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.