Family Law FAQs

What do we do with the kids until we have a court order in place?

Married parents, regardless of whether they are separated, have equal rights to their children unless a court order specifies otherwise. Time-sharing with the children before a court order is in place can be difficult unless the parents can amicably work together to come up with a temporary schedule. Unreasonably denying the other parent time-sharing with the child or children is a factor considered by the court when deciding the issue of time-sharing in a divorce case in Florida, so that should be kept in mind throughout the separation and divorce process by both parents. At McGinnis Law Firm, we assist both mothers and fathers with parenting plans and time sharing arrangements. Our attorney and family mediator, Wendy K. McGinnis, will look into the specifics of your child custody case to advise you of the best approach.

Can I move out of the house?

In Florida, when a married person wants to move out of their jointly owned marital home, they can do so and will not be abandoning their rights to the marital home. However, this does not necessarily mean that the spouse moving out of the marital home will be free from any financial obligation towards the marital home, especially if there is a mortgage in joint names and/or other expenses for the marital home. Even if one spouse moves out of the marital home, a court can still order that spouse to pay towards the mortgage and other expenses of the marital home. McGinnis Law Firm represents divorcing clients. We facilitate the legal process for you, which may include settlement negotiations and court proceedings. We look into the specifics of your case to advise you of the best approach.

Can I take money out of the joint bank account?

Unless a court order is in place stating otherwise, either spouse may take money out of their joint bank account, however whether a spouse should do so is more complicated. When the money is taken out of the joint account, the amount that is taken out and by whom, and how the money is used are all up for consideration by the court in a divorce case in Florida, so having the advice of an attorney before making any drastic decisions is recommended. In some cases, if a person has a reasonable belief that their spouse is going to withdraw most or all of the monies in the joint bank account, then taking half of the money out of the joint bank account to keep separately in an individual account and leaving the other half for the spouse may be the best option in that scenario. However, there are other options as well as to what should be done with those funds until an agreement can be reached or a court order can be put into place. One such option would be having the joint bank account frozen, especially in a situation where both parties will have sufficient financial support from other income or assets for the duration of the divorce process. Our attorney and family mediator, Wendy K. McGinnis, will look into the specifics of your case to advise you of the best approach.

At what age can a child decide which parent to live with?

In Florida, a child cannot decide which parent to live with or what time-sharing schedule each parent is going to have with the child. Depending on the age and maturity of the child, the court may allow the child to testify with regard to time-sharing and other pertinent issues in a custody case, however the court must still make a custody decision based on the best interest of the child, which may or may not be what the child wants. Contact our Tampa area child custody attorney today for experienced, efficient legal representation. We understand your legal concerns and are dedicated to helping you find the best possible solution.

Should I be paying child support before the divorce is filed?

Child support is an obligation of both of the parents for the benefit of their child(ren) when they are no longer living together, before as well as during a divorce case. Since child support can be ordered retroactively for up to 24 months in an initial child support case, the court can consider proof of child support paid by one parent to the other and typically the court will give a credit to the paying spouse for the amount of child support paid against the child support arrearage owed. However, the amount of each parent's child support obligation is affected by the incomes of the parents as well as the time-sharing schedule, so it is recommended that you consult with an attorney if you are in this situation to find out what your child support obligation is, if any. Contact our Tampa child support and child custody modification lawyer for a free consultation. Our offices are open 8 a.m. - 5 p.m., Monday - Friday. For your convenience, we accept Visa, MasterCard and Discover.

Can my spouse and I have the same attorney?

No, in Florida an attorney may only represent one of the spouses in a divorce case. However, this does not mean that both spouses must have attorneys in a divorce case. It is not uncommon in an uncontested divorce case for only one of the spouses to have an attorney to prepare the settlement agreement and other documents such as the petition and final judgment in the case. The attorney representing the one spouse in that scenario can negotiate and communicate with the non-represented spouse throughout the uncontested divorce process but may not provide legal advice to the non-represented spouse, and it must be clear that the attorney is not representing both spouses. Please Contact McGinnis Law Firm P.A., for a free consultation. Our offices are open 8 a.m. - 5 p.m., Monday - Friday. For your convenience, we accept Visa, MasterCard and Discover.

Is there legal separation in Florida or Do I legally have to separate before a divorce?

Florida is a no-fault state, which means that (provided the residency requirements for filing a divorce case in Florida are met) a spouse may file for divorce generally with only having to allege and testify that the marriage is "irretrievably broken," which basically is defined as a marriage that cannot be saved even with counseling or other means. There is no requirement in Florida that a married couple be separated for any period of time before filing for divorce, and there is no requirement in Florida to allege or prove adultery or abuse as a reason for filing for divorce that some other states require as "fault". On the other hand, if a married couple in Florida wants to separate and one or both of the spouses want a court order as to financial support during the separation without having to file for divorce, then either spouse may file a petition for support unconnected with dissolution of marriage requesting such financial support. Contact our Florida divorce attorney today for experienced, efficient divorce representation. We understand your concerns and are dedicated to helping you find the best possible solution.

What other requirements are there to file a divorce in Florida?

In order to file for divorce in Florida, provided neither spouse is mentally incapacitated, at least one of the spouses must be a Florida resident for the six months immediately preceding the filing of the divorce petition, and the spouse filing for divorce must allege and eventually testify that the marriage is irretrievably broken, meaning that the marriage cannot be saved even with counseling or other means. At McGinnis Law Firm, P.A., our goal is for you to feel comfortable throughout your case. We focus on keeping you well informed while providing you with experienced legal representation. We explain how things work without using complicated legal terms. We want to make the process of meeting your legal needs as simple as possible for you.

Do you have to file divorce in the same state you were married?

No, where you were married does not determine whether you can divorce in Florida. For example, if you were married in New York, but you have been a Florida resident continuously for the past six months with the intent to remain a Florida resident, you or your spouse can file for a divorce in Florida. Our Florida divorce attorney has over 15 years of experience representing clients in Florida family law cases, including both contested and uncontested dissolution of marriage matters. Contact McGinnis Law Firm, P.A. to schedule your free initial consultation.

If my spouse and I agree on a divorce, do we still need an attorney?

Having an attorney is not a requirement in a divorce case, regardless of whether it is an uncontested divorce or not. However, even if you and your spouse agree on all of the issues, it is typically advisable that an attorney be consulted and retained to prepare at least the marital settlement agreement, which can prevent future legal complications between you and your spouse. Drafting a marital settlement agreement on your own instead of having an experienced qualified attorney draft it can result in various costly legal disputes after the divorce is over, such as a dispute about an issue that you and your spouse failed to address in your agreement or a dispute about an issue that was addressed in your agreement but is too vague or ambiguous to understand. Contact us today to schedule a free initial consultation with a knowledgeable attorney. We provide efficient, personalized representation in a comfortable atmosphere.