Divorce


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Child Custody


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Child Support


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Alimony


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FAMILY LAW

Family Law is a term which encompasses Divorces, Paternity actions, Child Support, Disestablishment of Paternity, Adoptions, and the civil or non-criminal aspects of Domestic Violence. The attorneys in our Family Law department have over thirty years combined experience in these areas to meet your needs and defend your rights while being aware of the emotional turmoil that our clients are facing.

Divorce is the legal termination of a marriage. These actions involve the division of assets/property and liabilities/debts, as well as issues regarding parenting of children and child support, and/or spousal support, known as alimony. There are two types of divorces, or dissolution of marriage actions. An uncontested divorce is a process in which both parties are in agreement as to the terms under which they will divorce. A contested divorce is where the parties are not in agreement. One party files the divorce, informing the court of what he/she wants. The other party then files a response with their position. From that point the litigation continues until the parties either agree or go in front of a judge for a trial which will determine the outcome of their disputes. During the litigation process the parties will be ordered to attend mediation in an attempt to resolve their differences. Regardless of whether a divorce is uncontested or contested, the parties are required to exchange financial information, each party providing full financial disclosure to the other party. If there are minor children the parties will also be required to attend a course for divorcing parents. If the children are aged 7 or older, they will also be required to complete an age-appropriate course on divorce. In any dissolution of marriage proceeding, the parties may choose to represent themselves or hire an attorney to represent them.

Paternity actions occur when parents of a minor child are not married. They are similar to the divorce actions described above except that they do not involve the division of property or debts, nor do they involve alimony/spousal support. Paternity actions also establish the paternity of children born out of wedlock.

Child support actions can also be brought through the Child Support Enforcement Division of either the State Attorney's Office (Miami-Dade County) or the Florida Department of Revenue (Broward and Palm Beach Counties). These actions only involve the issues of child support and establishment of paternity, if paternity has not previously been established. Child Support Enforcement does not deal with issues of property or parenting plans and timesharing. Child Support Enforcement will represent the parent seeking the child support and the party required to pay support may hire an attorney to represent him/her in these actions.

Disestablishment of Paternity is an action available when one man has previously been established to be the legal father of a minor child, either by marriage or agreement, and then newly discovered DNA evidence reveals that he is not the biological father of the child. The court will review all the evidence and decide whether there was fraud on the part of the mother and what the court deems to be in the best interest of the child. Both parties are entitled to represent themselves or hire an attorney to represent him/her.

Adoptions are the legal proceedings in which a party who is not the biological parent of a child becomes the legal parent of a child, and can occur under a variety of different circumstances. Most people are familiar with the concept of adoption by parents who are unrelated to the biological parents in any way. This adoption is a business agreement in which the adoptive parents may agree to cover expenses for the expectant mother until the baby is born, at which time the adoption is finalized through the courts. Other adoption actions include grandparent adoptions and step-parent adoptions, where family members or new spouses adopt the children. All adoptions require consent of the biological parents, and the adoption court records are sealed after the adoption is completed. Both the adoptive parents and the biological parents may hire an attorney to represent them.

Family law also includes the civil or non-criminal aspects of domestic violence, which is when one party who fears for their safety seeks the court's protection against another by requesting that an Order for Protection against Domestic Violence, or Injunction, be entered against that person. The Family court has a Domestic Violence division which will take the information from the party seeking the Injunction, process their request by taking it to a judge for review, and the judge will either enter a temporary Injunction or deny the request. Either way, the judge will order both parties to be present for a hearing approximately two weeks later to determine whether or not an Injunction should be entered. Both parties are entitled to represent themselves or hire an attorney to represent him/her. If a person is charged with a crime due to an act of Domestic Violence, or violation of an Order for Protection against Domestic Violence, then that is a case involving Criminal Law.


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