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Hello Mr. Peterson,
I need to clarify a few things to make sure I am giving you the proper information:
I assume your ex-wife (or the mother of your child) currently lives and has lived in Pinellas County, Florida for at least the past 6 months? Correct?
Where was the original court order filed regarding child support?
How far behind in payments are you? (Months? Years?)
Thank you very much,
You should not be having so much difficult finding out if your child support payments are still in arrears or are up-to-date. If they are up-to-date, she should only be asking the court for a hearing if she is trying to get the amount modified or if afraid the support withheld from your paycheck will stop, and you'll become in arrears again.
To find out how much you owe - if you are in arrears at all - try calling(NNN) NNN-NNNNor(NNN) NNN-NNNN You can also try this website to see if it gives you the balance of your arrears:
To retain an attorney in Pinellas County, Florida, you have several options. If your income is near the poverty line, you can apply for reduced or free legal assistance through two legal aid agencies in Pinellas. They are:
Community Law Program XXXXXNorth Rm 512 , Saint Petersburg, FL 33701 Phone:(NNN) NNN-NNNNor(NNN) NNN-NNNNhttp://www.lawprogram.org/
Gulfcoast Legal Services, Inc. 314 South Missouri Avenue Ste 109, Clearwater, FL 33756 Phone: (727)(NNN) NNN-NNNNor(NNN) NNN-NNNNhttp://www.gulfcoastlegal.org//
If you can afford to retain a private attorney, you can go to the American Bar Association's website at:
as they have a Lawyer referral service, information about choosing a lawyer, and details about free legal services. You can also use the online Yellow Pages.
However you find a lawyer, I would strongly recommend looking at their rating at:
Type in the information on any lawyer you find on the left of the page. A profile of the lawyer show be presented - pay attention to the part of the profile called: "Peer Review Rating" and try to choose a lawyer with an "AV" rating as these lawyers have been in practice the longest (i.e., have the most experience) and have been given the best ratings anonymously by other lawyers.
Please let me know if you have any questions about this.
I would try the telephone numbers again tomorrow during the middle of the day. In Florida it is almost 9:00 pm already. (Your question was posted at 7:26 pm Florida time so all of these offices were already closed for today.)
Regarding a paternity test, while you could technically file a Florida Form 12.983(e), Motion for Scientific Paternity Testing, it is up to the judge to decide whether or not he will grant this motion.
The problem is that you were ordered to pay child support many years ago, and the issue of paternity needed to be raised at the time of your divorce when the issue of child custody, visitation, and child support was first raised. To try and raise the issue when the child is 17 years old, it has been many years since these ordered were entered, and you did not comply with the court's order of support (as demonstrated by the $10,000 owed in child support) it is exceedingly unlikely that filing this motion now will do anything but severely irritate the judge - something you do not want to do when you owe $10,000.
Realistically, there is really no chance that a judge will permit a paternity test at this point in time. He will certainly decide that you are requesting it of the court to 1) avoid having to pay the $10,000 and the rest of the support and 2) to hurt and annoy your ex-wife. There is a lot more that the judge can do to collect the $10,000, and you do not want to do anything to anger him into doing it.
So as long as a hearing is already scheduled to address the arrears issue, I would very strongly advise you not to raise any paternity issue. Instead you need to focus on finding a lawyer who can make sure that there is a clear explanation as to why so much money is owed and how you plan on paying it. Remember, the judge is already going to be suspicious and distrustful of you when he sees how much child support is in arrears. Unfortunately, you are already starting off with this bias.
It will not matter if you and your ex-wife discussed paternity issues privately in the past. Unless the court had been repeatedly asked by you over the years because you insisted you were not the biological father you should not raise this issue in court now.
Also, courts often decide that a man is the father of a child and needs to pay child support, have visits with the child, etc. based not on actual biological paternity but on the previous actions of the father - such as acting as the father, supporting the child financially and emotionally while married to the mother. This is true even if the mother already had the child when the couple were married.
Please let me know if you have other questions.
If you do not disagree with anything written in your wife's petition, and you would rather not even address the court or object to what she asks for then you can default.
When you default you simply do not respond to the court either in writing or by appearing at the scheduled hearing. If you default then the judge will generally grant your wife whatever she asks for from the court - as long as it is reasonable. (For example, the judge would not order you to pay her alimony for the rest of her life in the amount of $5,000 a month.)
What the papers are saying is that if you do plan to appear in court to argue your position and potentially oppose whatever it is your wife wants, then you MUST respond to anything alleged in your wife's petition - in writing - and this response MUST be sent to the court in Florida within 20 days from the date you received the summons. (For example, if you received the Summons on April 1 you would need to return your reply in writting to the court by the 20th or 21st of April. Most courts do not count the day you receive the summons so it would really be by the 21st.)
By having people put things in writing ahead of time, the judge can save time by reading the main arguments of both sides and being prepared for what he will be hearing before he actually meets with both in the courtroom during the actual hearing.
So you not only need to find an attorney, but you need to get him or her those papers. Once you retain an attorney in Florida, he should be able to file a request for an extension with the court. This will basically say that he is now the attorney representing you, that he just received the paperwork on such-and-such a date, and he will need some time to review the entire case and prepare the written response being requested. Usually the court will allow the attorney extra time.
Other questions or did this help clarify what the summons is saying? Please let me know.
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