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Family Law FAQs

Q: What areas are included in family law?
A: Marriage, legitimacy, adoption, child abuse, divorce, annulment, property division, alimony, parental responsibility, child custody and visitation, are some of the areas.

Q: What changes are occurring in family law, especially regarding divorce and custody?
A: In the past, family lawyers were expected to advocate for the client at any cost. There is a movement supported by many family law attorneys and judges to use constructive conflict resolution that protects the parties, especially children.

This is referred to as “constructive advocacy” and promotes the client’s best interest, meaning the well-being of children, family peace, and economic stability.

Courts increasingly disfavor the use of terms like “winner” and “loser” in the family court process.

Q: What is collaborative divorce?
A: A divorce process where all parties are committed to negotiating through the process, rather than having the court determine issues. Each party may have their own attorney, but experts may be jointly hired if both parties agree. Many collaborative divorces involve mental health professionals to assist the parties through the process.

There is agreement that the parties will not take advantage of each other, move assets, cancel insurance policies or place assets at risk. Additionally, the parties agree to communicate in a civil and constructive manner.

Collaborative divorces are generally considered to be less stressful and easier than traditional divorces.

Q: How can Christian attorneys be involved in the divorce process?
A: The divorce rate among Christians is about the same as non-believers. Christians should have access to a divorce process that is peaceful, thoughtful, and protects the emotional interests of everyone involved.

Christ taught to be in the world, not of the world. The world is a fallen place; when Christians experience difficult life situations, they should have access to those who can assist them and show Christ’s love in the process.

Divorce does not need to destroy lives. It is a painful process and those who are involved should have peaceful alternatives.

A Christian attorney understands the importance of the parties’ faith and can assist them in obtaining spiritual and emotional guidance outside of the legal field.

Q: What is adoption?
A: A legal process where a child is permanently separated from his or her birth parents and relatives and transferred into a new family. The new family is responsible for the care and guidance of the child from that point on.

Q: What is involved in the adoption process?
A: Choosing an adoption agency, orientation, several interviews, a home visit, medical examinations, reference checks, payment of fees, and celebration.

Q: Who may adopt a child?
A: Adults who live and work in Florida, can exhibit good character, and have the means to care for a child may adopt. Single adults, as well as married couples, may adopt. A stepparent may adopt his or her spouse’s children.

Q: What types of adoption are available in Florida?
A: One that is facilitated by an adoption agency, an adoption intermediary (attorney), the step-parent adoption, the close relative, and the adult adoption. Each type of adoption has unique procedure.

Q: How do the courts make sure that a biological parent wants to surrender his or her child?
A: There must be proof that the parents wish to terminate the biological relationship forever; this proof is usually accomplished by legal consent.
Alternatively, a court must hear proof that the parent has abused, abandoned or neglected the child or otherwise failed to protect their parental rights under Florida law.

There are exceptions when an unmarried biological father is involved. He must register his paternity with Florida’s Putative Father Registry; otherwise, the court will not require his consent before proceeding to complete an adoption plan.

An unmarried biological father must register his paternity prior to the filing of a petition to terminate his rights or within 30 days of service of a Notice of Intended Adoption Plan.

Q: What steps are involved in a stepparent adoption?
A: Most stepparent adoptions result from an absent parent. The parent may be absent because he or she is deceased, has abandoned the child or children, or has not maintained a relationship with the child or children.

Sometimes a parent consents to the adoption believing it to be in the child’s best interest. If the other parent has regular contact with the child and will not consent to adoption, Florida law will generally not allow a stepparent adoption to proceed.

The adoption documents are filed in the Circuit Court in the county where the stepparent resides. Once this process if finalized by the Court, the adopted child will receive a new birth certificate, showing the new parent listed on the birth certificate, and also showing the child’s new name.

Download the Florida Family Law Statutes PDF