Category Archives: Uncategorized

Court Ordered & Mandatory Parenting Classes for Florida Divorces


Mandatory Parenting Classes for Florida Divorces


If you are considering filing for divorce in Florida, you may have heard about the four-hour mandatory parenting classes that are required of divorcing couples with children before a court will allow a divorce to be finalized. Some see this as an intrusion and an inconvenience, but it is simply one of the realities of the divorce process that must be met. An experienced Jacksonville divorce attorney can help you meet all obligations, including making sure that you are in compliance with the parenting course requirement.


Why Does Florida Require a Parenting Class?


According to Florida law, children often suffer from painful negative impacts of divorce, including unintended financial, educational, and emotional outcomes. The law was written to assist parents in making better parenting choices in the context of divorce. The program is designed to provide support and guidance on key issues thought to be most likely to lead to problems for children.


How is the Program Governed?


The Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) oversees the program, and each course is referred to as a “Parent Education and Family Stabilization Course.” DCF maintains a list of eligible and approved providers who are allowed to certify the attendance of individuals who are required to complete the course.

Providers are limited in what they can discuss in training. Program providers are strictly prohibited from soliciting divorcing parents to become their private clients. Courses can be as affordable as just $25. Providers cannot give medical, psychological, or legal advice.


What Issues are Covered by the Course?


  • Handling legal issues between divorced parents
  • The emotional and psychological impact of divorce on parents and children
  • Family and relationship goals and challenges
  • Financial issues of parenting
  • Child abuse, neglect, and general child welfare
  • Work-life balance and childcare responsibilities


How Long do I Have to Take the Course?


Petitioners filing a new divorce or paternity case in Florida have 45 days from the date of filing in order to complete a parenting course. The responding party has 45 days from the date served with the petition.


Can I be Excused From Taking the Course?


Yes, but given the tight deadline for completing the course, you should contact an attorney right away. The court can only excuse the course requirement for “good cause.” This is determined by the presiding judge in your case.


Can Things I Say in the Course be Used Against Me?


Generally, no.  Of course, specific questions should be addressed with your attorney well before attending a course. However, the law says specifically that “information obtained or statements made by the parties at any educational session required under this statute shall not be considered in the adjudication of a pending or subsequent action, nor shall any report resulting from such educational session become part of the record of the case unless the parties have stipulated in writing to the contrary.” See Fla. Stat. 61.21.(8).


What Happens if I Fail to Take the Course? Is there a Penalty? 


Unless excused by the court, the judge can levy serious penalties for refusing to take the course or failing to meet the requirement within the time period allowed. While you may be entitled to an exception, you can be held in contempt of court if you fail to comply with the requirement. In addition to contempt, a judge can restrict parenting access, deny joint parenting in the final order, or even apply financial sanctions, as he or she deems appropriate.


Do I Have to See My Spouse at the Classes?


No. The law is clear that divorcing spouses shall not be required to attend together. In fact, even if they want to attend together, the court can actually prohibit couples from attending together if there is a history of domestic violence. In short, the court has broad power to limit, excuse, or restrict the manner in which couples comply with the course requirement.


Talk to an Attorney


If you are considering filing for divorce or initiating a paternity case in Florida, you should contact an experienced family law attorney. The Judy-Ann Smith Law Firm is available to assist with divorces, child custody, and support modification or enforcement throughout the Jacksonville area. Call (904) 562-1369 to get the guidance you need today.


How Are Prenuptial Agreements Enforced? Is It Legally Binding?

Prior to marriage, couples might want to have a prenuptial agreement in place to handle the various financial details that can arise in a divorce. Merely understanding what prenuptial agreements are, however, is not enough. Couples who are about to be married must also understand the importance of the agreement and how it can be enforced so that in the event the agreement is tested in a court of law, it will stand up. It is critical to understand that prenuptial agreements cannot be presented at the last minute and must be reviewed by attorneys who decide whether the agreements are agreeable to all involved parties.


Requirements of a Prenuptial Agreement


There are certain elements that must exist in prenuptial agreements for these documents to be considered lawful. The various terms in a prenuptial agreement must be based on fact and cannot attempt to distorted or fail to omit information to make the prenuptial agreement appear like a better arrangement for the other spouse.


All of the elements in the prenuptial agreement must also be legal, which some important elements related to marriage including child support cannot be included in these agreements. Because even one valid clause in a prenuptial agreement has the potential to render the entire agreement invalid, it is essential that the entirety of the agreement be reviewed by Florida law. It is also important to understand that prenuptial agreements cannot be signed under duress, which can also result in the agreements being declared invalid.


Some of the most common elements of prenuptial agreements include the following:


  • Designation of each spouse’s property and the decision whether that property will be viewed as marital or nonmarital.
  • The division of property and assets during a marriage.
  • Estate planning elements.
  • Responsibility for liabilities associated with a marriage.
  • Selections about what law will apply to decisions regarding a marriage.


Signs that a Prenuptial Agreement Is Not Enforceable


Because prenuptial agreements have the potential to be declared, not enforceable in the event that any unfair terms are contained in the agreement, it is important to be alert to any signs that a prenuptial agreement contains unfair terms. Some of these signs include the following:


  • Too few provisions for a spouse in a prenuptial agreement, this likely means that the other spouse is attempting to conceal or not fully disclose all important elements about the divorce.
  • A potential spouse’s parents might attempt to control the terms of a prenup. Cases where a parent dictates the terms of a prenuptial agreement suggest that a parent might be controlling the terms of a prenuptial agreement.
  • If the prenuptial agreement creates friction between spouses or fails to establish an adequate foundation for marriage, it might be a wise idea to avoid entering a prenuptial agreement.
  • Prenuptial agreements should be avoided if there are not too many terms in the agreement for the other spouse, this is likely a sign that there is a lack of consideration in the agreement.


Situations in Which a Prenuptial Agreement Is Not Enforceable


Florida courts are reluctant to set aside efforts by individuals to invalidate prenuptial agreements. There are certain situations in which prenuptial agreements are likely to be declared invalid. Courts consistently refuse to acknowledge that regret or remorse is not a strong enough reason to make a prenuptial agreement invalid. Some of the most common reasons why courts declare prenuptial agreements invalid include the following:


  • If spouses disagree about the terms of an agreement at the time of signing.
  • In the event that the ex-spouse failed to sign the prenuptial agreement voluntarily, the agreement is likely to be declared invalid.
  • The other spouse lied about their assets, attempted to conceal their earnings, or made any type of statement about their assets that turned out to be false.
  • A person signed a prenuptial agreement as the result of threats or acts of violence.
  • A person takes advantage of a prenuptial agreement through fraud or any other act of unconscionable conduct.
  • The court finds a prenuptial agreement unfair or unreasonable in nature.
  • Parties failed to disclose all of the important details about a prenuptial agreement which most often extends to issues about assets and debt.


Consult with a Knowledgeable Family Law Attorney


The legal counsel at the Judy Ann Smith Law Firm strives to assist clients in obtaining customized strategies and achieving their goals. Do not hesitate to contact our law office today by calling (904) 562 – 1369 or emailing our office at Our legal counsel understands the importance of your case and will begin taking steps today to make sure that your case resolves in a positive manner.

What is a Prenuptial Agreement

Prenuptial Agreement

When couples decide to marry, it is easy to become overwhelmed with romantic feelings and forget the important details about the terms of marriage. Marriage planning, however, should also fully encompass details regarding how property will be shared between a couple. It is a wise idea to take all potential and emotional elements into considerations during marriages. Prenuptial agreements are one type of legal document that are useful to fully protect each spouse’s financial interests. Although a common myth exists associating prenuptial agreements with divorce, In reality, prenuptial agreements can apply to situations other than divorce including cases where one spouse is anticipated to die from an illness. Some parties also refer to prenuptial agreements as antenuptial agreements or pre-marital agreements.

People Who Might Benefit from a prenuptial Agreement

Originally, prenuptial agreements were designed to protect wives and make sure that they received a fair amount of assets in the event of divorce or when a husband died. Instead of being focused on just the wealthy, prenuptial agreements are for many more types of couples than just the rich. Statistics reveal that an increasing number of couples are using prenuptial agreements to achieve various reasons. Some of the types of people who find prenuptial agreements particularly beneficial include the following:


  • Avoid arguments that might arise if a divorce occurs by specifying exactly how property will be divided and whether spouses will receive alimony.
  • Clarify Financial Rights. Couples frequently use prenuptial agreements to articulate the various financial rights involved in a marriage.
  • Individuals who want to use prenuptial agreements to pass property to children from previous marriages. Without a prenuptial agreement in these cases, a surviving spouse might have the option to claim a large portion of the other spouse’s property which can result in any involved children receiving significantly less.
  • Sometimes, prenuptial agreements are used to protect one spouse’s debts from the other spouse and can also address various other issues related to financial protection.

Common Elements of a Prenuptial Agreement

One of the most advantageous elements of prenuptial agreements is that the terms contained in a particular prenuptial agreement change based on the wishes of the couple. Some of the terms that can be included in prenuptial agreements include:

  • Assign spouses the responsibilities of various debts involved in the marriage.
  • Decide which spouses will manage banking and business details.
  • Indicate that funds from a certain source belong to one or both spouse as well as what amount.
  • Protection of assets that accumulated in the course of a marriage prior to a new marriage so that children have the opportunity to inherit these assets.
  • Sometimes, couples include non-financial related issues including issues like which spouse is assigned the responsibility of taking out the garbage.
  • Waiver of a new spouse’s rights as a beneficiary of a retirement plan in the event previous spouses or children from earlier marriages are named as beneficiaries instead.

Additional Considerations for prenuptial Agreements in Florida

There are many other important elements of prenuptial agreements that parties who are creating or signing a prenuptial agreement must understand. Without a full understanding of these laws, a person is at risk of discovering that they have signed away important rights in a marriage without meaning to do so. As a result, it is important to retain the services of a skilled attorney if you are interested in creating a prenuptial agreement. One issue that is not affected by prenuptial agreements are arrangements concerning children.  It is also important to understand that in the event a couple separates or a marriage ends, a prenuptial agreement can be abandoned, changed, or revoked. In cases where a marriage is voided, prenuptial agreements are only enforceable to the degree necessary to avoid an inequitable or unfair result.

Speak with an Experienced Jacksonville Family Law Attorney

Even though it is possible to download a prenup from the internet, it is often a good idea to avoid doing so because these prenups will be less likely to successfully stand if challenged and will also likely not state the intentions of the parties clearly resulting in results different than those desired by the parties. At the Judy Ann Smith Law Firm, our goal is to help clients resolve various complicated legal issues that can arise in their lives by creating unique strategies. Call our law firm today by contacting (904) 562 – 1369 or emailing our law office at for a free consultation. Our legal counsel is ready and willing to help you today.


Developing a Parenting Plan For Divorce & Child Custody in Florida

Florida law states that in matters related to child custody, a Parenting Plan must be created to and approved by the court to meet the needs of the individual child. A Parenting Plan is a document that governs the custodial agreement between the parents. In basic terms, a Parenting Plan sets forth how the parties will proceed in all decisions and situations related to the child. The Parenting Plan must at a minimum:

  • Describe in adequate detail how the parents will share and be responsible for the daily tasks associated with the upbringing of the child;
  • Include the time-sharing schedule arrangements that specify the time that the minor child will spend with each parent;
  • Designate who will be responsible for any and all forms of health care. If the court orders shared parental responsibility over health care decisions, the parenting plan must provide that either parent may consent to mental health treatment for the child.
  • Designate who will be responsible for school-related matters, including the address to be used for school-boundary determination and registration.
  • Describe in adequate detail the methods and technologies that the parents will use to communicate with the child.

These items are not exhaustive, but are the minimum issues that must be addressed by the Parenting Plan. Other items the parties will want to include should address any unique requirements for raising the child as well as specific needs of the parents.

Due to the issues that must be decided in the Parenting Plan, it is important that both parents cooperate to create a parenting plan concerning how the child will be raised and how each parent will participate in doing so. However, if the parents cannot work together to create a mutually agreed upon Parenting Plan or present a Parenting Plan that the court will not approve, then the court will decide the Parenting Plan to be enforced. Therefore, it is imperative for the parties to work together to have a Parenting Plan that is decided upon by the people it will directly involve and affect. When reviewing a Parenting Plan, the court will consider the following factors:

  • Each parent’s ability to maintain a close emotional relationship with the child;
  • Each parent’s ability to ascertain the specific needs of the child and take the appropriate actions to address those needs;
  • The geographic location of each of the parents in relation to the child;
  • Each parent’s ability to provide a stable residence and home life for the child;
  • The emotional, mental, and physical health of each of the parents;
  • Any evidence of abuse, neglect, or abandonment of the child;
  • The educational and development needs of the child; and
  • Any other facts or circumstances that impact the wellbeing of the child.

The team at the Judy-Ann Smith Law Firm will work with you and if possible, the other parent, in order to develop a Parenting Plan that meets the needs of all parties and children involved in your case. We will work diligently to ensure that this parenting plan is then agreed upon and ordered into effect by the judge.

What is a Prenuptial Agreement, And What Can Be Included In Florida?

Prenuptial agreements, also known as prenups, are becoming more common for parties interested in protecting their assets before marriage. A prenup was once thought to only be an option for the exceptionally wealthy, but now many people utilize them regardless of financial situation. In fact, anyone with assets and/or debts may agree to a prenuptial agreement.

The most obvious benefit of a prenuptial agreement is that it can help protect your assets and shield you against taking on your spouse’s debts upon divorce. A prenuptial agreement can also help parties identify what assets or debts each party is bringing to the marriage. Before you enter a prenuptial agreement, it is important that you understand its basic legal components.


What is a Prenup and What can be Included in One?


Under Florida law, a prenuptial agreement is “an agreement between prospective spouses made in contemplation of marriage and to be effective upon marriage.”  The law further outlines the items that parties can agree to within a prenuptial agreement. They include the following:


  • The rights and obligations of each party in regard to any of the property of either or both of them;
  • The right to buy, sell, use, transfer, exchange, lease, mortgage, or otherwise manage and control property;
  • The disposition of property upon separation, divorce, death, or the occurrence or nonoccurrence of any other event stated;
  • The establishment, modification, waiver, or elimination of spousal support;
  • The making of a will, trust, or other arrangement in order to carry out the provisions of the agreement;
  • The ownership rights and disposition of the death benefit from a life insurance policy;
  • The choice of law governing the construction of the prenuptial agreement; and
  • Any other matter that is not in violation of either the public policy of Florida or a law imposing a criminal penalty.


However, an agreement cannot determine child custody or child support arrangements upon a divorce. These decisions must be determined either by the parties during the divorce proceedings or by a judge.


Is the Agreement Valid?


Even if a prenuptial agreement includes the items allowable, a court will not enforce it if a party proves the following:


  • The party did not execute the agreement voluntarily;
  • The agreement was a product of fraud, duress, coercion, or overreaching; or
  • The agreement was unconscionable when it was executed and, before execution, that party:
    • Was not provided a fair and reasonable disclosure of the property or financial obligations of the other party;
    • Did not voluntarily or expressly waive, in writing, any right to disclosure of the property or financial obligation of the other party; and
    • Did not have, or reasonably could not have had, an adequate knowledge of the property or financial obligations of the other party.

Get Help From an Expert


The team at the Judy-Ann Smith Law Firm can help you in the area of prenuptial agreements. We understand the complexities and emotional considerations involved during this time. If you or your fiancé are considering a prenuptial agreement, please contact the Judy-Ann Smith Law Firm.