Family Law Attorney in Orlando
Family Law Cases in Orlando
Family law refers to the regulations and court procedures that involve the family unit. It is one of the most sensitive areas in our judicial system, and rightly so. Family court cases are subject to complex state laws and draining emotional tension. While some family law matters can be resolved without legal counsel, cases involving a divorce or child custody often warrant the help of a competent attorney.
At the Law Office of Mark Bakay, our goal is to diligently advocate the interest of our clients, while appreciating the fact that family law matters can impose unique financial and emotional stresses for all parties involved.
Family Law Practice Area
Divorce & Property Division
Divorces can be one of the most challenging experiences in a person’s life. Matters close to the heart are dissected in court, and the effects can be draining. One of the most significant tasks a couple must overcome in dissolving a marriage is the division of property.
Florida is an equitable distribution state, which means that all marital property is divided in a fair and equitable manner. Equitable distribution is not to be confused with equal distribution. The job of the judge is to distribute wealth in a way that gives both parties a fair financial standing after the divorce. This could sometimes result in one party receiving a substantially greater award due to factors like financial hardship or even marital misconduct. The court will examine any relevant consideration when determining how to distribute the marital property.
Marital property includes any rights, funds, and assets acquired during the marriage. This property comprises, but is not limited to, 401Ks, pension plans, bank accounts, life insurance plans, vacation homes, stocks, bonds, and debts. It does not matter if the property or liability is titled jointly or in only one spouse’s name.
On the other hand, separate property is everything each partner owns individually, either because it is from before the marriage or it is a gift from a third party. However, separate property can lose its protected status if mingled with marital property. For instance, if you were to deposit an inheritance acquired before your marriage (separate property) into a joint bank account (marital property), the title of the separate property is changed into a form of joint ownership.
The increase in the value of the separate property can also be marital property if it resulted from the active efforts or contribution of funds from either spouse. These contributions can include efforts of working in a business or maintaining a home.
How Property is Divided
Couples can decide how to distribute their property without assistance or with the help of a mediator. A court will typically honor the agreement as long as both parties are mentally sound and each has had the opportunity to meet with a lawyer. However, in cases where couples cannot reach an agreement, a judge or arbitrator will decide. Assets are usually divided equally, but there are situations in which a judge may award one party a greater sum after considering all relevant factors, including but not limited to the duration of the marriage, each spouse’s economic circumstances, child custody, and any marital misconduct.
Debts are also divided in a fair and equitable manner while assigning the debt payment to one spouse. Like assets, the court has the option of dividing debts unequally if they believe it to be fair under all relevant circumstances. For instance, a judge may assign one party the majority of debt responsibility if they squandered money throughout the marriage.
Florida law allows either spouse to request alimony during the divorce process. This spousal maintenance is a mechanism through which the higher income earning spouse supports their former partner until they can establish the means to provide for themselves. Alimony can be paid on a monthly basis, in a lump sum, or in a combination of the two.
There are four types of maintenance in Florida: bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, durational, and permanent. Bridge the gap alimony is transitional and intended to help a spouse adapt to being single by allocating the funds and future bills associated with starting a new life without the spouse. Rehabilitative alimony allows a spouse to a different educational program or vocational skills to obtain employment that will enable them to be self-sufficient. Durational alimony is often awarded for short to moderate term marriages when no other type of other maintenance is sufficient. This spousal support is temporary and should not last longer than the duration of the union. Finally, permanent alimony is available to spouses who cannot achieve the standard established by marriage in regards to the person’s general needs. This type of maintenance could be used to maintain a particular lifestyle the spouse became accustomed to during the marriage.
Alimony will cease on either the death of the paying and receiving spouse or if the receiving spouse remarries. However, this does not apply to rehabilitative alimony.
How is Alimony Awarded?
For either spouse to receive alimony, they must request it in either the original or counter petition. Failure to ask for maintenance before the final hearing will waive legal rights to alimony. In determining how much alimony will be awarded, if any, the judge will consider the financial circumstance of the spouse requesting it and the other spouse’s ability to pay.
Child Custody, Support & Visitation
Married or not, when a couple separates it is vital to establish an agreement regarding the care and support of all minor children involved. In Florida, this agreement is called a parenting plan and is required before any judge awards custody. The parenting plan is designed to avoid future conflicts and facilitate the shared responsibility of raising a child. This agreement outlines the upbringing of the child, time-sharing responsibilities between the parents, and any relevant factors to the child’s well being including medical insurance, school, and extracurricular activities.
Florida courts encourage the past couple to create a parenting plan alone in an amicable manner and offer resources like counseling and mediation in hopes of facilitating an agreement. However, in situations where a plan cannot be agreed upon, or the judge does not approve of the submitted proposal, the judge may take over and make decisions in the best interest of the child. In deliberating the right course of action, a judge may examine many considerations relevant to the well being of the children including their overall needs, and each parents ability to fulfill them.
In most cases, the court will favor shared parental responsibility between both parents. However, if the judge feels that shared custody would be detrimental to the child’s best interest, they may alter custody awards however they deem fit. For instance, parents with first degree misdemeanors or pending actions involving domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, and child neglect may be barred from any custodial and visitation rights.
Child Support Orders
Once the time sharing parenting plan is complete, and custody is awarded, child support will be calculated with considerations to both parents’ income and overnight stays with their children. Theoretically, if both parents earn the same amount of money and spend an equal amount of time with their children, child support would be zero. Typically this is not the case, and parents with the majority physical custody of the child will receive child support.
Child support modification is available to parents who can prove a substantial change in circumstances. In situations where the child support can be modified by at least $50 or 15%, either parent can petition for child support modification if there was a change in income, expenses, and parenting time.
If a parent fails to pay or refuses to comply with child support as court ordered, the Florida Department of Revenue can step in and enforce the order. The Department of Revenue may employ many tactics to persuade obligors to comply with the support order, including garnishing bank accounts, intercepting income taxes and lottery winnings, reporting failure to pay to a credit agency, and even send a withholding notice to the obligor’s employers. The Department of Revenue might use the same tactics to enforce out of state child support orders if they were registered in Florida correctly.
In Florida, if a child was born out of wedlock, the father must establish paternity before he can be awarded and custody and time-sharing rights. There are two ways to establish paternity legally. The first option is through a Voluntary Acknowledgment Paternity form. Both parents would have to sign the form and swear under oath that the man signing the form is the child’s father. After 60 days, the acknowledgment is final and may only be revoked in court under extreme circumstances.
The second option is to file a petition to determine paternity in court. Either parent may file this petition. In these cases, a judge may also make order involving custody, time-sharing, and child support. If they do not, the mother is assumed to have full custody and decision making authority.
Establishing paternity could be a great opportunity for single mothers who need support raising their children and fathers who want the right to be involved in the lives of their children. If you need help in enforcing your parental rights by establishing paternity, contact the Law Office of Mark Bakay for the comprehensive legal counsel you need to protect your family.
The Law Office of Mark Bakay Serves Clients in Orlando, FL
At the Law Office of Mark Bakay, we understand that legal decisions altering the family structure can be difficult. Family court cases can be replete with legal nuances and emotional battles. The complexity of family law in Florida can quickly turn a divorce or custody dispute into a legal nightmare. Fortunately, attorney Mark Bakay has the skills to guide you through the toughest parts of your case and is prepared to advocate your interest until the very end.
With years of experience, our law office offers quality legal support and reliable customer service to help families overcome challenging periods in their lives. We are empathetic to your case and want to help you achieve the best possible outcome. Our office is located in Orlando, Florida, and handles family law matters including divorce, alimony, custody, child support, and paternity cases. If you need help facing a family court case, contact our office today for honest legal representation you can count on.