Orlando Divorce Lawyer
My name is Sean Smallwood and I am an Orlando divorce lawyer who strives to provide my clients with highly professional and affordable representation for their dissolution of marriage.
My team will always work hard to obtain a peaceful settlement for your divorce before going to court. Call us today to find out how we use our years of experience to obtain a fair and equitable result for your case.
“When people find out that we offer refundable fees I think they realize that they really can trust us as their divorce attorney in Orlando, FL”
Sean Smallwood, Esq.
Uncontested Divorce and How Not to Mess One Up
How Much Should I Pay For An Orlando Divorce Lawyer?
What Sort of Strategy Will Orlando Divorce Lawyer Sean Smallwood Create for My Case?
When developing a case strategy for your dissolution of marriage our divorce attorneys in Orlando will begin from the moment you first call our office. An intake paralegal will listen carefully to the facts of your situation and take detailed notes for the attorney.
When you come in for a consultation we will listen carefully to your perspective on the case and will pay close attention to your goals in the legal case. At this point in the process, we will let you know if any of the goals you have for the case are achievable and what your odds of success may be.
Next, we will create a strategic roadmap to be followed during the case that is aimed at working the case up in a way that will provide the maximum incentive to the other party to settle the case in a way that you are satisfied with.
Depending on the facts of your divorce case these steps may include more intensive discovery demands, depositions, emergency motions to the court, face to face meetings with the opposing attorney, guidance as to proper communication with the other party in divorces involving child custody, and many others.
How Do Our Orlando Divorce Lawyers Charge Fees to Our Clients?
Among divorce attorneys in Orlando, FL there are two common types of fee structures that one will usually see. These can be grouped into one of two classes: Non-refundable fees or Refundable fees.
Non-refundable fees are by far the most common type of fee charged by divorce lawyers in Orlando. The main drawback to these types of fees occurs when a case settles early or a client wants to change to a different attorney. Often these clients will ask about a refund of remaining funds only to be told: “Sorry, that was a non-refundable fee”.
At our Orlando divorce law firm, the majority of our dissolution of marriage clients are quoted a refundable deposit amount. Since the fees are refundable any unused portion at the end of the case will be given back to the client and the law firm will not keep funds that are not actually earned by performing work on the case.
Under this fee structure, the firm is essentially doing the work in advance on a monthly basis before getting paid. This also increases the firm’s incentive to do great work for our clients knowing that they can take their funds elsewhere if they are not satisfied.
Need a Divorce Lawyer in Orlando to Handle a Contested Case?
A contested divorce is any divorce where a case has been filed and the parties to the divorce are not in total agreement on how the issues in the case should be resolved. The most common legal issues that can cause an Orlando divorce attorney to go through contested litigation are child custody issues, child support issues, spousal support, the division of assets, and division of debts. The most common of these is child custody in divorce.
The most common argument for custody issues comes when one parent accuses the other of being unsafe, thus, requiring a more limited time-sharing schedule with the children involved in the case. This is commonly due to accusations of substance abuse, domestic violence, and neglect of children to name a few.
In this type of situation, the divorce lawyers will argue over the amount of time the children spend with each parent in the case. Some parents attempt to seek more time with the children as this has a direct impact on the child support amount that will be ordered in the case. This often leads to divorcing parents making the types of allegations discussed above.
Other types of issues that can lead to a contested divorce include when the parties formed a business during the marriage, there is a claim for alimony, and where a party is self-employed and there is a question about accurate income.
Divorce Lawyer in Orlando, FL Sean Smallwood Has Been Recognized for Working Hard for Clients in Divorce
Divorce Attorney Sean Smallwood has been featured by Super Lawyers, is rated “Superb” by AVVO, and has been recognized as one of the “10 Best in Client Satisfaction” by the American Institute of Family Law Attorneys, was named one of Orlando’s Legal Elite Rising Stars by Orlando Style Magazine among other recognitions. Call us today to find out how we can assist you.
An Orlando Divorce Attorney Can Guide You Through Complex Family Law Issues
As a divorce lawyer in Orlando, we are often are tasked with many highly complicated legal issues to tackle in a dissolution of marriage litigation. The list of these legal issues is extensive and if any of the following applies to your case then you need an experienced family law attorney on your side.
Child CustodyAny case involving children under the age of 18 will need to have a determination made by the divorce court regarding child custody. This will include a review of the statutory factors for a child’s best interests and a comparison of the facts of your case to see which parent has acted in the children’s best interests.
There are often emergency situations in the divorce case that require the judge to step in and make immediate temporary orders on time-sharing issues. This will only happen in situations where the children’s emotional or physical safety is in jeopardy. Our family law and divorce attorneys in Orlando, FL understand how an emergency motion must be crafted in order to receive the best opportunity to be addressed by the court.
Once child custody is addressed and the parties to the action have exchanged their financial discovery, the divorce lawyers will run child support guideline calculations to determine how much financial support the child is entitled to receive. These days the majority of child support payments are made via income withholding orders which deduct the support payments from the obligor’s paycheck.
Dividing the Marital Home
When the parties to the divorce own a home then the divorce lawyers in Orlando, FL will need to address who will have exclusive use and possession of the home, who will pay the mortgage, whether the home will be sold via a petition for partition, and how the equity in the home will be divided.
Division of Assets
Any asset that was obtained during the marriage will be subject to equitable distribution. This means that each party to the case is entitled to half of the value of the asset. This division will apply to anything of value including cars, collectibles, gun collections, retirement accounts, military pensions, businesses opened, and the list goes on. Very often it becomes necessary to enlist the help of a business valuation expert, forensic accountant, or other types of professional appraisers in order to accomplish this in a fair and equitable way.
Division of Debt
Just like assets are subject to equitable division in the divorce, all deaths are also subject to be divided. It is very common for one spouse to request more of the assets and less of the debt, however, the courts will generally a tribute half of the debt to each party in the divorce unless there is a substantial disparity in the incomes of the parties that would lead the court to do otherwise. Divisible liabilities include any kind of debt such as credit card debt, auto loans, IRS debt, student loan debt, personal loans, second mortgages, and many others. It is always a good idea for anyone going through a divorce to request a copy of their credit report in order to ensure that there is no marital debt that they are not aware of before entering into a settlement or going to court for trial.
In Orlando Florida and throughout the entire state, anyone going through a contested dissolution of marriage will need to comply with rule 12.285 which governs mandatory financial disclosure for dissolution of marriage actions in the state of Florida. This basically means that within 45 days of the summons being served on the respondent both parties will need to file and serve a fully executed financial affidavit, three years of tax returns, three months of bank statements for personal accounts, 12 months of savings account statements, three months of pay stubs, a copy of any deeds to real estate owned for the last three years, a copy of a residential lease if you are renting, the most recent statement from your retirement account, and health insurance card copies. It is very common for additional discovery demands to be filed that would require each party to turn over even more information than this. The most common additional discovery demands include a request for the production of documents and Florida standard interrogatories.
Alimony in Orlando, Florida was created as a tool to ensure equity in each party’s ability to leave the marriage and support themselves based on the standard of living that was established during the marriage. The courts will generally examine the length of the marriage and the financial positions of each party. The analysis for the length of the marriage is broken up into three parts short, moderate, and long-term. The standard for financial ability is summed up by saying that the requesting spouse needs to demonstrate that they have a need for alimony and that the other spouse has an ability to pay. Alimony cases require a great deal of strategy and can be extremely complex when it comes to supportive relationships, in-kind income, and using equitable division strategies to increase or minimize one’s need.
Cost of an Orlando Divorce Lawyer
This is one of the most important factors that people facing a divorce will initially have to deal with. While every divorce attorney may charge a slightly different retainer to start work, it is universally understood that divorce attorneys charge a specific hourly rate for their time, they keep track of how much time they spend on your case, and then bill that time against your retainer. Most divorce and family lawyers in Florida request nonrefundable retainers. You should always be educated on what a nonrefundable retainer entails. Our firm has a refundable retainer system in place for the benefit of our clients.
Uncontested Divorce in Orlando, FL
This is by far our favorite type of divorce to assist our clients with. An uncontested divorce is truly every reasonable person’s goal and consists of a situation where all legal issues associated with the case are agreed upon by both the petitioner and the respondent. If there is even one issue that is not completely in agreement then the case would have to proceed on a contested basis. Cases that settle at mediation begin contested but finish as uncontested. Our firm has time-tested strategies that we have developed over the years to obtain uncontested outcomes that we can use for your case.
Frequently Asked Questions
We receive countless questions every single day regarding divorce issues in Florida and we do our best to write legal blog posts for our blog that address these questions. We have also begun filming a short informational divorce attorney videos which we also post on our website. Some of the recent videos that we have created which address some common divorce questions are included above.
Divorce Involving Children With Autism
This is a very complicated area of divorce when the case involves children with special needs such as autism. When a child has a disability or special need there is always a laundry list of therapy appointments, doctor appointments, and school meetings that are scheduled and that the parents are expected to attend. It is very important for any parent going through a divorce and dealing with custody issues that involve children with special needs to be as involved as possible in these types of appointments and therapies.
Divorce and Domestic Violence in Orlando
One very common and very heartbreaking legal issue that divorce attorneys in Orlando have to grapple with on a regular basis is the divorce including allegations of domestic violence. One of the biggest problems with domestic violence allegations coming out during the divorce is the fact that there are a very large number of petitioners who make false or exaggerated claims of domestic violence in order to gain an advantage in the case. Because of this fact, the courts are very cautious when evaluating allegations of domestic violence and sometimes may even be forced to deny claims of violence even when they are legitimate. When someone is a victim of domestic violence they will go to the clerk of court office and complete a petition for protection against domestic violence. A duty judge will review the petition to see if the allegations if assumed to be accurate, would satisfy the statutory requirements for an order of protection to be entered. If it is granted it is temporary and an evidentiary return hearing is scheduled within a couple of weeks to decide if the injunction will be made permanent or will be dismissed.
Temporary Relief in Divorce
It is very common for there to be a need to request a temporary order during a divorce. This can be for temporary custody, temporary child support, temporary alimony, temporary equitable division, or temporary attorney’s fees. Here in Orlando, Florida, there is an administrative order that states that the case must have been through the first mediation before one can request a hearing for temporary relief.
Divorce and Child Relocation
Whenever one of the parents wishes to change the child’s residence a distance greater than 50 miles there is a need to file a specific type of petition requesting a relocation. Relocations are a highly complex area of family law and require a high degree of strategy.
Dividing a Marital Business
Any business that is opened during the marriage is subject to equitable division just like most other marital assets. It the parties are not able to agree on the value of the business then a business valuation expert must be retained in order to address business value. Though the business is rarely sold in order to achieve division, the lawyers must figure out realistic ways to achieve equity.
Modification of Custody After Divorce
After the final judgment has been entered there is always a possibility for modification for parenting plans, child support payments, and alimony payments. Anyone asking for a modification must assert a substantial change in circumstances as this is what the statute requires. The key takeaway here is that if there has not been a sufficient change in circumstances then the petition for modification likely will not survive a motion to dismiss.
Hidden Assets in Divorce
In Orlando divorce cases it is uncomfortably common for a party to attempt to conceal income from the court. This can be done in an attempt to reduce support payments and may require additional discovery, depositions, non-party subpoenas, and other maneuvers to uncover.