Jacksonville Family Law Attorney and Criminal Defense Lawyer Advocating for You
Family Law and Criminal Defense Attorneys Serving Northeast Florida
The experienced attorneys at Ellis and Bryant provide knowledgeable legal representation in Jacksonville and the surrounding areas. Our Jacksonville family law attorneys handle matters related to divorce, property distribution, child custody, child support, and spousal support. We also handle criminal cases based on charges of DUI, drug crimes, assault, theft, and more. Our attorneys provide personal attention, and we take the time to understand specific clients’ situations and build strong arguments to protect their interests.
We practice the following practice areas:
- Child Custody
- Child Custody Modification
- Imputed Income
- Child Support
- Spousal Support
- Property Division
- Assault and Battery
- Cocaine Crimes
- Domestic Violence
- Drug Crimes
- Gun Crimes
- Sex Crimes
- Theft Crimes
- Chemical Testing
- DUI Refusal
- First Time DUI
- Repeat DUIs
- Field Sobriety Testing
- Underage DUI
- DUI Accidents
- Aggravated DUI
Family law matters can include divorce, separation, and the issues that arise during these proceedings, such as child support, alimony, property distribution, and child custody. Often, family law matters are stressful. For example, child custody battles can become heated, and if the spouses cannot agree, the judge will determine a child custody arrangement based on the child’s best interests. Factors in determining a child’s best interests include who is more likely to care for the child’s daily needs, who is more likely to keep a loving and stable relationship with the child, and who is more likely to encourage frequent contact between the child and the other parent.
Florida allows no-fault divorces. In order to obtain a no-fault divorce, either spouse can claim that the marriage is irretrievably broken. There is also a streamlined process when a divorce is uncontested. A spouse needs to live in Florida for a minimum of six months before the divorce. Even if you are not eligible for the uncontested process, you may be able to work out a negotiated settlement with the assistance of a family law attorney at our Jacksonville firm. This can cover issues such as the custody of children and who receives the marital home.
Child Custody (Timesharing)
Courts may authorize shared parental responsibility, which means that parents share their parenting duties, and this is the default system. However, they also may award sole parental responsibility, such that only one parent makes decisions about medical issues, education, and religious upbringing when the parents cannot agree on important decisions for the child. Unless the evidence shows otherwise, the court assumes that both parents have equal interest in a child’s life. A parenting time and timesharing agreement must be highly detailed to be approved by a court. When evidence of domestic or sexual violence is presented, a parent can lose custody or even visitation rights.
In Florida, judges usually award child support based on the Florida Child Support Guidelines. If child support is an issue in a divorce or comes before the court for another reason, each parent must file and give the other parent financial affidavits and worksheets. These affidavits verify their income and expenses. What a parent must pay in child support is based on how many children there are and the parents’ combined net incomes. Income for child support purposes may include not only wages but also self-employment income, bonuses, commissions, alimony, dividend income, workers’ compensation, and pension benefits. Our Jacksonville family law attorneys can advise you on how the guidelines may apply to your situation.
Spousal support is also known as alimony. It is money paid by one spouse to the other spouse for support during a divorce or after it. Usually, the higher earner is asked to pay alimony to the lower earner so that the lower earner may keep the marital lifestyle for a certain period of time. There are different kinds of alimony, including permanent, temporary, bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, and durational. These are awarded for different reasons and in different combinations. Sometimes alimony is paid periodically, and in other situations, it may be paid in a single lump sum.
Property acquired before a marriage belongs to the spouse who earned it. However, during a divorce, all of the marital assets and debts are supposed to be divided according to principles of equitable distribution. While equitable sometimes means equal, a judge can consider any relevant factors and decide what a fair division would be. A Jacksonville family law lawyer can advocate for a division that would be appropriate for you. Factors that may be important include how long the marriage lasted, the financial condition of each spouse, each spouse’s marital contributions, each spouse’s contributions to the other spouse’s career or education, debts incurred by each spouse, and waste committed by either spouse. Sometimes the property is not literally divided, but instead the judge awards one asset, such as a private practice, to one spouse, while awarding the other spouse different assets to offset awarding the private practice to the other spouse.
Criminal charges, particularly felony charges, are serious. Although you are innocent until proven guilty, and the prosecutor must meet a high standard of proof, it is still important to consult an experienced criminal defense attorney once you realize that you are being investigated. Many criminal charges carry with them a possibility of significant fines and jail time. The appropriate defense will depend on which crime is being charged and the facts of the case. Some common defenses that are raised include self-defense, constitutional violations, and lack of intent.
In Florida, it is illegal to drive a car with a blood alcohol content of .08% or more. Convictions can carry serious penalties, such as jail time, a license suspension, and thousands in fines. If you are facing a drunk driving charge, you should hire an experienced DUI attorney. Often, DUIs are defended on the basis that a defendant’s constitutional rights were violated. For example, to pull you over, a police officer needs to have a reasonable suspicion that a crime or traffic violation was being committed. It may be possible to get evidence from the stop suppressed under the Fourth Amendment if you were pulled over without a reasonable suspicion.
Prosecutors pursue drug crimes seriously. The charges depend on how much of a drug you have, which type of drug it is, and whether you have a criminal record. Some common drug crimes include marijuana possession, marijuana sales, methamphetamine possession, cocaine possession, and drug trafficking. Drug trafficking charges are not exclusively brought against drug lords and kingpins. You can be charged with trafficking if you have at least the threshold amount of the drug under the statute. The threshold amount varies depending on the drug.
Sex crimes in Florida include sexual battery, lewd and lascivious offenses, prostitution, and child pornography. The penalties vary depending on the specific charges. For example, a sexual battery conviction may carry at least nine years in prison and at most life in prison. If you are convicted of a felony sex crime, you can be declared a sex offender and forced to register in Florida and throughout the country. Anybody convicted will be put on sex offender probation, which limits where they can live and work, requires counseling, and puts in place a curfew. The more serious that the sex crime is, the more likely that it is that you will face a long prison sentence.
Theft is a property crime that involves taking or using somebody else’s property without authority to do so. A prosecutor trying to prove theft must establish that you had the specific intent to take or use the property at issue, you intended to temporarily or permanently deprive the owner of possession or use of the property, and you had the criminal intent when you took or tried to take the property. There are different degrees of theft. For example, you can be charged with first-degree grand theft, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a $10,000 fine, if the value of the stolen property is $100,000 or more. On the other hand, if the property at issue is worth less than $100, the maximum sentence is 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.
The use and possession of guns is strictly regulated in Florida. Gun crimes include carrying a concealed weapon, improper exhibition of a dangerous firearm or weapon, possessing a weapon at school, possessing a firearm as a convicted felon, or permitting a minor under age 16 access to a loaded firearm. Each charge requires proof of different elements. For example, in order to get a third-degree felony conviction for carrying a concealed firearm without a proper license, a prosecutor needs to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you knowingly carried a gun on your person, and it was hidden from other people’s sight. For another example, you could be convicted of improper exhibition of a firearm if the prosecutor can prove that you carried a firearm, and you showed the gun rudely, carelessly, angrily, or in a threatening manner in front of others. Consult a Family Law Attorney in Jacksonville or Get Help with Fighting a Criminal Charge
Whether you are dealing with a drug charge or a child custody dispute, it is crucial to speak with a knowledgeable and experienced attorney. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Ellis and Bryant provide trustworthy counsel in difficult times. Call the Law Offices of Ellis and Bryant, P.A. at (904) 551-4120 or use our online form to set up a consultation.