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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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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Dollar BillsIn any child support case, there are several factors to balance. The central goal, of course, is to ensure that the child receives the support that they need and deserve. It is, however, also important to ensure that the obligor parent is not assigned a child support obligation that is too great, both to serve the interests of fairness and due to the negative impact excessive financial obligations could have on the parent-child relationship. In one recent South Florida divorce case, the trial court’s imposition of child support was overturned by the Fourth District Court of Appeal because there wasn’t sufficient “competent substantial evidence” to back up the court’s assessment of the husband’s income. The case is a reminder of what is and is not sufficient to establish income on the part of an obligor parent.

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moving boxesIn any family law case, it is important to know what proof you will need in order to succeed before you arrive in court. For example, in cases in which one spouse wants to relocate with the children, the law places certain proof obligations on each parent. In a recent case involving a Palm Beach County family, the Fourth District Court of Appeal reversed a trial judge’s decision to deny the mother’s request to relocate. The mother had adequate proof that the move was in the best interests of the children, while the father had, on his side, only promises to change his ways and be a better parent in the future. Promises of future changes were not sufficient, the appeals court stated in its ruling.

The parents, Robert and Melanie, had lived in Virginia for 15 years before relocating to South Florida in 2012. Two years later, the wife filed for divorce. As part of that legal action, the wife asked for court permission to relocate, along with the couple’s two elementary school-aged children, back to Virginia. This move would benefit the children, she argued, since it would eliminate her need to travel for work, which was extensive as long as she lived in Florida.

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gavelThere is a natural tendency to take certain legal proceedings more seriously than others. Some types of major criminal matters or high-dollar civil cases likely would motivate a person to retain counsel to defend them, whereas in other matters, like perhaps cases involving injunctions against violence or stalking, people make the judgment that they can go it alone. This tendency is often misguided. Any matter, including a stalking injunction case, can have very serious consequences for you if the injunction is issued. You should take all of the necessary steps to make certain that, when you get to court, you have everything you need for your defense.

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calendarA well-worn catch-phrase opines that “timing is everything.” In the law, timing isn’t necessarily everything, but sometimes it can be the only thing that matters. Failing to follow precisely the rules of procedure and the time limits they impose upon you can have dire consequences. A South Florida case involving a couple of Ecuadorean citizens, who lived most of their married life in that country, provides a prime example of this concept.

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women fightingA South Florida wife and her husband’s alleged lover had a contentious and sometimes violent relationship with each other. That hostile relationship led each woman to seek and obtain injunctions against repeat violence against the other. The wife, however, got the injunction against her thrown out on appeal. The problem with that injunction was one of proof and statutory requirements. Specifically, the single incident of the wife battering the other woman and the single incident of following the other woman weren’t enough, under the statute’s requirements, to warrant an injunction. While this was a case related to an injunction against repeat violence, the lesson from this case (namely, the importance of challenging injunctions when the evidence doesn’t meet the statutory requirements) applies equally well to injunctions against domestic violence.

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