Answers To Your Legal Questions

Pilka & Associates, P.A., believes in educating clients. We have provided answers to the most commonly asked questions we receive.

Condominium And Homeowner Associations Law

What items are considered official records of the association?

A copy of the plans, permits, and warranties provided by the developer; a photocopy of the recorded declaration and each amendment; a photocopy of the recorded bylaws; a certified copy of the articles of incorporation; a copy of the current rules of the association; minutes of all meetings for the past seven years; a current roster of all unit owners and their mailing addresses; current insurance policies; current copy of any management agreements, leases or other contracts; bills of sale; accounting records; records of all receipts and expenditures; a current statement of account for each unit; all financial reporting statements; all contracts for work to be performed; ballots, sign-in sheets, and voting proxies up to one year; all rental records; a copy of the current question and answer sheet; and, all other records relating to the operation of the association.

Condominium: Section 718.111(12)(h), F.S.
Homeowners: Section 720.303(4)
Cooperative: Section 719.106(1)(h), F.S.

How does an association amend its bylaws?

The method used to amend the bylaws should be located within the bylaws of the association and should be consistent with the provisions of Chapter 718 or 719, Florida Statutes. If the bylaws fail to provide a method of amendment, the bylaws may be amended, if the amendment is approved by the owners of not less than two-thirds of the voting interests. The full text of the bylaws to be amended must be included with new words underlined and words to be deleted stricken through with hyphens. If the change is too extensive and would hinder, rather than assist, the understanding of the proposed amendment, it is not necessary to use underlining and hyphens as indicators of words added or deleted, but, instead, a notation must be inserted immediately preceding the proposed amendment in substantially the following language:
"Substantial rewording of bylaw. See bylaw ___ for present text."

Condominium: Section 718.112(2)(h), F.S.
Homeowners: Section 720.306(1)
Cooperative: Section 719.106(1)(h), F.S.

When does an amendment to the bylaws become effective?

Amendments to condominium bylaws become effective when they are recorded in the public records of the county where the declaration of condominium is recorded.

Condominium: Section 718.112(1)(b), F.S.
Cooperative: Not addressed in Chapter 719, F.S.

Can the unit owners stop the board from hiring a management company?

The bylaws or other association documents shall specify the powers and duties of officers and board members. One may review the documents to determine whether the unit owners or the board may approve hiring management. Chapters 718 and 719, Florida Statutes, do not require the association to hire a manager. However, the Florida Administrative Code, states that if a condominium board of directors chooses to employ a manager, it shall only employ a licensed community association manager where licensure is required by Section 468.431, Florida Statutes.

Condominium: Section 718.112(2)(a)1., F.S., and Rule 61B-23.001(4), F.A.C.

Can an association self-manage or do they need to hire a manager?

Many associations choose to contract with an outside individual or managing entity. However, the Condominium Act does not require any condominium association to do so. The association may be self-managed if it so chooses. If an association decides to hire a manager to assist the board of directors, the manager may be required to be licensed as a Community Association Manager (CAM) under Part VIII, Chapter 468, Florida Statutes.

Condominium: Sections 718.111(3), and 468.431, F.S.
Cooperative: Not addressed in Chapter 719, F.S.

May the association pay a board member for his or her services as a board member?

Unless otherwise provided in the bylaws of the association, the members of the board shall serve without compensation. However, if compensated, a board member may require licensure as a community association manager pursuant to Chapter 468, Florida Statutes.

Condominium: Section 718.112(2)(a) 1., F.S.

Must the association pay for and insure its officers and directors?

A unit owner-controlled association may obtain liability insurance for its officers and directors. Further, the association shall obtain and maintain adequate insurance or fidelity bonding of all persons who control or disburse funds of the association and the president, secretary, and treasurer of the association. This insurance is a common expense of the association.

Condominium: Section 718.111(11)(a) & (d), F.S.
Homeowners: Section 720.303
Cooperative: Sections 719.104(3), and 719.106(1)(k), F.S.

How would a condominium go about becoming an adult community (55 or older), and would all the residents under 55 years old have to move out?

A property must meet certain requirements of the Federal Fair Housing Act to be designated as an adult community. The Florida Commission on Human Relations administers the Federal Fair Housing Act in Florida. You may contact the Florida Commission on Human Relations at: Post Office Box 3388, Tallahassee, Florida 32315-3388 or 850 488-7082 (ask for the housing area), or on the internet at: For copies of the Federal Fair Housing Act, you may call 800-767-7468.

Condominium: Not addressed in Chapter 718, F.S.
Homeowners: Not addressed in Chapter 720, F.S.
Cooperative: Not addressed in Chapter 719, F.S.

Is mediation for any homeowners' disputes still available through the Division?

No. The legislature recently amended Section 720.311, Florida Statutes, which effectively ended the Division's mandatory HOA mediation program and replaced it with a private mediation program. The new law, which took effect on July 1, 2007, now provides that parties to homeowners' disputes may use private mediators to assist them in resolving their issues. Certified mediators may be selected by visiting the Supreme Court's website at

When is arbitration required?

Arbitration through the Division program is required for all recall and elections disputes, prior to filing a lawsuit.

I have friends who live an association across town and they don't have all the rules our association has. Why are various associations governed so differently?

In the state of Florida, both homeowners associations and condominium associations are authorized by Florida Statutes under Chapter 718 and Chapter 720 but are not governed by those statutes. Each homeowners association and condominium association is a separate private legal contract between an owner and the association. By buying a home, a lot, or a unit in a community, you become a party to a legally binding contract — membership in a unique association with owners, governed by its own rules, restrictions and obligations.

I did not sign anything agreeing to join any association! I just bought the house. Why is the association claiming I have to pay dues and follow their rules?

When you signed the purchase contract for home, lot, or unit within an association, you became a member of the association even if you did not sign your association and governing documents. You may have legal responsibilities, including paying association membership fees and special assessments. If you do not understand your legal rights and responsibilities, contact the experienced attorneys at Pilka & Associates, P.A.

Does the association have any legal responsibility toward the homeowners?

Read your governing documents. Your association may be obligated to maintain the exterior of your property or provide security, trash collection, or other services. The association may be obligated to support common property, amenities and staff with homeowners' fees. In addition to the obligations and duties placed upon the association under the association's governing documents, the association also has responsibilities as set forth more fully under Florida Statutes. If you have any questions or concerns regarding your association's responsibilities and obligations to you as a homeowner or condominium owner, please contact the attorneys at Pilka & Associates, P.A.

Do I have the right to make audio or videotapes of my association meetings?

Yes. Statutes allow recording of open meetings. However, your board may require that the taping be announced to those present and that the taping equipment be placed in the center of the room for the best sound recordings.

Can my association remove privileges such as use of our community pool?

Yes. An owner's rights may be suspended, including rights to use the common elements, including pools, and also right to vote. However, such rights may not be suspended unless the homeowner first receives at least 14 days notice and an opportunity for a hearing before a committee of at least three members. In addition, the rights of a member to vote may not be suspended unless a homeowner's payments are delinquent for more than 90 days.

My association wants to invest reserve funds in the stock market to earn a profit, rather than let them sit in a low interest savings account. Is that a good idea?

No. Both a homeowners association and a condominium association are nonprofit organizations, and its funds are to be preserved. Directors should act as fiduciaries, preserving and managing funds by considering investments in the best interest of the association. Prudent investments include savings accounts, money market, and certificates of deposit (CD's) to the extent fully insured by federal government, and certain bonds and notes of the state and the U.S. government such as treasury notes, bills, and bonds. The association board should adopt, publish, and follow an investment policy, and should err on the side of full disclosure.

I would like to see our association run differently. What is the best way to improve it?

You can change your association politically, by changing the members of the board, or judicially through the courts — an extremely expensive process. The best way to improve your association is to get involved, read your governing documents thoroughly, and attend meetings of the association. Volunteer to serve on a committee of the board of directors, and encourage other residents to do the same. Listen to and respect all points of view, build relationships and consensus with others in your community, and make fair decisions. It takes time, but the best communities are always run by people who care about their neighbors and are willing to work for the greater good.

These frequently asked questions and answers were taken from the Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation website. For more answers to questions about condominiums and homeowners associations see their FAQs page or speak with one of our attorneys.

Insurance Coverage Disputes/Bad Faith

Why should I contact an attorney?

By contacting Pilka & Associates, P.A., you may gain attorneys on your side who have extensive experience dealing with Florida insurance companies in all types of insurance disputes. Attorneys work directly with the insurance company on your behalf so that you do not have to. We aggressively advocate your interests to maximize the pay off on your claim.

Our attorneys make sure the insurance company compensates you for every expense they are legally obligated to pay you, as stipulated by your insurance policy. This may include replacing damaged personal property, reimbursing you for hotel and food expenses if your house is unsafe to live in, paying for removal of trees and debris from your property, and compensating you for theft or vandalism that occurred after a loss.

What is insurance bad faith in Florida?

An insurance company commits bad faith when it unreasonably handles its policyholders' claims. In every insurance contract, there is an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. If an insurance company unreasonably handles your insurance claim, it is in breach of its implied covenant. Breach of an implied covenant is commonly referred to as bad faith.

Under certain circumstances, an insurance carrier guilty of bad faith can be held liable for both consequential damages, which are above and beyond the damages covered under your insurance policy, and punitive damages. The law of bad faith simply states that an insurance company has to treat its policyholders fairly. Some examples of insurance bad faith in Florida include:

  • Unreasonable denial of a covered insurance claim
  • Underpaying an insurance claim
  • Unreasonable refusal to defend if you are sued and you have liability coverage
  • Unreasonable delay in paying your insurance claim
  • Refusing authorized medical treatment that is reasonable and necessary

Insurance companies frequently deny, delay, or underpay claims to cut costs and increase profits. Adjusters also try to force distraught homeowners or claimants into quick on-the-spot settlements that do not sufficiently cover losses or provide adequate funds for victims to recover from a disaster or loss.
Property owners who have suffered a tragic loss and become involved in an insurance dispute without retaining an attorney rarely receive the compensation due to them under the terms of their policy. Many insured homeowners simply do not understand their legal rights, or the legal responsibilities of the insurance company.
If your insurance company acts in bad faith by denying or underpaying a meritorious claim, we at Pilka & Associates, P.A., may be able to secure punitive damages as well.

What are your obligations if a fire, flood, or other catastrophic event causes the loss or destruction of your home or business?

An insurance company has the right to require every insured to cooperate with it in investigating the claim, and to provide all information in your possession to assist it in evaluating the claim. The insurance company also has the right to take a sworn statement from you. At that time, you are required to answer all questions truthfully and to the best of your knowledge. When an insurance company asks you for such information or demands a sworn statement under oath from you, it is advisable to always have an attorney present with you to make sure your legal rights are protected. After all, if the insurance company hires an attorney to take your statement under oath, you should have one there to protect your rights as well.

What damages and expenses should my insurance company cover if our home or personal property is destroyed by a fire, flood, or other catastrophic event?

If you are a homeowner with a valid insurance policy, the insurance company is obligated to pay for a hotel room and food expenses if your house is unfit to live in, the removal of debris and trees, and the replacement of any damaged personal property. These conditions and others are stipulated in your policy.

How do I get reimbursed for household items such as furniture, TVs, clothing, and other personal items?

These items should be covered by your insurance policy. For quicker reimbursement, try to gather receipts or proof of items you have in your house prior to a hurricane or other loss event. It is always advisable to take either photographs or videotapes of your valuables and other personal property and store them at a location away from your premises in the event your home is destroyed or severely damaged by a fire, flood, or other catastrophic event.

How do I get reimbursed for more expensive items such as artwork and jewelry?

It is always much more difficult to get reimbursement for more expensive items such as jewelry if your belongings are not documented. It is recommended that a homeowner have a separate insurance policy or addition to their existing insurance policy to cover these specific items. You should also always keep all receipts and appraisal documents in a safety deposit box at a bank or other secure place away from your home.

Personal Injury

What is a personal injury lawsuit?

A personal injury lawsuit is a legal action taken to recover damages from another party who has caused harm through inaction, negligence, or malfeasance. If the negligence or wrongdoing of another has caused you to suffer harm, you may be able to recover some or all of your medical expenses, rehabilitative costs, lost wages, and pain and suffering with a personal injury lawsuit.

What are typical personal injury claims?

Personal injury claims can be filed in response to a wide variety of incidents that cause physical harm. A short list of common types of personal injury claims includes:

  • Animal attacks
  • Automobile accidents
  • Aviation accidents
  • Boating and watercraft accidents
  • Bus accidents
  • Construction and electrical accidents
  • Medical malpractice
  • Products liability claims
  • Slip-and-fall accidents
  • Trucking accidents
  • Wrongful death cases

What do I need to prove before I can file a personal injury lawsuit?

You do not need to prove anything to file a personal liability lawsuit. Filing a lawsuit means that you have opened legal action against the defendant. To win your personal injury lawsuit, you must show the standard of proof that governs your liability case. Most personal injury lawsuits are pursued under the theory of negligence, which requires proof of four things:

  • Show the defendant had a duty to perform at least as well as a reasonable person
  • Demonstrate that the defendant failed in that duty
  • Prove that you suffered injury
  • Prove that the failure caused your injuries

Consult with a personal injury lawyer before considering filing a suit. Most injury lawyers offer a free initial consultation and can advise you if your case has merit. Personal injury cases generally do not cost anything to the client. Lawyers take cases on a contingency fee basis, meaning the client pays for legal services out of the proceeds of the settlement or award. If the case is lost, the client pays nothing.

What damages can a personal injury lawsuit recover?

A number of physical and nonphysical damages can be recovered in a successful personal injury lawsuit:

  • Medical bills
  • Lost wages
  • Necessary rehabilitative/ongoing care
  • Lost earning capacity
  • Emotional/physical pain and suffering
  • Punitive damages (depends on the presence of malicious/intentional conduct)

How much is my case worth?

A personal injury attorney may be able to give you a rough estimate of the value of your case after reviewing the pertinent details of your case.

What is the statute of limitations for my case?

In Florida, the statute of limitations for personal injury cases is generally four years. The exception to this includes cases of medical malpractice and wrongful death which impose two-year statutes of limitations. Therefore, if you were injured in a car accident in Florida, you would have four years from the date of injury to file a personal injury lawsuit. If you were the victim of medical or professional malpractice, you would have two years from the discovery of the injury to file your case.

Can I file a personal injury lawsuit on my own?

Yes. You can file a personal injury lawsuit pro se without professional assistance. However, you cannot rely on a professional attorney's experience and advice, and may not be able to recover as much in damages because of crucial mistakes. Since there are generally no out-of-pocket expenses associated with using a personal injury attorney, it is usually a better idea to work with a lawyer.

Why should I bring a personal injury claim?

If you are injured through the negligence or wrongdoing of someone else, you are entitled by law to compensation for your injuries. This compensation is available not only for expenses you have already incurred, but for the losses you may suffer in the future. If you or someone in your family is severely injured, the compensation can protect against changes in your family situation so that the injured person's future is secure. Also, by bringing a claim, you may be able to draw attention to a dangerous problem and prevent a similar injury from happening to someone else.

What should I do if I have been injured?

If you or someone in your family has been injured, you should seek competent professional advice as soon as possible to see if you have a claim for personal injury. There are many kinds of personal injuries and the cause of an injury is not always clear. Pilka & Associates, P.A., has extensive experience in finding the cause of serious personal injuries. We can help you determine whether you have a valid claim and, if so, who is responsible and what compensation may be available to you.

Why is it important to seek advice promptly?

Acting quickly ensures that all relevant evidence is preserved and not inadvertently destroyed or lost. You also need to file suit before the statute of limitations expires.

What if I am contacted by the insurance company?

If you have been injured, do not discuss your injuries or the way they happened until you have consulted a lawyer. Your statements may be incomplete or taken out of context and be harmful to your claim at a later date. Do not sign any paperwork or agree to any settlement as this may affect your right to pursue your claim. Always seek competent legal advice first. At Pilka & Associates, P.A., there is no charge for this consultation.

Are there legal fees to evaluate my claim?

No. At Pilka & Associates, P.A., we meet with you and discuss your injury free of charge.

How does Pilka & Associates, P.A., get paid?

In personal injury actions, Pilka & Associates, P.A., is paid no fee unless the firm is successful in obtaining compensation for you. Pilka & Associates, P.A., handles personal injury claims on a contingency fee basis. This means that the legal fee is a percentage of the amount recovered, and there is no fee due unless and until money is actually collected for you.

How much of my time will this take?

Surprisingly, your claim does not require a great deal of your time unless it goes all the way to trial. After the initial interview, Pilka & Associates, P.A., does most of the work for you. In a typical personal injury case, you are required to come to the office two to three times to answer written and oral questions about what happened to you. Aside from these questions, which are a routine part of the court process, very little of your time is required to prepare your case for trial. The final trial preparation process, however, requires more of a time commitment by you.

Will I have to go to court?

You do not go to court unless your case cannot be settled and must be tried. Because of the careful screening of meritorious cases undertaken by Pilka & Associates, P.A., the large majority of claims are settled before trial. However, because there are many factors involved, it is impossible to predict whether your particular case is one that is settled, or one that must be decided by a jury.

What is the value of my claim?

The value of your claim depends on a wide variety of factors such as:

  • The severity and permanency of your injury
  • The amount of your medical and other expenses
  • The liability of the defendant
  • Whether the case is tried or settled

It is impossible to estimate the value of a claim until the case has been fully investigated from all aspects. Even then, sometimes its valuation may fluctuate depending on developments during the course of the litigation. You should be wary of anyone who tries to tell you the value of your claim at an early stage.

After Pilka & Associates, P.A., has completed a thorough investigation of your case, we are in a position to offer you our opinion as to the value of your claim. If the insurance company offers to settle your claim, we discuss the proposed settlement with you, and give you our advice about whether to accept the amount offered. Of course, the ultimate decision to accept an insurance company's offer of settlement or to allow a jury to determine the value of your injuries is always up to you.


I'm facing mortgage foreclosure. What are my options?

Like many Floridians, you may be faced with the possible loss of your real property in foreclosure as a result of the present real estate market and the dramatic decline in real estate values. Many property owners have abandoned their properties altogether without considering the options available to them and possibly avoiding the loss of their real estate, a deficiency judgment and further damage to their credit rating.

If you can no longer afford your mortgage or your mortgage is in default, we can advise you and help you evaluate all the options available to you and their legal consequences. These options include:

  • Short sale. In a short sale, the lender agrees to a reduction of the balance owed on the mortgage to facilitate the sale of the property.
  • Mortgage modification. Many lenders are now modifying the terms of their mortgages to allow property owners to avoid foreclosure when they can no longer afford their mortgage payments.
  • Deed in lieu of foreclosure. In some cases, a lender will accept the property instead of foreclosing the mortgage.

If your mortgage is in foreclosure, we can defend you. Several legal defenses may be available to you that may allow you to keep your property.

Elder Law

What is elder law?

An elder law attorney is a legal practitioner who counsels and represents older persons, their families and representative regarding the legal aspects of health and long-term care planning, public benefits, surrogate decision-making and the conservation, disposition and administration of estates.


What should I do if someone owes me money?

Take action. Call the party who owes you money and set up a payment plan. Confirm the payment plan agreed to in writing, mail it to them by certified mail, return receipt requested. Keep a copy for your records. If payment is not made as agreed, consider court as your option.

Do I need a lawyer to collect on a debt?

If the debt is owed to a corporation and the amount is over $15,000.00, you need a lawyer to enforce your claim in court. If you are an individual, you are entitled to pursue your claim and represent yourself.

If I retain a lawyer to collect on a debt, am I entitled to receive attorney's fees from the debtor?

Under Florida law, you are only entitled to recover attorney's fees if there is a specific statute providing for recovery of attorney's fees or there is a written agreement by and between the parties providing for payment of attorney's fees. If you have no contract providing for attorney's fees and there is no statute available upon which to base your claim to recover attorney's fees, you are not entitled to seek or receive attorney's fees from the opposing side.

How long can I collect once I get a final judgment against the debtor?

As long as you rerecord your final judgment within 90 days every seven years from the date of the final judgment, you will be able to collect your final judgment for a period of 20 years.

Is there any claim too small upon which to seek a final judgment in court?

No. No claim is too small upon which to seek a final judgment in the state of Florida.

How much does it cost to file the court case?

  • For claims under $100.00, the filing fee is $55.00
  • For claims from $100.00 to $500.00, the filing fee is $80.00
  • For claims from $500.01 to $2,500.00, the filing fee is $175.00
  • For claims from $2,500.01 to $15,000.00, the filing fee is $300.00
  • For claims exceeding $15,000.00, the filing fee is $400.00

Estate Planning

Who needs estate planning?

Everyone — whether your estate is large or small. Either way, you should designate someone to manage your assets and make health care and personal care decisions for you if you ever become unable to do so for yourself.

If your estate is small, you may simply focus on who will receive your assets after your death, and who should manage your estate, pay your last debts and handle the distribution of your assets.

If your estate is large, your lawyer will also discuss various ways of preserving your assets for your beneficiaries and of reducing or postponing the amount of estate tax which otherwise might be payable after your death.

If you fail to plan ahead, a judge will simply appoint someone to handle your assets and personal care. And your assets will be distributed to your heirs according to a set of rules known as intestate succession.

Contrary to popular myth, everything does not automatically go to the state if you die without a will. Your relatives, no matter how remote, and, in some cases, the relatives of your spouse will have priority in inheritance ahead of the state.

Still, they may not be your choice of heirs; an estate plan gives you much greater control over who will inherit your assets after your death.

Business Law

What type of business organization should I use?

There are four basic types of business organizations you can use in Florida.

  • Sole proprietorship
  • Partnership (general partnership, joint venture or limited partnership)
  • Corporation (C-corp or S-corp)
  • Limited liability corporation (LLC)

You should choose the type of business organization that suits your goals.

Consider your exposure to liability, existence or duration of the business entity, cost associated with the business organization and operation you choose, management of the business, who has control, ease of transfer of ownership and how termination of the business occurs.

Can I file the business organization or do I need a lawyer?

In Florida, you can file your own business organization with the Department of State, Division of Corporations. is a useful website. A valuable resource for your business would be to have a lawyer for advice and counsel on numerous issues that come up in the ordinary course of business, from filing to termination. A lawyer can help you keep others from taking your profits or your assets as well as provide advice and counsel to make the business more profitable, keep your accounts receivable to a minimum, make sure you have the strongest procedures in place to collect payment for services performed.

Can I collect attorney fees from a party if I have to sue that party?

Under Florida law, you can only seek attorney fees from another party if you have an agreement that provided for payment of reasonable attorneys fees. This agreement must be stated clearly in the contract for services to be performed or on your invoice. Otherwise, you cannot recover attorneys fees from another party unless there is a Florida Statute available under which to recover your attorney fees. Without an agreement or by statute, you are responsible to pay for your own attorney's fees.

Do I have to wait 30 days to get paid for services rendered?

No. Payment can be required to be made in advance, at the time services are complete, or upon receipt of the bill. Payment obligations are determined by the parties. Be specific and you should put payment terms in writing. If you do not have a written contract, after making payment arrangements verbally, there is no reason not to confirm your verbal agreement in a letter to avoid potential problems or avoid trying to change the terms.

If I am on a board of directors of a corporation and the corporation gets sued, am I personally liable?

Generally not. It depends on the facts. Generally, management of a corporation is the responsibility of the directors. Directors have wide discretion in exercising business judgment in performance of their duties. Courts will generally not attempt to pass judgment on mere business expediency or mere exercise of business judgment of a director. There must be a showing of fraud, self-dealing, dishonesty, or incompetency.

General Litigation

Can I file my own lawsuit?

Florida law allows a private party to file their own lawsuit. The clerks of court, judge and law librarian are not able to provide you legal advice. The law library is open to the public for resources to assist you. Florida law requires a corporation filing a claim over $15,000.00, or defending a claim over $15,000.00, the corporation must be represented by a lawyer.

Can I change my name?

Under certain circumstances, you can legally change your name. You must file a petition with the court complying with all the provisions in Florida Statute Section 68.07. You must file in the county where you reside. You must provide fingerprints approved by the Department of Law Enforcement. The fingerprints shall be submitted electronically to the department for state processing a criminal history. There must be a hearing on the petition. All procedures must be followed as provided under Florida law.

What should I do if someone writes a worthless check?

If a check is returned "insufficient funds," you have criminal and civil options. You can file a criminal complaint. The state of Florida may or may not prosecute the party. Otherwise, if someone writes a worthless check whether it was refused by the drawee because of lack of funds or where the maker or drawer stops payment on the amount owing, in cash, to the payee within 30 days follow a written demand, the maker could be liable to payee, in addition to the amount owing upon such check, for damages in the amount of triple the amount owing. You must follow the procedures set forth in Florida Statute Section 68.065. The Florida Statute provides the maker shall be liable to pay for any court costs and reasonable attorney's fees incurred by the payee in taking action.

If I am doing business with a party and someone takes that business away, can I sue them?

It depends. Generally, any party can do business with or choose not to do business with anyone else. In order to sue a party for interference with a business relationship, you must be able to prove the existence of a business relationship, that the party interfering with the business relationship had knowledge of the relationship, that the interference was intentional and unjustified interference with the relationship, that the party caused a breach of the business relationship causing you financial losses (damages) as a result of the breach of the relationship.

Can my landlord get a judgment for money against me for the rent I owe if I move out and return the keys?

Yes. Your landlord can get a final judgment for money due to nonpayment of rent in an action by the landlord for possession of a dwelling if the court finds rent is due, owing and unpaid even if you move out and return the keys. The landlord will also be able to be awarded attorneys fees and costs for entry of the money judgment against you so long as the landlord serves you with personal service or as provided under Florida law.

Family Law

I was served with papers saying my spouse wants a divorce. What should I do?

When you are served by the sheriff or private process server, it is important to comply with the deadlines that family law requires. You have 20 days from the date of being served to file an answer and/or counter-petition for dissolution of marriage. An answer simply admits or denies the allegations in the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. A counter-petition sets forth your claims for affirmative relief. You are also required to file a Financial Affidavit and a Certificate of Compliance with Mandatory Disclosure.

What is a counter-petition, and why do I need to file one?

A counter-petition will set forth the things that you would like out of the divorce. You need to file a counter-petition, because the court cannot award or grant you anything that you have not formally requested from the court. The counter-petition puts all of those issues i.e. alimony, child support, time-sharing, etc., before the court so that the court is aware that you are requesting certain things.

I have children. Am I obligated to pay child support even though there is no court order?

Absolutely. Many clients believe that until there is an order requiring them to pay child support, they are under no obligation to do so. This is completely incorrect and in fact will hurt your case in many ways. Once parties are separated and the children are splitting time between two homes, an obligation for one party to pay child support arises. The best way to figure out your potential child support would be to schedule a free consultation with our office so we can tell you what to begin paying or what you should be receiving. Keep in mind that every day that goes by that you are not paying or you are not paying enough, you will accumulate arrears which must be repaid at some point regardless. It is imperative that you begin paying as soon as possible to avoid arrears to preserve your good standing in front of the judge.

My spouse is not letting me see our children. Can we go to court right away?

This is the most difficult question to answer because in many ways the procedure is very unfair to the parent who is not seeing the children. Unless there is a legal emergency which would warrant an emergency hearing, the withholding of time with your children cannot be corrected quickly. The spouse withholding the visitation will have an extremely negative impact on that spouse's legal position once a court hearing is obtained. The very first consideration the court will look at in determining time-sharing and custody is the ability of each spouse to foster a relationship between the children and the other parent. Obviously, a spouse withholding contact will cause the court to likely resolve that factor in favor of the parent who has suffered. Your spouse may "get away" with his/her behavior in the short term, but the long-term consequences will hurt his/her case.

My spouse is not paying child support. Do I have to let him/her see our children?

Yes. The law forbids the withholding of time-sharing based upon the nonpayment of child support.

Will alimony always be rewarded in a long-term marriage?

No, alimony should be awarded on the basis of the recipient's need and the payer's ability to pay. A heavy preference (known in the law as a "presumption") attaches to marriages of long duration, but alimony entitlement must be proved in any event.


We frequently meet with clients who have never been married but have children in common with a former partner. If this is the situation in your case and you want to establish your own rights and those of your child, a Petition for Determination of Paternity and Related Relief is in order.

A Petition for Determination of Paternity and Related Relief requests that the court:

  • Legally establish paternity
  • Establish child support
  • Establish a time-sharing schedule and parental responsibility

Court Order

It is imperative that you take this legal action if you want to ensure that your rights are protected in the event that the relationship between you and your former partner becomes difficult. You must have a court order to enforce child support. Without a court order, the enforcement mechanisms such as wage garnishment, driver's license suspension, IRS tax return interception and incarceration are all unavailable until you use the court to establish child support.

Frequently Asked Questions About Paternity Cases

I am the father of a child who was born out of wedlock. Do I have rights to visitation and time-sharing?

If there is no court order establishing paternity and a time-sharing schedule, the child's mother is allowed to decide on the time-sharing schedule until a schedule can be established through the court. Until you file your paternity case, you will essentially be without recourse to enforce visitation with your child.

The father of my child has not paid any child support. What are my rights?

A child support obligation begins automatically when unmarried parties separate. This does not mean it becomes court-ordered. It means that retroactive child support begins to accrue until the father begins paying. Any payments made by the father will be assigned to him as a credit toward his arrears. We recommend to all of our clients that they begin paying child support right away, so as to ensure the needs of their child are met and to ensure that no arrears begin to accrue. In order to establish court-ordered child support, you must file a paternity case. It is important to note that you can only receive retroactive child support for two years prior to the date of filing your paternity case.


There are three types of modification actions:

Modification of child support

The first type of modification case is a child support modification. Child support modifications should be sought where there is a substantial change of circumstances which would either increase or decrease the amount of child support to be paid or received by a party. Some events that may constitute a substantial change of circumstances are: (1) Loss of a job; (2) a substantial decrease in income; (3) a substantial increase in income; (4) a substantial change in day care/aftercare expenses for the child at issue; (5) a substantial change in the health insurance expenses for the child at issue; or (6) a child graduating from high school or turning 18-year-old.

It is extremely important to note that you can only receive credit for over/underpayments retroactive to the date of filing. If you have experienced any of the substantial changes above, you need to file immediately so that proper credit can be obtained from the court for any surplus payments. We recommend that you contact us the very day that the change occurs and oftentimes we can have your case filed within 24 hours to maximize your potential credit.

Modification of alimony

Modification of alimony is very similar to child support in that the changes often lead to a change in child support payments also lead to a substantial change which would constitute grounds to modify an amount of alimony. A few differences exist, however. First, some alimony is nonmodifiable. If you signed a settlement agreement where you agree to nonmodifiable alimony, you will not be able to change your payments even if a substantial change occurs. Second, sometimes the duration of the alimony may not be modified either. We urge you to contact us to have a free initial consultation to determine if your alimony obligation can be modified.

Modification of time-sharing

Modifying time-sharing (sometimes referred to as custody and/or visitation) is always an option when children are involved. Two parties cannot agree to never modify time-sharing. In order to modify time-sharing, you need to allege and ultimately prove a substantial change in circumstances. Once you meet your burden of showing a substantial change in circumstances, you also have to demonstrate to the court that the requested change is in the best interest of the child according to Florida Statute 61.13.

Still have questions?

Call the attorneys at Pilka & Associates, P.A., for answers. Our Brandon, Florida, office can be reached at 863-236-9321 or by visiting us online. We also have an office in Lakeland.

This information is intended to inform, not to advise. No one should attempt to interpret or apply any law without the aid of an attorney because the facts of each individual case are different and may change the application of the law.