Divorce, Child Custody, Family Law, Dependency

How the law barges through the front door and what you can do to stop it.

                The short answer is the government would rather not be in your home life at all.  Get married, (or not), love each other, have kids, protect them, raise them to be smart, healthy adults, support each other, the State of Florida would rather stay out of it.

                But it is common knowledge that many relationships don’t last.  People find that the love they once felt for another has wilted or waned and they simply cannot live under the same roof.  If they have children in school, then parenting is usually shared.  Even so, the state will not get involved in the break-up, so long as the parties agree on things like division of property, support and parenting.   If the parties can reach agreement on these issues, the state’s involvement is  minimal, and  even a long-term marriage can be labeled “uncontested,” which means a short court hearing and minimal paperwork is all that will be required.

                Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work that way.  Here are a few examples from real life cases – minus the names – we have been involved in in the past 30 years.   

  • After a happy marriage that resulted in three children, the wife had an affair that the husband learned about.   Betrayal is often the cause of divorce.  The couple agreed to divorce, but the husband did not want the wife to have shared parental responsibility because he thought her new lover was a dangerous character.   The law requires shared parental responsibility—including unsupervised visitation for both parents — unless it could be proved in court that the wife posed a real danger.  This would require admissible evidence.  The husband took the law into his own hands by hiring a person he thought was a “hit man,” to kill his wife.  (This may seem like an outrageous alternative.  However, we have found that if there is even a hint that a person will lose control of his or her children, something like temporary insanity may result.  People do crazy things!)  The hit man turned out to be an undercover police officer who videoed the meeting with the husband and promptly arrested him on the charge of solicitation to murder.  He was convicted and sentenced to prison.  This of course resulted in the loss of all contact with his three children. 
  • The wife brought a bank statement to our office showing that her husband of 20 years was a multi-millionaire, but she had been living as a homeless person in a car because she was afraid of him.   She believed he would surely harm her if he found out she’d seen a lawyer.    We assured her that the court would require her husband to share his wealth with her and that he would be required to pay her alimony for the rest of her life.  She would not have to pay our attorney’s fees because her wealthy husband would certainly be required to pay the fee.   We filed the petition demanding division of all marital property (which has a definition all of its own) and pay her support so that she might live by herself.   The man obtained an attorney who called our office and offered to pay my initial fee of $5,000.  The attorney also told me the couple had reconciled and the divorce would not go forward.  His $5,000 payment was well worth the price to keep from losing half his wealth.
  • A young, unskilled woman was divorcing her older millionaire husband and declined to seek alimony because she had had an affair and felt guilty about it.  The court would order her husband to pay her alimony despite the fact she had had an affair because that was the law. If a spouse does not seek alimony at the outset of a divorce case, the law will not allow her to come back later and ask for a modification; therefore she would be stuck with her poor decision.
  • A married doctor was sued for paternity by a woman he impregnated.  The woman hired an attorney who attacked the doctor relentlessly, sending more than one lawyer to hearings and seeking unreasonably high attorney’s fees.  We argued that the paternity suit should have been a simple matter and the attorneys were merely trying to run up fees because they’d found a vulnerable “victim,” a doctor who had made a mistake. The doctor agreed to pay child support, but should not have to pay high attorney’s fees for what should have been a simple procedure.  The court saw through the attorneys arguments, sharply criticized them for making an attempt to enrich themselves at the expense of a vulnerable man and held his fee responsibility to a minimum. 
  • The State of Florida Department of Children and Families removed two teen-age daughters from both parents because one of the daughters complained that her father tried to molest her and her mother failed to protect her because she asked the child to take a lie detector test.  The mother of the children did ask the child to take a lie detector test because her husband denied he tried to molest the child and agreed to take a lie detector test himself.  This was unreasonable and would not meet the standard required for the state to remove children from their mother, which is, briefly, a question of whether the state prove child abuse, child abandonment or child neglect?  The state did everything it could to get the mother of these children to sign an agreement that the children were “in need of services,” and promised they would be returned to her as soon as she did.  The mother held out for as long as necessary to bring the case to trial.  On the day of trial, the state dismissed the case without calling a single witness.  This is a prime example of why we say Never Surrender, especially when the cause is righteous. 
  • A man had only supervised visitation once a week for a few hours with his daughter for many years because during his divorce, he became convinced that a domestic violence incident that occurred during the marriage would cause him to lose all contact with the child.  Therefore, he agreed during this divorce proceeding to the supervised visitation arrangement.  We did not represent him in the divorce and would not have recommended such a deal.   But in order to change the visitation agreement we had to prove there had been a substantial change of circumstances that would allow more regular visitation. After several failed attempts, we finally got the court to agree to an evaluation by an independent expert, who recommended regular visitation with the father.  This took years to accomplish.  Again, Never Surrender. 

After a combined 42 years of practicing law, we have lots of these kinds of stories.  You should call the TampaLegalTeam with any questions you might have for a free consultation.