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What does the word "domicile" mean, and why is it so important?

by St. Petersburg/Florida Family Law Attorney on 08/07/16

Although legal residence and domicile both refer to the place where a person has a fixed abode with a present intent of making it his or her permanent home, residence is an objective fact while domicile places the emphasis on intent.  A party may intend to make Florida his or her domicile and residence, but the party has no Florida residence if he or she does not have the requisite presence in Florida for six months before filing. [Fla Stat Section 61.021; McCarthy v. Alexander, 786 So 2d 1284 (Fla 2d DCA 2001) (trial court properly dismissed wife's petition for dissolution of marriage for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction where wife had not been present in Florida for six months before filing).]

Weiler v. Weiler, 861 So 2d 472 (Fla 5th DCA 2003).  Error to deny husband's motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction where record did not support allegations of wife's petition seeking to establish personal jurisdiction over husband pursuant to Fla Stat Section 48.193.  There is a difference between the terms domicile, sometimes referred to as legal, permanent or primary residence, and residence.  Domicile involves the intent to make Florida his or her legal residence and is the place where an individual has a true, fixed and permanent home, to which he intends to return whenever he is absent.  A person can have only one legal residence or domicile.  On the other hand, a person may have several residences.  The difference between domicile and residence is a matter of objective fact.  Domicile is established when there is a good faith intention to establish a particular residence as a permanent home, coupled with the physical move to the new residence, as evidenced by positive overt acts.  The record in this case establishes that the parties' marital abode was Illinois as evidenced by their state and federal income tax returns during the period the wife claims Florida was their marital domicile.  Further, the Florida farm was just one of several corporate residences the parties used, and it was the wife's place of business.  Although the wife obtained a Florida driver's license and registered to vote in Florida, the husband never did and Florida was never his domicile. Service of process quashed.

Can you have your Marital Settlement Agreement changed? It's often a difficult feat....

by St. Petersburg/Florida Family Law Attorney on 07/15/16

A marital settlement agreement is essentially a contract.  In order to have a legally enforceable contract, you must have the following four present:  Offer, Acceptance, Consideration & no valid defenses.  Usually, a challenge to or effort to change such agreements are subject to contract law.  As a result of it being a contract, the agreement can usually be changed by agreement of the parties.  If there is no agreement present, it can be difficult to change.  

Since a settlement agreement is a contract, it must be challenged as so.  Grounds which might allow for a successful challenge include mutual mistake, and or unilateral mistake.  If the agreement was the product of fraud or coercion, it might be successfully challenged.  However, with all of that said, please note that there are a few areas in which a court can most easily modify a marital settlement agreement.  These areas include child support and alimony (Section 61.14 Florida Statute).  

If you are a party looking to amend your Final Judgment (in which the MSA was incorporated), you may have a difficult time having it amended, if not impossible.  Child Support, Alimony, Time-sharing (Parenting-Plan) issues can be addressed and modified by a judge without any worry of intervening with the original parties' agreement.  deLabry v. Sales is a great example of the foregoing, as the parties originally in the MSA, agreed to a set number for child support payments. But, as a result of a "change in circumstances," the court modified the moving parties' child support payments.  The ruling was upheld (2 to 1) on appeal.  

If you're looking to modify any other aspects of the contract, you generally would need to have the consent of the other party (Joint Supplemental Petition and Agreement to Modify Final Judgment).  An option you might have at your disposal, to ensure that the other party is fully cooperating with following the agreement, would be a to file a "motion for contempt of court."  

"Child's Best Hope Act".....New legislation that will benefit adopted children

by St. Petersburg/Florida Family Law Attorney on 07/02/16

While we do not practice adoption law, nevertheless, this is an important topic that will have a major affect on adoption proceedings moving forward.  

Under a new law that will take effect this month, known as the "Child's Best Hope Act," judges will have the power and ability to weigh the best interests of the child versus the old standard, which was the wishes of the birth parent(s).  

Parents who were accused of murder, rape, battery, child abuse and child molestation who are sitting in jail, awaiting trial, were able to manipulate the system by surrendering their parental rights to whomever they choose.  As long as the person whom the parent selected was able to pass an adoption agency home study, the judge's hands were tied.  Take a look at the following example of how the old law was detrimental to the well being of a child...  In April, a Broward judge ruled that a 5-year old boy would have to go live with a relative of the father's choosing, despite the fact that the child's biological father who is currently in jail, murdered the boy's mother.  The mother's family was hoping to adopt him.  However, because the mother is deceased, their family had no standing in the adoption case.  So essentially, a murderer was able to choose whom his child would be placed with, as long as they passed a home study. With this new law in place, it's all about finding the child's best home, and in the end, as always, it's always about the child.  We are now starting to see a shift, where parents' interest are being put to the side, in favor of what is best for the child(ren).   


by St. Petersburg/Florida Family Law Attorney on 06/17/16

        According to police, they believe that the murder of Florida Jewish law professor Dan Markel was sparked by a bitter divorce battle with his ex-wife. Authorities arrested a man with a long criminal history, Sigfredo Garcia, 34, in connection with Markel's 2014 killing.  Garcia's attorney had said that his client is innocent. New details released in court on June 2nd, show that investigators believe Markel's death was connected to his acrimonious divorce with law professor Wendi Adelson, even though the police were careful to avoid calling her a suspect.  Police believe that the motive for the murder stemmed from Adelson's family's "desperate desire" to move the estranged couple's children hundreds to miles away to South Florida.  In addition, Markel had filed court documents complaining that Adelson's mother had disparaged him to their children, and asking that she not be alone with her grandchildren.  A hearing on that motion was pending at the time of Markel's murder.  There is also a police affidavit present, stating that Charles Anderson was "involved in a personal relationship" with Garcia's girlfriend.  DeLeo said at the press conference that Rivera is a suspect in the case, and is currently in federal custody on unrelated charges.  

         As a divorce attorney in St. Petersburg, this is the ugly underbelly of divorce matters.  9 times out of 10, both parties in a divorce go their separate way. However, there are times where one party is so bitter, disgusted and vindictive, that they feel the only way to retaliate is to ruin the other person's life (however that may be).  If you are involved in a bitter custody battle, divorce, or any family law matter, please retain counsel that can assist you in resolving your matters in an amicable way.  Too often, lawyers get involved and just exacerbate the issue(s) at hand.  

Janoris Jenkins' Ex-girlfriends are seeking modification of their child support orders

by St. Petersburg/Florida Family Law Attorney on 06/11/16

Three women that have children with New York Giants cornerback Janoris Jenkins, are looking to have their child-support payments modified upward, according to multiple reports.  Jenkins has five children with four different women and recently, signed a five-year $62.5 million dollar deal with $28 million guaranteed after his first four seasons playing for the St. Louis Rams. One of his exes, Sontaevia Armstrong has filed court documents in Florida requesting Jenkins to pay for her and their two children to live in a "man-guarded and gated community," as well as "pay for private school, healthcare and security for her and the kids."In addition, according to multiple reports, La'Tasha Jones and Lakenya Campbell have also filed court documents seeking increased child support and benefits, otherwise known as a "Supplemental Petition for Modification of Child-Support."  Furthermore, Campbell is requesting that the court deviate from the child support guidelines "5%," as a result upon Father's failure to spend any time with the child." In order for a child support Order to be modified, it must be proven that there has been a "Substantial change in circumstances since entry of the original Order, and that it's material and was not anticipated at the time of rendering the original order." Also, if based on the revised incomes of both parties, results in the child support amount changing by at least 15% or $50, then that is also grounds for the parties' child support payments to be modified.   

If you need assistance with modification of child-support, or any other Family Law matter (excluding domestic violence), please contact JC Williams Law. Our approach to family law is very simple: We listen to you; return your calls/e-mails promptly; we keep you prepared and informed; and most importantly, we care about you.  Please give us a ring to set up your free consultation.  

The road to an amicable divorce. It's certainly possible.

by St. Petersburg/Florida Family Law Attorney on 06/11/16

The Road to an Amicable Divorce

If you are facing divorce and you have heard horror stories of how destructive it can be for families, it is important to understand that you and your spouse have the power to have an amicable divorce. Consider the following pieces of advice:

Be united on matters involving children

Custody issues are typically the most stressful and emotional parts of a divorce. Deciding where the children should live and how much parenting time each parent gets can be difficult, especially when a custody decision also has financial consequences in the form of child support.

If you and your spouse can agree that a custody battle is harmful to your children and agree to work together, your kids will likely fare much better. You were able to work together as a team while you were married, so continue those same efforts.

Leave girlfriends and boyfriends out of it

If you and your spouse are dating other people, don’t let them play a part in your divorce. Their involvement will only increase the tension and hurt feelings. They may be a part of your future, but it is not fair to your spouse to allow an outsider to play a role in your divorce.

Mediate sooner than later

If you and your spouse can enter your divorce with the goal of mediating and settling the issues between you, it will put you in the right frame of mind to accomplish your goal of an amicable divorce. It is important to inform your attorney that you want to mediate and settle your divorce. You can even start the mediation process before the divorce action is filed. Settling your divorce is not only better for your children, but it typically will save you a substantial amount of money.

Play nice and be honest

You should never attempt to hide assets or default on bills. This is not a way to “punish” your spouse because it only harms everyone involved. If you take actions attempting to make your spouse pay or otherwise damage her, it will only make your divorce last longer and be more expensive.

Our office is located in St. Petersburg, Florida. 

When should I contact a divorce attorney?

by St. Petersburg/Florida Family Law Attorney on 06/11/16

When Should I Contact a Divorce Attorney?

Many individuals wait too long before contacting a family law attorney to help them. If you and your spouse cannot agree on important issues surrounding your divorce, the sooner you get advice and guidance from legal counsel, the more likely you will obtain a positive result.

The following are a few examples of when it is imperative to contact your divorce attorney:

Your spouse has filed divorce papers

If your spouse has already retained a lawyer, filed divorce pleadings and had you served, she has been thinking about and planning for divorce for some time. Whether you are shocked or you expected it, the only way to catch-up and protect your rights is to contact us immediately. If you fail to timely respond to the divorce petition, it could result in a default judgment against you.

You’re the victim of domestic abuse

If your spouse is abusive, let us help you take legal action to get the protection you need. You should call the police if you are in immediate danger or fear for your safety. Once you and your children are in a safe place, we can explain your options including filing for divorce, obtaining a protection order,  and/or a child custody action.

Moving with the children

If you or your spouse wants to relocate with your children, it can be a highly emotional and contentious matter. Whether you want to move or your spouse is trying to move, we can help you with the relocation process.

Modification of child support payments

If your income (or your ex-spouse’s income) undergoes a significant change and you can no longer afford your child support payments, we can help you seek a modification of the order.

Our office is located in St. Petersburg, Florida and we offer free consultations.  

St. Petersburg Relocation Attorney

by St. Petersburg/Florida Family Law Attorney on 06/11/16


If you have children, and wish to relocate those children more than 50 miles away from their residence at the time of the divorce, you must either have the consent of your ex-spouse or a Court order permitting the relocation. Parents who wish to relocate after a divorce must first obtain a modification of the court order by proving that they have experienced a change in circumstance and that the move would be in the best interests of the children to be permitted to relocate.

Florida statutes have provided the Courts with a number of factors the Court is supposed to consider when determining if the relocation should be allowed. However, before the Court can analyze the facts and the factors to determine whether the parent and child should be allow to relocate, you must first be in absolute compliance with Florida statute 61.130001.  Known as the relocation statute, 61.130001 details the requirements for a Petition to Relocate, which must include a number of details regarding the relocation. These details include the new address and the living arrangements at the place of relocation and the proposed new time-sharing schedule for the children with the non-relocating parent. More importantly the statute provides that there is a particular notice to the non-relocating parent that must be included in the Petition for Relocation that must be IN BOLD AND ALL CAPS. FAILURE TO INCLUDE THIS NOTICE WILL RESULT IN THE DISMISSAL OF YOUR PETITION.

Another interesting aspect to this statute is that it provides for an expedited hearing on temporary relocation, if the petitioner wishes to use that right. What that means to you is that once you file the Petition for Relocation, you are entitled to a hearing on temporary relocation within 30 days of the date of filing. At that hearing, the Court will determine whether or not to let you and the children relocate on a temporary basis before the final trial on your request to relocate.  Needless to say, these hearings require a great deal of quick preparation in order to be able to go forward on a temporary relocation. 

Family law judges can grant relocation for a number of reasons. Perhaps you have been offered a better job than the one you currently have or your employer, or the military, is asking you to relocate. This new position or location could improve your ability to care for your child and it could also expose your children to better schools, better cultural opportunities or to a better environment to grow up in. Courts have also approved relocations because a parent, or child, suffered from poor health and the relocation was necessary to be in a better climate or be closer to a special hospital. Regardless of the reasons for your relocation, JC Williams Law can help you understand the process and your options while representing you before a family law judge.

St. Petersburg Collaborative Divorce Attorney

by St. Petersburg/Florida Family Law Attorney on 06/11/16


Most people think of a divorce as a heated courtroom argument between two parties who cannot agree on anything. While this is a common scenario, contrary to popular belief, divorce is not always such a disputed process. Many divorces can be achieved outside of the courtroom between two spouses who are willing to work out their own agreements through negotiation. A process otherwise known as a collaborative divorce.

In a Collaborative Divorce, each spouse hires an attorney and then all four of those individuals, clients and lawyers alike, sign a Collaborative Divorce Agreement that prohibits litigation of the divorce case. The Agreement requires that the parties negotiate until they successfully settle their divorce and then, only after a settlement is reached, is the matter filed with the Court.

Should one of the parties elect to leave the collaboration, then both parties must go through the trouble and expense of retaining a new attorney, as their collaborative attorneys are prohibited from representing them in a contested divorce action. The collaborative approach to a divorce allows the parties and their attorneys to focus on developing win-win solutions to the items in dispute. Be it a Parenting Plan, Equitable Distribution issue, Alimony or any other aspect of their case, the parties meet jointly to work on resolving those issues to the best interest of both of the parties and their children, in any.

Once the case is settled and the Marital Settlement Agreement and Parenting Plan have been executed, then the documents are filed with the Court and the Court can then dissolve the marriage after a quick five minute hearing.


Since collaborative divorce does not require litigation, it is a much faster and less-expensive method of dissolving a marriage. Contested divorce cases must rely on the court’s schedule and availability, which can significantly draw out the time frame of the divorce. Should experts be needed, such as a CPA, or a real estate appraiser, or children’s expert, the parties and their attorneys agree to hire a single expert to assist in their area of expertise. This avoids the time and expense of each party having their own expert battling for their client’s position.

Another primary benefit to a Collaborative Divorce is the serious reduction in the hostility, anger, stress and anxiety of the contested divorce process. In a Collaborative Divorce the parties work together to develop solutions on issues without the hostility and anger that comes from having to pound on the other side to get their way. Collaborative Divorce is called “The Peaceful Alternative to Divorce” for good reason.


Contact us today for further information about collaborative divorce! Our legal team focuses on client care and can gladly answer any questions that you may have. We practice primarily in family law, so you can have confidence in our knowledge and experience. We limit the number of cases we handle at any given time so that we can provide our full attention to each case. We also understand that each case is unique and requires an equally unique approach. Call today to schedule your free, initial case evaluation and discuss your case directly with an attorney (888) 813-5897!

Divorce Attorney in St. Petersburg, FL

by St. Petersburg/Florida Family Law Attorney on 06/06/16


If you have been served with divorce papers, call our family law attorney as soon as possible.  Time deadlines are pending.  You can reach us by calling us at 8888135897.


Ending a marriage impacts every aspect of your life. It is not just a legal problem. Divorce changes your marital status, your financial situation, your relationship with friends, family and even your own children. Divorce changes the way you feel about yourself and brings with it huge emotional changes and traumas.

Virtually every part of your life will be touched and in almost all instances the impact will be negative.

With your first consultation, our attorney, will begin working on your case. Our law firm has handled family law cases, including high-asset divorces, complex litigation divorces, cases involving children’s issues and cases involving complex financial issues. We strive to help our clients through their divorce with professionalism, integrity and compassion.

We believe that in order to successfully represent you, we must devise a holistic approach that helps you deal with not only your legal problems, but that helps you re-organize your life as well.


The issues involved in a dissolution of marriage are important and far reaching. If there are children, parental responsibility is at the top of the Judge’s list of concerns and yours as well. Access to your children, that is – “Where are my children going to live?” and “When will they be with me?” – is always a key issue for most parents.

Jerome Williams understands the important issues that Courts look at to determine which parent should be the parent with custody. He has been before the Court both as a parent and client and as an attorney and has watched these decisions being made. This experience, from both sides of the desk, allows us to successfully guide you toward making the best decisions on this subject and to putting forward your very best case.

Although nearly 50% of all marriages end in divorce, it is important to understand that your legal battle is different than anyone else’s you might know. Whether it is your decision to begin a divorce, or if you were the one served with divorce papers, our divorce expert will analyze the facts of your case and develop a legal strategy to maximize your time with your children, post divorce.

If you have children, they will become the focus of the proceedings from each vantage point: Yours, ours and the judge’s. Time Sharing, a Parenting Plan, Child Support and the best interest of the children will be the Court’s primary consideration during your divorce.  We will work with you to focus on the children’s issues to insure their best interest are protected and to insure that you understand the factors the Court will examine when considering what is best for the children.

In addition to developing a legal strategy focused on your children, we will also develop a strategy to deal with the other issues in your case. Equitable Distribution – the dividing up of the assets and liabilities can be an area fraught with peril. Alimony is always an acrimonious issue between the parties and child support can be as well. With each issue, we will assess your goals and objectives and the facts of your case and then develop a strategy that is designed to help you pursue those goals.



Florida has done away with the concepts of “custody” and “primary residential care.”

The focus these days in on the best interest of the children and the Court has a great many factors it must consider in determining what is in the best interest of the children. Most important of these factors is which parent will do the most to insure that the other parent has a good relationship with the children. Other factors involve the historical primary care giver, the stability of the parties, their economic circumstances and how they are going to be able to handle their child rearing responsibilities post-divorce.

During your case we will develop our proposed Parenting Plan, which is the document that describes how the parties are going to co-parent the children after their divorce is over. The primary component to the Parenting Plan is the Time-Sharing schedule, which determines when the children will be with each parent. The Time-Sharing schedule addresses the school year schedule, the summer schedule and the holiday’s schedule. Obviously, this schedule it vitally important to both parents. We work with our clients to develop a strategy to convince the Court that our client should have the time-sharing schedule that they seek.

The Parenting Plan also addresses which school the child will attend, how decision will be made about the child’s education, health, religious training and other important aspects of the children’s lives. Extra-curricular activities and the cost of medical insurance, and uninsured medical expenses are addressed as well.  Virtually every aspect of the children’s lives, including who gets to claim the children as a tax deduction is determined by the Parenting Plan.

Prior to any settlement negotiations, we make sure our client is aware of all of the options available in a Parenting Plan and Time-Sharing schedule so that they can make informed decisions about the Parenting Plan they are attempting to negotiate.


Accounting for all of the assets and liabilities and then equitably dividing them between the Parties can be complicated. What is a marital asset that is subject to distribution and what is a pre-marital or non-marital asset? What about the inheritance I got from my grandmother?  What about the money from the house I owned before I got married that was used as a down payment on the house we live in?  What about the money I co-mingled into a common account? Sometimes equitable distribution is not as easy as it sounds.

Then there the financial accounts, checking and savings are easy enough, (If your spouse hasn’t been hiding money.) but there may also be retirement accounts, pension funds, 401-K’s, IRA’s and other financial accounts that have to be distributed as well. Qualified Domestic Relations Orders are used for this purpose and IF they are not done properly, many years into the future you may discover you are not entitled to the retirement money you thought you were going to get. 

The marital home, and other real estate holdings, are also important issues. How will the house be handled? Sold? Saved for the kids? One party buying out the other and, if so, how does one party get off the note and mortgage on that home? These are all important issues as our stock options, pensions, military pensions, stock in closely held corporation and the valuation of businesses owned by one party or the other.

Personal Property:

Even if you think you do not own anything to divide, you will be surprised how much personal property exists within your marriage. Automobiles, your furniture, jewelry, art work, and everything else in your home is subject to distribution by the Court. Using the proper method of valuing these items is essential to making sure that you receive a fair distribution of these assets.

Liabilities: Let’s Not Pay Their Bills Too!

integrity and compassion.

Credit related issues and liability for various types of debt obligations are among the most challenging problems to resolve. This is an area where the rules of the real world often have more impact than a Court order. We can help you deal with the realities of the rules of the real world as well.

Divorce is a minefield. You need a guide who can help you navigate through it without your suffering major harm. I try to navigate my clients, not only through the legal minefield of divorce, but also try to give them a map to the real world mine fields they may encounter after their divorce.

Even once your divorce is finished, I still consider you a client. If you should ever need advice or counsel, I am always available to talk with you. You don’t have to do it alone, please call today 888 813 5897.

St. Petersburg Family Attorney

by St. Petersburg/Florida Family Law Attorney on 06/06/16

Our Family Law Focus: Divorce, Child Custody, & Alimony

JC Williams law practices in the area of family law, an area of the law that includes, divorce, alimony, custody disputes, equitable distribution of assets, relocation, enforcement, and modifications. Our firm is dedicated to finding a resolution to these often very contentious issues. Our goal is to protect your family and your children through family law matters. Our attorneys are experienced in trial advocacy and litigation, but aware of the need for a resolution which preserves the best interests of you and your family.

Attention to the Individual Client is number 1

The practice of family law requires a close attention to the financial, personal and emotional aspects of a person’s life. These private characteristics are complex; requiring a unique plan to achieve the particular goals in any family law matter. With this philosophy in mind, JC Williams Law provides a specific plan in close consultation with each Client in order to navigate their specific family law issues.

Dedicated St. Petersburg & Clearwater Family Law Resolution

Family law is criticized by some as being a cumbersome and overly elongated process which negatively affects the family rather than providing a means of healthy transition. There are cases in which litigation cannot be avoided. JC Williams Law addresses each case with an eye towards amicable resolution and litigation if necessary. The Attorneys at JC Williams Law have witnessed first hand how the family law process can create unnecessary additional tension within families. Those affected the most are often those whose names appear on no legal pleadings, the children. JC Williams Law wishes to minimize the impact of the family law process and promote a future that is far less turbulent.

Why Choose JC Williams Law to represent you?

Legal issues that affect the family can be complex and emotional.  JC Williams Law prides itself on its focus towards resolution, rather than the conflict.  It is a paradox that the law propels people into bitter conflict in an effort to reconcile difference during a separation or parental conflict.  JC Williams Law advises Clients as to the possible solutions and the risks involved in each case.  While the focus at JC Williams Law is an amicable solution that allows for lessened conflict in the future, the Attorneys at JC Williams Law have significant litigation experience to assure complete and competent representation through the entire legal process.

St. Petersburg Child support lawyers

by St. Petersburg/Florida Family Law Attorney on 06/06/16

Attorneys representing you in child support cases in Clearwater and Pinellas County, Florida

Your children’s financial well-being should not be compromised because of your divorce. Divorce lawyers at the St. Petersburg law firm of JC Williams Law have experience negotiating and litigating equitable support arrangements that protect your children’s health, home, education and future.

Our firm can put your family in the best position possible during your divorce. We can also help you with enforcement issues if the other parent refuses to abide by your divorce judgment and with modification of an existing child support order if your circumstances have changed.

We strategize the most beneficial allocation of other resources for your family’s financial protection — including your retirement funds, marital home and St. Petersburg assets.

Divorce lawyers advising you about Florida child support guidelines

Both parents share the obligations of raising healthy, happy children. The courts rely on the Florida child support guidelines to calculate the total amount and your portion of financial obligations to your children. Calculations are based on individual circumstances — including your income, your contribution to your children’s health and childcare expenses and the percentage of time the children spend with you.

Our family law team begins by determining the likely outcome should a court decide the issue of child support payments. We then discuss other personal considerations that may alter the statutory amount. A child’s special needs, private school education or treatment for a medical condition, for example, may require additional funding and time commitments. After discussing your goals for your family, we devise a strategy for obtaining a fair distribution of responsibilities.

Consult a child support attorney in St. Petersburg about your child’s right to financial support

Learn more about the equitable distribution of child support responsibilities after your divorce. Call St. Petersburg family law firm JC Williams Lawat 888.813.5897 or contact us online.

St. Petersburg Paternity Attorney

by St. Petersburg/Florida Family Law Attorney on 06/06/16

St. Petersburg Paternity Attorney

Prove or disprove a father’s biological relationship

Fatherhood comes with many important benefits and responsibilities. Evidence of paternity gives a father the opportunity to reunite with his children and protects his visitation and childrearing rights. Proof of paternity also allows children to receive full advantages from both parents — including child support, inheritance, public benefits and insurance. On the other hand, negative paternity test results can help a man avoid lifetime financial liability to a child who is not his.

The family law attorneys at St. Petersburg firm JC Williams Law guide parents through paternity issues. We advise both men and women about their legal options for proving or disproving paternity.

Legal presumption of fatherhood

A man is legally presumed to be the father of a child if:

  • The child was born or conceived while he was married to the mother
  • He legitimized the child through marriage to the mother
  • He adopted the child
  • Court proceedings established that he is the father
  • An administrative order was issued based on genetic testing
  • The father and mother officially acknowledged paternity

We review individual circumstances to determine whether parents have a legal basis for claiming paternity and the best means for establishing fatherhood.

Genetic testing

Genetic testing produces reliable scientific proof of paternity. The Florida Department of Revenue administers and regulates DNA testing. Parents may not need to go to court, but can instead seek an administrative order directly from the agency. If one party refuses to cooperate, however, we ask a court to intervene and order the DNA testing.

Florida putative father registry

The Florida putative father registry provides a means for asserting paternity by an unmarried biological father. The system administered by the Florida Department of Health protects a father’s rights if the mother places their child up for adoption or if she enters dependency proceedings.

Find out more about proving and disproving paternity from experienced Pinellas County family law attorneys

St. Petersburg Child Custody (Legal Shared Parental Responsibility Options)

by St. Petersburg/Florida Family Law Attorney on 06/05/16

Legal shared parental responsibility addresses the issues of decision making, communication difficulties, and one parent usurping control.  There is a legal presumption of equality, each parent retaining his or her rights and responsibilities to the child.  The legal issue is whether or not there should be:

  • Full shared parental responsibility with both parents conferring and cooperating prior to making an decision and making all decisions jointly.
  • Ultimate responsibility where both parents are still required to attempt to confer and cooperate but one parent has "final word" to make the decision if the parents cannot agree (instead of running to court each time for the court to make the decision).
  • Sole parental responsibility, with one parent entitled to make all decisions without having to confer and cooperate with the other parent, with or without the responsibility or duty to keep the other parent informed and involved.  

    These concerns may be corrected with agreed interventions and stipulations if both parents are committed to correcting the communication and conflict issues in the best interests of the minor child, and impairments are addressed and treated.  The inquiry is whether the parents do agree that the best interests of the minor child come before the best interests of the parents.  The focus is on "loving the child more than they hate the other parent."  Using terminology of "the mother of your child" or "father of your child" instead of spouse or former spouse may help change focus.  Your family lawyer must be "salesmen" promoting interventions and amicable resolution as the reasonable alternative to expensive litigation in which the remedy they seek is not a remedy available to them.  

If you find yourself looking for a St. Petersburg Child Support attorney, please do not hesitate to reach out to us.  We offer free consultations and flexible payment plans.  

Substance Abuse in your Paternity or Divorce matter.......

by St. Petersburg/Florida Family Law Attorney on 06/04/16

Effective October 1, 2008, Fla Stat 61.13(3) includes as a factor for determination of the best interest of the minor child for the purposes of establishing or modifying parental responsibility and creating, developing, approving, or modifying a parenting plan, subsection (q) "the demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to maintain an environment for the child which is free from substance abuse."  If you suspect that the other party is a substance abuser or has been accused of being a substance abuse user, you might address the issue with your lawyer (assuming you are being represented by counsel).  Usually, the individual being accused of substance abuse will be in a state of denial, which is common as both alcoholism and substance abuse are diseases of denial.  If possible, information should be gathered on the earliest experiences with substances in their family growing up, in their adolescence, peer, family and other influences and patterns of use throughout the years.  

Identification of cocaine abuse involves physical symptoms including brief and intense euphoria, restlessness, and feelings of well-being.  In instances like this, you are more likely to find glass vials, white powder, razor blades, and syringes around the house.  Bring this to your lawyer immediately!  In addition, the abuser may exhibit severe depression and paranoia.  

Identification of marijuana abuse involves physical symptoms of altered mood and perceptions, red eyes, reduced concentration, hunger, inappropriate laughing, and euphoria.  You may find rolling papers in the house, pipes, and dried leaves with an odor around the house to bring to your lawyer.  The marijuana user may exhibit impaired short term memory as well.

Identification of hallucinogenic abuse (LSD, PCP, ecstasy) involves physical symptoms of altered mood and perceptions, extreme focus on detail, anxiety, and panic.  You may find capsules, tablets, microdots, and blotter squares around the house to bring to your lawyer.  The abuser may exhibit unpredictable behavior, emotional instability, impulsiveness, or violent behavior.  

Once there is identification of this issue by either party, even if there is denial of any validity to the claim, both parties should enter into a stipulation prior to proceeding to and regarding evaluation, intervention, monitoring, protections, and consequences.

Even if the party denies abuse, commit the accused party to attending 30 N.A. meetings in 30 days and the accuser to 30 Narnon or Co-Dependents Anonymous (for families of a chemically dependent person), meetings in 30 days until the completion of a professional evaluation, as this commits both parties to addressing the problem, shows good faith on both parties' parts, and provides some education to both parties.  

Substance abuse unfortunately is an issue that comes up very often in relationships, and more so, when children are involved.  If you feel that the other parent is currently abusing drugs, or has had in the past, please take action immediately!  You do not want to put your life, or your child(ren's) life in danger by not taking the appropriate steps to remedy a potentially volatile situation.  We offer free in-office consultations, as well as over the phone.  

Advice from a St. Petersburg Family Law Attorney

by St. Petersburg/Florida Family Law Attorney on 05/17/16

Good Outcomes for Children After Dissolution of Their Parents' Marriage

As a St. Petersburg Family Law attorney, it is imperative that you help foster a relationship between both parents/litigants.  Research conducted at the California Center for the Family in Transition shows three factors associated with good outcomes for the child after dissolution of their parents' marriage:
  • A close, sensitive working relationship with a psychologically intact conscientious primary residential parent.
  • The diminution of conflict and reasonable cooperation between the parents.
  • Whether the child came to the dissolution with pre-existing psychological difficulties.
Furthermore, your family law lawyer should:
  • Educate you as the parent as to the purpose of the legal system and Florida law as it relates to parental responsibility and child issues.
  • Improve the psychological health of the parent.
  • Promote early completion of the emotional stages of dissolution of marriage which interfere with the ability to conscientiously parent.
  • Improve the communication between the parents through use of communication plans.
  • Eliminate or minimize conflict.
  • Promote a parenting plan which focuses on the future cooperation between the parents.
  • Focus the parents on the best interests of the child, to deal with the child's needs and difficulties.
As your St. Petersburg Family law attorney, I promise you that I will advise you of all of your options.  It is commonplace that parents tend to fight and argue over their child(ren), often forgetting that the child's best interest is what is most important.  Please feel free to contact your St. Petersburg Family Law lawyer for a free, no-obligation consultation to see if I can help.  Oftentimes, a good Family Law attorney can be the difference between a bad outcome in your case and a good outcome.  

UPDATE!!!! RE: BILL SB 668 Family Law Legislature

by St. Petersburg/Florida Family Law Attorney on 04/18/16

Family Law Update!!!

Last Friday, Governor Rick Scott had vetoed what was known to be one of the most contentious bill from the 2016 Legislature.  Essentially, SB 668 to recap, would eliminate permanent alimony, whereby a formula would be utilized to determine how much the receiving party is awarded.  Additionally, and according to multiple resources, another important provision, of the proposed revision, would require judges to begin divorce proceedings with a premise that both mother and father, husband and wife are entitled to approximately equal time with their children.  Rick Scott's main gripe was that he felt that with the revised law, it would put the wants of a parent before the child's best interest by creating a premise of equal time-sharing.  This Family Law bill had no problem receiving support in the Legislature, as it passed the House by a 74-38 margin and the Senate by a 24-14 vote in March.

As a Family Law attorney, it is important that you are aware of changes in legislature, albeit proposed changes.  We are up on the law on a consistent basis, and as such, we are able to render the most competent advice, despite the legal issue(s) that arise.  If you feel that you may be in need of legal assistance, regarding your divorce, or any Family Law matter, please do not hesitate to reach out to us to see if we can help.  

What to look for in a Family Law attorney?

by St. Petersburg/Florida Family Law Attorney on 04/08/16

Whether you're dealing with a divorce, paternity issue, modification of child support issue, etc., it can be a pretty stressful experience.  Moreover, unfortunately, more often than not, it is a time-period where people act irrationally, totally ignoring who is being hurt or affected. While this post will vary from many of the other ones that I write, it will nevertheless address one of the most important issues I believe that presents itself in the family law arena: Choosing an attorney to represent you.

There is a very sad and unfortunate misconception, that in order to obtain exactly what you are looking for, you need to hire the loudest, rudest, aggressive, most obnoxious attorney.  I can't tell you how many times clients become dissatisfied when they do not obtain  the results they were looking for. Moreover, they have spent thousands (in some cases, tens of thousands) of dollars and realize that both parties could've had their issues amicably resolved, without spending a ton of money.  Be very careful when choosing an attorney to represent you in your Family Law matter.  You want someone who is compassionate, aggressive (when necessary), and will obtain the best outcome that is reasonable despite the circumstances.  You do not want to be in a situation where you've spent almost $20,000 and all you have to show, is tons of pleadings from both your side and opposing counsel with absolutely no resolution in sight......

Alimony/time-sharing reform in the state of Florida (SB 668). Is the second time a charm?

by St. Petersburg/Florida Family Law Attorney on 04/06/16

As an attorney in St. Petersburg, FL, who practices primarily in the area of Family Law, this is one of the biggest topics currently being discussed in the family law arena.  For the second time in 3 years, lawmakers in the state of Florida are looking to completely overhaul the original alimony statute, which means major changes are coming in the area of divorce law.

Specifically, the proposal will set out a formula for judges to use when deciding alimony payments.  Moreover, it will lack a retro-activity provision (which allegedly was what lead Gov. Rick Scott to his veto in 2013).  It has been argued by many, that this alimony provision will hurt stay at home parents, who may have a hard time finding jobs later in life.  Under the proposal, the duration of alimony payments would be based on a few things:  1)  The number of years of marriage; and 2) The couple's gross income (the higher earner's salary subtracted from the earnings of the spouse seeking alimony).  

In the bill, there is also a time-sharing component that states that "judges would begin with the premise that a minor child should spend approximately equal amounts of time with each parent" before considering a myriad of other factors. However, the language seems very similar to the current law, that states there is no presumption in favor of either parent, but the judges must decide what is in the child's best interest.  The time-sharing provision would only apply to cases filed after October 1st.  

If you are looking to file for a divorce, it is very important you retain an attorney that is knowledgeable in the area of family law.  This bill can mean major changes as to how divorces are handled and might determine your strategy if you indeed find yourself in this type of situation.  Please feel free to contact our law firm for a low cost in-office or over the phone consultation, if you find yourself in need of a divorce attorney.  

Concurrent Estates and Dissolution of Marriages

by St. Petersburg/Florida Family Law Attorney on 03/25/16

A concurrent estate is a term used frequently in property law.  It describes the various ways in which property is owned by more than one person at a time. The different types of concurrent estates are the following:  Tenancy by the Entirety, Joint Tenancy with Right of Survivor-ship and Tenancy in Common. For the purposes of this post, we will talk about the different aspects of Tenancy by Entirety.  

As a Family Law/Divorce attorney in St. Petersburg, Florida, when rendering advice about how to prepare for a divorce, it is imperative that as a client you are well informed about this legal theory.  Essentially, the term Tenancy by Entirety ("TBE"), is reserved for situations where personal/real property are owned as husband and wife.  The four unities necessary to create a joint tenancy must exist, in addition to being married.  With this concept, essentially, both parties own the property as a whole, not 50/50.  This rule usually applies in instances such as home ownership, cars, bank accounts, etc.  

A TBE can only be broken in one of four ways:  Death of one spouse, Divorce, Joint Creditor, or Mutual agreement.  If any of these four occur, your TBE is transformed/converted into a Tenancy in Common.  An individual who owns property as "TBE" cannot convey their interest via will, due to the fact that the other spouse owns the property as a "whole." Now, let's say that one spouse decides to add their 24 year old daughter to the deed (that has both the husband and wife's name on it as they acquired it as Husband and Wife).  That one spouse would need the other spouse's consent to put their 24 year old daughter on the deed.  If this occurs, then breaking the "TBE" usually results in all parties owning a 1/3 as tenancy in common (this theory will be discussed in a future post).  Furthermore, both husband and wife, along with their child have the option to own the property as "Joint Tenants w/ Right of Survivor-ship."  Please note though, that this must be explicitly stated in the deed, or whatever documents it must be listed on.  Why is this so important?  Well, if we're dealing with a Joint Tenancy with a Right of Survivorship, then none of the three parties can will their part of the property.  They all own 100%, and as a result, the surviving owner will receive 100% interest.  However, if the parties own the property as Tenancy in Common, they are free to pass on their 1/3 of the property any way they would like and the law of intestate succession would apply if no will was found.  

We welcome you to contact us for a free over the phone consultation, or a low-cost in office consultation in our St. Petersburg office.  As a Family Law/Divorce attorney, I will apprise you of your legal rights and fight for you until the very end.  

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