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Family Law

At McKenzie Law Firm, we work hard to provide you and your family with competent, compassionate, efficient legal representation and support. We understand that going through a family law related dispute can be taxing both emotionally and financially for everyone involved. We always strive to keep our clients informed about every step of the process and to be a support system during a difficult time. We also recognize that hiring a lawyer can be expensive and we work closely with our clients to assess and manage costs in a variety of ways. We also have bilingual staff that can assist with Spanish speaking clients.


divorce

Divorce

A divorce can be messy both emotionally and financially for everyone involved. We at McKenzie Law Firm will help you sort out the mess and uncertainty of a divorce, and get you on the right track to a new and brighter beginning.

A divorce generally involves money, division of assets and debts (i.e., equitable distribution), and issues concerning any children. We represent clients in both contested and uncontested divorces.

A contested divorce is when you and your spouse cannot agree on one or more issues in dispute and the Court must ultimately decide. For example, you and your spouse might disagree on parental responsibility or timesharing of your children; or, you and your spouse might disagree about financial issues.

A contested divorce can be highly emotional for all parties involved. It is important to have someone on your side that can remain level-headed and guide you through the process. We at McKenzie Law Firm will provide you with that guidance and make every effort to attain the best result possible, not only on a short-term basis, but also long-term.

On the other hand, an uncontested divorce is when you and your spouse both agree on all issues involved. This approach is highly encouraged since it offers the parties an opportunity to end the marriage amicably. Consequently, it is usually also the quickest and most cost-effective way to resolve a divorce.

We at McKenzie Law Firm can assist you in a variety of ways with your uncontested divorce. We assist with a review of your case, provide advice on your rights, negotiations, as well as draft pleadings, settlement agreement, parenting plan, and other documents. A well-drafted martial settlement agreement is crucial to your divorce. The martial settlement agreement will memorialize all of the terms of the divorce, including asset and debt division, alimony, child support, and time-sharing.

Contact us at McKenzie Law Firm to schedule a consultation to discuss your divorce.


alimony

Alimony

Alimony is also referred to as spousal support or maintenance. An award of alimony is when the parties agree or the judge awards one party financial support. This financial support can be arranged in a variety of ways: it can be durational, it can be permanent (i.e., forever), it can be ordered to bridge-the-gap between two peoples income for a set amount of time, or it can be rehabilitative to allow, for example, the person earning less to obtain a or finish a degree to increase his or her earning potential.

Before awarding any type of alimony, the judge must first make a finding that there is a need for financial support by the requesting party, and that the other paying party has the ability to pay.

The type of alimony, how much, and for how long depends on the specific facts and circumstances of each case. The judge will use the following factors, which are outlined in Florida Statute § 61.08(2)(a)-(j), when determining alimony:

  • The standard of living established during the marriage
  • The duration of the marriage
  • The age and the physical and emotional condition of each party
  • The financial resources of each party, including the nonmarital and marital assets and liabilities distributed to each party
  • 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
  • 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
  • The responsibilities each party will have with regard to any minor children they have in common
  • 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
  • All sources of income available to either party, including income available to either party through investments of any asset held by that party
  • Any other factor necessary to do equity and justice between the parties

It is important to consult with an attorney who can assess your case and protect your interest. If you are facing a divorce and you are concerned with the financial ramifications of it, contact us at McKenzie Law Firm to schedule a consultation.


custody

Parental Responsibility & Time-sharing

Parenting is one of the most rewarding life experiences, but as most of us know, it can also be challenging at times. Co-parenting between two people who do not always agree can add to those challenges. When children are involved, it is important to remember that the children’s interest come first and must always be protected.

Divorce is stressful for both spouses and emotions sometimes get the best of people. Unfortunately in a divorce, children often get stuck in the middle between two opposing parents. At McKenzie Law Firm, we always strive to provide our clients with guidance and representation that will protect your parental rights and your children’s best interest.

What is parental responsibility?

Parental responsibility is what used to be more commonly referred to as “custody.” Parental responsibility concerns decision making authority over the children. Florida law recognizes three different types of parental responsibility: 1) shared parental responsibility; 2) shared parental responsibility with ultimate decision making authority; or 3) sole parental responsibility.

Shared parental responsibility aims to keep both parents involved with daily life and decision making authority over the children. Judges usually favor shared parental responsibility, unless it would be detrimental to the children.

Shared parental responsibility with ultimate decision-making authority is when both parents try to agree and make joint decisions regarding the children, but if the parents cannot agree, the court can award one parent ultimate decision-making authority (i.e., final say). This means that if the parents cannot agree on issues relating to education, healthcare, or similar issues, one designated parent gets to decide.

Sole parental responsibility means that one parent has the right to make all decisions affecting the children without needing to consult the other parents. Sole parental responsibility is only reserved for cases where one parent cannot be trusted to care or make decisions for the children, there is abuse or neglect, or for some other reason that would be detrimental to the children.

What is time-sharing?

Time-sharing is also known as visitation. The parents can agree or the judge will decide a schedule delineating all of the days in one calendar year that the children will spend with each parent. The time-sharing schedule will also address holiday time-sharing and school breaks.

When deciding on issues related to time-sharing and parental responsibility, the judge must make a decision that is in the best interest of the child according to the factors laid out in Florida Statute § 61.13(3)(a)-(t)


child-support

Child Support

In Florida, both parents have an obligation to provide financial support for their children. Child support amounts are set according to a guidelines chart in Florida Statute § 61.13. The current guidelines chart considers: number of children, income of each parent, amount of overnights spent with each parent, health insurance cost, day-care costs, and any special needs of the children. These calculations can be complex and the assistance of a lawyer is important to make sure the amount of child support is established correctly.

Child support in Florida for each child continues until that child’s 18th birthday, with the following exceptions:

  • The person is between the ages of 18 and 19 and is still in high school, performing in good faith with a reasonable expectation of graduating before turning 19; or
  • The person is considered dependent due to a mental or physical incapacity. Such incapacity must have begun prior to the child turning 18.

Child support can also be established by the Florida Department of Revenue (DOR) through administrative proceedings. The DOR is a State agency that is assigned the tasks of establishing, enforcing, or modifying child support orders. All child support orders can be enforced through an income deduction order. This authorizes the DOR to collect child support directly from the employer of the parent paying child support.

We at McKenzie Law Firm can assist you with any child support related matter. Please call our office to schedule a consultation to discuss your rights and options.


paternity

Paternity

Paternity disputes arise when the parents of a child are unmarried at the time of the child’s birth. Paternity can be established in different ways in Florida:

  • Through voluntary acknowledgment of paternity
  • Through a private suit and court order by a judge
  • Through administrative proceedings by the Department of Revenue to establish child support

If paternity has already been established by the State through the DOR, a father might still want petition the court to establish a parenting plan, with time-sharing and parental responsibility. The DOR can only establish paternity for purposes of ordering child support, but it cannot order time-sharing and parental responsibility. Please see our separate time-sharing and parental responsibility section for information about those issues.

A paternity suit can be brought by the mother in order to establish child-support or other custody rights. A paternity suit can also be brought by the father in order to establish time-sharing and parental responsibility.


contempt

Contempt & Enforcement

Do you have a court order but it’s not being followed?

We can help you enforce an existing order for child-support, visitation, alimony, and other orders pertaining to property division.

The failure to pay child support can result in serious consequences, including contempt of court, which could include jail time. The judge must first find that the responsible party is delinquent on child support, the person has the ability to pay the arrears, and that the failure to pay was willful. The judge cannot on his or her own order the non-paying parent in contempt. The parent who is supposed to be receiving child support must first file a motion for contempt with the court and set it for hearing before the judge.

The Department of Revenue can also enforce child-support orders. There are different ways the State can go after a non-paying parent, including:

  • Wage garnishment
  • Professional and Driver’s License Suspension
  • Federal Income Tax Intercept
  • Place liens on property

modifications

Modifications

Things have changed in your life and you need to change a current court order?

Child support can be modified, but only if there has been a substantial change of circumstances since the entry of the last order addressing child-support. The Court can award an increase or decrease in a child-support modification case, depending on the circumstances of the case. For example, child support may be modified if there has been a change in the child’s daycare expenses, change in income of either parent, or change in health-insurance costs. The judge will use the child support guidelines chart in Florida Statute § 61.13 to arrive at the new amount of child support.

Alimony may also be modified. It is important to keep in mind only certain types of alimony can be changed, and it can only be done when there has been an unexpected, involuntary, and substantial change in circumstances concerning the payor’s ability to pay or the receiving party’s need.

Parenting Plans and time-sharing agreements can also be modified by the Court. The parenting plan can be changed when both parents agree. This is the easiest and most cost-efficient way of changing a parenting plan. But in some cases, the parents cannot agree concerning changes of the parenting plan. If this happens, the court must decide.

The judge may modify the parenting plan if there has been a substantial, unanticipated change of circumstances and the judge finds that a modification is in the “best interest of the child.”

The first step to modifying an order is to file a Supplemental Petition for Modification. This must be accomplished by filing the Petition with the Clerk of Courts and then having it served on the opposing party. Modification proceedings are similar to original divorce proceedings and require compliance with mandatory disclosure rules and other discovery rules.

Modification proceedings are retroactive to the date when the Petition was filed, but the judge cannot change an award of alimony or child-support going back prior to the date of filing.

If any of these circumstances apply to your situation, please contact us at McKenzie Law Firm to schedule a consultation.


relocation

Relocation

You or your ex want to pick up and move with your child? Not so fast…

The parent who wants to move with the minor child at least 50 miles from his or her residence at the time the last parenting plan was entered, must comply with Florida Statute § 61.13001 to do so. Under the Statute, the parent who wants to move must either obtain a written agreement from the other party or file a verified Petition to Relocate and get permission from the judge.

The judge will ultimately then decide whether the relocation is in the best interest of the child. In doing so, the judge will follow the factors laid out in Florida Statute § 61.13001.

A relocation dispute can be emotionally stressful for both parents. We at McKenzie Law Firm assists parents seeking to relocate or the parent who is opposing the move. Please contact us for a consultation about your case.

 

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