The Cromartie Law Firm, P.A. Provides Family Law

Need an experienced divorce attorney? Give us a call.

We, at the Cromartie Law Firm, have a unique approach to family law cases. We believe that you should have your family law case your way. Being involved in a family law case is different than being involved in a law suit, or being charged with a crime. It involves your family, and it is of paramount importance that we handle your case personally, and professionally. The family law court system can take an emotional, mental, and even physical toll on you. Therefore, the law is designed and aimed toward you and your spouse or significant other settling your case on your own terms. In fact, the law requires mediation in most divorce cases. If a settlement is not possible, we will aggressively pursue the best result for you.

We handle all types of family law cases, including the following:

Child custody/timesharing
Divorce
Child Support
Temporary Custody
Stepparent Adoption
Contempts
Modifications
Paternity cases
Domestic Violence
Property Division
Alimony
Mediations
Enforcements
Relocations
Appeals
Premarital Agreements

THE PROCESS

Florida is a no-fault divorce state, and there is no waiting period to file for divorce in Florida. Generally, you must have established residence in Florida for 6 months to have jurisdiction to file for divorce in Florida. Once you have filed for divorce, the court will determine the issues of timesharing with the children, child support, property division, and alimony, as applicable to your case. The Court will require each party to exchange mandatory disclosure, which is comprised of financial information, so that each party can be informed about the other’s financial status, and can make informed choices regarding, financial issues such as child support, property division, and alimony. Once the financial information has been exchanged to the parties’ satisfaction, the Court will order the parties to mediation. A mediator is a person certified by the Florida Supreme Court who is knowledgeable in divorce law who will try to bring the parties to an agreement. If the parties reach an agreement at mediation, they will sign an agreement, and it will be submitted to the judge to execute a Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage that ratifies and incorporates your agreement. In other words, you’ll be divorced, and done with the court process. If an agreement cannot be reached, the trial judge will set your case on a trial docket, and you will each have the right to have your case heard by the judge. There is no jury in divorce proceedings. After the judge decides the issues relevant to your case, you will be officially divorced, and your case will be closed.

MEDIATION

After your divorce is filed with the court, the court will order that you go to mediation. Mediation is a settlement conference. Both parties, and their attorneys are required to attend. A mediator will be present to facilitate negotiations. A mediator is typically a family law attorney in the area who has been certified by the Florida Supreme Court as a mediator. It is the mediator’s role to facilitate negotiations, and to try to persuade both parties to settle the case. Anything said during mediation is confidential, and cannot be used in court against you later. If your case settles in mediation, the agreement will be final, and binding. Your agreement will be filed with the court, and you will be officially divorced by the court entering a Final Judgment within a few weeks. If you do not settle at mediation, you have the right to have the judge hear your issues, and decide based on the evidence presented at the hearing.

CHILD CUSTODY / TIMESHARING

Whenever any case in Florida involves minor children, the most important issue is to determine who and when can have timesharing with the children. Florida Statute 61.13 is the law in Florida concerning each parent’s time with the children. It lists the factors that the Court will use in determining how much time that each parent shall have with the child. The statute directs the court to weigh all of these factors to determine what is in the “best interests of the child.” Pursuant to Florida law, there are no longer concepts such as child custody, primary residential parent, nonresidential parent, or secondary parent. The Seventh Judicial Circuit, comprised of Volusia, Flagler, Putnam, and St. Johns counties has suggested different time-sharing schedules. Additionally, the parties must file a parenting plan in every case involving minor children.

CHILD SUPPORT

Whenever any case in Florida involves minor children, there is always child support. Florida Statute 61.30 is the law regarding child support in the state of Florida. The financial information exchanged by the parties is used to compute the child support amount. The parties’ net monthly incomes are used to determine each parent’s percentage of responsibility for the child support obligation. The child support calculation is a complicated formula that takes into account the guideline amount by statute, number of children, time spent with each parent, health insurance, childcare, and uncovered medical expenses. Child Support Calculator If your case involves child support, I will calculate the child support for you based on the information that is provided, and provided a detailed calculation sheet to the judge showing how it was calculated. I recommend that child support is paid through the clerk’s office, or through the disbursement unit to insure accurate payment records are kept for both parties. Additionally, income deduction orders (IDOs) insure that the child support amount is directly deducted from the payor’s pay check to insure that it is paid, and accurate records are kept.

ASSET / LIABILITY DIVISION

Assets
Generally, in the State of Florida the Court begins with dividing marital assets 50/50 that were acquired with marital funds during the marriage. The parties can claim that a higher share of certain assets called a special equity when appropriate. Or, that all or a portion of certain assets were acquired before the marriage, or with nonmarital funds, and are thus, not subject to division. This includes all property, such as bank accounts, stock, retirement accounts, pensions, vehicles, real estate, businesses, and personal property. The parties may agree on the value of the property subject to division, or may have to hire appraisers, in some instances, to determine the values of more expensive assets, if there is no agreement. Pensions and retirement accounts are divided by law by Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDROs). These orders divide the orders by law so that neither party is penalized for withdrawing the funds early.

Liabilities
Liabilities are joint debts incurred during the marriage. They include, but are not limited to, such things as mortgages, loans, and credit cards. Parties can claim in some circumstances that the debt was premarital, or that the debt should be unevenly divided in certain circumstances. However, the Court begins with 50/50. If the debts are marital, it doesn’t matter whose name was on the credit card, or the mortgage/loans. Under Florida law, it’s subject to division regardless. However, most of the time the creditor will not remove the other spouse’s name from the debt even when the divorce decree says that the other spouse must pay it. So, sometimes it can put the spouse in the awkward position of repaying the debt in the other spouse’s name. If the spouse defaults, then the other spouse’s credit will be harmed. That’s why, whenever possible, I recommend that the debts be paid off out of the divorce assets, or that the spouse whose name the debt is in keep that debt. Additionally, in recent years, I’ve had several divorce cases where one or both spouses have filed for bankruptcy, and this can change each of your rights, as to property division.


ALIMONY

When the court is considering the issue of alimony in the State of Florida, it is governed by Florida Statute 61.08. The Court must first determine whether one spouse has a need for alimony, and consequently, if the other spouse has the ability to pay alimony. The need and ability to pay are determined from the financial information that has been exchanged through the divorce process, such as financial affidavits, tax returns, bank statements, pay stubs, etc. When determining if alimony is appropriate, the judge shall consider the following statutory factors:

    (a) The standard of living established during the marriage.
    (b) The duration of the marriage.
    (c) The age and the physical and emotional condition of each party.
    (d) The financial resources of each party, including the nonmarital and the marital assets and liabilities distributed to each.
    (e) The earning capacities, educational levels, vocational skills, and employability of the parties and, when applicable, the time necessary for either party to acquire sufficient education or training to enable such party to find appropriate employment.
    (f) The contribution of each party to the marriage, including, but not limited to, services rendered in homemaking, child care, education, and career building of the other party.
    (g) The responsibilities each party will have with regard to any minor children they have in common.
    (h) The tax treatment and consequences to both parties of any alimony award, including the designation of all or a portion of the payment as a nontaxable, nondeductible payment.
    (i) All sources of income available to either party, including income available to either party through investments of any asset held by that party.
    (j) Any other factor necessary to do equity and justice between the parties.
If the court determines that based on these factors alimony should be ordered, the judge then determines the amount, and duration of the alimony. Alimony can be paid in a lump sum, or periodic payments. It can be temporary, bridge the gap, rehabilitative, or permanent. If alimony is ordered, it is considered taxable income for the payee, and a tax deduction for the payor.


ATTORNEY'S FEES

Florida Statute governs when the court can order that one party is responsible for the other’s attorney’s fees. Again, the standard is need of one spouse, and the other’s ability to pay. This generally occurs when one party has a superior ability to pay. That spouse can be ordered to pay their spouse’s attorney’s fees, as well as incurring their own.

POST JUDGMENT PROCEEDINGS

Modifications
Generally, any provision regarding minor children, including but not limited to timesharing and child support, can be modified by the court, or by agreement of the parties. If the parties agree, any provision can be changed per their agreement. If they do not, the court can modify the terms of the original divorce decree only upon a showing of a “substantial change of circumstances” since the divorce decree was entered. The courts will grant modifications where appropriate, but parties should use caution when entering into agreements about the original divorce. The modification standard can be a tough one, and the courts will not allow judgments, or agreements to be changed solely on the basis that one of the parties is now unhappy with the agreement.

Enforcements/Contempts
After the judge has entered a Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage, it is a court order. All terms of the court order are subject to being enforced by the court, if the court order is not obeyed. In some circumstances, parties may be held in contempt of court for willfully violating the terms of a court order. As a result of such actions, the court can order specific remedies such as additional visitation, and specific compliance with certain terms of the divorce. If a party is held in contempt, they may be fined, ordered to pay the other side’s attorney’s fees, or even given a jail sentence for noncompliance.

Appeals
If, after a hearing or a trial, you have obtained an adverse ruling, you have the right to appeal the order to a higher court within 30 days. You have the right to appeal any legal errors made by the trial court in rendering its ruling. Contact my office for a free initial consultation to determine whether an appeal is appropriate for your case.
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