1. I have depended on my spouse for income, what if (s)he threatens to not pay for my expenses?
This is a spousal support issue, which is called “alimony”. There is a more thorough review of the law in the “alimony” section under “Dissolution 101“. Practically speaking, when the spouse that has been the “breadwinner” has an attorney, most attorneys have advised the spouse to keep paying the necessary expenses of the household. If the spouse does not pay and the necessary expenses are in jeopardy of not being paid (like the electric will get shut off) then an emergency hardship motion for support can be filed. It is then up to the judge to decide whether to hold an expedited hearing. In collaborative law, these issues are addressed first.
2. My spouse or child(ren)’s parent has threatened to take our child(ren) and leave the area, what can I do?
If there is no court order determining your time-sharing schedule then an appropriate motion would be made to have the court take jurisdiction over your child(ren) and request the court to order the child(ren) back to this jurisdiction. In collaborative law, these issues are addressed first.
3. I am a father, and my child(ren)’s mother is not letting me see my child(ren). What are my rights?
There is a difference between married men and unmarried man. If you are not married to the child(ren)’s mother then unlike a married man, you do NOT have rights of shared parental responsibility and time-sharing until you assert those rights. Under the natural guardian statute (F.S.S. 741.301(1), an unwed mother is the primary residential custodian of the child until a court order determines otherwise. To resolve this issue outside of court, I address the mother first by way of a letter.
4. We want a “friendly” divorce, do we have to go to court?
No, you do not have to “go to court” to fight the issues. More and more attorneys are being trained in the art of alternative dispute resolution and the collaborative process to resolve cases outside of court. I am one of those attorneys.
5. How much will this divorce cost me? Can I represent myself? What if I cannot afford an attorney? Can you afford to not have an attorney?
How much will this divorce cost me? Attorneys bill by the hour, and more specifically, by the tenth of an hour (.1 = 6 minutes and .2 = 12 minutes). Thus, if your attorney bills $300.00 per hour (not my fee), then 5 ten-minute phone calls could cost you $300.00. If you pay a $3,000.00 retainer (they are mostly nonrefundable) then you have 10 hours on retainer for a $300.00 per hour attorney. I explain the attorney time and costs and your possible contribution to the increase in a bill and the possible contribution of your spouse’s actions to the bill. You may need an expert in your case, such as, a vocational expert, forensic accountant, psychiatrist, real estate or tax attorney, which can all cause increased costs for your case. Divorce is not cheap, but read on. Can I represent myself? Yes. In fact, you have that absolute right that assures you of your independent intelligent decision to do so to the extent that you will be held to the same standard as if you had an attorney. If you execute an “unfair” agreement or the judge gives you an “unfair” ruling, you will not have as a “legal” excuse “I didn’t have an attorney.” What if I cannot afford an attorney? You have options to consult with me for the legal advice and preparation that you need at a lower hourly rate then what you would pay a full service attorney. Most attorneys do not offer this cost-saving option. Can you afford to not have an attorney? Your knowledge of the family law statutes and cases and evidence code is as limited as my knowledge of your career. I have no delusions that I could go do your job competently, nor should anyone be deceived into thinking (s)he can represent her/his interests as good as me or another qualified, professional, competent family law attorney. Further, your case involves the most important relationships in your life and your finances for years to come. The hiring of an attorney could maintain the sanctity of your relationship with your child(ren) for not only the years until your child(ren) turn(s) 18, but the enjoyment of the many years thereafter because of the investment OF TIME you have made NOW. You are also making a business decision for your future assets and income to protect the future for your family and child(ren) apart from the marriage. For example, if the proper child support calculation for a two year old is $400.00 per month; however, an incorrect income number was used resulting in an incorrect calculation + or – $100.00 per month then the difference is approximately $19,200.00. If permanent alimony is an issue, a $100.00 difference for a 50-year-old is approximately $39,600.00.
6. I keep hearing from my family and friends different words used for rights to the children like “custody” and “full custody” and “dissolution” and “divorce.” What are the proper terms?
This is the easiest question. Please see “Dissolution 101” for all the proper terms.
7. I am a grandparent or concerned relative. What rights do I have?
If you are a grandparent, unfortunately, the “grandparent rights” statute was declared unconstitutional. In collaborative law, this important right can be addressed.
8. It is after the divorce or paternity judgment and my ex and I are constantly at odds when it comes to raising our child(ren). What can be done?
If the issues are only related to hygiene and school and discipline (other than child abuse), you may be best served by a “parenting coordinator.” In collaborative law, alternative agreement can be discussed and creative problem solving to better serve your children. The traditional litigation route rarely serves the interests of the children.
9. What about child support?
These are guidelines established by the legislature. I have the same program as the court’s to run the guidelines. When you come in for your free ½ hour consult, I can plug in the numbers: in general, you will need to know gross incomes, your health insurance costs, the costs of the health insurance for the child(ren), and average per year for daycare and any ongoing regular medical expenses. There is other information, but the foregoing are the basics. It will be helpful to have your paystub and your tax return and the other parent’s income and deductions.
10. What if I want to relocate with my child(ren)?
The statute changed from 5 sentences within F.S.S. 61.13 to the many requirements and two pages under F.S.S. 61.13001. Relocation is difficult to prove and expensive, however, in collaborative law, relocation can be evaluated and addressed.
All information is as to the general law for family law, and is never a substitute for the hiring of an attorney to help you. Each family is unique and the same laws will apply differently to each family because of the unique family situation. For more information, contact Tia E. Jensen P.A. to receive a free consultation on your unique case.