Interest

Outcome: MCBA June 2009 Newsletter Description: Martin County attorneys have long understood the importance of pro bono and have had a profound effect on the lives of the pro bono clients they have served. B.G. and T.N. are two examples of how Martin County pro bono attorneys have made a difference: B.G. was referred to Florida Rural Legal Services by a case worker who was alarmed by the situation. B.G. had received an emergency order signed by the judge, giving sole custody of her child to the father. She had not received any notice of a hearing. After the father knew she had changed residences, he moved the court case to another county, and had notice sent to her former address. He represented in front of the judge that the address was her current address and that she was sent notice. There were assertions by the case worker that the father had used the exact same tactics in a previous paternity case with another woman. The mother was completely distraught and panicked. Martin County attorney Joseph Gufford was contacted and he without hesitation agreed to handle the file. That same day he personally went to the courthouse and pulled the file and was alarmed by what he found. He set the case for a hearing and the mother had her child returned to her (and he also got the father reprimanded by the judge).

Summary

Possessing an extensive history in law and business, attorney Joseph Gufford III currently serves clients from Gufford & Brandt  in Martin County, Florida. The former Chairman of the Martin County Bar Association's Family Law Committee, Gufford concentrates on family law and its subsections including divorce, child custody, guardianship lawvisitation rights, paternity, prenuptial agreements, child support enforcement actions and spousal support. Family Law practice is very document intensive  and requires  a close examination of each party's assets and income. Joe Gufford has an extensive staff of experienced paralegals that  give him the ability to maximize his efforts on behalf of each and every client.   In many cases, the opposing party will intentionally hide assets or attempt to reduce their income to lessen their exposure to child support, alimony and equitable distribution.  Thus, having an experienced staff to sift through bank statements, Financial Affidavits and  Tax Returns is essential. Additionally, in some cases, it is necessary to  have the right experts to consult with  in order to achieve the client's goals. Whether it is a custody evaluator, a forensic accountant or a vocational assessment, knowing the right experts to call upon if often the key to success in complicated matters

Other areas Joe Gufford, III practices in range from civil litigation,  probate, landlord/tenant disputes, business organizations and estate and probate law. 

Before starting his professional life as a lawyer, Joseph Gufford attended the University of Florida and majored in Political Science and History. During this period, Gufford acquired a commission as a Second Lieutenant after graduating from the U.S. Army Airborne School. Subsequently, he enrolled at Stetson University College of Law and commenced his career as a Clerk with Justin C. Johnston and Associates PA. In his first trial, he was successful at  assisting his client  in obtaining a multi-million dollar judgment against a manufacturer  of a defective heater.   Following the receipt of his Juris Doctor, Joe Gufford became an Associate Litigation Attorney with O'Brien & Hooper, PA. At the personal injury firm, he litigated against Cellular One in one of the nation's first AIDS discrimination suits. Later positions at Barber & Gufford; Gufford & Lawrence, Attorneys at Law; Grazi & Gianino, Attorneys at Law; and Brandt & Gufford, Attorneys at Law, enabled him to represent clients in civil suits, family law, and business litigation. The holder of a “Superb” rating from Avvo.com, Gufford has written and presented on legal issues, such as changes to Florida statutes that affect custody and equitable distribution. Covered by the Martin County Bar Association (MCBA) for his pro bono work, Gufford has also obtained Pro Bono Service Awards from MCBA and Florida Rural Legal Services on multiple occasions. Pro Bono work is important  to Joe Gufford and he does as much of it as possible. All Pro Bono cases that Mr. Gufford handles are referred to him through Florida Rural Legal Services.  

Work History

Work History
Aug 2003 - Nov 2008

Partner

Brandt & Gufford
Stuart, Florida, Divorce, Family & Criminal Law Lawyers

With more than 35 years of combined experience, the lawyers and staff at The Gufford & Brandt, A Partnership of Professional Associations provide exceptional client service that focuses on results to people in South Florida's Treasure Coast region. We offer tailored legal representation to suit the specifics of your individual case. Our experience and commitment to excellence make the difference. The attorneys at our firm offer their extensive knowledge and understanding of the law, and our staff of legal professionals is recognized for making sure that our clients are kept informed. We pledge to deliver legal services customized for each and every one of our clients.

Led by Stuart, Florida, divorce, family and criminal law attorneys, Joseph Gufford and Arthur Brandt, our law firm is focused on providing individualized services to clients in a range of issues.

Divorce and Family Law

We handle all aspects of contested and uncontested divorce/dissolution of marriage and other family law issues, including:

  • Child custody/child support and post-decree modifications, including parental relocations actions under 61.13001
  • Child support enforcement actions (nonpayment of support, Department of Revenue actions, income deduction orders)
  • Paternity (including disestablishment of paternity actions)
  • Adoptions (stepparent, relative and nonrelative adoptions)
  • Prenuptial agreements and postnuptial agreements
  • Family law appeals

To learn more about divorce and family law, please visit our family law FAQs.

Criminal Law

Our firm provides personalized and vigorous criminal law representation in a range of felony and misdemeanor cases, including:

  • DUI / DWI defense (drunk driving)
  • Federal and state drug offenses
  • Sex crimes
  • Assault
  • Homicide
  • Theft (stolen property, shoplifting)
  • Traffic violations
  • Driver's license reinstatement
  • Domestic violence
  • Violation of probation
  • Computer crimes and Internet pornography
  • Juvenile crimes and school expulsions
Civil Litigation

As an experienced Palm Beach County civil litigation lawyer, Mr. Gufford can effectively handle claims involving:

  • Contract disputes
  • Real property disputes
  • Construction law
  • Partition actions (joint ownership of property-forced sale)
  • Labor law (wage enforcement actions)
  • Business formation (corporations, limited liability companies/LLCs, limited partnerships/LPs, etc.)
Personal Injury

Were you or a loved one injured in a serious accident? We are capable of handling a wide range of personal injury cases, from those that are simple in nature to those that are complex and require extensive discovery and expert testimony. We represent clients injured in car accidents, truck accidents, motorcycle accidents, construction accidents and other accidents caused by someone else's negligence.

Committed to you. Committed to our community.

In addition to our client service, the lawyers of Gufford & Brandt, A Partnership of Professional Associations are actively involved in the community, providing service to Florida Rural Legal Services, sponsoring scholarships at our local high school and other worthy causes.

Contact a Stuart and Port St. Lucie, Florida, Personal Injury Attorney

Contact a lawyer at Gufford & Brandt, A Partnership of Professional Associations today to experience exceptional client service and responsiveness that is focused on results. A free initial consultation is available. Throughout the entirety of your case, we stay committed to your legal needs. ¡Se habla español!

Sep 2001 - Aug 2003

Senior Associate

Grazi & Gianino
Dec 1999 - Feb 2001

Regional Director of Marketing

Goldkey Resorts

While many attorneys have had very little experience outside the practice of law, Joseph Gufford, has worked in the corporate environment.  Thus, Joe Gufford, has practical, real world experience  that he applies every day to the practice of law. Being able to  read and understand balance sheets, business reports and  even doing the simplest  of things, like creating a spreadsheet using Microsoft Excel, are skills that Joe Gufford uses every day in his practice of law.  

Dec 1998 - Dec 2000

Director of Telemarketing

Sunterra
Jan 1994 - Jul 1996

Partner

Gufford & Lawrence
Dec 1991 - May 1993

Partner

Barber & Gufford
Dec 1990 - Dec 1991

Associate

Obrien & Hooper
Jan 1989 - Mar 1991

Clerk

Justin C Johnston, P.A.

Education

Education
Aug 1988 - Dec 1990

JD

Stetson University College of Law

Joseph Lafayette Gufford graduated from Stetson University College of Law in 1990, earning his Juris Doctorate degree.  Founded in 1900 as Florida's first law school, Stetson University College of Law has educated outstanding lawyers, judges and other leaders for 112 years. Here are some quick facts about Stetson University College Of Law. 

  • Ranked No. 1 for trial advocacy and No. 5 for legal writing by U.S. News & World Report
  • Talented, accessible faculty who excel in their fields
  • State-of-the-art library and classrooms
  • Seven courtrooms
  • J.D. certificates of concentration in advocacy, elder law, environmental law, international law and social justice
  • J.D./M.B.A., J.D./Grado en Derecho (Spain), and J.D./M.I.C.L. (France) dual-degree programs
  • LL.M. degrees in advocacy, elder law and international law
  • One of few U.S. law schools to share space with a working court, Florida's Second District Court of Appeal
  • The first law school in Florida to require pro bono service by students and faculty
  • Excellent career development and bar preparation services
  • Centers for Excellence in AdvocacyElder LawHigher Education Law and Policy, and International Law
  • Home to the Institute for Biodiversity Law and Policy, Institute for Caribbean Law and Policy, and Veterans Law Institute
  • Home to four academic journals: Stetson Law Review, Journal for International Aging Law and Policy, Journal for International Wildlife Law and Policy, and Stetson Journal of Advocacy and the Law
  • National and world champion advocacy team

While attending Stetson, Mr. Gufford participated in Trial Team Competition, Closing Arguments Competition and  the Stetson Negotiation Team.  While academics were his first priority, Mr. Gufford realized very quickly that practical legal experience was essential. Thus, throughout his  Stetson career, Mr. Gufford served as law clerk where he learned from top attorneys how to apply what he was taught in the classroom to real world cases.  That "real world" experience was invaluable to Mr. Gufford when he began his career as a litigator. In his first job at O'brien & Hooper, Mr. Gufford was  assigned his own caseload and litigated against many of the top law firms in the country.  

Jan 1984 - Jan 1988

BA

University of Florida

UF is consistently ranked among the nation’s top universities: No. 17 in U.S. News & World Report “Top Public Universities” (August 2012); No. 3 in Kiplinger’s “Best Values in Public Colleges” (2013) and No. 7 in the Princeton Review “Best Value Public Colleges” (2012).

  • More than 90 percent of incoming freshmen score above the national average on standardized exams.
  • The fall 2011 incoming freshman class had an average 4.3 GPA and 1958 SAT score.
  • UF admitted 1,375 International Baccalaureate students — more than any other university in the U.S. — in fall 2011.
  • The freshman retention rate of 96 percent is among the highest in the country.
  • Sixty-five percent of UF freshmen graduate in four years, and 83 percent graduate in six years.
  • Nearly two-thirds of UF graduates leave the university with no student loan debt. For the remaining third, their average indebtedness is roughly $17,000, compared with the national average of nearly $27,000.
  • Among AAU public universities, UF ranked second in bachelor’s degrees and fourth in doctorates awarded to Hispanic students in 2009-10.
  • Among AAU public universities, UF ranked first in bachelor’s degrees and fifth in doctorates awarded to African American students in 2009-10. 

While attending UF, Mr. Gufford was the recipient of a full scholarship from the United States Army  and   earned numerous awards for his performance in the Army ROTC program. Unlike many cadets, Mr. Gufford was selected  via a vigorous selection process to attend the US Army Airborne School .  He successfully completed Airborne School and received  the much coveted "Airborne Wings".   http://www.benning.army.mil/infantry/199th/1-507th/airborne/. Later, Mr. Gufford received his commission as an officer in the United States Army. 

Joe Gufford was also active in various student activities while at the University of Florida  including  being the President Pro-Tem of the Student Senate, Chairman of the Judiciary Committee and a Member of Kappa Alpha Order. http://www.kappaalphaorder.org/ 

Skills

Skills

Florida Relocation Lawyer

  How Does a Court Decide if a Parent May Relocate With a Child Relocation is an issue that is often addressed  either in an initial custody action or after an initial custody order  has been established. Florida Statute 61.13001 specifically addresses the issue of relocation. This statute prevents a residential parent from relocating their residence more than 50 miles unless the parties enter into a written agreement before the move or a court approves the relocation. We have successfully prosecuted and defended relocation actions throughout the 19th Judicial Circuit. Read more about  the relocation statute and the cases interpreting it here. Relocation. Restrictions on Relocation and Florida’s Relocation Statute [a] No Relocation Without Agreement or Court Order. The relocation statute, Florida Statutes Section 61.13001, basically requires that persons designated in the statute obtain court permission to relocate, either by obtaining the court's ratification of an agreement or by obtaining a court order allowing relocation. The statute was amended in 2008 to reflect changes in statutory terminology that were enacted that year [see 2008 Fla. Laws, ch. 2008-61, § 9; see also § 32.03]. The statute was also amended in 2009 to simplify procedures for obtaining permission to relocate [see [d], below], and to expand the category of persons who must obtain permission to relocate. Under the 2009 amendments, any parent or nonparent who desires to relocate and who has court-ordered rights to maintain the child's residence or who has court-ordered rights of timesharing with, or access to, the child, must enter into an agreement or obtain a court order allowing the relocation [see Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(1)(c)-(e), (3)]. Previously, only parents and nonparents with whom children resided were required to obtain agreements or court orders allowing them to relocate [see 2009 Fla. Laws, ch. 2009-180, § 4, amending Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(1) (amendments included deletion of Florida Statutes Section 61.13001(1)(a), which defined "change of residence address" as change in child's address)]. It should be noted that a summary of amendments at the beginning of the pertinent 2009 chaptered law explains that the term "access to" in the relocation statute is a substitute for the term "visitation" [see 2009 Fla. Laws, ch. 2009-180]. A parent or nonparent who would otherwise be required to obtain permission to relocate because he or she has court-ordered rights to spend time with the child is not required to obtain permission if he or she is moving his or her principal residence to a place less than 50 miles from the principal residence address he or she had when the pending action was filed or the last order or judgment establishing timesharing was rendered. In contrast, a parent or nonparent who has court-ordered rights to spend time with the child and who desires to relocate to a principal residence address that is 50 miles or more from his or her previously declared principal residence address must obtain permission to relocate [see Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(1)(e), (3); see also 2009 Fla. Laws, ch. 2009-180, § 4, amending Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(1), (3)]. Procedurally, a parent or nonparent who is required to obtain permission to relocate must obtain one of the following [see Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(2)(a), (3)]: A written agreement to the relocation, entered into by the other parent and all other persons entitled to timesharing with, or access to, the child, and court ratification of the agreement [see Fla. Fam. L. R. P. Form 12.950(a), § 32.220]. An ex parte court order that allows relocation based on a lack of timely response by the other parent or any other person who (1) is entitled to timesharing with, or access to, the child; and (2) has been served with a petition to relocate [see Fla. Fam. L. R. P. Form 12.950(a), § 32.220]. A court order that allows relocation following a noticed evidentiary hearing [see Fla. Fam. L. R. P. Form 12.950(i), § 32.228]. The relocation statute applies to temporary and permanent orders that were or are entered on or after October 1, 2009 and that address parenting plans, custody, primary residence, timesharing with, or access to the child [see Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(11)(a)2.]. In addition, the statute applies to any temporary or permanent relocation or proposed relocation as to which an issue arises in a proceeding that (1) was pending on October 1, 2009; and (2) concerns a parenting plan, custody, primary residence, timesharing with, or access to the child [see Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(11)(a)3.]. Finally, the relocation statute applies to orders that were entered before October 1, 2009 if the existing order does not expressly govern relocation of the child [see Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(11)(a)1.]. If an order existing on October 1, 2009 conflicts with the 2009 relocation statute, the statute does not apply to the extent the existing order expressly governs relocation of the child or a change in the principal address of a parent or other person [Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(11)(b)); see also 2009 Fla. Laws, ch. 2009-180, § 4, amending Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(11)]. [b] Definitions of Terms. In actions to which the 2009 relocation statute is applicable [see [a], above], the following definitions apply [see Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(1); see also 2009 Fla. Laws, ch. 2009-180, § 4, amending Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(1)]: "Child" means any person who is under the jurisdiction of a state court pursuant to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), or who is the subject of any order granting to a parent or other person any right to timesharing, residential care, kinship, or custody as provided under state law [see Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(1)(a)]. "Court" means (1) the circuit court in an original proceeding that has proper venue and jurisdiction in accordance with the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), (2) the circuit court in the county in which either parent and the child reside, or (3) the circuit court in which the original action was adjudicated [see Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(1)(b)]. "Other person" means an individual (1) with whom the child resides pursuant to court order, but who is not the parent of the child; (2) who has timesharing rights with the child; or (3) who has rights of access to the child [see Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(1)(c)]. "Parent" means (1) any person named as the child's parent by court order or by express written agreement that is subject to court enforcement, or (2) a person reflected as the child's parent on a birth certificate and who is entitled to timesharing with or access to the child [see Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(1)(d)]. "Relocation" means a change in the location of the principal residence of a parent or other person as it was at the time of the last order establishing or modifying timesharing, or at the time of filing the pending action to establish or modify timesharing. The change of location must be at least 50 miles from that residence, and must be for at least 60 consecutive days, not including a temporary absence from the principal residence for purposes of vacation, education, or the provision of health care for the child [see Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(1)(e)]. According to a summary of amendments at the beginning of the 2009 chaptered law that contains the revised relocation statute, the term "access to [the child]" is a substitute for the term "visitation with [the child]" [see 2009 Fla. Laws, ch. 2009-180; see also [a], above]. The statute itself does not define "access to" the child. [c] Requirements of Agreement. Pursuant to the relocation statute as it was amended in 2009 [see [a], above], an agreement that allows relocation by a parent or other person [see [b], above (definitions)] must be in writing and must be signed by the child's parent or parents and all other persons who are entitled to timesharing with, or access to, the child. [see Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(2)(a)]. The relocation statute does not expressly state that nonparents with whom a child resides pursuant to court order must also agree to relocation by a parent or other person, but logically, such nonparents are included in that group [seeFla. Stat. § 61.13001(1)(c) (definition of "other person")]. An agreement must (1) reflect the consent of all the signators to the relocation; (2) define a timesharing or access schedule for the nonrelocating parent and each other person who is entitled to timesharing with, or access to, the child; and (3) describe, if necessary, any transportation arrangements related to the timesharing or access schedule [see Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(2)(a)1.-3.]. A written agreement allowing relocation must be ratified by the court [see Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(2)(b)]. No hearing is necessary unless a party to the agreement requests one in writing within 10 days after the date on which the agreement is filed with the court. If a hearing is not timely requested, the court must presume that the relocation is in the best interests of the child and may ratify the agreement without an evidentiary hearing [see Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(2)(b)]. The Florida Supreme Court has approved a form for a written agreement allowing relocation [see Fla. Fam. L. R. P. 12.950a; § 32.220]. [d] Obtaining Court Order [i] Petition to Relocate [A] Contents of Petition. If a parent or other person [see [b], above (definitions)] who desires to relocate fails to obtain an agreement to the relocation from the other parent and any other person who is entitled to timesharing with, or access to, the child [see [a], [c], above], the parent or other person who wants to relocate must file a petition to relocate with the court and serve it on the other parent and any other person who is entitled to timesharing with, or access to, the child [see Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(3); see also Fla. Fam. L. R. P. Form 12.950(c), 12.950(d); §§ 32.222, 32.223]. The petition must be signed under oath or affirmation, under penalty of perjury, and must contain the following information [see Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(3)(a); see also 2009 Fla. Laws, ch. 2009-180, § 4, amending Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(3)]: The location of the intended new residence, including the state, city, and specific physical address, if known [see § 61.13001(3)(a)1., Fla. Stat.]. The mailing address of the intended new residence, although this may be omitted if it is the same as the known physical address [see § 61.13001(3)(a)2., Fla. Stat.]. The home telephone number of the intended new residence, if that number is known [see § 61.13001(3)(a)3., Fla. Stat.]. The date of the intended move or proposed relocation [see § 61.13001(3)(a)4., Fla. Stat.]. A detailed statement of the specific reasons for the proposed relocation, and if one of the reasons is a job offer that has been reduced to writing, the written job offer must be attached to the petition [see § 61.13001(3)(a)5., Fla. Stat.]. A proposed timesharing or access schedule and proposed transportation arrangements that are necessary to effectuate the schedule [see § 61.13001(3)(a)6., Fla. Stat.]. Substantially the following statement, in all capital letters and in the same size type, or larger, as the type in the remainder of the petition [see § 61.13001(3)(a)7., Fla. Stat.]: A RESPONSE TO THE PETITION, OBJECTING TO RELOCATION, MUST BE MADE IN WRITING, FILED WITH THE COURT, AND SERVED ON THE PARENT OR OTHER PERSON SEEKING TO RELOCATE WITHIN 20 DAYS AFTER SERVICE OF THIS PETITION TO RELOCATE. IF YOU FAIL TO TIMELY OBJECT TO THE RELOCATION, THE RELOCATION WILL BE ALLOWED, UNLESS IT IS NOT IN THE BEST INTERESTS OF THE CHILD, WITHOUT FURTHER NOTICE AND WITHOUT A HEARING. A failure to include in the petition the sixth item listed above a proposed timesharing or access schedule and a proposal for transportation to effectuate the schedule--can have significant adverse consequences. Specifically, failure to include that information renders the petition "legally insufficient" unless (1) a valid order abating, terminating, or restricting timesharing or access exists; or (2) other good cause exists that predates the petition [see § 61.13001(3)(a)6., Fla. Stat.]. If the parent or other person who is seeking to relocate, or the child, is entitled to prevent public disclosure of location information under a public records exemption, the trial court may enter any order necessary to modify the disclosure requirements of the relocation statute, so as to comply with the public records exemption [see Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(4)]. A parent or other person who is seeking to relocate has a continuing duty to update and serve the information provided in the petition when the updated information becomes known to the petitioner [see Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(3)(c)]. The Florida Supreme Court has approved a form for a petition for dissolution of marriage, which includes a request to relocate [Fla. Fam. L. R. P.12.950(c); see § 32.222], as well as supplemental petition for relocation to be used after a final judgment of dissolution or paternity has been entered [Fla. Fam. L. R. P.12.950(d); see § 32.223], [B] Filing and Service of Petition. A parent or other person who has prepared a petition to relocate [see [A], above] must serve the petition on the other parent and any other person who is entitled to timesharing with, or access to, the child [see Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(3)(b)]. If there is a pending court action regarding the child, service of process may be effected according to court rule. Otherwise, service of process must be performed according to Florida Statutes Chapters 48 and 49, or via certified mail, restricted delivery, return receipt requested [Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(3)(b)]. A parent or other person who serves a petition to relocate has a continuing duty to serve updated information when the updated information becomes known to him or her [Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(3)(c)]. [ii] Objections to Relocation. If a parent or other person who desires to relocate with a child serves a petition to relocate on a parent or other person who is entitled to timesharing with, or access to, the child [see [i], above], and the person who is served desires to object to the relocation, he or she must serve a verified answer objecting to the proposed relocation within 20 days after service of the petition. The written objection must include the specific factual basis supporting the objection, and must include a statement of the amount of participation or involvement the objecting party currently has, or has had, in the life of the child [see Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(3)(a)7, (5); see also 2009 Fla. Laws, ch. 2009-180, § 4, amending Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(3), (5)]. If a parent or other person who is served with a petition to relocate fails to object, or objects in an untimely manner and fails to show good cause for the untimely objection, the court must presume that the relocation is in the child's best interests and that the relocation should be allowed [see Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(3)(d)]. Accordingly, the court must enter an order (1) allowing the relocation, (2) specifying that the order is being entered as a result of the untimely response or failure to respond to the petition, and (3) adopting the timesharing or access schedule and transportation arrangements set forth in the petition. The order may be issued in an expedited manner without an evidentiary hearing [see Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(3)(d)]. If a proposed relocation is uncontested, the parent or other person who is proposing the relocation will not be charged a fee for filing the petition to relocate or for the court's issuance of an order [see Fla. Stat. § 28.241(1)(b)]. If a parent or other person who is served with a petition to relocate files a timely response in which he or she objects to the relocation, the parent or other person who is proposing the relocation may not relocate, and must proceed to a temporary hearing or trial and obtain the court's permission to relocate prior to relocating [see Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(3)(d)]. [iii] Priority of Contested Relocation Hearing. An evidentiary hearing or trial on a request for a temporary or permanent order allowing relocation must be accorded priority on the court's calendar. If a motion seeking temporary relocation is filed, a hearing must be held no later than 30 days after the motion is filed unless good cause exists for scheduling a later hearing. If a notice to set the matter for non-jury trial is filed, the trial must be held no later than 90 days after the notice is filed, unless good cause justifies a later trial date [see Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(10); see also 2009 Fla. Laws, ch. 2009-180, § 4, amending Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(10)]. [iv] No Presumption For or Against Temporary or Permanent Relocation. Like its predecessors, the 2009 relocation statute prohibits the court from applying a presumption for or against a request to relocate, even if the relocation will materially affect a parent or other person's existing schedule of contact, access, or timesharing [see Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(7); see also 2009 Fla. Laws, ch. 2009-180, § 4; 2008 Fla. Laws, ch. 2008-61, § 9; 2006 Fla. Laws, ch. 2006-245, § 2; 1997 Fla. Laws, ch. 97-242, § 1]. In making a decision as to whether to allow relocation, the trial court must consider statutory factors set forth in the relocation statute [see Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(7); see also [v], below]. Finally, like the 2006 and 2008 versions of the relocation statute, the 2009 version expressly states that the burden of proof is on the parent or other person requesting relocation to establish by a preponderance of the evidence that relocation is in the best interests of the child [see Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(8); see also [vi], below]. [v] Factors Applicable to Determining Temporary or Permanent Relocation Issue. There is a relatively detailed list of factors that a trial court must consider in determining whether to permit a temporary or permanent relocation. The factors are as follows [see Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(7)(a)-(k); see also 2009 Fla. Laws, ch. 2009-180, § 4, amending Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(7)(a)-(k)]: The nature, quality, extent of involvement, and duration of the child's relationship with (1) the parent or other person who is proposing the relocation; (2) the child's other parent or the child's parents who is or are not relocating; (3) any nonparent ("other person") who is entitled to timesharing with, or access to, the child and who is not relocating; (4) any nonparent with whom the child resides pursuant to court order, and who is not relocating; (5) the child's siblings and half-siblings; and (6) any other significant persons in the child's life [see Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(7)(a); see also [a]-[b], above (applicability of relocation statute to "parent" and "other person," and definitions of those terms)]. The age and developmental stage of the child, the needs of the child, and the likely impact the relocation will have on the child's physical, educational, and emotional development, including consideration of any special needs of the child [seeFla. Stat. § 61.13001(7)(b)]. The quality and practicality of the proposed substitute contact between the child and the nonrelocating parent, parents, or nonparents, considering specifically (1) the feasibility of preserving the relationship between the child and the nonrelocating parent, parents, or nonparents through substitute arrangements that account for the logistics of contact, access, and timesharing, as well as the financial circumstances of the parties; (2) whether the substitute arrangements are sufficient to foster a continuing, meaningful relationship between the child and the nonrelocating parent, parents, or nonparents; and (3) the likelihood of compliance with the substitute arrangements by the parent or other person who is proposing to relocate after he or she is out of the court's jurisdiction [see Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(7)(c); see also Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(9)(a); [f], below (specification of modes of contact between child and nonrelocating parent or nonrelocating other person in order granting relocation)]. The child's preference, considering the age and maturity of the child [see Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(7)(d)]. Whether the relocation will enhance the general quality of life for the parent or other person who is proposing to relocate and the child, including, but not limited to, whether the relocation will enhance the financial circumstances, emotional circumstances, or educational opportunities of the parent or other person and the child [see Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(7)(e)]. The reasons underlying the request for relocation by the petitioner-parent or other person who is seeking relocation, and the reasons that each opposing parent or other person has for objecting to the relocation [see Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(7)(f)]. (1) The current employment and economic circumstances of the parent or other person who is proposing to relocate, as well as the current employment and economic circumstances of the child's parent or parents who are not relocating, and any other person who is entitled to timesharing with, or access to, the child and who is not relocating; and (2) whether the proposed relocation is necessary to improve the economic circumstances of the parent or other person who is proposing to relocate [see Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(7)(g)]. Whether the parent or other person who is seeking the relocation is doing so in good faith, and the extent to which an objecting parent has fulfilled his or her financial obligations--including child support, spousal support, and marital property and marital debt obligations--to the parent or other person who is seeking relocation [see Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(7)(h)]. The career and other opportunities available to the objecting parent or other person if the relocation is allowed [see Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(7)(i)]. Any history of substance abuse or domestic violence as defined in Florida Statutes Section 741.28 or Florida Statutes Section 39.806(1)(d), by either parent, including the severity of such conduct and the failure or success of any attempts at rehabilitation [see Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(7)(j)]. Any other factor affecting the child's best interests, or any factor set forth in Florida Statutes Section 61.13 [see Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(7)(k)]. The statutory relocation factors set forth in the 2008 and 2009 versions of the relocation statute are nearly identical to the factors set forth in the 2006 version of the statute, and are similar to some of the factors set forth in the 1997 version of the statute [see 2006 Fla. Laws, ch. 2006-245, § 2; 1997 Fla. Laws, ch. 97-242, § 1]. There are not many district court opinions that applied the previous relocation factors. However, several such appellate opinions do exist. Of those, two held that allowing relocation was improper [see Paskiewicz v. Paskiewicz, 967 So. 2d 277 (Fla. 3d DCA 2007) ; Muller v. Muller, 964 So. 2d 732 (Fla. 3d DCA 2007) ]. Another court held that allowing relocation was proper [see Norris v. Heckerman, 972 So. 2d 1098 (Fla. 1st DCA 2008)]. In Muller v. Muller [964 So. 2d 732 (Fla. 3d DCA 2007) ], the Third District Court of Appeal reversed a trial court's decision to allow relocation by a custodial mother to Colorado. The Third District (1) identified specific facts relied on by the trial court that did not satisfy the statutory factors to which they were related by the lower court, and (2) held there was no substantial, competent evidence to support the trial court's decision [see Muller v. Muller, 964 So. 2d 732 (Fla. 3d DCA 2007) ]. The district court explained the evidentiary deficiency with regard to each statutory factor as follows [see Muller v. Muller, 964 So. 2d 732 (Fla. 3d DCA 2007) ]: With regard to the first factor, which requires a trial court to consider "[t]he nature, quality, extent of involvement, and duration of the child's relationship" with each party and with other persons in the child's life [see § 61.13001(7)(a), Fla. Stat.], the trial court had found that the mother was more involved in caring for the child as an infant and the father had assumed a greater role when the child was a little older. In addition, the lower court observed that the maternal grandparents in Colorado were not employed and the paternal grandparents in Florida were employed. The Third District held that these facts by themselves did not support a finding that the proposed relocation would improve the nature, quality, extent of involvement, and duration of the child's relationship with either party or with other persons in the child's life. Regarding the second statutory relocation factor, which mandates consideration of the child's needs and the impact of relocation on the child [see § 61.13001(7)(b), Fla. Stat.], the Third District in Muller related that the trial court had focused almost exclusively on the fact that the child would be cared for by the maternal grandmother in Colorado instead of receiving daycare services in Florida. This fact was insufficient to support relocation under the second factor, the appeals court indicated, because the trial court had not considered the very young age of the child or any other impact the relocation would have on the child's physical, educational, and emotional development. In the Third District's view in Muller, the third statutory factor, which requires determination of the practicality and quality of substitute contact between the child and the noncustodial parent or other person, was not satisfied by the lower court's conclusory finding that it would be feasible to foster a meaningful relationship between the father and child after the relocation. To the contrary, the appeals court stated, the record clearly showed the hardships and complications of traveling between Florida and the town to which the mother wanted to move--Grand Junction, Colorado. To exercise visitation in Grand Junction, the father would have to travel four hours by air to Denver, which he could not easily afford given his monthly net income of approximately $1,300. Moreover, the record showed that travel to Grand Junction from Denver entailed a four-hour drive. In sum, to have any direct contact with the child the father would be required to take off several days, if not weeks, from work [see Segarra v. Segarra, 947 So. 2d 543, 546 (Fla. 3d DCA 2006) ]. The Muller court held that the trial court had properly found the fourth relocation factor, the child's preference, to be inapplicable because the child was two years old. The trial court in Muller had considered the fifth, sixth, and seventh factors in combination [see § 61.13001(7)(e) (whether relocation will enhance parent's and child's general quality of life, including whether relocation will enhance financial or emotional circumstances or educational opportunities of both of them, (f) (parent's reasons for seeking to relocate), (g) (current employment and economic circumstances of parent who desires to relocate, child's other parent, and any other person who is entitled to timesharing with the child, and whether proposed relocation is necessary to improve economic circumstances of parent who desires to relocate), Fla. Stat.]. The trial court had found that the proposed relocation would enhance the general quality of life for both the mother and the child because the mother would no longer have to work as a store clerk, would spend more time with the child, and would be attending nursing school. However, according to the Third District, the record revealed that the mother did not have any job offer in Colorado and had not applied to any nursing school in Grand Junction. Moreover, during the time the mother had lived in Colorado with the child, the mother had lost her job. Further, there was no evidence that the mother would earn a higher income, work fewer hours, or be in a better position to spend more time with the child. Thus, the trial court had relied on the mother's hopes and expectations without requiring proof of either employment prospects or educational enrollment to support its findings under the fifth, sixth, and seventh statutory factors [see Cecemski v. Cecemski, 954 So. 2d 1227, 1229 (Fla. 2d DCA 2007) (because mother testified that she had not applied for any jobs in Louisiana, evidence did not support trial court's finding that quality of life for mother and child would improve there)]; Segarra v. Segarra, [947 So. 2d 543, 546 (Fla. 3d DCA 2006)(evidence that custodial mother did not have job offer in Bryceville, Florida supported trial court's denial of relocation)];Botterbusch Botterbusch, 851 So. 2d 903, 904 (Fla. 4th DCA 2003) (evidence supported trial court's finding that quality of life for mother and child would improve because record reflected that mother had accepted job offer with United States Customs Department and would earn more money and work fewer hours in her new position)]. After Muller, the Third District again addressed the relocation statute in Paskiewicz v. Paskiewicz [967 So. 2d 277 (Fla. 3d DCA 2007) ]. In Paskiewicz, the Third District reversed a trial court's approval of a mother's request for modification of rotating custody so she could have primary residential custody of the parties' children in Virginia. The court based its decision on the custodial mother's failure to show a substantial change in circumstances, and cited its prior decision in Bazan v. Gambone[924 So. 2d 952 (Fla. 3d DCA 2006) ] to support the holding. Specifically, the district court agreed with the father that the mother's desire to move for financial reasons was not by itself a substantial change in circumstances that warranted a change in the existing custodial arrangement [see Bazan v. Gambone, 924 So. 2d 952 (Fla. 3d DCA 2006) ]. However, citing Section 61.13001(7), the Third District further remarked that if the original custody arrangement had not been a rotating custody arrangement, the mother's reasons for wanting to move might have been sufficient to justify relocation [see Paskiewicz v. Paskiewicz, 967 So. 2d 277 (Fla. 3d DCA 2007) ; see also [iv], below (discussion about uncertainty regarding requirements for postjudgment order allowing relocation)]. Finally, in Norris v. Heckerman [972 So. 2d 1098 (Fla. 1st DCA 2008)] , the First District Court of Appeal approved a trial court's decision to allow a custodial wife to relocate to Illinois with the parties' children pursuant to the factors enumerated in Section 61.13001(7). Although the trial court had not made "certain critical findings regarding several of the statutory factors," according to the district court, the omission was the result of the parties' failure to present evidence concerning those factors. Therefore, based on the limited evidence before the trial court, the First District held that the lower court had properly exercised its discretion in granting the mother's request to relocate [see Norris v. Heckerman, 972 So. 2d 1098 (Fla. 1st DCA 2008) ]. Under the 2006 and 1997 versions of the relocation statute [see 2006 Fla. Laws, ch. 2006-245, § 2; 1997 Fla. Laws, ch. 97-242], as well as under the 2009 and 2008 versions [see 2009 Fla. Laws, ch. 2009-180, § 4; 2008 Fla. Laws, ch. 2008-61, § 9], a trial court deciding whether to allow relocation must consider whether proposed substitute contact between the child and the objecting parent or other person will be adequate "to foster a continuing meaningful relationship" between the child and the nonrelocating parent or other person [see Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(7)(c)]. A conflict that existed under the prior statutes and that remains under the 2009 statute is what constitutes a continuing, meaningful relationship. One appeals court interpreting the 1997 statute held that a continuing, meaningful relationship was to be determined on its own merits, apart from the existing schedule of visitation [see, e.g., Fredman v. Fredman, 917 So. 2d 1038, 1041 (Fla. 2d DCA 2006) ]. In contrast, another appeals court indicated that a court must consider whether substitute visitation would allow the same quantity and quality of visitation as the existing schedule [see Shafer v. Shafer, 898 So. 2d 1053, 1057-1058 (Fla. 4th DCA 2005) ]. Because the meaning of "continuing, meaningful relationship" remains undefined in the 2009 statute [see Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(7)(c)], the conflict in the cases seemingly remains relevant. Florida Statutes Section 61.13003 provides that a trial court's determination as to whether to allow a custodial parent to relocate with the parties' child should not be based solely on the availability or lack of availability of electronic communication as a means of contact between the noncustodial parent and the child [see § 61.13003(6), Fla. Stat.; see also [10], below (discussion of electronic communications statute)]. A trial court may grant a proposed relocation only if it is in the child's best interests at the time of the final hearing. This "present-based" analysis involves examining the statutory relocation factors as they relate to the child's and the parties' circumstances at the time of the hearing [ Arthur v. Arthur, 35 Fla. L. Weekly S 38,54So. 3d 454, 2010 Fla. LEXIS 41 (Fla. Jan. 14, 2010)] . Thus, a trial court may not properly grant a relocation that will be delayed for an extended time, because the child's and parties' circumstances quite possibly will change and the child's best interests may not be served by relocation at that time [see Arthur v. Arthur, 35 Fla. L. Weekly S 38, 54So. 3d 454, 2010 Fla. LEXIS 41 (Fla. Jan. 14, 2010) (trial court erred in granting relocation that was to occur 20 months later, because any of the statutory relocation factors could change "within the extended time period given by the court before relocation")]. Instead, a trial court's decision whether to allow such a relocation must be determined in postjudgment modification proceedings. At the time of those proceedings, the statutory relocation factors must be considered in relation to the then-current circumstances of the child and the parties, and the parent who desires to relocate bears the burden of proving that relocation would be in the child's best interests as of the time of the modification hearing [ Arthur v. Arthur, 35 Fla. L. Weekly S 38, 54 So. 3d 454, 2010 Fla. LEXIS 41 (Fla. Jan. 14, 2010) ; see also [vi], below (burden of proof); ch. 81, Modification of Parental Responsibility and Timesharing]. [vi] Burden of Proof at Temporary or Permanent Hearing. If a response containing an objection to relocation is filed, the parent or other person who is seeking to relocate may not relocate, and must proceed to a temporary hearing or trial and obtain the court's permission to relocate [see Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(3)(e); see also 2009 Fla. Laws, ch. 2009-180, § 4, amending Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(3)]. There is no presumption for or against relocation [see Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(7); see also [iv], above], but the parent or other person who is seeking to relocate has the burden to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that relocation is in the best interests of the child. If the parent or other person satisfies that burden of proof, the burden then shifts to the parent or nonparent who has objected to show by a preponderance of theevidence that the proposed relocation is not in the child's best interests [see Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(8); see also 2009 Fla. Laws, ch. 2009-180, § 4, amending Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(8)]. The 2009 relocation statute amendments did not clarify the standard for modification to allow relocation [see 2009 Fla. Laws, ch. 2009-180, § 4, amending Fla. Stat. § 61.13001]. However, other 2009 parenting legislation mandates that a petitioner for modification of a parenting plan or timesharing schedule show a substantial, material, and unanticipated change of circumstances [see 2009 Fla. Laws, ch. 2009-180, § 3, amending Fla. Stat. § 61.13(2)(c)]. In addition, the petitioner must establish that modification would be in the child's best interests [see 2009 Fla. Laws, ch. 2009-180, § 3, amending Fla. Stat. § 61.13(3)]. An appeals court that addressed modification under a pre-2009 version of the relocation statute held that a substantial change in circumstances must be shown to obtain modification of a rotating custody arrangement to allow relocation [see Paskiewicz v. Paskiewicz, 967 So. 2d 277 (Fla. 3d DCA 2007) ]. If a trial court grants a future relocation based on present circumstances, the court improperly shifts the burden of proof from the relocating party to the nonrelocating party, who will be required to show a substantial change in circumstances in later modification proceedings [ Arthur v. Arthur, 35 Fla. L. Weekly S 38, 54 So. 3d 454, 2010 Fla. LEXIS 41 (Fla. Jan. 14, 2010) ; see also ch. 81, Modification of Parental Responsibility and Timesharing]. [e] Temporary Orders [i] Temporary Order Restraining Relocation or Ordering Return of Child. Under the relocation statute, a trial court may grant a temporary order restraining relocation of the child or ordering return of the child if the court finds that any of the following circumstances exist [see Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(6)(a); 2009 Fla. Laws, ch. 2009-180, § 4; see also Fla. Fam. L. R. P. Form 12.950(f); § 32.225]: The required petition to relocate did not comply with statutory requirements pertaining to contents or execution, or was not served in a timely manner [see § 61.13001(6)(a)1., Fla. Stat.; see also [d][i], above (discussing contents, execution, and service of petition to relocate)]. The child has been relocated without written agreement by the required persons or without the court's approval [see § 61.13001(6)(a)2., Fla. Stat.; see also [a], above (discussing requirement of agreement or court order)]. The evidence presented at the preliminary hearing makes it appear likely that on final hearing, the court will not approve the relocation [see § 61.13001(6)(a)3., Fla. Stat.]. Instead of a temporary order restraining or ordering return of the child, the trial court may order other appropriate relief [Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(6)(a)]. [ii] Temporary Order Permitting Relocation. The court may grant a temporary order permitting relocation pending final hearing if the court finds that both of the following circumstances exist [see Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(6)(b); see also 2009 Fla. Laws, ch. 2009-180, § 4; see also Fla. Fam. L. R. P. Form 12.950(f); § 32.225]: The petition to relocate was properly filed and otherwise complied with the statutory requirements pertaining to contents, execution, and service [see § 61.13001(6)(b)1., Fla. Stat.; see also [d][i], above (discussing contents, execution, and service of petition to relocate)]. The evidence presented at the preliminary hearing makes it appear likely that on final hearing, the court will approve the relocation, and this finding is supported by the same factual basis as would be necessary to support allowing relocation in a final judgment [see § 61.13001(6)(b)2., Fla. Stat.]. If the court issues a temporary order authorizing a parent or other person to relocate with the child before a final judgment is rendered, the court may not give any weight to the temporary relocation as a factor in reaching its final decision concerning the relocation [Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(6)(c)]. In Wraight v. Wraight, 71 So. 3d 139 (Fla. 5th DCA 2011) , the Fifth District Court of Appeal considered a permanent order in which the trial court granted a mother's request to relocate with the parties' child to the United Kingdom. The trial court had earlier granted the mother permission to temporarily relocate to the United Kingdom with the child, and the mother had done so. The order permitting permanent relocation contained a number of findings that described the child's good academic performance and family contacts in the United Kingdom; the order also contained two express findings that another relocation would not be in the child's best interests. Nonetheless, the Fifth District held that there was no violation of Section 61.13001(6)(c)'s ban on including temporary relocation as a factor in deciding permanent relocation [see Wraight v. Wraight, 71 So. 3d 139 (Fla. 5th DCA 2011) ]. The Fifth District in Wraight also discussed the lack of authority regarding Section 61.13001(6)(c), noting that there is neither case law that interprets Section 61.13001(6)(c) nor legislative history that explains it. Further, the district court described as "odd[]" the fact that the relocation statute requires a trial court to weigh the same factors in making a temporary decision as the court must weigh in making a permanent relocation decision [see Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(6)(b) (erroneously cited-to by district court as Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(6)(c)); see also Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(7) (relocation factors)]. The Fifth District speculated that perhaps Section 61.13001(6)(c)'s prohibition against considering any temporary relocation in deciding whether to allow permanent relocation is designed to assure that the facts and issues pertinent to a final relocation decision "will be fully examined de novo at the final hearing." The district court also speculated that Section 61.13001(6)(c) may be designed to temper unfairness that can be perceived by an objecting parent if the custodial parent has been allowed to temporarily relocate with the child and then use evidence of the relocation's success to gain an advantage over the objecting parent relocation [seeWraight v. Wraight, 71 So. 3d 139 (Fla. 5th DCA 2011) ]. In addition, if temporary relocation of the child is permitted, the court may require the person relocating the child to provide reasonable security, financial or otherwise, and guarantee that court-ordered contact with the child will not be interrupted or interfered with by the relocating parent or other person [Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(6)(d)]. [f] Specification of Contact and Transportation Methods in Order Allowing Temporary or Permanent Relocation. Under the 2009 relocation statute, a trial court that grants a temporary or permanent request to relocate may designate methods of contact between the child and a nonrelocating parent or other person [see Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(9)(a); see also 2009 Fla. Laws, ch. 2009-180, § 4]. More specifically, the court may order contact through access, timesharing, telephone, the Internet, web-cam, and other arrangements that are (1) in the child's best interests, (2) financially affordable by the parties, and (3) sufficient to ensure that the child has frequent, continuing, and meaningful contact with the nonrelocating parent or other person [see Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(9)(a); see also Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(7)(c); [d][v], above (feasibility of preserving relationships between child and nonrelocating parent or other person as consideration in deciding whether to allow relocation)]. If appropriate, the trial court must specify how the transportation costs will be allocated between the parents and other persons who are entitled to contact, access, or timesharing. The court may also adjust child support after considering the costs of transportation, the respective net incomes of the child's parents, and the child support guidelines statute [Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(9)(b); see also Ch. 33, Child Support]. [g] Consequences of Failure to Serve Petition to Relocate. If a parent or other person relocates without complying with the statutory provisions regarding service of a petition to relocate [see [d][i], above], he or she is subject to contempt and other proceedings to compel the return of the child [Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(3)(e); see 2009 Fla. Laws, ch. 2009-180, § 4; see also Fla. Fam. L. R. P. Forms 12.950(g), 12.950(h); §§ 32.226, 32.227]. In addition, the failure to comply may be considered by the court in any initial or postjudgment action in which a petitioner seeks a determination or modification of a parenting plan or modification of a timesharing schedule or access schedule. More specifically, the court may consider the failure to comply with the statutory petition and service requirements as any of the following [see Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(3)(e)]: A factor in determining whether to allow relocation of the child [see § 61.13001(3)(e)1., Fla. Stat.]. A factor in determining whether the parenting plan or timesharing or access schedule should be modified [see § 61.13001(3)(e)2., Fla. Stat.]. A basis for ordering the temporary or permanent return of the child [see § 61.13001(3)(e)3., Fla. Stat.]. Sufficient cause to order the parent or other person who is seeking to relocate to pay reasonable expenses and attorneys' fees incurred by the party objecting to the relocation [see § 61.13001(3)(e)4., Fla. Stat.]. Sufficient cause to order the parent or other person who is seeking to relocate to pay reasonable attorneys' fees and costs, including interim travel expenses, that are incidental to the objecting party's visitation or securing return of the child [see § 61.13001(3)(e)5., Fla. Stat.].    

Mediation

Trials

Paternity

Paternity is the formal establishment of the father/child relationship. Many people believe that if a Father is adjudicated to be the legal father of the child and pays child support that such entitles the father to have various legal rights.  Thus, just because a Father pays child support or has been formally adjudicated to be the Father of the child by the Department of Revenue  that does not mean that the father has automatic rights  to visitation (timesharing), custody  or anything else until such time as  the Court determines those  rights.    Under Florida Law, with respect to a child born out of wedlock, the Mother of the child has custody of the child until the Court enters an Order stating otherwise. Fla. Stat. 744.301 provides as follows: 744.301 Natural guardians.—  (1) The parents jointly are the natural guardians of their own children and of their adopted children, during minority. If one parent dies, the surviving parent remains the sole natural guardian even if he or she remarries. If the marriage between the parents is dissolved, the natural guardianship belongs to the parent to whom sole parental responsibility has been granted, or if the parents have been granted shared parental responsibility, both continue as natural guardians. If the marriage is dissolved and neither parent is given parental responsibility for the child, neither may act as natural guardian of the child. The mother of a child born out of wedlock is the natural guardian of the child and is entitled to primary residential care and custody of the child unless the court enters an order stating otherwise. Thus, whether you are  Father seeking to have your parental rights established, or a Mother  trying to protect your child from an abusive father, you need to  have an attorney that is familiar with the  process of prosecuting and defending these types of claims. Many times, we have situations where a police officer is called to a home to retrieve a child from one of the parents. Depending upon which police officer comes to the house, people get different responses. Most police officers simply walk away and tell the party that it is a civil matter and to go to court. Knowing what to do in those circumstances is very important.  

Child Support

How is the amount of child support calculated? Each state has developed guidelines that help establish the amount of child support that must be paid. The guidelines vary significantly from state to state, but they are all generally based on the parent's incomes and expenses and the needs of the children. In some states, the guidelines allow judges greater discretion in determining the amount of child support that must be paid, but in other states any variance from the guidelines must be carefully justified or it can be readily overturned on appeal.  In Florida, a judge must justify any deviation from the guidelines that is more that plus or minus 5% of the guidelines support level. Some factors in determining whether the guidelines should be adjusted up or down are as follows: 1. Extraordinary medical, psychological, educational, or dental expenses. 2. Independent income of the child, not to include moneys received by a child from supplemental security income. 3. The payment of support for a parent which regularly has been paid and for which there is a demonstrated need. 4. Seasonal variations in one or both parents' incomes or expenses. 5. The age of the child, taking into account the greater needs of older children. 6. Special needs, such as costs that may be associated with the disability of a child, that have traditionally been met within the family budget even though the fulfilling of those needs will cause the support to exceed the proposed guidelines. 7. Total available assets of the obligee, obligor, and the child. 8. The impact of the Internal Revenue Service dependency exemption and waiver of that exemption. The court may order the primary residential parent to execute a waiver of the Internal Revenue Service dependency exemption if the noncustodial parent is current in support payments. 9. When application of the child support guidelines requires a person to pay another person more than 55 percent of his or her gross income for a child support obligation for current support resulting from a single support order. 10. The particular shared parental arrangement, such as where the child spends a significant amount of time, but less than 20 percent of the overnights, with the noncustodial parent, thereby reducing the financial expenditures incurred by the primary residential parent; or the refusal of the noncustodial parent to become involved in the activities of the child. 11. Any other adjustment which is needed to achieve an equitable result which may include, but not be limited to, a reasonable and necessary existing expense or debt. Such expense or debt may include, but is not limited to, a reasonable and necessary expense or debt which the parties jointly incurred during the marriage. Often, the guidelines are set out in a chart-type format that calculates the child support amount as a percentage of the paying parent's income that increases as the number of children being supported rises. In Florida, the guidelines are found in Chapter 61 of the Florida Statutes. It is important to remember, however, that the guidelines are just that-guidelines-and they are not fixed amounts that must be applied under any and all circumstances. Judges are free to deviate from the guidelines when there are good reasons to do so (see above). If, for instance, one party or a child has higher than average expenses, the amount can vary. Or if the court determines that the paying parent is voluntarily earning less than he or she could for the purpose of minimizing the child support obligation, the judge can calculate the amount of child support based on what the payer is capable of earning. Despite the variations from state to state, there are some general factors that are almost universally considered by judges issuing child support orders, including: The child's standard of living before the parents' separation or divorce; The paying parent's ability to pay; The custodial parent's needs and income; and The needs of the child or children, including educational costs, daycare expenses, and medical expenses, such as for health insurance or special health care needs. Judges will often review a financial statement completed by each parent that lists all sources and amounts of income and expense before issuing an order. That is why it is so important to fill out the Financial Affidavit  correctly, as it forms the basis for many of the decisions that the judge makes in determining the outcome of the case. If any of the listed items changes significantly, either parent may go back to court and ask for an increase or decrease in the amount of child support ordered.

Domestic Violence

Stuart Repeat Violence Injunction Attorney Whether you are the victim of repeat violence, sexual violence or dating violence, or the victim of a false accusation of repeat violence, sexual violence or dating violence, such matters must be taken seriously. The Stuart repeat violence injunction lawyers at Gufford & Brandt, A Partnership of Professional Associations have tried hundreds of violence-based cases throughout the state of Florida. Many people who are involved in a repeat violence, sexual violence or dating violence case do not realize the serious implications that such cases carry with them. It is important for you to be represented by an attorney who understands how to examine and cross-examine important witnesses, such as the parties themselves, law enforcement officers, 911 operators, medical/mental health personnel, etc. When Can Someone Seek a Sexual Violence, Dating Violence or Repeat Violence Injunction? You may seek an injunction for protection if: You are the victim of repeat violence. You are the victim of dating violence and have reasonable cause to believe you are in imminent danger of becoming the victim of another act of dating violence. You are the victim of sexual violence. You are the parent or legal guardian of a minor child who is living at home and who is the victim of sexual violence. An alleged victim must show that there was an assault or battery. Just knowing that the respondent is violent is not enough. In order to prove assault, the alleged victim must have a well-founded fear that violence is imminent. If he or she does not take the threats seriously, or the respondent merely shouted or used obscene hand gestures, the court will not order an injunction. To learn more about who can seek a repeat violence injunction or sexual or dating violence injunction, contact a Port St. Lucie, Florida, sexual and dating violence attorney at our law firm. What Are Repeat Violence, Sexual Violence and Dating Violence? “Repeat violence” means two incidents of violence or stalking committed by the same person. One of the violence events must have been committed within six months of the petition. “Sexual violence” is any sex act done by force against the other person's will or against a person who cannot understand the nature of the act. It includes sexual battery. “Dating violence” means violence between individuals who have or have had a continuing and significant relationship of a romantic or intimate nature. The term does not include violence in a casual acquaintanceship or violence between individuals who only have engaged in ordinary fraternization in a business or social context. Why Is an Attorney Necessary in Domestic Violence, Sexual Violence and Repeat Violence Injunction Cases? When faced with a domestic  violence, repeat violence, sexual violence or dating violence case, many people feel that they can just “show up” to court and tell the judge their story. What those people do not realize is that nothing could be further from the truth. There are rules of court and evidence that can be used for or against you in court. For example, unless permitted by the court by way of a separate motion, children are often not permitted to testify. This fact usually comes as a surprise to most people. Since children are many times either the victims of domestic violence, repeat violence, sexual violence or dating violence, or the only witnesses to it, being armed with this information is often the key to winning or losing your case. We can help you petition to get the child's testimony into evidence or keep it out. Many people also believe that they can use signed, notarized statements, police reports, etc., to support or defend their case. Unfortunately, those people often learn the hard way from the opposing attorney or the judge that such statements are usually inadmissible, as they are considered to be “hearsay.”

Child Custody

How does a court decide which parent will get custody of a child? In the 2008 legislative session, Florida made sweeping changes in its law regarding how, what was commonly referred to in the public as "custody" or "primary residence" is determined. The term "custody" is not a proper term under Florida law even though it has been used for years by the public, lawyers and judges to describe the parent with whom a child primarily lives. Because of the extensive impact of the new legislative changes, requiring a revision to not only many statutes, but numerous Supreme Court forms, as well as the likely creation of new ones, this law does not go into effect until October 1, 2008. In its most simplistic explanation, this new law eliminates the terms "custody", "custodial" and "non-custodial parent", "primary residence", "primary residential parent" and "visitation" from Chapter 61 and all other statutes which utilize these arcane and often litigation inducing terms, in exchange for shared parenting plans and time-sharing arrangements. However, the law goes further by expanding the considerations of shared parental responsibility and in the establishment of parenting plans, which include time-sharing schedules, which are now mandatory. The text of the new law can be downloaded at http://laws.flrules.org/files/Ch_2008-061.pdf. "Shared Parental Responsibility" versus "Sole Parental Responsibility" In Florida, the Court has two initial options when deciding "parental responsibility" issues. The Court can award the parties "Shared Parental Responsibility" or it can award one of the parties "Sole Parental Responsibility". What is the difference between "Shared Parental Responsibility" and "Sole Parental Responsibility" you might ask? Under the new statute, "Sole Parental Responsibility" means a court-ordered relationship in which one parent makes decisions regarding the minor child. "Shared parental responsibility" means a court-ordered relationship in which both parents retain full parental rights and responsibilities with respect to their child and in which both parents confer with each other so that major decisions affecting the welfare of the child will be determined jointly. Parenting Plans must Now be Developed instead of the Court Determining Primary Residence Generally speaking, the courts favor Shared Parental Responsibility. The terms "Primary Physical Residence" or "Primary Residential Responsibility" were in the past considered by many to be the "buzzwords" for what is generally referred to as "custody" in many other states. Those terms have now been deleted from the 2008 version of the statute in favor of the Court now developing a "Parenting Plan" for the child(ren). A "parenting plan"1 has certain minimum requirements (see footnote)2. What is Shared Parenting? Shared parenting requires parents to confer with each other when making major decisions that affect the health, safety and welfare of the child. It does not mean 50/50 custody as the term itself might imply. In fact, it has nothing whatsoever to do with where a child lives or the amount of time the child spends with one parent or the other3 . Shared parenting only means that both parents have to confer with each other when making major decisions affecting the welfare of their children and that both parents retain full parental rights and responsibilities. In short, just because parents are breaking up or divorcing each other, it does not mean that they are divorcing their children. Sole Parental Responsibility is the Exception in Florida Law-On What Basis Can the Court Award Sole Parental Responsibility? Sole Parental Responsibility is very much the exception in Florida and is generally only ordered in cases where one parent is "unfit" to share in the parenting of the child. It is necessary, before sole responsibility is given to one parent, that the court determine that shared responsibility would be detrimental to the child4 . The statutory law5 and the case law on the subject states that the Court must find that shared parental responsibility would be detrimental to the best interests of the child . If the court determines that shared parental responsibility would be detrimental to the child6, it may order sole parental responsibility7 . There are also statutory reasons for a Court to Order Sole Parental Responsibility8 . Rotating Custody- Another Option for The Court to Examine Another option for parents who generally "get along" with each other is "rotating physical custody" (50/50). This type of situation has, in the past, generally not been favored by the courts and the statutes9 . However, rotating custody is becoming more in "vogue" at the current time10 . The Factors that the Court Must Consider in Developing a Parenting Plan When the parents cannot agree on a parenting plan, the court will make the decision for them after considering the totality of the circumstances, with the overriding consideration being the child's best interests. To make that determination, the court considers the following factors: 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 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. In many cases, a consideration of these factors results in awarding custody to the parent who has been the child's primary caretaker during the marriage/relationship11 . Although this is often the child's mother, any preference for the mother strictly on a gender basis is outmoded and has been abrogated by statute and case law on the subject12 . In many cases, fathers have been proven to be the better parent and have been awarded primary residence.   1Under the statute, a "parenting plan" is defined as follows: "Parenting plan" means a document created to govern the relationship between the parties relating to the decisions that must be made regarding the minor child and shall contain a time-sharing schedule for the parents and child. The issues concerning the minor child may include, but are not limited to, the child's education, health care, and physical, social, and emotional well-being. In creating the plan, all circumstances between the parties, including the parties' historic relationship, domestic violence, and other factors must be taken into consideration. The parenting plan shall be developed and agreed to by the parents and approved by a court or, if the parents cannot agree, established by the court.  2As per the statute: (b) Any parenting plan approved by the court must, at minimum, describe in adequate detail how the parents will share and be responsible for the daily tasks associated with the upbringing of the child, the time-sharing schedule arrangements that specify the time that the minor child will spend with each parent, a designation of who will be responsible for any and all forms of health care, school-related matters, other activities, and the methods and technologies that the parents will use to communicate with the child.  3See Longo v. Longo, 576 So.2d 402 (Fla. 2nd DCA 1991) in which the Court stated that: "As stated in section 61.13(2)(b)1, "[i]t is the public policy of this state to assure that each minor child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the ... marriage of the parties is dissolved and to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities of childrearing." A natural parent should not be precluded from asserting valid parental rights, irrespective of a default judgment entered against him. See Rhines; Doane v. Doane, 279 So.2d 46 (Fla. 4th DCA 1973)." 4Hunter v. Hunter, 540 So. 2d 235 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 3d Dist. 1989); Hicks v. Hicks, 511 So. 2d 628 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2d Dist. 1987); Holland v. Holland, 458 So. 2d 81 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 5th Dist. 1984); Nichols v. Nichols, 432 So. 2d 648 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1st Dist. 1983); Sole parental responsibility of the parties' child could not be awarded to the former wife absent a specified finding on the record or in the final judgment that shared parental responsibility would be detrimental to the child. Griffin v. Griffin, 665 So. 2d 352 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1st Dist. 1995). 5Fla. Stat. 61.13(2)(b)2 provides as follows: 2. The court shall 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. Evidence that a parent has been convicted of a felony of the third degree or higher involving domestic violence, as defined in s. 741.28 and chapter 775, or meets the criteria of s. 39.806(1)(d), creates a rebuttable presumption of detriment to the child. If the presumption is not rebutted, shared parental responsibility, including visitation, residence of the child, and decisions made regarding the child, may not be granted to the convicted parent. However, the convicted parent is not relieved of any obligation to provide financial support. If the court determines that shared parental responsibility would be detrimental to the child, it may order sole parental responsibility and make such arrangements for visitation as will best protect the child or abused spouse from further harm. Whether or not there is a conviction of any offense of domestic violence or child abuse or the existence of an injunction for protection against domestic violence, or child abuse or the existence of an injunction for protection against domestic violence, the court shall consider evidence of domestic violence or child abuse as evidence of detriment to the child. a. In ordering shared parental responsibility, the court may consider the expressed desires of the parents and may grant to one party the ultimate responsibility over specific aspects of the child's welfare or may divide those responsibilities between the parties based on the best interests of the child. Areas of responsibility may include primary residence, education, medical and dental care, and any other responsibilities that the court finds unique to a particular family. b. The court shall order "sole parental responsibility, with or without visitation rights, to the other parent when it is in the best interests of" the minor child.  6Trial court could not award wife sole parental responsibility for minor children without first making finding that shared parental responsibility would be detrimental to children. West's F.S.A. 61.13(2)(b) 2. Schram v. Schram, 932 So. 2d 245 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 4th Dist. 2005). Trial court was required to make a specific finding that shared parental responsibility would have been detrimental to the parties' child before awarding mother sole parental responsibility. West's F.S.A. 61.13(2)(b) 2. Evans v. Woodard, 898 So. 2d 230 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2d Dist. 2005). The trial court abused its discretion when it awarded sole parental responsibility to wife, in divorce proceeding, where there was no finding that shared parental responsibility would be detrimental to the children. West's F.S.A. 61.13(2)(b)2. Coyne v. Coyne, 895 So. 2d 469 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2d Dist. 2005). Trial courts are required to make a specific finding of detriment to the child before awarding sole parental responsibility. West's F.S.A. 61.13(2)(b)2. Maslow v. Edwards, 886 So. 2d 1027 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 5th Dist. 2004). Trial court's failure to make a specific finding that shared parental responsibility would be detrimental to child before awarding sole parental responsibility to mother necessitated remand of paternity action. West's F.S.A. 61.13(2)(b)2. Maslow v. Edwards, 886 So. 2d 1027 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 5th Dist. 2004). 7Fla. Stat. 61.13(2)(b)2. Sole parental responsibility means a court-ordered relationship in which one parent makes decisions regarding the minor child. Fla. Stat. 61.046(15). 8Fla. Stat. 61.13, effective October 1, 2008 now reads as follows:  Evidence that a parent has been convicted of a felony of the third degree or higher involving domestic violence, as defined in s. 741.28 and chapter 775, or meets the criteria of s. 39.806(1)(d), creates a rebuttable presumption of detriment to the child. If the presumption is not rebutted, shared parental responsibility, including time-sharing with the child, and decisions made regarding the child, may not be granted to the convicted parent. However, the convicted parent is not relieved of any obligation to provide financial support. If the court determines that shared parental responsibility would be detrimental to the child, it may order sole parental responsibility and make such arrangements for time-sharing as specified in the parenting plan as will best protect the child or abused spouse from further harm. Whether or not there is a conviction of any offense of domestic violence or child abuse or the existence of an injunction for protection against domestic violence, the court shall consider evidence of domestic violence or child abuse as evidence of detriment to the child.  9See Fla. Stat. 61.121 which was not changed in the 2008 legislation that reads as follows: 61.121. Rotating custody The court may order rotating custody if the court finds that rotating custody will be in the best interest of the child. See also the case of Mancuso In Mancuso v. Mancuso, 789 So.2d 1249, (Fla. 4th DCA, 2001) the Court stated as follows: "On the contrary, section 61.121, Florida Statutes (1997), requires that the trial court make a finding that rotating custody is in the best interest of the child. In light of the long-standing presumption that rotating the primary residence is not in the best interest of the child, the trial court should carefully examine a marital settlement agreement providing for such an arrangement and exercise its discretion in determining whether it is in the child's best interest. See Bracken v. Bracken, 704 So.2d 746, 747 (Fla. 4th DCA 1998). See also Mandell v. Mandell, 741 So.2d 617, 618 (Fla. 2d DCA 1999)(holding that section 61.121 did not set aside the long held presumption that rotating custody is not in the best interest of a minor child). [2] Florida courts have identified several factors that a trial court should consider in determining whether the circumstances overcome the presumption against rotating the primary residence: (1) the age and maturity of the child; (2) whether the child is in school; (3) the proximity of the parents' residences; (4) the child's preferences; (5) the disruptive effect of the rotation on the child; (6) the reasonableness of the periods of time spent with each parent; (7) the relation of the periods of custody to divisions in the child's life, such as the school year, and (8) the parents' attitude toward one another or how their attitude will be perceived by the child. Bracken, 704 So.2d at 747 (citing Langford v. Ortiz, 654 So.2d 1237, 1238 (Fla. 2d DCA 1995)); MacConnell v. Cascante, 668 So.2d 668, 670 (Fla. 4th DCA 1996)."  10In this author's opinion, it is more in "vogue" because of Florida's somewhat onerous child support obligations imposed on the parent who has less than 146(40%) overnight per year. However, for many parents this type of timesharing has worked out beautifully and has allowed the child to continue to have a strong bond with those parents.  11See factor "o" above that states: (o) 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. 12See Fla. Stat. 61.13(2)(c) that provides in the new 2008 version of the statute as follows: There is no presumption for or against the father or mother of the child when creating or modifying the parenting plan. See also the case of Walczak v. Walczak, 763 So.2d 1055 (Fla.4th DCA 1999) in which the Court, interpreting a previous version of the statute, held that: The "Tender years" doctrine has been abrogated by statute and case law; and 2. "Florida Statutes and in this district by opinion in Kuutti v. Kuutti, 645 So.2d 80 (Fla. 4th DCA 1994)(en banc). Some of the trial court's comments lead us to believe that his decision to impose limitations on overnight visitation was based partially on the "tender years" doctrine.

Divorce

Divorce is a difficult  thing at best. It is trying on the parties, their children and even their friends and relatives. Joseph Gufford has extensive experience in both contested and uncontested divorces. Regardless of whether it is a simple divorce with no children, no assets and no liabilities or a complicated divorce that involves child custody issues, alimony and equitable distribution matters, each and every client is given  the same level of service  that they should expect to receive.  Here is some advice with respect to picking out a good family law attorney: Finding a good family lawyer is a complicated task. To make it easier for you, we asked Joseph Gufford, a Florida-based family lawyer to offer guidance. With more than 20 years’ experience, Joseph Gufford has handled numerous cases involving such matters as civil litigation, personal injury, and family law. Mr. Gufford offered the following tips: 1. Tap your network: Personal recommendations work best for locating a lawyer right for your family. Find a friend, relative, or acquaintance who knows or has dealt with a family attorney. You can also use online social networks or lawyer-rating services to find an attorney who suits your budget and criteria. 2. Family law cases are not your typical run-of-the-mill cases: Because of the sensitive nature of such cases, family lawyers need to be experienced, trustworthy, and skillful. Make sure that the recommended lawyer understands your situation thoroughly. 3. Talk to your attorney: Mr. Gufford recommends getting to know your lawyer to develop a comfortable working relationship. According to Joseph Gufford, one of the surest ways to get to know your family attorney is to conduct a preliminary interview with him or her. Explain your case and circumstances. See if the attorney asks intelligent questions and seems genuinely interested in your case. If he or she seems disinterested or evasive, then it is best not to continue with that lawyer. 4. Minmize Exposure  while your are looking for an Attorney: Avoid conflict  with the opposing party and do not let the other party know you are seeking the services of an attorney.  Many times people get into problems with  their spouse/significant other that results in domestic violence situations, criminal charges, domestic violence injunctions, the moving or hiding of assets and the moving or hiding of children. If there is a domestic violence injunction in place, whether temporary or permanent,  do not contact the other part via any means, including contact through 3rd parties. If there is a situation involving law enforcement, try not to be angry or upset. Do not use vulgar profanities or engage in name calling. Do not make unnecessary threats. Do not destroy or deface property or clothing. Do not threaten to hurt the other party’s pets. 5.  Avoid Price Shopping and Entering into Bad Deals at Mediation- Picking a lawyer to represent you is not like like buying a pair of shoes at the mall, where you look at different stores and then buy the cheapest shoes available.  Many people view the picking of a lawyer as  getting oil in their car changed., i.e. the cheapest and most convenient place available. Many inexperienced attorneys charge bargain basement  retainers in order to get your business.  Unfortunately, big mistakes are often made by inexperienced counsel that will cost you thousands of dollars to correct.  Doing it right the first time is of utmost importance. Choosing a lawyer with good negotiation and mediation skills is very important. 70-80% of all cases are resolved at mediation, which is a good thing.  Do not take the attitude at mediation that it is  “my way or the highway”. Most cases should be resolved at mediation.  Beware of advice at mediation to sign a bad deal with the promise that “we can just fix this later through a modification action”.  Be advised that many issues cannot be fixed through a modification action, especially equitable distribution issues. In child custody, child support and alimony situations, you have to show a substantial change in circumstances  that occurred since the entry of the final judgment.  Thus, you may have a spouse that has been charged with a felony crime or a long history of mental illness. If you enter into a bad deal, this history may not be admissible in a modification action because it will be deemed to be “res judicata”. 

Family Law

Joseph Gufford has concentrated most of his professional career in the area of Family Law.  He holds a 10.0 Superb Rating by AVVO.com. http://www.avvo.com/attorneys/34994-fl-joseph-gufford-1278904.html .  He has written over 186 legal answers to legal questions that can be accessed at the link above.    As a child of divorce, Joe Gufford understands the impact that divorce can have on children and the parties themselves. Because of his unique personal experience. Mr. Gufford does everything he can to avoid unnecessary litigation and resolve matters through the mediation process or informal settlement. About 70-80% of cases are resolved through either informal negotiations or mediation. However, some cases  have to be litigated. Joe Gufford has tried literally thousands of trials, evidentiary  hearings, motion hearings and depositions.   Mr. Gufford has litigated civil matters as well. having a background as a civil litigator is important because the Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure are based on  the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure.  Having a background in civil litigation procedures and trials is important. In each and every case that Mr. Gufford takes to trial, a trial notebook is prepared with every exhibit. Also, a trial outline is prepared with questions linked up to the exhibits. This is worked on with the client and the paralegal staff  and is an invaluable tool at trial. The Client knows the questions that are going to be asked as is prepped by Mr. Gufford and his staff as to how to answer questions on both direct examination and cross examination.     Family Law encompasses a wide variety of areas including:   Divorce (dissolution of marriage) Paternity  Child Custody (Parental Responsibility) Child Support; Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, Repeat Violence  and Stalking Injunctions  Alimony  Equitable Division of Assets and Debts Adoption Termination of Parental Rights  Modification actions Annulments Relative Custody Actions  Guardianship law    

Certifications

Certifications
1991 - Present

Member of the Florida Bar

The Florida Bar