Clearwater Divorce Attorney
Experienced, Aggressive Clearwater Attorneys
Ready to Fight For You
Clearwater Divorce Attorneys Claudia Blackwell and Howard Ellzey have years of experience helping clients with divorce, custody, support, alimony, and modification of divorce judgments. Both Ms. Blackwell and Mr. Ellzey are regular visitors to the Clearwater family law court and frequently appear many times in front of the local family law judges. Mr Ellzey currently splits his schedule with our Tampa office and our Clearwater office. Ms. Blackwell splits her schedule between Clearwater, and St. Petersburg. Divorce in Clearwater is handled at the Courthouse in downtown Clearwater, at 315 Court Street. Once your case is assigned to the Clearwater family law court, your case will be handled there now and throughout the future. Our Clearwater office is located in the Wilder Center, on Gulf to Bay Drive, near McMullen Booth Road. Call us for a free consultation at 727-844-7676
For our Divorce cases in Clearwater, we use a team approach that:
- Places a primary attorney on your case that is thoroughly experienced in the Clearwater divorce court
- Gives you access to a large, experienced backup team to support your case
- Ensures that staff is always available to answer quick questions
Free Consultations with our Divorce Attorneys
Hiring a divorce attorney is the most stressful time of your life
You may be thinking of getting a divorce, modifying your divorce judgment, or enforcing your judgment. We can honestly say the next few months will not be the best time in your life. But we can make a difference for you. Your bad situation may become better if you hire the best divorce attorneys for your situation. We can help.
Our goal is to make the experience better
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We have a dedicated team of divorce attorneys
Do You Need a Divorce Attorney?
By the time most couples reach the point of divorce, they may be so exhausted and emotionally battered, their only thought is to get the divorce done and over with. While this is understandable, this type of attitude has left many divorced people without their fair share of the marital property, struggling months down the road to even keep a roof over their head and food on the table. Although you may not feel like arguing anymore or making any more life-altering decisions, these decisions can be crucial to your future. For this reason, having an experienced, reputable Ayo and Iken divorce attorney by your side from start to finish, can really make a difference in the end result of your divorce.
Finding an attorney who understands exactly what you want out of your divorce, is able to work toward that goal, yet has compassion for your current situation is the first step you should take once you have been served with divorce papers, or have decided you want to pursue a divorce. You will work closely with your Ayo and Iken attorney. In fact, many divorce attorneys end up knowing more about your personal life than you might actually want anyone to know, yet this is one of the primary reasons for choosing your attorney carefully.
Since few divorces go entirely smoothly, the one factor which can truly make a difference—not only in the outcome of your divorce but in the process itself—is the choice of your attorney. Having a skilled legal team on your side who truly have your best interests at heart, really listen to you, and do their best to reduce your fears and uncertainties, while keeping you informed every step of the way should be your first goal.
Clearwater City Information
Clearwater, Florida is a city in the Tampa Bay area, which is well-known for its sunny weather. Clearwater Beach is a three-mile stretch of sparkling white sands with amazing hotels and restaurants near the water. At one time, clear springs flowed from the banks into the bay, from an area which now houses Clearwater City Hall and downtown Clearwater. In the early years, Clearwater was known as Clear Water Harbor.
Among the first settlers in Clearwater were James Stevens, Samuel Stevenson and James Parramore McMullen who brought along his six brothers. Vegetables and cotton were grown in the area in the 1800’s, then in 1888, when Clearwater had only about 18 families, the first narrow gauge railroad was built, causing the small town to grow steadily. Clearwater was incorporated in 1915, experiencing solid growth throughout the years; in 1950 Clearwater had 15,000 residents, and today the city has nearly 120,000 residents.
Today, Clearwater residents and tourists can enjoy a day at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, where injured dolphins and sea turtles are rehabilitated, or can visit Clearwater Harbor and Marina—an area which provides a stunning backdrop for a variety of concerts, festivals and exhibits throughout the year. The palm-lined Beach Walk Promenade is bustling with activity, and the views from Pier 60 are sure to please. While tourists often come to Clearwater for the beaches, they may end up staying for the live entertainment, dining and shopping.
Divorce in the U.S.
At a time when divorce is becoming marginally less common for younger couples, the divorce rate for older couples is rising. In fact, since the 1990’s, the divorce rate for
U.S. couples over the age of fifty has doubled according to recent statistics. To break this down a bit more, in 2015, there were 10 divorces for every 1,000 married people over the age of 50. Even more startling, among those couples who were 65 and older, six people per thousand married persons divorced in 2015—triple the number since 1990. This is not to say that the divorce rate for those under the age of 50 does not remain high—among those between the ages of 40 and 49, 21 persons per 1,000 married persons divorced. Among those between the ages of 25 and 39, however, the divorce rate has actually declined since 1990, from 30 persons per 1,000 married persons to 18 persons per 1,000 married persons. Part of this decline is attributed to younger people putting off marriage until later while they concentrate on their career.
The increase in so-called “gray” divorce is due in part to baby boomers who have been married multiple times. Historically second, third and fourth marriages have an increasingly higher chance of failure, and in 2015, 48 percent of those aged 50 and above were in the second or higher marriage. Divorce for baby boomers can have additional downsides from divorce for younger couples, namely older divorcees tend to be less financially secure than either married or widowed adults, and living alone at older ages can be emotionally detrimental as well.
And what about Florida in particular? The Miami New Times ran an article in 2010 titled “Florida Cities Dominate List of Divorce Capitols” According to this article, of the 50 cities with the worst divorce rates, four of the top ten were in the Sunshine State, with an additional seven Florida cities making the top 50.
Grounds for Divorce in the State of Florida
If you want to file for divorce in the state of Florida, either you or your spouse must have lived in the state for at least six months. The grounds for divorce in the United states would either be “fault,” or “no-fault.” Almost every state in the U.S. now has no-fault divorce, meaning you must only claim that the marriage is irretrievably broken, and, typically, most couples will simply go with the no-fault divorce rather than claiming adultery, abandonment, drug use or other reason for the divorce. The only other grounds for divorce in the state of Florida is mental incapacitation, and to claim this during your divorce, the incapacitation must have lasted at least three years prior to filing for divorce. If one spouse does not want to get divorced, or if minor children are involved, the judge can order up to three months’ counseling for the couple. But it is very rare for a judge to actually order counseling.
Is Your Divorce Contested or Uncontested?
Few divorces today actually end up being uncontested, although they may have started out that way. When there is any level of assets involved, or when a couple has children, what begins as an uncontested divorce can quickly turn into a hotly contested divorce. This is the primary reason you should have an experienced Clearwater divorce attorney by your side from the very beginning, even if you think your divorce will go smoothly. There are a relatively few divorces which will be uncontested. These divorces are usually those where there are no children, the marriage has not lasted very long, there are few assets and both parties are in agreement with the decision to divorce.
The Process of Divorce
Either you or your spouse will file a Petition for Dissolution with the court (usually, your divorce attorney will file the Petition). The Petition will be served to the other spouse. If you are the spouse served, be aware that you only have 20 days in which to answer the Petition. The Petition must be filed in the county in which you live; the person filing the Petition is known as the “petitioner,” while the other spouse will be the “respondent.”
Any issue you want the court to address should be listed in your petition, including the division of assets and debts, spousal support, child custody and child support. If you and your spouse can agree on all these issues, and there are no minor children, you may be able to file what is known as a “simplified dissolution of marriage.” You should be certain you and your spouse are in agreement because once you file the simplified dissolution of marriage, you essentially give up the right to request financial documents from your spouse as well as other rights.
The state of Florida requires both spouses submit a financial affidavit within 45 days of the date the Petition for Dissolution is served. You will be required to disclose your income, your assets, your debts, your personal financial statements, your credit card statements, your bank statements and your tax returns. You may also be asked to provide any other documentation which contains financial information which your spouse is entitled to know about.
If you and your spouse can reach your own agreements, then these agreements will be memorialized in your divorce decree, and a judge will sign off on your divorce. If you cannot reach an agreement, you will go before a Clearwater judge who will determine how your assets will be divided, whether spousal support will be awarded, and which parent will have primary physical custody of the child or children of the marriage, and which will have visitation rights.
Division of Assets and Liabilities
The division of assets is often an emotionally-charged event, particularly when the marriage is one of longer duration. Florida is an equitable distribution state, rather than a community property state. In community property states, marital assets are divided right down the middle regardless of any extenuating factors. In an equitable distribution, the assets are divided fairly, which may not be 50/50. The judge will look at all the factors, such as whether one spouse put the other through school, stayed home to take care of the home and children, or gave up education or a career for the other spouse. The earning contributions of both spouses will be factored in, and the judge will decide the fairest way to divide the marital assets and liabilities.
The state of Florida is one of the few which still sometimes award permanent spousal support or alimony. The types of spousal support which could be awarded in the state of Florida include:
- Permanent alimony for marriages of long duration;
- Rehabilitative alimony to help one spouse obtain necessary education or training;
- Durational alimony, which lasts a specified amount of time, and is meant to provide one spouse with financial assistance until that spouse gets back on his or her feet, financially;
- Short-term alimony, usually not to exceed two years, which helps ease the transition between married and single life;
- Temporary alimony which covers one spouse’s needs from the time the Petition is filed until a Final Decree is reached, and
- Lump-sum alimony which is intended to equalize asset distribution. As an example, if one spouse receives the marital home, the other might receive a lump sum amount of alimony to offset the value of the home.
Gay Marriage and Divorce
Same-sex marriage is legal across the United States now, however it is essentially still in its infancy, meaning judges have little to go on when faced with a same-sex divorce, and are required to use the laws written for heterosexual couples, which may not always work for same-sex couples. Some same-sex couples in Florida may have been married in another state which allowed same-sex marriage long before the state of Florida did so. A same-sex couple could also have spent decades together, yet under Florida law have only been legally married for a short length of time. Because of all the variables, having an Ayo and Iken family law attorney who can correctly interpret Florida law is crucial during a same-sex divorce.
Types of Child Custody
Once called “custody,” the state of Florida now uses the term “parental responsibility,” to cover parenting issues. Like all courts in the United States, Clearwater courts will rule according to what is in the best interests of the children. Legal custody covers disciplinary, religious, educational and medical decisions; one parent may have legal custody or the parents may share legal custody. Physical custody refers to the parent the children primarily live with, although in some cases parents can split physical custody 50/50. More typically, one parent has physical custody, while the other has visitation rights. The goal of Florida courts is to keep both parents active in their children’s lives.
A parenting plan is a legal document either created by the parents or by the court, governing the relationship between the parents as that relationship applies to decisions made on behalf of the children. A parenting plan will address which parent has the children for which holidays, and will even detail how drop-offs and pickups will be handled.
Modification of Existing Child Custody Plans
In some cases, circumstances can change significantly after a custody and parenting plan are in place. If this happens, a parent can file a petition with the court to show how those circumstances have changed, and to ask the court to change the custody agreement and parenting plan details.
Adoption in Clearwater
If you are considering adoption in the state of Florida, it is important to recognize that Florida’s adoption laws can be challenging and complex. There may be adoption issues related to international adoptions, special-needs adoptions, minority adoptions, adoptions for a same-sex couple, second parent, stepparent or relative adoptions, interstate and domestic adoptions and contested adoptions. Having a highly skilled Clearwater family law attorney in your corner will typically ensure a more favorable outcome.
Why You May Need an attorney local to the Clearwater area
If you are hit with a situation which deals with child custody, spousal support, divorce, child support, modifications of spousal or child support, pre and post-nuptial agreements, restraining orders, domestic violence issues, adoptions or establishment of paternity, you could likely benefit from speaking to an experienced family attorney. But a more important question is whether that attorney regularly argues cases before the local judges. The system is supposed to be unbiased but familiarly with various legal stakeholders can definitely help your case. Call us today to immediately meet with one of the Ayo and Iken legal team members.
3000 W. Gulf to Bay Blvd
Clearwater Divorce Resources