There were 2.2 Million Marriages in the U.S. in 2017 and 787,251 Divorces (in 45 reporting U.S. states and D.C.) according to the CDC (The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) "FastStats" on Family Life, The divorce rate dropped 18% between 2008 and 2016, according a September 2018 study on divorce rates by Philip N. Cohen of the University of Maryland .
Maggie Jo's theory to best performing family law services is to reduce costly litigation and hearing expenses by making every attempt to encourage cooperation and collaboration between family members at odds. Divorces need not be costly or unnecessarily contentious. Family Law cases can involve more than ending a marriage, and could involve many of the below legal concepts:
Adoptions: Adoption is a court action filed to establish legal parentage of another person. Adoption is differentiated from paternity actions, which establish biological parentage of a father for seeking child support, rights to inheritance or other legal orders. Adoption may follow a judge's order for termination of parental rights of a biological or previously legally-named parent. In terms of elder or mentally incompetent individuals, taking responsibility is called guardianship. Competent individuals may draft wills, powers of attorney, durable powers of attorney, estate plans, trusts or other documents to make their wishes known in the event of death or incapacity - such circumstances may also lead to an adoption or guardianship matter for minor children or incompetent dependents of a decedent or mentally-incapacitated person. There can be many types of adoption including, but not limited to, entity adoption (an agency or intermediary-facilitated adoption), step-parent adoption, close-relative adoption, adult adoption, international adoption, open adoption, private adoption, confidential adoptions, independent adoptions, identified adoption, same-sex adoption, grandparent adoption or other types, depending upon the matter's location and jurisdiction. Generally, adult adoptions refer to one seeking to grant inheritance and naming rights to a person via legal process. Each type of adoption has a unique procedure. Chapter 63 of the Florida Statutes governs adoptions in Florida and the Florida Bar Association provides guidance in their consumer pamphlets available at this link. In Kentucky, KRS Chapter 199 Sections 199..470 to 199.990 governs adoptions.
Child Abuse: Unified Family Court systems (family law, juvenile and adult criminal law, probate, or other matters handled by one consolidated judge for the entire family's legal cases) or divorce courts + criminal courts + juvenile courts may determine the factual basis of child abuse claims. Child abuse matters may involve the need for governmental investigation by police, family/children government departments, sexual assault investigators, doctors, teachers, victim advocates and others. Child abuse matters may also lead to filing or defending injunctions or protection orders (civil judgments preventing someone from contacting another person) to prevent future harm. If you suspect child abuse, report it to police. If you are wrongfully accused of child abuse, do not speak to police before acquiring a lawyer of your own to defend you against the allegations. If you are subject to a protective order, follow it or you may be arrested for violations. If you need mental health and counseling services as a result of abuse, seek help immediately. In Florida, “Child abuse” means: 1) Intentional infliction of physical or mental injury upon a child; 2) An intentional act that could reasonably be expected to result in physical or mental injury to a child; or 3) Active encouragement of any person to commit an act that results, or could reasonably be expected to result, in physical or mental injury to a child. See Fla. Stat.827.403 In Kentucky, K.R.S. 600.020 defines an "[a]bused or neglected child" as a child whose health or welfare is harmed or threatened with harm when: a) his/her parent, guardian, person in a position of authority or special trust, as defined in KRS 532.045, or other person exercising custodial control or supervision of the child: 1) Inflicts or allows to be inflicted upon the child physical or emotional injury as defined in this section by other than accidental means; 2) Creates or allows to be created a risk of physical or emotional injury as defined in this section to the child by other than accidental means; 3) Engages in a pattern of conduct that renders the parent incapable of caring for the immediate and ongoing needs of the child including, but not limited to, parental incapacity due to alcohol and other drug abuse as defined in KRS 222.005; 4) Continuously or repeatedly fails or refuses to provide essential parental care and protection for the child, considering the age of the child; 5) Commits or allows to be committed an act of sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, or prostitution upon the child; 6) Creates or allows to be created a risk that an act of sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, or prostitution will be committed upon a child; 7) Abandons or exploits the child; 8) Does not provide the child with adequate care, supervision, food, clothing, shelter, and education or medical care necessary for the child's well-being. A parent or other person exercising custodial control or supervision of the child legitimately practicing the person's religious beliefs shall not be considered a negligent parent solely because of failure to provide specified medical treatment for a child for that reason alone. This exception shall not preclude a court from ordering necessary medical services for a child; 9) Fails to make sufficient progress toward identified goals as set forth in the court-approved case plan to allow for the safe return of the child to the parent that results in the child remaining committed to the cabinet and remaining in foster care for fifteen (15) of the most recent twenty-two (22) months; or (b) A person twenty-one (21) years of age or older commits or allows to be committed an act of sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, or prostitution upon a child less than sixteen (16) years of age.
Child Time-Sharing: Time-sharing is a court's determination of a parenting schedule and time apportionment for parents and their children, usually following divorce or other court orders. Most laws regard mothers and fathers as having every right to 50/50 time-sharing, unless there are extenuating circumstances like and out-of-state or military parent.
Modification of Decrees: After a divorce, there are often unresolved or unaddressed matters which require court filings/pleadings after the final order of divorce, to resolve disputes, recalculate alimony or child support, to start or stop garnishments, to seek contempt orders forcing another party to act or pay, to enforce contempt orders for the failure of a party to adhere to prior orders, or to permit family relocation or other changes occurring after the divorce case is closed. If a divorce decree (or final settlement agreement or judgment) relies upon facts which have changed, you may need to seek counsel for modification of decrees.
Child Support: Child support is calculated on the basis of many factors, including financial information of the parents, ability to pay, time with/without the children, educational needs, special needs and is usually determined using guidelines, a table consisting of financial data factors on the x-axis and the number of children on the y-axis. Once a party calculates his/her income, the guidelines amount will be a court's presumed support order. However, clients most often need assistance in understanding and fulfilling financial disclosures required in order for a court to make this determination. Financial affidavits are much like accounting forms, and contain terminology or confusing concepts. Child support orders can be sought by parents and/or a state government entity charged with assuring children's needs are met by parents before state resources may be used for their care. Although many contentious divorce clients may reference child support concepts as "money to the ex", but judges and legislators regard child support as money to fund the best interests of the child(ren), not the other adult parent. Failure to pay child support has major consequences if you have an ability to work and pay but do not pay. Failure to pay may result in financial penalties, wage garnishment, contempt orders (maybe jail) or driver license suspensions, among other stressful consequences.
Divorce: The first step in divorce is to determine how the parties will resolve splitting property - tangible, intangible, real estate, vehicles, bank or investment accounts and even businesses. Jurisdictions vary on how property division may occur, but most states follow "equitable distribution" principles not "community property"). In a community property state, marital property is divided fifty-fifty (50/50). In an equitable distribution state, like Kentucky and Florida, marital property is divided "equitably" based on a variety of factors. Property acquired during the marriage belongs to the spouse who earned it, and the property will be divided between the spouses in a fair and equitable manner. There is no set rule in determining who receives what or how much. Next, the divorce will require orders regarding child custody, time-sharing and child support for minor or dependent children. Usually courts have requirements and forms specific to the jurisdiction for fulfilling court obligations. Standardized, template or self-help forms in Florida are available at this link; Kentucky forms are available at this link or this link. Most often, divorce attorneys will advise you to adhere to parenting course requirements, show proof of your residency, attend certain hearings, pay filing fees and process server fees, make alimony and child support claims, acknowledge court rules, complete forms to change your name, attend depositions or trials, and other tasks in order to complete a divorce.
Domestic Violence: Wikipedia: (also named domestic abuse or family violence) is violence or other abuse by one person against another in a domestic setting, such as in marriage or cohabitation. It may be termed intimate partner violence when committed by a spouse or partner in an intimate relationship against the other spouse or partner, and can take place in heterosexual or same-sex relationships, or between former spouses or partners. Domestic violence can also involve violence against children, parents, or the elderly. It takes a number of forms, including physical, verbal, emotional, economic, religious, reproductive, and sexual abuse, which can range from subtle, coercive forms to marital rape and to violent physical abuse such as choking, beating, female genital mutilation, and acid throwing that results in disfigurement or death. Domestic murders include stoning, bride burning, honor killings, and dowry deaths. Globally, the victims of domestic violence are overwhelmingly women, and women tend to experience more severe forms of violence. They are also likelier than men to use intimate partner violence in self-defense. In some countries, domestic violence is often seen as justified, particularly in cases of actual or suspected infidelity on the part of the woman, and is legally permitted. Research has established that there exists a direct and significant correlation between a country's level of gender equality and rates of domestic violence, where countries with less gender equality experience higher rates of domestic violence. Domestic violence is among the most under-reported crimes worldwide for both men and women. Due to social stigmas regarding male victimization, men who are victims of domestic violence face an increased likelihood of being overlooked by healthcare providers.. Domestic violence often occurs when the abuser believes that abuse is an entitlement, acceptable, justified, or unlikely to be reported. It may produce an inter-generational cycle of abuse in children and other family members, who may feel that such violence is acceptable or condoned. Many people do not recognize themselves as abusers or victims because they may consider their experiences as family conflicts that got out of control. Awareness, perception, definition and documentation of domestic violence differs widely from country to country. Domestic violence often happens in the context of forced or child marriage. In abusive relationships, there may be a cycle of abuse during which tensions rise and an act of violence is committed, followed by a period of reconciliation and calm. Victims of domestic violence may be trapped in domestic violent situations through isolation, power and control, traumatic bonding to the abuser, cultural acceptance, lack of financial resources, fear, shame, or to protect children. As a result of abuse, victims may experience physical disabilities, dysregulated aggression, chronic health problems, mental illness, limited finances, and poor ability to create healthy relationships. Victims may experience severe psychological disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder. Children who live in a household with violence often show psychological problems from an early age, such as avoidance, hypervigilance to threats, and dysregulated aggression which may contribute to vicarious traumatization. Criminal charges may need to be filed if you are the victim of domestic violence. Report violence to police immediately and seek orders of protection (Emergency Protective Orders, Restraining Orders, Injunctions, and other forms). See Also: Kentucky Protective Order Processes and Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure Form 12.980a. If you are in an emergency situation and fear for your, your family's or your pets' safety, dial 9-1-1.
Elder Law/Wills/Trusts/Estate Plans: You or members of your family may need services that fall outside of the scope of "family law" generally, including elder law advice (to support an aging parent, for example), advice regarding insurance/wills/trusts after reaching adulthood, getting married, getting divorced or other life changes. Estate plans often require many experts, including accountants, advisers, attorneys and bankers. It is important to reference your state laws and federal tax consequences when engaging in elder law matters, as many state will
Enforcement of Decrees: Marriage dissolution cases conclude with orders, or decrees which the parties must follow, ordering child support, property return/sale, time-sharing responsibilities, alimony payments and other duties. If a party fails to comply with orders, the other party may remedy the non-compliance by seeking the enforcement of the decree by the court. Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure Form 12.960 addresses contempt and enforcement issues, and Kentucky Legal Aid offers forms for Jefferson County/Louisville at this link to seek modifications and enforcement actions.
Guardianship (and Conservators): A guardian is a surrogate decision-maker appointed by the court to make personal and/or financial decisions for an adult with mental or physical disabilities. Kentucky Guardianship laws mandate that the concerned petitioner (regarding the welfare of an individual) to file a petition with the District Court where the individual needing help (or Respondent, or Ward) resides. See K.R.S. Chapter 387 for definitions and guidelines. In adult guardianship cases in Kentucky, ,the government/Commonwealth "prosecutes" the action and there is a jury trial. Kentucky tries guardianship matters because the loss of civil rights is great and the ward's legal status changes significantly if a guardianship is ordered. The county Attorney will represent the state in the District Court, but if the Petitioner wishes to be represented at the hearing, they must have a separate attorney. Florida Guardianship laws refer to the respondent of the petition as the "ward" as well. If a minor's parents die or become incapacitated, or if a minor receives an inheritance or proceeds via lawsuit/insurance settlement over a specified amount, then Florida requires a guardian to be appointed on behalf of that minor. Adult guardianship in Florida is an action seeking a court finding about an individual's ability to make decisions and whether they are so impaired that another person should make their decisions. Guardianship is only warranted when no less restrictive alternative exists (such as durable powers of attorney, trusts, health care surrogates or proxies) to help the ward. Florida law allows both voluntary and involuntary guardianship actions. A voluntary guardianship may be established for an adult who, though mentally competent, is incapable of managing their own estate and who voluntarily petitions for the appointment. Florida WINGS offers assistance and resources for Florida Guardianship matters at this link, and see, Florida Statues Chapter 784: Guardianship. A Conservator, appointed in the same way generally, is someone who manages only the ward's financial affairs.
Settlement Agreements: Settlement agreements are created when opposing parties in a case make agreements regarding the disposition of, in family law, matters affecting marital property and child-rearing or other issues in dispute. A Marital Settlement Agreement is always favorable to litigating issues in front of a judge, because to do so increases attorney fees and lengthens the time a case goes on.
Annulment is a court action to deem a marriage invalid and void as though it never existed. Furthermore, an annulment typically means that marital dissolution laws regarding property division, alimony, or other relief do not apply. If a court makes an Annulment Declaration declaring the marriage void or invalid, it will be because your claim appropriately met state statutory elements. In Kentucky, to acquire an annulment, a party has deadlines to file an action, and one may not receive an annulment beyond those time restrictions. Then, the moving party must state statutory grounds like Influence of alcohol, drugs, or other incapacitating substances, or fraud involving “the essentials of marriage”. If someone lies about a pregnancy or their willingness to have children, an annulment may be possible. Or, a court may grant an annulment if the marriage is loveless or based on material or financial gain only. Bigamy, incest, mental incapacity or disability, marriage to a minor (< 18-years-old) without emancipation or parental consent, or improper solemnization of the marital ceremony (i.e. improper person conducting ceremony or no witnesses) may be grounds utilized for seeking annulment. Florida has very specified divorce laws, but does not have a statute dedicated to annulment. Common Law Annulment in Florida is possible but not easy to process. Florida has recognized annulments to minors, marriages under fraud or duress (not freely and voluntarily married or married under false pretenses - i.e. lies about having children) or other grounds such as mental/physical incapacity affecting sexual life marriage, spouse under the influence of alcohol or drugs, bigamy or incest.
Paternity: If a child's mother is married when the child is born, her husband is legally considered the father of the child and paternity does not need to be legally determined. Establishing paternity is the way to legally determine the father of a child who is born to an unmarried woman or a woman married to someone that is not the child's father. Signing a father's name on a birth certificate is not enough to legally determine paternity absent marriage or court order. Chapter 406 of Kentucky Revised Statutes addresses Paternity Actions in the Commonwealth. The Florida Department of Revenue offers guidance on Florida's Paternity laws at this link. The Florida Department of Revenue can also assist parents in completing genetic testing (taking and evaluating DNA) using mouth swabs, to determine paternity. In Florida, however, many judges have ordered that a biological father has no right to seek to establish paternity of a child who was born during a marriage, even if the married woman and her husband object. Read Florida's Paternity Statute in Chapter 742 of the Florida Statues.
Prenuptial Agreements are contractual terms between prospective spouses signed prior to marriage determining financial distribution of assets and liabilities in the event of divorce or death of a spouse.
Restraining/Protective/Injunction Orders: Report domestic violence to police immediately and seek orders of protection (Emergency Protective Orders, Restraining Orders, Injunctions, and other forms). See Also: Kentucky Protective Order Processes and Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure Form 12.980a. If you are in an emergency situation and fear for your, your family's or your pets' safety, dial 9-1-1.
Contested Divorces v. Uncontested Divorces and Simplified Divorce: Contested divorces are those in which the parties cannot easily agree on financial and child matters whereas uncontested or simplified divorces are, obviously faster and involve less litigation. In Florida, a simplified dissolution is not available if the parties have children.
Collaborative or Cooperative Divorce: Generally, attorneys are hesitant to risk conflicts of interest that could arise by representing both parties in a marital dissolution or family law dispute, but some modern lawyers are working toward collaborative and cooperative divorces being the norm. Most often, the spouses work with one attorney (or two with cooperation agreements) in a collaborative negotiation process to reach good faith/fair/peaceful terms under an agreement to not litigate. The goal is a more economic and speedy divorce where the parties find middle ground without fighting. Collaborative processes can be very beneficial for the finances and emotions of all parties - adults and kids. If you and your spouse can agree on property-division, alimony and children-related items, collaborative processes may be for your divorce case. Many attorneys, unfortunately, fear the potential for bar complaints, malpractice claims and headaches that come with attempting collaborative processes because the vast majority of family matters are litigious and emotional despite the best efforts of counsel.
Mediation: If two parties in a court case cannot agree and settle their differences out of court, civil judges typically order a mediation process before setting the case on a trial docket. At mediation, an unbiased lawyer communicates between the parties and their lawyers to find resolutions to litigated matters from fault to damages to settlement terms. Mediators are usually certified by state bar associations to conduct negotiations in accordance with rules and laws. Mediators go to law school, pass the bar exam, then gain experience in a field... then become certified to mediate cases by fulfilling even more classwork and other application requirements. Mediators are usually very good at bringing two emotional parties to the table to achieve resolution. Mediators work out cases to reduce litigation costs of the parties and reduce time constraints on the judiciary. Trials are very for all involved.
Dependency: "Dependency, Neglect, and Abuse (D.N.A.)" is the topic of Kentucky Revised Statutes Chapter 620, which states: " Children have certain fundamental rights which must be protected and preserved, including but not limited to, the rights to adequate food, clothing and shelter; the right to be free from physical, sexual or emotional injury or exploitation; the right to develop physically, mentally, and emotionally to their potential; and the right to educational instruction and the right to a secure, stable family. It is further recognized that upon some occasions, in order to protect and preserve the rights and needs of children, it is necessary to remove a child from his or her parents." Removing a child form a harmful environment requires an adjudication hearing where a judge will determine whether allegations of dependency, abuse or neglect concerning a child are true and sustained by the evidence presented by the county attorney and social workers on behalf of the cabinet. In all cases, the legal rights of interested parties are affected so parties are entitled to notice (due process - procedural and substantive) as a matter of constitutional guarantee. If allegations in a social worker's petition for court intervention on behalf of the child are found to be true by a preponderance of evidence during the adjudication hearing the Court may proceed to the disposition stage where parents may be able to discuss parenting plan options to remedy the matters. Information from the Commonwealth of Kentucky regarding these procedures can be found at this link. Florida Courts have utilized federal funding to produce a Dependency Benchbook, which outlines Dependency and Neglect procedures in Florida. This flow-chart makes it easy for legal practitioners to explain the processes to clients and their loved ones.
Relocation cases involve two parents which share custody and time-sharing where one party is seeking to move away from the jurisdiction where the case has been ongoing. Many parents need to move for purposes of financial and career goals , but if orders of a court cannot be followed, the party moving will need to seek relocation permission from the co-parent. If a co-parent will not agree to permit the other parent to move, a relocation issue could become contested and require a judge to make findings regarding the change in residency.
Appeals of Final Orders: A family law case may end with a settlement, a mediation leading to agreement or a trial and court judgments. After a lower court's final order has been issued , it is final - unless it is appealed successfully to a higher court and that court agrees to alters the prior decision. Appeals are very costly and involve a great deal of legal work, but may be necessary if legal errors were made in the trial court. Appeals must be timely filed, so if you feel errors have occurred in your family law case, seek appellate counsel immediately. More information on Kentuckcy Appellate Law and Procedures, click here.
Appeals of Non-Final Orders are also termed "interlocutory" and may, as of right or legal statute, be filed to contest orders on the minor issues of a family law case. Like appeals of final orders, an appellate judicial panel will determine if an error was committed in the lower court which would alter the rulings on the non-final orders. The Florida Bar best describes this kind of appeal as follows: "Under Florida law, an order typically must be final before a party can seek appellate review. ... Immediate review over non-final orders is only permissible when expressly authorized by Florida rules or when a departure from the essential requirements of law warrants original jurisdiction." Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure 9.130 governs the appellate process for non-final order challenges. Kentucky's rules regarding the appeal of non-final orders is discussed in Section 22A.020 of the Court of Appeals rules on Jurisdiction and states "Except as provided in Section 110 of the Constitution, an appeal may be taken as a matter of right to the Court of Appeals from any conviction, final judgment, order, or decree in any case in Circuit Court, including a family court division of Circuit Court, unless such conviction, final judgment, order, or decree was rendered on an appeal from a court inferior to Circuit Court."
Emancipation: Kentucky does not have a law to outline emancipation procedures; however, a child may marry before 18-years-of-age to become a "legal adult" (with parental consent or court order permitting marriage license), become self-supporting to become implied/implicitly emancipated (i.e. moving out of parental home + becoming self supportive + parents do not try to return the minor to the family home) or via court order on a minor's petition for emancipation.
Maggie Jo is an experienced family law attorney with additional experience in personal injury plaintiff claims, criminal defense trials and appeals, business law matters, licensed in Kentucky & Florida with offices in Louisville, KY & Trinity, FL. Maggie Jo has been first and second-chair trial counsel in state and federal criminal and civil courts. As a former Assistant State Attorney (Florida 2006) and Assistant Appellate Public Defender (Florida 2013), she has worked on both sides of the courtroom to find justice as a government employee. For the bulk of her career, Maggie Jo has owned and operated a solo legal practice since 2008, providing legal counsel in civil and criminal cases to individuals and families, businesses and public officials.
For family law clients at the The Law Office of Maggie Jo Hilliard, cases are accepted on a flat-rate or hourly-fee schedule determined after consultation and analyzing case specifics. It is unethical/illegal for an attorney to undertake criminal or family law matters on a "contingency fee" basis (like personal injury matters).
Maggie Jo is licensed in two states, and represents clients in Florida and Kentucky only. Cases vary, results vary, and no lawyer may ethically guarantee an outcome in your case. If Maggie Jo cannot assist with your case, she can provide assistance in locating a qualified attorney at another firm to assist you.Cases may require the assistance of co-counsel or referral to another firm in order to best serve her client's interests. Maggie Jo enjoys working with co-counsel and referral sources to assure clients' legal needs are accommodated. When submitting a consultation form for review, you will be asked for consent to discuss your case in a confidential and privileged manner with potential co-counsel or referral sources, if necessary. If you wish to discuss your case with only Maggie Jo, your wishes will be honored. All communications will be held in confidence and privileged from disclosures as outlined by state laws and attorneys' ethics rules.
MAGGIE JO HILLIARD | LEGAL + CREATIVE SERVICES
FLORIDA OFFICE: 2049 Welbilt Boulevard, Trinity, Florida 34655
KENTUCKY OFFICE: 312 South Fourth Street, Suite 700, Louisville, Kentucky 40202
Mail: Post Office Box 8001, Louisville, Kentucky 40257