No area of the law is more emotionally complex than Family & Marital Law. Divorce, child custody and visitation, domestic violence and questions of paternity change the dynamics of a family, creating short and long-term changes. Going through the emotional and legal aspects of a family law matter can be one of the most difficult experiences in peoples lives.
At Cox & Associates, we care about our clients and their families. Our attorneys and staff handle your personal matters and legal issues with compassion and discretion. When you talk to us about a problem, we help pinpoint your goals and explore the best way to reach them. We work vigorously to achieve a resolution for you that is best for your family.
We work with our clients to understand and meet their needs. We happily assist clients in navigating delicate family matters. We serve the needs of clients who feel that discussions, settlement conferences and structured negotiations are the best avenue. We can help you evaluate alternatives to court hearings, such as mediation or negotiated settlement to resolve your family law issues quickly and in the least stressful manner possible.
At Cox & Associates, we also know that all families do not have the same dynamics and, therefore, not all family law cases are the same. Some divorces are hotly contested as parties often battle over alimony, child custody, child support and visitation. Our attorneys assist our clients in litigating those issues before the Court. We prepare for bench trials by hiring qualified experts, obtaining and analyzing all financial information and presenting your case at interim hearings and a trial before the judge. In extreme situations, we take action to protect our clients or their child(ren), asking the Court to suspend or supervise a parent's visitation, award temporary alimony and/or child support, order a mental health/drug/alchohol screening or program for the other party, provide counseling for the child(ren) and/or client dealing with damaging and devastating issues.
Our law firm represents clients and their families throughout Florida, including Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco, Manatee and Sarasota Counties. Our attorneys provide a full scope of legal services in all aspects of Family Law; paternity, divorce, alimony, child support, child custody, visitation and domestic violence actions.
We understand that each family and its problems are unique and we strive to tailor our legal services to suit your individual needs. The size of our law firm allows us to offer our clients close, personal attention, while we work to resolve your divorce or other family related issues. Our experience, compassion and personal attention to you can make this emotional and difficult time much easier for you. Call us today at (727) 897-9495 to schedule a consultation.
Dissolution of marriage, commonly referred to as divorce, breaks the legal bonds between husband and wife and provides a framework for the care and support of spouses and children, if any.
An uncontested divorce may be a simple negotiation, if a couple can agree on an equitable division of property and assets. Severing the bonds of marriage, however, nearly always creates unexpected complications. When lives of children are at stake, custody, support and visitation add to the conflicts over a family's life-changing decisions. Divorce proceedings become even more complex, when substantial assets, properties or a closely-held business are part of the picture. Along with legal and financial aspects, there may also be tax ramifications. Business transactions, which require not only the skill and know-how of an experienced family law attorney, may also require resources of other professionals like accountants, business valuators and appraisers.At Cox & Associates, our attorneys are experienced in handling all aspects of both simple and complex divorces. Our attorneys help you to reach your goals and most effectively accomplish what is best for you and your children. We provide a secure and confidential setting as we help you navigate through your divorce settlement process and strive to minimize the negative impact on your family.
Alimony is defined as financial support the court orders one spouse to pay the other on a temporary or permanent basis. While the husband is most often the spouse ordered to pay alimony, under Florida law, alimony is gender neutral. Either the husband or the wife may become obligated to pay alimony. The purpose of alimony is to enable a spouse to continue to live in a lifestyle or standard of living similar to what was enjoyed during the marriage.
There are several different types of alimony in the State of Florida including:
Temporary Alimony - financial support one spouse pays the other while the divorce is pending to enable the spouse to continue the status quo of his or her standard of living while the divorce proceedings progress. Usually temporary alimony is paid monthly and lasts only until the divorce is final. However, upon completion of the divorce, a final judgment may include provisions for alimony beyond the entry of the divorce judgment. Such forms of alimony are permanent periodic alimony, rehabilitative alimony, bridge-the-gap alimony and/or lump sum alimony.
Permanent periodic alimony - usually ordered in long-term marriages, ends upon death or remarriage. An award of permanent periodic alimony is based upon several factors, including length of marriage; one spouse's need, the other spouse's ability to pay such alimony, as well as the age and health of the parties.
Rehabilitative alimony - frequently used in shorter term marriages, is used to allow one spouse to become retrained, or gain further education, so that they can become self-supporting. Rehabilitative alimony is generally awarded for a finite period of time and is presented with a plan of rehabilitation.
Lump Sum Alimony - A determination for a payment of lump sum alimony from one spouse to the other is where one payment, or periodic payments for a set period of time, is awarded. Lump sum alimony may be warranted for support or as a means to transfer assets between spouses. Such payments may include - bridge-the-gap - alimony which is short-term alimony intended to help one spouse's transition from married life to self-sufficient, single life.If you need legal advice or representation, regarding alimony in Florida, the attorneys at Cox & Associates, P.A. will be happy to discuss your concerns. Please call our office at (727) 897-9495 to arrange an appointment.
When a couple divorces, economics come into play. Instead of supporting only one household, the parents incomes will need to support two households, which could strain finances. The court will order the non-custodial parent to pay a sum, usually on a monthly basis, for child support. Legally, both parents have an obligation to support their children and, in Florida, a child support statute sets guidelines that must be used to establish new child support obligations or when existing obligations are modified. To arrive at the amount of child support, Florida guidelines take into consideration all income and earnings of both parents as well as the children's health care and daycare expenses.
If circumstances change for the child or either parent, perhaps for medical or economic reasons, the non-custodial parent and the custodial parent each have the right to ask for a review of the amount of child support paid and request an increase or decrease in the amount paid.
In addition to divorce, other situations requiring child support include paternity suits and domestic violence actions resulting in a restraining order against the parent.
Please call our office at (727) 897-9495 to arrange an appointment with one of our family law attorneys.
Child Custody & Visitation
Child visitation and child custody are entwined. As part of divorce proceedings, once the best form of child custody is determined, the judge then sets guidelines for visitation. In Florida, it is a matter of public policy to ensure that parents share responsibility for raising children and that minor children see parents often and on a continuing basis after the parents are separated or divorced.
When parents have shared parental responsibility, the preferred form of custody in Florida, one parent is generally designated as the primary residential parent. The secondary parent, or non-primary parent, will have visitation rights, which are either determined by the Court or as the primary and secondary parents have agreed upon. The primary residential parent is obligated to encourage the visitation by the secondary parent and the continued close relationship between the child and the non-residential parent.
The court assesses the needs of a child, weighing the child's age, maturity, the distance between parents residences, whether the child is in school, and, if the child is mature enough, the child's preferences, to determine the best child custody arrangement and visitation schedule.
Sometimes the court may rule that visitation must be supervised in order to protect the safety and well-being of a child. With supervised visitation, the judge will require the other parent, another adult or professional agent to be present during visitation.
There are many forms of child custody including, sole custody, joint custody (also known as shared parental responsibility), shared custody and rotating custody. A family law attorney can explain each form of custody, or shared parenting arrangement, and help you decide which form may work best for your family situation.
Child custody is further defined by physical and legal custody. Physical custody involves daily care for the child, while legal custody involves decision-making beyond the child's daily needs for food, clothing, schooling and general hygiene and exercise. In Florida, the term "shared parental responsibility" is used to describe a co-parenting arrangement whereby both parents are involved in major decisions affecting their child's, or children's, lives. Under shared parental responsibility, both parents work together to choose the child's school, dentist, physician, after-school activities, religious upbringing, legal decisions and the like. If parents cannot work together for the best interests of their child or children, Florida law allows for one parent to have sole custody.
If you need legal advice and guidance regarding a child custody problem, you may call our law firm at (727) 897-9495 to arrange an appointment.
Establishing paternity means legally determining the father of the child. If the parents are not married to each other when the child is born, the child does not have a legal father unless paternity is established. The easiest way is for both parents to sign a form saying that the child is theirs. If necessary, a court can establish paternity by determining the father's identity. Either way, paternity can be established at any time for a minor child.
Either parent can ask for a genetic test to establish who is the father. The test is easy and takes only a few minutes. It usually involves collecting a DNA sample by gently wiping the inside of the mouth with a swab. Samples must be taken from the mother, the child and the man who is believed to be the father.
Establishing paternity will give your child the same rights and benefits as children born to married parents. These rights and benefits may include legal proof of each parent's identity, child support, information on family medical history in case of inherited health problems, the child knowing the identity of both parents , the father's name on the birth certificate, medical or life insurance from either parent and financial support from both parents, including child support, Social Security, veteran benefits and military allowances (if applicable) and inheritance.
After paternity is established, a court may then order child support payments and medical insurance for the child. The amount of child support is based primarily on both parents' incomes using guidelines set by Florida law.
If you need legal advice and guidance, regarding an action for paternity, you may call our attorneys at Cox & Associates, P.A. at (727) 897-9495 to arrange a consultation.
Marital Settlement Agreements
A marital separation agreement, also known as a property settlement agreement, or marital settlement agreement, is simply a written contract dividing your property, spelling out your rights, as well as settling problems such as alimony, child support and custody.
Generally, a Marital Separation Agreement is drawn up according to the law of the state in which at least one party lives. When executed and witnessed properly, it is an enforceable contract between the parties, but is not in itself an undertaking to become divorced. Most parties ultimately do file for divorce, at which time an Agreement would be "incorporated" into the eventual divorce judgment.
At Cox & Associates, P.A., we assist many of our clients in preparing marital settlement agreements and resolving their disputes quickly and without the stress of litigation. If you need legal advice and guidance, regarding a marital settlement agreement, you may call our attorneys for a consultation at (727) 897-9495.
As part of divorce proceedings, the court establishes orders for child custody, child support and child visitation. However, over time, circumstances frequently change. As children age, their needs change, and with that, the type of visitation may need to change as well. Children may develop health problems or require special educational needs. If one parent develops alcohol or substance abuse problems, for example, in the best interests of the children, the other parent may petition for full custody. Child visitation schedules set by court order also encounter the need for enforcement or modification. Work-related issues may interfere with visitation or a parent may move out of state, requiring the court to review the relocation and institute a new visitation schedule.
Often, collecting child support becomes a problem. Fathers and mothers may refuse to make child support payments, or may be unable to do so for any number of reasons, ranging from illness to loss of a job. When child support is not being paid, the State of Florida has a long list of remedies, which may be exercised in attempt to collect payments.
When you have problems with court orders and need assistance to enforce or modify existing court orders, please call Cox & Associates, P.A. at (727) 897-9495 for legal assistance.
The Domestic Violence Injunction
Florida Statute section 741.30 allows any family or household member to seek an injunction against any other family or household member. The petitioner must have been a victim of domestic violence or has reasonable cause to believe he or she is in imminent danger of becoming the victim of any act of domestic violence. Evidence must be in writing to the court with copies to the other party or must be presented during the hearing by sworn testimony. The injunction may be filed in the circuit court where the petitioner currently or temporarily resides, where the respondent resides, or where the domestic violence occurred.
Repeat Violence Injunction
The law that establishes this injunction is found section 784.046, Florida Statutes. This statute allows any person who is the victim of repeat violence to seek an injunction against the person causing the violence. Repeat Violence means two (2) incidents of violence or stalking with one incident having occurred within the last six months*. Violence means any assault, aggravated assault, battery, aggravated battery, sexual assault or battery, stalking, aggravated stalking, kidnapping, or false imprisonment, or any criminal offense resulting in physical injury or death. Evidence must be in writing to the court with copies to the other party or must be presented during the hearing by sworn testimony. The injunction may be filed in the circuit court where the petitioner currently or temporarily resides, where the respondent resides, or where the violence occurred.
The Dating Violence Injunction
Florida Statute section 784.046 allows any person who is the victim of dating violence to seek an injunction against the person causing the violence. Dating Violence means violence between individuals who have or have had a continuing and significant relationship of a romantic or intimate nature. Violence means any assault, aggravated assault, battery, aggravated battery, sexual assault or battery, stalking, aggravated stalking, kidnapping, or false imprisonment, or any criminal offense resulting in physical injury or death. Evidence must be in writing to the court with copies to the other party or must be presented during the hearing by sworn testimony. The injunction may be filed in the circuit court where the petitioner currently or temporarily resides, where the respondent resides, or where the violence occurred.