Articles Tagged with family law


Breaking up is hard to do. Sometimes, one person finds out that another has been unfaithful, or another person may just be out of love, and a Florida divorce can come as a surprise or without very much warning. But for most when a marriage is on the rocks, both parties may be considering filing for divorce. Clients coming in for an initial consultation about getting divorced will ask in many instances the following questions:

Does it matter that I file the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage first?

Will my spouse get the upper hand if he or she files first?

Generally, children will not be called to testify as to matters in a family law case. Many parents have difficulty understanding why their child will not be called on to express their wishes, concerns, or input regarding the situation that greatly affects their lives. Florida Family Law Rule 12.407 precludes testimony from a child as a witness in custody related cases without a prior order made by the Court. To obtain an order allowing for the testimony of a child to be considered the parent requesting the testimony must file a Motion for Child Testimony with the court. The court will give consideration to the motion at a hearing in which the judge will determine the appropriateness of the child’s testimony in this case by weighing a variety of considerations. The judge will focus on the child’s maturity, ability to convey their desires, the age of the child, and the ability to make a decision without the child testimony.

While these considerations may seem like common sense, many people have difficulty understanding why children are not always allowed to be present at hearings that are determinative of their future. Parents in the midst of litigation tend to get caught up in the idea of winning the litigation and furthering those interests. It may be a misguided notion that presenting the child’s testimony for consideration by the judge would be in the best interest of the party or the child. Children at times often express their desires to assist their parents in the litigation process and then the idea of the child testifying reaches the attorney for consideration. It is very important that an attorney fully evaluates the facts surrounding their client’s case and educate their client regarding this request. There are various ways in which a child’s desires can be heard or taken into consideration by the court.

Parents who desire to have their child testify in their family law case will need to file the appropriate motion and having a hearing on the matter. If a parent believes that their child may not have the appropriate maturity to take on such a task, or if they desire to have their children’s wishes expressed in a less direct manner, the more appropriate motion may be a motion for the court to appoint a guardian ad litem. A guardian ad litem is a court appointed party who is utilized as the voice of the child to the court. The guardian ad litem acts as a messenger to the court of the child’s wishes, school progress, concerns of guardians or teachers, etc. The guardian ad litem is a respected avenue used by parties to have the child’s wishes expressed to the court, while allowing the child to remain shielded from the ups and down of continuous litigation.

Florida Statutes 68.07 is Florida’s statute governing the process to effectuate a name change. The name change statute incorporates both the rules governing name changes of adults and minors. The petition for a name change of a minor requires specific information to be provided. This information includes the minor’s criminal history, money judgments, parental information, former names, marriage information, and if the minor child has any children. While this information may seem like a stretch in most situations involving minor children, it is important to know that the goal of the legislature in creating these statutes was to allow for the name changes to occur but also to protect all parents’ interest in the minor’s name and also ensure that the name change request is not made for an immoral purpose, such as evading law enforcement or avoiding obligations. A name change petition for a minor can be filed on the minor’s behalf by the minor’s mother, father, or guardian. While one parent can petition the court on their own to effectuate the name change of a minor, moving forward with a name change of a minor without the consent of the other parent can get rather sticky.

If you have the consent of the non-petitioning parent you have a rather easy road ahead regarding the name change. A notarized consent document must be filed with the court to show proof of this consent, and then the court will evaluate the petition and the circumstances of the case and move forward in the process. If you do not have consent of the non-petitioning parent you must effectuate personal service on that party with the petition for the name change. This places them on notice of the name change request. Without effectuating personal service on the non-petitioning spouse the court will most likely not hold a hearing on the request for the name change of the minor or if they do hold a hearing, not grant the petition. In instances where the location of the non-petitioning spouse is unknown there are some steps that can be taken to fulfill the notice requirement. Name changes may appear to be easy, but if the pleadings are not appropriately drafted, consent is not obtained, or the proper notice is not given to the non-petitioning parent the courts  may deny the request.

If you are considering changing the name of your child, contact Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A. to help walk you through the process.


HandshakeDuring a divorce parties must divide the assets and the liabilities accumulated during the course of their marriage. One of the first things they tend to divide is the personal property items. Parties typically divide this property based out of simple want and desire. But, often times they hit a roadblock, as there is inevitably an item that neither of them wants to give up. How are parties to resolve these conflicts when they reach this barrier? Parties who are agreeable with one another tend to approach these issues by engaging in a give and take type of negotiation. However, in the midst of the emotional split one party tends to concede on the item, due to simply wanting to resolve this issue and move forward. While an amicable split and division of personal property is ideal, this is typically not the normal set of circumstances. Thus, it is essential for parties entering into divorce to understand what the court will consider when they move forward with dividing your assets and liabilities in litigation.

If warring couples are not able to amicably spit their personal and real property they will find themselves at the mercy of the court that will take into consideration the following factors related to the items: the classification of the item as a martial or non-marital asset, the value of the item, items already distributed as a part of equitable distribution, if the liabilities that have been distributed, the contributions to the marriage by each spouse, the economic circumstances of the parties, the length of the marriage, any sacrifices that lead to the interruption of the career or educational pursuits of a spouse, the desirability of one spouse in maintaining the property, the contribution of each spouse to acquiring, enhancing or producing income of the assets, any intentional depletion of the asset, and any other factors that the court would think must be considered to do equitable justice to the parties. The statute governing the distribution of property is found in Florida Statutes 61.075.

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