Guardian ad Litem (GAL)

Guardian ad Litem (GAL)

What is a GAL?
A Guardian ad Litem (GAL) is useful in cases where there is significant conflict between the parents. The (GAL) investigates the child or children’s issues and if there are concerns regarding their well-being.

What does a GAL do?
The Guardian ad Litem’s job is to be a “neutral voice” of the child or children. In a divorce or parental rights matter the Guardian ad Litem is acting in the best interests of the child or children. This occurs through investigating the facts of the case for the Judge, and to reporting their findings back to the Court. They are sometimes asked to testify, but they always must file a written report.

During your case the Guardian ad Litem (GAL) will meet with both parents individually and with the child or children. There will be at least one home visit to observe the children in the home of each parent. Sometimes interviews with teachers, pediatricians, psychologists, therapists, coaches, neighbors, third party caregivers, or other family members will be necessary. These interviews focus on any issue that affects the child or children.

As your case concludes, the Guardian ad Litem (GAL) will produce a final report. The report will outline the investigation and note any issues or findings of fact. The Judge will consider the content of the report in a final ruling. The (GAL) may also provide specific recommendations for custody based on the issues uncover during the investigation.

Your attorney will provide the final report prior to your final hearing or trial.

Florida Child Support

Florida requires a child to be financially supported by their parents. In any divorce with minor children (under 18) the court will order the parents to pay child support. Every parent should count on this due to the state of Florida placing a high priority on this child right. Florida child support guidelines and case law require the calculations for child support to be based on the income of both parents. Typically the monthly expenses of the parents are not considered in the final child support determination.

Child support is based on Florida Child Support Guidelines, Section 61.30 Florida Statute. There are a couple factors that act as an offset in the final calculation of support. Some of those being total overnights with each parent, health insurance and daycare. However, the guidelines are fairly rigid beyond those offsets. The court’s position is that child support payments are a property right of the children, not the parents. Therefore parents cannot make a mutual agreement for support that varies from the amounts shown on this chart.

Another factor the Florida child support formula does not consider is your child’s other expenses or extracurricular activities. For example, if your child plays baseball or attends a private school these costs would not be considered. The parents typically split these costs and sometimes have to weigh what is financially feasible and consider discontinuing some activities. Other expenses such as medical co-pays, orthodontia are typically dealt with separately by the court.

Our Firm has the experience and familiarity with the Florida Child Support Guidelines factors that are used in calculating child support and will use that to determine appropriate child support in your case.

Parental Relocation

Typically in Florida, when a parent wishes to move away or relocate with his or her minor child to a new residence 50 miles or more away from the current residence, they must follow strict guidelines. The relocating parent must provide advance notice of the intent to relocate to the other parent. the non-relocating parent has a right to agree or contest the parental relocation. If the non-relocating parent contests the relocation, and notifies the Court, the relocating parent must obtain the Court’s permission in order to relocate.

If the parents are not in agreement on the relocation of the minor child, the Court may hold a preliminary hearing and issue a temporary order. The Court may grant or deny the relocation on a temporary basis until a final hearing can be held by the Court.

Florida relocation matters are specifically governed by Section 61.13001, Florida Statutes.

This Section states that “If a parent attempts to relocate with a child and fails to comply with section 61.13001(3) of the Florida Statutes regarding the petition to relocate, such parent may be subject to contempt and other proceedings to compel the return of the child, and such non-compliance may be taken into account by the court in a subsequent determination or modification of the parenting plan, access, or the time-sharing schedule.” Depending on the circumstances a hasty decision can have lasting consequences.

Parental relocation inevitably interferes with any court approved visitation arrangements, child custody or time sharing. Therefore any contested parental relocation proposal will need to be approved by the court. If you are responding to a proposed move you generally have to do so quickly. Relocation hearings are given precedent by statute as they are required to take priority in scheduling. If you object to the move, or if you are a parent seeking to relocate with your child seeking legal advice is important to preserve your rights.

Police and Fire
(Public Sector) Divorce

In a (Public Sector) Police and Fire Divorce, Firefighters and Police Officers have unique benefit and pension plans that must be considered carefully. Typically these benefits have to be dealt with in a special manner due to factors that can complicate the division of assets and benefits. Some of these factors may be the agency you work for or if the pension system you are vested in recognizes a Qualified Domestic Relations Order or some other variant. Another consideration is if you also are subject to the terms of a contract. These concerns and others need to be factored in when a public sector employee is going through a divorce.

We have the experience and knowledge with all of these situations. Our Firm can help navigate through the common obstacles encountered with
a (Public Sector) Police and Fire Divorce. For public sector workers with many years on the job benefits the division of assets is a critical concern. Items such as pensions, deferred compensation accounts, health insurance, accrued vacation and other compensation are all considered in equitable distribution. This is especially true when employment benefits and retirement accounts may be the only valuable asset left. Some of the specific examples are:

Most cases are resolved out of court even in complex divorces and the parties do not have to go to trial. Trial can be costly, both financially and emotionally, and can be avoided through mediation or conciliatory meetings between the spouses. These processes let you stay in control of the future and the ultimate outcome of the divorce. The alternative, going to trial, places the final decision with the Judge who has little intimate knowledge of your issues and cannot personalize those issues as you or your attorney can. While going to trial is not ideal it is sometimes necessary when the two parties are unwilling to yield to the other. However, it is imperative that your attorney be ready and willing to advocate and litigate if negotiations break down and know when to barter and when to fight.

Divorce
(Contested and Uncontested)

We have a number of different practice areas in our Firm. However, the primary focus of our firm is in the area of Divorce. Our goal is to provide the best possible resolution for our clients.

We will work in the collective best interests of your family to come to an agreement that gives you the best opportunity to move forward with your life. If your case ends up in litigation or if an amicable agreement can be settled with your ex-spouse, our firm is prepared to handle a full range of possibilities.

DIVORCE FACTS
In the state of Florida, a divorce is referred to as a Dissolution of Marriage. In most cases, once the divorce is granted, all issues regarding money, property and children are resolved. Agreements can often be reached through mediation or otherwise, on one or more issues. Only those that remain unresolved are decided in court by a judge.

GROUNDS FOR DIVORCE
The state of Florida is a No-Fault state. There is no need to prove adultery, cruelty, emotional abuse or anything else of that nature. To obtain a divorce in Florida, one spouse must simply say that the marriage is over or that it is “irretrievably broken.”

RESIDENCY REQUIREMENT
The state of Florida does require that one of the spouses has had to live in the state for at least 6 consecutive months prior to filing for divorce.

WAITING PERIOD
In addition to the residency requirement, a final judgment of dissolution of marriage may not be entered until at least 20 days have elapsed from the date of filing the original petition for divorce. However, on a showing that injustice would result from this delay, the court may enter a final judgment of dissolution of marriage at an earlier date.

FILING FEE
The spouse filing the petition, also known as the petitioner, must pay the Court’s filing fee to begin the process. In Hillsborough County it is approximately $418.00.

You can obtain blank forms for filing a divorce or other family law matter on your own at the [Hillsborough Clerk’s website…]

Mediation Practice

Florida Supreme Court Certified Mediator Amber Boles

Divorce is ranked at the top of the list of stressful events in one’s life. The process of going through extended litigation can be expensive and uncertain. The final decisions and orders are based on a Judge’s rulings who doesn’t know the dynamics of you or your family. Unfortunately in these settings a winner and loser is typically declared.

Family mediation provides a means to reduce that and all the parties to meet with a neutral third party. Using a mediator can often allow you to avoid the expense, time, and hostilities of court proceedings. It provides a less expensive and adversarial means to resolving your divorce

In private mediation, a mediator works with all parties to help them reach voluntary agreements that work for their particular situation. The goal is to provide the opportunity for you negotiate and resolve issues in a manner you control of your fate and to reach a palatable resolution to your personal family matter..

You may use a private mediator –

You may review our mediation calendar above to find dates that are currently available for booking. Upon finding one simply fill out the required form and you will be contacted by a representative from our office. Click the Blue Button on the top right portion of the webpage to be taken to the Mediation Calendar.for the parties to move forward toward a happier life, where the final decisions is placed in the parties hands rather than have a family court judge decide what is best for your family.


Completing a Financial Affidavit is an important part of the Mediation Process. If you are considering using our Firm for the purposes of a mediation we will require a Financial Affidavit be completed if one has not already been filed in your case matter. The Florida Supreme Court has an approved a web-form that you can complete online. Click here to begin . . .

Alternatively, you can download a blank Financial Affidavit to print and complete as well, which can be found at the following link. Click here to download . . .

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