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Generally, when a parent wishes to define custody rights, they will file a custody lawsuit in the jurisdiction in which they, their child, and their co-parent reside. In some instances, however, co-parents may not agree as to which county or state is considered the child’s place of residence. In such instances, the Florida courts will typically analyze numerous factors to determine where the child’s home exists and if it can exercise jurisdiction over a custody dispute pertaining to the child. For example, in a recent Florida opinion, a court explained what it considers when evaluating whether a child is a Florida resident, in a case in which the mother and father filed custody disputes in New Jersey and Florida, respectively. If you are engaged in a dispute over custody, it is advisable to contact a Florida child custody lawyer to assess your options for seeking a favorable outcome.

The Facts of the Case

It is reported that the mother and the father lived with the father’s parents in Florida for many years. Once the child was conceived, the parents moved to New Jersey to obtain the care of a specific obstetrician. The mother gave birth to the child in New York, after which the parents and child went back to Florida. They initially intended just to vacation there but ended up living with the paternal grandparents again for over six months. The mother returned to New Jersey on numerous occasions during that time to tend to her business.

Allegedly, the parties’ relationship deteriorated, and the mother returned to New Jersey with the child. She then sought an injunction for protection against domestic violence, and one week later, the father filed a paternity action in Florida. The following day, the mother filed a custody action in New Jersey and moved to dismiss the Florida paternity case, arguing New Jersey had jurisdiction over the child under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). The trial court conducted a hearing, after which it denied the motion. The mother then appealed. Continue reading ›

Parties who share custody of a child do not always agree with the court’s determination as to their custody rights. While they have the right to seek a modification, they must produce evidence that is sufficient to show that a change is necessary; otherwise, the courts should deny their request. If a court grants a custody order without finding that it is warranted due to a significant change in circumstances, the order may be reversed on appeal. This was demonstrated in a recent Florida case in which the court reversed the trial court’s order modifying custody on the grounds that it did not include such a finding. If you need assistance with a custody dispute, it is smart to speak to a Florida child custody lawyer about your options for protecting your parental rights.

Facts of the Case

It is alleged that a trial court issued an order modifying the father’s timesharing rights with regards to a minor daughter. Shortly before the modification order was issued, though, another court entered a five-year domestic violence injunction order against the father, which, among other things, limited his timesharing with his daughter to supervised visits. In contrast to the injunction, the modification order issued in the custody proceeding granted the father unsupervised timesharing rights after he completed specified requirements. The mother appealed the order modifying custody.

Grounds for Modifying Child Custody Orders

The appellate court found in favor of the mother and reversed the custody order, and remanded the matter for further proceedings. The appellate court noted that the modification order, on its face, neglected to state that any material, substantial, and unexpected change in circumstances had occurred after the injunction order was entered or that a modification of the injunction order was in the minor child’s best interests. Continue reading ›

When it is not clear who the father of a child is, both the child’s mother and any potential father have the right to file a paternity action. A determination of paternity not only opens the door for the father to seek parental rights like custody of the child, but it also allows the court to impose obligations on the father, like the duty to pay child support. If a court’s judgment of paternity fails to include necessary information, though, it may be reversed, as shown in a recent Florida ruling set forth in a paternity case. If you have questions regarding establishing parental rights or enforcing parental obligations, it is advisable to meet with an experienced Florida paternity lawyer to evaluate your options.

The History of the Case

It is reported that the mother instituted a paternity action to establish the identity of the father of her child. The court ultimately issued a final judgment of paternity, naming the father. The mother appealed, citing four issues. The appellate court affirmed the trial court’s ruling as to two of the issues without comment. As to the remaining two issues, however, the court found in favor of the mother. As such, it reversed the final judgment and remanded the matter to the trial court for further proceedings.

Final Judgments in Paternity Matters

The two issues the appellate court addressed on appeal were whether the trial court erred in neglecting to include a parenting plan in the record and failing to attach the child support guidelines worksheet to the final order. The court noted that the father conceded that these documents were forgotten due to a scrivener’s error. The appellate court explained that, pursuant to Florida law, it must reverse an order granted child support if the child support guidelines worksheet is not attached to the final judgment. Continue reading ›

In many divorce actions, the financial means of the parties are disputed, leading to contentious and protracted litigation. The Florida courts generally aim to issue fair and impartial rulings regarding child support and alimony in accordance with the statutory guidelines, however, which requires, in part, that they conduct a thorough assessment of the need of the party seeking support and the ability of the opposing party to pay. If a court fails to conduct an adequate evaluation prior to awarding support, it may constitute grounds for reversal. This was demonstrated recently in an opinion issued by a Florida court in a divorce matter. If you are considering ending your marriage, it is smart to speak to a trusted Florida divorce lawyer to discuss how a divorce may impact you financially.

The History of the Case

It is reported that the husband and wife lived together for eight years prior to marrying and were married for fourteen years. They had two children during their marriage. The wife filed a petition for dissolution of marriage, which set off eight years of litigation. The parties signed a prenuptial agreement shortly before their marriage that was later deemed invalid by the trial court.

Allegedly, the husband served in the United States Armed Forces, and after he retired, worked as a sheriff’s deputy. He also performed jobs when he was off duty. His income fluctuated throughout the course of the divorce proceedings, and at times his net monthly income was slightly less than $6,000. The wife was medically unable to work, and therefore the trial court declined to impute income to her. The trial court ordered the husband to pay $7,500 each month for child support and alimony. The husband appealed. Continue reading ›

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The Florida courts generally try to maintain the relationship between parents and their children. They will not do so to the detriment of a child, however, and if they find that a parent engages in conduct that harms a child, they may sever the parent’s rights. Recently, a Florida court discussed the grounds for terminating parental rights in a case in which the mother argued the trial court erred in determining that she should no longer be permitted to parent her children. If your parental rights are in jeopardy, it is vital to retain a skilled Florida child custody lawyer attorney to help you fight to protect your rights.

The Facts of the Case

It is reported that the mother had three minor children. The parental rights of the father, who was the biological parent of the two younger children, were terminated after he sexually abused the oldest child. Additionally, the trial court entered an injunction prohibiting the father from coming within 500 feet of the home where the mother lived with the children or having any contact with the children.

Allegedly, the oldest daughter awoke one night to find the father assaulting the mother. When she attempted to stop the assault, the father choked and hit her. The Department of Children and Families (DCF) later learned that the father routinely visited the residence, in violation of the court order. DCF then moved to terminate the mother’s parental rights on the grounds that she engaged in egregious conduct. During an adjudicatory hearing, the mother admitted she never ended her relationship with the father, and the evidence demonstrated he was regularly within the home. The court terminated the mother’s rights, and she appealed. Continue reading ›

Disputes over money are one of the leading causes of divorce. It is not surprising, then, that in many divorce cases, the parties will engage in contentious disagreements over how assets and property should be divided. In an attempt to mitigate such disputes, the Florida courts engage in a three-step process for determining what constitutes an equitable division of property. If the court disregards the process and divides property without properly identifying assets and liability, it may constitute grounds for a reversal of an equitable distribution award, as demonstrated in a recent Florida ruling. If you wish to end your marriage, it is critical to engage a capable Florida divorce lawyer to assist you in safeguarding your interests.

The History of the Case

The facts of the case are sparse. It is merely reported that the husband and wife were engaged in divorce proceedings, and the trial court issued a final judgment dissolving the marriage. The husband subsequently appealed, arguing that the alimony award and equitable distribution awards dictated by the judgment must be reversed. The appellate court agreed, and vacated the trial court ruling, and remanded for further proceedings.

The Florida Equitable Distribution Process

In Florida, equitable distribution is typically a three-step process. Specifically, it requires the identification of nonmarital and marital assets, a valuation of any assets deemed marital, and distribution of marital assets as dictated by statute. In the subject case, the husband argued that the trial court erred in failing to identify all of the parties’ liabilities and assets and deem them either marital or nonmarital. The appellate court agreed. Continue reading ›

While many people think of prenuptial agreements as instruments used for protecting assets in the event of a divorce, they can also help to determine how property will be disbursed if either party dies. As parties cannot opine on the intent of certain provisions from the grave, it is critical that prenuptial agreements are drafted in a clear and precise manner so that they can be properly interpreted by the courts. A Florida court recently discussed the interpretation of prenuptial agreements in a case in which the wife and the children of the deceased husband disagreed as to the meaning of numerous provisions. If you are engaged and you have substantial assets, it is smart to speak to a knowledgeable Florida marital agreement attorney regarding your options for protecting your wealth.

The Terms of the Agreement

Allegedly, the husband and wife lived together for several years before they decided to wed. The husband briefly mentioned prenuptial agreements before they were engaged but did not mention them again until the day of the wedding. At that point, he demanded that the wife find and complete a prenuptial agreement which she did. The parties then signed the agreement in front of a notary public.

It is reported that the husband died without a will four years after the couple married. The wife sought, among other things, to have the home describe in paragraph two of the agreement to be the husband’s homestead subject to her election of one-half interest. The husband’s children argued that the provision only applied during the husband’s life and that the wife waived any interest in the home. Continue reading ›

In Florida, income earned during the course of a marriage, including money placed in a retirement account, is generally considered marital property. When couples divorce, any marital property is typically subject to equitable distribution, but parties can waive their property rights via an agreement. A party that waives the right to marital property in a divorce action cannot later argue that their waiver does not apply based on a technicality, however. This was demonstrated in a recent opinion issued in a Florida case, in which the deceased husband’s estate sought enforcement of a marital settlement agreement to preclude the wife from recovering retirement plan benefits. If you want to end your marriage, it is smart to hire a knowledgeable Miami divorce attorney to help you seek a favorable outcome.

History of the Case

It is alleged that husband and wife married in 1988. The husband, a  television producer, contributed to a 401k plan that was governed by ERISA before and after the marriage. He designated the wife as the first beneficiary and his children as the second beneficiaries under the plan documents.  In 2017, the parties divorced. They developed a marital settlement agreement (the Agreement) that stated they both retained the sole right to their retirement plans and waived the right to recover proceeds from each other’s plans. The husband did not update his plan beneficiary forms, however. The court ratified the Agreement in the final dissolution of marriage.

Generally, a man that is the biological father of a child can seek parental rights.  Relatively recent advances in reproductive technology can result in situations in which it is necessary to determine whether a man is a child’s father or merely a sperm donor. For example, in a recent Florida case, a former couple called on a court to determine whether a man had paternity rights over a child born via IVF. If you need assistance with a paternity matter, it is advisable to speak to a Florida paternity lawyer to determine what steps you can take to protect your interests.

The Facts of the Case

It is reported that the father and the mother were involved in a romantic relationship, during which they entered into a contract to have a child via in vitro fertilization. The IVF transfer took place in September 2019, but the parties ended their relationship a month later. The child was born in June 2020. Shortly thereafter, the father filed a paternity lawsuit seeking parental rights on the grounds that he and the mother were a commissioning couple as defined by Florida law.

Allegedly, the mother moved to dismiss his petition, arguing that he was merely a sperm donor. During the hearing on the motion to dismiss, the trial court sought evidence from both parties without notice, after which it found the parties were a commissioning couple and granted the father parental rights. The mother appealed, arguing that the trial court violated her due process rights by holding an evidentiary hearing without notice. Continue reading ›

Generally, in Florida custody cases, the courts aim to preserve the relationships between parents and their children and will grant both parents timesharing rights. The courts must always rule in the best interest of the children involved in a custody case, though, which in some cases will require the court to determine that a parent’s time with a child should be supervised. When a court orders supervised timesharing, it is not always clear what a parent must do to obtain unsupervised access, however, as demonstrated in a recent Florida case. If you are involved in a custody dispute, it is smart to meet with a Florida custody attorney to discuss what steps you can take to protect your parental interests.

History of the Case

It is reported that the wife filed a petition for dissolution of marriage. The court issued a final judgment dissolving the marriage that dictated, in part, that the husband must be supervised during the time he spent with their minor children. The husband appealed on numerous grounds, including the argument that the trial court unjustly impinged on his parental rights by ordering his timesharing to be supervised for the duration of the children’s minority, as the court did not provide a roadmap for him to achieve unsupervised timesharing. The appellate court ultimately rejected the husband’s arguments and affirmed the trial court ruling.

Grounds for Lifting an Order Imposing Supervised Time-Sharing

The appellate court explained that recent Florida rulings resolved the issue of whether a court issuing a final judgment altering a parenting plan is required to provide a parent with concrete steps he or she can take to restore lost timesharing rights or return to a pre-modification custody status, affirmatively stating that the court did not owe such a duty. Continue reading ›