Articles Posted in Divorce / Dissolution of Marriage

The dissolution of a marriage can be a frightening and stressful ordeal that many divorcing couples might not be emotionally equipped to handle on their own. Because emotions run high, even for the spouse who is seeking the break-up of the marriage, unresolved issues that led to a divorce often-times takes years to resolve. These problems are compounded when children are involved and add additional emotional issues that can led to severe complications for both parents and children. Divorce can be one of the most difficult, life altering events that can take place in a person’s life. The judicial process, once initiated can also be a daunting reality which adds to the emotional stress experienced by one or more of the spouses. The final outcome in divorce matters is usually decided by the courts if mediation does not present a remedy for the parties involved. Having an effective opportunity to resolve differences is usually not experienced during divorce proceedings without the guidance from an experienced attorney. At Wood, Atter and Wolf, we have experienced first-hand, the pain and suffering endured when clients are not guided in the right direction. We understand that unresolved issues stemming from an unsuccessful marriage can bleed over into the experience divorced couples endure after the legal issues have been resolved. We try to guide our clients towards, not only a successful outcome, but ways former spouses and children can deal with the trauma of divorce and find common ground moving forward. We find that the quicker you can put anger and unresolved issues behind, the sooner all parties will be happier and enjoy fulfilled lives again. This is why we encourage a collaboration between divorcing couples, working through their differences and trying to proceed with the interests of both parties in mind. While seeking an amicable solution, many formerly married couples can become happy singles again.

Roadblocks for Divorcing Couples

In most divorce cases, unresolved issues left on the table can feed over into post-divorce issues that complicate and exacerbate even simple matters. Just because a divorce decree has been finalized doesn’t always mean that all parties have moved on emotionally.  Especially when children are involved, parents with new co-parenting roles should try and develop a shared communication allowing parents to work together in the mutual best interest of the children. At Wood, Atter and Wolf we try and promote an ever evolving, harmonious relationship between former spouses focusing on what is truly important, the future, rather than mistakes made or regrets of the past.

Scales-of-Justice-Gold-300x200You didn’t need a lawyer when you got married, so many times people feel like they don’t need a lawyer to get divorced.  This, however, is not typically the best approach. Most divorces have at least one issue that is a legal matter. Whether it is alimony, child timesharing, child support, dividing the marital home or assets, it is important to speak to a Florida family law attorney to guide you through the law that exists pertaining to the legal issues that are in your case. While many couples feel that they can fairly and equally divide their assets, the truth is once dollar signs begin getting assigned, self interest begins to override the fairness principle. Having an attorney that you can rely on to be looking out for your best interest is your best approach, as the attorney should be aware of how a judge or magistrate will most likely rule in your case, and can advise you appropriately.

But lawyers are so expensive?! It’s true that the hourly rate of many lawyers seems staggering at first glance, and those hours pouring over your file and the details of your life add up. The question for most clients is what are the costs associated with retaining an attorney? In Florida, unlike personal injury cases, divorce cases cannot be taken on a contingency basis, meaning unless you win, you don’t pay.  Rather, Florida divorce attorneys typically take a retainer, basically a down payment for services, where the lawyer charges against the amount of your retainer, and when that is depleted, they either ask for an additional retainer or charge you monthly based on the work that they perform. This can include preparing motions, drafting pleadings, taking phone calls with opposing calls, attending court hearings or mediations. There are other tasks that lawyers charge for as well such as researching your specific legal issue that may be complex, updating you with the status of your case, and writing letters or emails. This is not an exhaustive list of what lawyers, but rather the most commonly seen things that clients see on their bill. When speaking with an attorney about retaining their services, it is important to weigh many factors.  It’s important to feel a good rapport with your attorney, this relationship must be built on  honesty and similar mindset for your case. When you are interviewing a lawyer, the lawyer is also interviewing you to determine if you are the right type of client for them. It’s also very important to consider their experience in life and in law.

The following questions can be asked during the initial meeting with the Florida family law attorney:

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In the State of Florida, ending a marriage (otherwise referred to as a Florida divorce) is a difficult decision, and it may takes months or even years for either party to come to the realization that things are not working anymore. Research indicates that many couples give the holiday season or the summer for “one last shot” at making things work, and ultimately when things don’t work, they find that divorce is the only option. A recent University of Washington study indicates that there are particular times of year that divorce filings increase, specifically, the months of March and August. Over 15 years of analysis, the State of Washington demonstrated increased filings in spring and late summer that these times of year are when individuals tend to make the decision to end their marriage. Interestingly, the study indicates a similar trend throughout the United States, including Florida.  While there are trends, the selection of the month or time of year to file a Florida divorce action is up to the party filing the divorce action.

While divorce is a year round consideration, it makes sense that these two months are the highest filing times for divorce. First, considering the needs of the children is important to parents when deciding to divorce. Holidays and summer vacation bring times of optimism that “things will get better,” and when they don’t, couples turn to make the final decision. This “domestic ritual” calendar is important, researchers say, because it governs family behavior that they don’t want disturb during the initial stages of divorce. From a real life examination, it makes sense no one wants to splitting up their house with summer plans and back to school around the corner. There are too many unknowns. In addition, the high stress and emotional times in holidays also

Second, spouses need to find time to meet and interview lawyers. Once the children return to the routine, these provide opportunities for unhappy spouses to make the time to sit down with an experienced Florida family law attorney to discuss their legal priorities and options This is very important step that every spouse, because being educated as to what to expect and how to approach the divorce process should include an experienced attorney who can advise and advocate on behalf of your rights. Every family and even each spouse has different priorities to consider when it comes to what they hope to receive in a divorce. Knowing that the kids are back to their routine, gives parents a chance to consider how to make the necessary changes while the kids have stability of a scholastic calendar.

School-Building-300x280Back to school is an exciting and hectic time for families. New school, new classroom, new teacher, but what if the same old situation exists with your co-parent where communication has hurdles, challenges, and yes disputes? Some families seem to do it seamlessly, by splitting the supplies list, attending orientations together, and sharing in the excitement of a new beginning. Others have more difficulty.

How can you help your children prepare to return to school with an uncooperative co-parent? First, know your parenting plan. Reading and comprehending the Parenting Plan entered in your case defines your timesharing, responsibilities, share of expense, and how the academic calendar affects your co-parenting relationship. These orders are typically routine and frequently addressed issues are set forth, and the order should provide guidance to navigate the path back to school.   At times, however, nuances and inferences can lead to issues where parents can find themselves disagreeing over simple issues. Speaking with an experienced family law attorney at the law firm Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A. to assist you in understanding what your rights and responsibilities are can provide invaluable guidance for the benefit of you and your children.  At Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A., we have been On Your Side – At Your Side since 1957.

Second, start planning early. The academic calendar for your county is readily available on the school district website. Each year has slight changes and every county is different. It’s important to look at the upcoming calendar, school supply list, and be informed so that you can be prepared for discussions regarding your children’s enrollment.

Social-Media-Icons-300x258Summer vacation is a great time for making memories and posting online to show off the special time you shared as a family on social media. But sometimes, the posts that spouses or former spouses post on social media can come back to cause problems for your divorce or post dissolution case. When parents get divorced, sometimes communication becomes less about talking about the issues facing the two people splitting up and more about building a Florida family law case. This is problematic, especially when there are children that can get caught in the middle of two adults fighting. Anger can also be a strong motivator for you or your former partner to start trolling the internet looking for information to use against each other.

While in the past, scorned partners could speak ill of the “bad partner” to friends or co-workers to garner support, social media has changed it so an angry former partner now has a global platform to spread dirty laundry, even if it’s not true. Worse than that, photos or postings can be taken out of context only to make a person look like they are doing things that are not even accurate.

The effect of social media has certainly spilled over into Florida legal cases involving divorce, modification, child support, child custody, parenting plans, relocations plans, and other matters.  Technology has also affected how things are done.  Now, a child can be called and tracked on a mobile phone.  As such, both social media and technology can be a tool and can also be a weapon in the context of a contested family law matter.  Based in Jacksonville, Florida, the law firm Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A. can connect you with a family law attorney in the practice to advise you and represent you in divorce and post divorce family law matters.

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When spouses separate and the Florida divorce is final, one party usually takes full ownership of the marital home. For one party to have full legal title to the, now, former marital home, the other party must sign a quit claim deed transferring his or her interest in the property to the other party.

Based in Jacksonville, Florida, the law firm of Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A. is experienced in disputes and issues regarding the marital home and the failure to pay the mortgage payment.  Certainly, any issue regarding the former marital home and the stability of the living environment should be addressed in a timely manner through legal representation when necessary.

If the spouse living in the former marital home is not the only spouse listed on the note with the lender (bank), then that possessing party must either refinance the note in order to remove the other spouse or obtain a new loan solely in the possessing party’s name. Usually, the parties will agree that whoever remains in the Florida marital home will refinance the home but the court can also order a party to do so or, at least, attempt to do so. It is ultimately the decision of the lender to agree to refinance the note and mortgage and remove one of the parties from the original agreement. Often, the lender will not agree to refinance the home; therefore the spouse who was awarded the home must obtain a new loan to pay off the existing loan. In order for a party to obtain a new loan, the party must qualify for such a loan according to each lender’s terms and requirements. Usually when a couple purchases a Florida home, the amount of the note and mortgage is based on individual’s income. Being recently divorced and not having that second income may make it difficult to obtain a new loan for the same house because the debt to income ratio that lenders look at and rely on has now changed.

https://www.jacksonvilledivorcelawyerblog.com/files/2017/07/06.-Wedding-300x181.jpgWho watches the television show “Married at First Sight?” (I’m raising my hand if you can’t see me.) For all the fans out there, you know that Season 4 of “Married at First Sight” took place in Miami, Florida. Out of the three couples that married at first sight, one couple decided to get divorced at the end of the show. Well, that particular couple decided to get divorced after the honeymoon but the divorce did not take place until the experiment concluded.

As the experts say from the beginning of the show, the marriages are real and so are the divorces. Even though the couples may only be married for eight weeks, they still must go through the same steps as the general public in order to have their divorces finalized. Most likely, for Season 4 couples a simplified dissolution of marriage, as the Florida courts call it, is all that is needed to divorce the couples.

A simplified Florida divorce has a few requirements which each couple of “Married at First Sight” meets. I am sure the show screens their participants in accordance with these requirements. First, the couple must both agree to use the simplified divorce procedure. If one party decides that he or she does not consent to the simplified divorce procedure then the parties must follow the more traditional route for getting divorce.

Military-Divorce-Florida-300x264The attorneys and staff at Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A. respect and salute our military and their families here in Jacksonville, Florida. This is not only because they are serving our country and protecting all of us, but also because during their time in Jacksonville, military families are vital members of our community. As with any Florida family, military families face difficulties, but the issues they experience are unique as the life of service member and their family presents different challenges. Additionally, obtaining a family law attorney who is experienced in Florida and Federal law, as it applies to military divorce is a must to ensure that your divorce is handled in the most appropriate way.

Based in Jacksonville, Florida, the attorneys at Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A. represent clients in family law matters that relate to divorce, child support, alimony, adoption, modification, custody, visitation, time sharing, and other issues.  Since 1957, Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A. has been serving its clients in North Florida including the counties of Duval, Clay, Nassau, Baker, and St. Johns County.

First, laws such as the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act, 50 UCS §521, as applied with Florida law, allows for the protection of a service-member from being found in default of an action during his or her active duty, and up to 60 days after, so that the military spouse is not found in default while serving our nation. This protection may be waived by the service-member, if they so agree.

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Fla Stat. §61.08(4) provides statutory guidelines for Florida courts to consider when evaluating importance of the duration of a marriage as a factor for alimony consideration.  In order to categorize the duration of marriages, courts look from the date the marriage began until the date one of the spouses filed for dissolution of marriage. According to the statute, short term marriages are marriages under seven (7) years, and long term marriages are all marriages that last longer than seventeen (17) years.  However, there is a “gray area” in the 10-year gap between these years. The marriages falling between the seven (7) to seventeen (17) year marriage lengths are known as marriages of “moderate duration.”

Categorizing the duration of a marriage is important. The court looks to a multitude of factors, found in Fla. Stat. §61.08 (2)(a-j), when considering the amount and the duration of an alimony award. A marriage categorized as a marriage of moderate duration is particularly important when considering an award of permanent alimony.

If a marriage is a long term marriage, as defined in the statutes, the marriage has with it a presumption in favor of a permanent alimony award. If after the court considers all other alimony factors and finds that no other alimony type would be proper, permanent alimony can be awarded. Whereas, a short term marriage would absolutely not have that same presumption. For a permanent alimony award in a short term marriage the court would have to find that exceptional circumstances exist to support such an award. Whereas, a moderate term marriage is open to a permanent alimony award also, but a higher standard of proof is necessary when awarding permanent alimony in cases of moderate duration marriages. Clear and convincing evidence as to the alimony factors must be presented to the court to prove  that the receiving spouse is entitled to alimony.

Florida is a no-fault divorce state. What this means is that the Florida court judges do not need to hear testimony or be shown evidence to support that one party caused the breakdown of the marriage or that the breakdown of the marriage occurred as a result of certain indiscretions, such as adultery, in order to grant a divorce. While Florida may be a no-fault state, the courts must still find that a marriage is “irretrievably broken” or that a mental incapacity has existed for a period of three years, Florida Statutes 61.052, before a divorce will be granted. Often times parties move for the grounds of irretrievably broken to seek their divorce. While the assumption can be made that anyone who goes through the tiring divorce process must being doing so because the marriage is irretrievably broken, the court must still be presented with evidence to support the status of the marriage as broken.

Parties are often surprised to discover that even in instances where they have agreed upon the terms of their divorce, filed a petition, sought legal counsel, drafted parenting plans, taken the parenting course, and agreed upon property division the judge is still able to reserve on granting the divorce until a later date, order counseling, or if minor children are of the marriage the judge may issue an order in their best interests if the judge sees fit. The judge can order the previously mentioned results in instances when one party responds to the petition that the marriage is not irretrievably broken, or in any instances when the marriage involves minor children. While this may not be the result divorcing parties desire this allows the courts to attempt at giving the parties another opportunity to reconcile for the benefit of themselves and/or the minor children. While reconciliation may not be in the best interest for the parties and the children in all instances the reservation of this power allows for an outside party to evaluate the circumstances and in some cases save families from a path that is not in their best interests. While the court reserves this power, it should be noted that it is not very often that the court does not move forward with the divorce proceedings.

If you have found yourself recently served with a petition for divorce and you believe that your marriage can be retrieved, you must inform the court in your initial responsive pleading that you deny the marriage is irretrievably broken. Answering a petition for divorce by denying the grounds of irretrievably broken will not guarantee the court will not grant the divorce. But, it may give your family one last chance at counseling, or allow for the passage of time to allow for you and your spouse to reconcile. Contact Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A. today to discuss your Florida divorce.