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Generally, when a couple with children divorces, the courts will find it is in the best interest of the children for both parents to have custody rights. Typically, the courts will issue an order setting forth a parenting plan establishing when each party has physical custody of the children. The plans generally may be modified, but only if the party requesting a change demonstrates that it is warranted and that it is in the best interests of the children, as discussed in a recent Florida ruling. If you need assistance protecting your parental rights, it is prudent to speak to a Florida child custody lawyer to discuss your options.

Procedural History of the Case

It is reported that the husband and wife divorced in 2016. They had two minor children, and the divorce decree set forth a parenting plan that granted the wife the majority of time-sharing rights and granted the husband time-sharing on alternating weekends and Wednesday nights and set forth a standard holiday and summer schedule. The husband filed a motion asking the court to hold the wife in contempt and for the appointment of a parenting coordinator.

It is alleged that in support of his motion, he argued that his schedule as an emergency room surgeon made it difficult to adhere to the schedule, and the wife was unwilling to compromise. The court held a hearing and then ruled that the husband should be allowed to change one of his weekends each month as long as he gave the wife advance notice. The wife appealed. Continue reading ›

In many marriages, one spouse is the primary breadwinner while the other largely takes care of the household. When such marriages end, then, the courts may find it appropriate to award the spouse with lesser means alimony. The courts will evaluate numerous factors in determining appropriate alimony, including the length of the marriage. While permanent alimony may be awarded in some instances, it is rarely appropriate in cases involving short-term marriages. This was demonstrated in a recent Florida opinion in which an appellate court reversed a trial court order granting a party permanent alimony due to the fact the trial court misapplied the applicable standard. If you or your spouse intend to end your marriage, it is smart to consult a Florida divorce lawyer to evaluate how you can protect your financial health.

The History of the Case

It is reported that wife one and wife two were married for three years before divorcing. Prior to marrying, they lived together for twenty-four years. Four years before they decided to wed, wife two suffered health issues. Wife one verbally advised her that she could stop working and that she would provide for both of them financially. Thus, at the time of the divorce, wife two sought alimony. The trial court ultimately awarded wife two permanent alimony. Wife one appealed, arguing the court improperly considered the length of the couple’s relationship prior to the marriage in issuing the award.

Permanent Alimony Under Florida Law

An appellate court will uphold an alimony award if it is supported by competent evidence. Under Florida law, permanent alimony may only be awarded following a short-term marriage, which is one that lasts less than seven years, if the court issues written findings that exceptional circumstances are present. Further, if a court grants a party permanent alimony after a short-term marriage, the order must include a finding that no other form of alimony is reasonable and fair given the parties’ circumstances. Continue reading ›

Parents typically want the best for their children and aim to raise them in a loving and stable environment, but not all parents possess the ability to properly care for their children. As such, in some instances, the courts will make the difficult decision to terminate parental rights. In some cases, the court will legally sever the parent-child relationship despite the fact that the parent is making strides towards improvement. This was demonstrated in a recent Florida ruling in which the court affirmed the trial court’s order in which it terminated a mother’s parental rights, despite evidence the mother had made marked progress. If your parental rights are in jeopardy, it is critical to retain a seasoned Florida child custody attorney to help you fight to protect your rights.

History of the Case

It is reported that the Florida Department of Children and Families instituted an action to terminate the mother’s parental rights with regard to her two minor children. The court developed a case plan that the mother was required to adhere to in order to maintain her parental rights. The mother failed to adhere to the plan, and the court issued a final order terminating her rights. The mother then appealed.

Grounds for Terminating Parental Rights in Florida

The appellate court affirmed the trial court ruling after reviewing the facts of the case. In its brief opinion, the appellate court noted that the mother initially neglected to comply with the case plan, but testimony indicated that she recently began to make progress. The appellate court explained, however, that there was nonetheless substantial evidence that supported the trial court’s determination that termination of the mother’s parental rights was in the best interest of her children. Continue reading ›

When a couple with disparate economic resources divorces, the court will often grant the lesser earning spouse alimony. The courts make alimony determinations, in part, by assessing each party’s income. Unfortunately, some people try to avoid support obligations by underreporting their income. Courts are not bound by financial disclosures they believe are inaccurate, however, as demonstrated in a recent Florida ruling in which the court affirmed an order holding a husband in contempt for failing to provide discovery on his ability to pay support to his former wife. If you need assistance with an alimony issue, it is prudent to speak to a knowledgeable Florida divorce attorney to discuss your options.

The Facts of the Case

It is reported that in March 2014, the trial court dissolved the couple’s marriage. Pursuant to a consent agreement, the husband was obligated to pay the wife $2,600 in permanent alimony and over $1,000 per month as repayment for a personal loan. In May 2016, the wife moved to hold the husband in contempt on the grounds that he failed to pay her either the alimony or the loan payment. Prior to the hearing on the motion, they entered into a second agreement in which the husband agreed to pay a lump sum of $5,000 per month and $18,000 in arrearages in payments of $5,996 per month.

Allegedly, the wife moved for contempt for non-payment a year later, while the husband moved to modify his obligations, arguing he could not afford the payments. He also refused to comply with discovery requests regarding his income. His arrears reached $100,000, and the court sanctioned him for failing to comply with discovery. A hearing was held, after which the court determined the husband had the ability to pay support but willing refused to do so and ordered him to pay almost $30,000 in attorney’s fees and $14,500 in contempt sanctions within 60 days or face jail time. The husband appealed, arguing he lacked the ability to pay the purge amount. Continue reading ›

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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