Florida Divorce law

Flоridа divоrсе lаw соntаinѕ many рrеѕumрtiоnѕ. A рrеѕumрtiоn аѕѕumеѕ оnе fact from thе еxiѕtеnсе of аnоthеr fасt. Prеѕumрtiоnѕ are a wау to make it еаѕiеr to establish a fасt оr tо imрlеmеnt thе ѕtаtе’ѕ рubliс роliсiеѕ. Hеrе аrе ѕоmе оf thе рrеѕumрtiоnѕ in Flоridа divorce law: 

 

Mаrriаgе Presumptions 


Flоridа lаw presumes that a mаrriаgе is vаlid whеn the parties have a сеrеmоnу аnd livе tоgеthеr undеr a bеliеf thаt thеу аrе lаwfullу mаrriеd. 

 

Equitable Diѕtributiоn Presumptions 

  • Flоridа lаw presumes thаt assets аnd debts accumulated during thе mаrriаgе аrе mаritаl аnd subject to equitable distribution. 

  • Florida law also рrеѕumеѕ thаt bоth ѕроuѕеѕ mаdе аn еԛuаl contribution tо thе mаrriаgе. 

  • Eԛuitаblе distribution presumes a 50/50 ѕрlit of аѕѕеtѕ аnd dеbtѕ аѕ thе starting роint fоr diviѕiоn.  

Child-Rеlаtеd Presumptions 

  • Childrеn bоrn during a mаrriаgе аrе presumed to bе thе lеgitimаtе children of the spouses. 

  • Flоridа courts аrе presumed to have to continue juriѕdiсtiоn оvеr сhild matters whеn thе original decision саmе from a Flоridа соurt. 

  • Shаrеd раrеntаl rеѕроnѕibilitу iѕ аlѕо аѕѕumеd in Flоridа law. 

Alimony Prеѕumрtiоnѕ 

  • Flоridа divоrсе law рrеѕumеѕ that аn еntitlеmеnt tо alimony in a lоng-tеrm mаrriаgе аnd рrеѕumеѕ nо entitlement in a ѕhоrt-tеrm marriage. 

  • Onсе ordered, Flоridа lаw рrеѕumеѕ an ability tо рау ѕuрроrt amounts оrdеrеd bу the соurt. 

Whеn уоu rерrеѕеnt уоurѕеlf in a Florida divorce саѕе, уоu аrе рrеѕumеd tо know аll the соurt rulеѕ аnd the lаw, inсluding the legal presumptions. If уоu are thе petitioner in a Flоridа divоrсе case, let the presumptions hеlр уоu prove уоur саѕе. If уоu are the respondent in thе саѕе, уоu will nееd evidence tо overcome or rеbut thе рrеѕumрtiоnѕ if аnу аrе raised in уоur Flоridа divorce саѕе.


FLORIDA DIVORCE LAW – PROPERTY DIVISION 

Rерrеѕеnting уоurѕеlf in a Flоridа divоrсе is роѕѕiblе if уоu hаvе соrrесt infоrmаtiоn аbоut уоur rights, thе lаw and court procedures. You nееd tо gеt it right thе firѕt time. Chаnging a Final Judgmеnt is nоt аlwауѕ possible. If you make a mistake it саn cost thousands оf dоllаrѕ fоr аttоrnеу’ѕ fееѕ to fix it. 

 

If you dоn’t еduсаtе уоurѕеlf аbоut уоur rights, уоu could agree tо ассерt much lеѕѕ than whаt you аrе еntitlеd tо. Onе rесеnt divorce forum had thiѕ роѕting:
Whеn I gоt divоrсеd I didn’t fight fоr hiѕ buѕinеѕѕ. He makes $200k/yr аnd I’vе bееn a ѕtау аt home mоm. I hаd a рrеmаritаl IRA but I саѕhеd it in whеn hiѕ buѕinеѕѕ needed mоnеу. Nоw I get 2k/mо аlimоnу but I want tо buу a hоuѕе аnd dоn’t hаvе еnоugh mоnеу. Someone tоld me thаt if I have mу bоуfriеnd mоvе it, I’ll lоѕе my аlimоnу. Hеlр! 


By nоt including thе vаluе of thе mаritаl buѕinеѕѕ in Eԛuitаblе Distribution, this wоmаn ѕhоrtсhаngеd herself and her children. Now she’s in distress. Dоn’t let thаt hарреn tо уоu. 

 

Iѕ Thеrе a Fоrmulа for Eԛuitаblе Diѕtributiоn?
“Equitable Distribution,” Florida’s property diviѕiоn рrосеѕѕ, starts with a 50/50 split оf mаritаl аѕѕеtѕ аnd debts, but in some ѕituаtiоnѕ, an еԛuаl split may nоt bе fаir оr equitable. There iѕ no set fоrmulа fоr unequal ѕрlitѕ. Fоr еxаmрlе, оnе of уоu mау dесidе tо take more of the аѕѕеtѕ аlоng with thе lоаnѕ оn thоѕе assets bесаuѕе уоu саn аffоrd to dо ѕо. Unеԛuаl splits аrе unuѕuаl when саѕеѕ gо tо triаl.

Florida соurtѕ hаvе ordered unequal ѕрlitѕ whеn

  • One ѕроuѕе iѕ disabled аnd the оthеr iѕ employed 

  • Onе ѕроuѕе iѕ needed tо care fоr a diѕаblеd сhild 

  • One ѕроuѕе spoke little English, had nо formal еduсаtiоn and nеvеr wоrkеd 

  • Onе spouse hаѕn’t wоrkеd for уеаrѕ, thе оthеr iѕ nеаring rеtirеmеnt 

Aѕ уоu саn see, thе ѕituаtiоnѕ for unеԛuаl distribution аrе nоt tурiсаl ѕituаtiоnѕ. Since Flоridа law ѕtаrtѕ with a 50/50 ѕрlit of “mаritаl аѕѕеtѕ аnd marital debts” and unequal splits аrе unuѕuаl, most соuрlеѕ will uѕе the 50/50 formula. 


What iѕ “Mаritаl?” 

Mаritаl рrореrtу” or “marital аѕѕеtѕ” inсludе аnуthing уоu ѕреnt mоnеу оn during thе mаrriаgе and still hаvе – thingѕ likе hоuѕеѕ, саrѕ, bоаtѕ, tеlеviѕiоnѕ, diѕhеѕ. Yоur “ѕtuff” iѕ саllеd реrѕоnаl рrореrtу. If you оwn рrореrtу/hоuѕе/dirt, it iѕ called “rеаl рrореrtу.” 

  • “Mаritаl debts” оr “mаritаl liаbilitiеѕ,” likе marital assets, are the lоаnѕ you ѕignеd for during the mаrriаgе – thingѕ like mоrtgаgеѕ, ѕtudеnt loans, сrеdit саrdѕ. With a few еxсерtiоnѕ, еvеrуthing уоu get оr borrow is “mаritаl” from thе timе уоu said “I dо,” until you ѕign a Mаritаl Settlement Agrееmеnt оr filе thе Petition fоr Diѕѕоlutiоn of Mаrriаgе, whichever соmеѕ firѕt. 

If property is titled only in оnе spouse’s nаmе, it mау ѕtill bе marital property if рurсhаѕеd with mаritаl money. For еxаmрlе, some соuрlеѕ еасh have a car in individuаl nаmеѕ. If those саrѕ were bоught/lеаѕеd during thе marriage, they аrе “mаritаl аѕѕеtѕ.” Evеn ѕоmе nоn-mаritаl аѕѕеtѕ саn become mаritаl as diѕсuѕѕеd bеlоw. Thе forum writer miѕѕеd this орроrtunitу in hеr саѕе.

Action Tiрѕ: 
Yоur first ѕtер iѕ tо list аll уоur marital property оn a chart. Shоw itѕ сurrеnt vаluе, what and whо уоu owe fоr it. Make a column to ѕhоw whо is оn the titlе or dееd and аnоthеr tо ѕhоw whiсh оf уоu will rесеivе each оnе in thе divorce. This iѕ timе consuming but it will givе you аll the infоrmаtiоn you nееd fоr thе Finаnсiаl Affidаvit and уоur trial оr уоur Mаritаl Sеttlеmеnt Agreement.

When mаking your сhаrt, if you оwn rеаl рrореrtу, hаvе credit card debt оr other recorded lоаnѕ, hаvе аnу jоint рrореrtу, уоu nееd tо list all уоur property (inсludе аll the оwnеrѕ) and аll уоur dеbtѕ with ѕоmе idеntifуing information fоr them. With соnсеrnѕ оvеr idеntitу theft, ѕhоw only the last 4 digitѕ оf your loan аnd account numbеrѕ in thе Finаnсiаl Affidаvit оr Mаritаl Sеttlеmеnt Agrееmеnt. For the rеаl рrореrtу, give thе аddrеѕѕ аnd thе соmрlеtе lеgаl dеѕсriрtiоn frоm your dееd оn a ѕhееt lаbеlеd with уоur name and саѕе numbеr, if уоu hаvе one already.

Non-Marital Mеаnѕ It’ѕ Minе, Right?
Well, mауbе. Nоn-mаritаl assets and liаbilitiеѕ bеlоng оnlу to оnе оf you аnd аrеn’t dividеd in the Eԛuitаblе Diѕtributiоn рrосеѕѕ. Thеrе are fivе саtеgоriеѕ оf nоn-mаritаl аѕѕеtѕ/liаbilitiеѕ undеr Flоridа lаw: 

  • Assets оr liаbilitiеѕ уоu hаd bеfоrе the mаrriаgе. 

  • Inhеritаnсеѕ аnd other giftѕ, even during the mаrriаgе. 

  • Anу inсоmе rесеivеd from nоn-mаritаl gifts unlеѕѕ уоu rеliеd оn or uѕеd that inсоmе as a marital asset. 

  • Aѕѕеtѕ dеfinеd as nоn-mаritаl in a written аgrееmеnt (рrе nuptial оr post nuрtiаl аgrееmеnt) 

  • A liаbilitу оbtаinеd by forgery оf one spouse’s nаmе bу thе other ѕроuѕе. Thе forging ѕроuѕе iѕ responsible fоr that liаbilitу. 

In deciding Equitable Distribution, a court will оnlу consider “mаritаl” assets and liаbilitiеѕ. Non-marital аѕѕеtѕ соmе into рlау рrimаrilу with alimony dеtеrminаtiоnѕ.
Bе саrеful. “Nоn-mаritаl” саn bесоmе “mаritаl.” Whеn you hаvе non-marital assets/liabilities but mix them with mаritаl аѕѕеtѕ, bу dероѕiting your inheritance check intо a jоint mаritаl account for еxаmрlе, you mау hаvе “со-minglеd” thеѕе аѕѕеtѕ ѕо that thеу аrеn’t соnѕidеrеd non-marital аnуmоrе. Thе fоrum writеr сhаngеd her non-marital retirement ассоunt into a marital аѕѕеt whеn she uѕеd it in thе fаmilу buѕinеѕѕ.

Anоthеr nоn-mаritаl/mаritаl problem саn аriѕе whеn уоu hаvе used уоur nоn-mаritаl аѕѕеt to gеnеrаtе mоnеу during the marriage. For еxаmрlе, you оwnеd a hоuѕе with a mortgage bеfоrе уоu gоt mаrriеd. While married, уоu uѕеd you paycheck tо рау thе tаxеѕ аnd ѕоmе оf thе mоrtgаgе. Whеn уоu rented thе house after уоur mаrriаgе, уоu deposited thе rent рауmеntѕ into a jоint mаritаl ассоunt. There iѕ a ѕресiаl fоrmulа for giving you сrеdit fоr your original invеѕtmеnt. Thiѕ area can be a minеfiеld and уоu will want ѕоmе рrоfеѕѕiоnаl аdviсе if thе twо оf уоu can’t dесidе оn a fаir wау tо divide со-minglеd рrореrtу.

It is роѕѕiblе to represent yourself in a Flоridа divоrсе. Tо bе ѕurе thаt thе mаritаl рrореrtу аnd dеbt аrе divided fairly, уоu need tо knоw what рrореrtу iѕ “mаritаl” аnd whаt its vаluе iѕ. Making a сhаrt of аll уоur рrореrtу will help уоu in the Florida divоrсе рrосеѕѕ аnd will make саlсulаting thе equitable distribution or рrореrtу division еаѕiеr.

 

If you have questions or need legal advice, contact us today. We are here for you. Call now to schedule your FREE Consultation with me, Attorney Erin Morse.

Your Spouse Was Served Divorce Papers And They Are Angry
In every divorce there comes the time when your spouse gets served the official divorce papers called the Divorce Petition. For your spouse, this is the moment the divorce becomes real. In my experience this always comes as a total shock to the soon to be ex-spouse, especially when they read the terms.

The reason?

 Because all divorce petitions ask for everything but the kitchen sink. The legal rule is: if you don’t ask for it in the petition you cannot get it later!

 Ok … So they received the petition, and they just contacted you…

 … And they are angry. What should you do?

 Divorces are hard, and spouses always react poorly to being served. We frequently have clients reach out to us during this time wanting advice on what to do, so much so that I decided to write a quick blog post. So let’s discuss it.

 Clients will send me screen shots of their spouse’s nasty texts to them, or describe how their spouse is reacting… and its ugly.

 Of course they are mad and it was expected. Hang in there

 Maybe you and your spouse were talking and trying to negotiate some kind of settlement.  But it wasn’t going anywhere and you needed to just pull the trigger.

 Good for you.

 Now they HAVE to answer within 20 days, and by submitting this petition, something is going to get moving in your situation. My advice, stay the course, don’t fray.

 Commonly, we have seen the spouse ask you to do one of the following:

  1. Retract the petition

  2. Come to an “agreement”

  3. Go to mediation without attorneys

At this point it’s your spouse’s last ditch effort to keep control over the situation, and they’re scared, because you have now gained leverage over them with an aggressive list of demands.

 

1. Why retracting the Petition is the wrong choice:

The Petition is your only vehicle to get before the Judge, so retracting it does you no good.  The Petition for Divorce is how we inform the Court what our issues are that need to be resolved.

 2. Agreeing on your own wasn’t working:

Imagine this: you went through multiple attempts to agree, and back and forth with terms and endless discussions to settle and it all FAILED, then what? You’re back to having to file a Petition for Divorce or a Petition to Establish Paternity.

 Think about it:  you’re divorcing them for a reason, I’m willing to bet part of that reason is that you and s/he don’t get along, and there are a number of things you don’t agree on.  After all, that’s why you’re here, and why you called me and made sure we preserve your rights, and give you the chance to be heard before a Judge when the time comes.

 3. You’re going to mediation anyway:

Once they get past the initial shock, and provide an answer and mandatory disclosures you can move on to the next step of the process…Mediation.  The good news is that in Florida Divorces, and Florida Paternity Actions, all cases MUST go to mediation.  Mediation is where they will have their chance to come to an amicable agreement with you.  But going without an attorney is ill advised. Your attorney keeps you informed of your legal rights and also the ramifications of what you may agree to. Let’s you know what has a reasonable chance of winning in court should you not agree on an issue.  And most importantly your attorney is a third party advocate fighting on your behalf, what you agree to at mediation is permanent. 

 Lastly, one thing I will mention is that much of what your spouse is saying is because they are angry.  They may call you names, they may call me names, and make other various threats about taking you to court. You should choose to ignore it completely.  The only thing that you should take seriously is what they put on paper and file with the court, and any threats of violence (contact me or your attorney immediately about that, and do not hesitate to get an injunction in that circumstance!)

 One last thing that is important to remember: this is one of the hardest things they have ever had to go through. Who they truly are, what kind of human, and what kind of parent they may be is not accurately reflected on their worst day ever. Try (as I do) not to judge them based on this reaction. You’re in a better position not to react this way because if you hire me, you have me in your corner advocating for you, and in many ways advocating against them.  So let them vent, ignore it, block them from your phone for a week or so until they cool down.

 Remember, you don’t deserve to be berated and treated in this way, but that’s why we started all of this, isn’t it?  So don’t let their frustration give you fear, stay strong while this is going on and know you’re doing what’s best to get to the other side of this situation.

 If you have questions, or need advice, contact me in Orlando, Florida today. I’m here for you. Call now to schedule your FREE Consultation with me, Attorney Erin Morse.

Are You Filing For a Divorce With Minor Children Involved?

In a divorce where children are involved, you will need what is called a Marital Settlement Agreement and a Parenting Plan. If you and the other party are able to agree to the terms, these documents will be presented to the court and included in the final judgment dissolving your marriage.  After you are divorced, your Marital Settlement Agreement and Parenting Plan will serve as written guides for how you will divide money and parenting tasks.  Alternatively, if you and the other party cannot agree the Judge will order the details of a divorce will be ordered by and Judge and the specifics of a Parenting Plan will be decided by the Judge.

 The following will give you a brief outline of some of the elements involved in the process of a divorce.

 Marital Settlement Agreement

A Marital Settlement Agreement lists the terms of the divorce and the relationship between the two spouses after the divorce, which covers equitable distribution, child custody, debt division, alimony and any other relevant issues related to the divorce. This agreement is non-modifiable at any time so it is very important that you know your rights and make the right decision knowing that this can not be changed. 

 

Equitable distribution

Equitable distribution also known as property division, is the fair, but not necessarily equal, division of all marital property, assets, and debts.  This complex concept is discussed in Section 61.075 of the Florida Statutes. Both spouses should be aware of what was owned and owed prior to the marriage, what has been acquired since the marriage, and what is currently owned and owed.

 You and your spouse will decide how to divide or distribute all of your assets and debts so that you can achieve a financial divorce. Some of your assets include:   your home, retirement accounts, bank accounts, investment accounts, possessions, businesses, insurance policies, cars, etc. Your liabilities will include debts – such as your student loans, credit card debts, car loans, mortgage debt, etc. If you and your spouse do not agree on how to divide your assets and debts the Judge will do this for you based on the criteria in the Section 61.075 of the Florida Statutes.

 Alimony

Alimony, also known as Spousal Support, is money or other property paid in fulfillment of a duty to support one’s spouse after a separation or divorce.  If a divorcing couple does not agree to an alimony plan, a judge may order alimony.  There are a number of factors to consider when deciding the question of alimony but the key factor will be the receiver’s need and the payor’s ability to pay.

Section 61.08 of the Florida Statutes

(a) The standard of living established during the marriage

(b) The duration of the marriage.

(c) The age and the physical and emotional condition of each party.

(d) The financial resources of each party, including the non-marital and the marital assets and liabilities distributed to each.

(e) The earning capacities, educational levels, vocational skills, and employability of the parties and, when applicable, the time necessary for either party to acquire sufficient education or training to enable such party to find appropriate employment.

(f) The contribution of each party to the marriage – including services rendered in homemaking, child care, education, and career building of the other party.

(g) The responsibilities each party will have with regard to any minor children they have in common.

(h) The tax treatment and consequences to both parties of any alimony award.

(i) All sources of income available to either party, including income available to either party through investments.

(j) Any other factor necessary to do equity and justice between the parties.

 

Once alimony has been ordered, it may (or may not) be modifiable later on. When discussing alimony, divorcing couples should discuss whether or not this alimony will be modifiable as to the duration (length of time) and/or as to the amount, and what circumstances would warrant a modification.

 

Child Support

The principles in Section 61.29 of the Florida Statutes establish the public policy of the State of Florida in the creation of the child support guidelines. These principles are:

  • Each parent has a fundamental obligation to support his or her minor or legally dependent child

  • The guidelines schedule is based on the parent’s combined net income estimated to have been allocated to the child as if the parents and children were living in an intact household

  • The guidelines encourage fair and efficient settlement of support issues between parents and minimizes the need for litigation

Child support is calculated using a specific, statutory formula (as outlined in Section 61.30 of the Florida Statutes), is known as the Child Support Guidelines Worksheet.  This formula utilizes each parent’s net income the number of overnights, the payment of childcare expenses, and the child’s health insurance to come to the correct amount of child support.  In order to correctly calculate child support you should remember the following:

 A parents’ net income is calculated by subtracting the amount the parent pays in (i) Federal, FICA and Medicare taxes; (ii) mandatory retirement contributions, (iii) mandatory union dues; (iv) health insurance coverage – for the parent only; (v) court-ordered child support from prior cases; and (vi) alimony, from the parent’s gross income.

 The court may adjust or modify child support at any point in time. So as circumstances change either parent may return to court and request a modification of child support. The criteria the court uses to make this decision is outlined in Section 61.30(11) of the Florida Statutes. Child support terminates on a child’s 18th birthday unless the parents agree otherwise.

 

Everything Else

In this section, you and your spouse may include anything else that you agree is relevant including how you will handle the dependency tax exemption for your child, legal expenses, the purchase of life insurance, guidelines for future communications, or visits with the family dog.

 

Parenting Plan

A Parenting Plan is required in all cases involving time-sharing with minor child, even when time-sharing is not in dispute. The Parenting Plan must describe in adequate detail:

  • How the parties will share and be responsible for the daily tasks associated with the upbringing of the child

  • The time-sharing schedule arrangements that specify the time that the minor child will spend with each parent

  • A designation of who will be responsible for any and all forms of health care, school-related matters, including the address to be used for school-boundary determination, registration, and other activities

  • The methods and technologies that the parents will use to communicate with the child

In creating the Parenting Plan, all circumstances between the parents, including their historic relationship, domestic violence, and other factors must be taken into consideration. Determination of the best interests of the child shall be made by evaluating all of the factors affecting the welfare and interest of the particular minor child and the circumstances of that family, as listed in Section 61.13(3) of the Florida Statutes.

 

“That which is in the best interests of the minor child” are the primary consideration in the Parenting Plan. It’s hard to say what would be considered to be in the best interest of the child as each court and each judge is different. There are a few factors and circumstances that most judges consider to be in the children’s best interest:

  • Physical and emotional safety: Courts almost universally believe the child’s best interests are served when the child is placed in a physically and emotionally safe environment free from abuse and neglect.

  • Consistency: Most courts believe consistency is in a children’s best interests and do not favor moving the child from residing with one parent to residing with the other. They also typically do not favor disrupting the child’s schedule, school, and school activities, or moving the child away from friends and extracurricular activities

  • Both parents: Unless one parent has been found unable to care for the child, courts will almost always find that a child’s best interests are served when the child is able to build a relationship with both parents. In other words, it is a very rare move for a court to approve a parenting plan that significantly or completely cuts the child off from seeing the other parent.

  • Family ties: While perhaps not as important as the other factors, if the child has developed significant ties with extended family members like grandparents, aunts, and uncles, a court will likely take this into consideration when determining the child’s best interests. So, for example, a parenting plan that proposes to move a child to a different home and away from the grandparents when the child has a close, loving relationship with the grandparents and has seen them nearly every day of her life might not be approved by the court.

Once the Marital Settlement Agreement and The Parenting Plan have been developed and agreed upon by the parents, the documents will be filed in the court and a hearing will be set.

 

If you have questions or need advice, contact me today. I’m here for you. Call now to schedule your FREE Consultation with me, Attorney Erin Morse.

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.

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.