By J. Christopher Lombardo, Partner
Family law……an unwelcoming area of law that many hopes they may never have to approach. When the initial thought of a family law attorney comes to mind, many may conjure up images of aggressive attorneys attempting to dismantle the lives of innocent spouses. They see unwarranted attempts to have hard earned assets taken from one spouse to be given to the other, mounds of paperwork and related high fees. While it may be common knowledge that approximately 50% of marriages end in divorce, on the brighter side, the remaining marriages will make it!
Role of a Family Law Attorney
Family law is an area of practice that expands beyond divorce. It includes a broad range of legal topics focusing on the legal issues that are helpful regarding family relationships, identification of assets and various children’s issues, including support and parenting plans. These areas are addressed by several means including the following;
- Pre-Marital Agreement;
- Post-Marital Agreement;
- Modification of Marital Agreement;
- Enforcement of Contempt Issues;
- Modification of Parenting Plan; and
- Child Custody/Support Issues.
A Pre-Marital or Ante-nuptial Agreement may not be considered a romantic topic for a new relationship, such an agreement can, however, provide many benefits to the union. Pre-Marital Agreements require full financial disclosure of one’s assets and debts and the intended allocation in the event of divorce or death. This entails communication between the parties. Communication about financial matters can actually improve the quality of the relationship and encourage good communication between the parties. Talking openly about the financial position and expectations can eliminate any confusion or help eliminate future misunderstandings. It is good to create a clear understanding of the assets and future disposition between the parties before the marriage. A Pre-Marital Agreement can also protect the assets intended to be left to one’s children. A Pre-Marital Agreement can identify a particular asset that is to be given to children from a prior relationship.
This Agreement is drafted after the marriage. Some couples may see a need to address concerns they have regarding the assets and liabilities accumulated during the marriage. By preparing a Post- Marital Agreement communication is again recognized as a key factor. The parties can communicate their concerns and reanalyze their spending habits. Full disclosure of the party’s assets and liabilities are addressed, with defining the direction of future obligations and responsibilities of each party as the objective. This agreement can also help eliminate any confusion regarding the future allocation of each asset.
Modification of Marital Agreements
If one of the parties has an existing Marital Settlement Agreement, there are many factors that can come into play that may affect the performance of their obligations. A change in job status could result in a decrease or elimination of salary. This decrease or elimination could prohibit their ability to recognize a prior obligation of alimony, child support or provision of certain insurances. Also, we are all vulnerable to health complications that could also affect one’s ability to perform. Whatever the reason, if a spouse is unable to perform their obligations of a prior Marital Settlement Agreement, this will undoubtedly create added stress to their current relationship. A Modification of the Marital Settlement Agreement would help address the current situation, hopefully eliminating the stress and restoring harmony.
Enforcement of Contempt Issues
A family law attorney may assist in enforcing the terms of the Marital Settlement Agreement should a former spouse choose not to perform their obligations. An action for contempt may be brought to enforce the lack of performance. Attorney’s fees for this representation should be paid by the defaulting party.
Modification of Parenting Plans – Child Custody/Support
A family law attorney can also help protect the rights of the children by assuring the parties perform according to the Parenting Plan. When a Parenting Plan is first created, it is done to ensure the best interest of the child will be protected. Although the terms may be clearly defined, certain circumstances may arise affecting the performance of this agreement. These changes may be related to both the parents and the child. An example would be a change in employment, including relocation that may prohibit performance according to the existing Parenting Plan. A loss of employment could affect one’s ability to pay the existing child support. The emotional or educational need of the child may change, thus requiring a change in location of attending schools. There are many factors that can affect the Parenting Plan. To help prohibit a potentially complicated matter from escalating, a family law attorney can step in, examine the current situation and attempt to resolve the problems, again focusing on the best interest of the child.
The family law attorneys at Woodward, Pires & Lombardo have extensive experience in complex family law matters. If you find yourself needing assistance in this area, please contact the experts in the firm to discuss your matter. We are here to help.
For further assistance call the Naples office at 239.649.6555 or visit wpl-legal.com.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chris Lombardo, partner at Woodward, Pires, & Lombardo P.A. (www.wpl-legal.com ), is Board Certified in Marital and Family Law. He has 36 years’ experience practicing law in the state of Florida. He received his Juris Doctorate in 1983 from Florida State University. In addition to marital and family law, his practice areas include civil litigation, commercial litigation, appellate practice, securities, and personal injury. In addition to his legal practice he has served as the North Naples Fire Commissioner since 1999.
In 1971, Arthur V. Woodward founded the first law firm on Marco Island which emphasized the importance of a superior work ethic, collegiality and respect among our peers, and a social conscience that commands participation in opportunities for the good of the public. These guiding principles formed the tradition of excellence that the attorneys at Woodward, Pires, & Lombardo, P.A. work hard to uphold today.
At Woodward, Pires, & Lombardo, P.A., our attorneys have lived and worked in Southwest Florida for decades and possess a vast knowledge of the law and a first-hand understanding of how the law intersects with the lives of those in our community. Our attorneys have the responsibility and obligation to use their training as advisers, counselors, and strategists for the betterment of our community.
At Woodward, Pires, & Lombardo, P.A., our attorneys employ a common sense approach to the practice of law working efficiently and effectively as a team versed in many practice areas to best serve our clients. We look forward to serving you and providing you with quality, effective, and efficient legal representation.