Family Law

Family Law / Divorce

FAMILY LAW. When your emotions are running high aggressive litigation seems to be the right course of action. Be it one party or the other or both. Unfortunately, divorce settlements fought in the courtroom, takes longer to complete. And therefore the costs of both the court and attorney’s fees are greater. When the issues are settled during litigation the process is not as bad . In addition to providing legal representation at every stage of the case. Mr. Harding is also able to accompany his clients to mediation. Tyler is also there to represent his client’s interests during settlement negotiations.

When your thinking about marriage divorce is nowhere in the picture. When marriages do end, one or both sides feel frustrated. Both parties feel upset and stressed. The entire process is an emotional drain. Even if the decision is a mutual one between both parties. Mr. Harding offers his many years of legal counsel to guide you through the process. And to make sure you’re prepared for each and every step in the process. The more you understand, the easier it will be to make the right decisions for your specific case. To see how we can help you or to schedule a consultation with Mr. Harding, call or email our office today.

Family Law/Custody of Minor Children

If there are minor children in the home time-sharing and parental responsibility are major issues that need to be addressed. Therefore, Florida requires the divorcing parties to develop a parenting plan that’s in the best interest of the child(ren). Many parties are able to draft a parenting plan on their own. But you need an experienced family law attorney by your side during this time. He can protect your rights, as well as, the rights and needs of your child(ren). This parenting plan has to be comprehensive. Short or incomplete parenting plans will likely cause issues later on. Especially as the parties seek to enforce the terms and provisions of the parenting plan.

Visitation/Time Sharing:

Florida law states the Parents start out as equals when it applies to the minor children. There is no automatic presumption of one parent’s rights over the other’s rights. Both the parties would start at equal (50/50) time-sharing with the minor children. However, equal time sharing is not always possible for average working parents. As such, minor children usually live in one home the majority of the time. Then spend frequent and continuing time with the other parent during the week or weekend.

If the parties are unable to reach an agreeable parenting plan, It will fall to the court. The court will consider what is in the best interest of the children. The court will then fashion its own parenting plan. A judge will determine what plan is best for the children. It will be based on the safety and needs of the individual children involved in the matter.

Often times an agreement or parenting plan is not working or needs to be modified. The court must determine if a change or modification of time-sharing is justified. The determination for modification is based on any substantial and unanticipated changes since the last order in the case. A court will also consider the best interests of the minor children to determine any changes to the parenting plan. Mr. Harding will help guide you from either the beginning of the process or from the start of the modification process.

Family Law/Paternity

There are two ways to determine paternity under Florida law. The first way is through marriage. The husband and wife will be considered the parents of children born while they were in the marriage. The second way is through the Florida courts by filing a Petition to Establish Paternity. Paternity provides rights to both a child and the parents of the child. These rights include:

  • Information on family medical history
  • Support and health insurance, if available, from the parent
  • Certain relational benefits such as military allowance or social security

A parent also receives certain legal rights. The right in legal decisions regarding the child. They can also obtain child support, and receive visitation or custody.

Establishing Paternity through the Courts:

Paternity can be established in four different ways when a child is not the product of a marriage. (1) Both parties agree to paternity by signing an acknowledgement of paternity. (2) The court orders a Paternity test after a genetic test establishes the biological father of the minor child. (3) A judge provides a court order for paternity. (4) The couple gets married after the child is born.  Providing an updated birth record to establish paternity.

Contesting the paternity of a child. Either the mother or any man who believes he is the father may bring a petition to establish paternity. The next step is filing the petition with the Florida Courts. Both parties must be present at the hearing to present evidence regarding paternity.  The Court may order DNA/genetic testing of all involved parties. If an alleged father refuses to participate in these proceedings. The court could choose to make him the “default” legal father in his absence. As well as, requiring him to pay child support for the minor child.

A male who believes they fathered a child outside of marriage may file with the Florida Putative Father Registry. This allows him to place his parental rights on the record. The registry requires   the alleged father to consent to potential DNA testing. And to state his willingness to support the child. The registry gives rights to the alleged father.  The child can’t be put up for adoption unless the alleged father is notified.

Contesting Paternity:

In the situation where a male believes that he is not the father he may file a paternity petition. That either challenges or seeks to de-establish paternity.  In the situation where a male believes that he is not the father he may file a paternity petition. That either challenges or seeks to de-establish paternity. The petition must also contain a sworn affidavit from the male. Stating he is not the biological father of the child. And there is new evidence supports his claim. As with establishing paternity, a disestablishment of paternity will typically rely on the results of genetic testing. The court will then have the Legal guardian served with the Notice To Appear in court.

Assisting With Your Paternity Case:

Are you looking to establish the father of your child? How about contesting a paternity suit you believe to be untrue? Mr. Harding has the knowledge and experience you need to help you. He understands what your facing when you file a paternity action. Let him provide the assertive advocacy you deserve in order to protect your rights. If you have questions about paternity in Florida, contact our office for a consultation on the matter.

Family Law/Child Support

When the parties have minor children in common, child support for those children needs to be calculated. Child support payments are based on Florida’s Child Support Guidelines. Child support guidelines will determine what you receive or have to pay. The amount is based on guidelines set forth by Florida Statute § 61.30.  The Statute takes into consideration the net income of both the parents. As well as, the number of children and the time sharing schedule. The initial child support is based off of these considerations. And also used for child support modification purposes.

The Court will look at (3) critical components when deciding how much child support is appropriate:

  1. The income and/or potential earning income for each parent.
  2. Day/after care costs and/or any health insurance cost for the minor child.
  3. The needs of the child, based the child’s age as well as the parents’ income.

The person making child support payments must do so monthly. These payments either go directly to the receiving parent or to the State of Florida Distribution Unit. It is customary for child support payments to end once the child reaches 18 years of age. Or upon graduating from high school. But also if the child is still in high school upon reaching his/her 18th birthday. With a reasonable expectation of graduating before the age of 19. Child support will also stop they join the military, becomes emancipated or die. Unlike other states, child support in Florida does not extend through college unless specifically agreed to by the parties.

What Happens When a Parent Refuses to Pay Child Support?

Child support payments and time sharing arrangements are not the same thing legally. The regular time sharing schedule does not change because  a parent fails to pay their child support payments.  Likewise, if a parent does not exercise time sharing with the minor child, they still owe their child support.  The party who owed child support will need to file the appropriate motion in court.  Thereby forcing the other party to comply with their support obligation.

Child support issues can arise during a divorce proceeding, a paternity action or in post-judgment cases. Are you are looking to establish child support, or enforce an existing support order? Are  you looking to modify an existing child support order? If so, contact, and schedule a consultation meeting with Mr. Harding to discuss the matter.

Family Law/Alimony

Alimony In Florida is based on by Florida Statute 61.08.  It’s used to determine if alimony will be made during a separation or dissolution of marriage. When it determines alimony payments, a court will consider the actual need of a spouse to receive alimony. And the other spouse’s ability to pay it.

Going through a divorce can be stressful and financially burdensome. When a marriage ends financial support from the other spouse may continue. The court has to determine if alimony is justified during the separation. Alimony will continue or end based on the circumstances of the case when the divorce is finalized.

The alimony awarded by the court can be a lump sum. It can also be monthly, or on a temporary basis. Or the court will order no alimony at all. There are various factors used in determining if alimony is appropriate. It is then for the court to determine the amount of the alimony award. And in what manner it will be paid to the spouse who is to receives it. The court can order monthly payments or a lump sum payment.

Some of the relevant factors include:  

  • Length of marriage
  • Standard of living
  • Physical and emotional conditions of each party
  • Financial resources available to each party
  • Contribution each party made to marriage
  • Income sources available to each party
  • Education level of each party
  • Employment opportunities
  • Responsibilities to care for minor children
  • Adultery during the marriage by a spouse

Family Law/Modifications

Sometimes your circumstances can change. You could be entitled to modify your time-sharing if there is a significant change in your schedule. This also holds true with child support and alimony payments if your financial situation changes as well. If you find your circumstances have changed. You might want to seek a modification. In the terms of your final order or judgment. Examples of changed circumstances would bea change or loss of employment. Relocation or a disabling condition of one of the parties.  Not every change in your circumstance will mandate a modification. You will need to show the court proof that a  substantial change has occurred in your circumstances. The remarriage of a party or the new spouse’s income does not constitute a substantial change in circumstances. This would not meet the criteria to modify child support or alimony payments.

How do I modify an order or judgment in a Family Law case?

How you get a Modification to a court order or judgment varies. In Florida, courts can only modify certain portions of family law orders and judgments. These include:

Modifying a judgment is often a complicated and a difficult process. It would be good for both parties to just agreed to the modification. But it’s rare they will agree to modify the order. Because there is no incentive for the other party to do so. In that event, you will need to file a Supplemental Petition with the court. This process involves filing legal documents with the court. As well as, developing your legal claims and compiling evidence. You might have to also present your case to a judge or magistrate.

However, not every modification is contentious. Every once in awhile you find that you can negotiate a voluntary modification agreement without going to court. In these rare cases, both parties would agree to the changes and sign an agreement memorializing it. The court will review the change and, if approved, enter an order approving it. Settling a modification request outside of the court is less disruptive and costs significantly less for all the parties. It’s better than constantly going back to court for further hearings. However, it takes both parties to agree. It’s not unusual for one party has to disagree because they have nothing to gain by the modification.

When Can You File to Modify a Family Law Judgment?

If your income changes, the court will not automatically adjust your settlement agreements. You must show a compelling change in circumstances that merits the modification and file the appropriate supplemental petition.  To illustrate this point further. If you lost your job or the number of hours worked per week  changes. Then you need to take immediate action to modify your support order. Each situation is different. But don’t wait to take action while looking for your next job. The court can issue a Motion for Contempt for non-payment of your support obligation.

There are important jurisdictional issues to consider in cases involving modification of orders or judgments. For example, Florida cannot modify an out-of-state alimony award. You can only Modify an out of state court order in that state. Therefore, a Florida court could not modify another state’s alimony award. Because it lacks the jurisdiction to do so. If your trying to modify a court order it must be filed in the county court where you reside. However, you can also file where the initial settlement agreement was executed. But you can also file in the county where the prior order was issued by the court.

Modification of Property Settlement Agreement

Unless your former spouse committed fraud to intentionally hide assets during your marriage/divorce. The court will not modify an order dividing your assets and debts. Once the court divides the marital assets and debts it’s very difficult to modify that agreement. Assets and debts include bank accounts, retirement accounts, and also credit card bills. In addition to loans, real estate, and personal property. If one party enters into a bad agreement the court will hold the parties to that agreement. The only exception the court will make is for  fraud involving one of the parties. Making a bad deal is not grounds to set the agreement aside or renegotiate it at a later date. You need to consult with an experienced family law attorney before settling your case. Your Attorney will help you avoid mistakes that would result in lost property and/or financial ruin.

Family Law/Relocation

If you want to move more than 50 miles away with the minor child(ren),  you’re in for a legal fight. The same holds true if your moving out of state. The easiest way to move with the minor child(ren) is with the written consent/agreement of the other parent. If there is no agreement, then you need to re-evaluate the pros and cons of relocating. You will also need to determine if you have a chance of prevailing in court in the matter.

Florida has its own statute on the issue of relocation.  If there is no objection to the relocation, the parent is free to relocate with the minor child(ren). .  If the other parent does object, their required to file a petition and have a hearing on the matter.  The court consider multiple factors, including:

  • The nature of the child’s relationship with the relocating and non-relocating parent
  • Age, development, and needs of the child
  • The feasibility of continuing a meaningful relationship with the child
  • Enhanced quality of life and opportunities for the child
  • Reasons for filing or objecting to the relocation
  • Economic benefit (increased ability to provide for the child)
  • Whether the non-relocating parent has faithfully fulfilled their support obligations
  • Opportunities available to the non-relocating parent because of the move
  • History of substance abuse (of either parent)
  • “Other factors” impacting the child’s wellbeing

Whether you are seeking to relocate or challenging such a move as damaging to your relationship with your child. You will need a qualified  and experienced attorney to help prepare you for court. And to also present your case to the judge.  Contact my office today for an initial consultation on the matter.

Family Law/Injunctions

What is an Injunction?

Injunctions are restraining orders issued by the court. Their purpose is to compel or prohibit a court ordered action. Though not considered criminal in nature, violations or the order can lead to being arrested. Injunctions prevent someone from doing a specific act. Or from coming into contact with the person seeking the injunction. 

Florida has (6) forms of injunctions:

  1. Dating Violence
  2. Repeat Violence
  3. Sexual Violence
  4. Domestic Violence
  5. Stalking
  6. Exploitation of a Vulnerable Adult

While there are different elements for each form of injunction, the standard is the same for all of them.  The petitioner (the one asking for the injunction) must show that the respondent committed such acts that requires an injunction. Injunctions do not get issued based on what a jury thinks they are issued on the findings of the Judge.

Having filed out all the legal paperwork and met the required guidelines. The motion goes to the judge. The judge will then order a temporary injunction and set a final injunction hearing date as soon as possible. If it does not meet the standard, the petitioner’s request will be denied.

Sometimes the court will deny the request for the temporary injunction if it does not meet the standard. But will set a hearing in the abundance of caution to hear the matter further in case. If the court feels that one should be entered. Once a temporary order issued by the court the respondent cannot have any contact with the petitioner. While they wait to attend the final hearing.

During the final injunction hearing, the parties do not have to have an attorney represent them, but they should. Either party can present witnesses and evidence. To support their position on why the injunction should, or should not be granted. The judge will determine if the circumstances,  as presented to the court, warrant the issuance or denial of the injunction.

Consequences of an Injunction

If you can avoid it, don’t agree to an injunction. Even if an attorney tries to convince you it’s no big deal. Or advises you to just agree to the injunction and avoid having a hearing. A court issued restraining order not only restricts who you can be around. Serious restrictions can also result from it. Here are other legal restrictions you may face Listed below:

      1. Not being able to possess a firearm or ammunition ( 790.233, Florida Statutes, says that people who have injunctions on their record may not possess a firearm or ammunition);
      2. Violations of an injunction ARE criminal. You can find yourself incarcerated, or prosecuted in court. The court can file either Civil or Criminal contempt proceedings to enforce any violations of the courts order.
      3. An injunction also becomes public record that can affect your employment and freedom to travel.
      4. Injunctions will also show up on background checks.
      5. Injunctions can affect your ability to get a secret or top secret security clearance for federal government jobs.

You need to understand the full consequences that can result from an injunction granted against you. Feel free to call or email our office today. Mr. Harding has a genuine concern for your situation. Come schedule your appointment to discuss your situation in greater detail. Why not enter the court with confidence. Knowing Tyler Harding is on your side.

Can You Drop An Injunction?

Yes. The court will dismiss the injunction if the petitioner does not show up for the final hearing. If the court grants an injunction, either party can always file a motion with the court to have it terminated. But the circumstances have to justify the injunction being terminated.

Family Law/Prenuptial Agreements

The Prenuptial agreement is a specific kind of contract. The parties prior to the marriage will both sign the agreement. This agreement specifically spells out in detail how the financial assets will be resolved in the event of a divorce /annulment. The agreement can also impact the rights of a spouse adversely. In Florida, the courts will resolve valid agreements and enforce them. Both parties have the right to dispute the validity of the prenuptial agreement in court. There are a number of reasons to dispute a prenuptial agreement in court. Things such as fraud, or failure to disclose the correct records of your assets and debts. Or if someone told you not to hire counsel. Or told not to seek independent legal counsel to review the agreement prior to its execution. Please feel free to contact Mr. Harding should you need to consult with him regarding a prenuptial agreement.

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