Where can I find divorce support groups?


In the Pensacola area there are at least two different churches who host Divorce recovery groups.

Marcus Pointe Baptist Church 6205 North “W” Street Pensacola, FL on Tuesdays, 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm; 
Feb. 6 – May 1, 2018

Olive Baptist Church 836 E. Olive Rd. Pensacola, FL
850-475-1147 or [email protected]

Led by Stephen and Michelle Shelby
Wednesdays | 6:00p-8:00p | Room 4103.

What is the difference between an annulment and a divorce?

If you try to open a Florida statute volume, you will not find a provision for annulments. However, you can still obtain one. Judges over time have created different causes of action via case law. Florida Courts have recognized reasons why a couple can get an annulment. They are: one participant is less than 18 years of age at the time of the marriage, if one is incapable of having sexual relations, related too closely (brother, sister, aunt, uncle), or mental impairment.  The downside to filing an annulment is that you can spend the money to hire an attorney but the judge can still say no. Annulments are unlike a divorce proceeding. When you file for divorce, you may not know the specific details when you begin, but you are for sure certain that you will be single! A judge, even if your spouse doesn’t want a divorce, will grant it.

Annulments tend to be an exit route for celebrities who failed to get a pre-nup before getting hitched, i.e., Britney Spears’ 55 hour marriage. There are certain benefits. Annulments have previously been a route to avoid the declaration that one was “divorced”  There is  no stigma associated with divorce in our day and age. The advantage to obtaining an annulment however, can be huge if granted. For instance if one spouse has extensive assets and income, an annulment would necessarily disallow alimony claims. You have to have been married in Florida to claim alimony.

If you are considering an exit from your marriage, contact our firm for options.



What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is mine?

In Florida, assets that you bring into the marriage are yours. The status of the asset can change however. If you for instance, had a house prior to your marriage, but added your husband to the deed, he is now entitled to it just as much as you. If you at the time of your marriage have a retirement account and continue to contribute to it, the portion and growth from the date of your marriage is 1/2 your spouse’s. Your salary is a marital asset. If during your marriage you put your salary into a banking account, whatever the name, it is a marital asset.
If you are contemplating marriage and have assets, you should contact an attorney to determine whether you would benefit from a prenuptial agreement. A prenup can streamline your assets if you ever divorce and give you peace of mind for your future, no matter if the marriage is successful. Hopefully, it is successful.

Can text messages be admissible into evidence at a hearing?

Absolutely, text messages are admissible! If you are in a family law case, emotions run high. People say things they later regret. But, when you do it either in a text message or email, the likelihood that you will see it in print at a hearing, is almost 100%! Bad behavior can be punished by a judge.  It can reduce your parenting time. If your spouse isn’t paying the child support as ordered, and you text, “I’m not letting you see our son until you pay your child support,” the Judge is no longer looking at a he said she said. It is in black and white. Rant and rave all day long to your family or your best friend, out of the earshot of your kids. DO NOT vent without a filter via text, email or social media. I remind clients that if you say it in writing, you will see it in Court. You should always act as if the Judge can see you.

Does it matter who files for divorce first?

Often, clients will ask, “Does it matter who files for divorce first?” Technically, no, it doesn’t matter. However, strategically it can.  The person who files first, named the Petitioner, will set the tone. If adultery  or misuse of money is alleged, then we know the divorce is going to be contested and perhaps hostile.

It is actually about $100 cheaper to file second. However, I find that if you are the Respondent, you are behind the 8 ball. When a divorce is filed, there are certain time deadlines that can cause stress. Within 45 days from the date of service of process, parties must give a lengthy amount of documents to the other side. Honestly, just compiling all of the documents can be stressful. If you are first to file, then in theory, you have already gotten those items together. At our firm, we do not generally file a Dissolution (divorce) unless the client has obtained all of the Mandatory Disclosure documents. (https://www.ferryandferry.com/for-clients-2/mandatory-disclosure-checklist/)

Filing first also gives you more time to plan your future, rather than being blindsided. Women are 2/3 more likely to file first. White women  are at the top of that number. This is most likely attributable to increased wages that women are now capable of earning.

If divorce is certainly on your horizon, contact us to see the light at the end of the tunnel.



My husband cheated on me and I am angry. Will the judge give me my pound of flesh?


While I would like to say that a Judge can punish the cheater like in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the answer is no. In the state of Florida, it is no-fault. So if one says there are “irreconcilable differences” between you, a Judge doesn’t have to go any further to grant the divorce. The Judge doesn’t have to see private investigator footage, hotel receipts, or illicit text messages. HOWEVER, if that spouse spent money on the other person, or gave you a STD as a result of the cheating, the answer is  different. The Judge can award damages for the STD. If the money was spent, the Judge can require those funds to go into marital assets to be distributed.

Getting Through It:

If you are going through a divorce, my best advice is to exercise. Buy a sparring bag and hit it hard. Go for a long run. Divorce feels like you are going crazy. You have to stay grounded, especially if you have children that will be impacted. The last thing you want is for them to feel the crazy.

How is my business divided in a divorce?

smith-family-business-cubes-5landingHow is my business divided in a divorce? When someone gets divorced, their assets can be subject to different rules in order to divide them. If  one of the spouses began a business before the parties married, only the increase in value from the date of marriage until date of filing the divorce is considered marital. If the business began after the marriage but before one of them filed for divorce, the business’ entire value is marital.  There is also the hiccup that if one spouse has personal goodwill.  Personal Good will, like their name for instance, is not marital. We must know the business’ value at the time of marriage and then at the end of the marriage.

It is absolutely necessary to hire a Certified Public Accountant who has achieved a Business Valuation (ABV) by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. CPA’s who are also a ABV are considered experts by the Court. The CPA works well with the attorney to make sure the client receives a fair amount of the value.

How does relocation after a divorce with children work?



After parties divorce, especially in this day and age, at least one spouse may relocate. It is almost inevitable if one party is military. The factors that the Court will consider are statutory in Florida. However, there is no rhyme or reason at times to be able to with certainty to advise a client that they will be able to move. Before the removal of standard parenting time for one parent, if the Primary Residential Parent (no longer called that as of 2008), wanted to move, it was typically granted. Since 2008, Florida has removed the term Primary Residential parent and now establishes parenting time. The parties are simply called Parents.

A parent, if there is a 50/50 timeshare schedule, is in my opinion going to have a more difficult time moving. That is not to say impossible. I have had cases where the Court allowed the moving parent, despite having 50/50 move out of the country with the child. The Court looks at the big picture. The Court if it allows the party to relocate with the child(ren), must establish an alternative parenting plan that will ensure the child’s relationship is maintained with the parent who is left behind. The Court will look at whether the parent who wants to move is flexible. It is subjective as to whether a party is being flexible.

There  is a requirement that if you relocate more than 50 miles (as the crow flies) from your residence held at the time of the final judgment, you must follow the relocation statute. Failure to do so, may result in your loss of parenting time.


Do I have to get off Facebook if I’m in a divorce?

social_media_no-nosIf you are about to embark on a family law matter that will end with a court appearance, get off social media. Make your Facebook in active, refrain from using Twitter. If you want to keep the accounts, make sure that you avoid commenting on your case. Do not use social media to lash out at the other side or advertise your own bad behavior. I read one post the other day where the person commented how they had gone to work drunk from the night before. People who do not take this advice, will see their posts up close and personal in a court room, I promise. Before you type it, ask yourself, “What would the judge think if he/she read it?” Written correspondence is much more compelling than  “a he said-she said.”


What is the single most important thing I can do in a child custody case?


In my opinion, keeping a journal which details the parenting time each parent spends with the children including times as well as events that occur is the number 1 thing a parent can do to help themselves. Make notes as the events happen.

Now keep in mind that Florida, despite the vetoing of the equal time share bill, is moving in that direction. Gone are the days where the stay at home mother automatically gets custody of the children. The family law judges in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties are more and more frequently ordering equal time sharing.  The case, if it is a divorce, begins with the Pretrial Standing Order.  (Look in the For Clients Tab to review it). The PTSO requires that unless the parties agree otherwise, equal time with the children is granted on a weekly rotating basis. There is thankfully an exception that allows the parent who believes there is a strong risk of neglect to the minor child, to file a verified petition to abrogate the order.