Family Law

Adoption & Re-Adoption

In an adoption, a person or couple becomes the legally recognized parent(s) of a child who is biologically unrelated to the person/couple. Adoptive parents have all the duties and responsibilities that birth parents have in caring for a child, such as making decisions regarding the child’s education and medical care.

However, the procedure for adoption in Florida is quite complicated. Anyone who wants to adopt must draft a petition for adoption and obtain formal consent for adoption from the biological parent(s). Once consent is given, a court must formally terminate the parent-child relationship with the biological parent(s), at which point the prospective adoptive parent or parents must then file the petition for adoption with the court, usually through a family law attorney. If all goes well, the court will finalize the adoption in a final hearing.

Re-adoption is the process by which parents who legally adopted a child in a foreign country can have that adoption legally recognized in the United States. The foreign adoption is verified by a Florida judge.

Re-adoption allows the child to have a U.S. birth certificate and other rights, such as inheritance rights. Without re-adoption, the child’s certified birth certificate will have to be obtained from the child’s country of origin – making it much more difficult to register the child for school or athletics teams, for example.

Child Custody, Visitation & Child Support

In a divorce, child custody laws help determine which parent(s) will be responsible for caring for the children. Florida either awards custody to one parent (sole custody) or to both parents (joint custody).

In Florida, child custody law has changed so that the terms “primary residential parent” or “secondary residential parent” no longer exist. Now, the parents must come up with a parenting plan that specifically details the amount of time the child will spend with each parent, and when.

Courts consider many factors to determine an appropriate time-sharing arrangement, including the amount of time the child has lived in a stable environment, the parents’ moral fitness, and evidence of domestic violence, neglect, or abuse.

Child support is the financial assistance that the court decides should be spent to take care of a child. Florida law has child support guidelines where the amount of child support is calculated according to the parents’ income. Childcare and health care costs may be added onto this guideline amount.

Distribution/Division of Marital Assets

Upon divorce, property that was accumulated during the marriage – “marital property” – is split using what is called equitable distribution. This means that the property will not necessarily be divided 50-50. Factors considered are disparate earnings, childrearing responsibilities, and substantial assets held in one spouse’s name.

If you are going through a divorce, the Shipley Law Firm & Title Company can help you with the valuation of each asset in order to determine equitable distribution. We can also help resolve issues through mediation and other forms of alternative dispute resolution.


In Florida, there are two types of divorce: uncontested and contested. Uncontested divorce means that the spouses agree on all issues (e.g., timesharing with children, spousal support, division of property, child support.) Contested divorce means that the parties cannot agree upon one or more issues and the court must decide.

We understand that a divorce is a very difficult time for everyone involved. Our firm is ready to guide you through the entire divorce process, from distribution of assets and debts to child support, spousal support, and child custody. We provide compassionate, skilled representation through mediation when feasible to avoid the time and cost of trial, or through litigation if necessary.

Pre-Nuptial & Post-Nuptial Agreements

Pre-nuptial agreements are contracts that are entered into before marriage and specify the rights and obligations – such as division of assets and spousal support – of both parties in the event of death or divorce. Pre-nuptial agreements help protect assets and avoid time-consuming, costly litigation.

Post-nuptial agreements are similar to prenuptial agreements, except that they are entered into after a marriage. Post-nuptial agreements, including marital settlement agreements, specify the conditions of a divorce. These agreements often delineate division of real property and assets, support obligations, debt division, and attorney’s fees.

Spousal Support

In a divorce, if one spouse requires financial assistance from the other, the court may award spousal support, or alimony. The amount and duration of alimony is determined by factors such as financial need, the requesting spouse’s earning power, and length of the marriage.

Florida attorney Christopher J. Shipley is pleased to serve clients in a variety of family law matters. To schedule a consultation with an experienced Florida family law attorney, please call (352) 383-3397 or fill out and submit our online Contact Us page.

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