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FAMILY LAW

Family Law is an area that tends to be very emotional at it’s core.  Seff & Capizzi Law Group has over 35 years of experience in handling family law matters.

Please review our family law services for more information about your particular situation.

Although most people think of the term “Divorce,” Florida uses the term “Dissolution of Marriage,” to describe the termination of a legal marriage. In the Divorce case, the judge can typically deal with all of the issues related to custody, timesharing, child support, alimony, and equitable distribution. If you find yourself facing the possibility of divorce, it is important to obtain competent legal advice.

Florida is a no-fault divorce state, which means that there is no need to blame the other party for the break-up of the marriage. There are two grounds for a Florida divorce:

  1. the marriage is irretrievably broken
  2. one of the parties has been judged mentally incapacitated

One of the parties must be a Florida resident for more than six months preceding the filing of the petition for dissolution of marriage in order to be able to file for divorce.

Each party must be prepared to disclose their financial information so that the court may dissolve the marriage, equitably divide the assets and liabilities, award alimony, child support, attorney’s fees, suit monies and/or costs.

If you have minor children, your final judgment of dissolution of marriage will include a time-sharing schedule, parenting plan, and whether you and your spouse will share parental responsibility of your children. Whether your divorce case is taking place in Miami-Dade County, Palm Beach County or Broward County, Seff & Capizzi Law Group can assist you throughout this process.

Equitable distribution means a fair, but not necessary equal division of property. Initially, the court must classify all assets and liabilities owned by the parties, either jointly or individually as either “marital” or “non-marital.” Once this classification is complete, the court must distribute to each spouse that spouse’s non-marital assets and liabilities. Thereafter, marital assets and liabilities must be distributed in accordance with various factors, some of which are found in the florida Statutes.

Marital property includes real property held together by the parties, all assets acquired and liabilities incurred during the marriage, gifts to each other during the marriage, all vested and non vested benefits, rights, and funds accrued during the marriage and the enhancement in value and appreciation of non-marital assets. Marital property is subject to equitable distribution.

Non-marital property includes real property held individually before the marriage, assets and liabilities incurred before the marriage, gifts received before the marriage, and assets and liabilities excluded and segregated from the marital property. Non-marital property is not included in equitable distribution.

Alimony, also known as Spousal Support, is support paid between spouses. Florida Alimony / Spousal Support Laws set forth many factors that the judge must consider when determining whether alimony should be awarded, and if so, the amount of alimony.

Some of the factors that the judge must consider are:

  • the length of the marriage
  • the earning capacity of both spouses
  • the roles that each parent took in caring for any children in the marriage

There are also many types of alimony such as:

  • permanent
  • temporary
  • bridge-the-gap
  • durational
  • rehabilitative
  • lump sum

Having an experienced Florida family law firm like Seff & Capizzi Law Group on your side can make a significant difference in the outcome regarding whether alimony is awarded or not. The issue of alimony / spousal support can impact your financial security for a significant time period, or even for the rest of your life.

If alimony is an issue in your South Florida family law matter, it is important to obtain advice from an attorney that understands all of the factors that the judge must consider. It is equally important to have an attorney that has the experience and confidence needed to present your case so as to achieve the best results for you. We have the knowledge and experience to help you with your case.

Marital Settlement Agreements (MSA), also referred to as post marital agreements, are contracts between two parties. The agreement can resolve all of the issues between the parties including …

  • Child Custody
  • Time Sharing
  • Child Support
  • Alimony
  • Property Division
  • and all other issues related to divorce.

MSAs are valuable tools that can save both parties the significant emotional and financial stress associated with contested divorce litigation. The drafting of a MSA can be difficult depending on the issues involved between the parties. It is important to have an attorney who is experienced in drafting MSAs. The language must be clear and un-ambiguous and the terms must completely address the important issues.

The goal of Seff & Capizzi Law Group is to always reach a MSA when possible. Statistically, a great number of cases are settled in this manner which saves both parties literally thousands of dollars as well as valuable time. In the unfortunate event, where a MSA is not possible due to the other side’s unreasonable positions, rest assured that we have the experience and skills needed to present your case to a judge and obtain equitable results.

Designations of a primary residential parent (i.e., custodial parent), secondary residential parent and rotating custody have been away with by Florida Statute.

Florida now refers to custody as “time-sharing” of minor children amongst both parents, the time that each parent will spend with the minor children during the week. A time-sharing schedule will generally also add Summer Break, holidays such as Christmas, Easter, Hanukkah, long weekends, birthdays, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.

In creating a time-sharing schedule, or what’s called a parenting plan, the court will look at the moral fitness of the parents disposition of each parent to be informed of the circumstances of the minor child, child abuse, child neglect or child abandonment and various other statutory factors.

Parental Responsibility refers to a parent’s right to make decisions regarding a child’s health, education, general welfare and other related matters. It can come in the form of shared parental responsibility, allowing and requiring both parents to work together to make these decisions. It can also come in the form of sole parental responsibility, meaning one parent makes all the decisions. Florida courts prefer the parents to share parental responsibility.

When parents separate prior to divorce, they both remain responsible for supporting the minor child. This is also true for unmarried couples who have a child together. Unfortunately, many times, a spouse refuses to pay the appropriate amount or a spouse demands much more than is fair and required. Oftentimes, a temporary support order can be obtained that requires the appropriate amount of support be paid while the divorce is being finalized.

Pursuant to Florida Child Support Guidelines Laws, both parents’ incomes, work related daycare expenses and health insurance costs for the child are factored in the formula to determine the appropriate amount of child support. In addition, the amount of time-sharing that both parents have is typically factored into the child support calculations.

It is important that you obtain advice from an experienced Florida child support lawyer early on. You need to know your rights and obligations from the outset to avoid problems in the future. Seff & Capizzi Law Group has the experience and understanding to resolve your child support issue in a fair and reasonable manner.

As mentioned in the alimony section, Florida Alimony / Spousal Support Laws consider many factors that determine whether alimony should be awarded, and if so, the amount and type of alimony.

Sometimes certain parameters can change based on life events, sensitive circumstances or other applicable factors. It’s best to ask your attorney if you feel that your current situation warrants a modification.

Modification of child custody can require a great deal of experience. The original terms of your child custody will not necessarily change overnight, or easily.

Modifying child custody can mean a world of difference for both the child and the parent. Achieving this is done through an analysis of your present situation.

Have Seff & Capizzi Law Group help you work up a plan of action, and most importantly help you show what has changed, and how it applies to your case. Our firm is committed to helping you realize your goal.

Child custody, time sharing and child support matters are always subject to modification where there has been a significant change in circumstances since the last court order. In addition, oftentimes, alimony or spousal support remains modifiable by the judge when circumstances of either party have changed. The most common changes are:

  • reduction or increase in one or both parties’ incomes
  • changed living expenses
  • changed daycare
  • health insurance costs
  • relocation of the child

Many times parties face the frustration of the other party not complying with an existing court order as it relates to:

  • child custody
  • time sharing / visitation
  • child support
  • alimony
  • property issues

The judge always has jurisdiction to enforce the court’s orders through contempt and/or sanctions.

If you are faced with the need to modify or enforce an existing court order, it is important to have an experienced modification / enforcement lawyer on your side to guide you through the complicated legal system.

When a child is born outside of a marriage, the rights and responsibilities of a father are not always automatically recognized by law. In many cases, paternity needs to be established as the first step on the road to obtaining the responsibility of child support, as well as child custody or child visitation rights.

Florida courts presume legitimacy of a child born during a marriage. If a mother is married at the time of the birth of the child the name of her husband shall be entered on the birth certificate as the father of the child, unless paternity has been determined otherwise by a court. When a child is born during a marriage the legal duty to support that child rests with the parties to the marriage. A husband or a wife may contest the legitimacy but must overcome the presumption of legitimacy.

To establish paternity any woman who is pregnant or has a child and any man who has reason to believe that he is the father of a child, may bring proceedings to determine the paternity of the child when paternity has not been established. In any proceeding to establish paternity the court may require the child, mother and alleged father to submit to scientific tests. A determination of paternity for a child out of wedlock requires the father to pay child support, and also gives the father time-sharing rights.

To disestablish paternity, a petition must be served on the other or other legal guardian of the child and must include an affidavit, a sworn statement made by the father, that there is newly discovered evidence to support that he is not the biological father of the child. Along with the affidavit the father must also provide biological testing to support his petition to disestablish his paternal rights.

More and more in today’s society, parents either want or need to relocate with the child. Florida’s relocation statute is very technical, it places responsibility on the relocating parent and provides somewhat harsh penalties on the prevailing parent. Very specific petitions and notices must be filed prior to the Relocation with the child. If you are the non-relocating parent, timely objections must be filed to prevent your child from being relocated without a court hearing.

Although there are many specific statutory factors that the judge must consider, the overall standard is the “best interests of the child.” Too many times parents attempt to focus on the benefits or detriment to them of the child relocating. The Florida Relocation Statutes are clear that the parents who want to relocate must show how the move will benefit or harm the child, not the parent.

Relocation cases often have lifelong consequences for the child and the parents. If you have a relocation issue, it is important to have an experienced family law lawyer on your side who understands the legal standard required and who has the skills and experience to present your relocation case to the judge.

Attorney’s fees for marital and family law cases filed in the Florida Family Court must be fixed by an hourly rate. Attorney’s fees are generally not permitted to be contingent upon the results of the case. In other words, contingency fee agreements are generally prohibited.  Seff & Capizzi Law Group will provide you with a retainer agreement which fixes the hourly rate of the law firm.  The firm will discuss the fee agreement with the client in detail and answer any questions the client has regarding the arrangement.

Florida Statutes authorizes Florida courts to award attorney’s fees, suit money, and costs in dissolution, custody, support, enforcement and modification proceedings. In dissolution actions, attorney’s fees may be awarded to a party based on one parties’ need and the other parties’ ability to pay.

The purpose of attorney’s fees in dissolution actions is to ensure that both parties will have the same ability to secure competent legal representation to prepare for their divorce proceedings. Generally, a spouse will be awarded attorney’s fees to be paid by the other side if the requesting spouse cannot afford competent counsel.

Costs are the expenses incurred in maintaining or opposing a legal action. Costs under Florida law will be awarded to a prevailing party. Costs that the losing party must pay are “taxable costs.” These costs include:

  • filing fees for pleadings and other court papers
  • expenses related to depositions of parties or witnesses
  • court reporter fees
As you might expect, adoptions have a legal process that will require accuracy, and eligibility. It is the process by which a legal parent-child status is created between two parties (of no biological relation) and granting them the same rights and obligations as legal or biological parents and children.

In a step-parent adoption, one parent keeps their legal parent-child rights, where the other parent’s parent-child rights are severed. The rights and responsibilities of the latter are then transferred to the applicable party, in this case, the step-parent who is initializing the adoption. Step-parent adoption is final and permanent.

There are some requirements that must be satisfied for a step-parent to be eligible to adopt in the state of Florida. You must be an adult living and working in Florida, are of good character (proven by it’s own set of requirements), and must be able to provide for the child in a reasonable capacity.

If the child is 12 years of age or older, he or she must give their consent to the adoption in addition to being interviewed prior to giving consent. If individual is legally an adult, consent from their biological parents is not required.

Contact Seff & Capizzi Law Group for details on how we can help you through finalizing a step-parent adoption. We’ll be able to explain in full, the process and what to expect.

In contentious family law disputes, children are the most vulnerable and sometimes a parent can lose track on what is in the best interest of the child. The question then becomes, who is protecting the best interest of the children in the judicial system?

Judges, especially in Broward County, Florida have limited time for each case and often rely on third parties to investigate and prepare recommendations on what is in a child’s best interest. These third parties are called guardian ad litems.

Read more about requesting Anna-Maria Capizzi as your guardian ad litem.

Why Choose Seff & Capizzi Law Group?

Seff & Capizzi Law Group offers a free initial consultation to review the circumstances of your case and give you the personal attention that you deserve. Alleviate your stress by having our team handle the paperwork and ensure your rights are being protected. We look forward to hearing from you.

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