COVID-19 UPDATE: Sandy T. Fox, P.A. remains open remotely to serve our community and assist them with their family law needs. We can be reached via the contact form on the site, and meetings can be handled virtually through the Zoom teleconferencing app.

Back on May 10, the FDA opened the door to 12-to-15-year-olds receiving the Pfizer vaccine for COVID-19. Many parents greeted this news with profound joy, while others were highly skeptical. One poll showed that 43% of parents surveyed were in favor of their 12-to-15-year-old getting vaccinated as soon as possible, while another 29% were opposed to having their 12-to-15-year-old child receive a COVID-19 vaccine. This is the sort of split that can – and many family law attorneys believe will – lead to litigation. As with any potential dispute like this, the welfare of your child is what’s paramount. So, if protecting that means legal action, make sure you have representation from an experienced South Florida family law attorney.

Several news sources, including MarketWatch, have reported that family lawyers and other experts expect a surge of disputes over kids and COVID-19 vaccinations. As one attorney put it, some parents “are going to fight over their children, given the opportunity, and make any kind of power play that they can.”

In the past, some courts outside Florida have taken up vaccine-related issues. Courts in Texas, Colorado, and North Carolina have all sided with the parent who desired the child’s immunization. A court in Pennsylvania modified custody from shared legal custody (with primary physical custody to the mother) to sole custody to the father because the mother had repeatedly flouted a court order allowing the father to get the children vaccinated.

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Sometimes, life may deal you multiple bad blows in succession, perhaps including jail time, income loss, and even a breakup of your marriage. If that marriage also included minor children, then you likely can expect your spouse to pursue an award of child support. If that happens, your incarceration or job resignation may lead a court to order you to pay support commensurate with an income that’s higher than what you actually make. This is called imputed income and, while it is sometimes available when events like a job resignation or incarceration occur, it is not automatic. With the help of a skilled South Florida child support lawyer, you can defeat your spouse’s argument for imputed income.

The idea behind imputed income is that a supporting parent should not be able to dodge paying support by voluntarily not working or working at a level far below his/her abilities. If your spouse was a Miami neurosurgeon making $750,000 a year and voluntarily left that job to take a position as a swimming instructor making $40,000 per year, he’s probably going to be considered voluntarily underemployed. A parent’s inability to earn a certain amount of income because of current or past incarceration is something that the law will also often view as voluntary.

Not every job change with a downward salary trajectory is voluntary underemployment, though. Take J.P., a dad from Orange County. He voluntarily left a job that paid him $68,000 per year. Two years later, J.P. was working for his parents and making $30,000 per year. J.P., however, could not be found to be voluntarily underemployed.

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There are lots of nuances about the law that skilled South Florida parental responsibility lawyers know keenly well but that laypeople aren’t familiar with. This can include very recent – and very important – changes in the law. A knowledgeable family law attorney can provide your case with the benefit that comes from a completely updated knowledge of the law and experience-based awareness of what those changes will mean to you.

The issue of timesharing was an example of one of those areas where a highly important change occurred recently. Until late April, certain types of timesharing cases could have radically different outcomes depending on where they were filed.

The Fourth District Court of Appeal, whose ruling impact Broward and Palm Beach counties, said that, if a trial court issued a modification that reduced a parent’s timesharing, then the order must include specific “concrete steps” that that parent could take to get his/her timesharing restored to where it was before the reduction.

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If you’ve read about enough court cases, you’ve probably encountered tales of people who made some regrettable choices. Perhaps it was the criminal defendant who appealed his sentence only to have the appellate process end with him getting an even longer sentence. This may give you pause if you’re considering a motion regarding your ex-spouse’s misconduct in your parental responsibility and timesharing case, as you may fear that going back to court may mean you exiting with a worse arrangement than when you entered. You should not, however, let this fear deter you. With the help of a skilled South Florida timesharing lawyer, you will generally be protected from this happening.

Confused about what we mean? Let’s look at this real-life parental responsibility and timesharing example from the Orlando area. A trial court had ordered two parents to place their child in a pre-K program roughly halfway between the parents’ homes. Because the child had an individual education plan (IEP,) that was impossible, and the school system ended up placing the child in a school close to the father’s home.

According to the father, the mother frequently did not transport the child to pre-K when she had timesharing. Frustrated, the father filed a motion asking the judge to hold the mother in contempt and to suspend the mother’s timesharing. The mother filed no counter-motions.

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In some divorce scenarios in Florida, the court may award sole occupancy of the marital home to one spouse and order the other spouse to make the payment on that home if the latter earns the bulk of the income. Judges are allowed to do this and frequently do. If you’re the spouse making the payment, it is important to recognize that you are entitled to certain benefits for meeting that expense. To make sure that you are getting all the credit you deserve for fulfilling this financial obligation, be sure that you have skilled representation from an experienced South Florida divorce lawyer.

The contested divorce of V.M. and L.M. is a good example. After the two divorced, the trial judge granted the wife exclusive occupancy of the house until the couple’s child reached age 18.

The order also placed the obligation for paying the mortgage and the HOA fees on the husband until the child reached the age of majority.

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The ideal situation for minor children with divorced parents is, of course, for the parents to avoid conflict and collaborate as much as possible. Sadly, this doesn’t always happen. Parents may use the legal system, not as a last-resort vehicle for protecting the best interests of the children, but as a means for venting every frustration they feel toward their ex. If your ex hauls you into court alleging contempt, it is essential that you take the contempt case seriously, regardless of your opinion of the merits of his/her case. Being found in contempt can have serious negative implications for your life, including your relationship with your children, so defend against this kind of case vigorously with the help of an experienced South Florida timesharing and visitation lawyer.

It is always important to make certain that you follow the terms of the court’s order on timesharing and visitation very carefully and precisely. However, sometimes, your ex-spouse may try to allege contempt, not because you violated a black-and-white provision of the order, but merely because he/she was angry that you did not do things “her way” or “his way.” Just because you did something that was contrary to your ex-spouse’s preferences, that’s not contempt unless it is also contrary to what the judge ordered.

Presenting a successful defense against a contempt allegation, then, sometimes is simply a matter of establishing that the wrongful action you allegedly took was something that was not discussed in the trial court’s order. Take, for example, this timesharing and visitation scenario from the other side of the state.

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Changes in the law happen all the time. Whether it is a new ruling from an appeals court or the Supreme Court or a new bill from the legislature, the law continues to shift and evolve. That fact is one of the many reasons why having the right legal team on your side in your divorce case in Florida is essential. The right Florida divorce lawyer will not only be able to provide you with thoughtful advice about your case but also base that advice on the latest, most up-to-date knowledge of the law.

Alimony reform is again in the news in Florida as legislators once again debate the potential for modifying state law to eliminate permanent alimony here. Florida remains one of just a very few jurisdictions where a court can award permanent alimony to a divorcing spouse. (The others are Connecticut, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Vermont, and West Virginia.)

A bill that recently cleared an important hurdle in the House of Representatives would change that. HB 1559 would alter Florida’s alimony laws and remove permanent alimony as an option. The current reform proposal would allow for bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, and durational alimony. The longest possible duration any alimony award could run would be a period equal to one-half of the length of the marriage.

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Comedic takes on family law disputes, like the country song called “She Got the Goldmine (I Got the Shaft)”, are common in popular culture. That song, which teaches that “alimony” rhymes with “baloney,” is one of many where one party believes that the outcome was grossly one-sided and unfair. Here in Florida, there are certain statutory safeguards to help ensure that the outcomes the legal system produces in real life are not ones where the supported spouse exits the marriage “living large” while the supporting spouse is destitute. When it comes to ensuring your financial security in divorce litigation, make sure you have representation from an experienced South Florida family law attorney to provide you the protection you deserve.

There are several rules that Florida law imposes on awards of alimony. If an award violates any one or more of these, then that error may allow you to get the ruling overturned. One of those rules, contained in Section 61.08(9) of the Florida Statutes, says that an “award of alimony may not leave the payor with significantly less net income than the net income of the recipient” except in cases of “exceptional circumstances.” That rule played a key role in one recent divorce case from Palm Beach County.

Each of the spouses had their own forensic accountant and each had markedly different views on the family road maintenance business. The wife’s accountant told the court that the husband earned more than $15,200 per month and the wife had a monthly need of more than $9,500.

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If you and your spouse are married for only a relatively short amount of time, you probably don’t expect to owe your spouse permanent alimony. However, permanent alimony is available to some spouses in Florida, even in cases where theirs was a short-term marriage. If your short-term spouse is seeking permanent alimony from you, make sure you have the skilled legal advocacy you need from an experienced South Florida family law attorney to defeat this claim.

When your short-term spouse seeks permanent alimony from you, the law starts out on your side. If your marriage lasts seven years or less, Florida law considers that to be a “short-term” marriage and creates a presumption that permanent alimony is not proper. A “presumption” means that, at the outset of the case, before the court hears any evidence or arguments, it presumes that your spouse should not receive permanent alimony.

A spouse can overcome that presumption and get permanent alimony in a short-term marriage situation, but to do so requires a special evidentiary showing, so you need to be prepared to present the arguments and proof necessary to demonstrate that the presumption has not been overcome, as one Jacksonville-area husband did in his recent alimony case.

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Talk to enough people who’ve been through contentious divorces and, at some point, you’ll probably hear about how the person’s “no-good, low-down, miserable excuse for a spouse” lied on the stand, got away with it, and got the “better end” of the divorce outcome. Oftentimes, these complaints are just the verbal expressions of generalized frustration about having been through the painful process of divorce. However, a question remains: what happens if you discover documented proof that seems to indicate that your spouse did lie during his/her trial testimony, but you only came into possession of that proof after the final judgment? Fortunately, even after your divorce is finalized, you still have options. An experienced South Florida family law attorney can help you choose the best approach based on your specific situation.

A recent Orlando-area divorce case involving a medical sales professional and a stay-at-home mom was an example of an action where alleged falsehoods played a role.

One of the most heavily litigated issues in the case was the amount of the husband’s income. The wife, in seeking to establish the husband’s income, presented evidence related to five physician clients. The husband, however, countered that two of those doctors were not his clients. Regarding one of those two doctors, Dr. G., the husband stated that he never did any business with that physician, never tried to do any business with Dr. G. and, as a result, never received any income from Dr. G.

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