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.

Here in Florida, the law strongly favors keeping the things discussed between you and your doctor or mental health provider private. There’s the doctor-patient privilege and the psychotherapist-patient privilege… and there are only a few situations where those privileges can be overcome. However, if you think that your ex-spouse’s addiction and/or mental health problems are potentially placing your children’s health and safety at risk and you need his/her medical records to prove it, now is not the time simply to assume there’s nothing you can do about it. Instead, reach out to an experienced South Florida family law attorney and find out what steps can be taken to protect your children.

A few months ago, this blog took a look at a parental responsibility dispute between a father and a mother from Polk County, the latter of whom was undergoing mental health care. In that case, the court ultimately ruled that the mother was not required to disclose her mental health records because she never did anything in that legal custody case to make her mental health an issue.

Now, we are going to look at the other side of that coin. Say you need to obtain your ex-spouse’s mental health and/or substance abuse records and get them before the judge. To do that, you need to prove that the privilege has been waived.

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There are lots of things that can “sneak up” on you, but a judgment of divorce shouldn’t be one of them. If you’ve received notice that your spouse has obtained something called a “default judgment of dissolution of marriage,” chances are high that you didn’t have an attorney. If that happens, you may not know what to do. Let’s start with what you shouldn’t do: don’t panic, don’t despair and definitely don’t give up. Instead, do reach out to an experienced South Florida family law attorney who can help you explore your options for reversing that default judgment and getting an outcome that’s fairer to you.

The law prefers that all cases – especially family law matters – be resolved on their merits, not on procedural bases. This gives your request to overturn a default judgment enhanced odds of success.

For example, consider this South Florida husband’s divorce and default judgment case. His wife filed for divorce. The husband submitted an answer that said he didn’t oppose dissolution, but he did oppose the equitable distribution the wife proposed.

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Both in this blog and elsewhere, you may read about the importance of having a powerful South Florida family law attorney by your side “every step of the way.” That’s definitely true if you are someone who is seeking to create a premarital (a/k/a prenuptial) agreement. You need strong legal representation when you negotiate your agreement, when you execute the document and, potentially, when it comes time to enforce that agreement.

That last one – enforcement — is just as important as the others, because it is far from impossible to encounter a spouse who decides they don’t want to “play by the rules” created by that agreement when it comes time to do so.

This was the case for L.B., an ex-wife from the Orlando area. Before she married H.H., the pair created and signed a prenuptial agreement. That contract stated that, if the couple divorced, the husband was required to support the wife, not just during his lifetime, but after his death.

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When going through a divorce, the #1 issue for most spouses is their minor children. In terms of inanimate objects, though, the most valuable asset with which most divorcing spouses must deal is the marital home. Obviously, one of the last things you want is to have your name on the mortgage if your spouse is the one remaining in the home after the divorce. No one wants to be attached to a debt for a home they have no legal right to occupy. There are ways to safeguard yourself financially, both before and during a divorce. One of those ways is by retaining a knowledgeable South Florida family law attorney to make sure you are fully protected.

Refinancing a marital home after a divorce can be a particularly tricky thing here in South Florida. Given the area’s tendency to undergo large fluctuation in home prices, the marital home you’re seeking to address may have a ton of equity, or it may be underwater (meaning you owe more than it’s currently worth.)

Often, when two spouses divorce, one will desire to keep the house. The other spouse, in order to protect him/herself, will insist that the spouse staying in the home refinance the outstanding mortgage loan to finance the property in the receiving spouse’s name only. However, given the complexities of the mortgage lending industry and the volatile value of South Florida real estate, refinancing may be easier said than done. So, you may wonder, what happens if your ex-spouse got the house, but your name is still on the mortgage? That was the quandary faced by one Palm Beach County spouse in his divorce case recently.

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Timesharing cases often can be among the most contentious types of family law matters. Sometimes, though, it’s very different. You want your ex to have time – maybe even the majority of the time – with the children, just like your parenting plan says. But lately, he/she has begun displaying troubling behaviors – perhaps indicative substance issues or maybe mental health problems. Now your focus is primarily upon ensuring the safety of your child. When you’re in that kind of situation, make certain you are doing everything you can to protect your child’s well-being. That includes retaining an experienced South Florida family law attorney.

For V.L., a mom from Naples involved in a parenting dispute, the “red flag” about her ex-husband’s mental health was a timesharing exchange in late November 2019. At some point during that exchange, the father phoned the police. An officer arrived and, upon encountering the man, “determined that the father was suffering from an anxiety attack and was in a ‘practically paralyzed’ state, barely able to communicate.”

The episode was so bad that had the child not already been scheduled to go to V.L. anyway, the officer “would not have allowed the father to leave with or without the child while he was in such a state due to the officer’s fear for the father’s and child’s safety.” The responding officer told V.L. of the officer’s “concerns about the father’s ability to care for the child during an emergency.”

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Lately, we’ve been hearing a lot about states decriminalizing the use of marijuana. There is, however, another decriminalization movement underway that you’ve likely heard less about. The State of Utah did it in 2019, and Virginia took action earlier this year. Bills are under consideration in Minnesota and New York. What is it that’s being decriminalized with such increased frequency lately? Adultery and/or fornication.

While lots of states are taking action, Florida isn’t one of them. Section 798.01 of the Florida Statutes makes “living in open adultery” a second-degree misdemeanor. It’s been on the books since the 19th Century, and the Legislature has not yet taken action to repeal it.

While you technically can face a fine of up to $500 and spend up to 60 days in jail for open adultery, there are only certain specific situations where an extramarital affair – whether yours or your spouse’s – will have an impact on what the judge decides in your divorce.

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With close connections, both culturally and economically, to the Caribbean, Central America, South America and beyond, South Florida is a truly international region. The impacts of that are felt in many areas, including in family law. For areas (like here) where family law disputes cross not just state but national boundaries, it is essential to have a knowledgeable South Florida family law attorney who understands all of the laws that go along with child custody cases, including international custody cases.

One of the most important pieces of law when it comes to certain international custody disputes is something called the “Hague Convention.” While that treaty officially covers the topic of “international child abduction,” its effect on family law goes beyond just kidnapping cases. It also has the ability to impact a substantial array of child custody disagreements.

That treaty had a major impact on one Brazilian couple’s custody dispute, which was recently litigated here in Florida. The parents had married in Brazil in 2010 and welcomed a child in 2012. In 2016, the father, the child and the mother (who was pregnant with child #2) traveled to Florida so the father could advance his medical career by participating in a cardiology fellowship, and so the mother could deliver the second child in the United States.

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If you have a court order that obligates you to pay a reasonable amount of alimony to your ex-spouse and you’re capable of paying it, then the best thing you can do is… pay it. Of course, life isn’t always that simple, especially in this time of coronavirus-fueled economic instability, which is affecting more and more ex-spouses who are under court orders to pay alimony. If your court-ordered amount is more than you can pay or is otherwise unreasonable, then you should reach out as soon as possible to an experienced South Florida family law attorney so that your attorney can begin working on getting your alimony obligation modified.

Simply allowing yourself to fall behind on alimony is almost never the right answer, and can come with some serious consequences. However, even if you have made the mistake of racking up an alimony arrearage, failure to pay does not mean that you are without any rights. You are still entitled to certain legal protections and there are still certain processes and procedures the court must go through before administering certain penalties.

As an example, we can look at a recent alimony case from Broward County. That husband owed alimony to his ex-wife in excess of $600,000, and the wife filed a motion to find the husband in contempt.

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As anyone who’s been through divorce litigation knows, getting a favorable ruling from the judge is a huge step, but it may not be the last step. There may be occasions where, despite a clear order from the court, your ex-spouse doesn’t do what he/she was supposed to do. This is one of the many reasons why it pays to have a skilled South Florida family law attorney on your side: so that you can not only win your case in court, but can win the legal battles that come afterward.

For example, look at A.L. and K.M., a married couple who created a postnuptial agreement. That agreement said that the wife would pay the husband a one-time equitable distribution payment. The payment, which was $250,000, was due within seven days of the spouses’ signing of the agreement.

The wife didn’t pay the whole $250,000, though. Instead, she paid $225,000. The husband responded by filing a contempt motion. The magistrate who heard the case initially recommended that the court rule in favor of the husband and order the wife to pay the remaining $25,000.

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Many of us, at some point, have made a job change expecting the new job to improve our lives professionally, financially and personally, only to realize just a few months later that, rather than an improvement, the new job is a financial disaster. If that happens to you, it can have many negative consequences, especially if you’re someone who owes a child support obligation. There is a little bit of good news: depending on your specific circumstances, a skilled South Florida family law attorney may be able to take evidence of your reduced income and help you get a modification of child support and a smaller monthly payment.

P.S. was a father caught in that type of situation with his child support obligation. In 2016, he was a financial advisor at a major investment firm, but decided to make a lateral move to another major investment firm. Unfortunately for P.S., a major scandal rocked his new employer just after he changed jobs. It started in the company’s banking division but, eventually, the scandal spread into the brokerage unit, according to a CNBC report from November 2016.

This was a huge problem for P.S. In the investment industry, financial advisors who change firms often bring their clients with them from the old firm to their new firm. However, due to the cloud of scandal plaguing P.S.’s new employer, he failed to persuade many of his clients to switch. As a result, he failed to hit several performance targets and that failure meant that his overall income took a significant nosedive.

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