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Office Located in Central Florida, Lake County, Florida
Accepting Cases in  Orange, Seminole, Lake, Sumter, Marion and adjacent Counties

All initial consultations are free! So, please do not hesitate to contact us today, Call Now (352) 324-2444

Your Question Directly to An Attorney

Do I need an attorney or can I do it on my own?

All parties have the right to represent themselves, should they choose to. However, before you choose to represent yourself, you should familiarize yourself with the Statutes and Case Law that are pertinent to the issues in your case, as well as the Rules of Family Law Procedure and the Local Rules pertinent to your jurisdiction. No-one can give you legal advice about what you should or should not do, other than an attorney licensed to practice law in your jurisdiction. Depending on how complicated the issues are in your case, you should at least consult with an experienced Family Law attorney prior to attempting to represent yourself. If you are not completely comfortable with the law, process and civil procedure related to the issues in your case, it is strongly recommended that you retain an experienced Family Law attorney to guide you through the process. This is especially true when you consider the issues that are typically at stake – custody of and time with your children, your home, your retirement accounts, division of all of your assets and debts, your ongoing financial obligations to your children and/or your spouse, etc. These are major issues that can and will affect your life and the lives of your children.

An experienced Family Law attorney will already be familiar with the Statutes and Case Law that are pertinent to the issues in your case, as well as the Rules of Family Law Procedure and the Local Rules in your jurisdiction. Because in most Family Law cases, you only have one “bite at the apple”, it is very important that you know what your potential rights and options are and that the issues in your case are properly determined based on the facts and circumstances unique to your case. Otherwise, once you have given up rights or agreed to something or a Judge has made the decisions for you, there may be very little that you can do to go back and change things. I cannot even begin to tell you how many times people have consulted with me after representing themselves, wanting to know how they get back rights that they gave up (frequently that they didn’t even previously know they had), undo something that they agreed to, or present new evidence to the Judge in order to try to change final rulings that have already been made, only to be told that, unfortunately, nothing can be done to change things now. It was simply too late to change things or get back what they had lost.

My function, as your attorney, is to properly advise you on your available rights and options, and explain to you the law and procedure that needs to be followed, in order to obtain the best possible result for you. Once you understand your available rights and options, as well as the law that applies to your situation, and we have discussed what your goals are and how you would ultimately like the case to resolve, I will file the necessary paperwork to initiate your case or other necessary documents, and will do my best to achieve your desired outcome. I will also strive to keep you from making emotional decisions during the course of your case that you will later regret, as well as from actions that could ultimately harm the outcome of your case. I will be there to guide you and advise you through every step of the process.

What is the normal process and procedure of a Family Law case?

First, if we were the Petitioners, the Petition has to be filed and served on the other party. If the party is “easily” served, it would generally take a few days from filing to serve the other party. However, this can sometimes take several weeks or longer. Once served, they have twenty calendar days to respond to the Petition. Usually, this is done through the filing of an Answer and Counter-Petition. We would then need to respond to the Counter-Petition, which is done within fifteen days. Once these “initial” pleadings are filed, then the case enters “the discovery phase.”

The “discovery phase” is when all of the important financial documents and other relevant evidential information is exchanged between the parties so that important matters like equitable distribution of assets and liabilities, child support, and other financial matters can be properly determined. This “discovery phase” generally takes at least a month or two following the filing of the initial pleadings, if not longer. The length of time that the “discovery phase” takes can depend on how many important documents there are, how complicated the financial issues are, how forthcoming one of the party’s is with their financial documentation, and multiple other variables. Once the “discovery phase” is completed, Mediation is required. If Mediation results in a full settlement of all issues, Final Judgment can be scheduled to occur in about a month. This is the “best case” scenario and would easily take at least four to six months. However, if Mediation does not result in a full settlement of all issues, then all disputed issues must be set for Trial for determination of the matters by a Judge, which can take several additional months due to the current overload of the civil judicial system.

What is Mediation and why do I have to go to Mediation?

Mediation is required in all family law cases in nearly all jurisdictions where there are disputed issues (issues that the parties cannot agree on). Typically, this is due to an Administrative Order that exists in that jurisdiction. Mediation is an informal process where both parties sit down with their respective attorneys (or by themselves, if they are unrepresented) with a disinterested third party (the mediator) to attempt to work out their differences and reach an amicable resolution that both parties can live with. Mediation is an extremely beneficial process as, in most cases (about 85% in my experience), all, if not most, of the issues can be resolved. It is a very informal process, completely confidential, wherein, hopefully, an amicable resolution is reached that will no longer require court intervention (whether it’s on one issue, some issues or all issues).

It is always best, if at all possible, for parties to determine the fate of their own case by reaching a resolution at Mediation that they can both live with and that is in the best interest of their children. Parties can, between themselves, frequently come up with creative solutions to resolve the disputed issues in their case that a Judge would not even have the authority or power to order. A Judge is limited by what the law authorizes him or her to do. And frequently, neither party is happy with the result that the Judge reaches in determining the disputed issues in their case (because the Judge doesn’t know you, doesn’t know your family, doesn’t know your schedules or what is “normal” for your family and is, essentially, a “stranger” in a black robe making life altering decisions that will have a lasting effect on you and your family). Of course, if one person absolutely refuses to be reasonable, then the only alternative is to go to Trial or have a hearing on the issues, and let the Judge decide.

Think of the Mediation process this way – have you ever had two people that you know that had completely opposite views on something that they were fighting about? And have you ever sat down with both of them to get their point of view to determine where they were coming from? And then gone back and forth between the two in order to try to help both of them see the other person’s side and possibly come to some sort of middle ground that they could agree on? If so, you essentially worked as a mediator between the two parties. This is what occurs at Mediation.

Your Question Directly to An Attorney

Your Question Directly to An Attorney