cashIn many court disputes involving children, child support is a key issue. Calculating the correct amount of child support can be complicated if one of the parents is not working. If the parent is unable to work, the court may proceed with calculating support based that parent’s having zero income. If the parent is able to work, however, the court must do what’s called “imputing” income to that parent. That means calculating child support as if that parent is receiving an income that he or she isn’t actually getting, and it can make a big difference in the outcome of your child support case. Whether you are potentially paying support or seeking it for your child, make sure you have the services of an experienced Florida child support attorney on your side.

Jennifer and Miguel were two parents whose child support case presented an imputed income issue. They had a child together who was born in 2009. In 2010, the father initiated a paternity action, and the court awarded him majority timesharing. The mother had been employed by the sheriff’s office but lost that job due to alleged misconduct, including misusing electronic resources of the sheriff’s office in order to obtain information about the father’s attorneys and his girlfriend.

In his court case, the father argued that the court should impute income to the mother and should do so at the relatively substantial amount she was making with the sheriff’s office when she was terminated. The mother, on the other hand, asserted that she was disabled and that, because of her disabilities and her inability to find another job, the court should not impute any income at all to her.

man with letterInjunctions of protection in Florida are serious matters. They can be invaluable to the person for whom they provide vital protection. They can also have a substantial impact on the person who is restrained by their terms. Depending on the type of injunction entered by the court, you may be able to challenge the entry of that order through the appeals process, even if the injunction has already expired on its own. Initiating a challenge may be extremely important because, depending on the type, an injunction of protection may have a substantial impact on your life, including finding housing, obtaining employment, and owning firearms. To mount a strong challenge, be sure to retain the services of an experienced Florida domestic violence attorney.

A recent case from Palm Beach County offers an example of how this process can work and when it is not available. The underlying case was a dispute between Joseph and Barbara. Joseph accused Barbara of stalking him and sought a protective injunction. After a “brief but thorough” hearing, the trial judge granted the man the injunction he sought. Many of these types of injunctions have expiration dates, after which the injunction ceases to be effective. The expiration date of this injunction was December 29, 2017.

Barbara appealed, but, before her appeal case could be heard, December 29, 2017 came and went. The appeals court, as a result, asked Barbara to make an argument as to why the appeal should not be dismissed as moot. (Mootness refers to a circumstance when the matter at issue has ended or been resolved, meaning that there is no “live dispute” still pending.) Barbara argued that a successful appeal and successful challenge to what she asserted were the inappropriate actions of the trial court would allow the public record to reflect that she did nothing to violate Florida law.

cash boxThere is an old and colorful saying about the perils of making assumptions. The saying, which popped up on a 1973 episode of The Odd Couple, admonishes that you should “never assume” and reveals its lesson by separating the word “assume” into its first through third letters, its fourth letter, and its fifth through sixth letters. Before entering into any contractual agreements, including marital settlement agreements, it would be wise to heed this advice. It would also be wise to seek out the advice and counsel of an experienced Florida divorce attorney.

One case in which one of the spouses didn’t heed that advice was a recent action that originated in Sarasota County. James and Pamela were married for 27 years before their marriage ended in divorce. James was the son of very wealthy parents. In fact, James’ parents’ wealth was the source of the couple’s retirement plan. According to the court, they never saved for retirement; they simply made plans to live in their retirement years off the very large lump-sum inheritance they expected James to get once both of his parents had passed away.

James’ parents survived longer than James’ marriage to Pamela. Thus, when it came time for James and Pamela to enter into a marital settlement agreement, they simply included their assumptions about James’ inheritance in their MSA.

gavelEveryone who is familiar with the legal system has, at some point, encountered a judicial order or case that they thought was wrongly decided. In your family law case, it is very important to know how to respond to various situations, including receiving an order that you think was incorrectly decided. A recent case originating in Sarasota County, and recently considered by the Fifth District Court of Appeal, is an example of a case with an injunction that one spouse thought was improper, and the erroneous way that he dealt with it.

The case involved the divorce of a couple named Todd and Ashley. In the early portion of the case, the trial judge issued an injunction, which is a type of court order that orders the subjects to refrain from doing certain things. This injunction told the husband that he was prohibited from “selling, transferring, alienating, pledging, forfeiting, hypothecating, encumbering, mortgaging, dissipating, spending and/or purchasing, and/or concealing and/or otherwise alienating any real property, personal property, securities, cash, or other assets or income of any kind or nature in which he holds an interest.” In other words, he was barred from doing anything with any of his assets other than maintaining them in good faith.

The husband believed that the trial judge had committed a legal error in issuing this injunction and that, under the law, the prohibition should never have been put in place. So what can you do if you are the subject of an injunction that bars you from doing certain things, but you think that the injunction was illegal? You have various options, but they generally all involve utilizing the legal system, including the appellate process, to get the injunction thrown out. You do NOT, however, have the option of simply deciding that you think the order is improper under the law, and, therefore, you are going to ignore it and go ahead and do things that were included in the list of prohibitions in the injunction order.

cashIdeally, divorced parents are able to work together in a collaborative and cooperative fashion to meet the needs of their child when it comes to things like timesharing. Sometimes, though, that doesn’t happen. In some families, the issues of custody and timesharing can be matters of intense disagreement. Whether you need advice or in-court representation (or both) regarding timesharing issues, you should make sure you retain an experienced Florida child custody attorney.

One recent timesharing case that involved a definite lack of cooperation was the dispute between Reva and Hunter, whose situation fit into that “intense disagreement” category. The depth of their disagreement went all the way down to disagreeing about the exact hour when holiday timesharing exchanges should take place. One spring break, that disagreement boiled over. “Threats were made, texts exchanged, and the police were called,” as the court summarized it.

Of course, that also brought the parents back into court on the timesharing issue. The mother asked the trial court to hold the father in contempt of court. Instead, the trial judge concluded that the mother’s interpretation of the timesharing agreement was not reasonable and that the father was entitled a payment of his attorney’s fees by the mother.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

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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