Family Law

Safeguarding You and Your Family

If conflicts concerning your family have reached the point where legal action is necessary, Ferry & Ferry, can help. In practicing family law, you see good people at their worst. It is near impossible to remain objective when family issues are dramatically impacting your life. We, at Ferry & Ferry, are determined to bring objectivity back to you, so that you can make the best educated decisions about your family. The need for objectivity and the knowledge needed to navigate the litigation are the ultimate reasons that an attorney is essential. If you try to effect a divorce without an attorney, errors on your part will be made with certainty. The number of divorce cases that have come to our office after the divorce because something was missed is high.  Sometimes we can correct it and sometimes the client is stuck. Call us for an office consultation before you act.

We do not charge additional fees for representation in Santa Rosa county. To schedule a consultation with Ferry & Ferry, P.A., call 850-469-8118 or contact us online.

We provide legal services in a wide spectrum of family law areas, to include:

Alimony

Divorce should not lead to poverty. Our firm will help you establish a fair amount of spousal support. Alimony can be one of many forms. There are permanent, rehabilitative, short term, bridge the gap, temporary and lump sum alimony. The Courts will look at the needs of the requesting spouse in comparison with the ability of the other spouse to contribute to those needs. The amount of alimony may or may not fully meet those needs. If you are in a situation where you have been ordered to pay permanent alimony, there are circumstances that may allow you to modify or terminate altogether your alimony obligation. For instance, if the paying spouse retires at the regular retirement age of 65, that can be considered by the Court to be a substantial change in circumstances to reduce or eliminate the alimony obligation. If the spouse receiving alimony begins a supportive relationship post divorce, the paying spouse may have an argument to either reduce or terminate their alimony payment altogether. The only alimony obligations which are not subject to reduction would be those where the parties had previously agreed to non-modifiable alimony. The Courts cannot order non-modifiable alimony absent the parties’ agreement.

Attorneys fees

If you are the party that does not earn the majority of income, you may be entitled to an award of attorneys fees. The Court looks at your income versus that of your spouse. If the Court finds that you can prove you have a need for the other party to contribute to the payment of your attorneys fees, and that the other party has the ability to do so, the Court may award all or a portion of your fees. (In a Domestic Violence Injunction case, fees cannot be awarded.) (Attorneys are forbidden from accepting domestic cases on a contingency basis, except for enforcement of child support arrearages.)

Child support

Child support is typically a set amount based upon the child support guidelines established in the Florida Statutes. If one parent exercises at least 20% of the possible overnight parenting time, the child support obligation can be reduced. The 20% truly consists of only 4 overnights per month. Childcare and health insurance costs are additional amounts that are added to the base child support amount. Should you fail to pay a child support obligation, you may face loss of your driver’s license privilege, your passport and possibly incarceration. If you receive the letter that the Department of Revenue is seeking to enforce payment of child support don’t ignore it.  Call us. We can help.

Child support modification and enforcement

Child support payments remain the same unless and until the court modifies the child support order. If either parent experiences a significant change in circumstances which includes a substantial increase or decrease in income, we can guide you through the proper legal procedures to modify child support payments accordingly.

Legal Separation

Florida is one of the 6 states that do not recognize legal separation; however, you can petition a family court to establish an amount of support unrelated to a dissolution of marriage.

Divorce

In the state of Florida, at least one party must have lived here permanently for at least 6 months prior to the filing of a Divorce unless this is one party’s home state via their U.S. military service. In Florida, unlike some states, a divorce will settle your property distribution as well as alimony and child related issues. They are not dealt with separately. Florida has not recognized common law marriage since January 1, 1968. Florida, effective 2015, has joined the trending push to legalize same sex marriage, and hence divorce of that marriage.

Domestic Violence Injunctions/Restraining Orders

In Florida, if you have been the victim of violence by someone, you are entitled to seek relief from the Circuit Court in your County. A domestic violence injunction can prevent someone from coming near you or your children, on a temporary basis or a permanent one. The clerk’s office does not charge a fee for the filing of an injunction. If a domestic violence injunction is entered against you, it may limit your ability to own or possess a firearm in the future. A domestic violence injunction can and very well may prevent you from volunteering at your child’s school in the future. Do not under any circumstances simply agree to the entry of a restraining order without consulting an attorney first.

Parental Responsibility

We will protect your parental rights to raise your children in a fit and supportive home. In Florida, parents have a choice of two types of parental responsibility, shared or sole. Shared Parental responsibility allows both parents to make joint decisions regarding all aspects of their child(ren)’s life from academics to health issues. Sole Parental Responsibility limits one parent’s ability to contribute to the decision making in their child(ren)’s life as well as their access to medical and academic information. Shared is the preferred arrangement unless other circumstances come into play. One of those circumstances could include an occasion where one party is incarcerated for a long period of time or where one parent has committed domestic violence on either the other parent or the child. Parental responsibility is a separate issue from that of time sharing. At Ferry & Ferry, we know how important your children are to you and we promise to help you achieve an outcome that is in their best interest.

Parenting plans

Since October 2008, the Florida legislature requires new cases where children are at issue to prepare a parenting plan which outlines each parent’s rights and responsibilities as well as a time sharing schedule with their child(ren). There are no longer the designation of Primary versus Secondary parent.

Currently, there is no presumption in favor of any specific parenting time share. There is no longer a favoritism given to the mother of the children. The Court will look at more than 20 different factors. The following link shows the best interest of the child factors. Review it and try to be the parent who will facilitate a relationship between the child and the other parent.

Mediation puts the decisions in your hands and can often provide more expedient, predictable results than trial. Many parties feel that it is a better outcome for them to make the decisions about their children, rather than a Judge who does not know them or their family. Most times during family law cases, the Court will order both parties to attend a mediation prior to a Final hearing before the Court.  Your attorney will be with you throughout every hearing and of course mediation held in your case.  Our firm can help guide you to achieve the most equitable divorce settlement so that you don’t give up a legal right in which you are entitled. If you do reach a settlement at mediation, your case can be resolved sometimes without even appearing in court as well as much quicker than had you gone to trial. Keep in mind that there is no buyer’s remorse when a party signs a settlement agreement. You can’t just change your mind unless there was fraud by the other party.

Paternity

In cases where the parents were never married but have minor children in common, it is necessary to seek legal intervention to establish the rights of the father.  The act of simply signing the child’s birth certificate does not convey to a father any rights other than the responsibility of paying child support. If you have an informal parenting time schedule, meaning one that has not been formalized by a Court, the child support obligation can be reduced. It is imperative that a prospective father pursue a paternity case to effectuate his parenting time and child support obligation, if any.  In Florida, the mother is considered the sole legal guardian if she is unmarried at the time of the child’s birth. That can mean that the mother can relocate with the child without the consent of the father. If you are a father not married to the mother at the time of your child’s birth, it is absolutely necessary to seek counsel as soon as possible. By not acting, the mother can seek to terminate a father’s rights and allow someone else to adopt the child.

Pretrial Standing Orders in a Dissolution of Marriage Case

Until you file a pleading which asks the Court to make decisions about your children, the general rule is that both parents have equal rights to the children.  The effect of not filing a divorce  can mean that one spouse can take the children out of state or move out of the marital home locally.  Once a party files a Divorce in Santa Rosa and Escambia counties, the Judges here will sign a Pretrial Standing Order which gives each party equal time with the minor children. If the parties cannot agree, then the children will be exchanged weekly on Sundays at 6:00 pm. Note: There are no Pretrial Standing Orders in Paternity Cases. The Pretrial Standing order can be modified.

Other Helpful Links

Nicole Kessler Ferry’s Avvo Answers

Contact dedicated Pensacola family law attorneys: Call 850-469-8118 or contact us online.