The Marks Law Firm Blog and New Updates

How Can Collaborative Divorce Benefit You and Your Family?

Whether you are embarking on the divorce process now or contemplating your options regarding the future of your marriage, it is important to base your decision on what is best for your family. What worked for someone else may not lead to an ideal resolution for you. If your efforts toward a reconciliation have been unsuccessful, we encourage you to consider a collaborative divorce.

Three of our attorneys at The Marks Law Firm are collaboratively trained, experienced, and dedicated to building a custom team of professionals best suited for your family law case.

When couples are experiencing divorce, it is very likely that they will need assistance beyond legal representation. Who is on your team?

Family Law Attorney

Whoever you choose to be your legal advocate and counselor should work closely with you and your professional team to maximize your goals and interests,  in order to achieve the best possible outcome for you.

Financial Professional

A financial neutral can assist you and your spouse in identifying and determining the value of your assets and debts. They can also help you understand your complete financial situation and provide you with financial options to help you and your family achieve your goals and interests for the future.

Mental Health Professional

Your mental health professional will also serve as a neutral member of your professional team and will guide you and your spouse to effective communication. He or she will help you create a positive co-parenting relationship with your spouse and work with you to develop a parenting plan that maximizes the benefits to your children.

To learn more about collaborative divorce and why it might be the best option for your family, contact us to schedule a consultation with one of our collaborative attorneys today.

Considering a Prenuptial Agreement?

Are you recently engaged or in the process of planning an upcoming wedding? If so, your feelings of excitement and joy, may also be met with expressions of concern for yourself or from those closest to you. Most couples marry for the right reasons and have the best intentions leading up to the wedding. However, divorce and separation are becoming more accepted in our society today. Unfortunately, some marriages end in turmoil and disappointment.

Perhaps you are in a financial position where you would like to protect your assets if your marriage and relationship cannot be reconciled.

Talk to your partner.

Once you have decided to spend the rest of your life with someone, communication should be open and honest. Share your concerns and be willing to listen what your future spouse has to say. While he or she may be hesitant to move forward with a prenuptial agreement, make it clear that it is important for the two of you to come to a decision together.

Consult with an Attorney.

Come up with questions you might want to ask a legal professional and be clear about what you want to accomplish through your agreement. He or she will help you organize and prepare a document that will help protect your interests. In most cases, the two of you will need to retain separate representation, as an attorney cannot represent both parties.

Decide what is best for your personal situation.

Depending on the specifics of your relationship and lifestyle, a prenuptial agreement may be unnecessary. Consider your resources, plans for the future, etc. Although other couples may choose to implement a prenuptial agreement as part of their planning, do not allow your judgment to be clouded by comparison. Be intentional with your decision and research your options.

Our Central Florida Family Law Attorneys are committed to serving our clients as they embark on the journey of marriage. To schedule a consultation, click here.

Three Common Challenges Blended Families Face

Many times, when couples are experiencing marriage again after a divorce, a new spouse isn’t the only addition to the family. Second marriages not only represent a sense of hope, but may also include a season filled with challenges and transition. For newlyweds with children from previous relationships, it is especially important to manage any expectations regarding the new family dynamic. While television shows and movies often idealize the lives of blended families, parents should make an effort to be sensitive and mindful of their children’s feelings.

When two families are coming together as one, the honeymoon phase may be short lived. Despite each parents’ willingness and determination to create a perfect new life as a blended family, they may not be able to avoid the tension and trials that come up as a result of their union. In fact, there are many challenges blended families struggle to overcome.

Coping with Sacrifice

Young children especially may not realize how many changes will take place once other siblings come into the picture. In situations where the stepsiblings didn’t have an opportunity to get to know each other prior to spending extended periods of time together, they may not understand or expect any sacrifice necessary, financial or otherwise. Validate their feelings, and explain how each member of your new family will need to sacrifice at one point or another for the overall benefit of everyone involved.

 Maintaining Inclusivity

Perhaps most of the new siblings get along and enjoy quality time together. However, it is not unusual for one or more of the children to experience feelings of isolation. Easing into a new normal where each child has an opportunity to express his or herself in a safe and open environment is imperative.

Keeping up with Schedules

Age groups, interests, commitments, academic needs, etc. all contribute to the family’s evolving calendar. At first, establishing a routine may seem impossible. After all, the children depend on you and your spouse for transportation and punctuality. Even if co-parents are present and willing to help, you might consider leaning on extended family to make sure everyone is accounted for. Communication is key.

Our Team at The Marks Law Firm, P.A. recognizes the support and patience necessary for blended families to blossom and thrive as a successful unit. We also value the insight and experience of mental health professionals in the Central Florida community. To learn more about blended families, visit our Therapists Corner column.

Co-parenting: How to Prepare for the School Year

For our children, it may seem as though summer just started. Department stores, television commercials, print advertisements, etc. remind us that the back to school season is on the horizon. Children and parents who are readjusting from a divorce, may experience more anxiety than typical concerns students have prior to the first day.

If you are attempting to balance the pressures of the upcoming school year along with easing into a co-parenting arrangement, we assure you, it is possible. While doing so may be challenging and emotional, communication and planning will benefit everyone involved.

Clearly Identify Responsibilities

Depending on the specifics of your parenting plan, both you and your former spouse may be expected to financially contribute to your child’s supply needs. In addition to the costs associated with back to school season, transportation and meals should be accounted for. We shouldn’t assume that carpooling arrangements will be the same as prior school years as professional commitments change and availability may be impacted. Remember, it is imperative to be upfront with what is expected of each parent prior to the first day of school.

Keep a Written or Digital Record of Schedules

Classes, extracurricular activities, tutoring, volunteering, etc. vary depending on your child’s needs and interests. With other responsibilities, it can be easy to lose track of events. Maintaining an agenda or digital calendar that can be shared with your former spouse will help ensure your kids are present for appointments or other points of interest. This will also eliminate any potential confusion regarding your children’s whereabouts.

Inform Teachers and School Staff of Co-parenting

When you have an opportunity to meet your child’s new teacher, let him or her know of any specific concerns you have regarding your co-parenting arrangement. Most cases resolve with the children staying with one parent for all or much of the school week. However, there are unique situations where the children may need to bring additional belongings to school for extended stays with your former spouse. Divorce comes with many moving parts. Be honest about how your child is handling the transition so that his or her teacher can anticipate any behavioral patterns.

Are you interested in speaking with one of our Central Florida Attorneys regarding your co-parenting concerns? Schedule a consultation here.

Co-parenting and Child Support: Knowing Your Rights

Being a single parent wasn’t part of the future you envisioned for yourself or for your marriage. Regardless of your differences or imperfections as a couple, both you and your former spouse have an opportunity to be present and positive influences as parents. Outside of situations where emotional or physical harm to the children are at risk, each parent should be able to maintain, or build (depending on the child’s age) a relationship with his or her kids.

When you are embarking on the divorce process, it is easy to become overwhelmed with dividing assets, determining potential alimony payments, selling the marital home, etc. Your children, however, should remain a top priority as well. As co-parents, you and your former spouse will be connected through your children for years to come.

Perhaps you are concerned with what the outcome of your divorce will mean for your new family dynamic. Our Orlando Divorce Attorneys are available to answer questions that are specific to your case. Legal Teams at the Marks Law Firm have served as guides to our clients who choose not to navigate their family law matters alone.

In addition to each parent’s income, different factors such as children with special needs, behavioral issues, mental health struggles, etc. will all play a role in the amount of child support awarded. Although your previous attempts to receive child support payments on your own may have been unsuccessful, consulting with an attorney may help you better understand your rights and evaluate your options.

To speak with one of our experienced attorneys, schedule a consultation.

Timesharing: Making the Most Out of Your Summer

As your children embrace the start of their summer vacation, they may be wondering what will keep them busy in the coming months. While some parents may play each day by ear, if you adhere to a timesharing schedule, it is especially important to make the most of any quality time with your children. Rather than letting yourself become overwhelmed with uncertainty, be intentional with your time.

Even with the likely time restrictions outlined in your timesharing arrangement, it is still possible to give your children and yourself a memorable and fulfilling summer.

Plan Ahead:

Perhaps there are specific activities your children have expressed interest in doing. Maintain a calendar outlining what you would like to accomplish in your free time together.

Communicate Clearly:

Depending on your situation, regular contact with your former spouse may not be effective. However, it is important to make sure he or she remains in the loop, especially if extended travel is planned. In an effort to remain on the same page and avoid misunderstandings, be honest about your children’s whereabouts.

Have Options:

With hurricane season officially underway, the weather may not always cooperate with beach trips or theme park outings. On days where outdoor fun must be postponed, consider having an indoor picnic or movie marathon.

Seek Learning Opportunities:

Since school is no longer in session, your children may not have access to engaged learning opportunities every day. Research programs at your local library or special summer events at the science center. Learning can be fun for the entire family.

Be Present:

Although your professional commitments may limit your free time during the week, make an effort to give your children undivided attention when your schedule permits. After all, the moments you spend together will become memories. Try not to get caught up in the busy parts of your day. Instead, prioritize a few minutes of quality time with your children as often as possible. Sharing a meal or reading together before bed will show your children that you value your time together.

 

If you, or your former spouse are struggling with timesharing this summer, schedule a consultation with one of our Orlando Family Law Attorneys today.

Is Parallel Parenting Right for You?

In high conflict cases where former spouses struggle to communicate or agree on what is best for their children, co-parenting can seem like a daunting task. The divorce process is just the beginning. Your marriage may be over, but when you have kids, you will be connected to your former spouse for years to come. While most legal teams make an effort to advocate in the best interest of the children involved, regular communication between former spouses is not always an ideal solution.

Co-parenting vs. Parallel Parenting

Although each approach relies on a timesharing agreement, there are clear differences among the two.

Co-parenting consists of each parent regularly communicating with each other as it relates to their child’s schedule, expenses, academics, health, etc., as well as possibly joining forces for birthdays, school functions, and extracurricular activities. It allows both parents the opportunity to voice concerns directly and in person as situations arise. Decisions regarding the children are made together, rather than by one parent alone.

Parallel parenting is a newer arrangement where former spouses are not expected to be in constant contact with one another . In other words, by utilizing this method to avoid conflict and possible tension, each parent protects the children from the negativity associated with their difficulty to communicate. To decrease the need for communication, decision making may be split between parents. For example, the child’s mother may be responsible for health related choices, while the father may have the final say in regards to after school activities. Over time, some parallel parenting arrangements evolve into versions of co-parenting, as resentment weakens and children become the overall focus.

For those who are interested in pursuing a parallel parenting plan, we encourage you to consider which approach would best fit the needs of your children and new family dynamic. The decision may seem overwhelming at first, but there are a variety of resources available to make the transition to parallel parenting easier.

If you are unsure of which option would work best for your case, we encourage you to contact our office and speak with one of our Central Florida Family Law Attorneys today.

How to Handle Timesharing with Ease

Once a case is resolved, former spouses have the opportunity to settle into a new routine. For clients with children, a parenting plan is implemented to outline primary residency, school zoning, expenses and reimbursement expectations, and timesharing (formerly known as child custody). While not all marriages end amicably, in most cases, each parent strives to do what is best for the children involved, despite their own preferences or feelings toward the other party.

Whether they decide to co-parent or parallel parent, timesharing can be difficult at first. Perhaps you are struggling to adjust to having less time with your child. Fear not, over time we have witnessed former clients thrive as they adjusted to a new family dynamic.

Manage your Expectations.

It is important to consider that everyone involved is going through a transition. Make an effort to meet your former spouse, your child and yourself with grace. As each of you adjust to new schedules, ways of communicating, etc., several emotions will come to the surface.

Be Mindful of your Audience.

When you are reunited with your child, it may be tempting to invite others to join in on the excitement. However, you may want to be sensitive to the fact that your son or daughter could be looking forward to alone time with you. At first, he or she may want to only spend time with you rather than with extended family, such as aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc.

Practice Empathy.

Remember the moments where you are dreading the hand off and returning to a quiet home. Each parent should treat the other how they would want to be treated. In order to alleviate stress for everyone, be aware of your body language, your tone and the general agenda of what should take place at your hand off. Some parenting plans specify that a neutral location be used for timesharing arrangements. Others might request former spouses refrain from discussing parenting issues in front of the child, to avoid tension. Put yourself in the shoes of your vulnerable child.

To speak to an attorney regarding your parenting plan or timesharing arrangement, call our office today.

Florida Supports Your Desire to Dissolve Your Marriage in a Private and Humane Way

Choosing the Collaborative Law Process for your divorce offers you a wealth of benefits not typically available in a traditional court divorce, and our Florida Legislature has created a State Law that supports the Collaborative Law Process.

On March 24, 2016, Governor Rick Scott signed The Collaborative Law Process Act into law “to create a uniform system of practice for the collaborative law process in this State…and to encourage the peaceful resolution of disputes…”

By signing the Collaborative Law Process Act, Florida confirmed that it recognizes the collaborative process as a unique alternative for couples to resolve their differences without having to engage in costly court battles and other destructive litigation as part of all out warfare on the other spouse.

Here’s an interesting fact…the collaborative process is used throughout the United States and in 24 countries!

So what are the top three benefits you will get from a collaborative process that you will not get if you choose to submit your family and its issues to a Judge?

BENEFIT #1 – YOUR DIVORCE IS PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL

When a typical divorce begins, one spouse will prepare court documents that will be filed and served upon the other spouse.  When you file documents with a court, everything in those documents is available to the public.  It would be like standing on the highest mountain on earth and shouting that you and your spouse are getting divorced along with all of the financial details and your family’s other “dirty laundry.”  Everyone will know what should be a private affair.

The collaborative process provides that communications made during the process are confidential.  You have a privilege to keep those communications private and to prohibit them from being disclosed to anyone.

BENEFIT #2 – LESS TIME TO GET YOUR DIVORCE

When you submit your family’s issues to a court to decide what is best for your family you will likely have to file motions, attend hearings, and timely respond to your spouse’s formal requests for information.  This means that you will be at the mercy of the court’s calendar and availability.  If you need the court to make a decision regarding an issue in your divorce, it may be 3 to 5 months before you can get in front of the Judge assigned to your case, and you may not receive a decision in your favor.

The collaborative process can reduce the amount of time it takes to get divorced.  There are no motions, no court hearings, and no formal discovery requests seeking your private information.  Rather, the collaborative process is transparent.  Documents and other information is voluntarily provided and exchanged between you and your spouse.

Not having to rely on the court will likely provide you with a divorce much quicker than the traditional courtroom battle divorce.

BENEFIT #3 – IT CAN SAVE YOU MONEY

Courtroom divorce battles can drag on for years and cost a family its entire estate and life savings in fees.  In a typical family case fought in the courtroom, emotional issues, anger, resentment, and disputes over children can dominate an attorney’s time and mental energy which results in significantly increased fees and costs you have to pay.

It is not uncommon for people to withdraw 401(k) funds, sell stocks, homes, cars, and other belongings to be able to pay for their attorney’s fees, expert fees, and costs.  In addition, many divorce legal battles involve one spouse not having enough money to be able to afford an attorney.

If you choose the collaborative process for your divorce, both you and your spouse will have the same access to family funds to pay for your divorce.  Moreover, since there will be no motions and hearings, you will not have to spend money on often needless and unnecessary legal gamesmanship.

WHAT NEXT?

Those are just three of the benefits you will likely take advantage of when you choose the collaborative process.  There are many more!

I encourage you to explore the collaborative process for your divorce or other family law legal matter.  All of the attorneys at The Marks Law Firm are collaboratively trained and experienced which sets them apart from other law firms.  Give us a call today at (407) 872-3161 to schedule an appointment to talk about your options and how the collaborative process might work for you.

Arthur J. Grossman III is a Senior Attorney with The Marks Law Firm, P.A., in Orlando Florida focusing 100% on marital and family law matters.  He is the only practicing family law attorney in Florida with a Master of Laws degree in Dispute Resolution from The Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution at Pepperdine University School of Law in Malibu California and the #1-Ranked Program in the United States.  He serves on the Board of Directors for the Florida Academy of Collaborative Professionals and the Family Law Committee of the Orange County Bar Association.

5 Reasons Why Mediation is Encouraged During Divorce

Mediation is often underrated compared to litigation when couples are in the middle of dissolution of marriage. Certainly, there are many situations where pursuing litigation is necessary. However, if both spouses are hoping to proceed with their case amicably, mediation should be an option and is often required by the Court. Many couples experiencing divorce may not be aware of the benefits of mediation.

Our Family Law attorneys at The Marks Law Firm are advocates for our clients and their children and we support mediation wherever possible.

Mediation is encouraged for the following reasons:

1. Cost:
In general, mediation costs vary depending on the rates of the mediator as well as the length of the mediation, but in almost all cases, the total fees charged are less than the cost of a Trial, not to mention, the emotional toll that comes along with litigation. Consequently, it is important to consider how much your peace of mind is worth.

2. Influence of Outcome:
Rather than depending on a Judge and his or her ruling in order to determine the resolution of your case, mediation provides each party with the opportunity to come up with possible solutions throughout that are more flexible than a judge is permitted to order. Parties are directly involved with decision making and can come up with out of the box solutions.

3. Welcoming of Pro Se Parties:
Even if you are not in the financial position to retain an attorney, you can still move forward with a divorce while consulting a mediator, who handles mediation where the parties are unrepresented.

4. Mediators are Expected to be Impartial:
While you may not anticipate every aspect of your case to be resolved without some conflict, your mediator will focus on helping the parties reach an amicable resolution. He or she does not choose sides.

5. Time:
Going to Trial in the process of finalizing your divorce means you are now subject to the Court’s availability, dictates and schedule. Choosing mediation gives you more control over how long it takes to reach a resolution of your case.