Board Certified in Marital & Family Law
Board Certified in Marital & Family Law
Board Certified in Marital & Family Law
Board Certified in Marital & Family Law
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ConstitutionA lot of family law cases get resolved based upon relatively straightforward legal bases – things like, “What do the Child Support Guidelines indicate is the proper amount of child support?” or “What custody arrangement does the judge conclude represents the best interest of the child?” Occasionally, though, some family law cases involve more expansive issues like Florida public policy or the U.S. Constitution. Regardless of whether your case involves litigating something related to the Child Support Guidelines or the U.S. Constitution, your case needs an experienced Florida child support attorney who is well-versed in all of the laws and knows how to apply them to your case.

One recent case in which the U.S. Constitution played an integral role in deciding the outcome was a child support dispute from Gainesville. The parents’ divorce was finalized in 2007 in Michigan. The couple’s Michigan final judgment included a mediation agreement that the couple had worked out. One of the provisions within that mediation agreement stated that the father had the option to prepay his child support for the couple’s two children and that, if he did so, he was entitled to “interest at the rate of one and a quarter percent per month on any amount of prepaid child support.” The agreement also stated that the father would not receive any payments of interest but would instead receive his interest in the form of credits against his future child support obligations.

The agreement additionally called for the couple to go through an annual process of calculating how much interest the father had earned that year. This last part led the couple back to court, with the father alleging that the mother had refused to participate in the mandatory annual accounting process. The mother, in opposition, argued that her participation (or lack thereof) was immaterial. The court was required to dismiss the father’s case, she maintained, since enforcing the interest-and-credit provision would leave the children without child support, and that made it contrary to Florida public policy.

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old cell phoneBeing accused of being voluntarily underemployed or voluntarily unemployed can be potentially very problematic in any Florida alimony or child support case. This is true whether you are the supported spouse/parent or the supporting spouse/parent. If you are the spouse paying support, and the court rules against you, you could end up paying an amount of support based on an amount that’s far in excess of the actual amount of income you make. If you are the parent receiving the support payments, a ruling that you are voluntarily underemployed may substantially cut into the necessary support money you would have otherwise received. Regardless of whether you are in a child support or alimony case, and whether you are the supported spouse/parent or the supporting spouse/parent, you should contact a skilled Florida child support attorney promptly to help you defend your rights.

One recent case in which such an issue arose was the divorce of Joseph and Andrea, a couple who were married for 12 years until the husband filed for divorce in Palm Beach County. The couple had one child together. Both the husband and the wife were accomplished professionals. The wife had a communications degree from a university in Los Angeles, and the husband had an engineering degree from the University of Florida.

As with many parents, the couple decided to make career changes in order to address the needs of their child, with one parent transitioning from a “traditional” job to a home-based, self-employed position. This allowed for the continuation of work and income while also addressing the day-to-day needs of the child. In this family, though, that parent was the father, rather than the mother.

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Judge With GavelWith many family law litigation matters, finances can be an important part of the overall case. Your South Florida family law attorney can go over with you some of the scenarios in which you may be able to obtain a court order forcing your ex to pay your court costs or fees. Often, these matters come down to the respective spouses’ need and ability to pay. In certain scenarios, however, those factors are not the only factors. In one recent case, the wife’s misconduct led the court to give her a much smaller fees and costs award than she desired.

In January 2014, Sharon filed for divorce from her husband, Brian, after eight years of marriage. That was the beginning of a prolonged and bitter battle. Shortly after she filed for divorce, she filed for a domestic violence protective injunction. Among other things, she accused Brian of molesting the couple’s children. She made these accusations, not only to the judge, but also to the children’s pediatrician and their school principal. She told the pediatrician that she thought that the father was giving illegal drugs to the son. There was one major problem with the abuse allegations, however:  they were all false, according to the court.

Along the way, the mother also asked the court to appoint a guardian ad litem for the children to aid in determining timesharing, even though she had already agreed with the father as to shared parental responsibility and equal timesharing. The mother also argued that, since the father was wealthier, he should have to pay for the guardian ad litem.

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fireworksIf you decide to go to court to seek (or to oppose) an injunction for protection from stalking violence, you should take the matter extremely seriously, and you should retain a skilled South Florida domestic violence attorney to represent you. The law is fairly clear regarding what is needed in order for the courts to enter an injunction, including the number of acts required and who may be a victim of the alleged harassment.

A recent case involving a pair of neighbors offers an example of the process and the hurdles involved. On the 4th of July in 2016, Deniz was doing what lots of people do on Independence Day. She and her family were lighting fireworks in the street. Deniz’s neighbor was apparently startled and displeased by Deniz’s family’s patriotic festivities. The neighbor grabbed his unloaded gun, exited his home, made verbal threats toward Deniz’s family, and, before leaving, shoved Deniz’s boyfriend. This entire series of events took place within 20 minutes’ time.

Deniz went to court and asked for an injunction for protection against stalking violence against her neighbor. This type of injunction involves a requirement that the person seeking the injunction prove that at least two instances of stalking took place. The trial judge entered the injunction. The two qualifying occurrences of stalking behavior were the neighbor’s issuance of threats while brandishing the gun and the neighbor’s shoving the boyfriend.

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stack of cashIn your alimony or child support case, there can be many components that go into calculating the appropriate amount of support owed. Part of making that calculation is ensuring that only a supporting spouse (or parent)’s regular and continuous income is factored into the determination. Whether or not you are the supporting spouse or parent, getting this determination of income correct can be integral to your case and is one of many ways an experienced Fort Lauderdale divorce attorney can help. For one husband and father, his counsel persuaded the Second District Court of Appeal that a lower court erred by using an older year’s bonus income instead of his most recent bonus in calculating his alimony and child support payments.

In the recent divorce case of Matthew and Jilla, originating in southwest Florida, one main item with which the courts wrangled was the calculation of the husband’s income for determining his support obligations. The man made a little more than $100,000 per year ($8,476 per month) in salary. He also, though, got an annual bonus. The trial court, in making its calculations in this case, used the husband’s 2013 bonus ($133,332) to arrive at an income figure of $19,583 per month. This $19,583 sum was the figure the court used to determine both alimony and child support.

The husband appealed, and he won. The problem was that the methodology for calculating his income was legally flawed. Section 61.30 of the Florida Statutes requires the inclusion of bonuses in calculating a supporting spouse or parent’s obligations. The courts have made it clear that, in order to count in this calculation, bonus income must be regular and continuous. Thus, using an example from a Second DCA case from March, when a man received a $30,000 bonus each year for 12 years, the trial court in that matter properly added $2,500 to the man’s monthly income because that bonus income was regular and continuous.

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moneyWhen you, as a spouse who owes an obligation of alimony, experience a substantial chance in your income, the law may provide you with certain avenues to obtaining a reduction in, or the elimination of, your alimony payments. In many situations, that change may even apply retroactively to some date in the past. A knowledgeable Fort Lauderdale alimony attorney can help you navigate the path to seeking a modification and a retroactive application of that modification. In one recent case, the First District Court of Appeal concluded that the elimination of a husband’s alimony obligation should have applied back to the date that his ex-wife began receiving payments from his military pension, since that was the date when she ceased having a need for alimony.

Holli and Michael were a couple from Santa Rosa County who had divorced. The couple had children, but their children were all legal adults. The one issue that proved to be a source of extensive litigation was alimony. The trial court issued one order modifying alimony, and the husband appealed. The appeals court reversed and sent the case back to the trial court.

At that time, the only basis for the award of alimony to the ex-wife that the appeals court could identify was the wife’s continued financial support of the couple’s children in college. This was a problem in Holli’s case because one parent’s support of a couple’s adult children is, in Florida, not a valid basis for determining that a spouse has a need for alimony. If a parent has a court-ordered obligation to support a child (or children) in college, that potentially can be the basis for a determination of need. In Holli’s situation, though, there was no judgment to that effect, meaning that she had no legal obligation to support the children, and her support could not be the basis for a determination of her need for alimony.

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New York CityWith same-sex marriage having been legally recognized in Florida for just over two years now, the legal system in this state will, inevitably, see an increase in family law cases with same-sex spouses and same-sex parents. Sometimes, South Florida family law cases involving same-sex partners may present unique issues. Other times, though, same-sex couples will find that their cases will be decided by the same things that influence cases with opposite-sex partners. That was the case recently for two married men, one of whom had their Florida case scuttled by the legal concept of forum non conveniens.

The couple, Marco and Han, entered into a civil partnership in the United Kingdom in 2008. That was converted into a marriage in the U.K. in 2015. Marco had dual citizenship in Italy and the U.K. Han had dual citizenship in Malaysia and the U.K. The couple shared one child, a daughter who was born in Missouri in 2014. A Missouri court gave Marco sole custody of the child.

For just less than one year, from 2014 to 2015, the family lived in Miami, residing in a friend’s apartment. Han moved back to London in the fall of 2015 and never returned to Florida. Marco and the daughter moved to New York in the following March, where they stayed. Marco filed for divorce in London in April 2016. Han filed for divorce here in South Florida a month later.

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DNA testingOne of the more “buzzworthy” and headline-grabbing family law cases of recent days came from Texas, where a court in that state recently ordered a man to pay $65,000 in child support for a 16-year-old girl despite unrefuted scientific proof (in the form of DNA testing) that the girl was not the man’s biological daughter. The case touches upon many issues related to the methods for establishing legal paternity and the role DNA testing should play in that process. A South Florida case from last year touched upon many of those same issues. That case, involving two men, a mother, and her young daughter, shed some light on Florida paternity procedures.

The Palm Beach County mother, A.D.A., was involved romantically with a man, M.J.L., until late 2009. When those two broke up, A.D.A. was “in trouble with the law” and also was in the late stages of a pregnancy. Shortly before Christmas, A.D.A. had a baby daughter. Also present at the hospital was M.J.L. and a new man in the mother’s life, D.M.F.

The daughter’s birth certificate listed no father. M.J.L. filed a paternity action early in 2010 but voluntarily dismissed his case in the following summer. Shortly after that dismissal, in late July 2010, A.D.A. and D.M.F. filed an Acknowledgement of Paternity, stating that D.M.F. was the natural father. In reality, D.M.F. couldn’t have been the biological father, since he did not enter the mother’s life until well after the March 2009 date when she conceived the child.

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gavelIn a recent child custody and timesharing case, the mother, who had lost in the trial court, lost again on appeal. The First District Court of Appeal did not conclude that the mother was blatantly or egregiously wrong in her arguments; instead, the appeals court simply concluded that the mother did not prove that the trial judge abused his discretion, so the appeals court had no basis for reversing the lower court’s ruling. The outcome in this matter highlights an important truth about any Florida family law matter, which is the difficulty appellants often face in winning on appeal and, as a related element, the importance of making your strongest possible presentation in the trial court.

The spouses, Kemberly and Mark, were a Union County couple who were in a situation that faces many married couples:  they were divorcing. What’s more, they were going through divorce not just as spouses but as parents of a six-year-old daughter. Also like many couples, the parents couldn’t agree on the issue of custody and timesharing, so they litigated that matter before a judge.

At the custody trial, the wife presented evidence that she was the one who had served as the daughter’s primary caregiver during the couple’s separation, which had gone on for a considerable length of time. The mother allegedly was also the parent who always took the child to school during the marriage. Based upon these and other factors, the mother argued that she should receive a majority of the time in any custody and timesharing order.

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signatureThe law gives parties wide latitude in how they structure the terms of their contractual agreements. The same is generally true when it comes to spouses and the terms of their prenuptial agreements. For example, one Florida couple entered into a prenuptial agreement that waived all rights to future alimony claims but permitted the wife to receive a “salary” for two years after a divorce. According to a recent Fourth District Court of Appeal ruling, that agreement was valid and meant that the courts could not order an award of alimony and couldn’t use contempt powers if the husband didn’t pay the salary.

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