In a decision that may, hopefully, bring a degree of closure to one family, prosecutors in South Florida decided to drop criminal charges that were pending against a mother who had famously violated court orders related to the custody of her young son, the Palm Beach Post reported. The case made national news due to the issue at the center of the parents’ dispute (the child’s circumcision), but ultimately provides a reminder of the strong enforceability of parenting agreements, even if one parent has a profound change-of-heart later.
In many child custody and visitation cases, the parents often receive shared parental responsibility. When they do, there are certain restrictions that exist regarding how decision making must be structured. In one recent case, the Fourth District Court of Appeal reversed a trial court order because the parents had shared parental responsibility but the court order also purported to give the father ultimate decision making power in situations where the parents could not agree.
A pair of errors by a trial court allowed a husband to win his appeal before the Second District Court of Appeal recently. The lower court’s failure to include in its equitable distribution a loan taken out for the purpose of funding the couple’s child’s education was erroneous, as was basing the husband’s obligation on his gross, rather than net, income.
When going through a divorce, some people desire to resolve the case as quickly as possible. Sometimes, though, it may be necessary, in order to obtain a truly fair and just outcome, to ask the court to put off ruling in your case. One recent case from southwestern Florida highlights a set of circumstances in which a wife needed additional time to obtain evidence about her husband’s business, and the denial of her continuance request created an injustice for her that required the Second District Court of Appeal to reverse the ruling.
One of the more stressful experiences you can face is the fear that you may be in imminent danger of becoming a victim of domestic violence. Florida law allows courts to issue injunctions of protection against domestic violence to offer a degree of protection to victims. In order to qualify for an injunction, however, an alleged victim has to show that their relationship with their alleged abuser meets the statutory requirements, and the alleged abuser’s acts also satisfy the law’s standards. In the recent case of one Southwest Florida woman, the alleged acts of her ex-girlfriend were too infrequent and took place too far into the past to justify issuing an injunction, according to the Second District Court of Appeal.
When it comes to child support cases, one of the most important issues can be whether or not the law allows the court to impute additional income to the obligor parent for the purposes of calculating his support amount. One of the keys to imputing income is proving that the obligor is voluntarily underemployed or unemployed. In a potentially important new decision from the First District Court of Appeal, that court broke with the Fourth District Court of Appeal and decided that a judge could decline to enter an order of support when the obligor parent was soon to enter prison for two years.
If you watch enough TV courtroom drama shows, you’ve likely seen it at some point. One of the lawyers will attempt to introduce some piece of evidence, and the other attorney will exclaim, “Objection! Hearsay!” While hearsay objections may be more commonly associated with criminal cases, they also take place in civil matters as well, including family law disputes. In a case recently before the Fourth District Court of Appeal, the hearsay rule and its exceptions were the key issue in deciding whether the wife had proper evidence to support her argument for imputing income to the husband. Since the appeals court decided that the wife’s evidence wasn’t admissible, that meant that the trial court order had to be reversed.
In an alimony case, the law gives trial judges a certain amount of discretion in how they structure an obligor spouse’s alimony payments. Even with this discretion, there are limits. For example, an alimony award should not automatically increase at some future date unless there are specific extenuating circumstances that warrant structuring the alimony obligation in that way. In the case of one Broward County couple, the husband’s alimony obligation, which automatically increased by 140% upon the couple’s child’s graduation from high school, was reversed by the Fourth District Court of Appeal because the trial court in the case listed no extenuating circumstances in its order.
Family law cases, like many varieties of litigation, can sometimes take unexpected turns. One such example was a case recently decided by the Fifth District Court of Appeal. In this case, a mother in a child support case lost her job after the final hearing but before the trial court issued its judgment. The appeals court upheld the trial court’s refusal to grant a motion to reopen the case, since granting that type of motion would prejudice the father too much and essentially require starting the case over from the beginning.
The litigants in this case were a couple from Brevard County. They were in court to establish a parenting plan and child support. The parenting plan called for the father to have the children 2/3 of the time and the mother to receive 1/3 of the time. Based upon the timesharing, the parents’ incomes, and all of the other relevant factors, the trial court determined that the wife owed child support. In assessing the wife’s child support obligation, the court followed the child support guidelines based upon the mother’s income from her job.
Child support cases, especially when you are facing contempt and possible jail time, are serious matters. There are many ways the courts can find you capable of making your child support payments, but there are other resources the law does not require you to deplete just to meet your support obligation. In one recent case from the Florida Panhandle, a father won a reversal of his contempt finding and jail sentence because, according to the First District Court of Appeal’s ruling, everything the trial court used to find that the man had willfully declined to pay his child support was either too small, had no evidence to support it, or was an asset the father was not legally obligated to liquidate just to pay his child support. The appeals court’s ruling is a useful reminder of the several ways that a parent who owes support can defend himself in a contempt case.