row.

  • Split the holiday in half. You can split the day of the holiday so that your child spends part of the day with each parent. This arrangement requires planning and coordination because you don’t want your child to spend holidays traveling all day.

  • Schedule a holiday twice. You can schedule time for each parent to celebrate a holiday with your child. For example, one parent can celebrate Christmas with the child on Dec. 20th and the other parent on the 25th.

  • Assign fixed holidays. You can have each parent celebrate the same holidays with the child every year. If parents have different holidays that they think are important, each parent can have those holidays every year.

You can use any combination of these ways to divide and share holiday time to create holiday arrangements that allow your child to enjoy family traditions and spend quality time with both parents.

 

Holidays with special considerations

 Some holidays have special considerations because both parents usually want to spend time with the child on or near the holiday.

 Here are some ideas of how to share and divide these days:

  • Your child’s birthday: You can schedule a short visit for the parent who doesn’t have the child on the birthday, give both parents birthday time in the schedule, or the parents can alternate having the birthday.

  • Parents’ Birthdays: Your child can spend time with the parent on the parent’s birthday.

  • 3 day weekend holidays: These holidays include Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Presidents’ Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Columbus Day. Parents can alternate the 3 day weekends, split the weekends, or give the Monday holiday to the parent who already has the weekend.

  • Mother’s Day and Father’s Day: Usually your child spends every Mother’s Day with the mother and every Father’s Day with the father.

  • Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving weekend: One parent can have Thanksgiving Day and the other parent can have the weekend, you can give both parents time on Thanksgiving and on the weekend, or parents can alternate having Thanksgiving and the weekend.

  • The Christmas holiday season: One parent can have Christmas Eve and the other parent can have Christmas Day, one parent can have Christmas and the other parent can have winter break, you can make New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day into one holiday and the parents alternate having it.

Holidays to include in your schedule

 

Common holidays to include in your holiday schedule are:

  • New Year’s Day—Jan 1st

  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day—3rd Monday in Jan

  • Lincoln’s Birthday—Feb 12th

  • Presidents’ Day/Washington’s Birthday—3rd Monday in Feb

  • Easter

  • Spring Break

  • Mother’s Day—2nd Sunday in May

  • Memorial Day—last Monday in May

  • Father’s Day—2nd Sunday in June

  • Independence Day—July 4th

  • Labor Day—1st Monday in Sept

  • Columbus Day—2nd Monday in Oct

  • Halloween—Oct 31st

  • Veterans Day—Nov 11th

  • Thanksgiving—4th Thursday in Nov

  • Christmas Eve—Dec 24th

  • Christmas Day—Dec 25th

  • Winter Break

  • New Year’s Eve—Dec 31st

  • Your child’s birthday

You can also include:

  • Religious holidays

  • State holidays

  • Days when your child is out of school, like teacher preparation days

  • School vacation time, like fall break

  • Each parent’s birthday

  • Other special occasion

    Let Our Experienced Orlando Timesharing & Parenting Lawyers Help

    For sound advice and effective representation regarding the timesharing and parenting aspects of your Florida divorce, call the Law Office of Erin Morse in Orlando at 407-900-7451 to speak with a experienced and passionate Florida family law attorney, Erin Morse.

What To Do If Paternity Fraud Happens To You

Having a child is generally one of the most momentous and exciting occasions in your life, but for some fathers, it can be an ongoing nightmare.

 Paternity fraud is a devastating problem in Florida family courts. Thousands of fathers and children are affected by paternity fraud and end up as innocent victims. How does this happen and, if you are a victim, what can you do to fight back?

 We will answer those questions and more as we break down the issue of paternity and paternity fraud here in Florida.

 What Is Legal Paternity in Florida?

 When a child is born, we automatically know who the mother is, but determining the father can be a bit trickier.

 

There are four main legal classifications of fathers:

 Acknowledged father. An acknowledged father is the biological father of a child – who admits he is the father – born to unmarried parents.

 Presumed father. There are a few ways a father can be presumed:

  • He was married to the mother when the child was born or conceived.

  • He tried to marry the mother when the child was born or conceived.

  • He married the mother after the child was born and agreed to sign the birth certificate or paternity affidavit.

  • He has welcomed the child in his home and admits the child is his.

Equitable father. A father who has a close relationship to a child that is encouraged by the biological parents but he is not a biological or adoptive father.

 Unwed father. A father who gets a woman pregnant but does not marry her. If this father wants parental rights, he will have to establish his paternity or another man could end up becoming the presumed father.

 

How Does Paternity Fraud Happen?

 Paternity fraud is also known as misattributed paternity or paternal discrepancy. This happens when a man is misidentified as the biological father of a child.

 Sometimes, this misidentification is intentional and the mother knows that the man is not the biological father. Other times, the misidentification is unintentional and the mother believes a man is the biological father but is not certain.

 There are a number of potential ways this situation can arise.

 When a married couple has a baby, the husband is the presumed father. If the husband signs the birth certificate at the hospital, he then establishes his paternity to that child – regardless of whether he is actually the biological father or not.

 If an unmarried mother has a baby, she could ask a man to sign the birth certificate or affidavit of paternity even if the man is not the biological father of the child.

 In another situation, an unmarried mother might have to apply for state aid, which often requires her to list the child’s father. The mother could potentially name anyone as the child’s father because she doesn’t have to provide proof that the listed father is the biological father.

 

What Is the Impact of Paternity Fraud?

 Once paternity is established, the father is then responsible for child support.

 This poses a problem, however, if the man believes he is the biological father of a child and later discovers that he’s not.

 Let’s take the example above of a married couple who had a child. In this situation, the husband is presumed to be the father of the child because he is married to the mother and signs the birth certificate.

 Some time later, the couple gets divorced and the husband finds out his wife had been having an affair and the child might not actually be his. After a DNA test reveals he is not the child’s biological father, the father is obviously upset, but what are his options?

 If the father takes the case to court, one of two things will happen: the father will either have to continue paying child support or the court will allow him to stop paying child support.

 Why would the father have to continue paying child support?

 Well, Florida courts look out for the best interest of the child. If the father has supported the child for a long time and has acted like the child’s father, then, biological or not, the man is considered to be the child’s father.

 While this might seem shocking – a man having to pay for a child who isn’t biologically his – it is the reality when it comes to paternity.

 Paternity fraud cases can go undetected for years, so when they come to light, they can be emotionally overwhelming. So how can you fight back?

 Let Our Experienced Orlando Family Law Attorney Help You

Reach out to an experienced Florida paternity lawyer for sound advice and effective representation to your unique situation. Call the Law Office of Erin Morse in Orlando at 407-900-7451 to speak with a experienced and passionate Florida Family Law Attorney today.

Ways To Make Divorce Easier On Children

Going through a divorce is definitely an emotional and confusing time for both the children and adults. Unfortunately, sometimes children become bargaining chips or pawns against the other parent. Working out the details of a split can be messy, which means we can take our eye off of how our children are handling the situation, and what is in their best interest.

 However, while you and your spouse may have irreconcilable differences, it doesn’t mean your kids have to suffer. In fact, you should be putting special focus on them, as it’s likely just as traumatic for them as it is for you.

 Here are seven things to keep in mind regarding your children during a marital split…

 

1. Do Not Fight In Front Of The Children

This actually goes for married parents and those going through a separation of unwed parents, but yelling at the other parent during this already emotional time can have more dire consequences for children in many cases. At no time should you ever speak badly of the other parent or yell at the other parent.

Divorce itself is not what causes children pain, it’s watching their parents battle openly. This can heighten anxiety and stress in children, and even cause fear if their parents are always at each other’s throats. Children can pick up on the tension about the other parent. It truly is your duty to shield them from this tension and encourage the other parent to do the same.

2. Remind Your Child It’s Not Their Fault

Many children, especially if they’re older and understand what’s happening, may automatically think they are the cause of the split. However, it’s important to take to the time to explain they’re not the cause of the turmoil and that they’re loved by you and their other parent.

 Failing to show love for your child during this time can seriously affect their self-esteem. The act of telling your children they’re loved needs to be done more than once – it should be a regular reassurance. Take the time to be with your children and make sure to give them that one on one attention.


3. Do Not Talk Badly About The Other Parent

In some cases, divorcing parents like to use their kids as weapons against each other by saying negative things about their former spouse to them. Those statements could include that the other half doesn’t care about them, or doesn’t work hard enough for them, which kids can take very personally. When you speak badly about the other parent, you are speaking badly about your children. After all, they are made up of one half of the other parent.

If you have a beef to clear up with your former spouse, do it in person or over the phone in a rational manner – don’t give your children negative messages that they will ask the other parent about. This is not a healthy way to teach children about conflict resolution, and it will ultimately erode a child’s sense of self-worth. Your job right now is to lead by example and teach these healthy coping mechanisms and communication through conflict.

 

4. Try To Limit Change To Your Children’s Routines

If you’re finding that a living arrangement will be changing drastically due to a divorce, which takes one or both parents out of the family home, try to ease this transition. This may take some creativity so try to plan it so the child can remain in the same school and see the same friends if possible.  

 Trying to figure out new school or childcare arrangements can be tricky, especially when you’re trying to figure out other elements of the divorce such as financial details. Your child may love their surroundings and have made friends, and taking them out of that environment unnecessarily could cause some resentment. Find the good and positive aspects of your “new normal”. Allow children to have moments of being upset or disappointed remind them it is okay to feel that way.

5. Let Your Children Express Their Emotions

 You may be in “damage control” mode and are trying to sugarcoat the situation, but you also have to accept that kids will likely have reactions you might not like. Don’t discount your child’s anger or confusion; your focus should be allowing them to ask questions and seeking affection.

 You should allow them to vent a little and expect to answer a variety of questions regarding the situation. One approach is to ask your child if there’s anything they’d like to do or talk about that would make them feel better, notes the source. It also says that not all kids react right away, so be prepared a few weeks or even months down the road to weather a storm. In many of these circumstances having the children participate in counseling can helpful. 

 

6. Look Forward To Your Time With Your Children

 If a custody agreement is already in place, then you should plan to make the most of your time with your kids – whether that’s 1-day a week or 4-days. You love your kids and likely put some effort into arranging the agreement to have them, so show them they’re important. Even if your time is limited, make the best of it and don’t let your circumstances ruin your relationship you have with your children. 

A custody agreement is about the kids, not you. The hardest part for co-parenting is remembering that time with the child is not a prize to be won, but a gift to be cherished. Make the most of it, and include activities you know they’ll enjoy. 

7. It’s Never Too Late To Apologize

 Divorce can be emotional for children, they are surprisingly able to withstand and recover quickly from difficult conditions. They can bounce back with a little encouragement. If you think your behavior hasn’t been perfect lately, draw your line in the sand, and improve your behavior and reactions as soon as possible.

 So while you’re not ready to say sorry to the other parent, you can tell your kids you’re sorry for any pain you’ve caused them and promise to do better. Whether it’s putting on a smile for them, avoiding talking about the other parent, or just letting them be a kid. This can be a lot tougher for older teenaged kids to accept but telling your kids you’re sorry and making them your priority can go a long way to preventing bitterness later on. Don’t forget that sometimes you’ve got to “fake it until you make it” … meaning that the more you speak positively and act positively, it will become your self falling prophecy.

 

Let Our Experienced Divorce Attorney Morse Help You

Call now to schedule a free consultation to speak with an experienced and passionate Family Law Attorney Erin Morse to help you with your legal matter. For sound advice and effective representation regarding your Florida divorce, call the Law Office of Erin Morse in Orlando at 407-900-7451.

Questions To Ask Before Hiring A Divorce Lawyer

Remember: it’s your responsibility to retain a lawyer who’s not only good at his or her job, but one whose personality and outlook are compatible with yours.

Here are the questions you should ask during your initial interview:

Do you practice family law exclusively? If not, what percentage of your practice is family law?

 How long have you been practicing?

 What is your retainer (the initial fee paid – or, sometimes, the actual contract you sign – to officially hire a lawyer)? Is this fee refundable? What is your hourly fee? What is your hourly rate and billing terms? You should know what you’re paying for, how often you will be billed, and at what rates.

 Approximately how much will my divorce cost? The lawyer will only be able to provide an estimate based on the information you provide – and your realistic estimation of how amicable you and your spouse are. If you think your case is extremely simple, but your spouse’s lawyer buries your attorney in paperwork, you can expect your costs to increase.

 

What do you think the outcome will be? Remember, you’re looking for truthfulness here – not to be told a pretty story.

 If your spouse has retained a divorce lawyer, ask your prospective lawyer whether he or she knows this lawyer. If so, ask: “Have you worked with him or her before? Do you think the lawyer will work to settle the case? And is there anything that would prevent you from working against this lawyer?”

 What percentage of your cases go to trial? You actually want to choose a lawyer with a low percentage here – a good negotiator who can settle your divorce without a long, expensive court battle.

 Are you willing and able to go to court if this case can’t be settled any other way?

 How long will this process take? (Again, the answer will be an approximation.)

 What are my rights, and what are my obligations during my divorce?

 At a full-service law firm, ask who will be handling the case: the lawyer you’re interviewing, an associate, or a combination of senior and junior lawyers and paralegals?

 Should I consider divorce mediation? Ask if your case – at least in the initial stages – might be a good one for mediation. If there has been violence in the relationship, or one spouse is seriously intimidated by the other, this may not be a viable alternative.

 Should I consider Collaborative Divorce? In this alternative-dispute process, each client hires a collaborative lawyer to serve as his/her advisor. Both clients and lawyers sign an agreement that they will not go to court; if the process fails, the lawyers must resign and the divorcing couple starts over again from square one. 

 What happens now? Do I need to do anything? And when will I hear from you?

 Finally, if there’s something you really need to know, or if you don’t understand something the lawyer said, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification. 

 Let Our Experienced Divorce Attorney Morse Help You

 Schedule a free consultation to speak with an experienced and passionate Family Law Attorney Erin Morse to help you with your legal matter. For sound advice and effective representation regarding your Florida divorce, call the Law Office of Erin Morse in Orlando at 407-900-7451.

Is A 50/50 Time Sharing Good For A Child?

Many people start a divorce or paternity case with the impression that 50/50 timesharing/visitation is in the best interest of their child. However, this premise does not take into account that each family is unique and has its own
individual dynamics and circumstances.

Children show the best adjustment in divorce or paternity cases where there is a cooperative co‑parenting, shared responsibility (shared decision-making) and limited conflict between the parents.

Children should have substantial contact with both parents. However, this does not mean that an equal timesharing/visitation arrangement is best for all children. The focus of any parent engaged in a divorce or paternity action should be upon the quality of the relationships (both between the parents themselves and between the parents and the children and each child). Quality is not always determined by the amount of time a child spends with you as a parent. There are a number of circumstances in which 50/50 timesharing/visitation may not be in the best interest of the child. Those circumstances include, but are not limited to:


Special needs of a child.

One parent may be better suited to deal with a child’s special need/developmental disability than the other parent. Such situations with children include ADHD, anxiety, autism, developmental delays, and other related developmental and physical special needs;


Geographical facts of the parents’ residences.

If the parents live any substantial distance apart from one another, then a 50/50 timesharing/visitation schedule would require troublesome travel for a child during the school year. The child would have difficulty traveling from each parent’s home to school. It seems implausible that children should be on the road at 5:00 or 6:00 a.m. to attend their chosen school. It also will make it difficult for the child to participate in extracurricular activities and maintain friendships that the child develops at school.

Parents, who are divorcing or separating, need to remember that as children grow older, their peer relationships become more and more important. Also, consistent excellent academic performance by students requires adequate rest and a consistent schedule that meets their needs. 50/50 timesharing/visitation cannot provide that in all circumstances;


Determine Best Timesharing/Visitation for Your Family Now with a Family Law Assessment!

Some family dynamics are not suited for a 50/50 timesharing/visitation schedule. For instance, when one parent is largely absent from the home and the caregiver role, the other spouse has had to act as the role of the primary caregiver for the child. Particularly where children are young, it would be highly disruptive to them to change this type of dynamic. In addition, a parent who has been largely absent from the home and caregiver role during the marriage is likely to continue to be largely absent from the home and the caregiver role at the conclusion of the divorce, despite the court’s order for a 50/50 timesharing/visitation. This would result in the primary caregiver having to care for the child without receiving child support to offset the increased expenses of providing extra care; and A Florida 50/50 timesharing/visitation schedule assumes that all parent-child attachments are the same. Research, over the past decades has conclusively proven that not all attachments between parents and their children are equal. There is a hierarchy of attachments which need to be recognized.

Exceptions to 50/50 Florida Timesharing

There is no psychological research that supports equal timesharing/visitation as being the best for all children and all families. Consequently, divorcing or separating parents should always be aware that they should be seeking a timesharing/visitation schedule for their child which is in their child’s best interests. Parents should not be caught up in any premise that assumes a particular schedule for timesharing/visitation fits all families. Each family should be attempting to devise a timesharing/visitation schedule that is in the best interest of their children and best suits their family’s situation and circumstances.

Let Our Experienced Orlando Family Law Attorney Help You

Reach out to an experienced Board Certified Family Law Attorney for legal advice and effective representation to your unique situation. Fill out a form online or call the Law Office of Erin Morse in Orlando at (407) 900-7451 to schedule a consultation with Attorney Morse.

How is Child Support Determined In Florida ?

Child support is a key element of any separation between couples that have children, as every child has a legal right to receive financial support from both parents. Under the Florida law, child support amounts are determined based on many different factors: income, deductions, childcare expenses, healthcare expenses, other expenses, shared custody and visitation.

 After a calculation of allowable deductions from gross income, the non-custodial parent is required to pay a percentage of their net income as child support. The percentage of income paid for child support is capped at a maximum of 50% for 6 children or more. The following are the income percentages that must be paid with regards to the number of children:
 

•    1 child – 20%

•    2 children – 28%

•    3 children – 32%

•    4 children – 40%

•    5 children – 45%

•    6 children – 50%
 

Though the law is explicit regarding how child support is calculated, there are factors that can make this issue more challenging such as facts that may permit an upward or downward deviation from the guidelines.
 

What Does Child Support Cover?

 Florida law recognizes that children have a right to receive support from both parents, but it does not calculate support based on their combined income. Instead, one parent is named the noncustodial parent, who is required to pay a percentage of net income to the recipient parent. In most cases, the noncustodial parent, so the law assumes the recipient parent is already paying something for the children’s support while exercising physical custody. Child support is designed to maintain children at the standard of living they would have enjoyed had the parents not been separated. Money from child support is meant to help the custodial parent pay for the child’s basic needs, like food and clothes, along with transportation, medical care, activities, education and other standard child-rearing expenses. 

 Florida uses a precise mathematical calculation for basic child support. However, the court has the discretion to order the non-custodial to pay additional amounts for lifestyle expenses, including:
 

•    Private school tuition

•    College savings, tuition and living expenses

•    Enrichment activities (sports, travel teams, the arts, summer camp, etc.)
 

A court also considers the specific children in question. For example, if a child has special needs, the court may order additional payments for associated expenses.
 

How Long Do I Have to Pay Child Support?

If you have been ordered to pay child support for one or more children, you need to know when your obligation ends. Florida law requires you to pay child support at least until your son or daughter turns 18. However, there are numerous circumstances that would lead a court to require you to pay support for a bit longer. If your child is still in high school when he or she turns 18, then you may be required to pay support through graduation or his or her 19th birthday.

 Your child support obligation can go on longer if your child has a mental or physical disability. You may be required to pay support for a child with disabilities through a certain age until a certain educational goal is achieved, and possibly indefinitely.
 

Preparing for College Expenses

 You may be required to continue financially supporting your child when he or she goes to college or enrolls in another type of higher educational or training program. Florida allows for you to be obliged to participate in paying for the educational expenses of a non-minor child. You could be required to help pay for college prep-courses, application fees, tuition, and room and board.

 However, there is no automatic duty to contribute toward your child’s college expenses. The other parent must petition the court to require you to do so. However, the court will look at a variety of factors, including your financial situation and your child’s ability to pay for school him- or herself, before making a decision.

 If you are ordered to contribute toward your adult child’s educational expenses, you only have to do so until he or she turns 23, or if your child has a disability, until he or she turns 25. Also, you may be able to set it up so you pay your child or the educational institution directly. You may not have to pay this support to your child’s other parent.

 
Asking for Child Support to End

 You may be able to ask for your child support duty to end early if your child is emancipated, living with another adult other than his mom or dad, or residing with you. The court may consider a child emancipated before turning 18 if he or she gets married, joins the military, is working full-time, or has moved out and become financially independent.

 If you are aware of these circumstances and believe paying your child’s other parent support should no longer be necessary, contact me today to discuss returning to court for a modification of your child support obligation. If your child has moved in with you full time, you may be able to ask the other parent for support instead.

 

Contact us for Help Today

 As an attorney, I understand the intricacies of how child support is determined. If you have questions about child support or believe your current financial obligation needs to change or end, call us today at (407) 900-7451 or contact us online. Work with a skilled Orlando child support attorney at the Law Office of Erin Morse for the guidance and advice you need on this important matter.