Articles Posted in Child Support

The question as to whether or not an individual needs an attorney to divorce in Florida is simple if we review the question literally.  You can get a divorce in Florida without an attorney.  However, it may be unwise to attempt to be divorced without an attorney.

Why Should I Use an Attorney?

The author believes that an attorney is essential if you are attempting to obtain a divorce.  This may sound like a self serving statement, but the author thinks there are numerous reasons that one should use an attorney to guide them through the process.  The author feels that having an attorney keeps otherwise Pro Se (self represented) clients forging ahead and not getting side tracked by discovery issues and other procedural problems regularly encountered and routinely dealt with by attorneys.

The general rule in Florida is that child support terminates when a child reaches 18 years of age.  However, the general rule does not apply when child support is still owed for any time prior to the child’s reaching adult legal status.  Under those circumstances, the custodial parent generally retains the right to collect on the overdue balance owed.  In terms of procedure, to collect any outstanding child support payments, the custodial parent must obtain a Court order signed by a Judge.  Even if the debtor parent is not currently able to make the payments, the Court order preserves the right of the custodial parent to make a claim on future money earned for back child support.  To make sure that a Court order is properly obtained, custodial parents in Jacksonville would benefit from retaining the services of an experience Jacksonville family attorney.

Florida Also Provides an Exception in Instances When a Child of Legal Age Has Not Yet Graduated from High School

Florida’s child support statute found at Florida Statute §61.30, also contains a provision that extends child support until the child graduates from high school, if there is a reasonable expectation of graduating before his or her 19th birthday.  If there is no reasonable expectation that the child will graduate before their 19th birthday, child support will terminate automatically upon the child turning 18 years old.

Many divorcing parents and single parents are aware of their obligation to support their children, and some are familiar with how the amount they must pay is decided.  Fewer are aware of how long the obligation to support their children continues.  Your Jacksonville family attorney can assist you with understanding all of the nuances about child support.

Payment Lasts Until the Child Reaches Majority Age

In general, a parent must pay child support until the child is 18 years old.  This is considered the age of majority or when the child is recognized as an adult.  However, a child’s eighteenth birthday isn’t always the cutoff date for support payments.  According to Florida law, a parent’s duty to continue paying child support may be extended when the child has not finished high school by their eighteenth birthday; when the child has special needs; and when there is an agreement that says otherwise.  Your Jacksonville family attorney can assist you in determining what your obligation will be based on your particular circumstances.

What is a Statute of Limitations?

The term “Statute of Limitations” refers to a law that limits the period for which one may file a lawsuit.  This time period will typically vary by state and the type of suit that is being filed. For instance, the period of time for filing suit for a wrongful death claim may be different from the period of time one has to file for a trespass suit.  Federal law normally controls Statute of Limitations Periods for cases decided based upon federal law.

How Far Back Can One Be Assessed in Determining Child Support?

Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution that is mandatory in a Florida divorce, paternity, or modification case, but many people do not see the process as the benefit it is.  During mediation, the two parties will meet with a mediator who is an unbiased and uninterested person in the case.  The mediator will try and help the parties resolve all disputes related to the family law case.  If an agreement is reached, it is drafted and submitted to the Court for approval so the case can be closed.  While the process is straightforward, there are still many myths related to the process.  Your Jacksonville family attorney can assist you in understanding the mediation process.  Below are the biggest myths about family law mediation in Florida, and the truth behind them.

The Mediator Will Make All the Decisions

This is simply untrue.  Mediators do not make any of the decisions when they meet with parties going through a divorce, paternity, or modification case.  They cannot force either party to do, or not do, anything.  Instead, they are only there to help you and facilitate you and your spouse, ex-spouse, or co-parent to reach an agreement.  If you cannot reach an agreement and your case requires litigation, it is the Judge that will make all the decisions.  Your Jacksonville family attorney is here to assist you in mediation and to represent you in any litigation should you not reach agreement.

Your domicile is the place upon which an individual has voluntarily decided to reside permanently.  In the ordinary sense, a persons domicile is the place where he lives and where he has his or her home.  However, the legal definition is more specific.  The plan in which a person has his or her permanent home and principal establishment upon which he intends to return whenever he is absent would fit the legal definition of domicile.

Why is it Important to Determine Domicile?

The domicile that one chooses has legal consequences. One’s domicile determines which state can probate a will.  It also determines which state can collect estate taxes when someone dies.  One’s domicile establishes where an individual may exercise certain legal rights and privileges.  Where one has the privilege to vote is determined by domicile.

It is no secret that going through a divorce is expensive.  Although there is very little that you can do about certain costs of your divorce, such as what you may or may not lose during property division hearings, there is one area of expenses you can control.  That is your legal fees and costs.  All divorce attorneys in Jacksonville will charge something to legally represent you during the process, and the advice and counsel they bring to your case is invaluable.  Still, there are some ways that you can keep the legal costs down, so you do not face unexpected charges in the future.  Your Jacksonville divorce lawyer can explain to you in your initial consultation how to keep your legal costs down but here are some basic tips.

Call and Email Only When You Have To

            Most divorce lawyers in Jacksonville will charge you for every time they devote to answering your phone calls and emails.  However, you likely want them to spend this time preparing for your trial, mediation, or other aspects of your case.  You will have may questions during the divorce process, and you deserve to have them answered.  Instead of incurring fees every time you have a question, prepare a list of questions, and ask them all at once.  Your Jacksonville divorce lawyer will still charge you, but you will likely incur fewer legal fees.

Do You Know Your Rights in Child Support Court?

In a child support case, one cannot be incarcerated if they do not have the present ability to pay.  Bowen v. Bowen, 471 So.2d 1274 (Fla. 1985).  Although this case is binding on Florida courts, the author believes that self represented individuals do not get the benefit of legal protections against incarceration or cancellation of a driver’s license or professional license.  The author believes that one reason for this is because laymen tend to believe that an administrative agency must take a neutral position (similar to a judge).  This is not the case when it comes to collection of child support by the Florida Department of Revenue.  The author, in the next paragraph is going to summarize the case of Bowen v. Bowen to give readers a clearer understanding of child support issues when the Florida Department of Revenue is involved.

The Case of Bowen v. Bowen.

It is not uncommon in a divorce case for one of the spouse’s not to want to end the marriage.  One partner may think that there is a chance of working things out and resolving their differences, or they may not want to legally dissolve the marriage for other reasons.  If your spouse has started divorce proceedings, and you really don’t want a divorce, your options may be limited but there is something you can do.  Florida is one of seventeen states that follow No-Fault laws in divorce cases.  The Petitioner only has to allege that the marriage is irretrievably broken. If you really do not want a divorce you should answer the Petition for Dissolution by alleging you do not believe the marriage is irretrievably broken.  Florida Statute §61.052(2)(b)1 allows you to request the Court to Order you and your spouse to marriage counseling.  It is rarely done and there are specific requirements that must be met.  Your Jacksonville Family Lawyer can assist you in understanding this law and representing you in Court.

In order for a spouse to utilize this statute, the parties must have a child together.  If the Court grants the request for marriage counseling, psychiatrist, priest, minister, rabbi, or any other professional the divorce will be placed on hold for approximately three months to allow the counseling to take place.  Florida Statute §61.052(2)(b)2 allows the Court to continue the proceedings for a reasonable length of time not to exceed 3 months, to enable the parties themselves to effect a reconciliation.  During any period of continuance, the Court has jurisdiction to make appropriate orders for the support and alimony of the parties; a parenting plan, support, maintenance, and education of any minor children of the marriage; attorney’s fees; and the preservation of the property of the parties.  Consult your Jacksonville Family Lawyer for assistance with your case.

As previously stated, the above statute is rarely used.  This is because if one person wants to end the marriage, counseling is usually not effective.  By the time a person has made the decision to start the divorce process, they have usually given it a lot of thought and intend to go through with it.

What is Support without Dissolution?

Section 61.09 allows a married individual to file for support (child support and alimony) where a person does not seek a dissolution.  This statute allows a party to seek alimony or child support.  However, that party may or may not request the entry of a parenting plan.  A final judgment of support does not include distribution of marital assets.  This type of action is sometimes referred to as separate maintenance.

“If a person having the ability to contribute to the maintenance of his or her spouse and support of his or her minor child fails to do so, the spouse who is not receiving support may apply to the court for alimony and for support for the child without seeking dissolution of marriage, and the court shall enter an order as it deems just and proper.”  F.S. 61.09.

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