Do Grandparents Have Rights?

In the intricate world of family law, a common question often asked is whether grandparents have custody or timesharing rights during a dissolution of marriage in Florida. The reality is that under Florida law, grandparents do not automatically possess inherent rights to custody or timesharing when their grandchildren’s parents are going through a divorce or separation.

Grandparents undoubtedly hold a special place in the lives of their grandchildren, providing invaluable love, support, and stability. However, when parents divorce, the legal process predominantly revolves around the rights of the parents and the best interests of the children. In Florida, the law does not inherently grant grandparents the legal right to seek custody or visitation (timesharing) of their grandchildren during divorce proceedings.

It’s essential to understand that Florida family courts prioritize parental rights when determining custody and timesharing arrangements. The court will evaluate various factors to establish what is in the best interests of the child, which may include:

  • Parental Fitness: Assessing each parent’s ability to meet the child’s physical, emotional, and developmental needs.
  • Historical Caregiving Relationship: Considering the historical relationship between the child and the grandparents, especially if the grandparents have been significantly involved in caregiving.
  • Evidence of Harm or Neglect: Examining any evidence of harm or neglect by a parent and its potential impact on custody decisions.
  • Child’s Preference: Taking into account the child’s age and maturity level, and considering their preferences.

The Impact of the “Markel Act” (HB 1119)

In 2022, Governor Ron DeSantis signed HB 1119, also known as the “Markel Act,” into law, which significantly impacts grandparent visitation rights in the state of Florida. This act allows for grandparent visitation only under specific circumstances, including when both parents are deceased, missing, or in a permanent vegetative state, or when one parent has been convicted of homicide against the other. Prior to this legislation, grandparents had very limited legal options in Florida.

In conclusion, grandparents do not automatically possess custody or timesharing rights in Florida. While the recent enactment of the “Markel Act” (HB 1119) has expanded legal options for grandparents seeking visitation, this is only under specific circumstances. It is critical for grandparents navigating these challenges to consult with a knowledgeable family law attorney to understand their legal rights and options.

For personalized legal advice or more information about grandparent rights and family law in Florida, please reach out to our experienced legal team at Johnson Ritchey Family Law Firm. We are here to provide guidance and s

Do I Need a Pre-nup?

In the realm of family law, the topic of pre-nuptial agreements (commonly referred to as pre-nups) often sparks debate and raises numerous questions. Many individuals wonder whether they truly need a pre-nup before tying the knot. In this blog, we’ll explore the intricacies of pre-nuptial agreements and help you determine whether getting one is the right choice for you.

Understanding Pre-nuptial Agreements

First and foremost, let’s clarify what a pre-nup is and what it entails. A pre-nuptial agreement is a legal contract made between two individuals before they get married. This agreement typically outlines how assets and debts will be divided in the event of divorce or death. Remember: A pre-nup is not a plan for what you have, it’s a plan for what you may have in the future.

Do You Need a Pre-nup?

The decision to get a pre-nup is highly personal and depends on various factors. Here are some scenarios in which obtaining a pre-nup might be advisable:

  1. Protecting Assets

If you or your partner have significant assets, such as real estate, investments, or business interests, a pre-nup can help safeguard these assets in the event of divorce. Without a pre-nup, these assets may be subject to division according to Florida’s marital property laws, which could result in an outcome that is less favorable to you.

  1. Clarifying Financial Responsibilities

A pre-nup can also clarify financial responsibilities during the marriage, including how expenses will be shared and whether one spouse will financially support the other in the event of divorce.

  1. Second Marriages

If you are entering into a second marriage and have children from a previous relationship, a pre-nup can help ensure that your children’s inheritance rights are protected.

  1. Business Ownership

If you own a business or are a partner in a business, a pre-nup can specify how the business will be treated in the event of divorce, helping to avoid potential conflicts and disruptions to the business operations.

While pre-nuptial agreements are not necessary for every couple, they can provide valuable protections and peace of mind, especially in situations involving significant assets, complex financial arrangements, or blended families. If you’re considering whether to get a pre-nup, it’s essential to consult with a qualified family law attorney who can assess your individual circumstances and help you make an informed decision.

In the end, the decision to get a pre-nup should be based on your unique situation, your financial goals, and your priorities as a couple. By carefully weighing the pros and cons and seeking professional guidance, you can make the choice that’s right for you and your partner.

Changes in Florida’s Natural Guardian Law and its Effects on Fathers

The State of Florida recently made a monumental change to its legal landscape with an amendment to Statute 744.301, a move that has major implications for fathers in Florida. This statutory change has stirred conversations regarding parental rights, familiar responsibilities, and the evolving dynamics of guardianship. Let’s explore its implications within the context of parental roles and obligations, particularly for fathers who are not married to their child’s mother. Previously, Florida Statute 744.301 designated the mother as the sole natural guardian, therefore relegating fathers to secondary position in matters of guardianship and parental rights. However, the recent amendment represents a paradigm shift, recognizing both parents as joint natural guardians by default.

For fathers, this statutory revision signifies a pivotal moment in the pursuit of equitable parental rights and responsibilities and a departure from outdated norms. It acknowledges he fundamental role fathers play in their children’s lives. By establishing joint natural guardianship, the law empowers fathers to assert their rights and actively participate in crucial decisions concerning their children’s upbringing, education, healthcare, and overall welfare Furthermore, the amended Florida Statute 744.301 underscores the importance of collaborative co-parenting, emphasizing the shared responsibility of both parents in nurturing and guiding their children. This shift aligns with contemporary understandings of child development, recognizing that children benefit most from meaningful relationships with both parents, regardless of marital status or living arrangements.

However, while the amendment represents a significant leap towards gender-neutral parental rights, challenges and concerns persist regarding its practical implementation and enforcement. Deep-seated societal biases and cultural stereotypes may pose barriers to fathers seeking to assert their newfound guardianship rights fully. Disparities in resources, living arrangements, and access to legal counsel may disproportionately affect certain fathers. Lastly, fathers will still have to take legal action to enforce their rights.

Moreover, its imperative to recognize that joint natural guardianship does not absolve parents of their responsibilities to prioritize the best interests of the child above all else. Factors such as domestic violence, substance abuse, or parental conflict must be carefully considered to ensure the safety and well-being of the children involved. While promoting shared parenting is commendable, its essential to strike a balance between parental rights and child protection, safeguarding vulnerable individuals from harm.

In conclusion, the amendment to Florida Statute 744.301 marks a significant milestone in the journey towards gender equality and parental parity within the legal system. By recognizing both parents as joint natural guardians, the law affirms the importance of paternal involvement in childrearing and challenges entrenches stereotypes that have long marginalized fathers in matters of guardianship and custody. However, realizing the full potential of this statutory revision requires ongoing efforts to address systemic barriers, promote parental cooperation, and prioritize children’s well-being above all else. As fathers navigate the complexities of co- parenting in the aftermath of this legislative change, their active engagement and commitment to their children’s upbringing will undoubtedly shape the landscape of family dynamics in Florida for generations to come.

Choosing Wisely: A Guide to Hiring an Exceptional Family Law Attorney

Navigating through the complexities of family law matters can be emotionally challenging, and having a skilled family law attorney by your side can make a significant difference. Choosing the right attorney is crucial to achieving a favorable outcome in your case. Here is your comprehensive guide on how to ensure you are hiring a great family law attorney.

Define Your Needs:

Before you start your search for an attorney, it’s essential to clearly define your needs. Family law encompasses a wide range of issues, including divorce, child custody, spousal support, and more. Understanding your specific requirements will help you find an attorney with the expertise relevant to your case.

Research and Referrals:

Begin your search by gathering recommendations from friends, family, or colleagues who have experienced similar legal issues. Additionally, conduct online research to identify potential attorneys in your area. Look for client reviews, testimonials, and any relevant information about their practice. Great resources include the attorney’s website,, and the Florida Bar Association.

Credentials and Experience:

Verify the attorney’s credentials and experience in family law. Check if they are licensed to practice in Florida on the Florida Bar’s website, where you will also discover if there have been any disciplinary actions or grievances against the attorney. A seasoned attorney with a successful history is more likely to navigate the intricacies of your situation effectively.

Communication Skills:

Effective communication is key in any legal proceeding. During initial consultations, pay attention to the attorney’s communication style. A great family law attorney should be an active listener, responsive to your concerns, and able to explain complex legal concepts in a way that you can understand.

Client-Focused Approach:

A good attorney prioritizes the needs and goals of their clients. Look for someone who genuinely cares about your well-being and is committed to achieving the best possible outcome for you and your family. Avoid attorneys who seem more interested in financial gains than your case.

Transparent Fee Structure:

Before finalizing your decision, discuss the attorney’s fee structure in detail. Ensure that it is transparent, and there are no hidden costs. Some attorneys may offer a fixed fee for specific services or hourly rates. Choose an attorney whose pricing aligns with your budget and expectations.

Conflict Resolution Skills:

Family law cases often involve emotions and conflicts. A great attorney should possess strong negotiation and mediation skills to facilitate amicable resolutions when possible. This can save you time, money, and emotional distress compared to going through a lengthy court battle.

Availability and Accessibility:

Consider the attorney’s availability and accessibility. Family law cases may require timely responses, and having an attorney who is accessible and responsive to your inquiries can make the legal process smoother.

Hiring a great family law attorney is a crucial step in securing a positive outcome in your case. By defining your needs, researching, evaluating credentials, and prioritizing effective communication and client-focused approaches, you can make an informed decision that aligns with your goals and values. Johnson Ritchey Family Law is committed to serving our clients with their family law needs.

Navigating the Path to Divorce: A Comprehensive Guide to Preparing for Your Legal Journey

The divorce process can often be a challenging time, both financially and emotionally. Proper preparation can make a significant difference in navigating the complexities of divorce proceedings. In this guide, we’ll explore essential steps for clients to consider before filing for divorce and how these preparations can positively impact their legal case.

Logistical Preparation

Gather important documents: Collect financial records, property deeds, tax returns, and any other relevant documents that may be required during divorce proceedings.

Create an inventory of assets and liabilities: Develop a comprehensive list of marital assets and debts to facilitate the property division process.

Pay attention to your monthly expenses to formulate a budget for both during and after the divorce.

Mental and Emotional Preparation

Seek emotional support: Finding friends and family who can provide a listening ear is often a huge asset during the dissolution process. Many people also find counseling or therapy to be very helpful in dealing with the stress and uncertainty often associated with divorce. A clear mindset can positively impact decision-making during legal proceedings.

Set realistic expectations: Understand the potential outcomes of the divorce and work towards accepting them. Realistic expectations can help manage stress and anxiety and often lead to a more efficient and reasonable resolution of your case.

Child Custody and Support Planning

Develop a parenting plan: Consider your children’s best interests when proposing a parenting plan. This can include timesharing schedules, holidays, and educational decisions. It is always a great step forward when parents can come together to resolve these issues for their children together.

Understand child support guidelines: Be aware of the factors that influence child support calculations and gather relevant information about your children’s needs.

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Options

Explore mediation or collaborative divorce: Understand alternative methods for dispute resolution that can be less adversarial and more amicable, saving time and money in the process.

Protect Your Digital Presence

Change passwords: Secure your online accounts to protect sensitive information from potential misuse during the divorce proceedings.

Social media usage: Be mindful of your online presence and its potential impact on your case.

Legal Consultation

Be prepared to discuss your goals: Clearly communicate your desired outcomes for the divorce, including parenting issues, alimony, child support, and property division.

Research family law attorneys: Find an experienced family law attorney. Schedule a consultation to discuss your situation and understand your rights and obligations. The attorneys at Johnson Ritchey Family Law are experienced in mediation, collaborative divorce, and litigation.


By approaching the divorce process with careful consideration and thorough preparation, clients can empower themselves to face the challenges ahead. Seeking legal guidance early on and taking proactive steps in logistical, financial, mental, and emotional aspects can contribute to a smoother and more successful divorce outcome. Our family law office is here to support clients at every stage of this journey, providing strategic advice and advocacy to help them move forward with confidence.

Tips for Developing Your Holiday Timesharing Plan

Holidays provide amazing opportunities to create lifelong memories for your family and your children. Make the most of the holidays by preparing your holiday timesharing plan with these tips in mind.

#1 –If you have very young children who are not in school, parents will often focus on dividing just the actual holidays between themselves in their parenting plan. But it’s important to keep in mind that the holiday timesharing schedule you create today, will still apply once your child starts school in the future. Once children are attending school, both parents usually want to take advantage of their child’s time off from their usual schedule of school and activities to spend quality time together over the holiday break. Instead of just splitting up the holidays, it is often best to focus on dividing the entire holiday break from school to maximize the time each parent gets with their child during this quality timesharing.

#2 – Be as specific as possible when developing holiday timesharing plans and avoid entering timesharing agreements with verbiage that states “Holiday timesharing to be agreed upon at a later date.” Open-ended timesharing plans are great when people are getting along, but vagueness only leaves room for confusion and resentment among parents and children alike.

How can this be avoided? Define drop-off and pick-up times and exchange locations for holiday timesharing. The more defined the agreement is up front, the less potential there is for arguing or conflict around the holidays, a time you should be enjoying with your family.

#3 – Don’t be afraid to celebrate the holiday on another day of the week on the years you don’t get the actual holiday. I’ve never heard anyone complain that they get two Christmases or two birthday parties. Your child will remember the magic of the holiday, not that the holiday was celebrated a day early or a day late.

#4 – If travel is required for the child to visit a parent, determine who is responsible for the cost of airfare, who needs to accompany the child during travel, or what age the child is allowed to travel as an unattended minor.

#5 – Many times, your child’s school will be closed during times that are not federally recognized holidays. Plan ahead and determine which parent will be responsible for childcare in these circumstances. If childcare costs will be incurred for school closures and/or holiday breaks, make sure to specify how these costs will be split between the parties.

Overall, the goal when coming up with your holiday timesharing schedule is to make sure you come up with a plan that will work for you and your family for years to come. Johnson Ritchey Family wishes everyone a happy and healthy holiday season!

Domestic Violence and Restraining Orders

Too often, a dissolution of marriage begins with an altercation of domestic violence. Domestic violence is defined as assault, aggravated assault, battery, aggravated battery, sexual assault, sexual battery, stalking, aggravated stalking, kidnapping, false imprisonment, or any other criminal offence resulting in physical injury or death of one family or household member by another family or household member.

If somebody has been the victim of domestic violence or is an imminent threat or fear of becoming a victim of domestic violence, that person should file a petition for injunction against domestic violence in order to obtain a restraining order. The filing party must prove that he/she was either a victim of domestic violence or is in fear of an imminent threat of violence. To prove that a victim is in fear of an imminent threat of violence, that threat must be actual. It must be a threat that can be carried out.

When a party files a petition for injunction for protection against domestic violence, the court is required to set a hearing within 14 days – meaning that you, the petitioner, must be ready to prove the domestic violence within 2 weeks of filing. The court will also decide whether to issue a temporary restraining order against the accused offender, which would force him/her to vacate your residence. For anyone who has received a temporary restraining order, you must be prepared to defend yourself in order to avoid a final injunction for protection against you in favor of the petitioner.

The lawyers at Johnson Ritchey Family Law Firm have extensive experience in litigation with domestic violence matters. Contact us today.

Give Giving a Go

In one of my recent collaborative cases, the parties were stuck negotiating between two numbers. They were not far apart, certainly not far apart enough to warrant litigating or even mediating. They were stuck and dug into their positions. Our very experienced team with excellent professionals was having difficulty getting them to move from their dug-in trenches. The settlement facilitator had a private meeting with both spouses. She reported back that she allowed them to each voice their concerns, discuss their perception of why what he/she was asking was fair. Each of them was heard by the other. At the end of that meeting, she asked each of them to approach the rest of the process from a perspective of what he/she could give, rather than what he/she could ask of the other. By focusing on what each was able to give we were able to resolve the case. Interestingly we ended up on one of the parties number, but that party was able to give on other issues that made the resolution possible.

This case reminded me of the principles taught by Bob Burg and John David Mann in The Go-Giver. If you have never met Joe in this parable be sure to check it out to see what he learns on his journey to uncover the following five principles.

  • The Law of Value: Your true worth is determined by how much more you give in value than you take in payment.
  • The Law of Compensation: Your income is determined by how many people you serve and how well you serve them.
  • The Law of Influence: Your influence is determined by how abundantly you place other people’s interests first.
  • The Law of Authenticity. The most valuable gift you have to offer is yourself.
  • The Law of Receptivity: The key to effective giving is to stay open to receiving.

By focusing on theses principles and on what you can give rather than what you can get, you can achieve success in business and life in a much more fulfilling way than by being a go-getter. You do not have to accumulate wealth or possessions to give something to someone. Everyone has the ability to give. It could be as small as a smile or a helping hand. Even though we are in a service industry, a lot of times it is easy to forget we are here to serve.

I challenge everyone to think about what you can give– in your relationships at home or at work, in your practice with your clients, employees and other professionals. I anticipate the results will surprise and please you.

Florida Alimony Reform: Permanent Alimony Eliminated

On July 1, 2023, Governor Ron DeSantis signed Senate Bill 1416 into law. SB 1416 permanently abolished permanent alimony. SB 1416 has substantially changed our alimony laws in Florida. The Court may award a combination of three (3) forms of alimony. The forms of alimony that may be awarded are bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative and durational alimony.

In a similar manner to the prior alimony statute, the Court must analyze each party’s need for and ability to pay alimony. The Court evaluates several factors in order to determine the alimony award. SB 1416 revised those factors to include an analysis of not only standard of living, but also future expected expenses. The mental condition of each party is now a factor along with prior factors of age, physical and emotional condition. And, SB 1416 provides for the Court to give special attention to a party’s care for a child that is mentally and/or physically disabled.

Upon a determination that there is a need and ability, the Court may award a combination of the various forms of alimony, in addition to temporary alimony during the pendency of the litigation. The forms of alimony have been reformed pursuant to SB 1416.

  • Bridge-the-gap alimony may not exceed two (2) years and is non modifiable in duration and amount. Bridge-the-gap alimony is for legitimate, identifiable short term needs.
  • Rehabilitative alimony may not exceed five (5) years and is modifiable in duration and amount. Rehabilitative alimony requires a plan.
  • Durational alimony cannot be awarded for a marriage of less than three (3) years. The length of durational alimony may not exceed 50% of the length of a short term marriage (3-10 years); 60% of the length of a moderate term marriage (10-20 years) and 75% of the length a long term marriage (20 plus years). The amount of durational alimony may not exceed 35% of the net difference between the payor spouse’s net income and recipient spouse’s net income.

The statute does not provide a cap on the amount of alimony, but rather guides the parties in that the payor may not be left with significantly less net income than the recipient. The Court may award alimony as a lump sum payment under certain circumstances.

The attorneys at Johnson Ritchey Family Law PLLC are highly skilled and competent to handle all alimony related issues in dissolution actions, including post-judgment modifications and enforcement actions that might be necessary.

Florida Academy Of Collaborative Professionals Launches Leadership Institute

The Florida Academy of Collaborative Professionals (FACP) has commenced its inaugural Leadership Institute. Members of the collaborative community were given the opportunity to apply to be a part of the Institute. The FACP Leadership Institute Committee received more applications than they had seats. Christen Ritchey was chosen as a fellow for the inaugural Leadership Institute. The Institute is designed to provide an opportunity for select FACP members to build upon existing leadership skills while helping them develop professional networks within Florida’s collaborative community. Former FACP President Edward Sachs explained of the Institute “We want our best and brightest to serve as beacons for peaceful problem-solving in their communities.”

Participants convened for their first session at the FACP’s annual conference in May and will continue to meet throughout the year. The participants will engage in leadership seminars, educational forums, small group workshops and team building. This experience will be rewarding and educational; Johnson & Ritchey PA is proud Christen will be a part of it.

Collaborative dispute resolution is growing much more popular in South Florida. Many families are choosing to use this alternative dispute resolution process to settle their matters. In addition practitioners are utilizing the process for probate matters and business disputes. Any dispute that involves parties who may want to preserve relationships at the end of their dispute would be served well by this process. The FACP and the Leadership Institute will provide advanced skills to practitioners working in this field.