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Attorney Victoria Morales Facebook Linkedin Avvo Directory Justia Lawyers
Law Office of Victoria Morales, P.A.
victoriamoraleslegal@gmail.com
Phone: (954) 646 - 4292
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Family Law
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Family Law cases start when you receive a formal communication stating that a family lawsuit has been filed against you.

The County Clerk of Court’s public records will correspondingly show that a family lawsuit has been filed against you with the Court. Take a note of the case number and of the date when it was filed. When the lawsuit is first entered, the court papers have to be delivered to you personally and after that, you have a deadline to respond in 20 days.

At this point you might want to call me at (954) 646 - 4292 to verify your case information with the Clerk of the Courts, and to answer any questions that you may have regarding it.

Timing is everything

It is important for you to file a timely written response with the Court, as is required, so that your best interest and your position are considered and taken into account by the Court. If you don’t answer on time, the Court has no way of knowing your side of the story, and may enter what is called a “default”, which means that whatever the other party is saying is admitted as true, and the Court will rule without your say in the matter.

When the Court makes its ruling or judgment, it will be binding and mandatory to you unless it is vacated, and it could impact you, your income, your property, and your relationship with your children.

When you are personally served with the complaint, that is, the court papers, you may want to handle this matter by yourself or you may want to call an attorney right away. If you choose to handle the matter on your own, all court procedures need to be complied with, all requirements satisfied, in order for your case to run smoothly and have the best outcome possible.

However, you should consider what is in your best interest. It is a lot to handle and it can be overwhelming, and because you have never done it before, you may end up with an outcome that is not in your best interest and could have been avoided. There are issues in a family court proceeding that are better handled with the expertise and clever wit of a lawyer who not only has handled these issues many times before, but also has the detachment and training to foresee matters that may appear years down the road after a separation, which are crucial at later times in the children’s and former spouses’ lives.

How bad can it be?

At stake is your income, your assets, and, most importantly, your children, if you have children. You will be setting the ground upon which your life will develop for years to come. A family court proceeding like this one, will decide what amount of child support your kids are entitled to and what is each parent’s financial responsibility, depending on their income and financial situation. The court will also rule on the time you and your children will spend together every week, every day, every holiday, every summer, every winter break and spring break. Who will make the decisions on their education, their health, their out of school activities? The property and assets acquired during the marriage will be split, as will the debts that have been incurred during the marriage. How will the property be split, who will get to cover the debts? Spousal support or alimony may be awarded to a spouse that needs it, to be provided by the spouse that is able to deliver it. For how long will the able spouse be required to provide to the needing spouse? Months? Years? What factors need to be shown to the court for it to make a fair adjudication?

Ideally, all these matters should be decided by the spousal parties or the parents in an amicable and mutually agreeable environment, which benefits all in the family. However, it is often the case that the conflicts that led to the decision to part ways in the first place, get in the way of reaching a mutually beneficial agreement, and communication and meetings between the separating spouses become bitter, aggressive and unproductive. You need help, someone to act and talk on your behalf who has your best interest at heart, someone whose job is to defend you fiercely, someone to represent your side before the judge in such a way that the judge can see clearly both parties’ positions and is then able to adjudicate fairly because all the facts and circumstances were unmistakably evident.

My qualifications and experience

I earned a Juris Doctor degree from the Florida International University (FIU) College of Law in December of 2011. I was admitted to practice law to the Florida Bar, becoming an attorney at law in September of 2012, and I have been practicing law since then, undertaking several areas of the law.

My practice focuses on family law cases, handling dissolutions of marriage, child custody, child support, modifications, and enforcement of judgments. One of the first cases I took was a custody case, in which a single mother had been stripped of the custody of her little girl by her own mother, the grandmother, fraudulently. Generally, the law in Florida is on the mother’s side to get the custody back. However, even though she petitioned the Court, all kinds of delays and obstacles were raised by the judicial system, obviously siding with the grandmother against the single mom. She came to me for help. It appeared to be a straightforward case, with the law on my client’s side. However, it took a lot of lawyering to finally force the Court to grant the custody back to my client. The standard to decide on a case involving children is the “best interest of the child.” According to the law, several factors need to be taken into account to decide what is the best interest of the child in a particular situation, and ultimately it is at the discretion of the Court to decide if the parent is “detrimental” to the child. The Court had taken the side of the grandmother in this case, even though grandparent have no rights over children in Florida. So, whatever argument was raised on behalf of my client, the Court had the discretion of throwing it out saying it was in the best interest of the child. So, my client was in a bind. Family law is governed by state laws in the United States, and state courts have the last word in a family case. So, my client was stuck with the Court’s prejudice against her as a young single mother.

Justice for all

I did not give up. How could I? She is the mother! And there was not a shred of evidence that she was detrimental to her daughter. Law is my second career. I am a philosophy professor, and the additional training I have in ethics, philosophy and analytical thinking, does not allow me to accept a state of affairs that I see as immoral and unjust. So, I kept digging, and found a way out. Constitutional rights are the law of the nation, and all courts have to abide by them. Parental rights have been ruled constitutional rights by the United States Supreme Court. When a constitutional right is at stake, the standard of review to infringe upon a constitutional right is very strict, it is called “strict scrutiny”, and the evidence brought in to support the infringement has to be “clear and convincing”, which is the highest level of proof. That is what I finally argued to the Judge on behalf of my client. The Judge resisted. She called the grandmother to testify and questioned her trying to extract clear and convincing evidence that my client was detrimental to her daughter. All the grandmother could say to the Judge was that she did not approve of her daughter’s friends. The Judge had no discretion in this case, she was obligated to abide by the law of the nation, despite her own inclination to deny my client’s right to the custody of her daughter. My client walked out of the Court with her daughter’s custody back, granted by an unwilling judge.

Complex cases

My clients also benefit from the fact that I have a practice in which I handle a diversity of matters. In a dissolution of marriage case, where my client was seeking not only child support but also alimony from an adulterous and fleeing husband, with my assistance she not only obtained the child support and alimony she was looking for to be able to study and get the training she needed to re-enter the work force, and a vehicle for her daughter. Additionally, I assisted her in a separate foreclosure case, and negotiated with the bank that was foreclosing on the marital home. I got a settlement that gave her $5,000 for moving expenses, because I also practice foreclosure defense, and handle settlements with creditors. She now lives in a nice apartment that she can afford because of her job, with her daughter who goes to college and has a part time job and gets around in her own car. They no longer receive the financial support because it was temporary. But now they are self-sustaining. The money they received with my legal assistance, allowed them to set up the livelihood they needed.

The diversity of my law practice and training give me a view that can go beyond the role of attorney in defending a client. My client, Paulette said to me the other day, “You are more than a lawyer.” And she is right, I try to be when advocating for my client. An elderly client came to me for help because he was losing his condo. Two foreclosures were filed against him. He had not paid homeowner’s association regularly for years, after the death of his wife, even though he had entered into several payment agreements which he tried to honor. The bank with which my client had a reverse mortgage was foreclosing also because my client had defaulted on the real property taxes and insurance. I did what I normally do in a case like this. I reached out to the creditors for a settlement. When they did not want to settle, my client filed a bankruptcy to pay the bank and strip the association’s debt as a secondary lien on a homestead property with no equity left after the first mortgage, in the bankruptcy. Unfortunately, shortly after filing, my client was not able to make the payments in the bankruptcy because he was getting less and less hours at his part time job. His bankruptcy case was dismissed and the two creditors on the condo aggressively continued the foreclosures. I was desperate. My 83-year-old client, diagnosed with a critical disease that required surgery, was going to be homeless! It was inevitable. My role as his attorney was fulfilled. There was nothing else the law could do.

More than law

But I kept looking and found what I was looking for outside of the law. A very discreet assistance program handled by the State of Florida with Federal funds, that provides financial assistance to elderly homeowners that are delinquent and unable to pay debts on their property, with very stringent conditions to qualify. My client applied. Fortunately, he was eligible and the process to approve him began. It was lengthy. Several times I had to request the Court to postpone the foreclosure sale of the association, because of the application in process. The association objected, but the Judge allowed the postponement imposing certain conditions on my client. Finally, the assistance was approved and the day before the last foreclosure sale the association was paid off in full, and in the following weeks, the bank was also paid off. My client got over $49,000 to clear the debts on his home, and he will not be homeless if he keeps making the association’s monthly payments. He will be able to get his surgery now without worrying that he will have no home to come back to.

Even though at the beginning I concentrated primarily on bankruptcy law, my clients’ needs took me to other areas of law to assist them on their legal issues. Family and debt matters, including foreclosure and debt defense, negotiating settlements with creditors and the IRS, and loan modifications, and general civil litigation, both from the defendant and the plaintiff side are now my practice. I also handle estate planning, wills, trusts, and probate cases, related to the family’s assets. More recently, business law has been incorporated to the practice, assisting small business clients with their legal needs, too. My compass is my clients’ needs. Like many attorneys, my intention when going into law was to defend people, to protect them and their assets for themselves and their loved ones, and it is my actual goal to bring peace and stability to a family in distress. I care about my client's welfare and peace of mind, and extensively engage in the relationship with the client, continuously discussing strategies with clients throughout the life of a case, and their overall situation and legal needs.

Call me

Call me at (954) 646 - 4292. I will speak with you, in person or by phone, for an hour of initial consultation, where we will go extensively over your whole situation and predicament, free of charge. I will explain to you the requirements and consequences of different strategies. I will tell you for which strategy you qualify. And I will let you know what my legal fees and other costs may be for your case.

I have affordable plans for legal fees. Not only that. When a client hires me for a family matter, the client will also receive the benefit of my law expertise in other areas that may have potential consequences derived from the overlap of matters.

The free consultation does not put you under any obligation to me. You are free to get other opinions and decide after you have shopped around. I really hope to hear from you. I look forward to helping you out. Call me.