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.

With any family law litigation action, there are certain hard-and-fast rules established under Florida law. You only have a set number of days (or months or years) to take certain actions, and if you’re late, then you face serious consequences. The plaintiff has a specific burden of proof that must be met, and if the burden isn’t met, then the case ends in defeat. In other words, it isn’t enough just to know the facts of your case, you must also have someone on your side who knows the law and how to use the law’s procedural rules to your maximum advantage. For these and other benefits, look to a skilled South Florida family law attorney.

In the case of F.S. and L.D. the action being pursued was court approval of a child relocation, and the mother was the one seeking permission. In this kind of proceeding, there are specific rules. First, the parent who desires to move the child must go to court and ask the judge for permission to make the move in advance. After that happens, the other parent has a very limited period of time in which to file an objection. That is one reason (among several) why, if you receive legal papers serving you with notice that your ex has filed a request for child relocation with the court, you act with all due speed, including moving swiftly to retain knowledgeable counsel.

The law only gives you 20 days after you’ve been served with papers in which to file your objection and get that objection served on the other parent. Filing too late — or failing to file at all — can have dramatically disastrous consequences. Florida law says that if a parent files a valid request for relocation and the other parent fails to submit a timely objection, then the court can simply give permission for the relocation, unless there is evidence on record to indicate that the move isn’t in the best interests of the child. What’s more, the court can make that decision and give that approval without even holding a hearing.

In a perfect world, divorcing parents would work together collaboratively, without issue or conflict, to co-parent in the best interest of the children. Ours is not a perfect world. Co-parenting children is something that requires written boundaries and, sometimes, when those boundaries are violated, issuing penalties like contempt of court findings. However, the law limits the scenarios in which a parent can be held in criminal contempt of court. Unless you violated an explicit and precise order, and you did so intentionally, you cannot be in criminal contempt. Whether you find yourself being hauled into court and being accused of being in contempt, or you are a parent dealing with your ex-spouse’s non-compliance, your relationship with your children is vitally important, so be sure you have representation from an experienced South Florida family law attorney.

R.C. and F.C. were a couple who went through a situation not unlike many Florida couples. They married in 2002. They had three children. Then, the relationship deteriorated and the husband filed for divorce in 2013. Five months after the husband filed for divorce, the spouses both signed an agreement. Their agreement, which resolved parental responsibility (among other things), said that both parents “shall share parental responsibility for the children consistent with Florida Statute.”

In a lot of situations, a marital settlement agreement can be a positive first step toward two ex-spouses working collaboratively. Sometimes, unfortunately, that isn’t the case. F.C. returned to court in 2016, arguing that the wife was in contempt of court because she wasn’t following the terms of the settlement agreement. Specifically, the father alleged that the mother had unilaterally made several decisions regarding the children’s healthcare and general welfare, instead of consulting him as required by the agreement.

Many times custody cases involve a parent who is seeking to assume, or expand, the extent to which he or she has parental responsibility for the child. However, sometimes, circumstances might dictate that an extended family member assume temporary custody for a minor child. If you were in that position, would you know how to take the proper steps to obtain legal custody? With an outcome as important as this, you need to be sure, so make certain you have a knowledgeable South Florida family law attorney giving you the assistance you need.

A case litigated in Miami presented this type of extended-family-member-custody scenario. J.M. was a man originally from Guatemala residing in Florida. J.M. sought temporary custody of his minor sister through the Florida courts. The older brother’s legal petition indicated that the parents had abused the girl in her home country of Guatemala and that the parents had consented to their adult son assuming temporary custody over their minor daughter.

The trial judge was highly dubious of the accuracy of the assertions made in J.M.’s petition. The judge noted that, if everything in J.M.’s petition was true, then the “terribly abusive” parents had signed documents “basically admitting to these terrible acts.” The judge also pointed out that there were “certain immigration benefits” of the request being granted “in circumvention of existing immigration laws” For those reasons, the trial judge dismissed the request for temporary custody.

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