Family Law Attorney in Tampa serving all of Hillsborough County and surrounding communities
State of Florida family law forms and information
Family Law Attorney in Tampa Serving Hillsborough County and the Surrounding Communities Since 2002
For nearly two decades, Buchholz Family Law has been providing compassionate counsel and effective representation for people dealing with a wide range of family conflicts. We have built a solid reputation in the Tampa Bay area as a full-service family law firm committed to helping families get through difficult times.
Whether you are contemplating divorce, fighting for custody of your kids, or engaged in some other domestic dispute, we can help find a favorable solution that meets your unique needs and allows you to move forward with your life. When you enlist the legal services of Buchholz Family Law, you will work directly with our founder and lead family law attorney D.J. Buchholz.
Dependable Counsel in Your Time of Need
D.J. Buchholz takes great pride in her ability to provide each client with the personalized attention and care they deserve. She understands that family situations are overwhelming and emotionally draining. That’s why she’s committed to helping you resolve your issue as quickly, painlessly, and cost-effectively as possible.
Clients benefit from D.J. Buchholz’s expert knowledge of family law, familiarity with local family courts, and diligent work ethic. Whether at the negotiating table, in mediation or in court, you can be confident in knowing you have an experienced lawyer on your side ready to fight on your behalf.
Take Advantage of a Free Consultation
We are pleased to offer a free, confidential consultation to discuss your case. To schedule, call 813-902-9100 or complete the contact form below. We look forward to learning more about your situation and the opportunity to offer specific ways in which we can help.
Exclusive Focus on Family Law
Buchholz Family Law offers quality legal services for a wide-range of family law matters including:
Divorce: Ending a marriage can feel like being on an emotional rollercoaster. Having a dedicated family law attorney in your corner can make all the difference. D.J. Buchholz has helped countless individuals throughout Hillsborough County navigate the process of divorce. She can assist you in filing for or responding to a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage; dividing marital property; establishing a child custody and time-sharing agreement; calculating alimony and/or child support payments, and much more.
Whether through negotiation, mediation, or litigation, she will help you achieve your goals. Buccholz Family Law is equipped to handle all types of divorces including annulment, simplified divorce, contested and uncontested divorce, and simple and high-asset divorce.
Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements: It’s always wise to plan ahead. Buchholz Family Law has the knowledge and resources to customize an enforceable prenup or postnuptial agreement that will protect your interests before or after you marry.
Alimony/Spousal Support: Alimony, also known as spousal support can impact your present and future financial circumstances. Whether you are seeking spousal support or have been asked to pay it, attorney Buchholz will oversee the process to make sure your current and long-term financial security remains intact.
Child Custody, Visitation, and Support: Issues involving one’s children are highly sensitive and emotionally charged. D.J. Buchholz has a proven track record of helping parents craft workable child custody and time-sharing agreements as well as determining appropriate child support.
Property Division: Sorting through marital assets, debts, and finances at the end of a marriage can be a daunting task. Attorney Buchholz is well-versed in the property division laws in Florida and can assist you in negotiating a property settlement that is fair and equitable. Our firm is capable of handling simple to high-net worth property divisions.
Paternity and Adoption: Whether you are seeking to adopt or wish to learn the paternity of a child, we can guide you through the legal process and protect your rights.
Modification or Enforcement of Orders: A change in circumstances may require modification or enforcement of existing divorce-related court orders. Buchholz Family Law can petition the court to modify or enforce orders pertaining to alimony, child custody, child support, and other post-divorce matters.
Comprehensive Divorce Representation
Ending a marriage can be one of the most difficult decisions a person can make. As you go through the legal process of divorce, it’s critical to have an experienced family law attorney by your side to protect your rights and advocate on your behalf. The primary issues addressed in a divorce generally involve finances and children. You and your spouse will need to determine how to divide your marital property and allocate your debts, and (if applicable) who will receive/pay spousal support. If you have children, you will need to devise a child custody plan and visitation arrangement that is in their best interests.
Which Type of Divorce is Right for You?
Florida provides several different methods for dissolving a marriage including simplified dissolution of marriage, and uncontested and contested divorce.
Simplified Dissolution of Marriage
Filing for a simplified divorce is a great option for couples who want an easy, fast, and inexpensive way to end a marriage. To qualify for this type of divorce, all of the following criteria must be met:
- You or your spouse have been a resident of Florida for six months
- There are no minor children from the marriage
- You both are in agreement on how to divide property, assets, and debts
- No one is seeking alimony
- You are willing to give up your right to trial and appeal
- You and your spouse are both willing to go into the clerk’s office to sign the petition (not necessarily together).
- You and your spouse are both willing to go to the final hearing (at the same time)
An uncontested dissolution of marriage is the best route for couples who can agree on how to resolve all the issues in the divorce including division of property, alimony, child custody, child support, etc. This type of divorce enables you to avoid the expense, stress, and hassle of going through a litigated divorce process. In an uncontested divorce, you enter into a settlement agreement with your spouse and submit to the judge for approval. The average uncontested divorce takes 3-4 months.
When spouses cannot reach a consensus on all the issues, it becomes necessary for the court to step in and make decisions on behalf of the divorcing couple. High-conflict divorces require resolution through negotiation, mediation, or a trial. When the stakes are high, it’s essential to rely on a seasoned divorce lawyer who has in-depth knowledge of the traditional divorce litigation process. D.J. Buchholz is prepared to strongly advocate on your half to help you achieve the outcome you desire.
What is the Divorce Process in Hillsborough County?
The divorce process in Hillsborough County is governed by a certain set of rules and procedures set forth by the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit Court of Florida. The family law division handles divorce, child custody, alimony, child support, and paternity cases. These cases are handled at the main courthouse — the George E. Edgecomb Courthouse located at 800 E Twiggs Street, Tampa, Florida, 33602.
Eligibility Requirements for Obtaining a Divorce
Florida divorce law states that the following requirements must be satisfied before filing for dissolution of marriage:
- One spouse must have been a resident of Florida for at least six months prior to filing (proof of residence may include a drivers license, Florida ID, Florida voter registration card)
- The marriage must be irretrievably broken and cannot be saved
Overview of Divorce Process
File for Divorce
The divorce process formally begins when one spouse files a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with the Clerk of the Circuit Court (located on the 1st floor of George E. Edgecomb Courthouse). The petition includes basic information related to your marriage (your name, date, and location of marriage, whether children are involved) and also allows you to list what you are specifically seeking in your divorce.
Serve Petition on Spouse
Once the petition has been filed, the Clerk will issue a summons directing either a Sheriff or process server to personally deliver the petition to your spouse. Your spouse will have 20 days to respond or file a petition of his/her own.
Case Management Conference
After the divorce papers have been served, the court automatically schedules a Case Management Conference to be held in front of a family law judge 90 to 220 days out. In advance of the hearing, you will need to complete certain tasks such as: exchanging financial affidavits and mandatory disclosure documents, filing a parenting plan and child support guidelines, and attending a parenting class.
Discovery and Financial Disclosure
Approximately 45 days after the petition and counter petition is filed, you will enter the discovery phase of divorce. During this time, you and your spouse must engage in mandatory disclosure which is the exchanging of key financial information. These affidavits allow both of you to properly assess one another’s income, assets, and expenses and ultimately helps to facilitate a property settlement agreement. Relevant documents that are often exchanged include:
- federal and state income tax returns
- titles and deeds
- bank and credit card statements
- retirement accounts
- insurance policies
- car loan documents
- pay stubs
Request Temporary Orders
A contested divorce can take up to a year to finalize. This is not ideal if you have certain issues that need to be resolved immediately. Fortunately, you can petition the court at any point in the divorce proceeding to make temporary orders for such things as:
- child custody
- child support
- establishing who lives in the primary residence
- restraining order protection from abusive spouse
Mediation and Settlement Negotiation
Going to trial is not a foregone conclusion. In fact, most cases are settled through negotiation and mediation. Mediation is a process in which you and your spouse sit down with an impartial mediator to attempt to resolve your disputes. This process is confidential and meant to give you the opportunity to make decisions about your future instead of forfeiting this right to a judge. Divorce lawyer Buchholz will help you prepare for mediation so you know what to expect. If a settlement is reached, an agreement is put in writing and a final hearing is scheduled to present it to a judge for approval.
Most divorce cases do not end up in trial. However, if you and your spouse are unable to achieve compromise through mediation, D.J. Buchholz will litigate on your behalf in the courtroom.
Property Division Laws in Florida
Determining how to divide marital assets and liabilities (debts) can be one of the more stressful aspects of divorce. Florida is an equitable distribution state, which means property must be distributed equally. While the presumption is a 50/50 split, property is most often divided according to what is deemed fair for both sides.
What is the Difference Between Marital Property and Separate Property?
Under Florida law, there are two types of property in a divorce: marital property and separate property. Marital property includes all the assets and liabilities that you and/or your spouse acquired during the marriage. Marital property is subject to equal distribution regardless of ownership or title.
The most common types of marital assets include:
- bank accounts
- marital home
- real estate
- retirement accounts
- stock options
- tangible personal property (jewelry, art, household furnishings)
Liabilities often include:
- mortgage debt
- credit card debt
- student loans
- tax liens
- car loans
Separate property is property each spouse owned individually prior to the marriage. It also includes any inheritance or personal gifts received during the marriage.
Property Division Process
Buchholz Family Law has experience handling simple and complex property divorce cases. The property division process generally involves the following steps:
- Make an itemized list of all assets and debts
- Classify assets and debts as marital or separate property
- Assign a monetary value to all property
- Distribute property equitably
We work as needed with other financial professionals including forensic accountants, appraisers, and actuaries when values become too difficult to assign or when assets are hidden.
How Does the Court Determine What is Equitable?
If you and your spouse do not have a prenuptial agreement or cannot agree on how to divide your property, the court will intervene and decide for you. Some of the factors a judge considers before distributing property includes:
- the income of each spouse
- length of marriage
- age and health of both spouses
- child custody arrangement
- contributions of each party to the marriage
- contribution of one party to the career or educational opportunities of the other
Child Related Issues in a Divorce
The decisions made in a divorce can shape the lives of children for years to come. When parents set aside their differences and put the kids first, it is best for the whole family. Divorce attorney Buccholz works to de-escalate conflict and build consensus whenever possible but will not hesitate to fight for your parental rights in court if necessary.
Child Custody and Visitation
In Florida, the traditional concepts of custody and visitation are referred to as “time-sharing” and “parental responsibility.” Time-sharing pertains to the physical time each parent spends with the children whereas parental responsibilities refers to the parents’ rights and obligations to make decisions regarding how the children should be raised. Florida family courts favor a scenario in which both parents have frequent and continuing contact with the children and share decision-making authority.
The Child’s Best Interest Criteria
If you and your spouse are unable to work together to resolve disputes related to your children, the court will intervene make decisions based on what they believe is in your child’s best interests. A judge often considers:
- the wishes of both parents and children
- mental and physical health of both parents
- any prior domestic violence allegations or neglect
- relationship the child has with each parent
- ability of each parent to create a stable living situation for the child
- geographic location of each parent
- each parent’s work schedule
Creating a Parenting Plan
Florida divorce law requires divorcing parents to establish and file a parenting plan with the family law court. A parenting plan serves as a “blueprint” that outlines how you and your spouse will co-parent your children following the divorce. D.J. Buchholz can help you craft a parenting plan that is detailed yet flexible and fully caters to the needs of your children. A typical parenting plan includes:
- a time-sharing schedule including holidays, birthdays, vacations, and other special occasions
- outline of each parent’s rights and responsibilities related to education, health care and religious affiliation
- childcare expenses
- costs for extracurricular activities
- procedure for how you and your spouse will resolve disputes
- child support amount
- rules for transporting kids and details surrounding where and when exchanges will happen
Calculating Child Support in Florida
Under Florida law, both parents are legally obligated to provide financial support for their minor children. In a divorce, the purpose of child support is to ensure that the children’s basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter are met. Typically, the parent with the most time-sharing receives monetary support from the parent with the least time-sharing. There are exceptions however, such as if one parent earns significantly more than the other parent.
The amount of child support is calculated using a formula laid out in the Florida child support guidelines. This formula takes into account:
- the net monthly income of each parent
- the number of children being considered for child support.
- the number of overnight visits a parent has with the minor child
- employment status/work history of each parent
- childcare expenses
- cost of health and dental insurance premiums
If you are ordered to pay child support, divorce attorney Buchholz will aim to make sure the payment is within your financial means. Conversely, if you are seeking child support, D.J. Buchholz will pursue a fair amount that meets all of your children’s needs.
How Alimony Works
Alimony, also known as spousal support is monetary payments made from one spouse to the other. Alimony is sometimes awarded in a divorce if there is a significant disparity in income between the spouses.
Factors the Court Considers in Spousal Support Decisions
If awarded, the type, duration, and amount of alimony will be determined by considering:
- length of the marriage
- standard of living enjoyed during marriage
- whether one spouse quit their job/school after marriage
- whether one spouse was the primary caretaker of the children
- the contribution each spouse made to the marriage
- whether an unemployed spouse is qualified to work
- whether an unemployed spouse is able to take classes or learn a skill to assist in finding employment to become self-sufficient
- whether one spouse is ill or disabled and needs additional funds for support
- tax consequences of paying or receiving alimony
Types of Alimony Available in Florida
There are several different kinds of alimony a court may award in Florida:
Temporary — provides support to the receiving spouse while the divorce is pending
Bridge-the-gap alimony — generally awarded in short-term marriages (7 years or less) this type of alimony lasts up to 2 years and is designed to help the recipient adjust to single life.
Rehabilitative alimony — support awarded for a set period of time to help the receiving spouse become employable and ultimately self-sufficient. The receiving spouse may opt to partake in vocational training or educational classes to develop or enhance job skills.
Durational alimony – support awarded for a specific period of time not to exceed the length of the marriage.
Permanent alimony — provides lifetime financial support to a spouse who is unlikely to acquire the skills needed to get a job and support themselves. Permanent alimony is ordered in cases involving long-term marriages lasting 17 years or more.
Spousal support can be paid on a monthly basis or in a lump sum or a combination of both.
Facing a Family Law Issue in Tampa?
If you live in the Tampa Bay area and would like to learn more about your options concerning a divorce, child custody, alimony, or some other family law matter, contact us at Buchholz Family Law. Since 2002, we have helped countless individuals and families throughout Hillsborough County resolve complex family conflicts. Take advantage of a free consultation today! To schedule, call 813-902-9100 or complete the contact form below.