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Whether you are dealing with happy or sad issues, family law is a highly emotional and difficult legal area for our clients. This is not the right time to get advice from well-meaning family and friends. You need to talk with someone who will provide sound, unemotional legal advice based on Florida’s specific laws. You need an attorney who will present your options in clear language while treating you with compassion. Waters & Associates,P.A. knows the specific Florida family laws and rules and has the experience and compassion you need to help you with any family legal issue.

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frequently asked questions

Both parents have an equal legal right to custody of their child when their relationship ends. No parent has a greater legal right to custody over the other parent, even if they did most of the child care or were abused by the other parent. Only a court order or agreement changes this equal right. If you leave your partner and take your child with you, your partner might say that you ignored their equal right to custody. Your partner might even say that you abducted the child. The family court might order that your child be returned to your partner's care if it thinks that is in the best interests of the child. However, this does not mean you must leave your child behind when you leave your partner. You should talk to a lawyer before you leave your partner. Your lawyer can help you make parenting plans with your partner before you leave, if it is safe. These can be short-term plans that say where the child lives and when they see each parent. If you don't make these plans with your partner before you leave and take your child with you, you or your lawyer can write a letter to your partner. The letter should say that you want to talk about custody and access issues. If it is safe, tell your partner how to contact you. Or, tell them that you will contact them within a day or two. If it is not safe, leave a message for your partner once you are in a safe place. Take steps so that they cannot easily find you.
Dissolution-of-Marriage Form
Every state requires at least one spouse to file a petition for dissolution of marriage in the local county court where he is resident. The petition is the formal request to the court for a divorce and is the beginning of the legal divorce process. The petition must then be served on the other spouse. The petition includes information about the reason for the divorce, contact information for both spouses, and the terms the petitioning spouse is asking for: for example, requests for alimony or child support.
Settlement Agreement
Once both spouses have agreed to the terms of the divorce, a settlement agreement will usually be drawn up. In an uncontested divorce this may be done before or just after the petition is filed. In a contested divorce, the settlement agreement may be drawn up during negotiations or following the trial. The settlement agreement is a document setting out the terms of the divorce settlement: for example, child custody agreements and division of property.
Financial Documents
Both spouses in a divorce must submit documents setting out their finances. These are particularly important in a contested divorce, as the judge may use these documents to form the basis of his judgment for a settlement. Financial disclosure forms may include copies of tax returns for the previous three to five years, a financial affidavit that sets out sources of income and expenses and information on debts, bank accounts and property.
If the parents cannot agree on custody of their child, the courts decide custody based on "the best interests of the child." Determining the child’s best interests involves many factors, no one of which is the most important factor.
Florida divorce courts can order temporary child support, so that your kids receive the care they need while you wait for your divorce to become finalized. Your attorneys can help you figure out how to position your needs for temporary-support and divorce hearings. We handle child support and modification agreements for Tallahassee, Panama City and the rest of north Florida.
1. What is abuse?
For children: "Abuse" means any willful act or threatened act that results in any physical, mental, or sexual injury or harm that causes or is likely to cause the child's physical, mental, or emotional health to be significantly impaired. Abuse of a child includes acts or omissions. Corporal discipline of a child by a parent or legal custodian for disciplinary purposes does not in itself constitute abuse when it does not result in harm to the child. For adults: "Abuse" means any willful act or threatened act by a relative, caregiver, or household member which causes or is likely to cause significant impairment to a vulnerable adult's physical, mental, or emotional health. Abuse includes acts and omissions.
2. What is neglect?
For children: “Neglect" occurs when a child is deprived of, or is allowed to be deprived of, necessary food, clothing, shelter, or medical treatment or a child is permitted to live in an environment when such deprivation or environment causes the child's physical, mental, or emotional health to be significantly impaired or to be in danger of being significantly impaired. For adults: "Neglect" means the failure or omission on the part of the caregiver or vulnerable adult to provide the care, supervision, and services necessary to maintain the physical and mental health of the vulnerable adult, including, but not limited to, food, clothing, medicine, shelter, supervision, and medical services, which a prudent person would consider essential for the well-being of a vulnerable adult. The term "neglect" also means the failure of a caregiver or vulnerable adult to make a reasonable effort to protect a vulnerable adult from abuse, neglect, or exploitation by others.
3. What is exploitation?
"Exploitation" means a person who:
1. Stands in a position of trust and confidence with a vulnerable adult and knowingly, by deception or intimidation, obtains or uses, or endeavors to obtain or use, a vulnerable adult's funds, assets, or property with the intent to temporarily or permanently deprive a vulnerable adult of the use, benefit, or possession of the funds, assets, or property for the benefit of someone other than the vulnerable adult; or
2. Knows or should know that the vulnerable adult lacks the capacity to consent, and obtains or uses, or endeavors to obtain or use, the vulnerable adult's funds, assets, or property with the intent to temporarily or permanently deprive the vulnerable adult of the use, benefit, or possession of the funds, assets, or property for the benefit of someone other than the vulnerable adult.
4. Who do you consider a child?
A child is an unmarried person who is born, under the age of 18, and who has not been emancipated by order of the court.
5. Who do you consider a vulnerable adult?
A vulnerable adult is a person 18 years of age or older whose ability to perform the normal activities of daily living or to provide for his or her own care or protection is impaired due to disability, brain damage, or the infirmities of aging.

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