In any child support case, there are several factors to balance. The central goal, of course, is to ensure that the child receives the support that they need and deserve. It is, however, also important to ensure that the obligor parent is not assigned a child support obligation that is too great, both to serve the interests of fairness and due to the negative impact excessive financial obligations could have on the parent-child relationship. In one recent South Florida divorce case, the trial court’s imposition of child support was overturned by the Fourth District Court of Appeal because there wasn’t sufficient “competent substantial evidence” to back up the court’s assessment of the husband’s income. The case is a reminder of what is and is not sufficient to establish income on the part of an obligor parent.
In any family law case, it is important to know what proof you will need in order to succeed before you arrive in court. For example, in cases in which one spouse wants to relocate with the children, the law places certain proof obligations on each parent. In a recent case involving a Palm Beach County family, the Fourth District Court of Appeal reversed a trial judge’s decision to deny the mother’s request to relocate. The mother had adequate proof that the move was in the best interests of the children, while the father had, on his side, only promises to change his ways and be a better parent in the future. Promises of future changes were not sufficient, the appeals court stated in its ruling.
The parents, Robert and Melanie, had lived in Virginia for 15 years before relocating to South Florida in 2012. Two years later, the wife filed for divorce. As part of that legal action, the wife asked for court permission to relocate, along with the couple’s two elementary school-aged children, back to Virginia. This move would benefit the children, she argued, since it would eliminate her need to travel for work, which was extensive as long as she lived in Florida.
There is a natural tendency to take certain legal proceedings more seriously than others. Some types of major criminal matters or high-dollar civil cases likely would motivate a person to retain counsel to defend them, whereas in other matters, like perhaps cases involving injunctions against violence or stalking, people make the judgment that they can go it alone. This tendency is often misguided. Any matter, including a stalking injunction case, can have very serious consequences for you if the injunction is issued. You should take all of the necessary steps to make certain that, when you get to court, you have everything you need for your defense.
A well-worn catch-phrase opines that “timing is everything.” In the law, timing isn’t necessarily everything, but sometimes it can be the only thing that matters. Failing to follow precisely the rules of procedure and the time limits they impose upon you can have dire consequences. A South Florida case involving a couple of Ecuadorean citizens, who lived most of their married life in that country, provides a prime example of this concept.
A South Florida wife and her husband’s alleged lover had a contentious and sometimes violent relationship with each other. That hostile relationship led each woman to seek and obtain injunctions against repeat violence against the other. The wife, however, got the injunction against her thrown out on appeal. The problem with that injunction was one of proof and statutory requirements. Specifically, the single incident of the wife battering the other woman and the single incident of following the other woman weren’t enough, under the statute’s requirements, to warrant an injunction. While this was a case related to an injunction against repeat violence, the lesson from this case (namely, the importance of challenging injunctions when the evidence doesn’t meet the statutory requirements) applies equally well to injunctions against domestic violence.
An ex-wife secured an important victory in the Fourth District Court of Appeal, with that court ruling that she could pursue the ex-husband’s insurance assets and homestead property if she could establish that the ex-husband engaged in fraud. The ruling was a significant one in that it rejected the notion that “homestead property and insurance policies are always exempt from the contempt powers of the court regardless of fraud.”
In divorce cases in which issues related to minor children do not play a role, the biggest issue facing many spouses is that of the division of assets. For many of those couples, the largest single asset with which they must deal is the marital home. Frequently, one spouse will receive the marital home, but that distribution will require the recipient spouse to make a cash payment (or payments) to the other spouse in order to achieve a truly equitable distribution. In a recent case involving a Palm Beach County couple, the Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled on what the law demands in terms of signing a deed on the house, the submission of an equalizing payment, and the timing of each.
In a divorce case in which equitable distribution is an issue, there are many details that can substantially alter the result in your case. For example, the decision regarding which date to use for assessing the value of an asset can make thousands of dollars of difference, as was demonstrated in a recent First District Court of Appeal case. In that dispute, the First DCA ruled that a husband shouldn’t be punished in the equitable distribution process for depleting thousands of dollars of assets by paying for his living expenses and the expenses associated with the marital home.
Marriage equality for same-sex couples has existed in Florida for two years, ever since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges decision. The first state to recognize same-sex marriage was Massachusetts, and it did so just over a decade ago. Same-sex couples in committed relationships have existed for much longer than either of those dates, of course. Sometimes, these couples entered into agreements related to providing financial support for each other. In a recent case originating in Broward County, the courts were asked to decide whether or not two men in a decades-long relationship had also created an “oral cohabitation agreement” and, if so, if that agreement entitled one man to a large award of damages.
In the latest chapter of what has become an expanding issue for Florida’s appellate courts, another district court has weighed in upon whether or not trial courts should impose child support obligations upon parents who are in prison. In this most recent case, the Fifth District Court of Appeal ruled that the father’s voluntary decision to commit a crime was the sort of voluntary act leading to underemployment or unemployment that allowed courts to impute income and order support.