Brian Monk, A Lakeland Florida Attorney Focusing on Family Law
One of attorney Brian Monk’s primary areas of focus is on divorce and all of the issues pertaining to this legal process. Legally ending a marriage (“dissolution of marriage”) can be difficult and can present a number of matters to be resolved relating to children, finances and property. Brian strives to provide high-quality, personalized counsel before, during and after divorce.
Family law cases involving unwed parents and children are often referred to as “paternity” cases. These case are like divorce cases in almost all ways, except that the judge does not typically address issues of equitable distribution of assets and debts between the parents; and, the judge does not address alimony in the case of unmarried parents. The issues of parental responsibility; time-sharing; a Parenting Plan; child support; and attorney’s fees and costs are addressed in paternity cases, just as in divorce cases. In most jurisdictions, the same judges who handle divorce cases also handle paternity cases. Often paternity cases involve requesting a change of the child’s name so the child’s last name reflects both parents’ surnames.
Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution that involves working with a neutral third party who will act as a mediator to resolve any disputes between divorcing spouses. Mediation can save all parties involved a great deal of time and money and can limit the amount of stress experienced in a divorce.
Attorney Brian Monk offers affordable, flat fee divorce services for clients who have already reached agreements regarding custody, support and property and need legal help to complete an uncontested divorce.
Your Matrimonial and Divorce Attorneys in Florida
Do's and Don’t s of Divorce
- Be honest with your attorney. Be responsive to your attorney’s requests for information.
- Make an inventory of all marital and separate real and personal property with approximate values.
- Prepare a package of financial information including but not limited to: tax returns, bank statements, securities account information, credit card statements, loan documents, real estate transactions, etc.
List all the activities you participate in with your children.
- Prepare a budget of your and your children’s monthly expenses.
Clarify for yourself, prior to seeing an attorney, your own important needs, interests and priorities.
- Do not involve your children in the divorce proceedings.
- Do not argue with your spouse. If unavoidable, do not argue in front of your children.
- Do not say negative things about your spouse to your children or to someone else within the hearing distance of your children.
Try not to get overly emotional around your children about your divorce or your life after divorce. You may risk increasing their insecurity and fear about the future.
- Do not deny your spouse access to the children, unless there is a good reason to do so (i.e. domestic violence, abuse, etc.) and then only on the advice of counsel.
- Do not change the locks to the residence unless advised to do so by counsel.
A divorce where one or both spouses are in the military is best approached by an attorney who is familiar with the particular laws and proceedings that are specific to members of the armed services. Mr. Monk addresses these matters with professionalism and personal attention in order to facilitate positive resolutions for our military and civilian clients.
A pre-marital agreement (also known as a “pre-nuptial” agreement, or “pre-nup”) is an agreement between prospective spouses made prior to marriage. The purpose of such an agreement is to decide in advance what will happen to property or support in the event of divorce. According to Section 61.079, Florida Statutes, parties may contract with respect to their property upon any dissolution of marriage, death, or the occurrence of a certain event. They may agree to terms of spousal support in the future and any other matter concerning their personal rights and obligations. Certain rights are not subject to waiver in a pre-nuptial agreement, including temporary support obligations (alimony paid during the pendency of a divorce) and child support. Provisions with respect to children’s issues are always subject to change, and any pre-marital agreement as to custody and support is not conclusive or binding, as the court will always make sure that the terms are in the best interests of the children involved. A pre-marital agreement becomes effective upon the marriage of the parties. It is advisable to execute a post-nuptial agreement with the same or similar terms following the marriage as well to ratify the intention to enter the agreement and to make waivers in the other spouse’s retirement benefits effective. Mr. Monk addresses pre-marital matters with personal attention in order to sensitively protect clients’ interests prior to their marriage.
A post-nuptial agreement is a written contract executed after a couple is married that is used to settle the division of their assets and liabilities in the event of a separation or divorce. There are specific requirements that must be followed for this agreement to be an enforceable agreement, and unlike in pre-marital agreements, there must be adequate financial disclosure by both parties. Florida law treats post-nuptial agreements as enforceable contracts if they meet the necessary legal requirements.
A Marital Settlement Agreement (“MSA”) is a written contract settling the rights and responsibilities of parties in contemplation of a final dissolution of marriage. This agreement may also be referred to as a Property Settlement Agreement. These agreements are binding and enforceable when freely and voluntarily entered into and signed by both parties, with adequate financial disclosure. The parties can negotiate and agree to a division of their assets and debts, as well as alimony, time-sharing of minor children, and other issues that are typically otherwise resolved by a judge after a final hearing. Marital Settlement Agreements, when properly executed, can help the parties swiftly and cost-effectively conclude their divorce case, with minimal judicial intervention. Parties that ultimately agree to an MSA usually file for divorce, at which time the terms of the MSA are enforced by the Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage (a court order), and the parties are then divorced and ordered to abide by the terms of the agreement. Attorney Brian Monk will discuss your options, the issues involved in your case, and negotiate and prepare an MSA for you.
Alimony, also referred to as spousal support or maintenance, may be awarded to one spouse in a divorce. Permanent, temporary, rehabilitative, lump-sum, or bridge-the-gap alimony may be awarded, depending on the particular circumstances involved. Florida alimony law is actively evolving.
Durational alimony may be awarded to provide the lower-income spouse with monthly payments from the higher-income spouse to maintain a certain standard of living. The court has many statutory factors to consider in a contested alimony case.
Permanent alimony may be awarded by the court in some divorces, where one spouse is dependent on the other. This area of the law is actively evolving. Consult attorney Brian Monk to understand the latest developments regarding permanent alimony and how the law will impact your case.
Bridge-the-Gap alimony is a type of alimony that may be awarded to assist a party by providing support to allow the party to make a transition from being married to being single. Bridge-the-gap alimony is designed to assist a party with legitimate identifiable short-term needs, and the length of an award may not exceed 2 years.
Alimony is a key issue to be resolved in a divorce. In some cases, rehabilitative alimony may be awarded when one of the spouses needs financial support on a temporary basis, until he or she is able to support him or herself. A specific rehabilitative plan will need to be presented to the Court, and followed. Rehabilitative alimony can be converted to permanent alimony.
Typically one of the most contested areas in any divorce, child custody matters should be carefully addressed. In Florida, this is accomplished with a Parenting Plan that will detail how parents will share responsibility for the child, and time with the child. Current Florida law does not establish a presumption for or against joint and rotating equal “50/50” time-sharing; however, like alimony, this is an area of law that is actively changing. Some judges routinely order equal, 50/50 time-sharing; whereas, other judges tend not to do so. A Parenting Plan should be approached with competent legal counsel to ensure your child’s well-being and the protection of your rights as a parent.
In a case where a parent is not awarded custody of their child; the parent may seek time-sharing rights in order to maintain a meaningful relationship with their child.
A grandparent or other extended family member may petition the court for custody of a child if the child’s natural parents are unwilling or unable to care for the needs of the child.
In a situation where parents share custody of a child or when one parent has primary custody, moving more than 50 miles away from the prior residence for 60 days makes it necessary to obtain court permission. Moving away without obtaining court permission can be a factor when the judge ultimately decides whether to approve the relocation.
Depending on the case, one parent may be required to pay child support to the other parent. Both parents are required to contribute to supporting the child, and in some cases this means that child support will be necessary, though the amount will vary depending on the number of children, special needs, and other factors.
Collaborative law offers an amicable approach to divorce that can help spouses reach a swift and agreeable resolution. Though each party has their own lawyer through the process, they agree to work together to reach an agreement as opposed to going to trial.
A significant change in one’s life may warrant the modification of a current alimony arrangement. A former spouse receiving alimony may have entered into a “supportive relationship,” and no longer need alimony. If you need help in changing or terminating alimony payments, Brian Monk will offer experienced guidance to seek the result you need.
After a divorce, it may be necessary to seek a modification of a current child custody order in accordance with a substantial change in circumstances involving the child or a parent. Parental relocation, domestic violence or drug abuse may be reasons for modifying a time-sharing arrangement already in place.
Job loss, a promotion, or a change in a child’s educational or medical needs may warrant a modification of child support. These cases can be complex and require proof that the modification is necessary.
A person who fails to comply with a court order may be held in “contempt of court” and may face specific penalties, such as fines and even imprisonment. In the realm of family law, a person may be held in contempt of court for failing to pay child support or failing to comply with a child custody order. A family law judge has both civil and criminal contempt powers.
Victims of domestic violence are strongly urged to seek help from law enforcement to protect their immediate safety. Brian Monk, a former prosecutor, offers experienced counsel in these matters by helping victims obtain a domestic violence injunction, or “restraining order,” to prohibit further contact or abuse from the offender. Domestic Violence Injunctions may be obtained on behalf of minor children as well.
Court orders involving alimony, child support and time-sharing are important and should not be violated in any way. If your former spouse refuses to comply with a court order related to your divorce, it is important to seek legal counsel to determine your options.
When divorcing spouses reach a settlement agreement, both parties have a legal obligation to abide by the terms of this agreement in regard to property division, child support, alimony and parenting issues. Attorney Monk can help you take the appropriate actions to enforce your agreement.
Marital property, property acquired by either spouse during the marriage, may be subject to equitable distribution in a Florida divorce. This means it may be subject to division between spouses in a fair and equitable manner, not necessarily a 50/50 split. Equitable means “fair,” not necessarily equal. The Court should start with the presumption of an equal division of assets and debts; however, the law also provides for the possibility of and UNequal distribution of assets and debts, if the facts justify such an unequal distribution.
Protecting my clients’ legal rights to property for proper “equitable distribution” is an important part of the divorce representation that I provide. I can help you ascertain what is marital and what is non-marital property to protect your property rights.
In order to protect spouses who are at a financial disadvantage in a divorce, state law allows for the recovery of attorney’s fees in some cases. The higher income spouse may be responsible for paying for part or all of the lower income spouse’s legal counsel.