Some people may have the idea that attorneys just want to pursue the course of action that will lead to the largest legal fee. The reality is that the vast majority of experienced South Florida family law attorneys are focused primarily on something else – which is the best interests of our clients and clients’ families. Rarely does this involve engaging in a “scorched earth” kind of hostile, contentious legal battle. Generally, that type of extremely hostile family law litigation is driven by the client, not the lawyer.

However, even those spouses and parents who engage in “behaving badly” through the legal system are entitled to certain rights and protections. This includes things like being forced to undergo a mental health examination on an involuntary basis.

So, what do you do if your ex-spouse or the other parent of your children wants the court to make you undergo a mental health exam even though you oppose doing so? A recent case from the Florida panhandle offers some useful information about how to respond.

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When it becomes necessary to go to court in a family law dispute, there are several things you expect to obtain through the litigation process. One of the most basic is that you’ll receive a fair hearing and a decision made by an impartial judge. However, what happens when you find out information that calls that expectation into question?

If it turns out that the judge in your family law case has a history with your ex and/or your ex’s attorney, Florida’s court rules give you certain options. Making sure that you get a truly fair trial may mean knowing how to use those options to your maximum benefit, which is one more reason (among the countless others) why you should be sure you have an experienced South Florida divorce attorney representing you.

So, what can you do if you find yourself in that kind of circumstance where your judge has a connection to the other side? There’s a recent case that serves as a real-life example. O.B. was a husband who filed for divorce in Miami-Dade County. In mid-June, the court held a hearing on several motions. Immediately after the hearing, the husband discovered that the opposing counsel wasn’t just his wife’s divorce attorney. A few years earlier, that lawyer had also been the judge’s divorce lawyer.

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When you hear the phrase “marital gift,” it may call to mind poring over an engaged couple’s wedding registry to select just the right item (or items,) or perhaps bring back memories of sending out dozens (or even hundreds) or thank-you notes for the things you received at your own wedding.

What you may not know is that, in Florida law, “marital gift” has another meaning, and this other meaning may have a major effect on the division of your assets in the event of a divorce. Under this “marital gift” legal concept, it is possible for a non-marital asset to become part of your marital estate subject to equitable distribution in your divorce. What this should remind you is that divorce law is full of many subtleties, nuances and concepts probably unknown by even knowledgeable non-lawyers. That’s why, if you’re going through a divorce here in the Sunshine State, you need the experience of a skilled South Florida family law attorney on your side.

A recent case of a Brevard County couple is an example of divorce where a “marital gift” mattered a great deal. In the case, the couple had a marital home that was purchased with a mortgage and an $80,000 down payment. The $80,000 for the down payment came from a gratuity given to the husband by a former employer, as a “thank you” for services he had performed prior to the husband’s marrying the wife.

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Family law cases can be emotionally intense disputes and can lead to people not following their better impulses. People, feeling the pull of powerful feelings, may make mistakes during the litigation process. Just because you’ve failed to follow those better impulses in relation to a court case, that doesn’t necessary mean that those mistakes you’ve made necessarily equate to contempt of court, though.

What’s more, anytime you’re charged with contempt, you are entitled to due process of law. Just like family law litigants and their spouses, judges are human and have the potential to make mistakes under stressful circumstances. That’s one of the many reasons why you need to be sure you have a skilled South Florida family law attorney on your side: to be sure you are protected against an improper contempt citation.

Timothy and Jesica were two parents involved in just such a contentious case, which was a custody matter. The judge ordered the parents to keep “the case off social media and to prevent family members from publishing information about the custody action on social media.”

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Sometimes, the post-breakup circumstances between two parents are very contentious. Other times, the parents may decide to work collaboratively. The latter, of course, is generally the best for the child and the family as a whole, as is it more psychologically and emotionally healthy, and often less expensive, too.

Of course, as with anything — even a good thing like parental collaboration — there’s a right way to go about it and a wrong way. That’s true for working out collaborative agreements regarding the responsibilities for parenting your child. If you and your child’s other parent want to put down your mutual agreement in “black and white,” be sure that you have a knowledgeable South Florida family law attorney by your side so that you know what your mutual agreement can and cannot do.

What do we mean by “can” versus “cannot” do? Look at a case from Broward County. Mom and Dad decided that their daughter, A.C., should go live with the father in Pasco County right away, and both parents signed a “private agreement” to that effect.

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Spend enough time in a courtroom, and you’ll eventually hear many different words and phrases, such as “sanctions,” “criminal contempt of court” and “civil contempt of court.” To the layperson, they may all seem the same – various forms of punishment for various improper acts or omissions. However, there are certain distinctions between each of these things and these sometimes-subtle differences can have major impacts on you in your family law case. To be sure you’re not being forced to pay a penalty that was wrongfully assessed against you, protect yourself with legal representation from a skilled South Florida family law attorney.

The dispute between an ex-wife (D.A.) and her ex-husband (F.D.) is an example of how the classification of a penalty can make a world of difference. D.A. and F.D. were in court regarding where the couple’s child should attend school. The court held a hearing and, at the end, issued a ruling determining the school the child would attend. In addition, though, the court demanded that the mother pay a “sanction” in the amount of $12,500. The judge did not impose any conditions on the sanction; but rather, simply ordered the mother to pay the sum.

If you found yourself in a position like this mother, would you know what to do? One thing you should do is to challenge the imposition of this penalty, at it is very possible that the “sanction” was improper.

Whether you’re just a fan of the works of William Shakespeare, or are having flashbacks to high school English literature class, you may recall the famed lines,

O, be some other name!
What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet

from the play Romeo and Juliet. The reality is, for many people, there’s a lot in a name, especially a last name. It represents heritage, ethnicity and familial ties, among other important things.

So, what can you do if your child’s other parent wants to change your child’s last name to reflect his last name? Actually, there are many things you can do, because the law in Florida creates some fairly specific hurdles a parent must clear in order for a judge to order a name change. One of the biggest relates to proving certain things related to the welfare of your child. Demonstrating that the other parent didn’t clear these hurdles may entitle you to an order keeping the child’s name unchanged. As always, whether you’re engaged in a name battle or some other legal dispute regarding your child, be sure you’re getting advice and representation from a skilled South Florida family law attorney.

The child of L.H. was at the center of such a name battle. L.H.’s child’s last name on the birth certificate was H., the same as the mother’s. Sometime later, the mother and M.B. appeared in court on a paternity action. Both M.B. and L.H. stipulated that M.B. was the father and that M.B. should be added to the child’s birth certificate to reflect his paternity.

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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.