Category Archives:
Family Law

Two Attorneys Join Cleaveland & Cleaveland Team

We are excited to introduce Julia McLaughlin, Esquire, and Hillary Mesa, Esquire, who have recently joined the team at Cleaveland & Cleaveland, P.L.

Julia McLaughlin, Esquire, graduated from Princeton University in 1984, and from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1987. She became a member of the Wisconsin Bar in 1987, and the Pennsylvania Bar in 1987 and handled a variety of family law matters including divorce, parenting issues, child support, and prenuptial agreements. In 1998, Ms. McLaughlin joined the faculty of Villanova Law School, where she taught legal research and writing, and in 1999, joined the faculty of Widener University Law School, where she also taught legal writing. In 2004, she moved to Jacksonville, Florida, and joined the Florida Coastal School of Law faculty where she taught a wide variety of courses including Family Law, Children and the Law, Dependency Law, Juvenile Justice Administration, Domestic Violence, and Property Law. In 2015, she became a member of the Florida Bar.

Ms. McLaughlin has published widely in the area of family law and children’s rights. Some of her publications include: Taking Religion out of Divorce, 65 RUTGERS L. REV. 395 (2013); Exploring the First Amendment Rights of Teens in Relationship to Sexting and Censorship, 45 U. MICH. J. L. REFORM 315 (2012); Crime and Punishment: Teen Sexting in Context, 115 PENN. ST. L. REV. 135 (2010); The Fundamental Truth about Best Interests, 54 ST. LOUIS U.L.J. 113 (2009); 5) DOMA and the Constitutional Coming-out of Same-sex Marriage, 24 WIS. J.L GEN. & SOC’Y 145 (2009); Premarital Agreements & Choice of Law: “One, Two, Three, Baby You and Me,” 72  MO. L. REV. 793 (2007); Litigation Funding: Charting a Legal and Ethical Course, 31 VT. L. REV. 615 (2007); and Should Marital Property Rights Be Inalienable?  Preserving the Marriage Ante, 82 NEB. L. REV. 460 (2003).

Julia joined Cleaveland & Cleaveland, P.L. in 2018, where she brings over 30 years of legal and teaching experience to the practice, and will handle family matters such as divorce (including parental responsibility, equitable distribution, alimony, child support, and related issues), paternity (including parental responsibility, child support, and related issues), prenuptial agreements, postnuptial agreements, and family law appeals; and estate planning (including wills, trusts, advance directives, and power of attorney designations) and probate matters.

Hillary Mesa, Esquire, graduated with honors from the University of Florida, where she was a Dean’s List recipient, and received her law degree with honors from the University of Florida Levin College of Law, where she was a Dean’s List recipient, a student ambassador, and received book awards in Legal Research and Child, Parent, and State.

Ms. Mesa worked as a judicial extern for The Honorable Thomas M. Jaworski and as a legal extern in the felony division of the Crimes Against Women and Children Unit of the State Attorney’s Office.

She is a member of the Florida Bar, and is licensed to practice in the State of Florida, and the Middle District of Florida.

Hillary joined Cleaveland & Cleaveland, P.L. in 2018, and will handle consumer matters such as bankruptcy, debt defense, and foreclosure defense.

Posted in Alimony, Bankruptcy, Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, Debt, Divorce, Estate Planning, Family Law, Foreclosure Defense, Injunction, Paternity | Tagged , , , , , , , , , |

Timesharing Guidelines Change in Duval County, Clay County, and Nassau County

HomeworkWe all know a Dad who has his kids every other Friday to Sunday and one evening during the week. This schedule, commonly referred to as guideline visitation or guideline timesharing, has been the standard in Jacksonville, and throughout most of the state of Florida, for many years. Over the last several years, there have been significant changes to the laws regulating divorce and parentage. Recently, the timesharing guidelines in the Fourth Judicial Circuit (Duval County, Clay County, Nassau County) have been updated. Now, absent a compelling reason otherwise, judges are awarding the non-majority timesharing parent every other Friday evening through Monday morning and one overnight every week. This new schedule, including half the summer and sharing or alternating holidays, comprises roughly 40% of the time. While timesharing guidelines are not law, they represent the judiciary’s more modern approach to the division of time between parents. The updated timesharing guidelines can be found here.

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Posted in Divorce, Family Law, Paternity | Tagged , , , , |

Is it still cheaper to keep her? Alimony Reform in Florida

TheAlimony phrase “it’s cheaper to keep her” is often a reference to permanent alimony. Many people in Florida, primarily men, face the possibility of paying a large portion of their income to their spouse for the rest of their lives, in the event of a divorce. While permanent alimony can be awarded in any case, given certain circumstances, those who have been married for 17 years or more are at the highest risk.

However, Florida law makers are working to change that. In 2013, an alimony reform bill eliminating permanent alimony was passed by both houses, but was ultimately vetoed by the governor. This year, an amended version of the bill will be voted upon, and it is expected to pass.

Is it still cheaper to keep her? Maybe not for long.

The following link is to an article in the Orlando Sentinel about the upcoming vote on alimony reform:

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Posted in Alimony, Divorce, Family Law | Tagged , , , , , , , , , |

Sanctuary! When someone runs to the courthouse for an injunction or an order of protection…

GavelTemporary injunctions (or orders of protection) can become permanent in one short hearing before a judge. The petitioner is normally the person who files, and who is seeking protection from alleged domestic violence or stalking. The respondent (also known as the defendant) is the subject of the injunction – the person from whom the petitioner is seeking protection. Together, the petitioner and the respondent are known as the parties to the action.

While some petitioners are legitimately in fear for their safety, or even in actual danger, some are simply using the system to hurt the other person, or to gain exclusive use of the home. It is important to contact a Jacksonville injunction lawyer if you are in fear for your safety, or if you have been served with a temporary injunction.

Injunctions often severely limit the respondent’s rights and freedoms. For example, many injunctions include a no contact provision. A no contact provision prohibits the respondent from contacting the petitioner, directly or indirectly. Direct contact can be telephone calls, emails, and texting, among other things. Indirect contact is simply contact with the petitioner, through a third party. Even if the petitioner initiates the contact, the respondent can be held in violation if he or she responds.

As a consequence to a no contact provision, the respondent is generally required to leave the home, if the home is shared with the petitioner. Many times the parties share children, and leaving the home usually means leaving the children. Sometimes, although not always, the judge presiding over the injunction hearing will incorporate a timesharing schedule (formerly called visitation) or child support obligation. Usually, due to the nature of the proceedings, the parties have insufficient time to gather and present evidence to the Court that is vital to the determination of a timesharing schedule that is in the best interest of the children, or calculation of child support using the actual or imputed incomes of the parties and other factors that may vastly affect the child support obligation.

Another common provision of an order of protection is the distance the respondent must stay away from the petitioner. This provision greatly impacts the respondent’s freedom, since the distance the respondent must stay from the petitioner applies to all places, including public places, and places the respondent may frequent. For example, if the petitioner and the respondent attend the same church, the respondent will likely have to find another church in order to avoid violating the injunction by being, even unintentionally, within the stated radius of the petitioner. Likewise, if the respondent finds himself or herself at the same grocery store as the petitioner, the respondent must leave to avoid violating the injunction.

A lesser known provision of most injunctions is the prohibition of firearms. Many times the respondent is required to turn over his or her firearms to the police. Although many injunctions are not conducted in the criminal court, a public record is made of the injunction, which could affect one’s ability to obtain employment or future relationships.

Violating an injunction, or merely being accused of violating an injunction, can have serious consequences, such as potential incarceration.

It is very important that anyone in fear of his or her safety, as well as anyone served with a temporary injunction, contact a Jacksonville injunction attorney immediately to help ensure his or her rights are protected.


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Posted in Family Law, Injunction | Tagged , , , , , , |

Court Upholds Majority Timesharing for Father Due to Mother’s Past Behavior

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals for Florida upheld a paternity action which granted majority timesharing for a Flagler County dad due to a culmination of factors relating to the mother of the child’s behavior.

The Petitioner, Rachell Neuman, and Respondent, James Harper, conceived a child and lived together for a number of months prior to the birth of their child, P.N. During the pregnancy, the Petitioner repeatedly locked the Respondent out of the home and ultimately filed a domestic violence injunction for protection against the Respondent. Due to the injunction, the Respondent was unable to witness the birth of his child.

In addition, the Petitioner refused to acknowledge that the Respondent was the father of the child and for a period of eighteen months, refused to allow the Respondent to have any DNA testing done on the child, or to have any contact with the child.

When the Petitioner finally consented to the DNA testing of the child, the Petitioner took her nephew to the DNA testing facility instead of P.N. Following that test, the Respondent filed for a subsequent DNA test. At the second test, the Petitioner brought two children and eventually the correct child was identified and then tested. The second DNA test confirmed that the Respondent was indeed the father of P.N.

Eventually the Respondent hired a private investigator that discovered that the Petitioner smoked around P.N. (despite the child’s respiratory issues); was maintaining a residence with six animals in a small trailer; and had left her child wandering around in stores by himself on occasion.

The trial court determined that it would be in the best interest of the child to be in the primary custody of the Respondent. The Petitioner appealed the decision of the trial court. The Appellate Court upheld the timesharing decree by reasoning that under section 61.13(3) of the Florida Statutes, a trial court considers a multitude of factors in determining a timesharing arrangement. In this case, the Appellate Court found that the various factors relating to the Petitioner’s care for the child and disregard for the Respondent’s attempts to have a relationship with the child were sufficient for the trial court to determine that it was in the best interests of the child for the Respondent to be granted majority timesharing.

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Posted in Family Law | Tagged , , , |