Articles Posted in Modification

That dreaded word in a divorce:  Alimony. Alimony is determined by the court after looking at one party’s actual need versus one party’s ability to pay. After equitable distribution is determined, the court reviews what money is left over, if anything, and considers the parties’ circumstances to come up with a fair award.  Some questions to answer:

  • Length of the marriage
  • Standard of living the parties are accustomed to

In Florida, divorces with children involved primarily focus on the parenting plan first.  The parenting plan determines numerous factors in raising your children and will be the document most referred to after the divorce is finalized.  It is important that the plan is tailored to you and your children and accounts for the best interest of the children.  Before filing for divorce, you should consider whether you would like to request one of the following:

  • Shared Parental Responsibility: Both parents confer and jointly make all major decisions affecting the welfare of the children, such as education, healthcare, etc.
  • Shared Parental Responsibility with Decision Making Authority: Both parents attempt to agree on major decisions, but one parent will have the ultimate decision-making authority.

When parties come to family court in Florida for paternity, dissolution of marriage, or child support proceedings, income of the parties can become very important in calculations and is examined closely. There may be certain situations where one parent is working overtime to make additional money, whether it be to pay support or to supplement income because of a lack of support being received. Can working overtime be a Child supportproblem in your family court case?

Florida Statute § 61.30(2)(a) indicates that gross income shall include, among other things, bonuses, commissions, allowances, overtime, tips, and other similar payments.  Child support will be calculated from net income, so it is important to get all allowable deductions as accurate as possible.  For purposes of child support, the court must impute income to a voluntarily unemployed or underemployed parent unless the lack of employment is the result of the parent’s physical incapacity or other circumstances beyond the parent’s control.  The court has to state the exact amount of gross income it is imputing to a parent. See Shrove v. Shrove, 724 So.2d 679 (Fla. 4thDCA 1999). Regular overtime or second-job income is included unless the court specifically finds that the opportunity to earn overtime will not be available as an income source in the future.  See Butler v. Brewster, 629 So.2d 1092 (Fla. 4th DCA 1994).

Therefore, it can be possible that overtime and second-job income can be used to calculate child support and the court won’t make a finding that the income source will not be available as an income source in the future, making child support higher or lower depending on the circumstances. Contact an experienced Jacksonville Family Law Attorney with the Law Office of David M. Goldman, PLLC for a consultation.

alimony taxesThe Tax Cuts and Jobs Act “TCJA” has a definite effect on alimony payments.  Prior to the new law, alimony payments could be deducted by the payer for federal income tax purposes and recipients had to report the payments as taxable income.  Any divorces finalized before December 31, 2018 will continue under the old tax law.  Any divorces finalized after December 32, 2018 apply under the TCJA eliminates the deduction for alimony payments and recipients no longer have to include them as taxable income.  In addition, any modification of alimony payments after December 31, 2018 shall be affected by the TCJA if the modification specifically states that the TCJA applies; meaning if the TCJA is ordered applicable by the Court.

Pre-2019 divorce orders for alimony still qualify under the old federal income tax law for a deduction benefit without having to itemize if all requirements are met.  Requirements include: 1) a written document is required the alimony payment; 2) payment must be to or on behalf of a spouse or ex-spouse; 3) the divorce decree or separation document cannot state the payment is not alimony; 4) ex-spouses cannot live in the same household or file jointly; 5) a payment must be made in cash or by cash equivalent; 6) cannot be deemed to be child support; 7) the taxpayer’s social security number must be included on the tax return; 8) the obligation to make payments ceases upon the recipient’s death.  See IRS Tax Topic No. 452.

Depending on your situation, you need to speak with an experienced Jacksonville family law attorney now.  If you will be making alimony payments, it is in your best interest to get a divorce wrapped up before December 31, 2018 so payments will be deductible.  If you will be receiving payments, it is in your best interest to put off finalizing your divorce until next year, so the payments will be tax free to you.  Contact the Law Office of David M. Goldman, PLLC for a consultation.

travel service passportWhat do you do when you want a divorce but your spouse has left to go to a foreign country?  How do you serve your spouse with divorce papers?  It can be a very complex and scary process; even to a lot of lawyers.

To commence a divorce action, there must be personal service on a spouse, meaning that a copy of the petition may be served on your spouse by sheriff or certified process server at their usual place of abode with any person residing therein who is 15 years of age or older and informing the person of their contents.  The spouse may also be served at their employment in a private area designated by the employer after contacting the employer.  Service may also be made on a spouse doing business as a sole proprietorship at their place of business by serving the person in charge of the business at the time of service if 2 attempts to serve the owner have been made at the place of business.

International service of process is governed by the Hague Convention on the Service of Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters and the Inter-American Service Convention “IASC,” with an Additional Protocol.  There are some countries who are not a part of the Hague Convention and special rules apply for these countries.

Changing Venue: Moving  Family Law Cases

One question we often receive from our family law clients is if they can change courts, also known as venue, when they move to a new area in Florida from the court where the marriage dissolution proceedings originally occurred to a more nearby court.

venue changeThe short answer to this question is yes. In family law, the courts in Florida always try to act in “best interests of the child.” This standard will be explained further in this article, but first lets explain exactly how the change in venue process would potentially work.

Before a spouse can change venue, it is important to understand where a family law proceeding can actually be brought. According to the Florida Statute 61.13, a family law case may be brought in “the circuit court in the county in which either parent and the child reside or the circuit court in which the original order approving or creating the parenting plan was entered…” This usually means that venue will start in the court where the divorce was filed, and stay in this court for all related matters such as equitable distribution, alimony, parenting responsibility, child support, and all modifications.

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498955_holding_moneyAlimony Reduction and Termination: Alimony is often one of the most contested issues in divorce cases.  For many people, the idea of paying money to financially support an ex-spouse is a disgusting idea.  When the love and reverence turns to hate and disdain, making alimony payments to the ex-spouse is painful.  The pain is only magnified by a judge’s ruling that the payments are to be permanent.  An award of permanent alimony normally stays in place until the re-marriage of the recipient or the death of one of the parties.  However, under some circumstances, modification or termination of permanent alimony payments can be accomplished.

Florida Statute 61.14 authorizes the circuit court to reconsider alimony when the parties’ circumstances or financial ability change.  Courts interpret this by requiring three things: (1) a substantial change in circumstances; (2) the change was not anticipated at the time of the final judgment; and (3) the change is sufficient, material, permanent, and involuntary.  Applying this test, alimony can be either decreased or increased.

Florida courts have deemed that a former wife’s increased living expenses related to her condominium were enough to justify an increase in alimony.  It has also been determined that a former husband who voluntarily retires after reaching retirement age and has less income as a result should have that fact considered when the former husband asks for a reduction in alimony payments.  For more information, or for a free initial consultation regarding the specific facts in your case, call the Law Office of David M. Goldman, PLLC at (904) 685-1200.  Our experienced Jacksonville alimony lawyers and divorce lawyers can help you or a loved one work toward the best outcome in your case.

Facebook is a good resource to communicate with old friends. Some people find it useful for such odd things as improving your heart rate or landing a job by networking. But one thing using Facebook may hurt is your chances of getting a fair hearing if you are going through a Florida Divorce or a Child Custody proceeding.

Facebook based circumstantial evidence has been used by 81percent of its members according to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.

You are probably thinking that you set your facebook account’s privacy settings high and you’ve blocked your ex, so they can’t see damaging information. But that does not stop your “friends” from forwarding damaging information.

In family law, there are several remedies at the court’s discretion that comprise the toolbox of Family Law. One of these tools is the Child Support Lien.

A “lien” is a recorded claim against property such as real estate. This property can be seized or sold to satisfy and discharge the lien. This process, in the child support context, is just like a foreclosure.

If a parent of your children owes back child support and has no income, the family law court may decide to investigate any real property he owns. The Court would then place a lien on that property which would be recorded in the Office of the Clerk of Court in the county where the property is located. The child support lien, once it has been recorded, is just like a mortgage on a house. In a traditional foreclosure, if a homeowner falls behind on house payments, the bank can, after meeting certain procedural requirements, foreclose on the house. By filing a child support lien, the parent filing the lien is in effect stepping into shoes just like the bank. You can foreclose after meeting procedural requirements.

Florida courts will consider modification of a child custody order only if the parent requesting the custody modification is able to prove a substantial change in circumstances. Under Florida law, a “substantial change in circumstances” means a substantial, permanent and involuntary material change. In other words, the change cannot be temporary, it cannot be caused by something the parent voluntarily did and the change must be big enough to warrant the court changing the original parenting plan or custody agreement.

Only after the court has been satisfied that the change in circumstances is substantial, will it then move on to consider what is in the best interest of the child. The reason for this is to prevent constant back and forth motions to change custody which would be destabilizing for the children. It also helps prevent the court from becoming overburdened with frequent and repetitive modification requests.

Parent relocation is one of the most common grounds for seeking a change in custody. The modification request may be submitted by a relocating parent who wants to take the child with them, or a parent opposing relocation who wants the child be placed with them. Some courts switch custody from one parent to the other, although the increasingly common approach is to ask the parents to work out a plan under which both parents may continue to have significant contacts with their children.

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