Family Law Attorney in Fort Myers

Family law cases like divorce and child custody are complicated and emotional.  The Florida laws surrounding them are even more complex.  If you are in the middle of a legal separation, divorce, or child custody dispute, then you may feel overwhelmed with all the workings of the court system.  Fortunately, with the help of an aggressive Fort Myers, FL family law attorney, you can get all the information you need to know about your legal issue.

Patrick McLain Law is ready to represent you. We are knowledgeable, experienced, and ready to help you. We’ll give you the information you need to know about your case and can represent you in all of your family law matters in a confidential attorney-client relationship.

What You Should Know About Divorce in Fort Myers

In 2020, the divorce rate in Fort Myers was 16%. Therefore, it should be no surprise that divorce is one of the city’s most common family law issues. Many couples struggle to deal with the end of their marriage.

Whether you’re considering a divorce or you’ve already started the process, there are a few things you should know about Florida divorce laws.

Divorce rates infographic

Florida is a No-Fault State

Florida is a no-fault divorce state.  This means that the Florida court does not consider who is responsible for the divorce.  Even if someone were abusive or unfaithful, the family law judge would not consider such facts in making decisions, such as the amount of alimony. As long as one individual admits that the marriage is irretrievably broken, the couple may begin the divorce process. 

Uncontested and Contested Divorce​

In Florida, there are two basic types of divorce. First, there’s an uncontested divorce. This occurs when both parties are willing and able to work together to resolve the divorce. They agree on all terms of the divorce, from child custody to property distribution. 

Contested divorces, however, are more complex as these are cases in which a party disagrees with at least some of the major issues. They may only be in disagreement about some terms or all of them. In any case, the dissent lengthens the divorce process. A lawyer is often necessary in family law cases where one party is disagreeable or difficult.  

If you and your spouse cannot come to an agreement in mediation, you’ll need to go to court. A judge will be the one to decide the outcome of your divorce. 


Alimony, or spousal maintenance, is payment from the higher-earning spouse to the lower-earning spouse to help the other party get back on their feet after a divorce. For example, one spouse may have quit their job to take care of the household. While that spouse tries to build new skills or find a new job, alimony helps support them. Typically, alimony is only temporary. 

Alimony could be given in monthly payments or in one lump sum. Before determining alimony, the court looks at many factors that include both spouse’s income, education, and contribution to the household. A person requesting alimony should contact a Fort Myers, Fl Family lawyer to ensure they have the best chance to receive what they are entitled to.  

What You Should Know About Child Custody in Fort Myers

Child custody is another common family law issue in Southwest Florida. Although many people think of child custody as a family law issue, this isn’t always the case. If a couple never married, they can share custody of a child.

Typically, child custody is one of the most heated issues in family law. Custody disputes are often emotional and result in both parties fighting for the rights of their child. If you and the other parent cannot agree on a custody arrangement, the court will decide.

The Court Favors Joint Legal Custody

The Florida court system favors joint legal custody. Florida Law favors shared parental custody unless it finds that such an arrangement would be detrimental to the child. However, this doesn’t mean that every case ends with each parent getting the child 50% of the time. The court assesses each situation and tries to do what’s in the best interest of the child. If there are special circumstances in your case, you could get more time with the child.

Legal custody refers to the decision-making ability of a parent. Typically, this is shared by both parents. Each parent has a say in the discipline, education, and medical care of the child. On the other hand, physical custody refers to the time a parent spends with the child. One parent could receive physical custody but no legal custody. 

The Court Looks at the Child’s Best Interest

upset new family

Despite favoring a 50/50 child custody agreement, the court does put the best interest of the child first. They consider all of the following details:

  • Health and safety of the child
  • Developmental needs of the child
  • Moral fitness of each parent
  • Location of each parent

If you want to prove it’s in the child’s best interest to spend more time with you, then you need to build a strong legal argument. The court does not take child custody lightly and wants firm evidence that the outcome you want is best for the child. 

Child Support is Required

According to Florida law, both parents need to provide for their child financially. This is the case even if one parent receives no parenting time with the child. 

To determine child support, the court uses a complex formula. They consider each parent’s income, the costs of the child’s medical and actual care, and the standard needs of the child. If you believe that you are receiving too little in support or paying too much in support, you could go to court to change your agreement. An attorney could petition to have your child support agreement modified based on a change in circumstances. If you have no legal child support agreement, you can work with an attorney to have a legally binding agreement.

FAQ About Fort Myers Family Law:

I am getting divorced. Do I need an attorney?

Nobody is required to have an attorney. A person is allowed to go pros se, which means to represent themselves. However, divorce and custody cases are very complex and difficult. Additionally, emotions could become involved and hinder one’s ability to concentrate on the issues.  A Florida family attorney will be able to focus on the law, procedures, and deadlines in order to do what is needed for a favorable outcome.  

What is joint custody?

In Florida, joint custody, or shared parental responsibility, refers to the arrangement where both parents share in decision-making in regards to their child.  This means both parents share responsibility in making major decisions, such as education and medical care.  

Do I have to go to court?

Not necessarily.  Many times, people make settlements or agreements through mediation. These would eliminate the need to go to trial.  Going to court will be more likely if your spouse is difficult or angry.  If you still have a great relationship, it might be possible to make an agreement between yourselves.  Other times, one does have to go to court to fight for a fair decision for their children and family.   

What happens if we cannot agree with whom the children should live?

The case will go to court and a family law judge will decide if the parties cannot agree on where and who the children will live with.  The court will hold a trial to determine an arrangement by looking at any factors that are in the best interest of the child, as found in Florida Statute 61.13 (3).  As previously stated, the presumption is that a child will benefit from time spent with each parent.  However, a Florida family law judge has wide discretion at looking at the factors, so it is best you prepare your best case with help from a family law attorney.  

What rights do unmarried  fathers have to their children in Florida?

Unmarried fathers have no legal rights to custody until paternity is established.  A father may declare paternity at birth by signing the child’s birth certificate.  Other times, a paternity action could be filed in court. A DNA test might be required to determine paternity.  Once paternity is established, then the father will be allowed to have parenting time with the child and a custody arrangement.  Additionally, the father will also be required to pay child support.  

At what age can my child decide with which parent they want to live in Florida?

As a child gets older, their opinions will bear more weight in family law proceedings. A judge will take your teenage or adolescent child’s testimony into consideration. However, your child won’t be able to decide which parent they want to live with until they’re of the legal age of 18.

How much does a Fort Myers family lawyer cost?

Fort Myer family attorney costs vary but most charge a retainer in advance, and the hourly rate is subtracted as they work through your case. Even though hourly rates are some of the most common, each attorney uses their own pricing structure, including which legal fees and services they’ll provide. You can discuss finances and payments when you speak to an attorney at a consultation.  

What makes a parent unfit to raise a child in Florida?

Florida Statute 751.05 states that a parent can be found unfit if they have abused, neglected, or abandoned the child. A parent could also be found unfit if they have a prevalent history of drug abuse or mental illness. In these cases, an unfit parent will face consequences such as limited parenting time, supervised visitation, or even loss of custody. If you have been accused of child neglect, you should immediately seek advice from a Florida family lawyer to fight the allegations.  

Can parents legally keep their children away from one another?

Parents cannot prevent their child from seeing the other parent unless there is a court order that states otherwise. Parents with justifiable reasons for wanting to keep their children away have to bring their concerns to the court’s attention, seek an appropriate child custody judgment, and obtain new visitation orders. 

Get the Guidance and Representation You Deserve with a Fort Myers Family Law Attorney

According to U.S. Census data from 2015 to 2019, there were 30,265 households in Fort Myers. While some of those households lived in harmony, others did not. Issues like divorce and custody battles are common occurrences in the city.  However, you do not have to do it alone. 

If you are in the midst of a family law situation such as divorce or child custody, you need the help of an experienced Fort Myers family law attorney.  You and your family deserve to be happy. Patrick McLain Law is dedicated to serving the residents of Southwest Florida. Whatever your family law needs may be, Esq. Patrick McLain is ready to help. Contact the office today and learn more.