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Find the Right Florida Family Lawyer

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Family Law
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Adoptions
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Child Support
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Hiring the Right Florida Family Lawyer

If you are seeking a divorce, gain custody of your children, draft a prenuptial agreement or are just looking for legal advice about your situation, we recommend that you speak with a lawyer. An experienced family attorney can help you understand the important legal concepts and ramifications surrounding your issue, and give you advice about a recommended course of action. The process of finding and working with the right lawyer can sometimes seem to be uncertain, but a short meeting with an attorney can often set your mind at ease and guide you towards a positive resolution.

Before you begin, there are some key issues you may want to consider as you start your search for an attorney. First, it is to your benefit to contact an attorney as soon as possible after your legal issue arises. If you wait to contact attorney, you could miss important deadlines that can affect your case or proceedings. Next, understand why you want to meet with a lawyer. Layout out the goals you hope to accomplish with them and understand the different billing methods that attorneys use. And finally, it is important to establish an open line of communication with your attorney as go through your legal process so that you are aware of unforeseen issues or complexities that may arise.

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Information About Family Law in Florida

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Florida Family Law

When reaching adulthood or having children, establishing a marriage or adopting a child, it is important to be aware that your legal status may change, along with your legal rights and responsibilities. In the state of Florida, family law is governed by the Florida Family Code, which is comprised of various state statues on topics including (but not limited to) marriage, divorce and legal separation, division of property, child custody, spousal and child support, and adoption.

Marriage

In the state of Florida, couples wishing to be married must apply in person for a marriage license to any county court judge or clerk of the circuit court. The application must be signed by both parties in the presence of the clerk. A representative cannot apply for the license on behalf of one of the parties, both MUST be present in order to obtain the marriage license. In order to establish a marriage in Florida, the following requirements must be met:

  • The parties involved are of opposite genders. Only marriage between a man and a women is valid or recognized.
  • The parties are not related to each other by lineal consanguinity. Cousin marriages are legal though.
  • Neither party is married to someone else.
  • Both partners are at least 18 years of age and capable of consenting to the marriage. If one or both applicants are under the age of eighteen, they must show proof of parental or judge consent.

In Florida, a marriage license is valid for 60 days so you'll want to take care of this at your local County Clerk's office within two month of your wedding day. In order to obtain a marriage license in Florida, the following list of requirements must be each person applying for a license must:

  • Identification: A valid picture ID that includes date of birth, issuance and expiration date, plus an additional item of identification, such as your social security card or passport, are required for both parties. Some counties also require state certified birth certificates.
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  • Age: 18 years and older. Minors (age 16-17) may apply for a marriage license with parental consent. A minor under the age of 16 must have the marriage license issued by a county judge, with or without parental consent.
  • Residency: Florida residency and U.S. citizenship are not requirements
  • Previous Marriages: You must provide any copies of divorce decrees to the clerk at the time of application. At least 30 days must have passed from the issuance date of the decree.
  • A statement in writing: signed by both parties, which specifies whether the parties, separately or together, have completed a premarital preparation course.
  • A statement in writing: that verifies that both parties have obtained and read or otherwise accessed the information contained in the Florida marriage handbook or other electronic media presentation of the rights and responsibilities of parties to a marriage specified in s.
  • Waiting Period: Yes - 3 days. It can be waived for Florida residents who have both completed a state sanctioned marriage preparation course within the last 12 months. There is a three-day waiting period for Florida residents who have not taken the course.
  • Fees: About $90, but couples who have completed the marriage preparation course within the past 12 months are entitled to a $32.50 discount.
  • Blood Test: Not required.
  • License Validity: 60 days from the date of issuance.
  • Proxy Marriages: No.
  • Copy of Certificate: Certified copies of the Marriage License are available from the Florida Department of Children and Families. There is usually a small fee involved.
  • Department of Children and Families

    Division of Vital Statistics

    P. O. Box 210

    Jacksonville, FL 32231-0042

    904-359-6955

    Divorce

    In the state of Florida, a divorce is referred to as a dissolution of marriage. A dissolution of marriage is a court order that legally terminates a valid marriage. The effect of a dissolution of marriage, when it is finalized, is to restore the parties to the state of unmarried persons.

    In order to file for a dissolution of marriage, one of the parties to the marriage must be a resident of the state for at least six months. The dissolution of marriage can be filed at the circuit court in either county in which the two spouses reside.

    In Florida the following are available grounds for divorce:

    • The marriage is irretrievably broken.
    • Mental incapacity of one of the spouses for a preceding period of at least 3 years.

    In Florida, there are two types of dissolutions, a simplified dissolution and a regular dissolution. The simplified dissolution of marriage is a faster, less complicated method, but cannot be used by everyone. On couples who fit all of the following criteria are able to file this type of dissolution:

    • Agreement between both spouses that their marriage is irretrievably broken.
    • Both spouses are able to appear before a circuit court clerk to sign the joint petition for simplified dissolution of marriage and also to appear before a judge.
    • The couple has no children under the age of 18 or no dependent children together, and the wife is not pregnant.
    • Spouses have made provisions about how their assets, property, debts, etc. are going to be divided once they are no longer married.

    In a simplified dissolution of marriage, there is no trial or appeal. Neither spouse can request alimony from the other spouse for any reason.

    In a regular dissolution of marriage, a judge will conduct a trial or hearing, which mandates property division, alimony, child support (if applicable) and child custody.

    Page 3 of 4

    Dividing the Property

    Florida statutes and case law provides for an “equitable distribution” of marital property This means that the marital property should be divided fairly, not necessarily equally between the divorcing spouses regardless of how the title is held. Marital property includes all the assets acquired during the marriage by one or both spouses.

    Since each case is different, there is no fixed way for the courts to determine the division of property. It is usually based on the facts of the case and other monetary awards of the case, such as alimony and child support.

    It's important to collect all the information you can about all your property, including when you purchased it, approximately how much it is worth, and details such as account numbers, serial numbers and so forth, as this will save you valuable time and money during the court procedures.

    Alimony

    Alimony refers to payments from one spouse to the other spouse, for the benefit of the spouse who is receiving payment. The purpose of alimony is to limit any unfair economic effects of a divorce by providing a continuing income to a non-wage-earning or lower-wage-earning spouse. There is no formula for calculating alimony in the state of Florida. But a court can order alimony in any case, and will generally consider the following factors:

    • The financial resources of each party
    • The needs of each party
    • The age and health of the parties
    • The standard of living established during the marriage
    • The impact on the children (if applicable) of having the care-giving spouse working
    • Any tax consequences
    • All sources of income available to either party

    Most spousal support is ordered for a specified amount of time. Again, the duration of alimony requirement depends on the facts above. Once ordered, it can be modified if one party proves a change in circumstances.

    Page 4 of 4

    Child Support 

    Child support refers to the amount of money that the court orders one party to pay the other party every month for the support of the child or children adopted or born during the duration of the marriage.

    In Florida, child support is based on the combined income of the parents and how many children the parent is responsible for supporting.

    Child support is ordered for a specified amount of time. As with spousal support, a Florida child support order can be modified if there has been a change in circumstances.

    Child Custody and Visitation

    In Florida, the court will make child custody decisions based on what is in the best interest of the child when the parents can't come to an agreement. Courts will presume that joint legal custody- called "shared parenting" is best, unless you can prove otherwise. In shared parenting, both ex-spouses make decisions regarding the child or children together.

    If the court finds that sole parental responsibility should be awarded to only one of the parents, this is referred to as “sole custody”. It is usually reserved for situations where there has been a history of abuse or neglect. Florida statutes state that sole custody means one parent has the sole responsibility and right to make all decisions without having to discuss it with the other parent. In this case, the court then decides whether visitation rights will be allowed for the parent not granted custody.

    Visitation: A privilege granted to the parent who does not have the physical custody the child for the majority of the time, to spend a certain amount of time each day, week, or month with the child. Generally, the court will aid in creating a detailed visitation plan to prevent conflicts and or confusion.

    Supervised Visitation: Granted to a parent when the child's safety and well-being require that the visits be supervised by a third party. This third party can be the other parent, another adult, or a professional agency. Supervised visitation is generally used in cases where the child and parent need to get to know one another better, for example, when the parent has been out of the child's life for a long time due to jail time or career circumstances.

    Florida state law also allows for “rotating custody” in certain situations. In this type of custody arrangement, the child spends equal time with each parent. Because of its complex and complicated nature, the courts tend to shy away from awarding this type of custody.

    Adoption

    Adoption refers to the process of establishing a legal relationship between a parent and child who are not each other’s biological parent or child. Adoption laws are mainly a product of individual state law, but the different types and methods in which to facilitate an adoption are generally the same nationwide. For an overview of adoption law and a basic step-by-step guide to adoption,click here. (can link to the adoption guide I already made)

    In Florida, prospective adoptive parent(s) must:

    • be adults. However, Florida adoption law does not indicate an age limit to adopting, it indicates an “adult” is allowed to adopt.
    • be heterosexual. Florida law does not allow homosexuals to adopt children.
    • complete an adoption application

    • Meet with an adoption study worker

    • Provide relative and non-relative references,

    • Agree to a home study which includes visits with all household members,

    • Allow staff to complete a criminal history background check and an abuse/neglect check on all adults in the household.

    More specific an detailed information can be found at the Florida Department of State website.

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