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Articles Posted in Child Support

When you are in court on a paternity case, two of the main legal things that you’ll likely be concerned with are timesharing and child support. One of the key things to keep in mind is that these two elements should be interconnected with one another; which is to say that, if you are the parent paying child support but you also have the child for a significant amount of time, then the law says that latter fact should entitle you to pay the child’s other parent a smaller amount of child support each month. To make sure the child support you’ve been ordered to pay is fair, based on the totality of your circumstances, be sure you have representation from a skilled South Florida family law attorney.

How does that reduction process work? A recent case from Palm Beach County offers a good example. K.W. was a father living in North Carolina, and R.B., the mother, lived in West Palm Beach. After the mother filed a paternity petition, the court set up a parenting plan. The plan called for one schedule in even-numbered years and a different schedule in odd-numbered years. This type of plan is not uncommon, as it allows each parent to, for example, have the child for 1/2 of the summers and also 1/2 of Christmases.

This child spent 84 overnights with the father in even-numbered years, but fewer than 73 in odd-numbered years. This was because the plan dictated that the father was to have the child for summer break and winter break in even-numbered years, but not in odd-numbered years. As a percentage, that meant the child spent 77% of the time with the mother, and 23% with the father in even-numbered years. In odd-numbered years, the child spent less than 20% of the year with the father.

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For most people, their incomes are reasonably stable. They may experience one or two or three major “bumps” in earnings over a career, but their incomes mostly move on a gradual upward track. However, what do you do if your child’s other parent is one of those less common people whose income can change dramatically over short periods of time? For any parent that needs to pursue a child support case, but especially if you’re someone with an ex whose income is marked by dramatic and unexpected upturns, you need to make sure you have a skilled South Florida child support attorney handling your case.

There are several fields of work where earnings can be very volatile, such as actors, models and athletes. F.G. was one of those people. In 2005, he signed a rookie contract to play in the National Football League. At that time, F.G. had only minimal assets and was earning a relatively modest income consistent with the NFL’s “rookie contract” structure.

During that time, F.G. had a son with S.S. The father and mother established a mediated settlement agreement covering, among other things, child support. Six years later, the mother went back to court, asking for an upward modification in child support. While the father had always paid his child support, the mother argued that the modification was necessary.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has affected people in many ways, including financially. Some may be struggling to keep their homes, while others may be struggling to feed their families. Some of those who have been thrown into dire financial straits here in Florida are people who have alimony obligations. If that’s you, the worst thing you can do is sit idly by and do nothing as you fall behind on your alimony. Instead, take action right away to get in touch with an experienced South Florida family law attorney and begin taking the actions that the law lets you take.

Even as Florida has re-opened most of its businesses, problems remain. Late last month, the government once again shuttered all bars, according to a NBC Miami report. You can imagine then, if you’re the proprietor of a popular bar in Fort Lauderdale Beach (from which you derive most of your income) and you’re also a divorced spouse who owes a monthly alimony payment, the re-closure of all bars in the Sunshine State is a source of major stress for you.

The law does still give you options, though. To get your alimony payments lowered, you will have to clear several legal hurdles. The first thing you absolutely must do is prove that you have a change of circumstances. Furthermore, that change has to be both (1) substantial and (2) something that could not have been anticipated when alimony was litigated (or set via a mutual agreement.) In other words, if you’re 63 years old when you sign your alimony agreement, you may not be able to turn around at age 65 and get a downward modification of alimony based on your retirement (and the reduction in income it created.)

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Having representation from a skilled South Florida family law attorney offers many benefits, including being fully prepared to take on whatever unexpected twists or changes occur in your case. Sometimes, the facts of your family law case may be very straightforward and stable but, other times they may turn “on a dime.” In either case, but especially in the latter, having the right legal counsel can help you to respond to these surprise twists in the way that will best benefit your case.

A few areas where sudden changes can have drastic consequences are child support and alimony. If your ex (whom you did not know was even in a relationship) abruptly and unexpectedly gets married, then that sudden change may significantly reduce (or even eliminate) the amount of alimony and/or child support you owe. But… what happens if that sudden change happens after your hearing but before the court enters its final judgment? Can you still seek a recalculation based on that change or has unfortunate timing left you out of luck?

As a recent case from the Tampa area shows, you absolutely still have options that you can – and should – use. In that recent case, the main issue in dispute was child support and imputed income. Imputed income is what happens when the court calculates one spouse or parent’s income at some higher amount than their actual income.

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When people think about child support in general, they typically associate the child’s 18th birthday with the end of the child support obligation. In reality, there are several scenarios where a parent’s child support obligation may continue, even after the child has turned 18, including cases where the child has disabilities and is dependent. Sometimes, in order to obtain that extended support, the recipient parent may be required to get a court order that declares the adult child to be dependent. When you need a judgment like that, it is important to have an experienced South Florida child support attorney on your side so that you can be confident you’re going about seeking that dependency judgment in the right way… and at the right time.

A recent case from the Daytona Beach area shows just how important timing can be in matters like this. T.P. and P.M. were the parents of a daughter with special needs who was born in 2000. According to the mother’s court papers, the daughter had been severely disabled since infancy and would likely never be self-sufficient due to her disabilities.

In 2006, the parents agreed to a stipulation that said that the father would keep paying support until the daughter reached age 18 “or so long as the child is dependent.” In 2018, just four days before the daughter turned 18, the mother filed court papers asking the court to judge the daughter dependent and order the father to keep paying child support.

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When your marriage breaks down and divorce ensues, there are several issues you and your spouse have to work out. To resolve some or all of these, you and your spouse may sign a marital settlement agreement (MSA). If you, at some point after your divorce is finalized, happen to violate the terms of your MSA, there are potential consequences you can face, but the law also erects some clear limits on what the courts can do to you. Obviously, the best path is to avoid violating your MSA but, if you do, make sure you have a skilled South Florida family law attorney on your side for any contempt of court actions that ensue.

A.B. was a husband who faced contempt charges after he made that kind of error. He and his ex-wife were a divorced couple with two children. The couple had an MSA that said that each spouse was entitled to claim one child as a dependent on their federal income tax return. However, in 2017, the father claimed both kids on his return.

So, what can a court do to a spouse in situation like that? When a spouse violates the terms of an MSA, there are actually several things that can occur. It is important to recognize that, if your divorce is final and your marital settlement agreement was what the law calls “incorporated” into the final judgment of divorce, then the terms of that agreement aren’t just a binding contract, they carry the weight of an order of the court.

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We all make mistakes. For some people, that may mean putting some less-than-perfect information in a tax return. For others, that may mean using that flawed return in a divorce proceeding. Now, to be clear, you should never cheat on your income taxes and you should never provide to a court any proposed piece of evidence that is inaccurate, misleading or false. However, even when you have made mistakes in the pursuit of a divorce, there are still limits on the actions that the judge can take. An experienced Fort Lauderdale divorce attorney can help in cases like this in many ways. Your experienced attorney can help you make sure that you avoid submitting documents to the court that lack candor and, if you’ve made mistakes before you hired counsel, your attorney also can help protect you when a judge oversteps her legal authority.

As an example of how these kinds of boundaries can work, there’s the Orange County case of M.B., who was a self-employed commercial truck driver and a husband going through divorce. At his divorce trial, the husband presented numerous financial affidavits and three years of tax returns. “The tax returns — which included deductions for business expenses and for cost of goods sold — showed a significant disparity” between what the husband actually made and what he declared as his final taxable income, according to the appeals court.

At trial, the husband disclosed that his work entailed only transporting goods, and that he did not actually sell goods. That, of course, was a problem for the husband and his case. Based on this evidence, the judge decided that the husband’s tax documents did not accurately display his true income and the judge imputed income to the husband.

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Today, more than ever in recent memory, people have side businesses. Perhaps they drive for Uber, housesit, walk dogs, deliver groceries or have some other freelance gig. For others, it’s owning rental property, as changes in the economy have made owning rental property very attractive in recent years. Whatever your side business, it is important to understand how it can impact other aspects of your life, such as your child support obligation. Obviously, if your side business is profitable, that has the potential to raise your child support obligation. What about, however, a business that is losing, not earning, money? The law in Florida may be able to help you… if you know how to advance your case properly. For that, be sure you have the services of a skilled Fort Lauderdale child support attorney.

Such was the case for S.S. Before she got married, S.S. purchased a townhouse property. Fast forward several years and S.S. had gotten married, had a child and gotten divorced. At this point, S.S. still owned the townhouse but was using it as a rental property. Although she had a tenant in the townhouse, the mortgage payments and maintenance fees on the place were so high that, even with the rental income, S.S. was still losing money every month on the property.

That townhouse “in the red” became an issue when it came time to litigate S.S.’s divorce from A.M. In order to set child support in any case in Florida, the court needs to make determinations about the money that is available to support the child. That includes making a finding about the father’s gross income and the mother’s gross income.

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.

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.

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