Whitney McGrew is a highly skilled and aggressive family law attorney. She is well versed and highly trained in Florida Family Court System which includes divorce, alimony, child support and child custody. In addition, Ms. McGrew provides legal advice regarding the enforcement and modification of existing child support and alimony orders.
What happens when I schedule a family law appointment?
First, Attorney Whitney McGrew will prepare an Authority to Represent. If the case involves a spouse or minor child then the client will be asked to sign a Medical Authorization Release. Next, the Attorney will ask the client to bring a copy of all real estate deeds, mortgages and closing statements to the attorney meeting. Also, the client will be asked to bring the following items to the initial interview:
- Federal income tax return for the past 3 to 5 years,
- Personal and Business net worth statements,
- Insurance policies,
- Car titles,
- Bank records,
- Payroll records,
- Final judgments from any previous marriages,
- adoption decrees, if applicable,
- Estate planning documents,
- Employment benefits (insurance, retirement plan),
- Any pre or Antenuptial agreements,
- Business agreements (partnership agreements, incorporation papers, and buy/sell agreements, etc.),
During the initial conference, the attorney will discuss marriage counseling and the ramifications of dissolution.
Attorney fees and costs will be reasonable, taking into account the time required, the complexity of the case, whether or not the dissolution is contested. The client will be provided an estimate of legal fees during the initial consultation. The fees will not be contingent upon securing the dissolution or the amount of alimony, support or property settlement because such a fee agreement is illegal per the Florida Bar.
The client will be advised whether they should pay support payments during the pendency of the divorce. The client will be advised as to how to proceed with existing assists, joint assets and pre-marital assets. The client will be advised how to handle existing insurance payments, mortgage payments and child custody sharing during the pendency of the suit.
What information will the Attorney need?
The client will need to provide all personal data about his/her spouse, other parent, and/or children as listed below:
- Personal data about both spouses: names (including maiden name), addresses, telephone numbers, birth dates, dates and places of prior and current marriages, support rights or obligations of prior marriages, religion, citizenship, length of residence in county, state (country), education, and personal health (ask for doctor’s names and addresses and obtain a medical authorization release form.
- Employment: names, addresses, telephone numbers of employers; salary (gross and net); commissions and bonuses, if applicable; expense accounts; hours worked; length of employment; employee benefits including insurance, stock options, stock interests, and retirement benefits (profit sharing, deferred compensation, pension, retirement, insurance).
- Background and reason for divorce: date of separation; previous separations or suits; previous counseling with professionals or clergy; desire for and possibility of reconciliation; preference for divorce, legal separation, or annulment; specific grounds; and future plans.
- Custody of children: names, ages, and sex of children; previous orders regarding custody; mental or physical handicaps of parents and children; children’s assets (bank accounts, stocks, trusts, etc.), if applicable; financial needs; educational needs; expectation of contested custody action; ability and willingness to care for children; children’s preferences; and parents’ custodial and visitation privileges.
- Type: family residence, real estate, stocks and bonds, insurance (life, health, disability, accident), annuities, bank accounts, cars, safe deposit boxes, business interests, collectibles (art, books, records), furniture and appliances, silver and china, jewelry, furs, boat, time-share unit, vacation home, etc.
- Ownership: type (joint tenancy), property owned before marriage and its disposition, marital property and its disposition, property held by third parties, property accumulated through legacy, etc.
- Value of assets: date of purchase and price, estimated current value, price set by buy-sell agreement, income from property, pre- or antenuptial agreement, wills and trust agreements, recent property conveyances, list of property client wants and what property may be in dispute.
- Liabilities: personal indebtedness, mortgages or other liens on real estate, joint indebtedness, contingent liabilities and tax liability.
- Average monthly expenses
What Happens After I Hire the Attorney?
Once Attorney Whitney McGrew has accepted the case, a new file will be opened. She will begin drafting pleadings such as a Petition for Dissolution, Petition to Establish Paternity, or Parenting Plan. After pleadings are filed, Ms.McGrew will invoke the clients right to discovery. During the discovery process, Ms. McGrew will seek records and any other documents that will assist the Court in determining alimony, child support and/or child custody. Ms. McGrew is aware that some spouses may attempt to shield or hide marital assets and will aggressively work to ensure her clients rights are protected by filing subpoenas, hiring investigators and using other legal means necessary to assist the client.
In any dissolution proceeding, the court may grant alimony to either party. The Alimony may be:
- permanent; or
- any combination of the above.
In determining whether to award alimony or maintenance, the court must first make a specific factual determination as to whether either party has an actual need for alimony/maintenance and whether either party has the ability to pay alimony/maintenance. If the court finds that a party has a need for alimony/maintenance and that the other party has the ability to pay, then in determining the proper type and amount, the court must consider all relevant economic factors, including, but not limited to:
- The standard of living established during the marriage.
- The duration of the marriage.
- The age and the physical and emotional condition of each party.
- The financial resources of each party, including the non-marital and marital assets and liabilities distributed to each.
- The earning capacities, educational levels, vocational skills, and employability of the parties and, when applicable, the time necessary for either party to acquire sufficient education or training to enable that party to find appropriate employment.
- The contribution of each party to the marriage, including, but not limited to, services rendered in homemaking, child care, education, and career building of the other party.
- The responsibilities each party will have with regard to any minor children they have in common.
- The tax treatment and consequences to both parties of any alimony award, including the designation of all or a portion of the payment as a nontaxable, nondeductible payment.
- All sources of income available to either party, including income available to either party through investments of any asset held by that party.
- Any other factor necessary to do equity and justice between the parties.
In the State of Florida, child custody is referred to as parental responsibility or timesharing. In determining parental responsibility the Court will look at the what is in the best interests of the child.
A number of factors are used to determine what is in the best interests of the child and can be found below.
For purposes of establishing or modifying parental responsibility and creating, developing, approving, or modifying a parenting plan, including a time-sharing schedule, which governs each parent’s relationship with his or her minor child and the relationship between each parent with regard to his or her minor child, the best interest of the child shall be the primary consideration.A determination of parental responsibility, a parenting plan, or a time-sharing schedule may not be modified without a showing of a substantial, material, and unanticipated change in circumstances and a determination that the modification is in the best interests of the child.
Determination of the best interests of the child shall be made by evaluating all of the factors affecting the welfare and interests of the particular minor child and the circumstances of that family, including, but not limited to:
(a) The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship, to honor the time-sharing schedule, and to be reasonable when changes are required.
(b) The anticipated division of parental responsibilities after the litigation, including the extent to which parental responsibilities will be delegated to third parties.
(c) The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to determine, consider, an act upon the needs of the child as opposed to the needs or desires of the parent.
(d) The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity.
(e) The geographic viability of the parenting plan, with special attention paid to the needs of school-age children and the amount of time to be spent traveling to effectuate the parenting plan. This factor does not create a presumption for or against relocation of either parent with a child.
(f) The moral fitness of the parents.
(g) The mental and physical health of the parents.
(h) The home, school, and community record of the child.
(i) The reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient intelligence, understanding, and experience to express a preference.
(j) The demonstrated knowledge, capacity, and disposition of each parent to be informed of the circumstances of the minor child, including, but not limited to, the child’s friends, teachers, medical care providers, daily activities, and favorite things.
(k) The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to provide a consistent routine for the child, such as discipline, and daily schedules for homework, meals, and bedtime.
(l) The demonstrated capacity of each parent to communicate with and keep the other parent informed of issues and activities regarding the minor child, and the willingness of each parent to adopt a unified front on all major issues when dealing with the child.
(m) Evidence of domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect, regardless of whether a prior or pending action relating to those issues has been brought. If the court accepts evidence of prior or pending actions regarding domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect, the court must specifically acknowledge in writing that such evidence was considered when evaluating the best interests of the child.
(n) Evidence that either parent has knowingly provided false information to the court regarding any prior or pending action regarding domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect.
(o) The particular parenting tasks customarily performed by each parent and the division of parental responsibilities before the institution of litigation and during the pending litigation, including the extent to which parenting responsibilities were undertaken by third parties.
(p) The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to participate and be involved in the child’s school and extracurricular activities.
(q) The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to maintain an environment for the child which is free from substance abuse.
(r) The capacity and disposition of each parent to protect the child from the ongoing litigation as demonstrated by not discussing the litigation with the child, not sharing documents or electronic media related to the litigation with the child, and refraining from disparaging comments about the other parent to the child.
(s) The developmental stages and needs of the child and the demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to meet the child’s developmental needs.
(t) Any other factor that is relevant to the determination of a specific parenting plan including, the time sharing schedule.
The Court System must follow the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act in deciding child custody matters. A Florida Court shall make child custody determinations by initial and/or modification if:
- Florida is the home state of the child at the time of commencement of the proceeding or had been the child’s home state within 6 months before commencement of the proceeding. The court will also have jurisdiction if the child is absent from Florida because of his removal or retention by a person claiming his custody or for other reasons, and a parent or person acting as parent continues to live in Florida.
- It is in the best interest of the child because (A) the child and his parents (or the child and at least one contestant) have a significant connection with Florida, and (B) substantial evidence concerning the child’s present or future care, protection, training, and personal relationships, is available in Florida.
- The child is physically present in Florida and (A) has been abandoned; or (B) it is necessary in an emergency to protect the child because he has been subjected to or threatened with mistreatment or abuse or is otherwise neglected.
- It appears that no other state would have jurisdiction or another state has declined to exercise jurisdiction on the ground that Florida is the more appropriate forum to determine custody of the child.
- It is in the best interest of the child.
Physical presence in Florida is not, of itself, sufficient to confer jurisdiction on a Florida Court to make a child custody determination. Physical presence of the child, while desirable, is not a prerequisite for jurisdiction over custody and control.
Attorney Whitney McGrew will aggressively represent each and every client in all family matters. Contact our firm for a consultation.