Family and Matrimonial Law

Francisco J. Vargas, Esq., P.A. is a full-service law firm specializing in a wide array of family law matters, including: Alimony, Child issues such as “Time-Sharing and Parental Responsibility”, Child Support, Divorce, Mediation, Modifications of Support Obligations, Military Divorce, Parental-Child Relocation, Paternity, Property and Marital Settlement Agreements. The firm takes pride in offering quality legal services at an affordable price. The firm is conveniently located in downtown Miami, blocks from the family courthouse and within walking distance of Metrorail and Metromover stations. Francisco J. Vargas is fluent in Spanish and English.

VALUATION AND DISTRIBUTION OF MARITAL BUSINESSES

VALUATION AND DISTRIBUTION OF MARITAL BUSINESSES

Like most states, Florida has enacted a statute requiring equitable distribution. It is important to remember that “equitable” doesn’t necessarily mean “equal”. The principle of equitable distribution, that is, the apportionment of the marital assets or estate between divorcing parties in an equitable and just manner, regardless of title ownership, whether set forth by statute or judicial construction, authorizes the courts to divide the property of the parties or to award the property of one spouse to the other in a “fair” manner. The factors that the courts must consider in distributing marital assets are found in Section 61.075, Florida Statues. Factors include the following: (a) The contribution to the marriage by each spouse, including contributions to the care and education of the children and services as homemaker. (b) The economic circumstances of the parties. (c) The duration of the marriage. (d) Any interruption of personal careers or educational opportunities of either party. (e) The contribution of one spouse to the personal career or educational opportunity of the other spouse. (f) The desirability of retaining any asset, including an interest in a business, corporation, or professional practice, intact and free from any claim or interference by the other party. (g) The contribution of each spouse to the acquisition, enhancement, and production of income or the improvement of, or the incurring of liabilities to, both the marital assets and the nonmarital assets of the parties. (h) The desirability of retaining the marital home as a residence for any dependent child of the marriage, or any other party, when it would be equitable to do so, it is in the best interest of the child or that party, and it is financially feasible for the parties to maintain the residence until the child is emancipated or until exclusive possession is otherwise terminated by a court of competent jurisdiction. In making this determination, the court shall first determine if it would be in the best interest of the dependent child to remain in the marital home; and, if not, whether other equities would be served by giving any other party exclusive use and possession of the marital home. (i) The intentional dissipation, waste, depletion, or destruction of marital assets after the filing of the petition or within 2 years prior to the filing of the petition. (j) Any other factors necessary to do equity and justice between the parties. Please feel free to schedule a consultation to discuss how the above factors apply to your case.
Attorney’s Fees and Costs

Attorney’s Fees and Costs

The fees and costs for dissolution of marriage cases vary widely. The more complex and the more contested the issues, the more the dissolution will cost. At an initial meeting, your attorney may be able to provide an estimate of the total cost of a dissolution based on the information you provide; however, keep in mind that your attorney has no way to predict the future and that estimates are precisely that – estimates. The final cost of your dissolution of marriage will depend on many variables that are unpredictable. Your attorney will expect you to pay a fee and the costs of litigation in accordance with the agreement you make. Sometimes the court will order your spouse to pay part or all of your fee and costs, but such awards are unpredictable and cannot be relied upon. You are primarily responsible for the payment of your legal fees. In a dissolution of marriage, it is illegal for an attorney to work on a contingency fee basis (that is, where the attorney’s fee is based upon a percentage of the amount awarded to the client).
Parenting Plan Considerations

Parenting Plan Considerations

It is the public policy of Florida to ensure that each minor child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents have separated or the marriage is dissolved and to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities, and joys, of child-rearing. The court gives both parties the same consideration in determining parental responsibility and time-sharing, regardless of the child’s age or gender. In most cases, parental responsibility for a minor child will be shared by both parents so that each retains full parental rights and responsibilities with respect to their child. Shared parenting requires both parents to confer so that major decisions affecting the welfare of the child will be determined jointly. You and your spouse may agree, or the court may order, that one parent have the ultimate responsibility over specific aspects of the child’s welfare, such as education, religion or medical and dental needs. The court will determine any or all of these matters if the parties cannot agree. In very rare cases, the court can order sole parental responsibility to one parent. To do so, the court must determine that shared parental responsibility would be detrimental to the child. In determining parental responsibility, the court will approve or devise its own Parenting Plan, which includes responsibility for the daily tasks of child-rearing, the time-sharing schedule, and decision-making authority relating to health care, school and related activities. The Plan also will specify any technology that will be used for parent-child communication. The parents may agree on a Parenting Plan and submit it to the court for approval, or the court will determine these issues. The statute includes a list of factors for the court to consider in making these decisions. The courts use the best-interests-of-the-child standard when considering parental issues. Florida law requires both parties to attend a parenting course before entering a final dissolution of marriage. Some courts require children of parents going through dissolution of marriage to attend a class specifically designed for them. Consult your county clerk’s office for information on courses offered.
CHILD SUPPORT

CHILD SUPPORT

You and your spouse each have a responsibility to financially support your children in accordance with your income and their needs. Child support may be by direct payment or by indirect benefits, such as mortgage payments, insurance, or payment of medical and dental expenses. Ordinarily, the obligation to support your child ends when that child reaches age 18, marries, is emancipated, joins the armed forces or dies. Some of the issues concerning child support that must be considered include:
  • The amount of support.
  • The method of payment.
  • Ways to ensure payments are made.
  • When child support may be increased or decreased.
  • Who claims the dependency deduction for tax purposes.
Other questions may need to be answered, depending on the circumstances of your case. Guidelines for the amount of support apply to all cases and are based on the income of the parents and the number of children, with adjustments for substantial overnight contact. If you have a problem receiving support payments from your spouse or former spouse, or the time-sharing plan is not being followed, you should bring this matter to the attention of the court. It is not legal to withhold time-sharing or child-support payments because either parent fails to pay court-ordered child support or violates the time-sharing schedule in the parenting plan.
Simplified Divorce

Simplified Divorce

Brief overview Certain couples are eligible to dissolve their marriage by way of a simplified procedure. This type of dissolution was designed so the services of an attorney might not be necessary. Spouses are responsible, however, for filing all necessary documents correctly, and both parties are required to appear before a judge together when the final dissolution is granted.

Cost-saving measures: You can retain an attorney to represent you even in an uncontested matter. The cost for such services is generally much less than in a contested case. You can further reduce your attorney’s fees if you ensure that you and your spouse have reached an agreement on all issues that will reduce the attorney’s work.

Eligibility requirements for simplified dissolution: Not everyone can use the simplified procedure. Couples can use the simplified dissolution of marriage only if all the following requirements are met:
  • Both parties agree to the use of this form of dissolution proceeding.
  • They have no minor (under 18) or dependent children.
  • They have no adopted children under the age of 18.
  • Neither party is pregnant.
  • At least one of the parties has lived in Florida for the past six months.
  • The parties have agreed on the division of all of their property (assets) and obligations (debts). Neither party is seeking alimony.
  • Both parties agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken.
If you and your spouse cannot meet all of the above requirements, you will have to follow the procedure of the regular dissolution of marriage process.

Differences between regular and simplified dissolution proceedings: There are substantial differences between a simplified and a regular dissolution of marriage. In a regular dissolution, each spouse has the right to examine and cross-examine the other as a witness. Each spouse also has the ability to obtain documents concerning the other’s income, expenses, assets and debts before a trial or settlement. With a simplified dissolution, financial information may be requested by either party, but disclosing financial information is not required.

Obtaining the forms for simplified dissolution proceedings: If spouses seek a dissolution and prefer to use the simplified form of dissolution, they should both contact the clerk of the circuit court in their county and obtain a copy of the booklet titled “Simplified Dissolution Information” for more detailed information and forms.
ALIMONY

ALIMONY

After equitable distribution, the court may consider an alimony award. The court may grant alimony to either spouse. For the court to award alimony, the requesting spouse must demonstrate a need for alimony and the ability of the other party to pay. Once the requesting spouse has established a need and an ability to pay, the court must determine all relevant factors to determine the property type and amount of alimony to award. For purposes of determining alimony, there is a rebuttable presumption that a short-term marriage is a marriage having a duration of less than 7 years, a moderate-term marriage is a marriage having a duration of greater than 7 years but less than 17 years, and long-term marriage is a marriage having a duration of 17 years or greater. The length of a marriage is the period of time from the date of marriage until the date of filing of an action for dissolution of marriage. Bridge-the-gap alimony may be awarded to help a spouse make a transition from being married to being single. Bridge-the-gap alimony is designed to assist a spouse with legitimate, identifiable short-term needs. There are limits as to the length and conditions of a bridge-the-gap alimony award. Rehabilitative alimony may be awarded to assist a spouse in establishing the capacity for self-support through either the redevelopment of previous skills or credentials, or the acquisition of education, training or work experience necessary to develop appropriate employment skills or credentials. The court must articulate a specific rehabilitative plan to award alimony so both parties clearly understand the expectations placed on the alimony recipient. Durational alimony may be awarded when permanent periodic alimony is inappropriate. The purpose of durational alimony is to provide a spouse with economic assistance for a set period of time following a marriage of short or moderate duration or following a marriage of long duration if there is no ongoing need for support on a permanent basis. There are limitations as to the length and modifiability of a durational alimony award. Permanent alimony may be awarded to provide for the needs and necessities of life as they were established during the marriage of the parties for a spouse who lacks the financial ability to meet the needs and necessities of life following a dissolution of marriage. There are limitations as to when a court may award permanent periodic alimony, particularly for marriages of short or moderate duration. The factors the court considers when determining the type and amount of the alimony award include, but are not limited to:
  • The parties’ prior standard of living.
  • Length of the marriage.
  • Age and physical and emotional condition of both spouses.
  • Each spouse’s financial resources and income-producing capacity of the assets they receive.
  • The time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to find appropriate employment.
  • The services rendered in homemaking, child-rearing, and the education and career-building of the other spouse.
The court may consider any other factor necessary to do equity and justice between the spouses. You have the right to obtain information about your spouse’s income and assets through the use of discovery procedures. Discovery includes the exchange of documents and answers to written or oral questions.