5 Tips for Separated or Divorced Parents During the Holidays

Tips for Separated or Divorced Parents During the Holidays

The typical stress that accompanies the holidays can be magnified for families that are either going through a separation, or who are experiencing this time of year for the first time since a divorce or separation. There are certain things that parents can do to mitigate this stress on children and the rest of the family, but it really should be a collaboration between the separated adults. The biggest priority should be ensuring that children have the opportunity to enjoy the season as much as possible without additional negative impacts from the divorce.

Here are five tips for separated or divorced parents to consider in order to make the crazy holiday season a little easier for children of separation.

1. Make New Holiday Traditions

It may be difficult for your kids to come to terms with the fact that the family will not be all together for certain activities, but take this as an opportunity to branch out and try new experiences without the pain of family memories. Explain to your kids that each parent will have the chance to begin a new tradition with them, and that means fun new activities and special time with each parent.

2. Enlist the Village

It’s ok to ask for help this time of year. Friends and family who understand the position you are in are valuable sources of support. Make sure you are taking care of yourself and the needs of your family, but don’t be afraid to ask others if they can pitch in to assist with the kids if the stress becomes overwhelming.

3. Be Flexible

Try not to be too rigid with regards to the timing of certain events and holiday celebrations. Just because a holiday falls on a certain day of the week, does not mean that it has to be celebrated on that exact day. Being flexible means that you can decide to celebrate a holiday before or after the actual date, and if there are events surrounding the holiday that you want to share with you kids, be flexible about picking and choosing the ones that are most important for you, and ensuring that your former spouse also has time to share with the kids.

4. Discuss the Importance of Family Over Things

Because finances are usually tight following a divorce, this may be a good time to talk to your kids about the importance of spending time as a family and having experiences over exchanging many gifts. Use this as a teaching moment to have a dialogue with your children about how you and your spouse love them regardless of the separation.

5. Be Realistic and Honest

Keep a realistic mindset about how the holidays will go following a divorce. It will be different, and there will likely be a broad spectrum of emotions displayed by yourself and your children. Manage expectations with friends and family by being honest about your situation, capabilities, and commitments.

Divorce is never easy on a family, especially during the holidays, but there are ways that you can make it a little more bearable for everyone involved. Always keep in mind that despite how well your kids seem to be taking to the new arrangement, their well-being should always be at the center of any decisions made that may affect them.


(2013, November 11). 21 Tips To Survive Divorce And The Holidays. Retrieved November 14, 2017, from https://drkarenfinn.com/divorce-blog/life-after-divorce/180-21-tips-to-survive-divorce-and-the-holidays


Divorce Involving Children with Special Needs in Florida


Divorce is difficult on any family, especially when there are kids involved. It can be hard enough when there is a permanent separation of parents from children, but the issues can be compounded when the children have special needs, whether that is physical, developmental, or emotional.

Divorcing parents need to be more aware of their responsibilities beyond legal requirements in a divorce with children who have special needs. Whatever arrangement works for both parents should always focus on the best interests of the child as a top priority.

What to consider for special needs children during a divorce

If you have children with special needs, it’s important to minimize changes that will occur as a result of your divorce. It’s critical that you and your spouse come up with a comprehensive parenting plan with essential information about the specific needs of your child. There are certain things that are vital to agree upon prior to the finalization of the divorce.

Custody, Visitation, and Education

Ensure that you and your spouse can agree to a custody arrangement and visitation schedule that is suitable for both of you, but that considers the needs of the child first. Many children who have special needs require a strict routine, and it’s important to maintain that routine through the changes of the divorce. If you agree to a certain custody and visitation schedule, make sure that you can easily incorporate your child’s already existing routine into the plan you create.

Education decisions for your child are extremely important, especially if your child is required to attend a special school or program. As much as possible, it’s best to keep things the same with regards to schooling. You should also include a timeline of your child’s educational requirements, and explicitly note who will make the major decisions throughout your child’s educational career.

Health and Medical

You will need to also note in your parenting plan whose medical insurance your child will be listed under, and who will be making any major health or medical decisions, and how costs will be shared. The more detailed this information is, the easier it will be on the whole family if a medical crisis arises with your child. 

Social Activities

Be sure to include a section on what types of social activities your child is involved with, and which parent is responsible for ensuring the child is dropped off and picked up in a timely fashion. As with any arrangement following a divorce, it’s also important to spell out who will be paying the bill for the social activities for your child as well.

Child Support

When deciding on child support, you will need to consider the child’s eligibility for certain public assistance depending on the disability. If too much child support is paid to one parent who has most of the custody, it may take away from the child’s assistance eligibility. Check on assistance program requirements, and ensure that your child is receiving the best care possible for their needs.

There is one last thing to consider when creating a parenting plan for your special needs child during a divorce. If you have a child who may require assistance beyond the years of being a minor child, it’s important to incorporate the plan for your child’s adult supervision and care as well.

If you are in the process of a separation and divorce, it’s important to contact an experienced family attorney. Your attorney can help you put together a comprehensive parenting plan that focuses on the needs of your child first.


Divorce and Children with Special Needs. (n.d.). Retrieved October 18, 2017, from https://www.specialneedsalliance.org/divorce-and-children-with-special-needs/

When Parents of Children with Disabilities Divorce. (n.d.). Retrieved October 18, 2017, from https://www.americanbar.org/newsletter/publications/gp_solo_magazine_home/gp_solo_magazine_index/parentsdivorce.html



The Link Between Natural Disasters and an Increase in Domestic Violence

shutterstock_618058565With hurricane season in full force, we are reminded of the vulnerabilities we have as a community going into and recovering from a storm. With loss of power, impassable roads, and structural damage resulting from a natural disaster, everyone in the affected areas can be stressed-out and on edge. Unfortunately for victims of domestic violence, this collective community disruption can mean that they are even more vulnerable to the abuse of their abuser.

The Link between Disasters and Domestic Abuse

When a natural disaster such as a hurricane, earthquake, or flood happens in a community, many people can be displaced, and daily life is disrupted in most ways. This disruption may be major for victims of domestic abuse who find it more challenging to seek shelter and safety from abusers. With tensions high, victims may be at a higher risk for physical, emotional, or verbal abuse from partners. If there was an evacuation order, being forced into an emergency shelter with an abuser can put victims in an unsafe situation that they are unable to escape from if needed.

The data that exists surrounding disasters and domestic abuse shows that there is an uptick in domestic and sexual abuse surrounding these types of events. A combination of potential isolation, lack in safety resources and housing, and the possibility that abuse hotlines and first responders are overwhelmed all make it harder for victims to access the support they need during a natural disaster. Following a hurricane, many people are not back at work immediately, meaning that extra stress at home can cause abusers to lash out at their victims more often.

Another reason this link exists may have to do with the fact that many victims feel that they must go back to their abusers if the abusers have resources and housing following a natural disasters. According to The Atlantic, victims are most vulnerable while they are leaving, or immediately after they leave an abuser. Studies show that 75 percent of women who are killed by an abusive partner were in the process of leaving or just left that partner. If a disaster leaves a victim with limited physical or financial resources, they may feel as though their only choice is to return to that abuser.

Examples of Disaster-related Domestic Abuse

After Hurricane Katrina devastated the New Orleans area in 2005, the Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence reported that women were being assaulted by abusive partners in the emergency shelters.

When Hurricane Andrew destroyed parts of Miami-Dade in 1992, spousal abuse calls to local helplines increased by 50 percent. One-third of the 1400 surveyed residents said that someone lost verbal or physical control in the two months following the storm, according to the Gender and Disaster Network.

Child Abuse

Children are also extremely vulnerable to abuse during these stressful events. Additional issues arising from custody battles and backlogged courts can cause fractures within a family unit.

In the six months after Hurricane Floyd in North Carolina in 1999, the rate of traumatic brain injury in kids under two increased five times in the areas most affected by the storm. Surrounding areas did not see an increase in this type of injury.

During Hurricane Irma in September 2017 in Jasper, FL, a man was arrested for leaving his 19-month old toddler outside during the storm. She was picked up by a passerby on Monday morning at 11:30AM after being outside in the storm all night. Her body was purple and covered with bug bites. Police suspect that the father was high on drugs or alcohol, as he claimed he did not remember where the girl was the night before when her mother reported her missing. He now faces felony child abuse charges.

What can be done?

Communication and outreach by domestic abuse shelters and advocates is extremely important. By providing information and education to emergency shelter personnel, victims can have better access to places of refuge and people who are educated in how to respond when victims enter emergency facilities.

Public service announcements and awareness campaigns of the signs of abuse are also good ideas in the days leading up to a disaster such as a hurricane. If more people are aware of who may be at risk for abuse in their home and communities, it is easier to get people the assistance they may need after a disaster.

Shelters should consider partnering with churches for additional domestic abuse resources and shelter. Churches that have disaster-prepared facilities can act as special domestic violence shelters with resources and staff available to handle victims.

Family members and friends of known victims should be accommodating during these times. Do not encourage the victim to return to an abuser just because they may have shelter or financial resources. This may cause further harm to a victim of abuse.

If you are a victim of domestic abuse, it’s important that you contact an experienced family law attorney. Your attorney may be able to help you resolve issues related to your abuse and abuser.


Salam, M. (2017, September 12). Amid Hurricane Chaos, Domestic Abuse Victims Risk Being Overlooked. Retrieved September 20, 2017, from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/12/us/domestic-violence-hurricanes.html

Dalbey, B. (2017, September 15). Toddler ‘Purple’ After Dad Left Her Outside In Hurricane Irma: Police. Retrieved September 20, 2017, from https://patch.com/florida/across-fl/toddler-purple-after-dad-left-her-outside-hurricane-irma-police

O’Neil, L. (2016, September 28). The Link Between Natural Disasters and Domestic Abuse. Retrieved September 20, 2017, from https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2016/09/disaster-domestic-abuse/501299/

Natural Disasters and Severe Weather. (2017, September 14). Retrieved September 20, 2017, from https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/violence.html





Alimony in the State of Florida


A former Miami Dolphin was in the news recently, not for making plays on the field, but for skipping out on an alimony payment to his ex-wife. Jason Taylor was divorced from his wife of 14 years back in 2015. At the time, a judge ordered Taylor to pay his ex-wife $8.67 million in a lump sum alimony payment. This summer, his ex-wife filed a lawsuit in Broward County claiming that Taylor still owes her $3.4 million, and despite attempts to retrieve the money peacefully, she has not had any success in obtaining the funds owed to her.

Alimony Controversies

Alimony has been a hot topic lately as many argue that that statutes and conditions of traditional alimony are outdated now that women have a higher earning power. Some may say that permanent alimony keeps ex spouses tied to each other until death, and often brings children and current spouses into unnecessary legal fights.

For example, in one Florida case, a woman is suing her former husband’s current wife for legal fees stemming from her alimony case. According to her lawsuit, her ex- husband neglected to pay alimony for years, and when he was ordered by a court to pay his ex hundreds of thousands of dollars in back alimony, he transferred many of his significant financial assets to reside under his current wife’s name so that he could escape collection of his debts. Hi ex-wife claims that she is attempting to retrieve what is owed to her by the lawsuit against the current wife’s assets.

What is alimony?

In the state of Florida, alimony, or maintenance, can be granted to either party after the dissolution of a marriage. The purpose of awarding alimony can range from acting as a “bridge-the-gap” payment, which is set in place until the recipient is able to get to a better financial situation after the marriage, to a permanent alimony structure, meaning one spouse pays the other until death. Alimony can also be durational with a stop date, or rehabilitative, with a structured plan in place to get the recipient from one status to another with regards to employment or disability. A court can order that the payments are made on a monthly basis, or in a lump sum, as the Taylor case represents.

What factors are considered in awarding alimony?

A court will decide if either party needs financial maintenance and whether the other party has the ability to pay. There are many factors that are considered when determining alimony. A court may look at some or all of the following factors:

  • Standard of living established during the marriage.
  • Duration of marriage (less than seven years is considered a short-term marriage, seven-17 years is a moderate marriage, and 17+ years is long-term)
  • The age, physical, and emotional state of each party.
  • Financial resources of each party, including marital and non-marital assets.
  • Earning capacity, education, and skill level of each party.
  • Contribution to the marriage, including homemaking and childcare.
  • Responsibility of each party to minor children.
  • Sources of income and tax treatment of each party.
  • Any additional factors that account for equity and justice between parties.

Additional Alimony Requirements

A court may require the payer of alimony to purchase or maintain a life insurance policy as a way to secure the alimony payments. It’s important to note that any alimony payments cannot cause the one who is paying to have a significantly lower income than the recipient unless there are exceptional circumstances as noted by the court.

If you are considering a divorce, it’s imperative that you contact an experienced family law attorney. Your attorney will explain the options available to you throughout the process of the dissolution of your marriage.


LAMBIETjose@gossipextra.com, J. (n.d.). Miami Dolphins legend Jason Taylor secretly divorced in 2015. Now, he’s being sued. Retrieved August 10, 2017, from http://www.miamiherald.com/entertainment/ent-columns-blogs/jose-lambiet/article165207992.html

Joseph, S. (2017, July 18). Lawyer’s Ex-Wife Asks Court to Make New Wife Pay Her Legal Fees. Retrieved August 10, 2017, from http://www.dailybusinessreview.com/id=1202793290507/Lawyers-ExWife-Asks-Court-to-Make-New-Wife-Pay-Her-Legal-Fees

(2017, August 10). Retrieved August 10, 2017, from http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0000-0099%2F0061%2FSections%2F0061.08.html


Parents Pay Attention to Photographers in Public Places


It was recently reported that a man was kicked out and banned from the Palm Beach Zoo, not because he was causing problems with the animals, but simply for taking photos. The issue is that he was photographing a young girl as she played in the splash pad on zoo property, without the consent of the girl or her parents. The man claimed that he just wanted to record a happy moment, but the parents were not convinced. Because the parents felt uncomfortable and the zoo administration agreed that the act of taking photos of the young girl was inappropriate, the man was asked to leave.

With the easy access and availability of video recording devices and cameras on every smartphone these days, it gets harder and harder to maintain any sort of privacy for yourself or your children. Child predators have the ability to photograph your kids every time you step out of the house and take them to a public place, and that’s a scary thought.

Photography as a Right

According to the law, taking photos in a public place is protected under the constitutional right to freedom of expression. Unfortunately, your desire for a certain level of privacy does not supersede the right of a photographer, professional or amateur, to express himself. However, there are certain restrictions to this, and the right does not extend to all locations. For example, owners of private property can restrict this right as they see fit, which is what happened in the case of the Palm Beach zoo, which is private property. Whenever you leave the house, it’s important to be aware of who is around when out in public, such as at parks and on playgrounds, as there may be some people who are taking advantage of the right to photograph in public places.

Abuse of Public Photography of Kids

There have been certain cases where a child predator has been arrested while photographing kids in public places. In Broward County, a man was arrested as he took photos of a girl at a public splash pad. He was being investigated for child pornography charges, and was caught while he was at the park. Even though the charges were unrelated to the photos he had on his phone, this example still demonstrates that you never know the motives of an individual who chooses to take photos of your children.

Be Aware of Who is Around

Just as you teach your kids to be aware of strangers who may cause them harm, it’s important to also teach your kids to be aware of individuals in a public place who may make them uncomfortable, including adults taking photos of them. Some public parks have tried to mitigate adult interaction with children by requiring a child to accompany any adult who accesses the public playgrounds in a park. The City of Hollywood is a good example of this, where it is a law that any adult in a playground area must be accompanied by a child 12 years or younger.

Even with certain rules and laws in place, it’s still up to parents and kids to report any suspicious activity that makes them feel uneasy. Though it is not a crime to take photos in public, if someone does have the intention to cause harm to a child or use the photographs in an inappropriate way, it’s better to be safe and risk a misunderstanding than to put your child in danger of being exploited by a predator.

Your child’s safety is always a top priority. In matters of family law, it’s most important to protect the children in cases where they may be at risk for harm. If you are going through a divorce, separation, or a case regarding child custody or paternity, it’s vitally important to contact an experienced family law attorney. Your attorney can guide you through your case and help ensure that your children are provided with the best care and safety.


Chokey, A. (2017, June 22). Are your kids safe from snoops with cameras at South Florida attractions? Retrieved July 14, 2017, from http://www.sun-sentinel.com/local/palm-beach/fl-reg-child-photography-cases-20170621-story.html

Recording in Public Places and Your First Amendment Rights. (n.d.). Retrieved July 14, 2017, from https://www.videomaker.com/article/15619-recording-in-public-places-and-your-first-amendment-rights




5 Summer Vacation Tips for Divorced or Separated Parents

summer parenting plan custodySummertime can be an exceptionally fun time for families to travel together to adventurous new locations. Unfortunately for some, summer vacation time can also cause a lot of stress if a family is going through a divorce or separation. Children are often caught in the middle of family feuds, which can cause them extreme angst, and may even lead to problems that surface much later in life. If you are going through a divorce or separation, and still want to ensure that your child or children have a fun and relaxing summer vacation, here are some tips to keep your vacation time as drama-free as possible.

1. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Communication is the most important factor in any family traveling situation. It’s extremely important to be honest and transparent about the itinerary of the trip, who will be going, and when exactly you will be home. If you plan on taking a significant other, it’s also important to communicate who this person is, especially if your estranged/former spouse or your child has never met your new significant other. The best policy is no surprises with regards to the trip.

2. Plan Ahead

This tip has its basis in the law. Many separated families have court orders regarding custody and visitation. You will need to plan vacations way ahead of time if you have to notify the courts and your spouse of any intention to leave town with your child. It’s also good to plan ahead so that both parents can plan to spend quality time with the children over the summer.

3. Leave the kids out of disagreements

If there is any conflict surrounding the planning or execution of the trip, do not involve your children. You kids do not need to know that there was an argument over where you are going or how long you will be gone. As parents, you should resolve the problems quietly, or through the courts if necessary. However, do not let your kids know that their summer vacation was the source of an argument between their parents.

4. Stick to the plan

Stay on course and stick to the plan that was established and agreed upon by both parents. Leave no room for misinterpretation by your estranged spouse. Unfortunately, if one spouse tries to keep a secret from another, children find themselves in a tough spot, as they are asked to provide information and become “spies” for the other parent. None of this is healthy for your children.

5. Agree on Finances Ahead of Time

Make sure that all financial discussions are made ahead of time. This includes deciding who is giving the child spending money, and which parent is paying for the trip in its entirety. You don’t want to come home and have the discussion of money hanging in the air. Again, this may put your children in a position where they end up asking one parent or the other for money as a way to get back at the other. Do not let this happen, and simply ensure that all financial decisions are agreed to in advance.

Any time there is a separation or divorce, there is a large amount of stress on a family. This can be mitigated in certain situations such as summer travel as long as there are open and transparent lines of communication, and children do not become pawns in a game that the parents play with each other. If you are a parent of a child and going through a divorce, it’s important to have custody arrangements agreed to and established ahead of any major travel. Contact an experienced family law attorney who can help you ensure that your separation is as easy as possible for you and your family.



Dickerson, K. (. (2016, March 29). 6 Summer Vacation Tips for Divorced or Separated Parents. Retrieved June 07, 2017, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kyung-kathryn-dickerson/6-summer-vacation-tips-for-divorced-or-separated-parents_b_9547234.html

Posts about Family Law on The Spatz Law Firm Blog. (n.d.). Retrieved June 07, 2017, from https://thespatzlawfirm.wordpress.com/category/family-law-2/





5 Things to Know About Adopting a Child in the State of Florida


The decision to start a family is a major life-changing decision. If a couple, or even a single person decides that they would like to either become a parent or grow their family, it can completely alter everything from routines to finances to the order of your home. However much your life may change, the choice to have a child, whether biologically or by adoption, is a beautiful decision that will hopefully bring mostly positive changes to your life.

In the state of Florida, if a person or couple decides to adopt a child, there are many benefits beyond the love of family to look forward to. Adoption is a selfless gift to a child who needs a permanent home. Those who choose to adopt have made a promise to care for a child as if he/she were their own, and raise a family in a healthy manner. If you are interested in adopting, here are some benefits for you to consider.

1. Common Interests

If you choose to adopt, you can ask for a child that shares some of your common interests. This may give you an immediate bonding point that you can start with in your journey as a parent.

2 Legally Secure

Children are not available for adoption until the courts have legally terminated the parental rights of the biological parents. Therefore, you do not have to worry about the biological parents claiming any rights to the child.

3. Financial Assistance

Many children in the care of the state qualify for monthly subsidies until age 18 in order to offset some costs of care. The program that offers these subsidies is called, “Florida’s Adoption Assistance Program.” Subsidies are decided on a case-by-case basis.

4. Free College

Children adopted from state care are eligible for free tuition at any Florida state university, community college, or vocational school in Florida up until age 28. Some private institutions also offer free tuition to students who are adopted from foster care.

5. Older Children/Siblings Adoption

There are also great benefits to adopting older children and groups of siblings. Older children give you the opportunity to enjoy having a child beyond the baby years. You can expect more time having conversations and sharing interests, and less time changing diapers and potty training.

If you choose to adopt a group of siblings, you are giving yourself the opportunity to instantly grow a big family of children who already have a bond with each other. This is a great option for anyone who wants to have multiple children and enjoy a big family feeling.

Adoption can be very rewarding, but it is a major decision, and should not be taken lightly. Throughout the adoption process, it is a good idea to consult with an experienced family attorney. Your attorney will help you navigate through the family law requirements of adding a new child to your family.


Explore Adoption. (n.d.). Retrieved May 19, 2017, from http://www.adoptflorida.org/faq.shtml

Explore Adoption. (n.d.). Retrieved May 19, 2017, from http://www.adoptflorida.org/benefits.shtml



Establishing Paternity in Family Law Cases

child parentIssues that arise in Family law can cause a lot of stress and hardship on the families involved. Often times these cases are full of emotion and hurt depending on the context of the situation. Specifically, cases that involve questioning paternity or establishing paternity can be stressful on parents and the child. In situations where the paternity of a child is in question, the mother and/or the alleged father may seek to establish paternity through the court system. When going through the Florida court system to seek or confirm paternity of a child, these are some things to keep in mind.

Assumption of Paternity

In the state of Florida, it is assumed that the mother’s husband is the father of her child. However, there are situations where this may not be the case and a paternity test will be requested, either voluntarily by both parties or by court order. If the mother and the alleged father agree on the paternity of the child, then they can both sign a “voluntary acknowledgement of paternity” form. This form requires that both parties swear under oath that they agree on the paternity of the child and the man on the form becomes the child’s legal father. Neither parent can revoke this statement after 60 days when it becomes final, unless they can prove fraud or extreme force to sign.

A Question of Paternity

If there is a question of who is the father of the child, the mother, alleged father, the child through a legal representative, or the Florida Department of Child Support Services can request to begin the court process to determine paternity. The case can be started before the child’s birth, but the hearing cannot take place until after the child is born. A judge has the authority to rule on paternity, and can also establish child support, parental time, health insurance obligations, and payment of court fees. According to Florida law, if a judge does not rule on decision-making power over the child or parental time, these fall solely to the mother.

Establishing paternity can be an extremely emotional process, but an important one if the result is ensuring that a child has access to resources and the support of both a mother and a father. There are many important reasons to establish paternity, including better financial stability through child support, and access to benefits such as health insurance, but perhaps the most important of these reasons is to give both child and father peace-of-mind and the ability to establish a relationship. If you are in a situation where paternity is in question, it’s important to contact an experienced family law attorney who can help guide you through the legal process of establishing paternity for your child.


Gaspar, D. (n.d.). Paternity in Florida: How to Establish & Benefits. Retrieved April 12, 2017, from http://www.divorcenet.com/resources/paternity-florida.html#

What are The Types of Divorce in Florida?


Deciding to file for divorce can be an extremely difficult decision that not only affects those who are in the marriage, but possibly children and families of the spouses as well. As family attorneys, we try to make it as comfortable as possible for our clients as they go through this transition in life. Part of that involves providing resources to help our clients understand the options available to them when filing for divorce. In the state of Florida, there are different paths that can be pursued for complete dissolution of a marriage. Making the choice to file for a simplified dissolution of marriage or a regular dissolution depends on what has transpired over the course of the marriage, and if there is complete agreement on the dissolution terms.

Simplified Dissolution of Marriage

There are very specific conditions in which spouses in the state of Florida can file together for a simplified dissolution of divorce. In order to qualify for this type of divorce, there must be no minor children involved in marriage and the wife cannot be pregnant at the time of divorce. In addition, both parties must have agreed that the marriage is irretrievably broken, and there is also agreement on the separation of property, debts, and assets. With a simplified divorce, neither party is seeking alimony. It is not necessary to hire an attorney for this type of divorce, but many will do so to assist them with the legal process. Both parties are still responsible for filing all the necessary paperwork and both spouses must appear before a judge in a final decision.

Regular Dissolution of Marriage

With a regular dissolution of marriage, either spouse can file for divorce and state what they want from the court. The responding spouse must file an answer within 20 days, and is also allowed to file a counter-petition with any additional concerns regarding issues to be resolved within the dissolution.

With a regular divorce, both spouses must disclose financial and property information, and a child-support guidelines worksheet must be filled out if there are minor children from the marriage. In some counties, judges may require that the spouses attend mediation to work out solutions to splitting marital assets and property, however this is not always required, but often recommended. If there is not an agreement of terms for the dissolution, then the divorce will go to trial. A judge will make the final decision on how the marriage is dissolved.

With any divorce in Florida, the spouse who files, or the “petitioner”, must state that the marriage is “irretrievably broken”, and for a simplified dissolution, this point must be agreed to by both parties in order to proceed.

When making the choice to end a marriage, it’s important that you hire someone experienced in family law to guide you through the process. Emotions are high at this time, but a knowledgeable divorce attorney can help keep you on the right path to understanding the legal process and transition caused by divorce.


Consumer Pamphlet: Divorce In Florida. (n.d.). Retrieved March 23, 2017, from http://www.floridabar.org/tfb/tfbconsum.nsf/48e76203493b82ad852567090070c9b9/50c0b911a9cb28fd85256b2f006c5ba9#Untitled%20Section_2

Overturned Conviction Settlement Considered Marital Property in Divorce

shutterstock_162913184It’s not extremely uncommon that criminal court and family court cases collide. However, one recent case involving a $20 million settlement stemming from an overturned conviction found its way into the Illinois Court of Appeal. This case involved a settlement received by Juan Rivera for his wrongful conviction and subsequent incarceration for a rape and murder he did not commit in 1992. Rivera was cleared by DNA samples in 2011 and released from prison in early 2012, but he had already spent a considerable amount of time in jail for the crime. His wife now claims that she is owed part of his settlement payout in their divorce.

In 2000 Rivera married Melissa Sanders-Rivera while he was still incarcerated. Rivera filed for divorce in 2014 after he was exonerated and released from prison in 2012. He had been awarded $20 million by the government for his wrongful conviction and took home about $11.4 million after taxes and attorney fees.

Sanders-Rivera claims to be owed part of his overturned conviction settlement as martial property distributed as part of the divorce and an Illinois Court of Appeals agrees with her. The reasoning behind this ruling had to do with the fact that the lawsuit leading to the settlement payout accrued during their marriage and therefore, is considered marital property.

Rivera and his legal team had hoped to take the case to the Illinois Supreme Court in order to overturn the appellate court’s ruling claiming that the settlement was due to events and injuries that occurred in 1992 prior to the marriage. The state Supreme Court declined to hear the case, which means that the appellate court decision stands and the settlement must be distributed as marital property accrued during the marriage. The divorce trial is set to take place summer of 2017 in the domestic relations division of the courts.

In cases of criminal law and family law, there may be certain times when these two divisions collide, as in the above-mentioned case. An experienced attorney versed in both will be able to assist in navigating the system. If you are going through a divorce, or need assistance with settlements related to family law matters, you should contact an attorney immediately who may be able to protect your assets, and may be able to help you receive what is owed as part of marital distribution.


Hammill, L. (2017, January 27). $20 million wrongful conviction settlement headed for divorce court. Retrieved February 28, 2017, from http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/lake-county-news-sun/news/ct-lns-juan-rivera-settlement-case-st-0128-20170127-story.html

Weiss, D. C. (n.d.). Exonerated inmate’s $20M settlement is marital property in divorce, appeals court says. Retrieved February 28, 2017, from http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/exonerated_inmates_20m_settlement_is_marital_property_in_divorce_appeals_co