Sometimes, you may see a family law-themed courtroom show on TV (such as Divorce Court or others,) where the spouses spend the entire episode angrily arguing with each other and complaining about one another, leaving the judge spending more time being a referee between the bickering spouses than being a judge of the facts and the law. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen only on TV.

Highly contentious family law cases, whether between two parents, two ex-spouses or two ex-partners are a reality of family law litigation. An extremely emotional and contentious case is one circumstance where it definitely pays to have a skilled South Florida family law attorney on your side. Your attorney can help guide you, calm you and protect your rights.

Take, as an example, a recent case from the Tampa area. R.L. and L.D. were former dating partners and she was in court seeking an injunction against dating violence. During the relationship, the man, L.D., had allegedly yanked R.L.’s arm and flung her across a room. A few months later, he allegedly chased her car on foot while cursing at her. According to R.L., L.D. had a long history of violence against women.

If you read or listen to enough material put out by doctors, you’ll inevitably hear many strong suggestions urging you see a particular type of doctor or undergo a particular test if your personal situation matches a certain set of facts. That’s not done just to “drum up” business. It’s done because doctors understand well the need for proper treatment of certain conditions and the risk when that issue isn’t addressed.

Family law and family law attorneys aren’t much different. There are certain people in certain situations out there who have a particularly high need for legal services, often because there’s a profoundly high risk that, if something goes wrong, it will go terribly wrong. An experienced South Florida family law attorney has the tools and resources to help you avoid that disaster scenario.

What do we mean by “terribly wrong”? Here’s an example, with a Tampa area woman who found herself in a heartbreaking situation because she hadn’t gotten the legal advice and legal services she needed when she needed them.

When a court in Florida contemplates the amount of alimony a spouse will receive, the judge looks at several financial factors. One of these is the standard of living that the couple enjoyed during the marriage prior to its breakdown. If you and your spouse lived a high-end lifestyle during the marriage, then that is a factor in determining the proper amount of alimony. If sufficient funds exist, the recipient spouse should be entitled to live a lifestyle somewhat resembling the life she knew immediately prior to the marriage’s end.

As noted above, there are actually numerous factors that go into an alimony decision. To make sure you’re getting the full amount to which the law says you’re entitled, be sure you have the knowledge and experience of a skilled South Florida family law attorney on your side.

When it comes to alimony in the case of a wealthy couple, P.D. and W.D.’s case was a clear illustration. The two were married for 20 years. During that time, the wife was a stay-at-home mom and the husband was a successful ophthalmologist. Following the equitable distribution in the divorce, the wife had an income of roughly $60,000 from investments, while the husband was making around $950,000 from his medical practice. The judge, based on those numbers (and each spouse’s expenses,) found that the husband had the ability to pay alimony and that the wife had a need for alimony, so the court ordered the husband to pay the wife $12,000 per month in permanent alimony.

There are many different areas in which you may be entitled to a monetary award from your spouse in your divorce case. For example, there are several different ways in which you may be able to obtain an award of attorney’s fees in your case. In order to be qualified under any of these ways, you must first engage in the proper procedural steps. For one (important) thing, you must be sure that you request an award of attorney’s fees in your divorce petition or your answer to your spouse’s divorce petition.

That, of course, is just one step among several you’ll need to take. To make sure that none of your claims for much-needed monetary compensation fall short due to technical or procedural missteps, be sure you have an experienced and knowledgeable South Florida family law attorney on your side.

A Polk County husband and wife divorced after 38 years of marriage, and their case is an example of how this process can work… and fail. The final divorce judgment addressed several issues, including equitable distribution and attorneys’ fees. As part of that judgment, the court ordered the husband to pay more than $8,900 of the wife’s attorney’s fees.

If you’re familiar with ante-nuptial agreements (a/k/a “prenuptial agreements”) at all, then you’re probably familiar with the stereotype surrounding one variety of prenuptial agreement. That stereotype is a financially savvy fiancé who uses his less sophisticated fiancée’s desire, or perhaps need, to marry (along with her lack of financial savvy) as a means to get her to sign a one-sided prenuptial agreement, often at the last minute before the wedding.

Of course, many prenuptial agreements are the result of fair, good-faith negotiation and full, honest disclosure on both sides. Some, though, more closely resemble the “stereotype” illustrated above. When they do, and when they are the result of one fiancé placing an undue amount of pressure on the other fiancée, then it may be possible under the law to get the prenuptial agreement invalidated under the legal concept of “duress.” To find out more about invalidating (or enforcing) your prenuptial agreement, be sure to reach out promptly and speak to an experienced South Florida family law attorney.

One recent case from Miami gave a useful illustration of what impermissible duress might look like. Reportedly, six days before H.Z. and R.A.N.’s wedding in Venezuela, and with the bride-to-be four months pregnant with the couple’s second child, the man handed the woman a draft copy of an ante-nuptial agreement that the man’s attorney had written. The agreement made no provision for alimony or equitable distribution. It also lacked many important financial disclosures, but the man promised to provide the financial disclosures before the wedding.

There are actually multiple different ways to defend successfully when you child’s other parent asks the court to modify timesharing. For one thing, you can demonstrate that the proposed change isn’t in the child’s best interest, but that can often be intensive in terms of time, money and stress. Another, and perhaps more efficient, way to stop a proposed change to timesharing is to persuade the judge that there has been no “substantial change” in circumstances since the court issued the original order on timesharing. If the other parent hasn’t sufficiently proven that a substantial change has occurred, then the law prevents the court from making any changes at all. Whatever path you choose in order to defeat a proposed change to timesharing, be sure you have an experienced South Florida family law attorney advocating for you.

When it comes to the issue of a substantial change in circumstances, the case of D.H. and A.H. is a useful one. The couple divorced and the court awarded the parents shared parental responsibility with the mother receiving majority timesharing. Then, six months later, they were back in court based on motions to modify timesharing. The judge, at that point, decided to award the father majority timesharing.

The mother appealed and she won. In her appeal, she argued that the only “change in circumstances” that had occurred since the divorce judgment was the father’s moving some 47 miles away. The appeals court agreed with the mother’s argument that a move of such a short distance was too minor to constitute a “substantial change in circumstances.”

Recently, this blog touched upon the issue of a parent receiving child support credit for expenses and what happens when the parent doesn’t actually spend that money. In child support cases, this matters because of those expenses’ impact child support guideline calculations.

In alimony, the problem is similar but somewhat different. In alimony law, the judge is tasked with setting an amount of alimony that properly reflects the recipient spouse’s need and the supporting spouse’s ability to pay. If the recipient spouse is getting credit for an expense that she’s not actually paying for, then the court’s calculation of her need is greater than what her true need really is. When that happens and you are the supporting spouse, then you need a modification of your alimony that lowers your payment. An experienced South Florida family law attorney can help in pursuing that change.

M.H. and A.M.H.’s post-marriage situation was an example of this problem. Reportedly, the couple divorced in 2003 and, at that time, worked out a marital settlement agreement, which included an award of alimony to the wife. Although the husband was in his early 50s at the time, neither that settlement agreement nor the court’s final judgment of divorce were so forward-looking as to address what would happen to the husband’s alimony obligation once he retired from working.

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Florida law gives trial court judges a lot of options in how they resolve issues like child support obligations. As part of that process, the law recognizes that a supporting parent may provide support to his/her child in meaningful and valuable ways beyond just paying cash to the majority timesharing parent. The law factors those other forms of support when determining how much the parent’s monthly monetary payments should be.

That, however, can lead to problems sometimes. Specifically, what do you do if the court factored in a non-cash form of support, but the supporting parent never actually incurred that expense? These and other tricky issues when it comes to child support are good examples of why it pays be sure that you have a skilled South Florida family law attorney on your side throughout your case.

The above scenario was what happened in C.C.’s case. When determining the amount of support P.S., the father, owed, the judge made a decision that was what the law calls a “substantial deviation” from the amount indicated by the Florida child support guidelines. Whenever a judge enters an order on child support and the obligation amount is a significant deviation from what the guidelines call for, the judge must have a good reason for deviating, and must clearly state why the deviation was appropriate.

Here in today’s modern electronic age, there are many things we have to navigate that people even just a generation ago did not. One of these things is computerized processes for filing court papers in your Florida family court case. Whereas everyone might have delivered a paper document to a human deputy at the court clerk’s office in the 1990s, today the rules of procedure allow filing electronic documents via an Internet website.

As we all well know, technology can be great… when it works. However, would you know what to do if your very important filing in your divorce case got rejected as late due to technology problems that were no fault of your own? It is reasonable to imagine you might not. To make sure your case or appeal gets the hearing it deserves, and that you are equipped to handle all the “bumps in the road,” no matter how unexpected, be sure you have an experienced South Florida family law attorney on your side.

L.B. was a man who found himself in that position. He was going through a divorce in St. Lucie County and, after the judge issued the final judgment, he and his attorney determined that it was in his best interest to appeal. The law gives you 30 days to file your appeal document known as a “Notice of Appeal.” L.B.’s notice, if he wanted to file one, was due on January 9, 2019. His lawyer attempted to file on that day. (There are several very legitimate reasons why it might be helpful, necessary or unavoidable to wait to file until near or on the last day.)

There are injunctions that protect against spousal violence and there are injunctions that protect against dating violence. However, you may wonder, “What if my attacker/stalker is someone with whom I had a relationship but, we were never married and we never really ‘dated,’ so to speak? Am I out of luck when it comes to getting this kind of protection?” The answer, fortunately, is “no.” These injunctions can apply to a variety of people and relationships, so if you’re being threatened, never assume that you can’t get protection; always talk to an experienced South Florida family law attorney first.

A case originating from the Tallahassee area gives a good illustration of how many different relationships can be the subject of an injunction against dating violence. T.S. and L.T. were a couple who met via the Internet site Craigslist. Based upon the description contained in the First District Court of Appeal’s opinion, this pair appeared to have what many might call a “friends with benefits” relationship. According to the man, the pair never actually went out anywhere together. Instead, over the four-year span of their on-again-off-again relationship, they got together mostly for sex. If one person began dating someone else, they’d cease their relationship, and then resume their couplings once that outside dating situation ended.

When the woman finally broke up for the last time, the man allegedly contacted her on social media, called her, texted her and “left unpleasant voice messages.” The man also once showed up at the woman’s home without warning and refused to leave until she told him she would call the police if he didn’t go.

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