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DIVORCE AND FAMILY LAW

Family law issues concern the care and well-being of ourselves and the most important people to us as well as virtually everything we own. Legal proceedings can be complicated and frustrating, particularly when minor children are involved.  You should consult with an attorney to protect you and your children’s interests.

We represent husbands, wives, parents and children in a wide array of family law issues, from filing for divorce, fighting for child custody and child support, protecting your share of marital assets, obtaining spousal support or alimony in proper cases, enforcing child & spousal support, and parental rights, relocating or moving the primary residence of minor children (Florida has a very specific statutory procedure to follow) and modifying child support, spousal support and parental rights in proper cases.  Consult with us about your rights and responsibilities today.

Divorce

To obtain a divorce in Florida, one of the parties to the marriage must have resided in Florida for at least six months before filing papers in court for divorce.  §61.021.  A petition for divorce must be filed in circuit court.  §61.043.  An anonymous informational questionnaire must also be completed and filed with the clerk of the circuit court.  §61.043.

A divorce can be granted if the marriage is irretrievably broken (no fault divorce) or in the event one of the parties to the marriage is mentally incapacitated for at least three years.  §61.052

As you probably know, have heard or even witnessed, many issues and disputes arise when married couples get divorced. Divorce proceedings can be complicated and frustrating, particularly when minor children are involved.  You should consult with an attorney to protect you and your children’s interests.

Equitable Distribution

In distributing the assets and liabilities (debts) of the parties, the courts first separate marital assets from non-marital assets.  §61.075.
The non-marital assets (and liabilities) remain with the party who had the non-marital assets and liabilities before the parties were married.  The marital assets (and liabilities), however, are equitably distributed by the court unless the court is justified in awarding an unequal distribution.  §61.075.

Many disputes can and do arise in this area.  Indeed, it is very beneficial to show an asset is non-marital property because non-martial property is not split between the parties, while marital property is divided between the parties.  It can also be beneficial to show a non-marital asset was commingled (combined) with marital assets (such that you cannot trace and separate the asset into marital and non-marital parts) or that marital efforts (i.e. the spouse’s assistance) contributed to the increase in value of a non-martial asset.  This could increase the size of the marital assets, and thus your share of the marital assets.

Issues also arise concerning who should retain the marital home (which is a factor for determining which party has primary residential custody of minor children).  Disputes also arise concerning the value of property and other items.

You should consult with an attorney to protect your interests.

Child Custody

Child custody is awarded based on the best interests of the child.  Unless it is detrimental to the child, the courts award shared parental responsibility.  §61.13(2)(b)(2)

Shared parental responsibility is where both parents retain full parental rights and responsibilities, including joint decision-making authority concerning all major decisions affecting the child, with the child primarily residing with one parent while the other has visitation.  §61.046(15).

Child custody can also be awarded on a rotating basis or by splitting the children between the parents.

Courts presume rotating custody is not in the best interest of the child.  Courts also do not split siblings between parents unless the most compelling reasons justify doing so.  As a result, both of these types of custody are rarely awarded.

Sole parental responsibility is a court-ordered relationship where only one parent makes the decisions concerning a minor child.  §61.046(17). This is not a favored outcome, but under certain circumstances, courts award sole parental responsibility to one parent in the best interests of the child, which typically involve motions for social investigations and guardians ad litem (a person appointed by the court as the next of friend of the child, investigator or evaluator).  §61.20 and §61.401.

Parents do not always agree on who should be the primary residential parent.  Sometimes one parent asserts that the other parent is unfit and that it is in the best interests of the children that the fit parent be awarded sole parental responsibility.  You should consult with an attorney to protect you and your children’s interests.

Child Support

Child support (including retroactive support) is awarded in divorce proceedings.  §61.13.  Child support may also be awarded without filing for divorce, but simply to recover child support payments from a parent who has failed to fulfill his or her financial responsibilities to their child(ren) .  §61.09 and §61.10.

Child support (including retroactive support) payments are awarded in accordance with the State of Florida’s Child Support Guidelines.  §61.30.

These child support guidelines are primarily based on the amount of income both parents make (combined) and the amount of money each parent makes in relation to their combined income (i.e. one parent may earn 70% of both parents combined income while the other earns the remaining 30%).  Each parent is generally responsible for his or her share (%) of the total child support obligations for both parents under the guidelines.

Deviations from these guidelines are generally not permitted.  Even where deviations are permitted, they are limited.  Parents cannot avoid their financial obligations to their children by agreeing to a lesser support obligation.

That said, it can be difficult sometimes to determine the amount of money each parent makes.  For instance, unlike an employee who only receives a paycheck, paycheck stub and Form W2 at the end of the year (which shows their gross income), the income of business owners, the self-employed and those with trust and other income are more difficult to determine.  Revenues and expenses must be analyzed in order to determine the proper income.  In these cases, it can be beneficial to hire professionals to determine each party’s income, particularly since the basic child support obligation and each parent’s share of child support obligations is based upon each parent’s income.

You should consult with an attorney to protect you and your children’s interests.

Alimony

A party to a divorce may request alimony or suit money for use during the course of the divorce proceedings (alimony pendent lite).  §61.071.

Alimony may also be awarded upon entry of the divorce decree, which can be permanent (to maintain a certain standard of living), rehabilitative (to allow a party, usually a stay at home parent who forwent a career to raise children and tend to the household, enough time and opportunity to catch up their career, etc.) bridge-the-gap (to allow a spouse to transition from married to single life) and lump-sum (which is generally disfavored).  §61.08.

Spousal support may also be awarded without filing for divorce, but simply for spousal support payments.  §61.09 and §61.10.

Alimony is not awarded in every case, and both entitlement and the amount of support can be disputed.  You should consult with an attorney to advise you on whether you should pursue and protect your rights to spousal support.

Enforcement

A party may enforce his or her parental rights concerning a minor child, and may be awarded his or her attorney fees in doing so.  §61.13(4)(c).

A party may also enforce spousal and child support obligations.  §61.14.  Support obligations can also be enforced under §61.17

A party enforcing child support obligations may seek an order suspending or denying professional licenses and certificates.  §61.13015.  The driver’s license of the parent in default of his/her child support may also be suspended.  §61.13016.

Many times one parent fails to live up to his or her child and spousal support obligations.  You should consult with an attorney to protect you and your children’s interests.

Modification

A party may modify his or her spousal or child support obligations and parental responsibilities (usually visitation).  §61.14.  To do so, that party must generally show that there has been a substantial and material change in circumstances that could not have been anticipated at the time the original judgment was entered and that the proposed modifications are in the best interests of the children.  Where support is to be modified, the party must also show that change in circumstances is also sufficient, material, involuntary and permanent in nature (such as a permanent disability or loss of a business that previously provided significant finances that allowed the party to afford the prior support payment).

You should consult with an attorney to protect you and your children’s interests.

Attorney’s Fees and Costs

A party may be awarded attorney fees under §61.13(4)(c) and §61.16 as well as other provisions of Florida law.

You should consult with an attorney to protect you and your children’s interests.