The Marks Law Firm Blog and New Updates

Communicating with the Neutrals in a Collaborative Case

Florida’s Collaborative Process is a neutral process where both parties agree on an alternative to litigation. Potential candidates for Collaborative Law include spouses and unmarried parents who have at least some common goals, a genuine desire to protect their minor children from the Divorce process, as well as those who are intentional about being solution-focused.

Who are the Collaborative Neutrals? In a Collaborative setting, two neutrals are present throughout Team meetings with both parties and their Family Law Collaborative Attorneys. The Mental Health Neutral serves as the Facilitator, meaning he or she will in essence run each Collaborative Team Meeting. Both parties will work with the Mental Health Neutral to complete the Parenting Plan. As a Neutral, the Mental Health Professional will consider goals that are in the best interest of the minor children, rather than just the wishes of the Family Law Clients.

Known as a more private approach to Family Law, sensitive financial documents in a Collaborative case do not need to be filed publicly with the Court. Instead, the Financial Neutral will assist both parties in preparing the financial affidavit, mandatory disclosure, equitable distribution worksheet, etc. Examples of qualified and Collaboratively trained Financial Neutrals are Certified Public Accountants, Forensic Accountants, or Business Valuation Experts.

What separates Collaborative Neutrals from the Collaboratively trained Family Law Attorneys?

While Orlando Family Law Attorneys in a Collaborative case are not considered opposing counsel, they are still ethically obligated to advocate for their respective Client and not for the other party. Confidentiality between Clients and their attorneys is still a priority. However, in circumstances where Clients meet with their Mental Health Neutral or Financial Neutral, confidentiality is not required.

According to the Florida Supreme Court, all Family Law Attorneys must provide Collaborative Law as an option to all prospective Family Law Clients as an alternative to the traditional litigation model. However, not all Family Law Attorneys in Florida are Collaboratively trained. Our Team at The Marks Law Firm, P.A. is dedicated to navigating the Divorce process in a way that honors everyone involved and we believe that Collaborative Law offers our Clients an opportunity to resolve their case in a way that is peaceful and amicable. All of our Family Law Attorneys are Collaboratively trained and are here to help you.

If you have questions regarding communicating with the neutrals in a Collaborative case, or would like to speak with one of our Orlando Family Law Attorneys about the Collaborative Process, please call our office at (407) 872-3161.

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

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What to Expect in the First Collaborative Team Meeting

As a Family Law Client who chooses to proceed with your case by utilizing the Collaborative Process in Florida, you may be curious about what will happen in the first meeting. Remember, Collaborative Law is a voluntary process. Both you and your spouse will work with Collaboratively trained Family Law Attorneys who will prepare you for this meeting.

At the first meeting, you and your spouse will come together with your respective attorneys, a Financial Neutral and a Mental Health Neutral. You can anticipate that the Mental Health Neutral on your Collaborative Team will facilitate each meeting. Right away, he or she will explain the Collaborative Process and its purpose. Once an overview of Collaborative Law has been presented, the Mental Health Neutral will go over the necessary documents needed for your case to be resolved. Examples of such documents include a Collaborative Participation Agreement.

Our Collaboratively trained Orlando Family Law Attorneys at the Marks Law Firm, P.A. believe the most important part of the meeting follows, which is goal setting. At this point, you and your spouse will each share what your goals are and what you would like to see come out of the Collaborative Process for your Family Law case. Each professional on your Collaborative Team wants to see the process succeed and will support you along the way.

Prior to the first Collaborative Team meeting, you should meet with your Family Law Attorney to discuss your specific goals and gain his or her insight. You are an important part of the Team and your trusted Collaboratively trained Family Law Attorney should have sound legal advice for you in order to make sure the Collaborative Process runs smoothly.

During the goal setting stage of the first Collaborative Team Meeting, it is imperative that both parties present their goals in a way that can be easily understood and agreed upon. Of course, the most common goals in many Collaborative cases involve protecting the minor children and ensuring their security and stability. By choosing the Collaborative Process, you are remaining focused on solutions and prioritizing peace and transparency throughout your case.

One specific goal might involve where the children will reside once your divorce has been finalized. Some Clients decide it’s best for the minor children to remain in the marital home where they can maintain familiarity (friendships, neighborhood activities, schooling, etc.) however, it is a common goal that the children spend as much time as possible with both parents. Another common goal could revolve around the children’s financial future.

Looking ahead to building a foundation of ongoing and positive communication amongst the co-parents may be a common goal as well. While your marriage may be ending, your commitment to the wellbeing of your children and the preservation of your family as you and your spouse move forward should not change.

While the goals mentioned above may be envisioned by both parties, in some Collaborative cases, Timesharing (also known as Child Custody) agreements may require more conversation and compromise from the co-parents. Ultimately, Timesharing schedules should reflect what is in the true best interest of the minor children, above the desires of either co-parent.

Another goal that may be brought up in the first Collaborative Team Meeting relates to spousal support. If you or your spouse has a financial need to receive alimony, and the other spouse has a financial ability to pay it, this should be expressed openly to the entire Collaborative Team. The Financial Neutral will help you navigate this part of the Collaborative Process.

Goal setting is considered the framework of the Collaborative Process and will allow both parties to move forward while collectively working towards what they would like to accomplish. However, if new goals arise, they may be shared at subsequent Collaborative Team Meetings.

Perhaps you can think of other goals that would come up during a Collaborative Team Meeting. If you are interested in learning more about this healthier approach to Family Law in Florida, please contact our office at (407) 872-3161 to speak with one of our experienced Orlando Family Law Attorneys today.

Watch our YouTube Video HERE.

Listen to our Podcast HERE.

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

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Collaborative Law: A Brief History and Overview

Florida’s Collaborative Law Process Act came to be in 2016, but the original concept for Collaborative Law came from Minnesota by an Attorney named Stuart Webb in 1990. He realized the importance of personal relationships in the legal process. Attorney Webb believed the litigation process could be harmful to spouses and families.

Did you know, our very own Attorney Matt Capstraw contributed to the Collaborative Law Process Act in Florida? For more on his involvement, check out Attorney Capstraw’s profile HERE.

According to Florida Statute 61, the purpose of Collaborative Law in Florida is “to preserve the integrity of marriage and to safeguard meaningful family relationships, promote the amicable settlement of disputes that arise between parties to a marriage, and mitigate the potential harm to the spouses and their children caused by the process of legal dissolution of marriage.”

While traditional litigation and mediation involve two Family Law Attorneys who act as opposing counsel in a Divorce, the Collaborative Process utilizes a Team to help resolve the case in a peaceful and productive manner. Benefits of the Collaborative Law Process include but are not limited to: Goal centered and solution-oriented meetings as well as the opportunity to protect minor children from the Divorce process.

Who makes up a Collaborative Team?

Family Law Attorneys: Unlike the litigation or mediation processes, in a Collaborative divorce, the Orlando Family Law Attorneys work together in order to assist both spouses reach an amicable and peaceful resolution.

Mental Health Counselor: In a Collaborative setting, the Mental Health Neutral serves as the facilitator. He or she will facilitate the Collaborative meetings and make sure common goals of both spouses remain top of mind among the Team during the case.

Financial Professional: To preserve the privacy of the spouses and their family, the Financial Neutral maintains the financial affidavits of both parties, rather than the parties filing the document as part of public records. Any amounts relating to Alimony are also kept private in a Collaborative case.

In some cases, especially in situations where the parties are in need of additional assistance, the Collaborative Team is able to bring in Allied Professionals as well.

Potential Allied Professionals

Realtors: Collaboratively trained Real Estate professionals are able to assist in the valuation of the marital home, determine potential rental costs, etc.

Florida Ethics Rules require all Divorce Attorneys to present Collaborative Law as an option to potential Family Law Clients during the initial consultation. However, not all Family Law Attorneys have Collaborative experience or training.

All of our Orlando Divorce Attorneys at The Marks Law Firm are Collaboratively trained and are active members of The Collaborative Family Law Group of Central Florida. Our Team recognizes the true value of this process.

Watch our YouTube Video HERE.

Listen to our Podcast HERE.

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

To learn more about the Collaborative Process, call our office at (407) 872-3161.

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What Happens When a Christian Husband Wants a Divorce?

In marriage, sometimes we go through difficult seasons. Life as Christians does not mean that we won’t experience trials or endure challenges. Perhaps you have been trying to work on your relationship for months or even years. Even still, you have reached a breaking point and feel like you don’t love your wife anymore. Divorce is on your mind. Our Team at The Marks Law Firm Orlando can help you through the process.

Being a Christian husband, you take what the bible says seriously. Feelings of guilt, loss, and regret may arise as you are a believer. As a Family Law Attorney who believes in marriage, I often ask my Clients if there is anything they can do to save their relationship with their spouse. Our Central Florida Divorce Attorneys encourage reconciliation in situations where it is possible, appropriate, and safe for both parties.

To get to place where the marriage can be restored, you may want to consider counseling with a Christian therapist, who has a biblical worldview. Ephesians 5:25 says “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Being willing to sacrifice and compromise will help you make your wife and children a priority.

If you have done everything in your power to move forward as a couple and divorce still seems like the best option, think about how you want to proceed with your case. There are other options than traditional litigation. Florida requires all Family Law Clients be informed of the mediation process as well as Collaborative Law.

When two spouses would like navigate divorce in a way that is amicable, voluntary, confidential, and outside of Court, Collaborative Law is encouraged. During Collaborative Team Meetings, you sit in the same room with your wife and your Collaborative Team–which includes the attorneys, mental health neutral, financial neutral, and in some cases, allied professionals (such as realtors.) Everyone works together toward a resolution through goal setting. The process is peaceful, and often protects the wellbeing of the minor children.

Watch our YouTube Video HERE.

Listen to our Podcast HERE.

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

For more information on the collaborative process, call our office at (407) 872-3161. Our Collaboratively trained attorneys would be happy to assist you.

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.

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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!