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You’ve probably heard of ”prenuptial agreements” and perhaps “marital settlement agreements,” too. Another agreement, slightly less well-known but no less important, is the “postnuptial agreement.” Each of these three types of legally binding agreements can be very powerful tools and have a very substantial impact on you should you go through a divorce. For those reasons (and others,) it is important to have a knowledgeable South Florida family law attorney on your side to advise you on the differences and how best to protect yourself and your family.

A prenuptial agreement is, of course, an agreement made in anticipation of marriage and a marital settlement agreement is made in anticipation of an order of divorce. A postnuptial agreement is something, however, that a couple can create either in anticipation of divorce (as the marriage is breaking down) or while the marriage is still vibrant and intact.

A recent case from Palm Beach County highlighted some of the differences between each of those agreements in terms of enforceability and the importance of those differences. The case involved G.S. and D.S., who married in 1977 but separated for a time in the mid-1990s. They eventually got back together and, in late 1996, they signed an agreement that dealt with the distribution of certain assets in the event of a divorce. At that time, the pair was married, living together and not even thinking about getting divorced.

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When a marital relationship breaks down, that breakdown can cause some spouses to respond in a hyper-adversarial way, especially if there are children involved. They may try to lay hands on all kinds of privileged information, such as your past medical history and treatments. Often, this evidence is irrelevant and inadmissible, but you still need to know how to go through the correct legal steps to avoid having to divulge this very private and sensitive information. The right South Florida family law attorney can be instrumental in keeping your private medical information private.

S.R. was a mom caught in that kind of circumstance. After she filed for divorce, her husband, T.R., sought to force 11 medical providers, each of whom allegedly had provided medical, psychological or psychiatric care to S.R at some point, to divulge their records of any such treatment. The husband asked for a wide range of disclosures, including “notes, prescriptions, treatment records, consultation reports, lab reports, blood work reports, office notes by staff of the facility and any electronic records maintained during the course of treatment.”

In addition, the husband also asked the court to order S.R. to disclose all the records she possessed pertaining to “medical and/or psychological and/or psychiatric treatment or counseling” she’d undergone in the previous five years.

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When it comes to planning, nothing is more important than doing the planning necessary to protect your family. By retaining the services of a skilled South Florida family law attorney, you can be sure you have the right “safety net” to protect your most priceless treasure: your relationship with your children.

No one wants to think about planning for a potential breakup of their new marriage or newly expanded family, but that’s when you should begin planning to give yourself the “safety net” your family needs. If you’re a gay or lesbian parent whose children are the biological offspring of your spouse/partner but have no biological link to you, it is especially important that you do the proper planning to protect your relationship with your children.

It may be easy to think that, when the U.S. Supreme Court made its marriage equality ruling in the Obergefell v. Hodges case five years ago, all of the unique risks that LGBT+ parents face went away, but that’s simply not true, and a recent case from the Orlando area just further highlighted that fact.

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Having representation from a skilled South Florida family law attorney offers many benefits, including being fully prepared to take on whatever unexpected twists or changes occur in your case. Sometimes, the facts of your family law case may be very straightforward and stable but, other times they may turn “on a dime.” In either case, but especially in the latter, having the right legal counsel can help you to respond to these surprise twists in the way that will best benefit your case.

A few areas where sudden changes can have drastic consequences are child support and alimony. If your ex (whom you did not know was even in a relationship) abruptly and unexpectedly gets married, then that sudden change may significantly reduce (or even eliminate) the amount of alimony and/or child support you owe. But… what happens if that sudden change happens after your hearing but before the court enters its final judgment? Can you still seek a recalculation based on that change or has unfortunate timing left you out of luck?

As a recent case from the Tampa area shows, you absolutely still have options that you can – and should – use. In that recent case, the main issue in dispute was child support and imputed income. Imputed income is what happens when the court calculates one spouse or parent’s income at some higher amount than their actual income.

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Alcohol abuse is a problem that affects millions of families across the U.S. A branch of the federal Department of Health and Human Services did a study that revealed that in excess of 10% of children in this country “live with a parent with alcohol problems.” When a parent with alcohol problems goes through a divorce, that problem may make working out a parenting plan more complex. Whether you or your ex-spouse is the parent is the one with drinking issues, it is important to recognize that there are certain things you can do within your parenting plan to address the problems, but there are also limits on your options. As you work through these difficult issues, it is invaluable to have a knowledgeable South Florida family law attorney to give you the thoughtful legal advice and effective advocacy your family needs as you set up your parenting plan.

A family from Broward County who recently went before the Florida courts is an example of the many facets of these cases. The mother filed for divorce after nine years of marriage, citing the father’s drinking. The mother asked the judge to order a parenting plan that awarded her majority timesharing along with ultimate decision-making authority, and that limited the father to supervised visits. The father argued for unsupervised visits and shared decision-making.

The judge ultimately awarded the father unsupervised visits, but made them conditional on his refraining from drinking. To make sure the father was abstaining, the plan called for the father to undergo blood-alcohol content (BAC) testing at the beginning and end of each visit. The judge also gave the mother the right to demand, at her discretion, ”periodic and immediate BAC tests,” even when the father didn’t have the children. The order further demanded that the father pay 100% of the costs associated with all of the BAC testing.

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When people think about child support in general, they typically associate the child’s 18th birthday with the end of the child support obligation. In reality, there are several scenarios where a parent’s child support obligation may continue, even after the child has turned 18, including cases where the child has disabilities and is dependent. Sometimes, in order to obtain that extended support, the recipient parent may be required to get a court order that declares the adult child to be dependent. When you need a judgment like that, it is important to have an experienced South Florida child support attorney on your side so that you can be confident you’re going about seeking that dependency judgment in the right way… and at the right time.

A recent case from the Daytona Beach area shows just how important timing can be in matters like this. T.P. and P.M. were the parents of a daughter with special needs who was born in 2000. According to the mother’s court papers, the daughter had been severely disabled since infancy and would likely never be self-sufficient due to her disabilities.

In 2006, the parents agreed to a stipulation that said that the father would keep paying support until the daughter reached age 18 “or so long as the child is dependent.” In 2018, just four days before the daughter turned 18, the mother filed court papers asking the court to judge the daughter dependent and order the father to keep paying child support.

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Though most of Florida has begun reopening and the shelter-in-place period passed, things are not as they were before. The impacts of the pandemic have been wide-ranging, but have been keenly felt by victims of domestic abuse. For many, the shelter-in-place period may have added additional stress and increased the frequency and/or severity of the abuse while, at the same time, taken away opportunities (like school or work) to reach out for help. Despite these extraordinary conditions, it is essential to recognize that the courts and law offices are still open and that, if you need help, help is available to you. A skilled South Florida family law attorney can be your vital lifeline to the courts and protective orders, along with other resources to enhance your safety.

Sources across the state and the country have been trying to get the word out: just because the number of domestic violence calls during the shelter-in-place period didn’t go up (or in some places went down,) that isn’t necessarily a cause for celebration. Research shows that introducing the conditions we’ve just experienced tends to increase incidents of domestic violence. You have an added element of financial insecurity for many families. You have many primary earners who have lost their jobs. You also have families confined at home together for extended periods, including wage-earners who are used to working outside the home and for whom remaining at home for weeks on end is completely outside their established routines. All of this is a recipe for increased domestic violence.

ABC News reported that authorities in California were greatly concerned by the low number of domestic violence calls during the “lockdown” period, fearing that the low number meant that a vast number of victims were suffering violence but unable to seek help. Closer to home, the Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office in Tampa launched the “We Are Open” campaign to encourage victims to reach out. Much like the California authorities, authorities in Tampa feared that victims were still suffering violence, probably at increased rates, but were fearful to ask for help, WMNF reported. Victims may have encountered many problems, including an inability to secure a private place to make contact, a fear of the effects of the virus if they left their home, or a fear (often falsely instilled by their abusers) that they would be arrested by the police if they left their homes during the shelter-in-place period.

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As you prepare to create a marital settlement agreement in Florida, there are several things you should be certain you do. One is to negotiate carefully and diligently to include all of the terms you need and exclude everything that you need left out. After that, you need to be sure that the written document presented for your signature accurately reflects everything for which you negotiated. This is vital because, if there is a dispute later, the court will rely heavily on what is in “black and white” in the written marital settlement agreement. An experienced South Florida divorce attorney can provide you with invaluable representation throughout this process, including both the negotiation and drafting of your marital settlement agreement.

Jay and Jane were a couple in Broward County whose marital settlement agreement was on center stage in their Court of Appeal case. The spouses had created a marital settlement agreement in the fall of 2015 and finalized their divorce shortly thereafter. Just a few weeks later, the husband passed away.

The couple had agreed in their MSA that, as a “contingency arrangement for the equalizer payment,” the husband would pay the wife 120 monthly payments of $5,000 each starting in November 2015 (for a total of $600,000.) The husband’s estate, though, paid Jane $400,000 up front and then made 28 monthly payments of $5,000, after which the payments stopped.

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Certainly, the best way to deal with issues like unexpected problems with timesharing schedules is often for the parents to work together collaboratively to find a solution that best meets their children’s needs. That, however, may not always be possible. So, you may wonder, what happens if I have agreed to modify the parenting plan in the past but this time I don’t want to? Am I required to agree again? The precise answer to that question may lie in your divorce judgment and parenting plan, or may lie in other specific facts from your case, so you should be sure to consult with an experienced South Florida family law attorney about your legal rights and obligations.

As one recent case revealed, you may not be legally required to accommodate your ex-spouse. C.B. and L.W., the ex-spouses in that case, were the parents of two children. The children lived with the father outside Gainesville. The mother, on the other hand, moved several times. The parenting plan included in the divorce judgment acknowledged that the mother lived in Texas at the time of the divorce (2012) and that the mother would have timesharing “at times and places agreed upon with the father.”

At first, that meant that the parents had a “long-distance-friendly” timesharing schedule to accommodate the mother’s home being far from the children. In 2014, the mother had moved to Florida, so the parent moved to a “one-week-on-one-week-off” schedule. By 2017, the mother lived in New Jersey with her new husband, so the parents returned to the “long-distance-friendly” schedule.

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Having a judge rule against you after a timesharing modification hearing in which you weren’t given a fair chance to argue your side can make you feel upset, frustrated and maybe hopeless. When that happens, don’t just give up, but don’t simply dash off to file an appeal on your own, either. A skilled South Florida family law attorney may help you spot additional flaws in your hearing or your judge’s orders that you can use effectively to achieve success.

For example, one Miami-Dade County mom, who retained this firm for her case, was able to use due process errors to get her timesharing back. S.T., the mother, was divorced with two twin daughters. The parents’ modified parenting plan called for each parent to share parental responsibility and receive equal timesharing.

Early in 2020, the mother canceled one daughter’s dental surgery due to “a lack of compliance with essential preoperative instructions.” It’s useful to know that the mother was a practicing physician, so she, in all likelihood, came into this dental surgery with considerably more knowledge of medicine and preoperative medical procedures than just your “average” mom. Based on this canceled surgery, the father filed an “urgent motion” asking the court to cut off all of the mother’s timesharing.

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