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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Delta planeBefore you sign any agreement regarding your rights in a child custody and timesharing situation, it is important to understand fully exactly what you are agreeing to do. If the terms of an agreement include provisions that clearly encompass a move out of state, you may very possibly not be able to contest that out-of-state move later. In other words, always know before you sign. An experienced Florida child custody attorney can advise you on your rights and the relative benefits and disadvantages of any potential agreement.

The dispute between Emmanuel and Laurie was one that involved a cross-country move. The couple was married in 2011 and separated in 2015, and the wife filed for divorce in 2017. The pair had one child together. While the divorce case was still ongoing in the Florida court system, the mother, without a court order or any notice to the father, decided to move, relocating the child and herself from Florida to Michigan.

The father went to court to protest this unilateral decision regarding the child’s living arrangements. Eventually, the parents reached a mutual agreement, agreeing to leave the child in the mother’s custody pending the outcome of a mediation. They also agreed for the father to have one month of visitation during the summer, as well as a period of visitation during winter break. The agreement made it clear that, if the two parents could not reach a permanent agreement during the mediation, the father retained his rights to argue in court about the custody and timesharing issues.

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gavelMany times, people may associate legal phrases like “due process of law” with criminal cases. The reality is, though, that all parties in criminal and civil cases are entitled to due process of law. Part of this due process protection says that a court generally cannot take action against you without proper notice and a chance for you to be heard. To make sure that all of your rights, including your constitutional rights, are protected in your case, be sure you have a skilled Florida child custody attorney on your side.

One recent family law case in which this issue of due process played a key role in the outcome was a matter that involved a long-distance family dynamic and some allegedly dysfunctional relationships. The father lived in southwest Florida, while the mother lived in Indiana. The Florida courts had jurisdiction over the issue of timesharing. Problems allegedly began emerging, and, in early 2017, the mother decided to take legal action. According to the mother, the father was taking improper steps to alienate the children from her. The “extreme” alienation allegedly included the father’s urging the children not to obey the mother and his making “hateful, inflammatory, outrageous and false allegations” about the mother in his social media posts.

In a situation like this, there are two types of rulings by the judge that the mother could seek. Normally, a modification of timesharing would only take place after the court gave both sides notice of a hearing, allowed both sides to attend the hearing, and heard both sides’ proof. In “emergency” situations, though, a court can take action without going through these steps. That’s what happened in this case. The mother requested emergency relief during the mid-morning of Feb. 8, 2017. The father’s former attorney found out about the hearing in the 3 o’clock hour that afternoon, but he no longer represented the father. At 10:30 the next morning, the hearing went forward without the father or any legal counsel representing him. The judge ordered the suspension of the father’s timesharing, cut off all contact between the father and the children, and ordered the father to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.

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calculatorIn some ways, calculating an appropriate child support obligation can be a bit like calculating income taxes. In situations in which the supporting parent (or the taxpayer in the tax return analogy) has exactly one source of income, the calculation may be very direct because it requires proof of only that one figure. In today’s economy, though, more and more people derive income from multiple sources. When that is true, the calculation process becomes more complicated. Additionally, just as a self-employed taxpayer often needs detailed proof of his income and expenses (particularly when he asserts that his business lost money), something similar is true of a business owner who owes child support. Florida law is very clear that, in order for the judge to factor in your business losses, you have to give the court hard proof of those losses. To make sure that you have all of the proof you need to achieve a successful result in your child support case, make sure that you have an experienced Florida child support attorney on your side.

The case of Ruben and Aixa was an example of how the lack of this type of proof can harm a supporting parent’s case. At trial, evidence demonstrated that Ruben had a variety of sources of income. He had a salary from the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, living expenses reimbursement from the V.A., disability benefits, and rental income. He also had an indoor batting cage business in Orlando.

At the child support hearing, Ruben testified that his batting cage business was actually in the red during the relevant time period. The father then argued that the judge should take those business losses and subtract them from his other sources of income to calculate his true gross income. The trial court did subtract some of those losses and used the result of this subtraction as the gross-income figure from which it calculated Ruben’s child support payment.

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judgeAlthough the precise origin is unknown, a proverb that dates back at least as far as the 1810s says that a lawyer who represents himself in a legal matter “has a fool for a client.” The moral of the proverb is that almost any legal representation will be stronger when provided by the dispassionate, completely objective perspective of a professional who is not a party to the case. That is especially true in family law cases, in which emotions often run high, and these feelings may cloud the judgment of the self-represented litigant. Whether you are an experienced attorney yourself or someone who admittedly knows nothing about the law, you certainly want the best for your family and your family law case, which is why you should take the beneficial step of hiring an experienced Florida child custody attorney to handle your case.

A North Florida case recently decided by the First District Court of Appeal illustrates the above truth in clear detail. The husband (a doctor) and the wife (a family law attorney) were married for just less than three years when the wife filed for divorce. The couple had one child together, a daughter. The trial court established a parenting plan in October 2015. Despite that court order in place, the mother frequently did not give the father his court-ordered visitation. In 2016 alone, the father missed a total of 12 weeks (84 days) of time with his daughter because the mother refused to follow the court’s instructions, according to the court.

The father asked the trial court to find the mother in contempt of court for failing to follow the parenting plan. At the hearing, the trial judge allegedly could not completely contain his frustration with the mother. According to the mother, he sighed loudly and shook his head during the hearing, interrupted the father’s lawyer so that he could question the mother himself, and openly commented on the mother’s testimony. At one point, with regard to the mother’s alleged willful non-compliance with the parenting plan, the judge stated, “You just do what you want.”

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18th birthdayThere exists in many places, including within popular culture, an idea that the obligation to provide child support lasts for, at most, 18 years. Under this notion, once the child reaches the age of majority, on his or her 18th birthday, he or she is a legal adult, and the supporting parent’s obligation ends. But is that really the way the law surrounding child support works? For reliable answers regarding your specific child support issues in this state, the correct move is to consult an experienced Florida child support attorney.

A case originating in Palm Beach County involved one of the potential scenarios in which child support can extend past the child’s 18th birthday. Pablo and Elizabeth were the parents of several children, one of whom had special needs. Under Florida law, in order for a child support obligation to extend past a child’s 18th birthday, the child’s special needs must be so significant that they amount to a mental or physical deficiency that makes the child “unable to support himself.” That deficiency must also have initially started prior to the child’s 18th birthday in order to trigger the ongoing obligation. When that degree of special needs exists, the supporting parent’s support obligation can continue indefinitely.

In Elizabeth’s case, she was unable to win her argument for extended child support because she failed to follow proper procedural protocols. Specifically, she had not “preserved” that issue for the appeals court to review it. She was, however, still allowed to go back to the trial court and file a new motion to request a modification of child support and, in that motion, ask for the father’s support obligation to extend past the special needs child’s 18th birthday.

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gavelThere are certain things that are generally true across a wide variety of legal issues, even if those cases have little in common factually. One of those nearly universal truths is that long periods of time during which you could have taken action but did not do so rarely have a positive impact on your case. Long delays are rarely your friend. If you think you have a claim or a legal argument to make, your best move is to consult knowledgeable Florida family law counsel right away.

An example of this was a recent divorce case from Broward County. Afnaan was married three times. A court in the country of Jordan issued a decree in 2000 ending her marriage to her first husband. That order stated a “divorce date” of 1998, likely due to the fact that Afnaan had married her second husband between the 1998 date and the decree date. She and Husband #2 divorced, and she married Saad in 2011. Afnaan’s third marriage ended as the first two had, with a Florida court issuing an order of dissolution in 2014.

Saad appealed that order. His argument was a novel one:  he contended that the 2000 Jordanian decree ending the wife’s first marriage was not valid under Florida law, which allegedly would mean that the Florida courts didn’t have jurisdiction to dissolve his marriage.

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stressIf you find yourself in the stressful and likely frightening situation of facing a domestic violence case in some faraway state where you’ve not lived for many years (or never lived at all), you have several options. One option is to ignore the case. This is almost always a terrible choice. While it is true that certain types of judgments from one state cannot reach you in another state, a domestic violence order is possibly much more problematic. Having a domestic violence injunction issued against you, even if it is issued by a court in a state with which you have no contact, can affect your ability to own or possess firearms, your ability to hold certain types of jobs, and potentially your ability to have custody or timesharing with your children, even including your children from other marriages and relationships. Simply ignoring the case will likely do nothing but harm to you. A better option is to retain an experienced Florida domestic violence attorney and litigate your case.

Rabih was a man facing such a case. He, Issrra (his wife), and their three children lived in Ohio until the couple separated, and Issrra and the children moved to Pinellas County. A week and a half after arriving in Florida, the mother filed a request with the court in Pinellas County to enter a domestic violence injunction against the father. Rabih, at that point, faced a problem. He lived in northern Ohio and had lived there for well more than a decade, but he had now been served with court papers regarding a potential domestic violence injunction against him in Florida.

Rabih wisely chose not to ignore his case. He hired Florida counsel, and he won his jurisdiction argument, which meant that Issrra’s case was dismissed. The law gives you the opportunity to argue that a state’s courts do not have personal jurisdiction over you without that appearance and action creating a forfeiture of your jurisdiction argument. In other words, simply hiring a Florida lawyer to go to court and argue that the Florida courts lack personal jurisdiction over you does not amount to your voluntarily submitting to the jurisdiction of Florida.

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PolaroidWhen you go through a divorce, there are several steps that you must complete. The equitable distribution of marital assets is one of them. Of course, most people’s marital estates are not an unchangeable thing but instead experience change every time the couple buys or sells something or every time an asset fluctuates in value. So how do you determine when to analyze the marital estate in order to complete an equitable distribution? For answers to these types of questions, as well as what they mean for you and your divorce, you should act promptly to consult a knowledgeable Florida equitable distribution attorney.

A recent case from central Florida shone a light on this issue. The spouses, Orlando and Diana, divorced after 23 years of marriage. During the marriage, the couple owned multiple pieces of real estate. Orlando and Diana, as Colombians, observed the Colombian tradition of parents providing for their children and, motivated by that, deeded four of the properties they owned to their sons. After these transfers, they still had left an apartment in Colombia, a condo in Naples, and a house in Marco Island.

After the trial’s conclusion, the judge issued a decision on equitable distribution, giving the husband the house in Marco Island plus two of the properties that the couple had previously deeded to the sons. The wife received the apartment in Colombia, the condo in Naples, and a vacant lot that the couple had deeded to their sons. The court ordered the fourth property that had been deeded to the children sold.

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calculatorAn old joke among law students and lawyers theorizes that students enter law school because they are not good at math. If they were, so the joke goes, they’d bypass law school in favor of medical school or engineering. The reality, however, is obviously very different. Many lawyers are very adept at math, which is important because many areas of the law, including family law, can involve extensive math skills. Many times, success in your alimony or child support case can involve having a Florida alimony attorney who has extensive knowledge of the rules and recognizes when the math “just doesn’t add up.”

One example of a case in which the alimony math “didn’t add up,” and the wife secured a favorable judgment on appeal as a result, was the divorce of Danny and Gina. The couple divorced after 14 years of marriage, and their divorce judgment required Danny to pay Gina durational alimony in the amount of $3,800 for eight years. Gina appealed the trial court’s order, contending that the amount of alimony the trial court awarded was too low. Specifically, the wife argued that the trial judge calculated the amount of alimony she should receive incorrectly because the judge failed to take into account the tax consequences of the alimony award.

The appeals court sided with the wife on this point. The evidence presented to the trial judge showed that the wife had a monthly financial need of just over $5,600 per month. Based on the wife’s work history, the trial judge imputed income to the wife in an amount just under $2,100 per month. Using these numbers, the court arrived at the $3,800 monthly obligation amount.

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vaccinationIn recent years, one of the more hotly debated issues for many people is vaccines. Since a large portion of the people who receive vaccinations are underage children, the question of whether to vaccinate or not to vaccinate can be a contentious one if a child’s parents do not agree. Sometimes, these disagreements spill over into the legal system, as was the case recently with one family from Michigan, as reported by the Washington Post. Whether or not you can use the courts to force your ex to get your child vaccinated may depend on the specific facts of your case. As a Florida parent, if you have concerns about this or any other type of vital medical decision-making element of your child custody arrangement, it is important to contact an experienced Florida child custody attorney promptly.

Many anti-vaccination individuals believe that vaccines are of questionable effectiveness and may be the source of various ailments ranging from bowel disease to autism. Vaccine proponents believe that vaccines are safe, effective, and not only an important part of good health for the recipient but also beneficial to the community at large due to something called “herd immunity.” The recent rise in vaccine opponents, vaccination proponents argue, has led to the increased occurrence of many diseases (including the re-emergence of some nearly extinct diseases), like measles, mumps, whopping cough, scarlet fever, and polio.

Thus, do you have to vaccinate your child if you desire not to vaccinate them, or, alternatively, can you get a court order that requires your ex to get your child vaccinated even if that is against the other parent’s wishes? Like many things in the law, the answer is, “It depends.”