Family Law Frequently Asked Questions

What Is a Retainer?

When an attorney requires you to give a down payment before handling your case, that payment is called a retainer. The cost of the retainer may be a set fee, and therefore is not an indication of how much the case will cost once it is completed. Money left over from the retainer upon completion of the case (if any) will be returned to you.

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What do Pro Bono and Pro Se mean?

When an attorney chooses for one reason or another not to charge the client for their representation, the attorney is taking the case “pro bono.”  If someone chooses to act as their own representation and forego hiring an attorney or allowing one be assigned to their case, that is known as “pro se.”  While you may have an option to represent yourself, it is highly recommended to hire an attorney for representation.  Hiring a professional attorney will provide you with full access to expert legal advice, invaluable experience, best practices, proper procedures, and your highest chance for successful results.

How Long Should I Wait Before Contacting An Attorney?

You should contact a lawyer as soon as possible. It is critical to protect your interests as quickly as possible. A consultation with an attorney is free – use it! Additionally, you only have a limited time to file a lawsuit (if a lawsuit is necessary), and an experienced legal professional will make sure you meet all the deadlines and help you gather evidence. The longer you wait to gather evidence, the harder it can be to obtain. If you are in an automobile accident and find yourself having to speak with an insurance adjuster, it is strongly recommended that you have legal representation helping you answer their questions. The statements you make to the adjuster can be held against you later.

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What Happens If My Spouse Does Not Want To Get A Divorce?

Florida actually has a statute that allows the court to hold off divorce proceedings and order the married couple to attend 90 days of marriage counseling. However, courts rarely decide on this option since it is unlikely to help if one party already considers the marriage irretrievably broken.

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What are grounds for divorce in Florida?

There are two grounds for divorce in the state of Florida:

The marriage is irretrievably broken (completely beyond repair)
One of the parties has a mental incapacity that was legally declared a minimum of 3 years before the filing for divorce

There are numerous reasons for a marriage to be deemed Irretrievably broken, and they do not require fault to be proven against one party or the other. The claim is rarely contested by the court.

I need to get a divorce. What do I do first?

As long as there are legal grounds and the residency requirement is met, a person first has to file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. This petition outlines the party’s claim to alimony, child support, division of property, time with minor children, and more. After this is filed, a process server must officially present it to the other party. From there, both parties must meet the requirements of the court in order to complete the process. If the couple has minor children, both parties must attend a seminar on divorce and children. However, the parties do not have to attend the seminar together.

I Don’t Want My Kids To Have To Testify In Court. Will The Judge Make Them Testify?

Under most circumstances, children will never have to appear in the courtroom, let alone testify. A parent would have to seek special permission from the court in order to have their child appear, and very often the court will refuse such a request.

I Changed My Name When I Got Married. Can I Get My Former Name Back?

Yes! Within the petition for divorce, a request to have former names restored can be included. So long as the request is not in an attempt to commit fraud or hide from debts, it will likely be approved.

How Much Does It Cost To Get A Divorce?

While there are some standard fees for filing the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and other associated paperwork, there is no set answer to that question. Even in its simplest form, divorce is still a legal process with many variables and expenses.

How Long Does It Take To Get A Divorce?

It depends. If a divorce is uncontested, it may only take a couple months for all the paperwork to be completed and filed. If the divorce is contested, it may take over a year. Everyone’s situation is different, and the more issues that there are to contest (child support, alimony, etc.), the longer it can be expected to take.

Do I Have To Hire A Lawyer To Handle My Divorce Case?

No, a person may legally represent themselves during a divorce proceeding. However, hiring an experienced divorce attorney is strongly recommended. The paperwork alone can get overwhelming, and the more factors involved in the divorce (property, children, alimony, etc.), the more difficult the process becomes. An experienced attorney will help answer complicated questions and guide the divorce through to its resolution.

Can I Get A Divorce If My Spouse Left And I Cant Find Them?

If a person wants to file for divorce against someone whom they cannot find, they must first perform a diligent good faith search. This means contacting the Department of Motor Vehicles, speaking to friends, family, and acquaintances of the spouse, and publishing a notice in an appropriate newspaper for a brief period of time in an effort to find them. Until the spouse can be found and the divorce papers served, the courts will be unable to order any alimony or divide any property between the parties.

Can I Divorce My Spouse If They Live Out Of State?

Yes. As long as at least one of the partners meets the minimum residency requirement of 6 months, a married couple can get a divorce while one lives out of state.

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