Pam Sutton trained Tyndall AFB JAG officers in Florida family law Pam Sutton served as counsel for Panama City adoption services, Children’s Home Society Getting divorced could be the biggest financial decision you will ever make. It’s not the time to cut corners. A lawyer cannot ethically represent both sides in a divorce case . . . You need your own advocate to protect your interests. Don’t assume you can sign an agreement and fix it later – often you can’t We provide legal representation in private placement and agency adoptions Experienced in military divorce and custody issues
Knowledgeable Panama City, Florida Family Law Representation Services
A quick fix is no fix.
It’s well known that family disruptions can be as traumatic and difficult to deal with as physical injuries or the death of a loved one. Many people react by wanting to just get it over with. “Let’s just fill out the forms and do it ourselves.” “Let’s just get one lawyer to do an agreement.” “We don’t need a lawyer; let’s just go to a mediator.”
But you should consider this – For many of us, getting divorced is the biggest financial decision you will ever make. And doing it yourself may be the biggest financial mistake you will ever make.
How we can benefit your family law case.
Pam Sutton, a Harvard graduate with the highest peer review rating from Martindale-Hubbell, has helped protect clients with family law problems for over 30 years.
- Recipient, Florida State Guardian Ad Litem pro bono attorney award.
- Her law review article on the fundamental right to family integrity was listed as an authority in the Florida Bar juvenile law and practice publication.
- Won a Florida Supreme Court case concerning the rights of spouses to receive retirement benefits.
- Served as counsel for the Panama City adoption services office of the Children’s Home Society.
- Has tried hundreds of family law cases.
- Lectured JAG officers at Tyndall AFB on Florida family law issues.
Did you know . . .
A mediator is not allowed to give you legal advice and is not there to make sure you get a fair deal?
If you sign an agreement and then change your mind, you often will be stuck with the bad deal you agreed to?
A lawyer ethically can’t represent both parties and must work for the interests of the client he or she represents?
Florida law provides that under certain circumstances one party will be required to pay for part or all of the other party’s attorney’s fees for divorce or post-divorce proceedings?
And, if you have minor children, you need to know that once you have agreed on a time-sharing or custody arrangement, it is not at all easy to get it changed.
Panama City Divorce Lawyer
Getting divorced terminates your marriage relationship but a lot more can be involved:
- Ownership of assets and responsibility for debts
- Whether and how much spousal support or alimony will one spouse pay the other
- Child custody and parental timesharing arrangements and child support
If these issues are not addressed properly during the divorce, you may have lost certain rights forever. If you agree to something you don’t want or that you can’t do, you may have a tough time getting out of your agreement. Also if you leave certain things out of the agreement, you may not be able to bring them up later.
Part of the divorce process is “equitable distribution.” This means that ownership of assets and responsibility for debts must be apportioned between the parties. This may be done by agreement or by the court ruling based on evidence presented.
The rules concerning dividing up certain assets can be difficult and confusing. For example, some assets are considered non-marital (and therefore aren’t part of equitable distribution) and some are only partially marital; how is the marital portion to be determined? How will retirement benefits be apportioned? How are stock options valued? What does it mean to be vested? How does vesting matter? Complex formulas apply to the valuing of business interests. Figuring out what real property is worth is not necessarily straightforward either.
If the spouses have a disparity in their incomes or earning capacity, one of them may be entitled to receive alimony from the other. If one of the spouses owns a business or has a complex compensation package, what is that spouse’s real income? And what form should the alimony take? Award of a major asset? Periodic payments? For how long? What will happen to benefits coverages, such as health insurance?
Many factors must be considered by the court in making an alimony determination. These cases tend to be extremely combative and time-intensive. You need an experienced attorney who is not afraid of a court battle. 850.785.7272
Florida law favors the involvement of both parents in a child’s life. But sometimes there are reasons why this is not in a child’s best interest. And sometimes one parent unreasonably wants to cut the other parent out of the picture.
A custody dispute can be painful and destructive for children and parents, so much so that a parent may consider giving up just to stop the fighting. “I don’t want to put my child in the middle of a battle.” While King Solomon was able to reward the self-sacrificing parent, our court system cannot work that way. A judge is limited by statutory criteria, the rules of evidence, and testimony. In our system, if you don’t fight in the short term, you may lose the ability to provide important long-range protections for your children’s needs, safety, and development.
A special difficulty in presenting evidence in custody cases is that sometimes the only witness to important incidents or information is the child. Special permission must be obtained to call a child as a witness in court. Also sometimes children are manipulated into saying things that aren’t true or that are misleading taken out of context. Children tend to be protective of their parents and don’t necessarily understand the need to be open about difficulties they are experiencing.
Pam Sutton’s expertise in child custody matters is based on many years of trying custody cases and on her study of child development and parent-child psychological issues. She understands how to develop the evidence to present your best case. 850.785.7272
Military Divorce and Child Custody
A divorce involving families with one or both of the spouses on active duty will have special issues, such as division of retirement benefits, entitlement to Tricare benefits, and treatment of disability pay and combat-related pay.
When the military family includes minor children, parenting issues can become particularly complicated and contentious. Fitting military allowances such as BAH into Florida’s child support guidelines scheme can make calculating child support a challenge. Receiving transfer orders may result in a legal battle over where the children should be living. Temporary re-assignments may trigger special provisions of Florida’s child custody laws.
Pam Sutton was invited to train JAG officers at Tyndall Airforce Base on Florida family law-related issues. She will safeguard your rights. 850.785.7272
During or after a divorce, one of the parents decides to move away. What happens then? Florida law requires that the parties agree to a plan or that the court decide. Often a move is prohibited because a parent failed to follow the strict and technical requirements for proceeding. Pam Sutton has experience protecting clients on both sides of this difficult matter. 850.785.7272
Florida law has a special procedure for applying for an injunction against domestic violence, also called a restraining order. It is not necessary to file for divorce to get a restraining order, but often a divorce case would be filed about the same time. One of the problems then becomes which court has jurisdiction and what can that court rule on? If there is a divorce lawyer case pending, which court gets to rule, at least temporarily, on who gets the kids? On who gets to stay in the house?
The consequences of a court hearing on a domestic violence petition can be major and can last for some time. There is also the possibility of criminal prosecution. Pam Sutton’s experience in criminal court gives her a special ability to unravel problems where family and criminal matters become tangled together. She has years of experience representing clients seeking injunctions and defending clients wrongly accused in these emotionally charged cases. 850.785.7272
Post-Divorce Enforcement and Modifications
If one of the parties fails to comply with the terms of the court’s order, then the other party can go back to court to enforce it. These cases should not be taken lightly. Sometimes the consequences are expensive, including an order to pay the other party’s attorney’s fees; sometimes they can lead to a finding of contempt with possible jail time.
Since obligations created by a divorce judgment may last over many years after the case is over, can the terms of your divorce be changed to compensate or adjust for post-divorce life changes? Many issues addressed in a divorce final judgment can’t be redone unless there was some sort of misconduct or fraud. Other provisions can be changed. For example, a job loss, a salary increase, or a change in the parent timesharing schedule are some of the grounds that might merit a modification in alimony or child support obligations. A change in the children’s circumstances may justify a modification of parental timesharing or decision-making authority.
Child Abuse and Neglect – Dependency
One of the most painful types of court cases to get involved in is a child abuse or neglect case. Abuse or neglect of children may be raised in the context of a custody case, by a criminal prosecution, or by the filing of a dependency petition, or all three. Usually a dependency case is pursued by the Department of Children and Families, a Florida state agency. Dependency cases are laden with bureaucratic formalities, frequent status hearings, confusing forms, and often unreasonable demands.
The parties to a dependency case include the parents and sometimes other relations or people who have been involved in child rearing or are offering to step in to help. Regardless of which you are, you should not count on the bureaucracy to understand or act on behalf of the child’s best interests. Competent legal representation will help you preserve your own rights and protect the child’s needs and future.
Pam Sutton’s article on the rights of parents in foster care adjudications has been cited as an authority in the Florida Bar’s publication on juvenile law and practice. The Florida State Guardian Ad Litem office recognized her work on behalf of child by selecting her for its attorney pro bono award. Put her years of experience dealing with issues of child abuse and neglect to work for you. 850.785.7272.
Adoption is the legal creation of a new parent-child relationship. Creating a new parent-child relationship usually means ending an old one. Because the parent-child relationship is protected by the Constitution, the requirements for completing an adoption are strict and complicated.
In Florida, adoption must occur through an adoption entity, which includes a licensed adoption agency or a lawyer. Adoption by a step-parent or family member is somewhat less complicated. Either way, the failure to comply with technical requirements could result in the adoption being denied or later invalidated.
Pam Sutton has served as counsel for the Panama City adoption services office of the Children’s Home Society of Florida and has represented adoptive parents as an adoption entity for private placement adoptions. For adoption-related questions or services, call her for a consultation. 850.785.7272.
Stone and Sutton Law provide family law services to the surrounding Panama City communities. We have decades of experience in family law services and have represented our clients as divorce lawyers for many years. Please contact our Law Offices today to learn more!
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