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Family Law and Attorney Leadership

By Family Law Attorney Tom Marks

I read a great book while on vacation last week on the topic of leadership. You might ask what does leadership have to do with a family law practice. Don’t family law attorneys just deal with divorce, timesharing, children’s issues, equitable distribution, alimony and the like?

Well actually, good family law attorneys are all about leadership. If the divorce attorney is open to new ideas and ways of helping others, then he or she is able to influence, teach and mentor others in the process. When the client arrives in an emotionally and financially vulnerable place, the attorney can exercise integrity and leadership to help the client navigate through the divorce, modification, enforcement or other any other type of family law case.

Good family law attorneys, as leaders, need to have a vision and be able to communicate that to the client. They also need to have good communication skills and to be highly competent in their profession. Great leaders, who happen to be family law attorneys, need to have great people skills and be able to coach their clients through a very difficult process. They need to be open to doing what is in the best interest of the client, even if that means helping them reconcile their marriage and keep their family together. That is called integrity.

I have read a lot of books on leadership and have always tried to exercise the principles I’ve learned not only in my personal and family life but also in my professional life as a family law attorney.

What Kind of Family Law Attorney Are You Looking For?

By Family Law Attorney Tom Marks

Some people want an experienced, more expensive Family Law Attorney and some people want a newer, less expensive Family Law Attorney. Some people want their attorney to be a “bulldog” and some people want someone who cares about them and their future.  Is it possible to get all of these in one Family Law firm? Let’s explore this question.

The Marks Law Firm has several attorneys, with professional rates ranging from $275 to $450 per hour. We also have attorneys with experience levels from 3 to 44 years. The Firm has an experienced team of paralegals with rates of $125 per hour.

So how do you put all of those fees and costs together in the most cost effective, efficient and strategic way? The answer is that we work as a team. The paralegals support the attorneys and do whatever they can under the supervision of the attorneys to keep costs down.

For those looking for a more cost effective source of representation, we pair the paralegals with the more entry-level attorney(s). On bigger more complex cases we utilize the more experienced attorneys along with the paralegals and if necessary the more cost effective younger lawyers.

Of course we have administrative support staff including our Receptionist, Office Manager and Marketing Director.  This provides administrative support that includes having non-legal client questions answered without charging the client. In addition, we bring the client on as part of the team with the paralegals, attorneys and support staff.

The client knows the facts as to what has occurred in the marriage and leading up to the Dissolution of the Marriage, Paternity action or any other family law matter we might be handling for them. I like to say we “row the boat together” or we “plow the field together”. That way the client, as part of the team, works in unison with the paralegals and attorneys in a very collaborative and synergistic way. I have found this team effort to be a great way to be on the same page with the client in presenting our case in Mediation, to Opposing Counsel or to the Court.

We make every effort to resolve each client’s case in an amicable and an uncontested fashion. However, when we find the other side being completely unreasonable and unwilling to resolve the family law matter in a positive realistic way, we are experienced enough and ready to litigate our clients case to the fullest.

You might call that, “being a bulldog,” we would call that “representing our clients zealously”. So we are able to provide the whole range of family law services and competencies to the Client, bringing the Client on to the team of Attorneys, Paralegals, Legal Assistants, and Administrative support staff. Simply put, we care deeply about our Clients. We want to see them better off for having been represented by The Marks Law Firm. We strive to represent our clients with integrity, excellence and devotion. Our clients are our mission.

What About a Post-Nup Marital Agreement?

Everyone is familiar with at least the general idea of a pre-nuptial agreement—a contract you enter before your marriage that governs what will happen to certain assets and liabilities if things don’t work out.

But did you know you can still take advantage of those same protections AFTER you say “I do?”

Florida law allows married parties to enter into a post-nuptial agreement—a contract after you’ve been married that has basically the same impact as a pre-nup would. Most people don’t consider this option, either because of taboo or because they simply don’t know it exists. However, a post-nuptial agreement can be a great way to alleviate financial concerns that arise after your wedding day.

For example, a post-nuptial agreement can be very helpful in limiting the fights over finances that so often create conflict in the home. By addressing money issues in a post-nup, you can remove some of the financial uncertainty that may be causing your spouse to worry. A post-nup also allows you to protect assets that you didn’t have coming into the marriage, but have since built or acquired.
While the discussion about a post-nup may be a delicate conversation, it may be one worth having. If you think a post-nuptial agreement would be beneficial in your marriage, you should contact one of the experienced family law attorneys at The Marks Law Firm to discuss the option in more detail.

The Marks Law Firm, P.A. returns to support Nathaniel’s Hope

In the spirit of summer, The Marks Law Firm has big plans to get outside and enjoy the weather with our community. This year is the third year that our team will be participating in the Nathaniel’s Hope- Make M’ Smile Celebration! Make M’ Smile is an annual community festival dedicated to celebrating VIP Kids, children with all types of special needs/disabilities, and their families.  VIP kids, families, volunteers, exhibitors and sponsors enjoy free entertainment, food, activities, and many vendors with giveaways.   

Every year the Marks Law Firm has been an active sponsor in the midst of all the fun and entertainment giving away free drinks and helping bring a smile to every child’s face!  The event will be held on Saturday, June 4th from 7:30 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. at Lake Eola in downtown Orlando.  We would love for you to come out to help support the VIP kids, their families, and this wonderful organization. 

If you are interested in participating please visit the Nathaniel’s Hope website at www.NathanielsHope.org.  One way to participate is by becoming a “buddy” to one of the VIP kids. As a “buddy” you will walk with a child and guide them during the “friendship stroll” around the park and throughout the event.  You can also sign up to be a volunteer or make a donation on the website.  Stay tuned to our website and Facebook to find out updates regarding this event and other ways that you can help.

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Ronald L. Sims, Of Counsel

Attorney Ronald L. Sims, Of Counsel

Ronald L. Sims, an Orlando native, joined The Marks Law Firm after many years operating his own firm as a sole practitioner. He began serving clients in Central Florida as an attorney in 1967.  His legal career spans four decades during which he has worked in many facets of our system including working on legislative committees, representation before the Florida Supreme Court, the District Court of Appeal, Federal Court, and he has been a certified mediator for both family and civil matters, divorce mediator,  family mediator and legal mediation for more than two decades.

Today, Mr. Sims primarily works in Family Law Litigation and as a Mediator for civil and family law disputes for divorce mediation, family mediation, and legal mediation.   He has  held office in many local charities and organizations over the years, and brings a personal warmth to his practice that is a refreshing change for those going though the difficulties of a family law conflict.

Education

Mr. Sims graduated from the law school at the University of Florida in 1966 after being raised in Orlando and attending Emory University for his undergraduate degree.

Frequently Asked Questions

Divorce Questions for Orlando Divorce Lawyer – General Dissolution of Marriage (Divorce):

Questions I should ask my divorce lawyer about my case and questions about divorce to Orlando Divorce Attorneys

What is the difference between divorce and legal separation?”
In addition to ending your marriage, a divorce (or “dissolution of marriage”) addresses all issues within the marriage, including property, finances, and child-related issues.  This is the most common way to deal with marital issues, as Florida does not recognize “legal separation.” However, if you prefer a less permanent route, there are options available to obtain financial support or address concerns related to minor child(ren) without filing for divorce.  For example, Florida law allows a married party to pursue an action for support and maintenance without dissolution of marriage.  That allows for a time of separation and the chance to consider the circumstance without the prospect of a full divorce hanging over you.  If you would like to discuss these options in more detail, contact one of the family law attorneys at The Marks Law Firm to schedule a consultation at your convenience.

Why should I have a lawyer representing me during my divorce?
While many individuals proceed through the divorce process, having the help of an attorney with family law experience can go a long way toward protecting your interests. Florida’s family laws have developed over many decades and are often nuanced and complicated.  An experienced attorney will understand these laws and be able to help you avoid the mistakes or unfavorable results that can arise from not knowing all of your rights.  For example, pro se litigants (those who represent themselves) often do recognize or include important considerations such as ensuring adequate financial protections in the event a spouse passes away, the tax implications of paying spousal or child support, practical ways to avoid future conflict, and significant children’s issues that pro se parties don’t often consider.  The family law attorneys at The Marks Law Firm have the experience to support you with these difficult issues.

How can I find out which decision-making option would be best for my situation?
The presumption in Florida is what is called “Shared Parental Responsibility,” which starts from the position that each parent is considered an equal in parenting the child(ren). When the Florida Legislature changed the “custody” verbiage in 2008, the intent was to ensure that neither parent was considered superior to the other and that each parent should have as much time with the child(ren) possible, unless very particular circumstances (i.e. child abuse, substance abuse etc.) indicate otherwise. There are accommodations that can be made for “shared parental responsibility with ultimate decision making” and “sole parental responsibility” when appropriate, although these are exceptions and must be justified by the significant evidence. The family law attorneys at The Marks Law Firm can educate and guide you as part of your team to make informed and well thought through decisions that can positively impact you and your children for years.

My spouse refuses to give a divorce. What are my options?
Florida is a “no-fault” divorce state, which means that either party may pursue a divorce without the consent of the other.  That means that even if your spouse refuses to cooperate, you can file and pursue a divorce proceeding on your own.  The Marks Law Firm is focused on family law and knows how to effectively assist spouses who face this frustrating situation.

What is the difference between an uncontested and contested dissolution of marriage?
An uncontested dissolution of marriage occurs when the spouses agree on all issues, including time sharing and child support, property distribution, and spousal support.  The benefit of an uncontested proceeding is that it minimizes conflict and allows the parties to maintain control over the outcome.  However, if the spouses cannot agree on any of these issues, the matter becomes contested and requires the Court to make the decisions for the parties.  The Attorneys at The Marks Law Firm have over 75 years of combined experience helping families in both contested and uncontested family law litigation.

Can I get my marriage dissolved without a lawyer?
Yes, you can obtain a dissolution of marriage without the help of legal counsel.  However, there are a number of steps to the process and before you decide to do it alone, you should consider whether you are comfortable with the following questions:

  • What do I need to file to start the divorce process?
  • Where do I file the necessary documents?
  • Do I know and understand all of the applicable statutes and time limits?
  • What am I allowed to legally ask for during my divorce (i.e. alimony, child support etc…)?
  • Do I know all of my legal rights and how to avoid waiving them?
  • What are my obligations to my spouse and child(ren) during the case and how might those obligations change when we are finished?
  • How are child support and alimony determined?
  • How does the Court determine property division in a family law case?

These are only some of the issues that may come up during your divorce case, and the outcome of these issues will affect you for years to come.  At The Marks Law Firm, our family law attorneys know the answers to these questions and have the training and experience to ensure your rights are protected.

Won’t a lawyer turn our dissolution of marriage into a battleground?”
It’s true that sometimes attorneys can add to the dissension and make matters harder, but normally the opposite happens.  The emotions and personal feelings associated with a dissolution of marriage can be overwhelming.  It’s often difficult for spouses to be objective during the divorce and work together to reach a reasonable and proper result.  While the goal of your lawyer is to fight for you and to protect you and your child(ren), an experienced family lawyer will also help you understand the legal and practical issues involved in your case and avoid unnecessary costs and headaches.  Involving an attorney early on also gives you a better chance for an early resolution, which allows you to move on with your life more quickly.

How long do I have to live in Florida before I can file a divorce action?
A person seeking a divorce in Florida must have resided in the state for at least 6 months prior to filing the divorce.  This means you must have lived in Florida with the intent to remain here for at least the 6 months leading up to the beginning of your divorce case.  If you are unsure about which state has jurisdiction over your divorce case, you can contact the family law attorneys at The Marks Law Firm to discuss your concerns.

In Florida is there a waiting period before my divorce becomes final?
There is no waiting period or cooling off period in Florida. If you and your spouse agree on all issues that need to be resolved, and your paperwork is in order and properly completed, your divorce can be finished as quickly as the Court’s schedule allows for you to attend a final hearing.

Why is the date of separation important?
The date of separation can be important because it is one of the dates a Court can use to determine the value of property to be distributed during a divorce, and can set the date for determining back child support or spousal support.  The Court also often uses the date the Petition is filed, as it can be difficult to nail down a specific date of separation, especially when the parties have been growing distant over a period of months or even years.  Determining the proper date, and applying that date to the calculations involved, can be tricky, and if you have questions about this issue it is a good idea to contact one of the attorneys at The Marks Law Firm for a consultation. We are Orlando divorce lawyers.

How is the date of separation determined?
As mentioned above, it can be difficult to determine the separation date. If you know the exact date on which one of the parties left the marital home, that is likely the best way to calculate the date of separation.  If you don’t recall that date, or if you are still living together, it is hard to pinpoint a date of separation and the Court may use the date of the Petition instead.  If you have questions about determining your date of separation, or regarding the best date to use for valuing your property for legal purposes, you can call The Marks Law Firm and discuss your questions with one of our experienced family lawyers.

Divorce Initial Consultation:

How can I get the most out of my Initial Consultation?
You should come to your Initial Consult as prepared and organized as possible. That means it will help save time if you have at least some basic financial documents like your most recent paystub, savings, checking and brokerage statements. It will also be very helpful to fill out our Initial Consult forms as completely as possible prior to coming in for your consult to give to the Attorney when you meet.  You should also think of any questions you may want to ask and write those down or even E-mail them to the Firm prior to the day of the Initial Consult. The Orlando Attorneys at The Marks Law Firm work hard to combine excellent counsel with cost effective representation, and anything you can do to save the Attorney time will ultimately save you money.

If I request a consultation, does that mean I have to hire you?
No, you are under no obligation to hire the Attorney or the Firm because you have set an Initial Consult. You should take the time to make sure the firm is a good fit for you before you retain the Attorney.

Do you give consultations over the telephone?
Yes, this can be an effective way to get started especially with time constraints and perhaps geographical distances. Ultimately is usually is a good idea for the Client and the Attorney to meet in person, but as long as the Client completes the Initial Consult forms and emails them back with some basic financial documents, (see below) a telephonic Initial Consult can be very effective.

I don’t even know if I need an attorney.  Is there just a packet of forms I can use?
If you have no minor children, and you and your spouse can agree on everything and feel comfortable enough that you know what you are doing, there are forms for a “Simplified Dissolution of Marriage” available. You can also get forms if you have minor children, but we do not recommend it because of the added complexities. In fact if you have any significant assets or minor children, you should take the completed forms in to meet with an Attorney to look at them before you sign them. That way you may only have to pay an Attorney for one hour of time and then the rest yourself. Our Orlando Divorce Law Firm, Marks Law Firm regularly does this type of consultation and would be glad to answer any questions you have about the process before you file your paperwork.

Will I be involved in my own case?
Absolutely! At The Marks Law Firm in Orlando, FL our approach is that the Client and the Firm are a “Team.”  The Client knows the facts of the case better than the Attorney ever will, because the Client has lived through it, so the only way the Team can succeed is if we work together toward a common goal. When the Attorney/Paralegal and Client working collaboratively and with great communication, we can reach the best possible resolution for you and your family.

Contact Us

Orlando Divorce Lawyers| Orlando Family Law Attorney

Contact us now to see what options are available and best for you.  We can go over the process with you and set up a consultation with one of our trusted and experienced Orlando Family Law Attorneys and Orlando divorce lawyers.

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Mediation

Mediation

Mediation is a process by which an impartial third-party, the Mediator, assists the parties in resolving their dispute.  The family lawyers at the Marks Law Firm can help guide you through this non-adversarial approach to conflict resolution that empowers the parties to generate their own solution to their dispute.  In Florida, parties to a dissolution (divorce) proceeding are required to attend mediation before moving toward a trial and each Florida County has a Mediation Department to assist with the process. The Marks Law Firm also works regularly with private mediators to help clients resolve their matter more efficiently and with less expense.

Mediation is a great way to resolve your matter without the cost, both financially and personally, that usually accompanies a full trial.  Through mediation the parties maintain control over the result through negotiation and discussion, which generally is preferred to ceding control to a Judge who may or may not see things your way.  The family law attorneys at The Marks Law Firm have significant experience working with clients through mediation and have found mediation to be a fruitful and positive experience for most clients.

Mediation is a great way for pro se parties with limited funds to obtain a quick and fair resolution of their case, and The Marks Law Firm can provide support to individuals in that situation.  If you would like more information about mediation in Central Florida, contact the family law attorneys at The Marks Law Firm in Orlando to schedule a consultation.

Modification / Enforcement

Modification / Enforcement

When parties reach an agreement to settle, or a Court at trial orders a resolution to a family law dispute, those decisions are based on the parties’ circumstances at the time of the agreement or order.  When those circumstances change, however, the agreement or court order may need to change as well.  The Orlando family law attorneys at The Marks Law Firm can help you in seeking to obtain that necessary change.

In Florida, a party that has experience a “substantial change” in its circumstances may be entitled to a modification of their agreement or the Court’s order so that party’s rights and obligations reflect their current reality.  For instance, if a husband who is paying alimony to his former wife learns that the former wife, who was previously unemployed, now has a job and earns more money and perhaps more than he does, the husband may be entitled to a reduction or elimination of his alimony obligations.

Likewise, if a father paying child support to his former wife suddenly loses his job, he may be entitled to a reduction or elimination of those payments as well.  If you believe your circumstances have “substantially changed” since the end of your family law matter, you may be entitled to a change in your rights or obligations.  Contact the Orlando Family Law Attorneys at The Marks Law Firm for a one-on-one consultation to ensure you are protected.  If you would like more information about modification in Central Florida, contact the family law attorneys at The Marks Law Firm in Orlando to schedule a consultation.

Contempt or Enforcement

Contempt or Enforcement

When a parent or former spouse refuses to comply with a Court Order, it may be appropriate to ask the Court to hold him or her in Contempt of court or Enforce the Order or Final Judgment.  The Court has the authority to act to ensure compliance with the Order and may even impose sanctions on the non-compliant party and award you attorney’s fees for your efforts.

To begin the process of Contempt/Enforcement, you should become aware of the steps required by the Court.

Important Points to Keep in Mind:

  • Forms should be typed or completed in black ink
  • Motions should be signed before a notary or deputy clerk
  • Electronic filing procedures are unique to each judicial circuit
  • Specific electronic filing instructions are available for those who are self-represented
  • Once a Hearing has been set by the Court, you will need to complete a Notice of Hearing

If you or your children are the victims of a party who refuses to honor a Court Order, call The Marks Law Firm in Orlando Florida for a one-on-one consultation to receive clear advice to discuss your options.

Paternity

Paternity

When two unmarried parties have a child, it often becomes necessary to establish paternity for purposes of obtaining timesharing or establishing child support.  The Orlando paternity lawyers at The Marks Law Firm can guide you through this process and help ensure that your rights are protected, whether you are a father seeking time with his child or a mother in need of support.

Many men have learned the hard way that having their name on the birth certificate is not the same as having a Final Judgment establishing their parental rights when they need them. Many women have realized that receiving voluntary child support payments does not guarantee they will continue uninterrupted.  Only an Order of Paternity establishes rights of timesharing support legally.

If you would like more information about paternity law in Central Florida, contact the family law attorneys at The Marks Law Firm in Orlando to schedule a consultation.

Adoption

Adoption

The decision to adopt is one of the most important choices your family will ever make. Whether you are starting a family or growing your own, adoption is a blessing and a gift to everyone involved. It is important to recognize the complexity and various time periods of all adoption related cases. Despite your eagerness to officially welcome a child into your family, often times the necessary legal procedures may span several months.  If you begin the process without thorough research, you may find yourself becoming overwhelmed quickly. Each adoption journey differs beyond the child involved. Do not underestimate the impact of the details and how your current family dynamic could change.

Perhaps you are in a position to gain legal guardianship of a stepchild, or even a child in the foster care system. No matter the specifics of your circumstances, be mindful of how you would like to proceed with your case in the most efficient and seamless manner. Your consultation with an attorney will provide you with an opportunity to explore many different possibilities.

You need a family law firm with the experience and understanding to support you through the adoption process, Florida adoption law and adoption finalization.  At The Marks Law Firm in Orlando, Florida it is our pleasure to help clients experience the joy of growing their family through adoption, whether domestic or international.  Our Orlando family attorneys and paralegals employ the right balance of legal skill and personal compassion as we work with you to make the dream of parenthood a reality.

Regardless of your stage in the adoption process, The Marks Law Firm Orlando is here to support you in the child adoption process. Call our office to schedule a consultation with one of our seasoned attorneys. We look forward to serving your adoption related needs.


Alimony

Alimony

Alimony is provided for in FL Statute 61.08. There are literally hundreds of Appellate cases in Florida significantly impacting how this Statute is interpreted.

When spouses separate or divorce the financial burden on each spouse can be significant. Interestingly, the status of alimony in Florida is currently in a state of flux. There have been substantial changes to the alimony statutes and the corresponding case law over the past several years, and there is a movement affront in Florida to abolish Permanent Periodic Alimony.

Alimony, or Spousal Support, is the payment made by one spouse to the other. Alimony can be court-ordered or agreed to by the parties, however, not every separated or divorcing spouse is entitled to alimony. We can assess your unique situation and clearly and concisely counsel you as to your legal rights.

There are 6 types of alimony in Florida:

1. Permanent Periodic Alimony
2. Rehabilitative Alimony
3. Durational Alimony
4. Bridge the Gap Alimony
5. Lump Sum Alimony
6. Temporary Alimony

The number one and number two factors in all alimony cases are: 1. Does one spouse have a Financial Ability to pay and 2. Does the other spouse have a financial need to receive Alimony? You must meet both criteria for it to be an alimony case.

In Florida, under FL Statute 61.08, there are a number of additional factors to consider when determining whether alimony is appropriate, including the length of the marriage, standard of living, the health, education and age of the parties, non-marital resources available to the parties and other contributions made to the marriage.

The Marks Law Firm Attorneys in Orlando, FL have over 80 years of combined experience in the Family Law Area. Experienced in Florida Alimony Law – Orlando alimony lawyer.

Child Support

Child Support

In any separation or divorce involving minor children, the best interests of the children are paramount. Unfortunately, not every parent is willing to do their part and child support guidelines can be complicated to understand and often lead to contentious dispute between the parties. The Marks Law Firm has the knowledge and experience to help you make sure that your child support determination is fair and accurate. In Florida, child support is determined based on Florida Child Support Guidelines that considers each parent’s income and other factors like who pays the health insurance premiums, day care, or after school care for the minor children. Even Alimony payments made and received can affect Florida child support calculations and Florida child support payments.

You can review Florida’s child support guidelines by clicking here:

While the statutory guidelines provide the parties with a starting point for their Florida child support obligations, it is often appropriate to deviate from the amount provided for in the statute. The Marks Law Firm will consider your unique situation and help you determine whether a deviation is appropriate.  And for those parents already paying or receiving child support, we can analyze your situation to help you decide whether to modify or terminate your child support obligations or to enforce support obligations that the other parent isn’t meeting.

The Marks Law Firm’s child support lawyers in the Orlando, Winter Park, Altamonte Springs, Winter Springs, Winter Garden, Kissimmee, Longwood, Clermont, Ocoee, Lake Mary area with help and advise on your child support situation. Call us today.