Category: Family Law


Custody Issues with Relocation

We live in a world that changes very rapidly; it used to be that you were born, lived and died in the same home town.  Now we have become a migratory people. We are also more aware of other locales as we have become interconnected via the internet and smart phones, causing us to have knowledge that it is possible to move to a different area with relative ease.

In our nation, this ease of transportation has become a necessity particularly since the market crash of 2008 and the continuing reformation of our employment opportunities. We now have whole families moving rather frequently because they must leave in order to find work.

These days I am asked frequently how relocating works when you have a custody decree of some nature and now need to move. And how does this affect a divorced spouse who has timeshare with the children when they find the only job they can find is in another state?

The first move here in Florida is to notify the other spouse you want to relocate by filing a Petition for Relocation.  It does not matter if you are the majority timeshare parent or if you are the parent with the more limited timeshare schedule.  If you are going to relocate you must file the Petition for Relocation.  How do you know if your move is one that requires you to take action?

Florida Statutes Section 61.13001 defines relocation to mean a change in the location of your principal residence or of any parent€™s principal residence from where they lived at the time a custody order was entered.

Does the distance and time of my relocation matter? Yes.  You will fall under the statute if you move at least 50 miles away for at least 60 consecutive days not including on a temporary basis for purposes of vacation, education, or the provision of health care for the child.

Once you have decided that you fall under the provisions of the relocation statute you must then file a Petition for Relocation with the court and serve it on your spouse.  This statute is one of the most technical statutes we have in family law matter. You may want to consider pulling statute Section 61.13001 off the internet and reviewing it and following it very carefully.  I know that may seem overwhelming to you therefore, it you need to you can visit my web site  Once there you can select an option of obtaining my services through my secure portal and Carroll Law, P.A. can help you if you have some very specific questions but do not feel you need to hire an attorney to do the whole law suit for you.  By entering my secure portal you will have the ability to select how much help you can afford on an action by action basis.

In my secure portal, I can explain to you that once your Petition for Relocation is served on your spouse, you will need to wait 20 days to see if there is a verified objection filed by your spouse.  If the spouse does not contest or object to you relocating then you can take the matter straight to the Judge without an evidentiary hearing.  All that has to happen is the final order gets signed without the need for a hearing.

If the spouse does object then you have the right to have a temporary hearing within 30 days on whether or not you can move on a temporary basis.  You will eventually need a permanent hearing, but because employment opportunities do not sit around waiting on you to get a court ruling to let you move, the Florida Legislature put the speedy hearing date for a temporary relocation into the statue.

If you find yourself in a position where you must seek a full trial on whether or not you can relocate, then the best thing is to seek legal counsel.  As previously mentioned it is a tricky statute and a mere technically could throw your whole move out of the courthouse, back to square one.

Should you find yourself in a position where you need to relocate or just desire to relocate maybe to move closer to family or otherwise, please come and see me:

Carroll Law, P.A.
304 Harrison Avenue
Panama City, FL 32401

Call us @ 850-785-9005 or visit with us at

I and my staff stand ready to help you prepare for this next great move in your life.

Respectfully Submitted

Susan V. Carroll, Esquire

Broken Red Heart

The Pressure of Valentine

The heavy weight of loneliness can be suffocating, especially for those going through a divorce. Many don’t recognize that the death of a relationship elicits many of the same emotions as a physical death. However, instead of getting sympathy from friends and family, divorce often cuts a swath of destruction in many relationships for a multitude of reasons. Instead of comfort, many receive judgement and criticism. Loneliness compounded by rejection and strife on top of major change results in hurting people.

Holidays are often especially difficult for those who are hurting. It’s easy to assume that everyone else is happy and secure. Of course, this image is largely a function of the media and not necessarily based in reality. Valentine’s Day is accompanied by images of laughing couples and happy families, accentuating the loneliness a divorcee is feeling.

Here are three ways to combat feelings of isolation, on Valentine’s Day or any other day.

1. Refuse to play the comparison game. Write down the things you are thankful for and focus on what you have, not what others have. Put your list in your pocket and look at it throughout the day. When your mind starts to go down the path of longing for what others seem to have, rein in that thinking by reading your list.

2. Make a plan to do three random acts of kindness today. Look for opportunities to put a smile on someone else’s face.

3. Be kind to yourself. Indulge yourself in a treat. It doesn’t need to involve a big expense. Buy a book, take a walk in the park with your dog, or call a friend you’ve missed and haven’t taken time to connect with. Intentionally choose to do something that brings you pleasure.

There is no easy way to work through the pain of divorce. It takes time for a damaged heart to heal. Day by day, you are getting stronger. May you experience comfort in the unfailing love of God, today and every day.

Preparing for a Deposition

A “deposition” is witness’s sworn out-of-court testimony. The testimony is taken down by a court reporter who will then prepare a transcript that is used in trial preparation. A deposition is used to gather information as part of the “discovery” process and, in limited circumstances, may be used at trial. The witness being deposed is called the “deponent.”

Many clients get quite nervous in anticipation of a deposition and understandably so. Susan V. Carroll, of Carroll Law, P.A., educates her clients regarding what to expect.

Knowledge is power.

You are now able to glean the wisdom of Ms. Carroll’s years of legal experience in preparing clients for a deposition through this valuable recorded session.

See related post on “What Is a Deposition”

Key Factors To Discuss With Your Divorce Attorney

magnifying-glass Just the Facts and only the Facts, Please!

When you think about divorce cases you may think, “Are they not all the same?” The answer to this is: “No, they are not!” Each case, whether it has custody issues, alimony issues, equitable dissolution issues or even is just a plain uncontested settlement matter is what we call, “Fact Driven.” Therefore, the facts of a case become very important.

I remember once when I was in a final hearing (trial) and my client was testifying. Prior to the trial, we had conducted discovery, taken depositions and gone through mediation, so I thought I knew basically everything I needed to know about my client, until I heard my client ask the opposing counsel on cross examination whether he was inquiring about the child at issue or his other child. Well, I can tell you I did a double-take because this was the first time I had heard about any “other child.” I immediately asked for a break to determine what was going on. When I questioned my client he told me he never thought about telling me about this other child, because I never asked! I explained to him that every form he ever filled out asked about all children. He then said he just really had not wanted to get into a discussion about a child who was not part of this case. As you can imagine this was not the answer I wanted to hear.

The facts you tell your attorney are extremely important and if in doubt you should tell ALL. EVERYTHING about your life might be relevant to your attorney whether you think it is important or not. Let your attorney decide the level of importance and then you can both work together to figure out how you are going to present the facts to the court. Based upon this thought I would like to share with you some of the IMPORTANT things you need to tell your attorney even if they forget to ask!
This list is not in order of importance, but these are some of the things you should make sure your attorney knows:
1. Tell your attorney about any and all criminal actions you have ever been involved in. This is one of my favorites – I was conducting an initial client interview and we were discussing at length his options regarding obtaining full custody of the children. I was thinking we maybe should even seek sole custody. Right before the interview was about to conclude the client said that maybe he should ask me if I thought his criminal history might have any bearing on the case. I was needless to say somewhat stunned when I realized that there was a page long rap sheet on the client. The moral of this story is always tell your attorney about any criminal actions you have been involved in whether or not there was a conviction or pre-trial release, arrest or even warrants issued. Do not forget any juvenile issues or records you consider “sealed.” My motto is that if it happened, someone will remember it and it will come out. I want to be the one to decide when this happens – not leave it up to opposing counsel.

2. Are you dating another client of the attorney? For example, if your girlfriend said, “Go see my attorney, she is awesome.€ So you come to talk with me and yet both of you forget to tell me you are dating one of my clients. Then at trial the other side calls your girlfriend who is now mad at you and hates your guts to come and testify against you. At that point I may have to recuse myself from both cases because I cannot put one of my clients on the stand and ask questions that may be adverse to them. It becomes a very sticky wicket, so to speak.

3. Tell your attorney about things you would rather keep hidden. I want to know every “skeleton€ hanging in your closet. If I know about an issue in your life, then I have the possibility to mitigate the potential damage. If I do not know about it then I just get blindsided and become less effective on your behalf. So, if you have been Baker Acted, Marchman Acted, spent time in any mental health clinic, for any type of mental or drug and/or alcohol use then I need to know. This is definitely a “need to know item. Will it necessarily be damaging to your case? That will depend on the FACTS but if I know about it I can show the court how well you are doing even with past issues and in this manner seek to overcome any potential problems.

4. Discuss any litigation you have ever been involved in of any type. This can become important if perhaps you are in a social security disability lawsuit or a personal injury lawsuit or a lawsuit involving employment or even your children. The outcome of these cases could change the way we file or litigate the matter. If you have been involved in other litigation in the past it is helpful for me to know what happened and the result. Once again do not think ANYTHING is unimportant, let me be the judge of that.

5. What is the worst thing that has ever been said about you? One question I always want to know is “What is the worst thing the other side is going to say about you and is it true? If you do not tell me that you have an anger problem and then the next thing I know is we are being hit with a tort action in the divorce case for battery because you recently beat up your wife and she is now claiming a head injury I am going to be upset and wonder what else you have not told me. This does not give me warm fuzzy feelings and makes me begin to question everything you are telling me. If I can get to that stage in how I am thinking about you, then what do you think a Judge will think? It’s just not a good idea to tell your attorney that you are a perfect angel and then get run over with allegations of maybe sex addictions, or child porn or gambling debts or spending problems or anything along these lines. Tell me please what the issues are going to be, so I can help you. There is an old saying that goes like this, “Knowledge is power. If you give me the knowledge about your case, I am empowered to advocate on your behalf. Without the knowledge I have no power to intercede where or when necessary. I promise you I am not making moral judgments on you or personal calls about how you live your life. I am trying to get the FACTS, so I can represent you to the best of my ability. Don’t handicap me from the beginning of the case.

6. Never lie to your attorney. I wish I had a dime for every client who sits in front of my desk and tells me that they will NOT TEST positive for drug use and then when I tell them, “Great, go right now to the clinic and take a “pee test” they began to explain to me all the reasons why they can’t go for at least three more days. I know right away that they are not telling me the truth about their drug use. DO NOT LIE TO YOUR ATTORNEY. This really should have been one of the Ten Commandments. I promise you someone out there knows and if the opposing counsel can find that person or document they usually will. I know and understand that this is a really hard thing to do; spilling your innermost secrets with an attorney you are not even sure you like, but I promise you it is in your best interest to come clean at this stage of the game.

Finally, while this is certainly not the last issue, it is enough for today. I really do have your best interest at heart. I care about my clients, I want you to get the best results possible and I want you to be able to move on with your life without any fears holding you back at the end of the case. As we work together through your case, I and my staff will come to know more about you than your own mother. So remember, I am not your enemy, I am your advocate seeking to help you in every way I can and for this I need you to keep me informed, up to date and current on what is going on in your life and mindful of the advice I give you during the course of the litigation. If we work together as a team we will be stronger.

Susan V. Carroll, Esquire

Salute to Those who Labor

If you think Labor Day is a distinctly American holiday, think again. It actually originated in Canada in 1882 and was quickly adopted by the United States. Interestingly, the form that the observance and celebration should take was actually outlined in the first proposal of what became a legal holiday.

According to the United Stated Department of Labor site, the holiday originally included a street parade to exhibit to the public “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations” of the community, followed by a festival for the recreation and amusement of  workers and their families. Later, speeches by prominent men and women of the community were added to emphasize the economic and civic significance of the holiday. Traditions change and very few of us will be attending any parades today.

So what are we doing?

Labor Day has come to be recognized as a day of rest and celebration. Here in Panama City, our hotels and beaches are packed as tourists celebrate the last weekend of summer.  Ironically, this means longer hours for those employed in the hospitality industry.  It’s also a weekend that retailers offer big sales promotions.  Retail employment makes up about 24% of all jobs in the United States.

Unemployment continues to be a major problem as economic recovery remains elusive.  Since money problems rank in the top 3 causes of divorce, our Family Law practice sees the very real toll  unemployment takes on marriage and families.

If you are currently employed, be thankful not only for a day off, but for the provision of your job. And if you are among the approximately 8.2% of Americans currently unemployed, our wish for you is that the fall season will bring you the opportunity you have been seeking.

To all, we wish a safe and happy Labor Day.

Civil Division in Bay County

Courtroom Conduct


The Judges and Hearing Officer(s) assigned to the Civil Division in Bay County expect that all litigants, whether or not they are represented by attorneys, will conduct themselves in an appropriate fashion so that all parties will be afforded a fair opportunity to present their case.

The following are meant to assist you in meeting appropriate standards of conduct when you appear in court.

1. Be Truthful in all statements that you make in court. False statements under oath constitute perjury which is a criminal offense.

2. Do not call or write the judge. As a general rule, documents and testimony can be read or heard by the Judge only when in the presence of both parties.

3. Be courteous. Do not interrupt anyone who is speaking. If we have an objection to something a witness says, your attorney will say, AObjection@, and the court will allow her to state the nature of the objection.

4. Treat all the court personnel with respect, including bailiffs, judicial assistants, clerks, court investigators, self-help personnel, judges and hearing officers.

5. Do not make faces or gestures at the opposing party, his or her attorney, witnesses or the Judge while in the courtroom or the Judge=s chambers. Speak directly to the Judge or your attorney, not to the opposing party or a witness. You will be given an opportunity to be heard in court.

6. Show your respect for the court by wearing appropriate attire. Do not come to court in shorts, tank tops, blue jeans, T-shirts, or sneakers.

7. Do not bring food or beverages into the courtroom and do not chew gum or eat candy in the courtroom.

8. Make arrangements for someone to care for your children prior to appearing in court. DO NOT BRING CHILDREN TO COURT without prior order signed by the Judge.

9. Be aware that witnesses you bring to court are not usually permitted to remain in the courtroom while you, your spouse or former spouse or other witnesses will testify.

10. The courthouse is located in a congested area. Parking is limited and time consuming. You must also be prepared to pass through a metal detector at the front door. Please arrive for your hearing at least 15 minutes before the hearing is scheduled to begin.

A Father’s Legacy

When I was growing up I loved going to the office with my dad.  My father was an attorney and he had his own law office.  I was allowed to sit at his desk and look in his desk drawer finding all sorts of delights such as special pens, inks, scissors, clips and anything else my dad had thrown into the desk drawer.  It really was a treasure trove to me even as a very young child.  Sometimes he would have a .30 cent or so dividend check he had just thrown in the drawer.  He would make a big deal about signing it over to me.  I thought I was so important.  Even the smell of his office is something I can remember to this day.

My dad passed away right before I got into law school, so he never knew that I was following in his footsteps, although he did know I wanted to.  Today, as owner of  Carroll Law, P.A., my office is referred to as Carroll Law Office, the same name he had named his  law office.  It is very special to carry his legacy.

There are things one must do to protect your legacy; legally, spiritually, emotionally and financially.  When my dad died unexpectedly, he had a law office that was solely owned by him.  He had several associates and a large staff, but he solely owned the law office. On the day he died and the week following that I saw many people just going into the office taking files and items from the office.  There was no one there to look after my dad’s interest. I learned much from my father’s life and his legacy lives on even if his actual office is no longer in existence.

I learned that sometimes it is the little touches that matter the most.  I know my father was the provider for our home and I know he worked hard to make that happen, but as his daughter I remember more about him letting me climb in his chair and go through the desk drawer.  It makes me remember how he looked, how he laughed and how much he loved me.

What kind of legacy are you passing on to your children and those around you?  I suggest it is important to take the minutes you are waiting in line at the grocery store or stuck in traffic and make something special of that time with those you are with.  Maybe sing a song while in your car, or while in line play a little game of “I see.” It is the little things in life that tend to matter.

As we celebrate Father’s day, give thought to protecting your legacy. Dads are meant to have an impact that allows the generations that follow to be lifted higher. I give thanks today for my father and for all the men who take the time to love their children. Your lives make a difference – make the moments count.

Susan V. Carroll, Esquire