Is Florida a ‘No Fault Divorce’ State?

The concept of no fault divorce is one that has evolved over time as state legislatures attempted to redefine the legal rules surrounding the dissolution of marriages. Historically, states required parties to a divorce to prove ‘fault’ regarding the demise of the marriage. For example, New York required that a party prove cruel and inhuman treatment, adultery, confinement, or abandonment, in order to successfully dissolve a marriage. The policy reason behind this was that states wanted to protect the institution of marriage and encourage reconciliation amongst the parties.

So, what happened?

The simple answer is that state legislatures came to the realization that divorces often do not involve ‘fault’ in the traditional statutory sense. Instead, couples may often be incompatible, unhappy, and simply feel that their marriage is broken beyond repair. For this reason, states opted to introduce the concept of ‘no fault divorce.’

What is no fault divorce?

No fault divorce essentially means that the parties to a divorce only have to show that the marriage is irretrievably broken or there are irreconcilable differences between the parties.

How do I file for a no fault divorce in Florida?

In Florida, the process for filing for a no fault divorce is simple. First, a legal marriage must exist. Second, one of the parties must have been a permanent resident of the State of Florida for a minimum of 6 months prior to the initiation of divorce proceedings. Third, the parties must properly allege that the marriage is irretrievably broken or that irreconcilable differences exist within the marriage.

But what if fault exists?

Often divorces are precipitated through the fault of one of the parties. For example, adultery is a common catalyst for divorces.

So, what role does adultery or other types of fault play in divorce proceedings?

Surprisingly to most clients, adultery is not considered in the decision to grant a dissolution of marriage. However, adultery or other types of fault may play a critical role in the allocation of marital assets through equitable distribution. For example, if your spouse is engaged in an adulterous relationship, and makes expenditures on that relationship, than you may be entitled to receive a share of what your spouse spent on their adulterous relationship. While, adultery may not play a pivotal role in the decision on whether or not to grant a divorce, it can become a crucial factor in determining proper distribution of marital assets.

In Conclusion, Florida is a ‘No Fault’ State and William S. Foley, PA can help you in your divorce. Please call today at (813) 272-2345 to speak to an attorney about your divorce and family law questions.

 Click here to visit the William S. Foley, PA website for more information

What is Stalking?

            Like many things, stalking comes in all shapes and sizes and victimizes a broad range of individuals. Sometimes an act of stalking is easy to point out, but in many cases the behavior in question straddles a fine line between being lawful or constituting stalking. Understanding this distinction in behavior is critical in the law of stalking.

           So, what is stalking?

            In Florida, an individual commits misdemeanor stalking if they “willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follow, harass, or cyberstalk” another person. In some instances, an individual may commit felony aggravated stalking if they make a “credible threat” to the person they are stalking. Whatever the degree of stalking may be, courts use a fact based inquiry to decide whether or not the legal threshold for stalking has been met.

            When a claim of stalking is based on an individual being repeatedly followed the inquiry is usually simple. Prove that you have been repeatedly followed, with proper documentation, and a court will most likely find that you have been stalked. However, things are different when stalking is based off of harassment.

            Harassment is a course of conduct directed at a specific individual that; 1) Causes substantial emotional distress; and 2) Serves no legitimate purpose. As a practical matter, course of conduct is a series of acts over a period of time that demonstrate a common purpose. Even though, a series of acts is required, courts have held that the time-span between the acts can be as little as hours. So, the classic Hollywood idea that stalking takes place over weeks, months, or even years is not entirely accurate and should never deter someone from seeking legal protection if they are a victim of stalking. Instead, stalking can occur over a matter of a few hours or a few days. It all depends on the circumstances.

            Once a pattern of behavior has been established the next inquiry by the court will be to determine whether the victim suffered substantial emotional distress as a direct result of the harassment. In doing so, a court will use the “reasonable person standard” to judge if a person, under similar circumstances, would suffer substantial emotional distress. If the substantial emotional distress is based off of conduct that enjoys special constitutional protection, like picketing, then a court will rule that there was no stalking.

            As has been said, stalking comes in many ways, but one thing is consistent: the longer it goes on the more severe the behavior becomes. Many people mistakenly think that they are powerless to do anything about their stalker because even though they are fearful and upset over the harassment, they are unsure as to whether they are “legally” being stalked and reluctant to seek help. Never take this risk. First, if you strongly feel as though your life is in immediate danger then call the police. Additionally, a qualified family law attorney can advise you on civil protection such as temporary and permanent injunctions and additional measures to protect yourself from a stalker. 

            To conclude, stalking is an extremely serious offense and should be taken very seriously regardless of the form that it takes place in. It occurs throughout a multitude of places, such as the home and the workplace, and affects a broad range of people. It is important to remember to evaluate the elements of stalking when considering whether conduct amounts to stalking and it is also advisable to seek professional help and consultation.

 By: William S. Foley, PA

http://www.wfoleylaw.com

Why Should I Retain a Collaborative Divorce Lawyer?

Some people think that a collaborative divorce is appropriate for 
their situation, when it may actually not be appropriate. But the 
greater percentage have never even heard of collaborative 
divorce, or if they have don’t know the benefits. So this is an 
article to go over some of the benefits of Collaborative Divorce:

Some benefits of Collaborative Divorce —-

A.        
Humane Divorce —- Some people feel that the normal 
way of litigation is a very impersonal stress-inducing, sometimes 
pretty traumatizing event that occurs in their life.  Collaborative 
divorce is not the easy thing to do and is still challenging, but is a 
much more humane way of dealing with such an emotional time 
in someone’s life.  

B.        Team Approach —- In a collaborative divorce everybody 
in the team, which would be the two attorneys, the two parties 
and two experts, one financial and one mental health expert, work 
together as a team to get to an agreement.  So, during team 
meetings where all six of the team members will sit around the 
table and try to make sure they can figure out what it is the 
parties and their children and their lives best interest.  

C.        No posturing  —- What makes this so much different 
than a normal divorce proceeding is that the aspect of attorneys 
posturing back and forth and other litigation tactics are not 
necessary and are not used as they are working towards a final 
resolution.  

D.        Carrot at the end of the stick —- The carrot at the 
end of the stick the parties to follow through to conclusion is that 
if the parties do not settle during the collaborative process, they 
must fire their attorneys and the experts and start all over to file 
for divorce.  So, this is much different than a normal divorce 
proceeding and it entices people to try to find a way, if at all 
possible, to settle.  There’s different statistics that we’ve seen, but 
it appears that somewhere between 90 to 95 percent of 
collaborative divorce cases ultimately settle and are successful.

http://www.wfoleylaw.com

Florida Stalking Injunction

On October 1, 2012, Florida supplemented its list of available civil injunctions with a new independent injunction for stalking. This stand-alone injunction for victims of stalking offers a new civil protective remedy that is specifically tailored to protect those who have been affected by stalking. Stalking was already previously an offense that could allow a court to issue an injunction. So, the question that remains - is how will this injunction influence the current landscape of civil injunctions?

The short answer is that the addition of this injunction will not have an immense impact from a legal perspective; rather, there will just be another category in which to file an injunction in Florida. This is simply because - as mentioned above - other injunctions were in place that explicitly offered protection to individuals who are victims of stalking. Still, the addition of this injunction is an important legislative achievement for it shows how serious stalking has become and shows that lawmakers are taking important steps to protect the public by directly recognizing the prevalence of stalking in society. The injunction is no doubt a viable option for those who have been victimized by stalkers, but is it the best option for victims? 

Answering the question of whether seeking a stalking injunction is the best course of action really depends on the circumstances of each individual’s case. In some cases, where an individual feels that their or someone else’s life is in immediate and imminent danger, the police should be called to prevent the situation from escalating to a volatile level. Alternatively, an experienced family law attorney can lend great insight into whether or not an injunction would be appropriate in a particular case, and this can usually be done in an initial consultation to discuss all of the injunctions available in Florida.

There are some important things to keep in mind when seeking a stalking injunction against a particular individual or seeking to have one dismissed that has been filed. First, is that claims of stalking have to be supported by “competent substantial evidence.” In other words, solid proof of stalking is required before the court may issue an injunction or the court may risk being overturned by a higher court if an appeal is filed. This is extremely important and is often best supported through evidence and testimony. Documentation over a period of time allows a court to get a good grasp on the nature of a case and it gives the court an opportunity to make a better, more informed judgment. Persons in situations that may potentially result in a stalking injunction should be aware of this and should take any necessary steps to ensure that they have proper evidence to support their allegations. 

It should be noted that the process for obtaining a stalking injunction is virtually identical to the processes for injunctions concerning domestic violence, repeat violence, etc. A petition is filed, the court will either: 1)  issue a temporary order and set a return hearing, 2) not issue a temporary order and set a hearing for a within 15 days, or 3) or dismiss the injunction. After the final return hearing the court will issue its final ruling. Under this process, it is common for judges to be fairly liberal in granting temporary injunctions if the petition sufficiently alleges that stalking may have occurred. This is simply a matter of prudence as courts would rather err on the side of caution until a full hearing can be held and all of the evidence has been displayed. 

The issuance of an injunction can have very serious consequences in many areas of life. Those who have injunctions on their records are often unable to secure certain employment opportunities in careers that require background checks and security clearances. More importantly, injunctions can have a direct effect on whether or not someone can see and be with their loved ones, namely their children. Injunctions truly are a powerful remedy and should be approached under the guidance of a qualified attorney. 

Having a qualified attorney involved may mean the difference between a dismissal of an injunction and an issuance of one. Even more than that - legal proceedings involving stalking are highly emotional and can cause confusion and uncertainty. An attorney, who has been involved in injunction proceedings before, can be a tremendously stabling force through offering objective advice from an experienced perspective. It always helps to have someone there who has navigated through this process before. If you are interested in speaking with a Florida Family Law Attorney about a Stalking Injunction contact William S. Foley, Esquire at (813) 272-2345 toady. 

www.wfoleylaw.com

Put Down the Phone!

In this article, we look at why parties going through a divorce will frequently make the same mistakes time and time again when it comes to damaging text messages and lapses in judgment when texting their soon-to-be-ex spouse.

Texting is easy. It takes usually no more than a minute to turn on your phone, get to the text message feature, put together a vaguely coherent message. So many times they are usually laden with acronyms and abbreviations, and sometimes very hard to understand if you are on the outside looking in. But they are easy to send out. If you were writing a letter, you would have to find paper, a pen, an envelope, a stamp and then sit down and write the letter and sign it and then drop it off in the mail. Obviously this takes considerably more time and usually is met with more thought being put into a letter. Text messages, on the other hand are sometimes indecipherable. That is why there are so many of those ‘auto-correct fail’ websites that show all different funny auto-correct mistakes that can really be funny. But why? Why, because it is easier and quicker to write something that you barely even read over and then hit SEND. It’s gone. Never to be seen again, well, until you read it and realize that you made a big mistake that can’t be taken back. That is exactly what we see in family law and divorces all the time.

When you are going through a divorce, emotions are high. It is really hard. It weighs on your psyche and it makes you act and do things that you might now always do. So if you couple that with a smartphone, usually you are bound to cause some hysteria. So what do we caution people to do?

SLOW DOWN. THINK. TAKE A DEEP BREATH.

Don’t just race though the text message if the thought just popped into your head. If you want to write it, then write it, but let it sit for a while. Come back to your phone in 30 minutes and see if it is still a good idea to send it.

This is very helpful for emails, and something we would recommend doing is not putting the email address into the email so you don’t accidentally or impulsively hit send. Wait to put the email address in after you have let it sit for a little while.

SLOW DOWN. THINK. TAKE A DEEP BREATH.

 

- By: William S. Foley, Esquire

wfoleylaw.com

Florida Equitable Distribution of Property and Liabilities

Florida Statute Chapter 61.075 governs equitable distribution of property, assets and liabilities.  The courts take a stance that upon marriage, everything that is put into the marriage, including property, assets and liabilities, until the date that the parties file for divorce is all part of the marital pot.  Initially, the presumption is that the marital pot is to be distributed equally, therefore, 50‑50 equitable distribution.  However, if there are proven justifications that the marital pot should not be divided equally then it may be an unequal distribution.

Some of the circumstances where the parties would have an unequal distribution are if there was a depletion of marital assets for purposes of an extramarital affair, or other conduct which intentionally wasted, depleted or destroyed an asset. A few of the other factors the Court may look at is each parties’ contributions during the marriage, duration of the marriage, interruption of education or careers, or other factors to do justice between the parties.  The courts normally will take a presumptive 50‑50 stance with regard to property, assets and distribution of liabilities; however, there are circumstances where the parties might receive an unequal distribution.

By: William S. Foley

Jurisdiction: Florida

Initial Consultation Questions to ask your Florida Divorce Lawyer

What kinds of questions should you ask an attorney during your divorce initial consultation?

It is important to understand that each attorney is different and therefore each attorney will have their own specific process for each of their consultations. Some attorneys will want you to fill out information prior to the consultation and also to discuss with the attorney specific background information that the attorney will need to know. Therefore, please understand that each attorney’s initial consultation is different and most of your specific questions should be answered during the attorney’s specific questioning that they have done hundreds/thousands of times with other people.

Here are some questions to ask during your divorce initial consultation:

1) Do you an area of practice that you focus on?

               If the attorney does not focus on divorce and family law matters, you may want to follow up with - have you ever handled a divorce before?

 

2) How long is the range that a case like this could last?

              Again, the attorney is in no way a fortune-teller and cannot predict the future of how long your case will last with your specific set of circumstances, but if they can tell you a range; this may help you have a handle on the situation if you have approximate time-frame that the attorney has seen in their experience.


3) If I forget to ask you something today during the initial consultation, can I call later to ask a question, or would I have to pay for another consultation?

Generally, I do not personally charge another consultation fee if a client has another question after the consultation, but some attorneys may charge and may need to see the potential client again. A reason why could include that a great deal of time may have passed and circumstances could have changed. Overall, it can put you at ease if you know that you can call later if you forget something during the consultation. During the consultation, you will be hit with a great deal of information and as it is also a confusing and emotional time, sometimes people can forget to ask all of the questions they have during their initial consultation.

4) What is the law in the state of Florida on: Parental Responsibility, Time-sharing, Parenting Plans, Child Support, Alimony, Equitable Distribution of Assets and Liabilities and Attorney’s Fees?

             Depending on what the issues in your case are, it is very important to know what the basic boiled down approach of the law is in some of the important areas of your case. Right from the start. It may not be the appropriate time to go into the minutiae of the law and specific cases, etc. But it is helpful know the State’s view on certain areas of divorce law so you can start understanding the process you are about to undertake.

5) What about the law applied to my situation? What can I ask for? What should I ask for?

                Your attorney will begin the process of analyzing your situation as soon as you provide back the new client questionnaire. As you are speaking to him or her, they will start to formulate how they wish to approach the case. As each lawyer’s approach may differ, sometimes there is not a right and wrong way to approach it; it may just be one lawyer’s view on the issues. So, feel comfortable with the lawyer’s approach to the case. Try to determine what your own goals are and if they are reasonable from the attorney. Any attorney can promise you the world, but if it is not realistic and they are only reciting back to you what you want to hear, then that may not be helpful to you in your divorce proceeding.

6) Are there any time-frames/deadlines that I need to know about?

                  This is very important as certain situations call for certain time-frames and deadlines. Speak more with your attorney about the specifics related to your case.

7) How much is the initial retainer for my case?

                Lawyers have different retainer amounts for different cases. Some attorneys ask for a refundable retainer and some ask for a non-refundable retainer.  Some retainers can be split up into a payment plan at some offices. The amount is really an important aspect of the consultation. This attorney will let you know at the end of the consultation as they will need to know your full situation before quoting you a retainer.

8) What is your hourly rate?

                 There is no set hourly rate for divorce lawyers in Florida. Each Divorce lawyer sets their own hourly rate, or it is set by their firm. Therefore, you need to know the hourly rates of the attorney and each member of the firm that may be billing on your case.

This is not an exhaustive list of questions to ask your attorney, but hopefully this will give you a basis for asking a Florida Divorce Lawyer questions during your initial consultation. 

HELP! I AM IN THE MIDDLE OF A CUSTODY FIGHT!

Article Written By William S. Foley —All rights Reserved

So what happens when you find yourself in the middle of a custody fight?

Is this something that you ever thought would happen to you?

Sometimes it is inevitable in certain cases dealing with children’s issues that they turn into a custody fight. It is usually not expected and almost never wanted. However, it does happen. Why does it happen so often? Well, both parents want the same thing. They both want the child.

The love of the child may cause people to act in ways they have never acted in their whole lives. Divorce attorneys see it every single day.

Sometimes it can also prompt some people to fight for their children to make ensure that the children’s best interests are taken into account. In these types of situations where the parent is truly looking out for the best interest of the minor child a custody battle may be warranted if it is not in the best interests for the other parent to have a majority of the time, and the other side will not agree to be reasonable and look out for the best interest of the child.

Parties can only reach an agreement when both parents are on board. This is a legal system in which agreements can be set aside and therefore such agreements must be entered into knowingly and willfully. So therefore both parties must come together in a meeting of the minds in order to form this agreement on how to handle the time-sharing of their minor children.

If the parents are unable to agree on what is in the best interests of the children then sometimes the parties feel that it is appropriate to have a third person make that decision, or assist them in making the decision.

One option is to use an expert who is trained in evaluating time-sharing, custody, parenting plans and contact with the minor children and the parent. This expert can be a social worker or psychologist but foremost has to understand the family law issues and factors that go into child custody and the time-sharing determinations. This article is written in Hillsborough County, Florida therefore it follows Florida statute 61.13, which dictates the factors the court will use to decide a time-sharing and a parenting plan.

Some factors are the facilitation of time-sharing and if one parent is more likely to facility the time-sharing with the other parent. Another factor includes making educational decisions and which parent has historically made those decisions. Other factors include domestic violence, child and sexual abuse, and related issues to the time-sharing with the minor children and the parents.

So therefore the expert may make a similar determination as the court would and sometimes they can make this the primary determination before the court even look at the issues.

Some judges are very receptive to theses evaluations and find it very helpful to the court in determining what is in the best interests of the children. However, if the evaluator does not follow the appropriate methods their recommendation is not as helpful, and the court will give little weight to the evaluation in its determination. These experts may testify at a final hearing and can be deposed, but their overall purpose and charge is to create a report and recommendation that details what the time-sharing and parenting plan should be. This recommendation can be extremely helpful to the Trier of Fact (the judge).

However, sometimes even with the assistance of an expert the parties are still unable to come to an agreement. That is when the judge makes the decision. In theses circumstance the expert may come to the court to testify or in other circumstances the parties will not use an expert to look at the child custody situation and the court must make the determination on their own with the assistance of the presented witnesses and the evidence.

The parties have to understand that just as they are human so is the Judge. Judges are human and therefore the only thing the judges can rely on is what is in front of them during that final hearing. The cannot read minds, they cannot tell the future and they cannot decide on evidence that is not presented to them.

If the final hearing only lasts a few hours it is very clear the parties will be in their Sunday best, acting their best, bringing in witnesses that will say they are the best parent possible, and generally in a normal child custody battle, they will be stating that it is not in the best interest of the minor child for the other parent to have primary residence or the majority of the time-sharing. So the courts, who are learned in this regard and understand this “best image” process, want to determine in light of the evidence and witnesses that are presented at the final hearing what is in the best interests of the minor children and not solely what one party has said about the other.

Because many of these hearings come down to a “he said-she said” argument where one side said something and the other side said the complete opposite, the court has to make a determination on who is correct and who is incorrect or untruthful. The court will normally be able to do this by weighing third party testimony or evidence the evidence presented to them. This is why it is very important in a child custody battle or fight which occurs through litigation to present witnesses and evidence that supports your case.

Your Judge cannot see into your home.

Your Judge does not know how you act with your child.

Your Judge will most likely not speak to your child (unless appropriate motions are filed and granted, under certain circumstances) and therefore does not have the same view point on the situation that either: (1) the parents could if they were able come to an agreement on their own, or (2) that an expert could see since the expert is able to speak to the child, to other family members, to both parties and review all types of evidence that the court may not be able to in this legal context.

So this author feels that while there may be some cases where there is no other option but trial and a custody battle in which the judge ultimately decides, the vast majority of cases are ready and able to be settled.

When both parties take a good long hard look in the mirror at themselves, the situation, and especially at their children, most times they are able to come to the realization that they can settle this issue; without the court as a third party judge, who will most likely never see them again but will have to dictate how the next eighteen years or however many years until the child reaches the age of majority to them. So it is always suggested that the parties do everything in their power to mediate and attempt to cooperatively settle these issues for the children, even if it is with the use of a neutral child custody expert.

There are studies that suggest, as would seem to be painfully clear, that divorce litigation, custody litigation, custody fights, and just the overall litigious nature that many couples exhibit towards each other are not conducive for the child’s development, for their upbringing, in their relationships with their parents, with friends, or in their future relationships. So therefore it is of the utmost importance for parents to at all times during custody litigation and during custody “fights” to take into extreme care the children’s best interests. That means keeping the children out of it.

The children in this regard, especially young children, feel that the divorce is their fault. Often, as they get older they seem to want to blame it on someone and later in life feel they want to blame it on both parents. There are many different stages that the child may go through during a divorce and it is always a trying and emotional time for them.

In conclusion, custody fights are not easy. They are extremely complicated. Everyone is emotional and there is no easy answer or recipe for success. Every single party is different, every single child is different, and every single judge is different so therefore what works in one situation is not necessarily what will work the next time. Therefore, the very first thing the parents must do is try to settle through mediation and negotiation without putting the issue before the judge. Then if the parents are unable to settle on their own they may choose to have an expert come in and evaluate their specific situation and recommend a custody arrangement prior to bringing the issue up before the judge. If neither option is appropriate for the parties’ situation then the case must go to trial and a stranger, the judge, will do their job and apply the law to the facts presented to them. The parties must be prepared, must be ready, and must understand that the judge’s review and determination may be a painful experience, but that the parties have exhausted every other option before requesting this and felt that going forward to trial was in the best interests of the minor child.

 

Jurisdiction: Hillsborough County, FL

Copyright 2009- 2013 William S. Foley, P.A.. All rights reserved.

What to do where you are served with divorce papers in Hillsborough County, Florida

It is normal to be confused and a little scared when served with divorce papers. Sometimes you may be served by a sheriff or a private process server. Sometimes you are served at home in front of the child and sometimes at work. No matter how it happens, you need to know how to proceed.

STEP 1

Don’t panic!

Knock. Knock. You hear the door and upon opening it you are giving legal documents with a summons by a process server or the sheriff. This can be a frightening and confusing time for anyone. Especially if you did not know that you were going to be served with divorce papers.

Some spouses have their wife/husband served at work and some at home. No matter how it is effectuated, the first thing you need to do is to not panic. The process server is just doing their job, so it is not a good idea to yell at them or blame them. They can also be used as a witness, so be careful.

Make sure you read the title of the documents served and that you have actually be served with divorces papers, and not a domestic violence injunction by a police officer, or some other legal documents. Those other types of legal proceedings that are beyond the scope of this guide.

If you have been served with a petition for dissolution of marriage, then calm down and start reading the paperwork.

STEP 2

Read the paperwork- NOW

I know it is confusing, but I have had a number of people come to see me that either did not even look at the paperwork or did not read certain documents they were served with.

In Hillsborough County, Florida, where I practice, if your case involves minor children, a standing order is put in place in your divorce case and you must abide by that standing order. You need to read the standing order and understand what the Court expects of you.

Read everything and then read it again.

STEP 3

Take notes

Again, an enormous amount of your petition package that you were served with is legal jargon, but do your best to understand what you were served with and take notes on a separate sheet of paper if possible! There are a number of people I have met with that have burned the midnight oil by staying up a highlighting and writing notes all over their petition, their spouses financial affidavit and any other motions that were filed.

Again, if you hire an attorney, or if you represent yourself during your case, you may need those documents, so please make a copy of the documents or write notes on a separate sheet of paper. You may want to start a divorce journal at this time, and writing notes in this journal would be a great start.

STEP 4

Calendar your deadline for answering the petition

If your summons states that you have 20 days to answer, then you need to abide by the petition. The normal amount of time to answer a petition for dissolution of marriage is 20 days and you must file your answer in the Court file prior to that deadline or your spouse may move for a default on your case. Also, calendar any dates in your case.

Do you have a case management order in your packet of paperwork?

If you are in Hillsborough County, you probably should. If you do not- call the clerk’s office immediately if you do not have that case management order in your packet of papers you were served with just to make sure when your next Court date is. See if there are any notices of hearings that inadvertently may not have been included in your paperwork as well. If you do have a notice of hearing or any other notices of dates to comply with in your case, calendar those dates as well.

STEP 5

Get on the internet or look for a referral to an attorney

You should start looking for an attorney immediately. Even if you do not retain an attorney for the case and you decide to proceed Pro Se (unrepresented) you would be better off served at least speaking to an attorney about some of the possibilities of things that you can plead for and if you need to file a Counter-Petition or not (beyond the scope of this guide, speak to an attorney about it if you have any other questions!) or any other emergency matters that need to be handled. While you are on the internet, start reading up on divorce topics on this site and other helpful sites to give you a basic understanding of divorce in Florida. Also, go to a bookstore and look at books on divorce, which again, are not a substitute for a lawyer, as they are not tailored to your specific set of circumstances, but they may be helpful in understanding the general process.

Jurisdiction: Hillsborough County, FL

STEP 6

Schedule one or more initial consultations with attorneys

Do yourself a favor. Get an attorney that you can live with. I have had cases that lasted years. It all depends on the facts and the parties involved. Normally, you don’t want a divorce to last that long, but sometimes complex cases and litigious cases do last a while.

So wouldn’t it be a good idea to find an attorney that you can deal with?

You are interviewing the attorney, just the same as the attorney is interviewing you at an initial consultation.

You can try to get free consultations, but at these consultations the attorneys may not give you any legal advice as it is usually just a way for the attorney to get some background in order to quote you an amount for your case. On the other hand, if you want an in-depth initial consultation, sometimes you will have to pay in order to sit down and get a good analysis of how the attorney would proceed in your set of circumstances and give you a background on Florida Divorce law.

STEP 7

Decide whether or not you want to represent yourself

The Florida Courts website is an amazing resource. www.flcourts.org as are many counties court’s websites that give information to parties that wish to proceed pro se (unrepresented) during their divorce. Some counties have forms clinics at the courthouse that you should look into if you wish to proceed without an attorney. Additionally, if you meet the standards for legal aid, you should speak to the different legal aid offices around the county to see if you qualify and if they can help you with your case.

You have a number of things that will be due very soon (i.e., mandatory disclosure, financial affidavit, discovery you were served with, etc.) so you need to know what these things are and how to prepare them.

STEP 8

File your responsive pleading

This guide cannot help you with what to file; as I said before, it is different in every case, under every set of circumstances.

Just make sure you DO FILE SOMETHING. Do not let your deadline come and pass thinking the judge may just give you a pass. Trust me, it is much more expensive for an attorney to un-do something that was done incorrectly (if they even can un-do it) rather than do it correctly in the first place.

So since this is a legal guide just for what to do in those first few days right after you are served with divorce papers in Hillsborough County, it is clear that it is beyond to scope for what needs to happen next or what may happen in other states or even some other counties. I would suggest you speak to an attorney to determine what is the best way to proceed in your case and what the law is in your jurisdiction, and they should be able to tell you what to file in your case in response to the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.

Written by: William S. Foley, Esquire

For more information, please see William S. Foley’s website