Family Law Attorney
- Paternity – In cases involving unmarried parents, paternity must be established before Parental Responsibility, Time Sharing and Child Support may be ordered and enforced. It is important to understand that if there has been a proceeding instituted by the Department of Revenue, that the Court’s jurisdiction is limited to the establishment of Paternity, establishment and enforcement of child support and specifically excludes a Parenting Plan, Parental Responsibility and Timesharing. Even if there is a Department of Revenue proceeding it is appropriate to initiate a family proceeding so that the issues of parental responsibility and time sharing may be resolved, the amount of timesharing, or lack thereof, can drastically affect the child support guideline calculation.
I can assist with petitioning the Court to determine paternity and establish parental responsibility, child support and time sharing.
- Parenting Plan: That in all cases with minor children, it is required that there be a Parenting Plan which can either be agreed to by the parties or imposed upon the parties by the Court. The Parenting Plan is the controlling document that governs the relationship between the parties and the minor child(ren). Parenting plans may be very specific, or more general depending on the relationship and communication between the parents. Parenting plans can require and/or prohibit certain courses of conduct between the parents. Parenting plans are binding and enforceable by the contempt powers of the Court.
In a dissolution with children, each party is required to abide by a court adopted Parenting Plan.
The Florida Supreme Court Approved Family Law Form 12.995 (a)Parenting Plan is a general outline. It is important to note that Parenting Plans may be tailored to the specific needs, objectives and concerns of the individual parties and children. As an example, the prohibition of use intoxicating substances or beverages prior to or during timesharing, or a history of domestic violence or abuse.
- Parental Responsibility – The Florida statues define Parental Responsibility. A parent may be awarded Shared Parental Responsibility, Shared Parental Responsibility with one parent having ultimate decision making, or Sole (Fla. Stat. § 61.13)
Shared parental responsibility means that both parents have full rights and responsibilities for their children including decision making authority. Any major decisions concerning their children should be agreed upon by both parents together. This can include any major decisions that affect the child’s welfare, such as education, living conditions, activities, health, medical treatment, religion, contact with family, and others.
Shared parental responsibility with Ultimate Decision Making Authority is for when the parents cannot agree on major decisions involving the children, then the Court has assigned which parent has the authority to make certain major decisions such as Education and Non-emergency Healthcare. This can be tailored for each family’s individual circumstances.
Sole parental allows one parent to unilaterally make all decisions relating to the child. Sole parental requires a finding that it would be detrimental to the child if one parent participated in decision making. It is very unusual for the Court to award sole parental responsibility.
I will give you a reasonable expectation of your individual matter, helping you understand the facts needed to obtain the desired results.
- Time Sharing – Time sharing governs each parent’s time with his or her minor children. The best interest of the minor child(ren) is the primary consideration. Factors include, the parent most likely to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent child relationship between the child and the other parent, the division of parental responsibilities, placing the needs of the child above their own, and a stable satisfactory environment for the child. (link<Fla Stat: 61.13(3)(a) through (t) – New as of 10/1/08>)
- Support – Whether it is child support or spousal support, I can advise you of what to expect in the event support is awarded. I am skilled at obtaining the necessary information to establish each party’s true earnings which is the foundation of the ability to pay support and doing a lifestyle analysis that is the foundation of a spouse’s financial need.
Child Support: Florida Child Support Guidelines are established to provide uniformity state-wide when child support is determined by court. (Fla. Stat. §61.30) The elements of a child support guideline calculation are each parties’ available monthly income, which is calculated by establishing a gross monthly income and then reducing it by authorized deductions, which include federal tax, social security/Medicare withholding, mandatory union dues, medical and dental insurance, and prior child support obligations previously established by Court order and actually paid. The creation of the child support guideline calculation also includes cost of insurance and/or daycare for the child. The timesharing schedule specifically the number of overnight visits with the child may also substantially affect the child support guideline calculation.
Florida child support guidelines also provides that child support should continue until the age of 18 or beyond the age of 18 if…”…dependency is because of a mental or physical incapacity which began prior to such person reaching majority or if the person is dependent in fact, is between the ages of 18 and 19, and is still in high school, performing in good faith with a reasonable expectation of graduation before the age of 19.”
In other words, child support should continue if the child is dependent for support and they are already 18 years old but they have not yet graduated high school. At age nineteen, child support is not obligatory unless the child is physically or mentally handicapped.
Spousal support: (alimony) may be awarded to either party based on the financial need and the financial ability of the party.
There are many forms of spousal support, including bridge-the-gap designed to assist with relocation and other short term needs, rehabilitative which requires a plan that will facilitate the lower wage earning spouse to increase their earning ability, durational which is a specific amount for a specific time period, lump sum which could be awarding a specific amount of money or a specific marital asset to one party, or permanent periodic alimony which generally is a specific monthly payment which continues until death of one of the parties or remarriage of the party receiving the alimony, or any combination thereof. Spousal support may be modifiable or non-modifiable based on the facts of the case or agreement of the parties. (Fla.Stat.§61.08)
In determining the type and amount of the alimony, the court takes various factors into consideration including; the length of the marriage that is whether a marriage is short-term in duration (less than 7 years), moderate term (greater than 7 but less than 17 years), or long-term (17 years or greater), the health of the parties, the standard of living established during the marriage, (which may take substantial discovery to establish sufficient evidence to prove), the financial need and ability to pay. I can help you to understand what the court determines and obtain evidence of the important facts.
- Equitable Distribution – is the distribution of marital assets and liabilities.
Although the statute contains many specific factors, in summary, the first step is to determine what are the marital assets and liabilities and segregate out any non-marital assets and liabilities. This is determined by the relevant facts of each case
The starting point for equitable distribution is a 50/50 distribution between the parties; however the Court can make various findings of fact to justify an unequal equitable distribution. Generally equitable distribution is determined prior to addressing the issue of spousal support.
Retirement accounts earned during the course of the marriage are generally considered marital assets. With the personal attention, I provide my clients and my experience in understanding how to identify and value assets and liabilities, I can provide the necessary guidance to obtain the desired outcome.
- Modification – In cases involving minor children, all matters including child support and timesharing, may be modifiable based on a substantial, continuing, and material change in circumstances, since the entry of the prior Judgment. Once it has been established that there has been a substantial, continuing, and material change in circumstances, the best interest of the child(ren) is the controlling standard.
Depending on the prior order of the Court, spousal support may be modifiable based on a substantial, continuing and material change in circumstances. Factors would include, but not be limited to, changes in health and/or income of either party including retirement.
- Relocation – Relocation is a change in the location of the principal residence of the parent by more than 50 miles for more than 60 consecutive days. The statute provides for minimum requirements including location of the intended new residence, mailing address, telephone number, date of the proposed move, reason for proposed relocation, a post relocation timesharing schedule that addresses transportation arrangements.
The Court has jurisdiction to order a temporary order while the matter is litigated. There is no presumption in favor or against a request to relocate, however the parent wishing to relocate has the burden of proving, by a preponderance of the evidence that relocation is in the best interest of the child. If that burden of proof is met, the burden shifts to the non-relocating parent to show by a preponderance that the proposed relocation is not in the best interest of the child.
The reason for relocation and the relationship which exists between both parents and the minor child are very important factors.
The cost of transportation may have an impact upon the child support obligation.
Mediation – Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution that makes sense for more and more families. Using a mediator eases tensions, saves time and money and often times aids in healing emotional wounds by resolving issues in a divorce quickly.
In Pinellas County, Court provided mediation at a reduced fee is available for parties with a combined income of less than $100,000.
It is important to be fully prepared with the needed facts before mediation. I have experience acting as both an attorney and a mediator.
If you need assistance with issues such as divorce, mediation, separation, child custody and spousal and/or child support, contact us. We are happy to answer any questions you may have.
We offer a free initial consultation either by telephone or live in person. Call us today.
Florida Statutes Relating to Parenting Plan
61.13(3)(a) through (t) – New as of 10/1/08
(3) For purposes of establishing or modifying parental responsibility and creating, developing, approving, or modifying a parenting plan, including a time-sharing schedule, which governs each parent’s relationship with his or her minor child and the relationship between each parent with regard to his or her minor child, the best interest of the child shall be the primary consideration. Determination of the best interests of the child shall be made by evaluating all of the factors affecting the welfare and interests of the minor child, including, but not limited to:
(a) The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship, to honor the time-sharing schedule, and to be reasonable when changes are required.
(b) The anticipated division of parental responsibilities after the litigation, including the extent to which parental responsibilities will be delegated to third parties.
(c) The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to determine, consider, and act upon the needs of the child as opposed to the needs or desires of the parent.
(d) The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity.
(e) The geographic viability of the parenting plan, with special attention paid to the needs of school-age children and the amount of time to be spent traveling to effectuate the parenting plan. This factor does not create a presumption for or against relocation of either parent with a child.
(f) The moral fitness of the parents.
(g) The mental and physical health of the parents.
(h) The home, school, and community record of the child.
(i) The reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient intelligence, understanding, and experience to express a preference.
(j) The demonstrated knowledge, capacity, and disposition of each parent to be informed of the circumstances of the minor child, including, but not limited to, the child’s friends, teachers, medical care providers, daily activities, and favorite things.
(k) The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to provide a consistent routine for the child, such as discipline, and daily schedules for homework, meals, and bedtime.
(l) The demonstrated capacity of each parent to communicate with and keep the other parent informed of issues and activities regarding the minor child, and the willingness of each parent to adopt a unified front on all major issues when dealing with the child.
(m) Evidence of domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect, regardless of whether a prior or pending action relating to those issues has been brought.
(n) Evidence that either parent has knowingly provided false information to the court regarding any prior or pending action regarding domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect.
(o) The particular parenting tasks customarily performed by each parent and the division of parental responsibilities before the institution of litigation and during the pending litigation, including the extent to which parenting responsibilities were undertaken by third parties.
(p) The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to participate and be involved in the child’s school and extracurricular activities.
(q) The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to maintain an environment for the child which is free from substance abuse.
(r) The capacity and disposition of each parent to protect the child from the ongoing litigation as demonstrated by not discussing the litigation with the child, not sharing documents or electronic media related to the litigation with the child, and refraining from disparaging comments about the other parent to the child.
(s) The developmental stages and needs of the child and the demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to meet the child’s developmental needs.
(t) Any other factor that is relevant to the determination of a specific parenting plan, including the time-sharing schedule.