Judy-Ann Smith Law Firm, P.A

Founded on the premise that the practice of law should be a service oriented profession

Family law cases involve the most emotionally challenging and fundamental legal issues faced by Florida families. Stress, anxiety and uncertainty about the future overwhelm many people facing the ominous prospect of a contentious divorce or a contested child custody dispute. These important issues affect the most fundamental and intimate aspects of a person’s life. There is a broad range of family law matters, including divorce, paternity actions, child custody and child support proceedings, and the resolution of these issues may have serious long-term consequences on your relationship to your children and financial ability to support your family.

Judy-Ann Smith Law Firm, P.A family law practice is founded on the need to fuse the legal knowledge and experience of a family law attorney with compassion and concern about the future of their clients and their children, which they developed prior to becoming an attorney.

At the Judy-Ann Smith Law Firm, P.A, we know that when you are contemplating a divorce you may be faced with a sense of loss and the fear of an uncertain future. Judy-Ann Smith Law Firm, P.A crafts creative solutions customized to the specific needs of each client that are designed to prevent the long-term hostility and conflict that may make it difficult to develop a constructive co-parenting arrangement. This approach also can reduce the level of animosity between divorcing parties and the unnecessarily depletion of financial resources necessary to help both you and your children rebuild.

Solving Child Custody Issues Rather Than Promoting Unnecessary Conflict
At Judy-Ann Smith Law Firm, P.A, we assist our clients in negotiating a workable custody and parenting time (visitation) arrangement with the other parent with an eye toward shielding our clients and their children from conflict. We work diligently to fashion lasting solutions that will reduce the risk of constant trips back to court to modify your custody and visitation (parenting time) orders. We know that powerful emotions like jealousy, anger and resentment can make it hard to reach amicable agreements regarding custody, parenting time (visitation), decision-making, communication and child support. Julie can help you successfully navigate these emotions to avoid the roadblocks that might derail a lasting custody and visitation agreement and that may permit you and the other parent to achieve a workable co-parenting relationship.

Our experienced Florida divorce attorneys also understand that sometimes the other side is simply not reasonable or the issues involved in the case make a contested custody dispute unavoidable. Scenarios where contested litigation of child custody arrangements is common involve divorce and paternity cases with allegations of domestic violence, drug or alcohol abuse, child abuse or neglect and other serious fitness issues. In these situations, our divorce attorneys may seek supervised visitation to protect a child from being put in harm’s way or advocate for a parent that is the target of false allegations.

While it usually is advantageous to reach an agreement on a parenting plan with the other parent, the family law judge will make orders regarding legal and physical custody and parenting time (visitation) when an agreement cannot be reached. An Indiana judge will typically apply the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines (“IPTG”), which apply unless parents agree to different arrangement, or the judge believes it is appropriate to deviate from these guidelines. The IPTG are based on the premise that it is usually in a child’s best interest to have frequent, meaningful and continuing contact with each parent. The best interest of the child standard will govern all custody and visitation orders.

There are several key terms that are important to understand in all custody cases whether a paternity case or marital dissolution (divorce). Legal custody refers to the right to make major decisions regarding a child’s upbringing including medical care, religious upbringing, schooling and other similar issues. Unless one parent is determined to be unfit, legal custody typically will be joint though sole legal custody may be awarded to one of the parents if the court has serious concerns regarding the fitness of the other parent to safely care for a child. Physical custody refers to where the child lives, which may vary from equally spending time in the homes of both parents to living primarily with one parent. Parenting time is the term used to delineate visitation in Florida.

When a family law judge is asked to make custody and visitation orders, the court will make such orders based on the best interest of the child. The factors relevant to the determination of the best interest of the child include the following:

• Gender and age of the child
• The preferences of the child
• Any history or domestic violence
• Adjustment to school, home and community (value of maintaining the status quo)
• Health of each parent
• Child’s relationship with each parent and siblings
• Preferences of the parents
• Care provided by a de facto custodian

Whether you are involved in an action to establish a paternal relationship or a divorce in Florida or the surrounding areas, the court will also make child support orders based on the Florida Guideline Child Support Guidelines. This mathematical calculation provides the amount of child support to be ordered based on such factors as the custodial time of each parent and each parent’s income after certain allowable deductions. It is important to understand that the court does not consider living expenses like mortgage payments, rent, food and other household expenses.

Alimony & Asset Division
While child custody and visitation issues are often the most pressing issues for many parents in divorce, the financial arrangements in a divorce are critical to your ability to care for yourself and your children. When handling the division of your property and debts as well as alimony obligations, we strive to keep the wealth you have built during your marriage where it belongs – in the possession of your family. Our law firm is committed to the principle that unnecessary litigation accomplishes little more than the depletion of your family’s hard earned assets during a divorce. If we can guide you toward an amicable negotiated settlement of the financial issues in your divorce, we can help you keep what you have built rather than have it drained away on litigation and court costs. Experienced Florida divorce attorney from Judy-Ann Smith Law Firm, P.A is committed to helping our clients emerge from a divorce with stable and workable property and alimony arrangements and the preservation of their financial assets.

We work hard to demystify the legal process and make your divorce as uncomplicated as it can be for you and your family.

Family Law Attorney Hastings