Florida law gives trial court judges a lot of options in how they resolve issues like child support obligations. As part of that process, the law recognizes that a supporting parent may provide support to his/her child in meaningful and valuable ways beyond just paying cash to the majority timesharing parent. The law factors those other forms of support when determining how much the parent’s monthly monetary payments should be.

That, however, can lead to problems sometimes. Specifically, what do you do if the court factored in a non-cash form of support, but the supporting parent never actually incurred that expense? These and other tricky issues when it comes to child support are good examples of why it pays be sure that you have a skilled South Florida family law attorney on your side throughout your case.

The above scenario was what happened in C.C.’s case. When determining the amount of support P.S., the father, owed, the judge made a decision that was what the law calls a “substantial deviation” from the amount indicated by the Florida child support guidelines. Whenever a judge enters an order on child support and the obligation amount is a significant deviation from what the guidelines call for, the judge must have a good reason for deviating, and must clearly state why the deviation was appropriate.

Here in today’s modern electronic age, there are many things we have to navigate that people even just a generation ago did not. One of these things is computerized processes for filing court papers in your Florida family court case. Whereas everyone might have delivered a paper document to a human deputy at the court clerk’s office in the 1990s, today the rules of procedure allow filing electronic documents via an Internet website.

As we all well know, technology can be great… when it works. However, would you know what to do if your very important filing in your divorce case got rejected as late due to technology problems that were no fault of your own? It is reasonable to imagine you might not. To make sure your case or appeal gets the hearing it deserves, and that you are equipped to handle all the “bumps in the road,” no matter how unexpected, be sure you have an experienced South Florida family law attorney on your side.

L.B. was a man who found himself in that position. He was going through a divorce in St. Lucie County and, after the judge issued the final judgment, he and his attorney determined that it was in his best interest to appeal. The law gives you 30 days to file your appeal document known as a “Notice of Appeal.” L.B.’s notice, if he wanted to file one, was due on January 9, 2019. His lawyer attempted to file on that day. (There are several very legitimate reasons why it might be helpful, necessary or unavoidable to wait to file until near or on the last day.)

There are injunctions that protect against spousal violence and there are injunctions that protect against dating violence. However, you may wonder, “What if my attacker/stalker is someone with whom I had a relationship but, we were never married and we never really ‘dated,’ so to speak? Am I out of luck when it comes to getting this kind of protection?” The answer, fortunately, is “no.” These injunctions can apply to a variety of people and relationships, so if you’re being threatened, never assume that you can’t get protection; always talk to an experienced South Florida family law attorney first.

A case originating from the Tallahassee area gives a good illustration of how many different relationships can be the subject of an injunction against dating violence. T.S. and L.T. were a couple who met via the Internet site Craigslist. Based upon the description contained in the First District Court of Appeal’s opinion, this pair appeared to have what many might call a “friends with benefits” relationship. According to the man, the pair never actually went out anywhere together. Instead, over the four-year span of their on-again-off-again relationship, they got together mostly for sex. If one person began dating someone else, they’d cease their relationship, and then resume their couplings once that outside dating situation ended.

When the woman finally broke up for the last time, the man allegedly contacted her on social media, called her, texted her and “left unpleasant voice messages.” The man also once showed up at the woman’s home without warning and refused to leave until she told him she would call the police if he didn’t go.

In many circumstances, the success or defeat of your Florida parental responsibility, timesharing and/or child support case will come down to factual issues. These issues can be things like parental fitness, a parent’s earning potential or the child’s educational needs. Other times, though, issues of law and/or legal procedure are at the center of a case. Whether your case turns on issues of fact or issues of law, your odds of success can be enhanced by having an experienced South Florida family law on your side presenting your case.

D.P.’s case was one heavily influenced by issues of law. In 2010, L.R. gave birth to a son. L.R. was not married at the time, but D.P. “was recognized by all concerned” as the child’s natural father. As D.P.’s relationship with the mother declined, he filed for court recognition of his paternity in 2017. The case was set to resolve issues of parental responsibility, timesharing and child support.

The father was a “no show” at a court-ordered mediation and was sanctioned for that failure to appear. At the final hearing, the trial judge tried to find a mutually agreeable solution but was not successful. The mother’s attorney made what the law calls a “proffer” of the “substance of her case.” A proffer means that one party presents to the judge evidence that she would use if allowed at trial. It is not evidence actually admitted into the record, but simply one party’s representation of what she would have put on the record if allowed. The appeals court indicated that, after the lawyer’s proffer, the “father then addressed the court regarding his timesharing and employment history.”

Sometimes, success in your case is about the facts, sometimes it’s about the law, sometimes it’s about the rules of court procedure and sometimes it’s a combination of the above. That is one reason among many why it pays to have skillful South Florida family law counsel on your side fighting for you. You know the facts of your case, but you probably don’t know all the details and specifics of Florida law or of Florida’s procedure rules. Your skilled attorney can help you make sure that the case you put on is the strongest one possible.

Your attorney can also help you spot problems that occur in your case. Sometimes, the judge in your case may do something the law doesn’t allow. Even if it was harmful to you, it very possibly was something that you did not know was impermissible. Again, having a knowledgeable advocate helps.

As an example, there’s H.F. and C.R.’s case. They were a couple whose divorce was finalized in late 2007. There was also a supplemental judgment issued in 2010. The judgments stated that certain personal property (that was being shipped from Kuwait) worth $100,000 was to go to the husband. The husband was ordered to pay the wife $111,000 over the course of four years, at $2,320 per month.

Recently, this blog touched upon some of the circumstances in which a parent’s child support obligation might continue even after the child has turned 18. Some of those scenarios included things like a child who’s on track for graduating high school after turning 18 but before 19, or a child who has disabilities.

There is, however, another way in which you might find yourself paying child support on a child who has already turned 18, and it is a reminder that no detail in your marital settlement agreement is too small to deserve full and careful attention, and no spouse should navigate the divorce process in this state without an experienced South Florida divorce attorney by your side.

Here’s a case that drives home that point: G.S. and T.S. were the divorced parents of three children. The spouses signed their divorce agreement in 2005. Eventually, the father fell behind on child support and his wages were garnished.

Many online news headlines are intentionally constructed to be shocking, thereby getting you to click. In one recent example, a British online news publication covered a case where two Gloucestershire parents were ordered to support their 16-year-old married daughter and to pay that support to the girl’s 27-year-old husband.

Sounds shocking, doesn’t it? It may also lead you to wonder… could that happen to me, here in Florida? If you are the majority-timesharing parent of a teen, could you go from receiving child support to paying child support if your under-18 child marries? As always, to get the customized answers you need, which are tailored to the specific facts of your case, be sure to consult with a knowledgeable South Florida family law attorney. (Generally speaking, though, a Florida parent would never find himself or herself in the position that these two British parents found themselves.)

Many people focus closely on a child’s 18th birthday when it comes to assessing how long a child support obligation lasts. However, Florida law actually acknowledges several scenarios in which a child support obligation might end prior to a child’s 18th birthday. One is if the child obtains a court judgment declaring the child to be legally “emancipated.” This is also sometimes called “divorcing one’s parents.” Several celebrities, like actors Macaulay Culkin, Ariel Winter, Jaime Pressly and Juliette Lewis and Olympic gymnast Dominique Moceanu, have successfully undertaken such action. Once a child is emancipated, the parents lose all parental authority over that child, but also lose the obligation to support that child financially.

When you are the spouse or parent who is potentially responsible for paying alimony or child support, there are a lot of financial factors that go into calculating exactly how much that obligation should be. One of the things that the law requires courts to consider is other payments that benefit your spouse and/or child. For example, if you are paying the mortgage payment on the house in which your spouse lives, that payment could be declared to be a type of spousal support. Similarly, paying 100% of your children’s private school tuition might qualify as a form of child support. These areas can be especially important when you’re in a case where you are potentially facing an order to pay retroactive support.

Two recent cases show how the process is supposed to work, and what you can do when it doesn’t. In the first, J.C.J. and M.J. were Palm Beach County parents going through divorce. At the conclusion of the divorce case, the trial judge made several rulings about alimony and child support. One of the rulings demanded that the father pay retroactive child support.

The father later appealed and won a reversal of the retroactive child support order. The reason? When the trial judge made that ruling, he didn’t factor in the mortgage payments that the father had made. The father had evidence that he had been the one who paid the mortgage payments on the home in which the child lived during the pendency of the divorce. Florida law says that a supporting parent is entitled to receive credit for “actual payments” made to the child or to the other parent. They’re also entitled to credit when making payments to third parties for the benefit of the child. That includes things like payments to lenders or landlords to cover the housing payment for the home in which the child resides. This father didn’t get that credit, which is why he was entitled to have his retroactive child support recalculated.

There are almost as many family law situations as there are families, it seems sometimes. Fortunately, lawmakers have taken efforts to address many situations, including some relatively unique ones. You may not be aware, but in Florida, there is a statute that covers what happens if you (or your children) are not receiving the support you should — and you want to get that financial support – but you do not want to pursue a divorce right away. You can seek alimony “unconnected with” divorce. Taking this step does not mean the court will enter an order of divorce; this tool is designed to allow judges to institute court-ordered support without ending the marriage. Also, be aware that you can choose, if you want, to seek court-ordered support “unconnected with dissolution” now and, if the marriage breaks down later, still seek a divorce at that later date.

This tool allows you to obtain the support you need without having to pursue divorce when the marriage isn’t necessarily irretrievably broken. What this should signify to you is that there’s probably more tools in a knowledgeable South Florida family law attorney’s “tool belt” than you might have imagined, so be sure your situation has the wise legal counsel your family deserves.

Let’s look at this legal concept using a recent case. R.L. and P.L. were a married couple. The husband had executed a “power of attorney” document, which is a type of estate planning document in which you can name another person to act as your agent to carry out certain legal, financial and/or medical decision-making tasks (that you list in the document.)

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Occasionally, this blog discusses the benefits of pursuing your case with an experienced attorney as opposed to “going it alone.” When someone opts to go it alone, they are almost always harming their case. Sometimes, those mistakes cost the litigant money. Other times, though, the stakes are much, much higher, such as in the case of domestic violence injunctions. If find yourself in the position of needing to pursue a protective injunction, or to defend against one, the stakes are about as high as they can be. You may be fearful that you cannot afford to hire an attorney. However, in reality, you cannot afford to go through the process without one. Your helpful South Florida family law attorney may be able to provide you with more solutions or options than you thought available, potentially making the cost more manageable, or even potentially nothing at all.

A recent case is a very clear cautionary tale. T.L., the plaintiff in the case, was the mother of a pre-teen daughter. T.L. and her daughter lived in Miami but, when the girl was 9, she spent a period of time in Palm Beach County with a paternal aunt and uncle due to Hurricane Irma. During that stay, the uncle alleged committed a sexual assault on the girl.

Based on that alleged incident, the mother went to court seeking an injunction for protection against sexual violence. The mother handled the case on her own. At the hearing, the girl did not testify; the mother was the only witness. A portion of the mother’s testimony focused on things that the daughter had told her about the incident.

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