Recently, this blog touched upon some of the circumstances in which a parent’s child support obligation might continue even after the child has turned 18. Some of those scenarios included things like a child who’s on track for graduating high school after turning 18 but before 19, or a child who has disabilities.

There is, however, another way in which you might find yourself paying child support on a child who has already turned 18, and it is a reminder that no detail in your marital settlement agreement is too small to deserve full and careful attention, and no spouse should navigate the divorce process in this state without an experienced South Florida divorce attorney by your side.

Here’s a case that drives home that point: G.S. and T.S. were the divorced parents of three children. The spouses signed their divorce agreement in 2005. Eventually, the father fell behind on child support and his wages were garnished.

Many online news headlines are intentionally constructed to be shocking, thereby getting you to click. In one recent example, a British online news publication covered a case where two Gloucestershire parents were ordered to support their 16-year-old married daughter and to pay that support to the girl’s 27-year-old husband.

Sounds shocking, doesn’t it? It may also lead you to wonder… could that happen to me, here in Florida? If you are the majority-timesharing parent of a teen, could you go from receiving child support to paying child support if your under-18 child marries? As always, to get the customized answers you need, which are tailored to the specific facts of your case, be sure to consult with a knowledgeable South Florida family law attorney. (Generally speaking, though, a Florida parent would never find himself or herself in the position that these two British parents found themselves.)

Many people focus closely on a child’s 18th birthday when it comes to assessing how long a child support obligation lasts. However, Florida law actually acknowledges several scenarios in which a child support obligation might end prior to a child’s 18th birthday. One is if the child obtains a court judgment declaring the child to be legally “emancipated.” This is also sometimes called “divorcing one’s parents.” Several celebrities, like actors Macaulay Culkin, Ariel Winter, Jaime Pressly and Juliette Lewis and Olympic gymnast Dominique Moceanu, have successfully undertaken such action. Once a child is emancipated, the parents lose all parental authority over that child, but also lose the obligation to support that child financially.

When you are the spouse or parent who is potentially responsible for paying alimony or child support, there are a lot of financial factors that go into calculating exactly how much that obligation should be. One of the things that the law requires courts to consider is other payments that benefit your spouse and/or child. For example, if you are paying the mortgage payment on the house in which your spouse lives, that payment could be declared to be a type of spousal support. Similarly, paying 100% of your children’s private school tuition might qualify as a form of child support. These areas can be especially important when you’re in a case where you are potentially facing an order to pay retroactive support.

Two recent cases show how the process is supposed to work, and what you can do when it doesn’t. In the first, J.C.J. and M.J. were Palm Beach County parents going through divorce. At the conclusion of the divorce case, the trial judge made several rulings about alimony and child support. One of the rulings demanded that the father pay retroactive child support.

The father later appealed and won a reversal of the retroactive child support order. The reason? When the trial judge made that ruling, he didn’t factor in the mortgage payments that the father had made. The father had evidence that he had been the one who paid the mortgage payments on the home in which the child lived during the pendency of the divorce. Florida law says that a supporting parent is entitled to receive credit for “actual payments” made to the child or to the other parent. They’re also entitled to credit when making payments to third parties for the benefit of the child. That includes things like payments to lenders or landlords to cover the housing payment for the home in which the child resides. This father didn’t get that credit, which is why he was entitled to have his retroactive child support recalculated.

There are almost as many family law situations as there are families, it seems sometimes. Fortunately, lawmakers have taken efforts to address many situations, including some relatively unique ones. You may not be aware, but in Florida, there is a statute that covers what happens if you (or your children) are not receiving the support you should — and you want to get that financial support – but you do not want to pursue a divorce right away. You can seek alimony “unconnected with” divorce. Taking this step does not mean the court will enter an order of divorce; this tool is designed to allow judges to institute court-ordered support without ending the marriage. Also, be aware that you can choose, if you want, to seek court-ordered support “unconnected with dissolution” now and, if the marriage breaks down later, still seek a divorce at that later date.

This tool allows you to obtain the support you need without having to pursue divorce when the marriage isn’t necessarily irretrievably broken. What this should signify to you is that there’s probably more tools in a knowledgeable South Florida family law attorney’s “tool belt” than you might have imagined, so be sure your situation has the wise legal counsel your family deserves.

Let’s look at this legal concept using a recent case. R.L. and P.L. were a married couple. The husband had executed a “power of attorney” document, which is a type of estate planning document in which you can name another person to act as your agent to carry out certain legal, financial and/or medical decision-making tasks (that you list in the document.)

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Occasionally, this blog discusses the benefits of pursuing your case with an experienced attorney as opposed to “going it alone.” When someone opts to go it alone, they are almost always harming their case. Sometimes, those mistakes cost the litigant money. Other times, though, the stakes are much, much higher, such as in the case of domestic violence injunctions. If find yourself in the position of needing to pursue a protective injunction, or to defend against one, the stakes are about as high as they can be. You may be fearful that you cannot afford to hire an attorney. However, in reality, you cannot afford to go through the process without one. Your helpful South Florida family law attorney may be able to provide you with more solutions or options than you thought available, potentially making the cost more manageable, or even potentially nothing at all.

A recent case is a very clear cautionary tale. T.L., the plaintiff in the case, was the mother of a pre-teen daughter. T.L. and her daughter lived in Miami but, when the girl was 9, she spent a period of time in Palm Beach County with a paternal aunt and uncle due to Hurricane Irma. During that stay, the uncle alleged committed a sexual assault on the girl.

Based on that alleged incident, the mother went to court seeking an injunction for protection against sexual violence. The mother handled the case on her own. At the hearing, the girl did not testify; the mother was the only witness. A portion of the mother’s testimony focused on things that the daughter had told her about the incident.

Sometimes, the solution to avoiding a citation for contempt of court is a simple one: cease disobeying the court’s order(s) and do what you were ordered to do. However, it isn’t always that straightforward, and sometimes judges take impermissible actions in contempt cases. You may find yourself improperly cited for contempt at a hearing you didn’t even attend or may find yourself on the receiving end of an improper punishment. Whenever you are facing possible contempt, you need to know what to do. And what to do needs to start with retaining an experienced South Florida family law attorney.

A pair of recent cases point out how judges can go astray and how you can use the legal process to undo such actions when they happen. First, there was the case of K.A., a mother from here in Miami. In her case, the trial judge found her in contempt of court and also altered the terms of the parents’ timesharing arrangement. Neither parent had requested modification of timesharing; rather, the trial judge reduced the mother’s timesharing as a punishment for her contempt of court.

Altering your timesharing isn’t a proper penalty for contempt

The law gives judges several options when it comes to handing out penalties for a party’s contempt of court. The judge, depending on whether the contempt was civil or criminal, may order the party in contempt to go to jail, to pay a fine or pay things like the other side’s attorney’s fees and/or court costs. One thing that a judge cannot do in Florida is reduce a parent’s timesharing as a penalty for contempt. Modification of timesharing requires proof of several things, including evidence that it is in the best interest of the child. It also requires that one parent have made a motion and properly placed the issue of timesharing before the court. Simply modifying timesharing without a request for modification, solely because one parent was in contempt, is not proper, so the reduction of K.A.’s timesharing was reversed by the appeals court.

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Sometimes, people do bad things. When they do, they should face the legal consequences that come with the decisions made. However, sometimes that bad thing was an aberration or the wrongdoer made subsequent changes and improvements in his life. When circumstances change in your life, just as you deserved to face punishment for your wrong act, you should also be entitled to the benefits that the law allows as a result of those changes. This is true for a variety of people, including those who have had permanent domestic violence injunctions entered against them.

A permanent domestic violence injunction can have many impacts. For one, it generally means you’re forbidden from owning or possessing a gun. It also can have a variety of restrictions that can directly or indirectly limit your employment options. With that in mind, if you have an existing permanent injunction but the circumstances underlying that injunction no longer exist, getting that injunction dissolved may still be challenging. Be sure to talk to an experienced South Florida family law attorney about your options so that you can take the next step in moving forward with your life.

K.T.’s case was an example of someone in that situation. K.T. was a man going through a problematic marital breakup in the spring of 2011. That June, his wife sought a domestic violence injunction, alleging that the husband “pulled out a gun, trapped her in the garage, and threatened to shoot her in front of their nine-month-old daughter.” The husband was also charged criminally for the incident.

If you are familiar with divorce and/or divorce litigation, whether personally or even just at arm’s length, then you know that divorce can be expensive, and that one of the larger expenses can be attorneys’ fees. However, if you’re familiar with the process, then you also know that proceeding without a knowledgeable South Florida family law attorney can be an express ticket to an unsatisfying, and maybe even disastrous, outcome. So, if you are a person of limited means, what should you do? Start by reaching out to a skilled attorney, even in spite of your fears about fees. There may be several options available to you, including possibly obtaining an order from the judge in your divorce case that forces your spouse to pay some or all of your attorneys’ fees.

Sometimes, in an effort to limit the possibility of paying attorneys’ fees, one spouse may include a provision in a marital settlement agreement that relates to attorneys’ fees. When that happens, and you agree to it, it is important not to let your spouse over-use that provision and claim that it covers more things than it really does.

Here’s a case in point: K.L. and A.L. were in a long-term marriage that ended in divorce in 2014. As part of their divorce process, the couple worked out, and then signed, a marital settlement agreement (MSA). Paragraph 11 of that document said that each spouse “shall be responsible for their respective attorney’s fees, if any are incurred.” That’s all the paragraph said and that was the only paragraph that addressed attorneys’ fees.

Whether you are a parent with majority timesharing, have minority timesharing or have a 50-50 arrangement, child support can have a very important impact on your ability to provide for your child and, especially if you are the minority timesharing parent, maintain a close relationship with that child. With that in mind, arriving at a fair and just amount of child support can be very important for all members of your family. To help with these and other elements of divorce, be certain you have the representation you need from a skilled South Florida family law attorney.

When it comes to calculating child support, there are guidelines for making that determination. However, even with pre-existing guidelines, the calculation relies upon certain information that isn’t pre-set, like determining the amount of income each parent makes. This is one area, among several, where the potential for errors exists, and those errors have the possibility to cause you great harm.

The recent case of a family from Central Florida provides a useful example. R.M. and C.M. had a 50-50 timesharing arrangement regarding their two minor children. Even with equal timesharing, one parent may still be entitled to an award of child support if the other parent makes more money. In this case, the trial court determined that C.M., the mother, made $107,761. R.M., the father, had been recently involuntarily terminated from his job at a bank. He had just started a brand-new medical underwriting company. The company had one client and had invoiced that client the sum of $7,200 for a job that, the court concluded, took one month to perform.

Cutting off a parent’s timesharing, even just temporarily, is considered a relatively severe outcome in Florida. Courts generally will cut off a parent’s timesharing only in a narrow range of circumstances, and are required to give the suspended parent a clear pathway to follow to get timesharing back. What this means, from a legal perspective, is that there may be several very fruitful arguments for getting the order that suspended your timesharing reversed.

Of course, in order to do that, you must have followed all of the procedural steps correctly. When it comes to your time and your relationship with your child don’t risk proceeding on your own; be sure you have experienced South Florida family law counsel on your side. Your skilled attorney can, among other things, make sure you have all of the needed documents submitted to the court and that the arguments you present are potentially persuasive ones.

As an example of the difference a skilled attorney’s presence – or absence – can make, there’s the case of J.P. and P.D. The pair shared one child together. At some point, the trial court in Miami-Dade County ordered a temporary modification of timesharing; specifically, all of the mother’s time with the child was temporarily suspended.

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