Family Law – Child Support, Time Sharing / Visitation and Custody, Alimony, Parenting Plan, relocation, modification / supplemental proceedings,
Family Law is often the most emotional area of the law as it deals with the dissolution of marriages and child custody and time sharing issues as well as property distribution, alimony and child support. All things no one wants to deal with in an ideal scenario that sometimes become legally necessary to address.
In Florida the law refers to divorce as a dissolution of marriage. A divorce is granted when a parties’ marriage is irretrievably broken and there is nothing the Court can do to save or repair the marriage. In Florida there is no waiting period or counseling requirement to file for divorce or get a divorce. Florida is a no-fault state so the reason for a divorce is generally irrelevant.
The parties are required to file a divorce case with the Clerk of Court and exchange certain financial information with each other (known as mandatory disclosure). After a case is filed the Court will assign a Judge and schedule a Case Management Conference, usually 90 days out to allow for initial discovery to take place. General discovery required includes financial affidavits, bank statements, tax returns, and a host of other disclosures.
Children / Child Custody / Parenting Plan
The Florida legislature has evolved and shifted away from the terms child custody, primary custody and child visitation. It was done to try to remove some of the animosity and negative conotations associated with the words and it was replaced with more cooperative and team based language. The language now used are terms like shared parenting, co-parenting and parenting plan.
Parenting Plans set forth how parents will raise their children cooperatively. A Parenting Plan deals with where the child(ren) will live and when they will be with which parent. It dictates exchanges of the children between the parents and the communication methods to be used by the parents and children, and addresses holiday time sharing and important decisions regarding the children. A Parenting Plan can be as simple or complex and detailed as necessary and should cover all aspects that may arise in the lives of the children and should provide a roadmap that once ratified by the Court directs how each event should be treated.
Florida Law favors both parents being as involved as possible in children’s lives and co-parenting.
Child support in Florida is something children are entitled to by law and something that cannot be waived by a parent. Child Support is determined by the Child Support Guidelines which take into account the parents’ respective incomes, the number of overnights that each parent has with the child(ren) and certain costs directly related to the child(ren) such as child care expenses and medical expenses. Child Support can also be modified once ordered by the Court based on a substantial change in circumstances, such as a change in income or time sharing or expenses related to the child(ren).
Alimony, also known as spousal support is the legal obligation of one spouse to financially provide for his or her spouse during and after a divorce. Alimony comes from the latin word alimonia, which means to nourish, sustenance.
Once a divorce proceeding starts either party may seek temporary alimony.
Alimony is based on need and ability to pay. That is one spouse’s need for financial support versus the other spouse’s ability to pay financial support to the other. There can be a scenario where there is need with no ability to pay and also an ability to pay with no need. The two must exist together for an alimony award to occur. There are many factors utilized in Florida to determine alimony need and ability to pay. These factors include but are not limited to the length of the marriage and the standard of living established during the marriage.
There are many types of alimony from temporary to permanent and rehabilitative to durational.
Equitable Distribution is a process used by Florida divorce courts to split the property of the parties. The Court by law is to start at an equal split and do what is equitable from there. Anything acquired during the marriage unless by gift, devise or descent is subject to equitable distribution. Non-marital property or pre-marital property is not subject to equitable distribution. Items subject to equitable distribution include any and all property including but not limited to real property, vehicles, personal property, bank accounts and retirement accounts.