Contested Divorce Attorney in Lakeland, Florida
The Lakeland contested divorce attorneys at O’Mara Law Group understand the worry and uncertainty that accompanies a contested divorce. We have decades of experience handling cases like yours and will advocate for the best interests of you and your children.
Written and edited by our team of expert legal content writers and reviewed and approved by Attorney Mark O’Mara
Content last updated on: May 24, 2023
Divorce is a common occurrence in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 44.6 percent of marriages end in divorce.
A contested divorce is any divorce where the two parties cannot agree on the terms of the separation. The divorce becomes finalized when all issues have been resolved by the court’s discretion or voluntary agreement.
This process can be painful for all parties, but the Lakeland divorce attorneys at O’Mara Law Group will tirelessly and vigorously advocate for the best interests of you and your children.
How the Contested Divorce Attorneys at O’Mara Law Group Can Help
If you are considering divorce or have already been served with divorce papers, contact a contested divorce attorney at O’Mara Law Group as soon as possible. Our caring and knowledgeable team will answer all of your questions and seamlessly guide you through the divorce process.
Division of Assets
Marital assets include anything accumulated during the marriage, whereas non-marital assets are acquired before the marriage or listed in a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. The attorneys at O’Mara Law Group have the resources to help you identify and appraise all marital and non-marital assets and can aid you in dividing your property without leaving the decision to the courts.
Florida is an equitable distribution state, meaning that marital assets are divided according to what the court deems reasonable rather than allocating each party 50 percent.
Mandatory disclosure is a standard requirement in all divorce cases and demands that each party provide documentation comprehensively outlining their finances. Mandatory disclosure must be produced within 45 days after the initial petition for divorce and aids in pre-trial mediatory or judiciary division of marital assets.
Parties with income over $50,000 must produce Family Law Financial Affidavit Form 12.902(c), while those under $50,000 must file Form 12.902(b).
Creating a Parenting Plan
Any divorce involving children must include a parenting plan outlining parental responsibility and time sharing. While some circuits may not require mediation before a hearing, completing mediation can be seen favorably with a judge.
The attorneys at O’Mara Law Group strongly advise mediation and have a wealth of resources to help you create a parenting plan where all parties agree. We believe the future of your child should stay out of the courts and firmly within your control.
What is included in a parenting plan?
Every parenting plan must be approved by the courts. If the judge does not approve of the proposed parenting plan, the courts may create a parenting plan of their own. This is why it is essential to consult with a family law attorney. The attorneys at O’Mara Law Group know how to create a parenting plan in the best interests of children that the court will approve.
A parenting plan must, at a minimum, describe the following:
- How the parties share practical daily tasks and responsibilities associated with child-rearing
- The time-sharing schedule outlining when the child will be with each parent, including holidays, school breaks, and weekdays
- Designation of which parent will be responsible for health care, school matters, insurance, and other activities
- Transportation and communication methods between the parents and the child
What happens when the court creates a parenting plan for you?
When assessing or creating a parenting plan, the court relies on Florida § 61.13(3) for guidance. The judge has the authority to ignore these guidelines but generally assesses the capacity of each parent to encourage a positive parent-child relationship, honor the time-sharing schedule, and adapt to changes. Other aspects considered include, but are not limited to:
- The extent to which childcare responsibilities will be outsourced to third parties
- The environment to which the child is most accustomed
- The mental and physical health of the parents
- The preference of the child with respect to their age and maturity
- Any history of child abuse, domestic violence, sexual violence, child abandonment, substance abuse, or child neglect
- The division of parental responsibilities during the marriage
Guardian ad Litem
In contested cases involving allegations of domestic violence, child abuse, abandonment, or neglect, or where the judge finds it in the child’s best interest, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem. The guardian ad litem is appointed with the power and responsibility to further the child’s best interest. These powers include, but are not limited to:
- Interview witnesses, outside parties, or the child to investigate any allegations related to child endangerment
- Petition the court for access to documents concerning the child with regard to medical doctors, psychologists, hospitals, and schools
- Request the court to order expert examinations of the child or parents by medical doctors, psychologists, and other mental health professionals
- Report recommendations to the court concerning the future of the child
- Participate in depositions, hearings, and other proceedings
When the courts intervene in parenting plan disagreements, the judge may order a social investigation to obtain all relevant information before creating the plan. The investigator must be:
- From a licensed child-placing agency
- A licensed psychologist
- A clinical social worker
- A marriage and family therapist
- A licensed mental health counselor
- A member of staff from the Department of Children and Families
Filing for Emergency Custody
If you believe your child may be in imminent danger or taken out of state, we will help you file for emergency custody by drafting an emergency custody petition to get your child out of danger.
Once the judge approves the order, police will immediately be dispatched to your child’s location, where the other parent will have the opportunity to release the child willingly. If they refuse, the police have the authority to remove the child.
If both parties agree on the relocation of the child, filing a signed written agreement is all that is needed. However, if a party disagrees with relocation, the parent wishing to relocate must obtain permission from the court.
Florida courts consider the child’s best interest rather than the parents’ wishes when determining whether the relocation will be permitted.
Problems with Child Support
Parents are required by law to provide financially for their children. If your child’s other parent cannot make child support payments due to reduced employment or capacity, they must petition the court for support changes. Failure to pay some or all of your required child support, without prior notice and court approval, can result in any of the following:
- Being held in contempt of court
- Delinquency fines
- Wage garnishments
If You Cannot Afford Your Child Support Payments
Part of the court’s responsibility to protect your child’s financial security includes ensuring that you have the necessary training and expertise for sustainable employment.
If you cannot make child support payments, contact a contested divorce attorney in Lakeland, Florida, as soon as possible. We will assist you in notifying the court of your financial situation. If you cannot make your payments due to reasonable circumstances, the court can provide options, such as reducing payments or suggesting employment or vocational training.
Contested Divorce and Your Rights in Florida
A Lakeland contested divorce lawyer from O’Mara Law Group will help ensure you understand your legal rights when it comes to your divorce. Below are some of the most frequently asked questions we receive.
What are my rights as an unmarried parent?
Establishing paternity secures rights for unwed parents. As a mother, confirming your child’s paternity entitles you to financial support. As an unwed father, establishing paternity grants you parental rights such as:
- Important decision-making
- Health information
- Child support
How does the court calculate alimony?
To calculate alimony, the court evaluates the standard of living during the marriage, the duration of the marriage, the financial resources of each party, the earning capacity of each party, the contributions of each party during the marriage, the occurrence of adultery, and other relevant factors.
How does the court calculate child support?
The court calculates child support based on several factors, including the income of both parents, how long the child spends in each parent’s home, and the costs of health insurance, child care, and other accommodations.
Florida’s child support guidelines worksheet will give you an idea of how child support is calculated. Many parents prefer to work with a contested divorce attorney to ensure that payments are calculated correctly and reasonably.
How does the court decide child custody?
The child’s best interest is at the forefront of the judge’s mind when deciding on child custody. The goal of Florida courts is to ensure that access to shelter, food, clothes, education, financial support, and the child’s general well-being are protected during custody decisions. Florida courts prefer equally distributed joint custody.
How long does a contested divorce take in Lakeland?
A contested divorce takes between nine and 18 months to finalize. However, this number varies significantly as some contested divorces can be resolved outside of court, while others with more heated disputes may require lengthier negotiations or a court hearing.
How much does a contested divorce lawyer cost in Lakeland?
The cost of a contested divorce in Lakeland varies greatly depending on the resources needed to resolve disputes. A divorce resolved via mediation costs considerably less than a divorce taken to court. Depending on your circumstances, the court may order your spouse to pay your court and attorney fees.
Hiring qualified contested divorce attorneys at O’Mara Law Group can save you thousands of dollars. We are experienced in dispute resolution and mediation, and we know how to negotiate and where not to compromise. We are dedicated to serving the best interests of you and your family while avoiding unnecessary legal fees.
What makes O'Mara Law Group the best choice?
The Lakeland, Florida, contested divorce lawyers at O’Mara Law Group have decades of experience settling complex divorce cases before reaching trial. Founded by board-certified Mark O’Mara, you simply will not find a family law group more qualified in Lakeland, Florida.
If you are considering divorce, contact us today or call us at (863) 603-3206.
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