Myra Bennett Torres, P.A.
Frequently Asked Questions and Answers For Family Legal Problems
Because we take care of families, the Law and Mediation Office of Myra Bennett Torres has successfully helped hundreds of families resolve their problems during more than thirty years of practice. These are some of the issues in our practice areas that most frequently concern our clients or are discussed in initial consultation.
Q: What are the requirements to file a divorce in Florida?
A: You need to prove that you have lived in Florida for six months prior to filing the divorce action. The first thing that is examined is your Florida Driver's License. If that does not reflect that you lived in Florida for 6 months prior to filing, you can use an affidavit of a friend or family member, or we can consider other documents to comply with this requirement. Florida is a no fault state. That means that you do not need any specific grounds to get divorced other than stating that your marriage is irretrievably broken. You do not need the permission of your spouse to get divorced.
Q: How is the divorce obtained?
A: There are two ways to obtain a divorce decree. One is by a trial and written decision from a Judge. The other is by a written settlement agreement. If you have no contested issues in your case you can obtain a divorce without a trial, only a simple appearance before a Judge at a final hearing. If you have children, property, debts or any other issue to determine and a written settlement can be obtained, then you will also have only a simple appearance before a Judge at a final hearing. These would be considered uncontested divorces.
A contested divorce is when there are issues that you do not initially agree upon, usually regarding children, support, property or debts that must be resolved either by negotiation or by trial. Our office focuses on resolving those issues, through the use of negotiation, mediation or collaboration as quickly, efficiently and smoothly as possible under the circumstances unique to your family's case.
Q: What is mediation and when is it used?
A: Mediation is using a qualified neutral third party to help the parties discuss issues that the parties to the case are not able to resolve on their own. Our office has represented parties in family mediation and has acted as a mediator in family cases as well. The following description applies when our office represents one of the parties in a mediation. Before a case can to go trial, an order will be entered directing the parties to go to mediation, if there has not already been an agreement to go to mediation between our office and the opposing party. If there is not a prompt resolution of a contested case, we always work diligently to exchange all information necessary to obtain a mediation date. Getting to mediation quickly means that your case will probably be settled quickly. We always put our client's needs first and consider who will be the mediator and select the most appropriate person considering the parties and their circumstances. Having frequently participated in mediations and acted as mediator gives us a very good ability to do this, which has resulted in many successful meditations.
The parties meet with the mediator, along with their attorney. They do not have to meet face to face with the other party. The mediation can last a number of hours and throughout that time an agreement is created on each issue. When that is completed, the agreement is prepared in written form. We carefully go over the agreement with the client so that it is completely understood before the client signs the agreement that day. Once the agreement is signed, one of the parties appears before the judge for an uncontested hearing to obtain approval of the agreement and, in the case of a divorce, entry of a final judgment of divorce. Some other types of family matters may not require a court appearance for approval of the agreement.
Q: How do I go about obtaining child support and how much will it be?
A: If you have children who have not graduated high school or turned 18 then you must address child support in a written agreement of have a judge make a determination of child support. The parent claiming child support can claim child support back to 24 months or the date of separation. Any payments and your living situation will be taken into consideration in any calculation of support for this period of time.
Ongoing child support is calculated based on numerous factors: the father's income, the mother's income, the overnight time that the child spends with each parent, health insurance for each party and the child and child care expenses. Florida law requires that the child support be calculated according to certain guidelines and that it be put in writing and filed with the court.
Q: I am not married to the Father (or Mother) of my child. How can a family lawyer help me?
A: Parties that are not married and have children can file an action in the Family Court to determine or affirm paternity and address timesharing and child support and other issues relating to their children. The issues in a paternity case are different than in a divorce case, as the legal father must be established by agreement or by DNA testing. To determine child support, our office uses processes similar to that used in divorces to address child support, other financial issues and timesharing. We also use negotiation, mediation and collaboration as needed to help our clients to resolve these issues.
Q: How can I get custody of my child or visitation?
A: Florida no longer uses the term visitation, or primary custody in family cases. The time that a child spends with each parent is now called timesharing. Neither party is designated as a primary custodial parent of their child. The parents have shared parental responsibility for their children, unless there is a situation where one parent claims sole parental responsibility for all or specific issues.
Q: What does a parenting plan mean?
A: The written plan that describes each parent's timesharing, relation to each other as parents and the child is included in a Parenting Plan. The Parenting Plan also contains many other details of the parent's rights and responsibilities as it relates to the children. Each case must have a written parenting plan to be considered an uncontested case. If they are unable to agree, a Judge will make a parenting plan for the parties. Our office works on preparation and/or negotiation of a parenting plan in all cases with minor children.
Modification or Enforcement of Court Orders or Settlement Agreements
Q: I need to change my final judgment, how do I do that?
A: Frequently clients come in to discuss problems that they have after a divorce or other final determination has been made in their family case. We initially clarify whether they need to modify or enforce the final judgment or court order, or a combination of the two. When a client is going through changes or problems after a final determination has been made, this is often a stressful and frustrating period. We help our clients determine what needs to be done and how to use the appropriate method to address and resolve the problems. We can also tell them if the law allows seeking changes to the court order.
Q: A family member died recently and I don't know what to do with what he/she owned. What do I do?
A: Unfortunately some of our clients have experienced the death of a family member, friend or loved one. Because we take care of families, at the Law and Mediation Office of Myra Bennett Torres, we are able to help our clients with an orderly, efficient and compassionate way to deal with any legal issues which may exist. This may include reviewing documents, filing a probate estate or obtaining beneficiary benefits, including insurance proceeds.
Q: My family member cannot take care of him/herself and needs help with personal care and paying bills, what do I do?
A: Sometimes our clients find that their family member, friend or loved one is no longer able to take care of themselves or their financial affairs due to age, illness or an accident. Depending on the nature of the problems, we consider the legal alternatives available to address these problems. One of the legal processes that assist families is to determine the person's legal “capacity” and if necessary, obtain a legal guardianship over all or some of the areas of decision in an individual's life.
We are often contacted by a parent that has a child who has reached the age of 18 but does not have the capacity to take care of him or herself. Sometimes the child may be quite a lot over 18 but the parent has now been asked by a doctor or other care-taker if they have legal authority over their adult child. Our office is quite familiar with the process and procedure that is necessary to obtain the appropriate orders to resolve these problems through the legal process.
If a child under 18 receives money or property exceeding $15,000.00, the child cannot own the asset in their own name. We help the families address these issues as well, by way of guardianship, or through other legal methods.