Author: J.J. Dahl

Board Certified Marital and Family Law Attorney in Lake County. Read more about J.J. Dahl here.

What Happens Next, Step 1



Simple cases can be done in two months or less.  More complicate cases can be six to eight months, with fiercely contested or complex cases taking a year or more.

Once you have paid your retainer and returned your signed retainer agreement, the firm is officially retained and we begin working on your case.  The first few days involve data entry and clerical work including creating a physical file and a computer file.  After this we begin generating a case plan.  This case plan is created by the attorney and shared with the entire staff so everyone knows what direction we are going in your case and what your goals include.

Be sure to check our next blog to find out about Step Two:  Proposals or Petitions.


Divorce Overview, part 4



 Another factor that comes into play is alimony.  Many of those who, at the time of marriage, did not want their spouse to work outside the home find themselves believing it to be unfair that they may have to pay spousal support (alimony).  After all, if they are no longer married, why should one person still be obligated to provide support to the other?  On the other hand, the spouse whose marital contribution including staying at home, and perhaps, raising children, may have given up secondary education or the ability to pursue an income-producing career by doing so.  Should this spouse have the benefit of financial assistance after the marriage?  If so, should it be long-term or short-term?

The courts, by and large, recognize these issues and the case law regarding alimony describes various options, including permanent periodic, durational, rehabilitative, and bridge-the-gap alimony.  Permanent periodic alimony may be awarded after a long-term marriage, and requires the income-producing spouse to pay the other alimony until one of them dies or the recipient spouse remarries.  Rehabilitative alimony is paid for a specific period of time and provides the recipient spouse with money while obtaining education or specialized training in order to get on a career track and be self-supporting.  Bridge-the-gap was the new kid on the alimony block until recently when Florida law created Durational alimony.  Bridge-the-gap alimony is paid for a very short period of time in an effort to assist the receiving spouse in getting over the financial burden that often occurs when transitioning from being married to being single.  Durational alimony can be paid for as long as the marriage lasted.  In awarding alimony, the Court must be able to justify its decisions or face the possibility of an appeal, which may overturn a decision.

Divorce Overview, part 3



Who gets the dog when you divorce?  From the picture you know who it would be!  (Just kidding, honey—I have no plans on a divorce.)  But clients often ask who gets the pets.  Under Florida family law, pets are no different than your pots and pan.  Can you believe it?  Even the judges that are pet owners and lovers can’t give visitation or time sharing for pets; they have to be divided.  In many cases, the parties naturally know who really belongs with, loves and cares for each specific pet, but in divorce we can have a lot of hurt feelings and the desire to get revenge.  What better way to get revenge than to take the other person’s beloved cat, dog, bird, horse.

I always warn my clients when negotiating not to hold their hands too tightly because that’s exactly when the other side wants to go in and pluck whatever they’re holding from them, or worse, to use emotional leverage to coerce someone into doing something they don’t want.  If pets are going to be a part of your divorce or separation, let your attorney know.  Family law attorneys really do want to help.  I even had a case once where our clients did agree to time share an animal.  One person kept the animal and routine expenses the majority of the time while the other person paid the vet bills and kept the animal when the other person was out of town.  Even though pets are considered property in a divorce, a judge will rubber stamp or enter an order enforcing any agreements you may devise for pet sharing.  We can be creative!  We love animals, too, and want to help our clients keep theirs.

While pets are priceless, there is certainly a cost to keeping them happy and healthy.  Find out about alimony payments in our next blog!

Divorce Overview, part 2



 Questions involving children are more complex and emotionally charged.  Who will the children live with during the process of and after the divorce?  Who will make the decisions about where they go to school, what activities they will participate in, whether they need braces (and who pays for them), and how often they are with the other parent?  What about vacations from school, annual trips, and summer camp?  Where will the children spend their birthdays and holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, Passover, and Easter?  What about the parents’ birthdays, Mothers’ Day, and Fathers’ Day?  Usually, each parent wants an arrangement that keeps these things the same but this is not possible when considering two separate households.

Florida courts will generally give both parents shared parental responsibility.  This means each parent has a say in decisions about the child.  Time sharing varies in each case.  Parents can often divide the child’s time as they wish, as long as they are in agreement, and some can be pretty creative in a plan that is best for all.  The courts, however, do not get creative.  In LakeCounty, there is a standard arrangement that may be implemented if the parents cannot agree.

The next issue to be addressed is child support.  Parents are often under the impression that child support is based on the actual expenses related to the children.  This is not true.  Child support is based on the income of the parents.  A chart, mandated by law, is used which specifies how much money is to be paid.  The amount is based on net income.  There are several legal hoops to jump to determine “net” income.  If a child lives with Mom, Dad pays child support based on net income, not on how much money Mom actually spends on the child each month.  Child care and health insurance costs may also be taken into consideration.

What about my pets?  While they aren’t children, we understand that you may be the parent of a pet that is caught in the middle.  Stay tuned to our next blog to find out who gets the dog!

Divorce Overview, part 1



 There are certain requirements that must be met in order to obtain a divorce.  A document called the Final Judgment must be signed by a judge in order to finalize the divorce.  In Florida, the legal term for a divorce is “dissolution of marriage.”  The cost and complexity of divorce depends on the parties and issues involved.

Couples have to untangle the areas of their lives that have become intertwined, some of which are financial or material in nature, some emotional.  Some areas cannot be completely separated, such as children.

Marital assets and debts must be divided, which leads to questions such as, “Which assets are truly assets of the marriage?”, “What about engagement rings or gifts to each other during the marriage?”, “What about money inherited from a distant cousin who passed away?” or “What about the coin collection I’ve had since childhood?”

Coming next: an overview on the issues regarding children, time sharing, and child support.

Attorney Fees

I pride myself in ensuring the value of my work exceeds the cost – the whole Team does, it is one of our Firm’s values.  We more than pay for our services.

When asked to pay a retainer or an attorney bill in your family law matter, it might be hard to see that the money is well spent.  However, at the end of your alimony matter or the end of your child support matter or divorce – although sometimes it is not realized until the next tax year or when you finally sell the house or you need to enforce something a year or two down the road – you will see the value of a family law professional.

None of us are the type to try to generate unnecessary or unhelpful work just to increase a bill.  We know happy Clients pay less – we only want happy Clients.  Who doesn’t?  We want our Clients to be our best advertisement and future referral sources.   So we want to do a good job and that includes not only getting the job done but getting it done efficiently and least expensively.  We hope to keep your attorney fees down, too – but “don’t lose the forest for the trees”.

I cannot tell you how many people come to me AFTER they have signed or agreed to something that they should not have.  I cannot tell you how many Clients tell me, I wish I had hired you first or before.   I have a matter right now where my client almost gave away a $60,000 IRA because she didn’t want to pay a $5000 retainer.  She hired us as soon as she realized she could pay the $5,000 and on that issue alone come out $25,000 ahead even with paying the retainer.    We usually see our fees recouped in alimony and child support cases – a lot of people think what is the big deal with a $100 a month difference.  Well when you have an 8 year old child – that’s $1200 a year times ten years – last time I checked that is $12,000!!  I’d spend $5,000 for an attorney to get $12,000!  Imagine that same mistake with a divorce at age 45, and that is a $100 month difference for twenty years of alimony until retiring at 65.  Think about this not just from the point if you are the one paying this money, but what if you were the one who was supposed to be receiving this money and you short changed yourself $120,000 or $240,000.  I bet you would be thinking, darn I should have hired that attorney.

Do not forget, we have a hand out, How To Keep Attorney Fees Down.  Remember, if you follow our advice or our timelines and deadlines, you will keep attorney fees down.  Let us help you.  We are worth it and you are worth it.