Areas of Practice
Most family law litigants are ordered by the Court to attempt a resolution-focused settlement conference called “mediation” before going to a contested trial. These conferences can be conducted in-person, or virtually.
Mediation is an attempt for both parties to come to an agreement outside of the trial process and has several advantages over litigation. For instance, despite the best efforts of counsel and the courts, it is often impossible to predict when a case will be called to trial, and these delays cause unavoidable anxiety for the parties and add to the expense of litigation. Mediation is a more flexible process and can lead to a much quicker resolution of your case.
Also, since the process is more informal and generally less hostile than litigation, mediation often allows the parties to better maintain and continue existing relationships.
Most importantly, mediation can be effective since participants are more likely to comply with the terms of a settlement they have agreed to, rather than a judgment imposed by the court. It is a great opportunity for you to take the initiative and resolve the issues in your own case, instead of sitting on the sidelines at trial while a judge makes life-affecting decisions over which you have no control.
Ms. Rudin has extensive family law experience both in the courtroom and as a mediator. Drawing from this experience, she has developed mediation strategies that carefully guide the negotiating process toward healthy resolution for the parties involved. If requested, she provides drafting services for agreements reached by the parties during the mediation conference and offers the parties the option to electronically sign their agreement at the time of mediation through e-signature software at no cost to the parties.
She is certified by the Florida Supreme Court as a Family Law Mediator, and provides mediation services to all parties (with or without attorneys) who wish to pursue a more practical, cost-efficient and solution-focused approach to their family law concerns.
Ms. Rudin charges a flat fee of $250.00 for the first 2 hours of any mediation conference, and then $250.00 per hour for each hour thereafter. Please note there is a two-hour minimum for any mediation conference.
If you are interested in scheduling a family law mediation, please click to select a date and time for your mediation with Ms. Rudin.
Couples who can agree on issues such as timesharing with their children, support and property division are on the path to a far easier and cost-effective outcome than couples who cannot agree on these matters. Nevertheless, there are legal requirements in Florida that must be satisfied even in an uncontested divorce. You will want to ensure that your agreement adheres to state laws on timesharing and support for the child; meets Florida's requirements as to jurisdiction, divorce grounds and length of residency; and confirms that all relevant financial information is known by both sides and clearly defined in the Parties' agreement.
If you are motivated to seek an uncontested divorce to avoid a lengthy and potentially costly legal process, we can work together to finalize the marriage dissolution quickly, amicably and affordably.
Collaborative divorce is an alternative resolution method which may be preferred to a traditional litigated proceeding. It is a more cooperative approach to divorce which enlists both parties' active involvement in solving their dissolution issues even if they have not been able to reach an agreement on their own. It is straightforward and does not involve the courts in an adversarial way.
In a collaborative divorce, each of the parties engages an attorney, with the specific understanding that in the unlikely event that adversarial proceedings are required, the collaborative lawyers will withdraw and trial lawyers will be retained for the later proceedings. In place of expensive and time-consuming trial procedures, the collaborative process interposes a team approach to settlement that fosters cooperation and creative solutions to dissolution issues.
Paternity or Disestablishment of Paternity
Paternity actions in Florida can be initiated by either the mother of a child, or by the biological father. Once a suit is filed, child custody, parental responsibility, visitation rights and child support are all issues that must be addressed either by the Court or through the mediation process.
If a father's paternity is in doubt, we can work with DNA testing facilities to secure scientific evidence of paternity.
If the parties to a family law case cannot agree on a parenting plan for their children, then the court will determine all matters relating to parenting and time-sharing of each minor child of the parties in accordance with the best interests of the child.
It is the public policy of this state that each minor child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents separate or the marriage of the parties is dissolved and to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities, and joys, of childrearing.
The court will order that the parental responsibility for a minor child be shared by both parents unless the court finds that shared parental responsibility would be detrimental to the child. This can be an extraordinary burden to prove in a litigated trial, but is warranted in a limited number of cases.
Timesharing and Child Custody
Child custody is actually an outdated term in Florida. The Florida Legislature now uses the term “time-sharing” to describe the physical place and times that a child will be with his/her parents. Understandably, timesharing is one of the most emotional issues many parents face during a divorce. If the Parties are unable to agree on a time-sharing schedule or parenting plan for their children, then the Court will consider the statutory factors outlined in Florida Statutes, Section 61.13 to determine a plan that is in the child's best interests. These factors are as follows:
- The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship, to honor the time-sharing schedule, and to be reasonable when changes are required.
- The anticipated division of parental responsibilities after the litigation, including the extent to which parental responsibilities will be delegated to third parties.
- The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to determine, consider, and act upon the needs of the child as opposed to the needs or desires of the parent.
- The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity.
- The geographic viability of the parenting plan, with special attention paid to the needs of school-age children and the amount of time to be spent traveling to effectuate the parenting plan. This factor does not create a presumption for or against relocation of either parent with a child.
- The moral fitness of the parents.
- The mental and physical health of the parents.
- The home, school, and community record of the child.
- The reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient intelligence, understanding, and experience to express a preference.
- The demonstrated knowledge, capacity, and disposition of each parent to be informed of the circumstances of the minor child, including, but not limited to, the child's friends, teachers, medical care providers, daily activities, and favorite things.
- The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to provide a consistent routine for the child, such as discipline, and daily schedules for homework, meals, and bedtime.
- The demonstrated capacity of each parent to communicate with and keep the other parent informed of issues and activities regarding the minor child, and the willingness of each parent to adopt a unified front on all major issues when dealing with the child.
- Evidence of domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect, regardless of whether a prior or pending action relating to those issues has been brought. If the court accepts evidence of prior or pending actions regarding domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect, the court must specifically acknowledge in writing that such evidence was considered when evaluating the best interests of the child.
- Evidence that either parent has knowingly provided false information to the court regarding any prior or pending action regarding domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect.
- The particular parenting tasks customarily performed by each parent and the division of parental responsibilities before the institution of litigation and during the pending litigation, including the extent to which parenting responsibilities were undertaken by third parties.
- The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to participate and be involved in the child's school and extracurricular activities.
- The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to maintain an environment for the child which is free from substance abuse.
- The capacity and disposition of each parent to protect the child from the ongoing litigation as demonstrated by not discussing the litigation with the child, not sharing documents or electronic media related to the litigation with the child, and refraining from disparaging comments about the other parent to the child.
- The developmental stages and needs of the child and the demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to meet the child's developmental needs.
- Any other factor that is relevant to the determination of a specific parenting plan, including the time-sharing schedule.
Equitable Distribution of Assets and Liabilities
In a Florida divorce action, marital property and marital debts will be divided equitably (not always equally) through a process called equitable distribution.
As part of equitable distribution, the Court will classify property as either “marital property,” which are assets acquired during the marriage and available for distribution, or “separate property,” which are assets acquired prior to the marriage or from inheritance and exempt from division.
Parties should be aware that it does not necessarily matter which spouse has acquired the property or liabilities during the marriage. If it was acquired during the marriage (regardless of title), it will likely be considered marital by the Court and subject to equitable distribution.
Marital property may include assets such as:
- Marital residences
- Investment properties or vacation homes
- Home furniture furnishings
- Businesses Retirement assets
- Pensions and annuities
- Stocks and bonds
- Bank accounts
- Investment accounts
Before the actual distribution of the property, I will work with you to identify what property will be distributed and the value of said property.
Alimony is likely one of the most litigated issues in any family law case. This is because there is not a clear or precise formula the Court can use in making an alimony determination. As a result, it makes the negotiation of an alimony amount or duration particularly complex.
In general, alimony in Florida is based on the parties' respective needs and financial ability to provide support. Alimony is presently governed by Florida Statute, Section 61.08. The law states that if the court finds that a party has a need for alimony and that the other party has the ability to pay alimony, then in determining the proper type and amount of alimony, the court shall consider all relevant factors, including, but not limited to:
- The standard of living established during the marriage.
- The duration of the marriage.
- The age and the physical and emotional condition of each party.
- The financial resources of each party, including the nonmarital and the marital assets and liabilities distributed to each.
- The earning capacities, educational levels, vocational skills, and employability of the parties and, when applicable, the time necessary for either party to acquire sufficient education or training to enable such party to find appropriate employment.
- The contribution of each party to the marriage, including, but not limited to, services rendered in homemaking, child care, education, and career building of the other party.
- The responsibilities each party will have with regard to any minor children they have in common.
- The tax treatment and consequences to both parties of any alimony award, including the designation of all or a portion of the payment as a nontaxable, nondeductible payment.
- All sources of income available to either party, including income available to either party through investments of any asset held by that party.
- Any other factor necessary to do equity and justice between the parties.
When Parents are no longer cohabitating together, whether married or unmarried, Florida law imposes an obligation on the Court to award child support for the benefit of their minor child. The Parties will decide or the Court will determine the number of annual overnights the child is with each parent which will be a factor in the overall support calculation. After the Court determinates each parents' monthly net income and certain child expenses, child support can calculated based upon the Florida Child Support Guidelines. The guidelines encourage fair and efficient settlement of support issues between parents and minimizes the need for litigation. The Florida Child Support Guidelines are set forth in Florida Statutes, Section 61.30.
It is inevitable that your family will change over time. Jobs change, children age and parents relocate and remarry. As a family's needs and goals change, legal action may be necessary to modify your original family law judgment. Child support, visitation, timesharing and alimony are all subject to modification in certain circumstances. However, these issues often require proof to the court that there has been a substantial change in circumstances. Substantial changes can be as simple as a greater financial need or increase in income or may include a change in your child's environment or time sharing.
If you have experienced a substantial change recently which necessitates a modification to your existing family law court order, we can work with you to evaluate your situation and assist you in seeking relief through the court, if appropriate.
When a married stepparent wishes to adopt his or her spouse's child from a prior relationship or marriage, a step-parent adoption action must be initiated through the Court. Usually this type of case is initiated if the child's other parent has been absent for a significant period of the child's life, or has otherwise failed to demonstrate substantial concern for the child.
Once a petition for step-parent adoption has been filed with the Court, notice of the action must be provided to the absent parent. If the absent parent does not consent to the adoption, an evidentiary hearing will be conducted and the absent parent of the child will be given an opportunity to oppose the petition. However, if the absent parent does not oppose the adoptions, the process can be very simple and relatively quick provided the adoption is in the best interest of the child.
If a stepparent is successful in their request to adopt their stepchild, they become a full legal guardian of the child, with all the rights and responsibilities that entails. They must provide the same financial and emotional support to the child as the birth parent.
Legal Name Change
The process to request a legal name change in Florida is relatively straightforward, and it is initiated through the filing of a petition with the Court. The Court will require a background check, and will conduct a hearing on the petition. A person cannot change their name to avoid creditors or criminal prosecution. Further, the name change must not invade the property rights of others, whether partnership, patent, good will, privacy, trademark, or otherwise.
The Court has the discretion as to whether the request will be granted, but usually the Court will grant the relief upon compliance with the statutory requirements.
These types of agreements are typically utilized to protect assets or interests that were separately brought into the marriage by one of the parties. It may also identify what will be evenly shared during the course of the marriage.
The Court has the discretion as to whether the request will be granted, but usually the Court will grant the relief upon compliance with the statutory requirements.
There are several reasons why couples may wish to enter into a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. For example, you and your spouse may wish to define who gets what after a divorce; you both can protect property that you have accumulated before the marriage or individually throughout the marriage, such as a business or family heirlooms; you can minimize conflicts that may arise after a divorce, potentially avoid a contested divorce action since the terms are already agreed to, and you both can have protection from debts that your spouse may accumulate before and during the marriage.
Estate planning often gets overlooked, or perhaps purposefully ignored, by many individuals. While some may never consider setting up an estate plan, others do not even have a general understanding of its purpose. Estate planning is a way for individuals to plan for their loved ones and estate when they pass away. There are several estate planning tools to consider, such as a Last Will and Testament or a Revocable Trust. Parents with young children may especially want to consider establishing a Trust for the benefit of their children to ensure that an appropriate guardian or trustee is nominated for their children in the event of tragedy.
In addition to these basic estate planning tools, many individuals should consider the preparation of legal documents that can be used and relied upon during their lifetime, such as a Durable Power of Attorney Designation or a Living Will and Healthcare Surrogate Designation.
Probate occurs once a person passes away, whether it is with a will, or perhaps, with no estate plan at all. It is the legal process that involves collecting a deceased person's assets and distributing them to their beneficiaries. If a will was signed by the decedent, it will usually make probate a much easier and cost-effective process. This is because instructions are left behind regarding who will distribute their property and how they want their property distributed. However, the will must still be probated before these tasks can be completed.
The specific type of probate process that will be necessary will depend on the size and nature of the decedent's estate.
Summary Administration is a relatively simpler probate process, and it can be initiated if it has been two or more years since the decedent passed or if their eligible property is valued below $75,000.00.
Formal Administration is the more traditional form for probate. It is necessary when the estate's value exceeds $75,000.00 or if there are other complications that may make a summary administration not advisable.