The Marks Law Firm Blog and New Updates

The Importance of Communication Among Co-parents Today

The Court expects you to talk with your co-parent…and you really should! Far too many times in dissolution of marriage (divorce) or paternity actions, rather than working together for their children, former spouses choose to parallel parent.  Parallel parenting can be defined as an arrangement where each parent makes decisions regarding health, routines, overall well-being of the child exclusively, when the minor child(ren) is under his or her care, respectively. Such a dynamic requires less interaction, which may result in less conflict.

Unfortunately, the difficulties begin when parallel parenting is the only effort being made. There will be circumstances where both parents are going to need to talk and provide a united front for the benefit of their child or children.

As a father myself, I will always remember the start of one Little League season where I overheard a parent having a conversation with a coach that their child would be missing games every other week while said child is with the other parent. With empathy, I couldn’t help but feel terrible for the child and the entire situation.

The need to communicate and make joint decisions has truly come to a head during the pandemic, especially when dealing with making choices regarding schooling for minor children.  The determination of whether to attend school virtually or in person can be a very difficult decision for an intact couple.  But for divorced parents, the logistics are harder and in turn, so is making that decision.  Unless you have agreed to a decision about attending school, timely communication is imperative, before classes begin. In situations parents cannot agree, our experienced family law attorneys are available to help. If necessary, the Court may need to get involved.

Daily communication isn’t always needed between co-parents, but consistent communication such as updates about school events or progress is important and required. We encourage our Clients to set aside any personal anger toward their former spouse, as he or she will always be your child’s other parent.  Many times, when you complain or criticize the other parent, you are upsetting or making your child feel badly.  When parents actively portray their former spouse in a positive manner, it creates a peaceful environment for the child or children involved.

To speak to a family law attorney regarding co-parenting issues or if you are having trouble navigating COVID issues, Virtual School vs. Face to Face Learning, please contact us today.

Photo Credit: Thomas Lefebvre via Unsplash

How to Navigate Timesharing Conflict as the Pandemic Continues

As the pandemic continues, former spouses with minor children may be struggling to maintain and agree on their Timesharing arrangements. Our experienced Family Law Attorneys are seeing a significant increase in conflict as it relates to Timesharing as well as disputes regarding school, whether in person or virtual and regarding travel with the minor children to social events, extended family gatherings, friends’ homes or vacation.

While the severity of the virus seems to fluctuate depending on the location and timing, it is not surprising to see child custody situations where one parent is perhaps hyper vigilant regarding the Coronavirus pandemic and the other parent has a more laissez-faire response to it. These opposite viewpoints create conflict easily.

In terms of prioritizing both mental and physical health before, during, or after a pandemic, our Team is committed to demonstrating that healthy co-parenting is what is most important and best for any children involved. Above all else, we choose to focus on the best outcome for the family overall and of course the best interest of the minor children.

In situations where former spouses cannot come together to co-parent as a team, it might be beneficial to seek co-parenting therapy with a licensed mental health counselor to help guide them through this difficult time.

We know several highly qualified licensed mental health therapists and psychologists able to help in the situations if anyone needs a referral.

There are also extreme cases where sometimes court intervention becomes necessary. However, because the legal process can be cumbersome even in normal times, it may not prove to be a timely solution, especially now in abnormal times. However, we have had success in getting the court to order expedited hearings.

Seeking alternative conflict resolution methods, such as mediation, settlement conferences and co-parenting therapy to avoid the legal system, if possible, can be effective.

Our attorneys are available and willing to help resolve these areas of conflict in a peaceful and amicable way. By doing so, our hope is that both parties avoid an unnecessary legal battle, which may result in potential harm to the minor children. However, sometimes if the parties are unable to agree, court intervention becomes necessary.

Contact us today if you are in need of assistance with a family law matter. We are accepting new Clients and remain available to serve you.

Photo Credit: Juliane Liebermann via Unsplash.

A Family Law Attorney’s Guide to the Financial Affidavit

One of the most important documents in any case is the Financial Affidavit.  In that pleading, the petitioner is swearing not only to their monthly income, but also their monthly expenses, assets and liabilities.  In my practice, I have reviewed countless Financial Affidavits, and there is a consistent error that plagues far too many of them.  Too many financial affidavits calculate monthly income and expenses incorrectly by calculating income or expenses based on four weeks in a month.  As there are 52 weeks a year and 12 months so each month averages 4.33333 weeks.  The only time 4 weeks is correct is for February, but that is only in three out of four years.

To properly calculate a monthly amount, use the formulas below.

Weekly:

Amount x 52 weeks = a yearly amount then divide by 12 months

Example:  daycare is $130 per week

$130 x 52 = 6,760

6,760 / 12 = $ 563.33 per month

Bi-Weekly:

Amount x 26 weeks = a yearly amount then divide by 12 months

Example: Bob is paid $1,000 bi-weekly

1,000 x 26 = $26,000 a year

$26,000 / 12 = 2,166.67 a month

Semi Monthly:

Amount x 2 = for a monthly amount

or

Amount x 24 = a yearly amount then divide by 12 to get a monthly amount

Example: Susan is paid $2,000 twice a month

2,000 x 24 = 48,000 a year

$48,000 / 12 = 4,000                       or            $2,000 x 2 = $4,000

Hourly:

Amount per hour x hours per week worked = weekly amount x 52 = yearly amount

Yearly amount/ 12 to determine monthly amount

Example imputation at minimum wage of $8.10 an hour

8.10 x 40 = $324 per week

$324 x 52 = $16,848 per year

$16,848 / 12 = $1,404 per month

Using these equations, you can convert any amount to a monthly amount and avoid the possibility of having an incorrect figure on your Financial Affidavit due to a basic error.

Should you have further questions regarding the Financial Affidavit, we would be happy to provide a referral for a trusted Financial Advisor.

To speak with one of our Family Law Attorneys, contact us today. As an essential business, we remain open to serve your Family Law needs.

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How to Strengthen Your Marriage During a Pandemic

In recent weeks, you may have heard that numerous couples in China are considering divorce after being quarantined at home for several months. While the United States is just beginning to experience the effects of the Coronavirus, multiple states have enforced “Stay at Home Orders.” Florida’s governor issued the state’s Stay at Home Order – effective Friday, 12:01 a.m. April 3, 2020. This means that couples in Florida and across the country are being forced to stay at home together for extended periods of time under difficult circumstances.

For some marriages, the additional time together is welcomed and appreciated. However, for other couples, issues that may have been ignored due to work schedules, travel, prioritizing children, etc. have now become top of mind.

In order to thrive in your marriage during this time of uncertainty and turmoil, we encourage couples to take the following steps.

  1. Communicate: Perhaps there are sensitive subjects that you have been avoiding in your marriage. Now is the perfect time for you and your spouse to share your perspectives and be honest about your feelings. Part of effective communication includes our ability to listen. Make sure that you are giving each other your full attention when one of you is speaking.
  2. Remain Respectful: With routines being disrupted and jobs exploring remote options, many of us are facing rapid change. Life as we knew it has seemingly transformed quickly, which can be overwhelming. Meet one another with patience and grace. Remember that your spouse is not your enemy.
  3. Work as a Team: Families with young children may be undergoing additional stress due to schools implementing virtual learning. In order to lessen the tension in your home, tackle as much as you can together. Keep each other in the loop about your children’s schedules, household chores, etc.
  4. Consider Counseling: Several therapists are now offering remote counseling via Skype, Zoom and other platforms. This might be a good time to consider working on the marriage and addressing issues that may have come to light due to the extended time spent together at home, social distancing and sheltering in place. Many divorced or separated parents living in different homes are finding new and difficult challenges with timesharing also.

While being at home may seem isolating, please keep in mind there are resources available if you need assistance navigating your marriage during this time. Please visit our Therapists Corner Column for more insight on the impact of the Coronavirus from trusted Mental Health Professionals in our Central Florida community.

Should you need a recommendation, please contact our office for referrals to highly skilled and reliable therapists in Central Florida.

It is our Mission: “To Honor God and Faithfully Represent our Clients with Great Leadership, Attitude, Excellence and Teamwork.”

At any time, if you feel led to allow our Team to pray for you, we are always accepting prayer requests. To submit a prayer request, click here.

If you would like to speak with one of our Family Law Attorneys, our office remains open as an essential business and you may contact us at (407) 872-3161.

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Coronavirus: The Impact on Timesharing (Child Custody)

On behalf of all of us here at The Marks Law Firm, P.A. we hope that you and yours are doing your best to stay healthy and safe.

We would like to inform you that the Ninth Judicial Circuit has entered an Amended Emergency Temporary Order related to timesharing for cases in progress and it also applies to cases in which a Final Judgment has been entered. For your convenience, we have included a copy of the Order below.

Amended Emergency Temporary Standing Order

In addition, we have copied and pasted the portion related to timesharing and shelter in place orders as follows:

In the event the Governor of Florida and/or any other government official issues an order that requires parties to “shelter in place,” the parties are to discuss where the child(ren) are in the best position to meet the requirements of their school, remain with siblings if possible, and be safe. If the parties cannot agree, the parent with the majority of timesharing (183 over nights) shall keep the child(ren) until the shelter in place order is lifted, or a Court Order is entered. The Court will have jurisdiction to consider all appropriate remedial measures, including make-up timesharing, once Emergency Orders and Procedures are lifted and the Courts return to normal operations. Parties are to resume time sharing as outlined in paragraph “c” above once the shelter in place orders are lifted. This shall continue until the parties are able to secure hearing time with the Court to address possible, make up timesharing.

At this time, both Orange and Osceola Counties have entered shelter in place orders and the Amended Administrative Order would be effective for ongoing cases or Judgments entered by the Ninth Judicial Circuit.

As our firm is able to stay open as an essential business, we remain available to aid our Clients.

Should you have any questions, please call our office at (407) 872-3161.

Photo by Benjamin Manley on Unsplash

 

 

The Marks Law Firm, P.A. Celebrates 28 Years of Service in Central Florida

Some of you may know, March 1, 2020 marked the 28th anniversary of The Marks Law Firm, P.A. Over the years, we have earned a reputation throughout Central Florida for excellence in Family Law. It is our Mission: “To Honor God and Faithfully Represent our Clients with Great Leadership, Attitude, Excellence and Teamwork.”

In addition to our Mission Statement, our Team embodies the following Core Values:

Integrity • Heart for the Client – Going the Extra Mile • Excellence in Work Product/Timely • Great Teamwork • Great Attitude • Continuous Improvement/Growth • Leadership Abilities • Humility • Creativity/Strategic Thinking • Healthy Boundaries

As time passes, we remain committed to serving all of Central Florida, including Orange, Seminole, Osceola, Volusia, Brevard and Lake Counties.

When I started the firm 28 short years ago, I was just discovering my passion for Family Law. In the early years, I needed to establish the connection between honoring God and the turmoil that the majority of divorcing Clients experience. For me, it has always been important to prioritize the family overall, especially when there are young children involved. My Team and I encourage reconciliation, when appropriate and the Parties are open to it.

Of course, there are situations where couples choose to move forward with divorce. In those circumstances, it is imperative as legal advocates, to offer guidance and patience. Our Clients come to us during an immensely vulnerable time in their lives. It is truly a privilege to help them navigate the divorce process. This is one reason all three Attorneys in the firm offer Collaborative Law as an alternative to the traditional litigation model. We also encourage our Clients to engage in healthy and productive therapy to help them and the children navigate through the process.

While each case is unique, we have been able to witness numerous examples of success even after a divorce from our former Clients. Some families have become blended, other marriages have been restored, and new beginnings have occurred. There is life after divorce.

Thank you to our former Clients, colleagues and friends who have trusted us with Family Law matters and continuously refer cases to our Team. We appreciate your trust and support.

Cheers to the next 28 years!

Common Misconceptions of Divorce

In our society today, it can sometimes be difficult to avoid the influence of media and television. While we know that many real-life circumstances are portrayed with exaggeration and embellishment, the lines between reality and fantasy are often blurred. The divorce process is regularly explored in film, sitcoms, and even reality television. However, have you ever wondered just how much of what we see on television is an accurate representation of family law?

Below are a few common misconceptions of the divorce process.

All cases require both parties to attend court proceedings: This statement is false. In the state of Florida, mediation is a required part of the divorce process. What does this mean? Spouses (and their attorneys, if legal representation has been retained) meet with a neutral professional in an effort to resolve the case. During mediation, each spouse has the opportunity to make decisions and have a direct impact on the outcome of their case. Rather than rely on a Judge to come to a final ruling, mediation allows couples to explore solutions that work best for everyone involved.

Child custody arrangements only revolve around an every other weekend schedule: On television, we see this custody arrangement displayed more often than not. Timesharing, formerly known as Child Custody is more complex and personal than an every other weekend schedule. In some divorce cases, one parent may have the children during the week, while the other is awarded weekends, or there may be a 50/50 timesharing schedule, or something in between. Each family dynamic is unique, and timesharing is determined by taking many factors into consideration such as work schedules, living arrangements, etc. Before initiating a divorce, you may want to communicate any expectations regarding timesharing with your spouse.

Once you begin the steps to initiate your divorce, reconciliation is no longer an option: While some attorneys may not support the opportunity to reconcile with your spouse, our Team at The Marks Law Firm, P.A. encourages reconciliation when appropriate. We gladly refer our Clients to trusted marriage counselors and other professionals who would positively impact the marriage. Our experienced family law attorneys are committed to serving Clients in a way that honors God and what is best for the family. Several of our Former Clients have withdrawn their divorce petitions in favor of reconciliation.

It is our Mission: “To Honor God and Faithfully Represent our Clients with Great Leadership, Attitude, Excellence and Teamwork.”

To speak with one of our attorneys about the steps in the divorce process, contact us to schedule a consultation today.

 

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

 

Three Things You Should Know Before Filing for Divorce

While in many cases, divorce allows former spouses to move forward from conflict, reevaluate priorities, and learn to co-parent efficiently, the early stages of separation can be challenging. If you or someone you know is considering divorce, we encourage you to become more familiar with the process.

Before filing for divorce, you should be aware of the following:

1. Options that would meet your specific needs: Do you have minor children? Have you heard about parenting plans? Are you familiar with collaborative divorce? Did you know that mediation is generally required in the state of Florida? These are all questions to ask yourself before pursuing the divorce process.

For parents with children, it is important to consider how to navigate co-parenting successfully. The two of you should be on the same page regarding important timelines and the overall needs of your family. Children often have full schedules including school engagements, after school activities, etc. Also, it is important to make sure birthdays and holidays are accounted for in your conversations and development of a parenting plan. Perhaps you and your former spouse have a general idea of how many overnight visits each of you would like with the children. Discussing such details in the beginning of the divorce process may alleviate tension as you move forward.

In order to avoid court fees and increased wait times to appear in front of a judge, mediation is an imperative step in Florida divorce proceedings. Unlike a full trial, meditation is typically resolved with attorneys and an impartial (third-party) mediator. This route allows former spouses to directly contribute to solutions that will impact the outcome of their case.

As suggested by its name, collaborative divorce involves an environment where both parties work together with trained professionals to come to a resolution in the best interest of the family as a whole. When couples choose collaborative divorce, they work with an entire team including the attorneys on both sides, a mediator, financial professional and mental health counselor.

2. Potential timelines for a resolution: According to DivorceNet, on average a divorce case can take 6 months + to complete. Timelines are often determined by how long it takes for parties to agree on child support payments, custody (timesharing), visitation, division of property and debts, and alimony. Cases where former couples can come to an agreement rather quickly may be resolved in a matter of weeks.

3. Associated costs: In addition to initial consultation fees, many attorneys have specific hourly rates depending on certifications, years of experience, educational background, etc. When you are searching for an attorney to represent you in your divorce, you may want to ask about the costs that will accumulate throughout your case.

Should you be interested in discussing further details of divorce or dissolution of marriage, contact us today.

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4 Steps to Take After Your Initial Consultation

Meeting with an attorney for an initial consultation can be overwhelming. Perhaps you have not been in the position to seek legal advice before. Once you have an opportunity to discuss your family law case with an experienced Central Florida attorney, you may be left wondering what to do next.

Depending on your overall experience going through the consultation process, you may want to consider the following steps:

  1. Contemplate your options: Before you decide to retain an attorney, you might want to ask yourself the following questions.
  • Can my marriage be saved?
  • Have my spouse and I exhausted all efforts to maintain our relationship?
  • Are my spouse and I willing to try counseling?
  • Would a Collaborative strategy meet the needs of my family?
  • Am I ready to take legal action?
  1. Review your notes: During your initial consultation, the attorney will ask questions to get to know you and the specifics of your case better. Many potential clients use this time to write down how the meeting went from their personal point of view. Did you feel comfortable discussing the details of your case with an attorney? Are you confident in his or her ability to serve as a legal advocate on your behalf?
  1. Determine your ability to follow through with a fee agreement: There are many factors that contribute to an attorney’s hourly rate such as experience, industry training, educational background, etc. Be sure to carefully read any documentation related to fees and/or retainers. Don’t hesitate to ask for clarification if there is anything you don’t fully understand.
  2. Contact the attorney to retain services: Once you have made the decision to take legal action, it is imperative to get in touch with the attorney you would like to represent you. Remember, every case is unique and different. It is important to manage your expectations. Should you have questions regarding policies and procedures that the attorney and/or legal team follow, let them know as soon as possible.

If it turns out that the timing isn’t right to move forward, you still might choose to keep your notes and contact information for the attorney in a safe place, in the event that you decide to pursue your case at a later date.

To speak with one of our attorneys, contact us today.

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FAQ Initial Consultation Edition

Prior to scheduling an initial consultation, you may have several questions regarding the legal process. Below are examples of questions we have received from potential clients who have been interested in coming in for an initial consultation. Corresponding answers are included as well.

It is our Mission: “To Honor God and Faithfully Represent our Clients with Great Leadership, Attitude, Excellence and Teamwork.”

Q: How many years of experience do each of the attorneys have?

A: To view specific levels of experience for each attorney, visit their respective profiles here.

Q: Are there different hourly rates for each attorney at The Marks Law Firm, P.A.?

A: Yes, if you are interested in learning more about each attorney’s hourly rate, please contact us at 407-872-3161.

Q: Do I need to submit a deposit prior to coming in for an initial consultation?

A: Yes, to reserve your initial consultation appointment time, you may call our office.

Q: How do I move forward with booking an initial consultation at The Marks Law Firm, P.A.?

A: If you are interested in scheduling an initial consultation with one of our experienced family law attorneys, you may fill out our contact form or do so over the phone.

Q: Is it possible to hold an initial consultation with an attorney over the phone or via Skype?

A: Yes, if you would prefer to attend an initial consultation over the phone or via Skype, please let us know when scheduling your appointment and we will do our best to accommodate your request.

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