document filingThere is a tendency among some people to believe that certain types of cases are ones that don’t really require the aid of a skilled attorney. Family law matters can be one example. Parties may think that their cases are simple enough that they don’t need an attorney or they may think that they cannot afford legal representation. With all the ways that a case can “go wrong,” and all the severe consequences that can arise if your family law case does veer south, whether it is a divorce action, a parental responsibility case or some other area of family law, it is more viable to argue that you can’t afford not to have a knowledgeable South Florida family law attorney on your side.

Here’s an example: K.E. and D.M. were former spouses who were in court because the husband had filed a request to modify timesharing, the couple’s parenting plan and the child support obligation. Generally, many of these issues often require multiple varieties of proof. As the parent seeking modification, you may be required to prove that substantial change of circumstances has occurred before the judge will even consider the modification you desire. If you clear that hurdle, you may need to show additionally forms of proof related to issues like the best interest of the child.

In this couple’s case, the judge ruled for the father and entered the modification he requested. The mother appealed but she again was unsuccessful. The Fifth District Court of Appeal’s opinion did not indicate whether or not one or both spouses had attorneys at the trial-court level, but, in the appeals court case, the mother proceeded without a lawyer while the father had legal representation.

child custodyYou go into court expecting and understanding that yours is a case about one thing. Maybe that one thing is alimony or maybe it’s your spouse’s petition for a domestic violence protective injunction. Once you’re in the hearing, though, the judge starts asking your spouse questions about your timesharing arrangement with your children. At the end, the judge alters your timesharing plan and increases your child support obligation. If that happens, what can you do? Would know how to handle such a scenario? It is not unreasonable for most people to have no idea how to respond. This is just one example among many where it pays to have representation from a skilled South Florida family law attorney, so that you can be sure that your rights are protected.

A very recent case from Miami-Dade County was example of how this can happen and what you can do. L.R.L. and J.R. were a couple who had three children together. After eight years of marriage, the wife filed for divorce in September 2017. The wife filed two petitions, one in 2016 and one 2017, seeking domestic violence protective injunctions. In her allegations, the wife asserted that the husband had a history of bipolar disorder, that he was not taking his medication and he had recently undergone a psychiatric hospitalization.

The husband also allegedly showed up at the wife’s front door between 4:00 and 5:00 a.m. one morning barefoot, half dressed and wearing a hospital sheet. This incident was one of the bases for the wife’s seeking the second injunction in 2017. Although the wife did not seeking any changes to the couple’s timesharing arrangement, the judge nevertheless asked the wife about timesharing. The wife then told the judge that she felt that the husband’s having unsupervised visitation was no longer proper.

alimonyWhen a court faces a question about the calculation of an alimony obligation, it generally looks at the requesting spouse’s need and the other spouse’s ability to pay. In many situations, that may involve just looking at the income and the expenses of each spouse. There are situations, though, where a court may be legally obliged to consider more than just the respective incomes of the two spouses. One circumstance where that’s the case occurs when one spouse is voluntarily unemployed or voluntarily underemployed. If you are involved in a case that includes issues of alimony and/or child support and your spouse is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, then be sure you have the skill of an experienced South Florida family law attorney on your side.

J.M. and T.M.’s divorce case was one where alimony was one of the key issues in dispute. In the case, the husband sought to have income imputed to the wife. Intentionally avoiding work, or avoiding working at an income level commensurate with your education and professional experience, can have the impact of skewing the calculation of the proper amount of alimony. When the court decides that this “voluntary unemployment” or “voluntary underemployment” has happened, then the law allows the judge to do what’s called “imputing income” to the spouse who is voluntarily underemployed or unemployed.

In that process, the judge determines how much the voluntarily underemployed or unemployed spouse would be making if he/she were earning up to his/her reasonable capabilities, and then makes a determination about alimony based on that figure, not the spouse’s actual income. This is true whether the allegedly voluntarily underemployed or unemployed spouse is the one seeking alimony or is the one who may be ordered to pay alimony.

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deadlineThere are many ways that your family law case can go awry, and some of those ways are completely unrelated to the facts of your dispute. You can get tripped up by things like jurisdiction or the statute of limitations. You can also encounter difficulties if you fail to meet discovery deadlines, including those related to expert witness testimony. Severe enough infractions can even lead to your expert being excluded from trial and you being denied a continuance to get your evidence in order. If you find yourself in a family law dispute, be sure to obtain a skilled Florida divorce attorney to avoid these pitfalls and, if it is the opposing party who is delaying, to use the courts to protect yourself and your children.

The issues of delays and continuances were at the center of one recent South Florida divorce case. In this dispute, the wife filed for divorce and asked the trial court to appoint a psychologist who would “interview, test and evaluate” both spouses and their child. This was related to determining parental responsibility, timesharing and a parenting plan. The spouses eventually agreed to a doctor and the examination went forward. Later, the husband hired a different psychologist to give testimony about the first doctor’s report, as well as prepare a report of her own.

The trial was scheduled for June 1. The deposition for the husband’s expert was set for May 30. The husband missed many deadlines for disclosing his expert’s report. Finally, on May 25, the husband asked for a continuance of the trial. At the continuance hearing, the husband’s expert said she’d been delayed by computer problems and a death in the family. The trial judge rejected the husband’s request for that delay of the trial. The judge also excluded the husband’s expert from testifying in the case.

child custodyIf you want a judge to make changes to your timesharing arrangement in Florida, it is very important to understand in advance what you need. Certainly, you need proof that the change you’re proposing in the best interest of the child. Beyond that, however, you also need proof that a substantial change of circumstances has taken place, and that the change was not something that you and your ex-spouse contemplated at the time of your divorce.. With evidence of that change, the court cannot order any change to your timesharing arrangement. When it comes to making the evidentiary showings necessary to get the timesharing changes your family needs, be sure you have legal representation from a skilled South Florida family law attorney.

The case of M.G. and C.G. was an example of how this process works and what analyses a court must make. The father, M.G., petitioned the court asking for a modification. The mother, C.G., opposed making any changes to the existing timesharing arrangement. (An Oklahoma court had given the mother primary custody in 2010.)

M.G. alleged that several significant changes had occurred since the Oklahoma court’s 2010 ruling. The father alleged that the mother had moved with the boy nine times and enrolled him in five different elementary schools, and that the mother failed to foster communication between the child and the father. The father’s petition alleged that the mother’s husband abused the boy. He also alleged that he had retired from the U.S. Air Force and, now out of the military, was in a better position to provide more care for the child.

financesGoing through the divorce process can be, and often is, a difficult time, both emotionally and, in many situations, financially. Divorcing spouses may be forced to deplete financial accounts or sell assets to pay for necessary things like living expenses and legal fees. When you do, the expenditure of those assets may impact the outcome of your case with regard to equitable distribution. In any equitable distribution outcome, your goals certainly include not being penalized for depleting assets for legitimate reasons. To make sure you get a genuinely fair equitable distribution, make certain you have the services of an experienced South Florida family law attorney on your side.

For an illustration of the rules regarding the dissipation of marital assets, there’s the very recent case of T.M. and H.M. from Palm Beach County. Each spouse petitioned for divorce in 2016 after nearly 25 years of marriage. The couple’s divorce case covered several important issues, including equitable distribution and child support. After the trial was over, the wife appealed. In her appeal, she objected to several decisions the trial court made regarding equitable distribution as well as the calculation of her income for child support calculation purposes.

The outcome of the appellate argument regarding the equitable distribution of the couple’s marital assets was particularly useful. In T.M. and H.M.’s case, the trial judge awarded the wife her checking account and her savings account. The documents in the divorce case identified the value of the savings account as $13,275 and the value of the checking account as $13,212.

education costIn your Florida child support case, it is important to understand when a Florida judge can, and cannot, issue a ruling. As one Orlando-area case recently showed, the rules regarding when a court can order child support are much broader than those regarding when a court can determine custody. There is no requirement that Florida be the child’s “home state” under child custody jurisdiction laws. In other words, if you’re in Florida and you need to assert a claim for imposition of a child support obligation, you should reach out to an experienced Florida family law attorney as you may be able to bring your case in this state.

The child support case between R.K. and P.K. was one that involved this type of issue of court jurisdiction. The couple wed in Florida, had a child here and lived as a family in this state for several years. However, at some later point, the marriage broke down, the couple separated and the mother and child relocated to Ireland.

In the summer of 2017, the husband filed for divorce in Brevard County. As part of his court document filings, the father asserted that, under Florida’s child custody jurisdiction laws, Florida courts did not have jurisdiction over the child, so the husband’s pleadings pertained solely to the couple’s issues that did not involve the child. The wife’s court papers asked the court in Brevard County to award child support, ordered that the husband contribute to the child’s uncovered health care costs and to maintain medical insurance for the child.

child supportIn any child support case, it is important if you are the parent with support obligation to contest aggressively through proper legal channels any overstatement of the amount of money you owe. For one Miami father, that recently meant going to the Third District Court of Appeal to contest a ruling that he owed seven and one-half years of child support based upon a temporary domestic violence injunction. The father was able to get that support arrearage reduced from 7.5 years down to just one year because the injunction expired after one year and the law doesn’t allow imposition of support based upon expired injunctions. If you find yourself, like this father, facing a claim that you owe a massive support arrearage, take action by retaining a skilled South Florida family law attorney to handle your case.

To understand what this case can mean for you, it helps to study the timeline. In August 2007, a trial court issued a “temporary injunction for protection against domestic violence with minor children” against K.C. As part of that case, the court ordered K.C., the father, to pay $351 every other week in child support to the mother, B.G..

Many years later, K.C. and B.G. were back in court, this time on a paternity action. At the conclusion of this case, the court decided that the temporary injunction was still in effect in March 2015, and that the father owed more than $28,000 in back child support for the preceding seven and one-half years.

Legal News GavelIn any type of court case, including a Florida family law case, there’s the potential to think that you’re “behind the 8-ball.” Even if you find yourself in a very disadvantageous position legally, it is important not to assume that you have no options. Many times, under the law, you have more options than you might think, and skilled representation can make the difference between success and failure. Don’t give up on your case; take action instead and retain skilled Florida counsel. One South Florida father did exactly that, retaining our firm, and successfully getting a modification of his timesharing agreement overturned.

Our client, J.M., was a father who found himself hauled into court on the mother’s “emergency” request to modify timesharing. Filing an emergency motion can possibly allow you to get a hearing before a judge on an expedited basis. Even if you find yourself on the defending side of such a motion and facing a hearing in the immediate future, it is important to make every effort to retain counsel.

J.M. did not have a lawyer at his emergency hearing. The judge let the mother testify and let her call a witness. After the clock passed 5:00 p.m., the judge announced that the allotted time had expired and that the hearing was over. The father had not testified, had not presented any evidence and had not even finished cross-examining the mother. Unsurprisingly, based on this limited array of evidence, the trial court ruled in favor of the mother.

If you find yourself in a situation in which you need to move, and the custody of your child is the subject of a court order, there are certain steps you must take. First, go out and retain the services of a skilled South Florida child custody attorney. Even if the relocation is one made as a result of financial necessity (such as a sole income earner’s involuntary job transfer) or is entirely out of your control (such as a deportation), the law nevertheless says that you must go to court and file a petition requesting to relocate with the child. The court will assess the evidence and determine whether or not the move is in the best interest of the child. It is important that you wait until your petition is granted before making the move.Legal News Gavel

The case of S.B. and J.B. was an example of this type of dispute. The parents were divorced spouses who shared custody of a minor child. The divorce took place while the mother was pregnant, and the divorce settlement agreement stated that the unborn child would reside primarily with the mother.

Some time later, though, the mother’s new husband received a job transfer to South Florida. Unable to find a new job near home, the husband accepted the transfer, and the family planned to move to South Florida. The mother asked the court to approve the relocation. The court in these parents’ case ordered the parents to attempt to work out their timesharing issues on their own. S.B., even though the court hadn’t issued a relocation order, moved the child to South Florida anyway. This relocation led the couple to return to court. The judge denied the mother’s request to relocate the child. In addition, the judge also modified timesharing, ordering that the child reside primarily with the father. Specifically, the court awarded the father 70% timesharing.

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