Information about Florida Law
DISSOLUTION OF MARRIAGE:
In Florida, divorce is called "dissolution of marriage." Florida law requires our judges to identify non-marital assets and debts and award them to the party who owns them; identify marital assets and debts and create an "equitable distribution" of them; and address any entitlement to spousal support (alimony) and set the amount of support. These are the basic core of the dissolution process. If there are minor or dependent children of the marriage, Florida law requires that a "parenting plan" be put in place to address time-sharing and responsibility for the children, and that the Court find the plan is in the best interest of the children. The Court must also establish child support for minor children following the statutory guidelines.
Approximately half of all children in the U.S. are born to unmarried couples. The legal action to establish their rights and responsibilities as co-parents is called a "paternity" action in Florida. Much like in dissolution of marriage, the Court will enter a legally binding parenting plan and child support judgment, and will enforce the terms of same.
LITIGATION OF FAMILY LAW DISPUTES
Family law courts in Florida are segregated from "dependency" courts. Family law courts address a dispute between two parents of children, and the State of Florida is not involved in oversight. However, the Courts must follow the law of Florida, which requires various issues be addressed by the judge. If two parents agree on a plan, the Court will usually accept the plan, enter a judgment that adopts the plan, and enforce the plan to the extent the law allows. Settlement of family law disputes is highly encouraged, and all cases will be sent through mediation to attempt a resolution prior to a family court making the final decision.
ESTATE PLANNING, WILLS AND PROBATE
An effective estate plan is absolutely essential to the continued well-being of your family and loved ones. We have the skill and experience necessary to create an effective estate plan to ensure that your assets are distributed in accordance with your wishes in the most efficient and problem-free manner possible. Where it is possible and practical, we can help you avoid probate. Where it is necessary, we will help you and your family navigate the probate process. We recommend some very basic estate planning documents be prepared for every adult, at a minimum. But every individual has different priorities, different concerns, and different situations. We can help you find a plan that works to meet your needs under your "most likely" scenario, that allows a smooth administration of your affairs. This may include helping to identify the need for Medicaid eligibility planning, long term care cost plans, special needs trusts or asset protection trusts.
Mediation agreements are legally binding, and can be a less costly, less time-consuming means to reach an equitable and mutually agreeable solution to your legal dispute, whether it is family law matter, planning for your elderly parent, a probate dispute, a contractual dispute, or any other legal matter. The mediated solution must satisfy all the participants in the dispute. These participants must negotiate which solution or combination of solutions is acceptable to all of them. That is why mediation is ideally suited to family disputes.
The mediation conference is informal, confidential and non-adversarial. The conference takes place via remote video (Zoom) or in a private conference room at a mediator's or attorney's office. Mediation conferences are best conducted prior to scheduling a trial date or final hearing, in an effort to give the parties an opportunity to negotiate and resolve their case without the added expense and stress of trial and trial preparation.
Pre-suit mediations can be scheduled by agreement without the filing of a lawsuit. Many people who have been through the process insert this requirement in their agreements, and prefer to come back to this form of "alternative dispute resolution" to resolve their problems.
The Law Office of Susan M. Helms can serve as a mediator for you and/or your attorneys, or we can represent you in an effort to resolve a dispute through a mediated process.