Experienced Orlando Attorney Answers Frequently Asked Questions on Florida Family Law
If you have questions about divorce, child custody, alimony or other Florida family law matters, Thomas E. Rhodes can help. Mr. Rhodes has been helping clients with family law issues in central Florida since 1977. Below are answers to just a few of the questions we encounter most frequently. If you have other questions, or if you need advice and representation in a divorce or other family law matter in Orange, Seminole or Osceola County, contact Thomas E. Rhodes in Orlando for assistance.
Q. Do I need the court’s permission to take the kids and move if I already have primary custody?
A. If you plan to move out of state or any significant distance away from where you are currently residing, the move may well impact the parenting plan and timesharing agreement, in which case you would need court approval and a modification of existing court orders. You will need to be able to show that the move is in the children’s best interests, which may be particularly challenging if the other parent objects to your move. Talk to an attorney before you make any change in your residence in order to make sure you do not negatively impact your child custody rights.
Q. What can I do if my ex won’t pay child support on time?
A. You can contact government agencies for help like the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement or the Florida Department of Revenue. These agencies could withhold child support payments from a paycheck or tax refund, suspend the payor’s driver’s license, or take other similar enforcement actions. You can also contact our office, and we will take immediate legal action to get your ex to pay what is owed.
Q. Does the wife automatically get alimony in a divorce?
A. First of all, the court can order either the husband or the wife to pay alimony. Secondly, alimony (also known as spousal support or maintenance) is not automatic but is only granted if one party requests it and can convince the judge it is warranted, often over the objection of the other spouse. There are many different types of alimony which can be awarded in a Florida divorce. Alimony may be permanent or temporary, paid in one lump sum or over time. The type, amount and duration of any alimony award is based on a number of factors, including the length of the marriage, the standard of living enjoyed by the spouses, the property settlement, and the needs of one spouse to receive alimony.
Q. What is a QDRO and how do I get one if I need one?
A. QDRO stands for Qualified Domestic Relations Order, and whether you need one or not depends upon the type of property subject to equitable distribution in your divorce. If either you or your spouse has a retirement or pension plan through an employer, the interest or assets in this plan may be subject to distribution in the property settlement. Yet some plans are governed by federal regulations which do not allow the plan administrator to transfer an interest in a plan to a person other than the employee without a court order. A QDRO is just such an order. You may need a QDRO if you or your spouse participates in a defined benefit plan, like a pension or retirement plan, or a defined contribution plan, such as a 401(k) or profit sharing plan. Attorney Thomas Rhodes can let you know if a QDRO will be needed in your divorce and can draft any necessary QDROs to ensure they are prepared accurately and completely.
Florida Family Law & Divorce Resources
The following links and resources are provided by Orlando family law attorney Thomas E. Rhodes for the benefit of people seeking information on divorce, child support and related matters. If you are in central Florida and need to visit with an experienced attorney regarding a divorce or other family law matter, call Thomas E. Rhodes at (407) 578-1748, or contact us online to schedule an initial consultation.
In addition to regulating the conduct of attorneys in the state, The Florida Bar also provides helpful information for members of the public seeking to learn more about the law in areas of practical importance to them. Some helpful family law pamphlets that are available include Adoption in Florida, Divorce in Florida, and Parenting and Divorce.
The Florida Department of Revenue can help you understand Florida statutory guidelines for child support. To estimate the amount of child support which may be awarded in your case, go to the Florida Child Support Calculator. Remember that this is an estimate only, and the judge has authority to deviate from the guidelines if convinced to do so by one or both parties.
Visit the Florida Department of Revenue (DOR) for assistance enforcing a child support court order through income withholding, driver’s license suspension, passport denial, property liens, garnishment and other actions. You can also get assistance from federal agencies like the Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) and Federal Parent Locator Service. The DOR website may also be important to you if you are paying support and need help with driver’s license reinstatement or other services.
For information about Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDROs) and how they might apply to your divorce and property settlement, visit these pages at the Employee Benefits Security Administration and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.
If you or your children have been subjected to domestic violence, get to a safe place and contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline for a referral to a shelter or other emergency or non-emergency resource in your area. If you are using a home computer that may be monitored by the abuser, it may be safer to use a computer at the local library or call the hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE. If you are using a public computer or other safe computer, you may also find helpful resources and information at the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
Certified Florida Mediator Discusses the Importance of Family Mediation
If there are any contested issues in your divorce, mediation will be ordered by the court. Why is mediation a court-ordered step in resolving contested issues in a divorce in Florida? The reason is that mediation can often resolve contested matters without the need for courtroom litigation, which frees up the courthouse to hear other matters in its crowded schedule. Mediation is more than just a time-saver for the courts, however; it can provide very real and lasting benefits to the parties in dispute. Read on to learn more about what mediation is and why you may choose to mediate your family law matter, whether it is court-ordered or not.
What is Mediation?
Mediation is an alternative method of dispute resolution which avoids the adversarial confrontation of courtroom litigation. In a mediation, the parties work together collaboratively to resolve their dispute in a manner which is beneficial to both parties. The process is facilitated by a mediator, who is a neutral third party trained in effective communication and conflict resolution.
Depending upon the situation, the mediator may bring the parties together and encourage them to talk with one another, or the mediator may serve as the intermediary between the parties and talk with each party separately. The mediator does not make decisions or impose rulings on the parties, but the mediator may advise them on how a judge might rule in their case and encourage them to understand the strengths and weaknesses on both sides of the matter.
In contrast to litigation, where each party stakes out a position and tries to convince the judge or jury to rule in their favor, the mediator encourages the parties to focus on their interests and create a solution together that meets the needs of both sides. Once an agreement is reached, the mediator can draw up the agreement, and the parties can submit it to the court for approval.
Besides the fact that mediation may be a court-ordered step in your family law case, there are many reasons why you may want to voluntarily choose mediation, even when it is not required. With mediation, you can finalize your divorce much faster than if you have to go to court, and it is generally less expensive as well. Saving time and money is important, but there are other equally valuable benefits to mediation. Since the parties work to create a solution together, they are more likely to find an answer that truly meets their needs. And since both parties worked to solve the problem, they are invested in its success. A mediated agreement is therefore more likely to be voluntarily implemented than a court order imposed upon the parties, and there is often less need to return to court to seek enforcement of court orders.
Courtroom litigation is adversarial, often resulting in one winner and one loser. Going through litigation can be stressful and emotional; bitter feelings can arise during a trial that poison the relationship between the parties. When children are involved, it is important divorcing spouses are able to get along and handle custody and visitation arrangements and participate jointly in events in the life of their child. Parties who achieve a mediated resolution often do so without those bitter feelings and are able to move forward with respect for another rather than hostility.
Why Choose Thomas Rhodes?
Thomas E. Rhodes, Esq., is certified by the Florida Supreme Court as a Certified Family Mediator and Certified County Court Mediator. For several years, Mr. Rhodes was a Staff Family Law Mediator for the 9th Judicial Circuit, where he helped hundreds of families in Orange and Osceola counties resolve their family law disputes. Whether serving as the mediator or representing a party in a family law mediation, Thomas Rhodes is an invaluable asset toward resolving conflict without acrimony and in a way that serves his clients best. Call (407) 578-1748, or contact us online to schedule a consultation with an experienced Florida-certified family law mediator.
Experienced Florida Attorney for Same-Sex Family Law Matters in Orlando
Since January of 2015, same-sex marriages have been legally recognized by the courts in the State of Florida. Many Florida couples have waited a long time for the right to legally marry in their home state, and many are rushing to the courthouse to exercise a right long denied to them. But marriage is a legal status with many legal consequences, and no marriage is something which should be entered into lightly or without due consideration. And while the rate of divorce among same-sex couples is far less than the divorce rate in the general population, this statistic may naturally rise as more same-sex couples enter into marriage.
At the law office of Thomas E. Rhodes, Esq., attorney Thomas Rhodes represents individuals in the full range of family law matters that same-sex couples may encounter, including issues related to marriage, divorce, child custody, and the ownership or distribution of joint or marital property.
Same-Sex Marriage and Divorce in Florida
Same-sex couples who marry in Florida enjoy all the rights and privileges of opposite-sex married couples. In the event of a divorce, Florida divorce law will apply as well. The issues may be more complicated for couples who married in another state and are seeking a divorce in Florida, or who married in Florida but are seeking a divorce in another state. As an experienced Florida family law attorney, Thomas E. Rhodes can provide you with effective advocacy and capable representation in all the issues relevant to your divorce, including child custody timesharing and parenting plans, child support, spousal support or alimony, and the division of marital property.
Joint Property and Business Agreements for Unmarried Couples
If you are living with another person in a long-term relationship but choose not to marry, we can help you protect your rights through a property agreement, also sometimes known as a domestic partnership agreement. When two people move in together, each person brings assets (and debts) into the relationship, and the couple then begin acquiring assets (and debts) together. A joint property agreement establishes in writing at the outset what separate property is being brought into the relationship and how that property will be treated, along with property purchased by the couple during their relationship, in the event of a break-up. Debts which may be incurred by either partner separately or jointly (such as the purchase of a house), can also be dealt with in the property agreement. Domestic partnership agreements can also address other matters besides joint property, including partner support, child support and visitation.
Deciding these matters upfront in a legal document can help avoid any disputes down the road and allow the parties to set out their rights and expectations in what might otherwise be a complicated and unsettled area of the law for a judge to determine in court.
Help with Same-Sex Family Law Issues from an Experienced Orlando Family Law Attorney
For practical legal advice and effective assistance with the full range of family law matters in Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties, contact Thomas E. Rhodes in Orlando.
Experienced Orlando Family Law Attorney
Orlando attorney Thomas E. Rhodes practices divorce and family law in central Florida’s Orange, Seminole and Osceola counties. Mr. Rhodes assists clients in the full range of family law matters related to divorce, including child custody, child support, alimony and the distribution of marital property. Mr. Rhodes is also experienced in matters concerning domestic violence, child abuse and dependency proceedings, as well as issues related to paternity, prenuptial agreements and qualified domestic relations orders.
Representation in Contested Matters under Florida Divorce Laws
Dissolving a marriage under Florida law is not a particularly difficult matter, since Florida recognizes the concept of no-fault divorce. However, there are many issues which must be decided in the final judgment of divorce, including child custody, child support, alimony/spousal support, and the distribution of marital property. Unless the parties can agree on all of these issues, the matter must be argued to the judge who will make a ruling on these matters in the divorce decree. Below is a brief description of how these matters may be handled. Note how in each area, the family law judge has significant discretion to rule based on the evidence and arguments submitted by the parties through their lawyers.
Child Custody (timesharing) – Florida law recognizes that it is best when both parents play a meaningful and significant role in their children’s lives post-divorce, and the courts generally favor some form of joint custody unless there is a good reason to give sole custody to one parent alone. The judge can decide who gets physical custody (timesharing, parenting plans) as well as legal custody (rights to make decisions regarding education, religion, healthcare and upbringing). The guiding force for the judge is what will be in the child’s best interests, so it is up to you and your attorney to prove that your position meets that criteria.
Child custody is often the most emotional and strongly contested issue in a divorce. Thomas Rhodes provides strong, effective representation in court where necessary but is also a certified family mediator who can help you resolve your custody dispute in a way that minimizes any negative impact on the children.
Child Support – Even though child support is derived from a statutory formula based on the parents’ income, don’t be fooled into thinking the calculation of support is a simple matter. Determining a spouse’s income can be quite complex, particularly where one spouse is self-employed or owns a business, or has complex assets like profit sharing or stock options. Our firm is particularly skilled at business valuation and other financial matters, so we can help make sure that income is being reported appropriately, and that the other spouse is not trying to hide assets.
Spousal Support/Alimony – If one party requests alimony, the judge will decide whether to make an award and if so, for how much and for how long. The decision to grant alimony is based on a number of factors, including each party’s earning capacity and financial resources, and how much each party contributed to the marriage by working, managing the household or taking care of the children. The judge weighs these subjective factors based on the evidence and arguments presented by the parties through their attorneys.
Property Distribution – The judge in a Florida divorce is required to make an equitable distribution of marital property. The division of property does not have to be equal, but it has to be fair. With decades of experience and expertise in property valuations and financial analysis, our team works to make sure every piece of property is located, properly identified as either marital or separate property, and accurately valued. Our office is particularly adept in high asset or complicated property divorces, including business valuations and the drafting of Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDROs).
Effective Advocacy in Domestic Violence Matters
Sadly, domestic violence is a not uncommon occurrence surrounding a divorce, either because abuse was a factor leading to the divorce or because emotions boiled over in the midst of a heated custody battle or property dispute. It is even possible that unsubstantiated allegations of domestic violence are sometimes made in order to gain an advantage in child custody or some other aspect of the divorce. Nevertheless, domestic violence is a very real and serious issue, and any allegation should be taken very seriously by both sides.
Of course, domestic violence need not be related to a divorce but can occur any time there is an assault, battery, sexual assault, sexual battery, stalking or any other criminal offense causing injury, when committed by a family member or household member. Domestic violence in Florida can also be committed by an ex-spouse or by a person against another he or she has a child in common with, regardless of whether the pair were ever married.
Thomas E. Rhodes helps people who are seeking or challenging domestic violence injunctions, including emergency protective orders and temporary restraining orders. If you are a victim of domestic violence or fear for your safety, get to a safe place and call 9-1-1 or a domestic violence hotline (see our Resources page for links). For help with an injunction or related matter, contact our office.
Capable and Effective Representation in Florida Family Law
The decisions made in a divorce can affect you and your children for years to come. While some divorce orders can be modified, the process can be difficult. It is important to get family law matters completed right the first time as much as possible, and having qualified, effective representation is essential to making that happen. In Orlando and throughout central Florida in Orange, Seminole and Osceola counties, count on Thomas E. Rhodes for sound advice and professional assistance in your Florida family law matter.
Thomas E. Rhodes – Attorney
Thomas Rhodes is an Orlando family law attorney serving clients throughout central Florida in child custody and support, domestic violence and divorce, and other marital and family law matters. With over 36 years of legal experience, Mr. Rhodes has amassed extensive knowledge and trial skills in a wide range of family law subjects, including dissolution of marriage litigation involving complicated child and spousal financial support issues, dependency, paternity, domestic violence and child abuse, and the preparation of prenuptial agreements and qualified domestic relations orders.
Mr. Rhodes gained an immense amount of trial experience as an Assistant State Attorney for the 9th Judicial Circuit, serving Orange and Osceola counties. Upon entering private practice in 1991, Mr. Rhodes began practicing family law along with criminal defense, and now focuses his practice exclusively in the area of family law. Mr. Rhodes is also certified by the Florida Supreme Court as a Certified County Court Mediator and Certified Family Mediator. His experience as a mediator includes several years as a Staff Family Law Mediator for the 9th Judicial Circuit.
Mr. Rhodes earned his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Florida. He is admitted to practice in all Florida state courts and is a member of The Florida Bar and the Orange County Bar Association. He served in the United States Navy, from which he received an Honorable Discharge.
- J.D., University of Florida Law School
- B.A., University of Florida
- Florida State Courts
- The Florida Bar
- Orange County Bar Association
Leah Stockwell – Practice Manager
Leah Stockwell comes to the firm with superior legal skills, as well as additional capabilities arising from her substantial financial background in banking and commercial lending. Together, these skills and experience suit her well for her role as the firm’s practice manager. All paralegal, business and marketing matters are under Leah’s direction. Her financial background makes her an invaluable part of the firm, particularly when it comes to assessing the financial aspects of a client’s case. Leah possesses a strong ability to evaluate a client’s assets and liabilities, provide valuations and contribute significantly in property distribution matters.
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The information and materials on this Web site are provided for general informational purposes only, and are not intended to be legal advice. We attempt to provide quality information, but the law changes frequently, and varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The information and materials provided are general in nature, and may not apply to a specific factual or legal circumstance. An attorney and client relationship should not be implied. Nothing on this Web site is intended to substitute for the advice of an attorney; therefore, if you require legal advice, please consult with a competent attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.