Child support is a major issue in family law. Child support is part of divorce cases and paternity cases. Even dependency cases can have child support issues involved. As a Jacksonville child support lawyer, I have handled many cases involving support from both sides. The person receiving child support and the person paying child support typically just want an amount that is fair.  Child support cannot be bargained away by the parents, as Florida law is clear that the right to child support belongs to the child and not the parents.

child supportOne child support issue that comes up sometimes is created by the scenario where the parent that has the child the majority of the time is not working. This issue comes up a lot more in paternity cases, but can be present in a divorce case, as well. Chapter 61, Florida Statutes and case law control how child support is handled. Florida law allows for income to be imputed to a person that doesn’t have a job or other source of income. The person paying support often is bothered that he or she is required to work and pay child support, while the recipient of child support sits at home and does nothing. In this situation, the court will sometimes treat the non-working parent as if he or she was working and use money that could be earned working 40 hours per week at minimum wage. Income can also be imputed to the person required to pay child support, even if he or she has no actual income.

Child support is based on a formula where each person’s earnings are used to produce an appropriate child support amount. So a parent without employment will be treated as if he or she is earning approximately $1300 per month in net income, rather than using $0 as his or her monthly income. Normally, this will decrease the amount of support due from the person paying child support. However, Florida law also allows the court that is imputing income to a non-working parent to consider what, if any, amount child care would cost in order for the person to work full time. The cost of childcare is high, and it will increase the overall child support number.

Planning for the future in any given situation will produce a better outcome than not having a plan.  Marriage and divorce are no exception.  Having a plan is important for people of all ages, but people who marry later in life normally have more reason to plan properly.  Those entering into marriage later in life are normally more financially equipped than their younger counter parts and often have children already.  This is important, because leaving property behind for your children could be affected by  a subsequent marriage and/or divorce.  There are many planning documents that are helpful to have.  Two documents that will help make things  a bit simpler later down the line for married couples are: (1) a prenuptial (or premarital) agreement and (2)  a will.

prenuptialPrenuptial agreements can be used to lay out the understanding between couples on how things will go during the marriage, as well as what happens in the event of a divorce between the parties. Examples of topics to include would be how the couple will handle joint bills and other liabilities. A common method is for the parties to establish a joint checking account that each will contribute to for the purpose of paying household expenses.  All issues that may come about during a divorce proceeding can’t be addressed.  Things like child support and time-sharing (visitation) can’t be controlled completely by a prenuptial agreement, but it makes sense to have as many issues as possible ironed out.  Property  rights absolutely can be determined by a prenuptial agreement, and parties should consider having one in place. Continue reading

Technology plays a major role in divorce cases.  Technology, particularly social media apps like Facebook, Tinder, and even text messages, are coming up as issues.  Sometimes, the use of technology is the cause of the divorce, while other times technology provides evidence to be used in divorce litigation.  It is estimated that as many and one-third of divorce cases around the country mention Facebook.  Many states are “fault” states when it comes to divorces.  In these states, divorce lawyers will use evidence of adultery committed using technology to be the justification for divorce.  Florida is a “no-fault” state when it comes to divorces.  What this means is that there doesn’t have to be a reason for the divorce in Florida, other than the marriage is “irretrievably broken”.  As long as one of the parties no longer want to be married, a divorce can move forward.  Florida divorce lawyers typically will use information gathered via technology to present evidence to the court for various reasons, but its use to justify a divorce is not needed.

technology in divorceAs a Jacksonville divorce lawyer, I see text messages used most often as evidence for or against a party to a divorce case than any other form of technology.  The text messages are introduced regarding all types of divorce issues.  When a party is in the middle of litigation, it is a good idea to be careful about the messages sent via text or some other media, such as Facebook Messenger.  The things that are posted on social media should be selected carefully, as well.  For instance, if one party states that he or she has no means of income at all and is looking for spousal support, but makes posts on Facebook advertising the operation of a business, this can be harmful to that party’s position.  Other examples are where parents are litigating over custody of children.  Having evidence that one parent has made efforts to let the other parent visit with the children, despite claims that no such efforts were made can be helpful.

Many various of the issues involving technology and its use for or against a party can come about.  The rules of evidence will play a part on what can be used and what cannot be used in the case.  Contacting a Jacksonville divorce lawyer early on in the process will help ensure the best possible outcome in your case.  For more information on divorces in general or to schedule your free initial consultation, call us today at (904) 685-1200.

The need for emergency pick up orders can be brought about for various reasons.  A couple of the most common reasons I’ve encountered in my practice as a Jacksonville family lawyer are appropriate to set the stage.  Families made up fathers, mothers, and children where the parents were never married are common.  When these families split, there are less issues to address than in an actual marriage, but the most important issue still remains– the children and how time will be split between the parents while continuing to raise them together.  Under Florida law, the mother is the natural guardian of a child born out of wedlock.  A father’s signature on a birth certificate creates a legal presumption that the father is, in fact, the father, but does not give automatic rights to the father for visitation.  Visitation rights, referred to as “time sharing” must be established by the court with a parenting plan approved by the court.

Emergency pick up orders are sometimes necessary.I have found that most couples split without going to the court and filing paternity actions so a parenting plan can be established.  They attempt to sort out visitation without family lawyers and without judges.  This can work, but there are issues that can become thorns for the parents.  Two common issues I encounter as a Jacksonville family lawyer are: (1) one parent refuses to send a child back after the child has been with the other for time sharing; and (2) one parent believes that the child is in some sort of danger while in the care of the other parent and wants the court to help reclaim possession of the child.  Of course, these issues can arise even when a parenting plan has already been put in place, but resolving the issues is easier when there is an established case and a parenting plan in effect.  Note that there are different variations of scenarios that include couples that were once married and couples that were never married; however, the general principles are the same. Continue reading

According to Florida law, “It is the public policy of this state that each minor child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents separate or the marriage of the parties is dissolved and to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities, and joys, of childrearing.”  Simply put, people are expected to co-parent, meaning that they act as if they are still together, at least as far as it relates to the children.  This idea can sometimes get lost in the mix of things.  As a Jacksonville family lawyer and divorce lawyer, I have found that some of the biggest issues in family and divorce cases come from people’s emotions getting the better of them.  Spite can mix with anger and other emotions and lead to parents making irrational decisions concerning the parties’ children.  Way too often these irrational decisions manifest in a lack of co-parenting between parties.  The state’s policy is that each parent will have the right to spend quality time with the children, the right to participate in the lives of the children, and be part of major decisions affecting the children.  Even more important than the parents’ rights is the children’s well-being and best interest.  Having both parents involved in a child’s life is normally the best thing for him or her.

Co-parenting means children don't have to choose a parent.When a father and mother are properly co-parenting that means they are each doing what is necessary to make the lives of the children and the success of the children their number one priority.  They are working together to ensure that the children’s best interest are always put first. Simple courtesies must come from both sides, because things will arise that make it necessary for accommodations to be made for and by each parent.  For example, if a parent is running late to pick a child up for visitation, if the parenting that is waiting with the child doesn’t give a reasonable amount of extra time, this could cause issues.  When the parents don’t get along, they don’t co-parent well, and what happens a lot of times is the waiting parent won’t allow the late parent to pick the child up due to being late.  This is not successful co-parenting.

Other than being the right thing to do for the children’s sake, the willingness of the parents and their ability to successfully co-parent is something that courts will take into consideration when making decisions about custody and timesharing during a divorce or timesharing modification AND, it will be considered afterwards, if contempt proceedings come about. Parents lack of co-parenting after a parenting plan has been put into place will continue to cause issues and create more litigation, because the parent that feels wronged will sometimes file a Motion for Civil Contempt.  Contempt actions are all about a person not doing something that the judge has ordered.  Here, if a parent is not cooperating or following the parenting plan, he or she could be found in contempt and have sanctions, such as fines, imposed.

As a Jacksonville divorce lawyer, I have encountered my share of clients that are not too fond of the idea of paying alimony to a former spouse.  I suppose I understand.  Alimony considerations are controlled by Florida Statute 61.08, but in general will be based on one person’s need versus the other person’s ability to pay.   For many people, it’s not the money its self, but rather the idea of being forced to provide support that they would rather not provide after the relationship has ended.  Simply put, people are angry and are driven by emotions surrounding divorces, those emotions often conflict with what the court has ordered regarding support payments.  People will search for ways to protest as much as possible without running the risk of being held in contempt for not following a judge’s order.

151215_Allimony ChecksTake a look at the photo to the left. It shows a man and woman who were recently married.  Apparently, the photos are printed on checks that the man used to pay alimony to his ex-wife. Not all divorced couples hate each other, but it is clear to see that these checks were designed to take shots at the ex-wife every time she receives an alimony payment.  It makes for a good laugh on social media, but I wouldn’t recommend it under most circumstances.  As long as alimony is due, the court will have jurisdiction to enforce the support obligation. As long as the court retains jurisdiction, there are always things that the ex can do to complicate the former husband’s life.  Under Florida law, there is nothing wrong with what the husband has done here.   Although there are many many reasons not to antagonize and poke at an ex-wife, the law will allow this type of behavior.  Unless there is a provision in the divorce decree that can be used to attack these spiteful checks, the checks will be allowed.

My advice as a Jacksonville divorce lawyer is for the ex-husband not to poke the bear. For the ex-wife, it would be to cash the checks and enjoy the money. The ex-wife, however, under Florida law has the option to petition the court and ask that the payments go through the depository, rather than directly to her. It adds a middleman to the deal, but shuts down the ex-husband’s shenanigans.  At the Law Office of David M. Goldman, PLLC, our experienced divorce lawyers can help guide you through the divorce process and help protect your rights.  We also offer pretty awesome advice on what not to do in divorce case.  Call today for a free initial consultation.

Relocation after a divorce where there are children involved can be a touchy situation.  On the one hand, there is a parent that believes he or she needs to move to accomplish some perceived improvement in life.  On the other hand, there is a parent who will suffer by having an increased distance between him or her and the children.  Both non-majority time-sharing and majority time-sharing parents can have concerns about the other ex-spouse moving far away.  However, usually, the situations call into question whether a majority time-sharing parent should be allowed to move with the children.  These types of situations are even more serious when the majority time-sharing parent wants to move with the children to another state.  Although the move is more drastic, the same factors will be considered.

Relocation

Relocation can a touchy situation.

Relocation is addressed by Florida Statute 61.13001.  Per statute, “ ‘Relocation’ means a change in the location of the principal residence of a parent or other person from his or her principal place of residence at the time of the last order establishing or modifying time-sharing, or at the time of filing the pending action to establish or modify time-sharing. The change of location must be at least 50 miles from that residence, and for at least 60 consecutive days not including a temporary absence from the principal residence for purposes of vacation, education, or the provision of health care for the child.”  The parent seeking relocation has the burden of proving that the relocation is in the best interest of the children.  The court will consider many factors, including the reason for the move, the effect the move will have on the time-sharing of the other parent, relevant economic considerations, and many other factors.

Marriage has long been described as the union of two people, which in the end gives rise to solidarity of purpose and existence, creating one stronger unit.  With the emphasis put on the union, you can imagine that undoing the union is serious business.  During divorces, emotions run high for different reasons.  The financial aspect of ending the marriage relationship is high on the list of stressors.  For example, if a household brings in $100,000 per year between the husband and the wife, splitting that income in two and trying to maintain the same standard of living is hard to to do.  As a Jacksonville divorce lawyer, I’ve encountered this dilemma many times.  Intertwined in the issue of income splitting is the issue of dividing marital debt (and marital assets, but in this article the focus will be on marital debt).

Marital Debt

Marital Debt

According to Florida Statute 61.075, “All assets acquired and liabilities incurred by either spouse subsequent to the date of the marriage and not specifically established as non-marital assets or liabilities are presumed to be marital assets and liabilities.”  In other words, both parties are responsible for debt created by one or both of them, unless it can be shown that one of them should be solely responsible for the debt.  This means proving that it is non-marital debt.  The person who wants the debt to be considered non-marital debt has the burden to prove that it is non-marital debt.

Trusts have long been a tool used in asset protection and estate planning to protect property and income.  But  what if a person seeks to use a trust  as a shield to protect a trust beneficiary from making support payments in family law cases?  The answer is not necessarily straight forward, but depends on the circumstances and the terms of the trust.  However, Florida trust law makes it possible for a trust to be used to provide support to a trust beneficiary’s dependents.  This is  limited to child support or spousal support and is only considered when there are no other alternatives to receiving the support that is sought.  The person seeking to attach a trust’s distributions to a beneficiary must demonstrate to the court that certain factors are present that justify going after the trust.  A trust’s spendthrift provision will not defeat a garnishment for support of a dependent.

equalRecently, the 2nd District Court of Appeals, in Berlinger v. Casselberry, upheld a trial court’s order issuing a continuing writ of garnishment against any future disbursements from a trust for the ex-husband’s benefit after the ex-wife filed a motion for contempt and requested a writ of garnishment.  In this case, the ex-husband was ordered to pay a substantial amount of alimony per month.  The ex-husband stopped making the alimony payments, but lived a lavish lifestyle with his new wife.  The couple lived off a trust set up for the benefit of the ex-husband, who had attempted to hide the trust.  After the ex-wife discovered the trust, she requested the writ of garnishment, which the court granted.

The State of Florida holds spendthrift provisions in high regard and will respect them, generally.  However, the State’s policy as it relates to a person’s obligation to support his or her dependents is of higher interest to the State of Florida.  For more information on trusts or family law issues, contact the Law Office of David M. Goldman, PPLC.  Initial consultations are free.

Florida child support is based off of a formula that is used to calculate the amount of periodic payments that have to be made by a noncustodial parent.  The goal behind child support enforcement is to have the parents, rather than the State of Florida, take care of children.  Of the thousands of cases that involve child support orders, some are the result of divorce cases or paternity cases started by the mother or father, while many are the result of legal action by the Florida Department of Revenue.  The Florida Department of Revenue is the state agency that handles child support enforcement.  However a child support order comes into existence, the obligation to support a child or children is taken seriously.  Not paying child support can have consequences that range from suspended licenses, liens on property, contempt of court (which can mean jail time), and more.

child supportAs a Jacksonville child support lawyer, I’ve had many conversations with noncustodial parents when they are behind on support payments.  Many have ignored the payments, typically after job loss or some other event that makes them believe they aren’t required to pay.  If a major even happens that changes your ability to pay or makes you think that you no longer have to make payments, I suggest that you immediately contact a child support lawyer that can help you understand your rights and obligations.  When there is a substantial change in circumstances, child support payments may be modified.  The possibility for change can be upward or downward, depending on the circumstances.

Contacting a child support lawyer is important whether your child support payments are made through an income deduction order or paid directly to the other parent.  Making adjustments to the child support amount on your own without going through the court can lead to some of the penalties listed above.  Call the Law Office of David M. Goldman, PLLC today to schedule a free consultation.  We can help enforce child support payments, as well.  So whether you’re not receiving the support your child deserves, you need to start a new support case, or a modification is necessary, we can help.

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