Modifications of child support and timesharing - Houser Law Firm Services Series

When a Divorce or Paternity case is resolved, the settlement agreement, or Consent Final Judgment (CFJ), is signed by the parties and entered by a judge.  Sometimes the terms of the CFJ need to be modified. In this service series, we will discuss the requirements to request a modification of child support and timesharing.

Child support: Both parties are entitled to request a modification of child support due to a change in financial circumstances, such as an increase or decrease in income.  With regard to the decrease in income, a party may only request a modification if the decrease was involuntary.  In other words, one may not accept a position which pays significantly less than what that party historically earned at a previous job.  If a party does this, the Court will impute the income the party earned previously.  In order for the court to modify child support, the change of circumstances must be substantial AND involuntary in nature. Situations that may warrant filing a Supplemental Petition for Modification of Child Support:

  • Significant change in income or ability to earn income of either party;

  • Health insurance becomes available and cost of insurance is incurred;

  • Child is emancipated or decrease in child(ren)’s child care expenses;

  • One party is not exercising the timesharing allotted in the Parenting Plan;

  • An increase in income for either party will offset the child support equation, thereby decreasing the child support obligation.

In order for the court to determine a substantial change in circumstances to warrant a child support modification, the new amount provided for under the Child Support Guidelines must be at least a 15% difference or $50.00 per month (whichever is GREATER) from the amount previously ordered.

For example, if a party was in a car accident, injured and cannot work or if a party is laid off and currently looking for new employment, a modification petition may be filed.

Timesharing: After a CFJ has been entered in a divorce or paternity case and a party would like to modify the timesharing schedule, a Petition for Modification must be filed with the Clerk of Court. To determine whether a timesharing schedule should be modified, the party seeking modification has the burden of proving a substantial change in circumstances has occurred since the previous Final Judgment. After overcoming this burden, the party seeking modification must then show that a modification to the timesharing schedule would be in the child(ren)’s best interest.  The best interest of the child(ren) standard focuses on the factors below:

  • (a) The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship, to honor the time-sharing schedule, and to be reasonable when changes are required.

  • (b) The anticipated division of parental responsibilities after the litigation, including the extent to which parental responsibilities will be delegated to third parties.

  • (c) The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to determine, consider, and act upon the needs of the child as opposed to the needs or desires of the parent.

  • (d) The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity.

  • (e) The geographic viability of the parenting plan, with special attention paid to the needs of school-age children and the amount of time to be spent traveling to effectuate the parenting plan. This factor does not create a presumption for or against relocation of either parent with a child.

  • (f) The moral fitness of the parents.

  • (g) The mental and physical health of the parents.

  • (h) The home, school, and community record of the child.

  • (i) The reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient intelligence, understanding, and experience to express a preference.

  • (j) The demonstrated knowledge, capacity, and disposition of each parent to be informed of the circumstances of the minor child, including, but not limited to, the child’s friends, teachers, medical care providers, daily activities, and favorite things.

  • (k) The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to provide a consistent routine for the child, such as discipline, and daily schedules for homework, meals, and bedtime.

  • (l) The demonstrated capacity of each parent to communicate with and keep the other parent informed of issues and activities regarding the minor child, and the willingness of each parent to adopt a unified front on all major issues when dealing with the child.

  • (m) Evidence of domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect, regardless of whether a prior or pending action relating to those issues has been brought. If the court accepts evidence of prior or pending actions regarding domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect, the court must specifically acknowledge in writing that such evidence was considered when evaluating the best interests of the child.

  • (n) Evidence that either parent has knowingly provided false information to the court regarding any prior or pending action regarding domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect.

  • (o) The particular parenting tasks customarily performed by each parent and the division of parental responsibilities before the institution of litigation and during the pending litigation, including the extent to which parenting responsibilities were undertaken by third parties.

  • (p) The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to participate and be involved in the child’s school and extracurricular activities.

  • (q) The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to maintain an environment for the child which is free from substance abuse.

  • (r) The capacity and disposition of each parent to protect the child from the ongoing litigation as demonstrated by not discussing the litigation with the child, not sharing documents or electronic media related to the litigation with the child, and refraining from disparaging comments about the other parent to the child.

  • (s) The developmental stages and needs of the child and the demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to meet the child’s developmental needs.

  • (t) Any other factor that is relevant to the determination of a specific parenting plan, including the timesharing schedule.

If you are considering modification of a timesharing schedule or child support, contact us for a consultation.

Evaluating An Attorney During The Initial Consultation - The Houser Law Firm

Today, we are discussing particular factors to evaluate when searching for a family law attorney. It is imperative that you assess an attorney during a consultation and choose an attorney who you believe to be competent, upfront, goal oriented, and, above all, a person you feel comfortable working with. Every case is unique, so to are attorneys. All have different litigation styles, for instance, some attorneys always begin a case with an aggressive attitude, presumably to develop a legal posture. Other attorneys take a more calm approach, which may include reaching out to the other opposing attorney to begin a dialogue.  Unfortunately, there are the bad apples that rarely return telephone calls, do not respond to emails, are never available to speak with their clients, or the opposing attorney.  The latter attorney makes resolving a case extremely difficult, if not almost impossible, and these attorneys should be avoided. 

1. Family Law: First and foremost, I suggest you seek an attorney who focuses exclusively in family law. A family law attorney will be very familiar with the process of divorce, paternity, modifications, etc. Further, the attorney understands how to best assist you in achieving your goals and will be versed in new laws, local policy and procedure.. 

2. Communication: A good family law attorney will keep you informed throughout the case, help you to understand the next steps in the process, and be in contact regularly.  At our firm, our clients receive a copy of any and all pleadings coming into or leaving the office.  These pleadings are sent to our clients along with a letter to explain the pleading and inform the client of any action they need to take at that time.  Additionally, the clients of the Houser Law Firm enjoy direct access to their attorney, instead of having to constantly speak with a paralegal or other assistant.  Our clients have their questions and concerns answered in a timely manner.

3. Negotiation: In most every family law case, negotiating terms of the settlement is critical.  These negotiations are used to facilitate a favorable agreement between the parties.  The attorney you choose should be skilled at negotiating in order to secure an outcome that is beneficial to you.

4. Judges and Magistrates: A reputable attorney will have experience practicing in front of the judges in your county. All judges are different, and bring with them subjectivity and preformed opinions.  Utilizing an attorney who has experience practicing before the judges can utilize their experience to develop a legal strategy for your case.

5. Personality, work ethic and billing: It's important to know who will be working with you in your family law case. Many attorneys provide consultations. One purpose of the consultation is to decide whether you and the attorney will work well together. If the attorney you are consulting with cannot answer your questions fully, or sounds unsure of the answer, that may be an indication that the advice is not valid.  Contrast that with an attorney who may not know the answer offhand, but is willing to do legal research to find the answer.  An attorney who is willing to research an answer shows initiative and that the attorney is capable of performing complex research.  

Last, an attorney should be completely transparent in their billing practices.  At the Houser Law Firm, we send our clients monthly invoices.  These invoices reflect the tasks the attorney has completed, the amount billed for each task, and the amount remaining in the client trust account once payment for services rendered have been transferred from the client trust account to the operating account.

We hope this article has been helpful guide when evaluating a potential attorney to represent you in your family law matter. If you would like to schedule a consultation to see how we can help, feel free to contact us below.

When to hire a family law attorney - The Houser Law Firm Jacksonville, FL

The Houser Law Firm in Jacksonville, FL focuses exclusively in family law issues, but how do you know when it is time to reach out for legal help? This week's blog post talks about when you should think about hiring an attorney.

Family law is comprised of many issues, however most of those issues pertain to the following areas. You can click on each one to read more about what each of these issues are and how we can help.

So how do you know when to hire an attorney? There are many different scenarios that can and do play out with each of these subject matters. Here's a list, of when it may be time to seek legal counsel.

If you:

  • feel you can no longer reach amicable resolutions with the other party;

  • feel overwhelmed and unsure what your legal options are;

  • cannot understand paperwork sent to you by another attorney;

  • matters are getting out of hand (arguing or fighting with the other party);

  • are unhappy with current arrangements and aren't sure how to make changes.

If you are currently represented by an attorney, but are unhappy with their representation, you may and should reach to find another attorney.

If you're still unsure of when to reach out, feel free to schedule a consultation.  You will receive legal counsel during the consultation, which may assist you in the next steps of your case.  Click the button below to get started.

Paternity - Houser Law Firm Services Series

In situations where two people have a child and are not married, either party may file a Paternity case.  A Paternity judgment is a court order signed by a judge declaring a man to be the legal father of a child.  The judgment will also lay out a timesharing schedule and child support.  Today we are talking about the process of establishing paternity.

Legal paternity is established by court order.  Either the parties agree the father is the biological parent of the child or a DNA test is administered to prove (or disprove) paternity.  Once paternity is established, the court will order payment of child support (in some cases retroactive), a timesharing schedule, and possibly and award of attorney’s fees.  The court may also order the Father contribute to any hospital bills from the birth of the child.

If an individual believes he is not the father of a child, he may contest the proceeding and request a DNA test. In this action, potential father and child will submit to a DNA test to determine he is (or is not) the father.

A Paternity proceeding follows the same steps as a divorce proceeding.  The Petition to Determine Paternity and for Related Relief is served on the Respondent, and the Respondent has 20 days to file a written response with the Clerk of Court. The parties then exchange financial disclosure (commonly referred to as mandatory disclosure) and attend mediation.  If the parties cannot come to an agreement at mediation, the case moves forward to trial.

If you or someone you know is involved in a paternity dispute and needs legal representation. schedule a consultation using the link below.

Considering divorce? The Houser Law Firm Jacksonville, FL

Many consultations we have are with people trying to determine their options, should they move forward with filing for divorce.  Many people struggle with the decision to file, understandably so.  There are many things to consider when contemplating a divorce. 

1) Cost: In 2016, the average cost of a divorce in Florida was $13,500 and took approximately 15 months. Of course, these figures change based upon the facts of the case.  Generally speaking, the longer the case goes on, the higher the cost of the divorce.  Cases will drag on when parties cannot come to an agreement on the issues of their case, such as timesharing, distributing assets, alimony, etc.   If the case goes to trial, a party can expect to pay approximately $8,000.00 to $10,000.00 in attorney's fees.  If a party is trying to decide whether to file for divorce, the cost aspect is a serious consideration.

2) Could counseling save the marriage? All couples go through seasons in life that are particularly frustrating. It's possible that parties are going through a rough patch. 

Generally speaking, a few reasons for divorce boil down to matters such as communication issues, adultery/dishonesty, addiction and financial issues.  The question is whether the parties are willing to work through their issues.  This is a question that can only be answered through reflection, and possible counseling.  If the parties attend counseling and still feel the marriage is broken, it might be time to file.  If one party is willing to attend counseling but the other party is not, it might be time to file.  If neither party is willing to attend counseling, it might be time to file.  Why is this question of counseling so important?  Because if the case settles, one party will attend a Final Hearing before the Judge.  The party will provide testimony to the Judge regarding the marriage.  One of the questions asked is if the Judge ordered the parties to counseling, would it repair or save the marriage.  A party must be able to answer honestly that no amount of counseling would repair or save the marriage.

3) What if I start the divorce process and change my mind? If, during the course of the divorce proceeding, the parties decide they would like to reconcile, they have the option of dismissing their case.  They will not be refunded the filing fees paid to the county, but they are free to dismiss the action prior to the Judge signing the Final Judgment.  Once the Judge signs the Final Judgment, the parties are officially divorced.

Divorce can sometimes be averted, but when it can't, we are here to help. If you are considering divorce, schedule a consultation with us to see how we can help you navigate through what can be a very difficult time.


Child Support - Houser Law Firm Services Series

At The Houser Law Firm in Jacksonville, Florida, we are here to help you in all aspects of family law. In continuing with our service series, today we will be talking about child support.

Child support is money provided to a parent raising a child without the financial help of the other parent being in the home.  Child support is paid to meet the needs of the child, including housing, utilities, food, clothing, and medical care.  Child support may not be waived.  The child has a right to receive child support, and a parent cannot waive the right of the child.

If one parent is not assisting the other parent with financial support, the parent in need of support may file for child support.  Depending on the circumstances of the case, a parent may file for child support during a divorce.  If the parents are not married, the party in need of support would file a paternity case.

The court calculates child support based on multiple factors that include the monthly income of each party, the cost of health insurance for the child, day care or after school child care expenses and the number of overnights the child spends with each parent.

In some cases, the Department of Revenue may begin child support proceedings.  Generally, when a parent applies for state assistance, the State of Florida will take the necessary steps to ensure the other parent is paying child support. 

It is important to note that child support can always be modified, should the financial circumstances of either party change.  Some situations that may warrant a modification in child support include: one party begins making more money, one party involuntarily loses a job, health care expenses for the child increase or decrease, or the non-majority timesharing parent is not exercising his or her allotted timesharing.

If you're in need of help in a child support case, contact us for a consultation.

Timesharing - Houser Law Firm Services Series

We are continuing our Service Series today by talking about timesharing as it relates to family law. Timesharing is the schedule that divides a child's time between the parents. The timesharing schedule is usually documented within the Parenting Plan, which sets out in greater detail how timesharing will work and the responsibilities of each parent.

If the parties cannot agree on a timesharing schedule, the judge will make a decision based on the best interests of the child or children. Some of the statutory factors include:

1.     The capacity and disposition of a parent to encourage a close parent-child relationship with other parent

2.     The capacity of a parent to act upon the needs of the child(ren).

3.     The geographic viability of the parenting plan, with special attention paid to the needs of school-age children and the amount of time to be spent traveling to effectuate the parenting plan.

4.     The moral fitness of the parents

5.     The mental and physical health of the parents.

6.     The home, school, and community record of the child.

7.     The demonstrated capacity to be informed of the circumstances of the minor child, including, but not limited to, the child’s friends, teachers, medical care providers, daily activities, and favorite things.

If you are involved in a case involving timesharing, contact us to see how we can help.

Mediation - Houser Law Firm Services Series

During a divorce or paternity proceeding, the parties are required to attend mediation in an attempt to resolves all the issues related to the case. Mediation is the next subject of our service series.  The article below will outline the steps of the mediation process and what to expect.

THE MEDIATION PROCESS – In a divorce, paternity or modification proceeding, the parties are required to attend mediation.  If the parties come to an agreement at mediation, the case is complete.  However, if no agreement is reached, the parties will move forward to trial. 

STEP 1)  Introductory Remarks:  The mediator will wait until both parties are present, and counsel, if applicable, and then make introductions.  Sometimes the parties will begin a joint session together, other times they will begin separately at the discretion of the mediator.   The physical setting will be informal and comfortable. The mediator will give an introductory statement about the roles of the participants at the mediation.  In particular, the mediator will discuss his or her neutral role in the process.  The mediator does not have a stake in the outcome.   The mediator will confirm that, if a party has an attorney, the attorney will be the party’s legal advisor, not the mediator.  In any event, the mediator will never serve as an advisor for either party. The parties’ roles are to be the ultimate decision makers.  Some mediators will make comments about what they see as the issues and confirm the case data provided by the parties. Next, the mediator will define the process of the mediation.  The process may include joint sessions with all parties together and/or sessions with the parties separated (called a caucus).  The mediator’s statement during the introductory remarks will set out the basics for how the mediation will be conducted.  These basics are what help the mediation move along smoothly and make it productive.  Some examples are:  conscientious listening; being respectful; keeping an open mind; and taking turns to speak.  The mediator will make sure that each party has an opportunity to share his or her side of the conflict.  Finally, the mediator will discuss the rule of confidentiality, as required by Florida law.  More specifically, the mediation is a confidential process and the participants are not allowed to speak to the outside world about what went on at mediation.   A party is not allowed to speak to a non-participant during mediation unless agreed upon by both parties.  The mediator, attorneys and parties are all bound by the rule of confidentiality. 

STEP 2)  Statement of the Conflict by the Parties:  After the mediator’s statement, the mediator will give each side the opportunity to tell his or her story uninterrupted.  Most often, the person who filed the action or requested the mediation session will go first. The statement is not necessarily a recital of the facts, but it is to give the parties an opportunity to frame issues in their own minds, and to give the mediator more information. If there are attorneys present who make initial statements, the mediator may then ask the parties to also make a statement. The rationale behind the statement of the problem is not a search for the truth, because in most conflicts, there are several versions of the truth; it is just a way to help educate the mediation participants on all points of view.

STEP 3)  Information Gathering:     At the information gathering stage, the mediator will ask the parties open-ended questions to gather more information. The mediator may repeat back key things that the party said and summarize.  This is done to ensure that the mediator has appropriately heard what the party has said.  This also helps the mediator fully understand the issues and the needs and desires of the party, so the mediator may build a framework to discuss potential resolutions and options.

STEP 4)  Problem Identification:  The identification of problem areas might also be part of other segments.  The mediator tries to find common goals between the parties and help the parties come to as many agreements as possible.  The mediator will also figure out which issues are heavily in conflict and may prevent various creative ideas and solutions to reduce the conflict.   

STEP 5)  Bargaining and Generating Options:  Methods for developing options may include group processes or caucuses.  It may also involve developing hypothetical scenarios, creative solutions, brainstorming, proposals, counter-proposals and modifications of those.  If the mediator decides to use caucuses, these sessions are also covered by the confidentiality rule.  This allows a safe environment where parties can brainstorm without fear.

STEP 6)  Reaching and Documenting an Agreement:  If an agreement is reached on some or all of the conflicted issues, the parties will have the opportunity to document the agreement at mediation.  Once the document is prepared, the parties will sign it, as will the attorneys, if applicable.  Generally, the agreement is binding upon everyone at the time it is signed, even though the Court has not yet signed it.

To find out how we can help you in this process, schedule a consultation by clicking the button below.

Equitable Distribution - Houser Law Firm Services Series

Last week, we discussed active effort in the appreciation of non-marital assets. Going hand in hand with the appreciation of non-marital assets is the next part of our service series, equitable distribution.

Equitable distribution is the distribution of marital assets and debts accrued during a marriage.

The general rule in Florida is that marital assets and debts will be divided equally between the parties upon divorce. It is important to note that even if an asset or debt is only in one name, the asset or debt is still considered marital if accrued during the marriage.

Examples of marital assets include:

  • Real property ;

  • Personal property;

  • Gifts from one spouse to another;

  • Insurance benefits acquired during the marriage;

  • Any appreciation or enhancement in the value of non-marital assets;

  • Retirement accounts established and/or contributed to during the marriage;

  • Pension benefits, workers’ compensation benefits, social security income, interests in pending lawsuits, and stock options acquired during the marriage.

In summary, assets include any real estate, bank accounts, retirement accounts, stock options, businesses and business interests, and tangible personal property (such as jewelry, boats, automobiles, and even pets).

Liabilities include any kind of debt such as a mortgage, credit card debt, automobile loans, tax liens, etc.

Non-marital property are assets and/or liabilities acquired BEFORE the marriage, and remain the sole and separate property of the spouse upon divorce, with the exception of contributions made during the marriage and equity accrued during the marriage if marital funds are used to increase the value of an asset.

Unless steps are taken to change the title or the value of the property during the marriage, the following types of property are considered non-marital assets:

  • Assets or liabilities that a party came into the marriage with ;

  • Assets or liabilities acquired by an exchange for a non-marital assets;

  • Assets or liabilities acquired by noninterspousal gift or inheritance;

  • Income derived from non-marital assets during the marriage (unless the income was used by the parties as a marital asset);

  • Any assets and liabilities excluded from being considered marital property pursuant to a valid written agreement (for example, a valid prenuptial agreement); and

  • Any liabilities incurred where one spouse forged the other spouse’s name without permission.

There are instances where non-marital property is converted into marital property. This can occur when the non-marital property is retitled with the addition of the other spouse’s name. This also happens upon the commingling of assets, or the combining of marital and non-marital assets.  An example of combining marital and non-marital assets includes when a married couple open a joint bank account and add non-marital funds to the account (such as their pay checks).

A third type of conversion occurs when the value of a non-marital asset is enhanced due to the labor or financial contribution of either spouse during the marriage.

Courts allow for unequal distribution of marital assets in instances of marital misconduct along with an intentional dissipation of marital assets. These situations can arise in instances where marital funds have been spent on an extramarital affair, were gambled away, or used to support a drug addiction.

It is extremely important to note that equitable distribution cannot be modified.   

If you're going through divorce or planning to, schedule a consultation to see how we can help you with equitable distribution.

What is Active Effort in the Appreciation of Non-marital Assets?

I recently read an article by Jerry Reiss and Michael R. Walsh regarding active efforts and how they are applied to the appreciation of non-marital assets. This article is helpful to parties who had assets prior to the marriage, and those assets appreciated in value during the marriage.  The question becomes:  Does the other spouse have a claim to the asset?

To begin, any asset acquired during the marriage is considered marital property. However, some parties may have owned assets prior to the marriage. Generally speaking, the party who owned the asset prior to the marriage will take the position the asset is still non-marital.  Conversely, the other party usually takes the position that the appreciation in the asset changes the property to marital, thus the party has a monetary interest in the property. 

When analyzing the appreciation of an asset, the Court will look at the work or effort used to increase the value of the asset.  The effort is distinguished into two categories, passive or active. Active appreciation occurs when a party can show an asset appreciated significantly as a direct result of effort or active management. Passive effort, then, is when an asset increases in value, but not necessarily due to work or effort on the part of either party.  An example of active appreciation:  Wife purchased a home prior to the marriage, the fair market value of which is $100,000.00.  After the marriage, Wife and Husband renovate the home, using marital funds to do so.  The couple also spend time physically completing some of the renovations together, increasing the value of the home to $150,000.00.  If one of the parties filed for divorce, Husband would have a claim to the appreciation in the value of the home.  An example of passive appreciation:  same facts as above, but no marital funds are spent on the home and no renovations are made.  The home appreciates in value to $125,000.00.  This appreciation is due to the housing market.  Husband does not have a claim to the appreciation.

Effort is further defined as tangential and foundation. Tangential effort occurs when appreciation is somewhat related to the effort of a party, but the appreciation could have also occurred without the effort. For example, the article states the below.

"...if substantial effort was extended, in actively managing a pool of funds, then it is not active improvement if one can show that the effort was only tangential to the growth itself. This occurs when great effort was used to obtain a market result that could have been achieved in any event with little or no effort."

Foundation effort is determined when "both marital and non-marital efforts contribute to the result."  For example, a party is employed prior to the marriage and had accrued benefits such as pension, 401k, vacation, stock options, etc.  Then that party enters into the marriage and continues to accrue and contribute to these benefits.  The benefits accrued during the marriage were due to foundation effort, and thus the other party would be entitled to half of the benefits.

As you can see, the determination between marital and non-marital assets can be complex. To determine how these laws apply to your case, click below to schedule a consultation.



Divorce - Houser Law Firm Service Series

Welcome to The Houser Law Firm service series, where we discuss specific family law matters and how we can assist you through your particular family law issue.

This article will discuss the issue of divorce. A divorce proceeding can be an overwhelming and difficult time, and there are many issues that may arise during the process. It is wise to obtain counsel to navigate the divorce process, anticipate the legal issues that may arise and develop a legal strategy accordingly. Below is information regarding the process of divorce to give you a better understanding of what you can expect to occur during your case.

A dissolution of marriage can be either an “uncontested divorce” or a “contested divorce.”

In either case, the Petitioner asks the Court for the divorce, and the Respondent receives and answers the Petition. The Petition for Dissolution of Marriage is filed with the Clerk of Court and sent to the Respondent via service of process. The Respondent is then required to file a written response to the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with the Clerk of Court.

There are times when two parties have agreed to move forward with a divorce, and determine the divorce terms together.  In this situation, one party will meet with Ms. Houser and provide the terms of the agreement between the parties regarding issues such as equitable distribution, alimony, child support, timesharing, etc. Ms. Houser then drafts all the necessary paperwork to file the case, including the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.  She provides drafts of the Financial Affidavit (F.A.) and, if there are minor children, a draft Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) Affidavit. These documents are required pleadings that must be filed prior to the final hearing. The parties will fill out the drafts and return them to Ms. Houser for finalization.  Once the initial paperwork is complete, Ms. Houser will draft the agreement between the parties to ensure the terms of the agreement are accurately articulated. Both parties must also complete a parenting class.  Finally, the Petitioner must attend the final divorce hearing to present the agreement to the judge for entry. Prior to the final hearing, Ms. Houser will prepare her client for the hearing, which includes providing the questions she will ask during the hearing.  At the final hearing, the Petitioner will provide testimony to the Court regarding the marriage and terms of the divorce to the judge.  The judge will then sign the agreement, which officially renders the parties divorced.  The final hearing is very quick, only lasting about 3 minutes or so.  It is also an informal hearing, in that it takes place in chambers, rather than a courtroom. 

In a "contested divorce", both spouses cannot or will not agree on the terms of the divorce, such as division of marital property, marital debt and/or issues involving minor children from the marriage. After the Summons and Petition for Dissolution of Marriage are served on the Respondent, the Respondent has 20 days to file a written response with the Clerk of Court.  Once a written response is filed, the parties will exchange financial discovery, or mandatory disclosure.  When the discovery process is completed, the parties are required to attend mediation.  If the parties come to an agreement at mediation, the agreement is signed, the litigation ends and the Petitioner attends the Final Hearing.  If the parties do not come to an agreement, the case moves forward to trial.

If you have made the decision to divorce your spouse, or would just like to determine your options, Ms. Houser would be happy to discuss your situation with you during a consultation. Click below to schedule your consultation today.

Welcome to The Houser Law Firm, P.A. Blog and Website

Jenna Houser of The Houser Law Firm, P.A. located in Jacksonville Florida

Thank you for stopping by my blog and website. The Houser Law Firm is located in Jacksonville, Florida and specifically focuses on navigating you through legal issues with divorce, alimony, child support, timesharing, paternity, parental responsibility, injunctions, modifications to existing arrangements, mediation, and equitable distribution.

At The Houser Law Firm, you will be represented by an attorney experienced in family law matters.  Our firm focuses exclusively on family law only.  Ms. Houser compassionately and zealously assist clients through one of the most difficult times of their lives.  To read more about Ms. Houser's background and how she started practicing family law, click here.

Please call 904.240.4212 or click here to schedule a consultation.

Alimony - Houser Law Firm Services Series

At The Houser Law Firm, P.A. in Jacksonville, Florida, we often handle the issue of alimony while representing a client through the divorce process.

What is alimony? Alimony is a legal obligation on a spouse to provide financial support to the other spouse during and/or after a divorce.  Alimony is also referred to as "spousal support" or "maintenance."

For example, if, in a marriage, one party is the wage earner and the other party has not worked or earns significantly less than the other party during the marriage, the judge may order the wage earner to pay alimony for a set period of time. The alimony allows the other party to maintain the lifestyle he/she was accustom to during the marriage and provides that party the opportunity to become financially independent. 

There are many factors the Court considers to determine an award of alimony.  Some of those factors include the length of the marriage, lifestyle, wage disparity, whether one party may have stayed at home while the other worked, and, most importantly, the need and ability to pay. 

Alimony is typically paid monthly, although the Court can also order alimony be paid in one lump sum.  Generally, the alimony obligation is ongoing until a specific date, a party remarries, Court ordered modification, or the death of a party. 

To learn discuss alimony as it pertains to your case, call The Houser Law Firm, P.A. and schedule a consultation.

Florida Statute Sec. 61.08 governs alimony distribution. When determining alimony, the Court will consider the requesting party’s need for alimony and the paying party’s ability to pay alimony.

Factors used to determine alimony in Florida

Included herein is the section of the Florida Statutes setting forth the factors used to determine alimony in Florida. In determining a proper award of alimony or maintenance, the court shall consider all relevant economic factors, including but not limited to:

(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 non-marital 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.


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