Legal News GavelWhen it comes to alimony, the law recognizes that the goal of the award is to provide needed support for the recipient spouse. To further that objective, a court may order the payor spouse to go out and purchase a life insurance policy that will, in the event of the payor’s untimely death, allow the recipient spouse to obtain the equivalent of the alimony ordered in the divorce. If you are the spouse whom a judge has ordered to pay alimony (and make the purchase of life insurance), it is useful to bear in mind that the law requires the court to make certain specific findings of fact about your situation and, if the judge doesn’t, you may be able to get the order commanding purchase of insurance reversed. Whether you are the spouse ordered to buy insurance or you are the alimony recipient, it is wise to have the representation of an experienced Florida family law attorney to protect you interests and needs..

A divorce from the panhandle county of Okaloosa, which ended up going all the way to the First District Court of Appeal, was a case where life insurance was a contested issue. The trial judge ordered the husband to pay child support and also to pay $1,500 per month in alimony. The alimony was durational for a period of four years. The court also ordered the husband to purchase a life insurance policy to act as security for the child support and alimony obligations.

In order for a spouse/parent to be required by law to purchase life insurance, there are certain procedural steps that the court must complete. For one thing, the law requires that the judge must make specific factual findings about the supporting spouse/parent’s ability to pay and the recipient spouse/parent’s need, just as the law requires for an award of alimony generally.

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Legal News GavelMany people likely remember that, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that same-sex couples had a fundamental right to marry in all 50 states three summers ago. Two years later, the high court made another ruling that, although receiving less news media coverage than the landmark Obergefell v. Hodges decision, also had a massive impact on families with gay and lesbian parents. That more recent ruling, from the summer of 2017, declared that the states were required to list a same-sex spouse on a child’s birth certificate if they similarly listed a mother’s husband (even if the husband was not the biological father). While some may view these battles as primarily political or social in nature, the reality is that birth certificates play a very substantial role when it comes to determining child custody after a split. Regardless of your orientation, probably nothing is more important to you than your relationship with your children, which is why you should make sure you retain a knowledgeable Florida family law attorney to handle your child custody case.

The reason this issue of names on a birth certificate matters so much is because of the way that Florida goes about deciding who has what rights when it comes to custody of, and timesharing with, a child. The law in this state grants a parent a privacy right that entitles the parent to control the amount of contact a child has with someone who does not have the status of legal parenthood.

Obviously, this matters for some opposite-sex couples, where the child may live with two parent figures, one of whom has legal status and one of whom does not. It matters a great deal, though, for a lot of same-sex couples where many of their families are in that position. It matters because, although everyone wants to think that their current marriage/relationship will last forever, many don’t. If you’re gay or lesbian, you may find yourself one day completely cut off from the child you raised for a decade or more since he/she was a baby.

Legal News GavelThe issue of alimony can be a difficult and contentious one in some divorces. That can be especially true if the former spouse who is now seeking an alimony award is already living with someone new. In spite of all the emotional difficulty that such issues and relationships can create, it is important to understand that not all relationships will impact the calculation of alimony. Whether you are seeking alimony or opposing payment of alimony, make sure you have an experienced Florida family law attorney on your side.

This type of complex set of relationship dynamics was in play in a recent case from Osceola County. The husband and wife were married for 20 years before the couple separated. During the marriage, the wife typically earned less than $15,000 per year working customer service jobs on nights and weekends, so that she could be at home with the couple’s children. The wife had a college degree and a teaching certification, but that certification was no longer valid. She suffered from many medical maladies, including hearing loss, permanent arthritis and several herniated discs in her back. The husband, on the other hand, made in excess of $70,000 per year as the regional branch manager of a library.

After separating, the wife moved into a home that she shared with her boyfriend. That fact factored into the outcome of the wife’s alimony request. The trial court determined that the wife had a need for alimony and the husband had an ability to pay alimony, but the court still awarded no alimony. The reason? The “wife has changed the nature of the request for

Legal News GavelWhen you pay child support, that money goes to allow the children’s other parent to provide for the children’s day-to-day needs. So, what happens when you or someone other than that other parent becomes the person who provides for that child on a day-to-day basis? Generally, there are certain circumstances in which the payor parent can offer what’s called an “equitable defense” against paying the full amount of support. One of these defenses is triggered when the child being supported ceases being supported by the custodial parent. In other words, you may have a case for not owing a portion of your child support obligation not only when a child moves in with you, but also when a child moves in with a grandparent or aunt/uncle or so forth. For answers to all your child support questions, contact a skilled Florida family law attorney for the information you need

One Florida family recently encountered this type of issue. The couple’s divorce action included a marital settlement agreement that laid out terms for child support. The agreement stated that the father would pay the mother $820 per month in support of the couple’s three children. The agreement also contained conditional terms for when each child became “emancipated” (turned 18). For support of two children, the amount stated in the agreement was $673 per month.

In 2016, the mother went back to court seeking an order of enforcement and/or an order holding the father in contempt. The mother alleged that, in June 2015, the father unilaterally started paying a reduced amount of child support, with modification order from the court. The father fought back, arguing that he was entitled to pay a lesser amount because the couple’s eldest child had switched from living with the mother to living with him.

Legal News GavelThere are many things that parents likely want to accomplish with the outcome of any parental responsibility and timesharing case. Certainly, in order to facilitate stability for the child, one thing that you likely want is a lasting resolution. However, that can be complicated sometimes, given that life is fluid and circumstances change. When there are future changes in circumstances that you know are going to happen, you can plan ahead in order to deal with them in your timesharing order. In order to make sure that you get a parenting plan that best meets your child’s needs and protects your relationship with the child, be sure that you are working with an experienced Florida family law attorney.

J. and S. were a couple who had a timesharing case that involved an important future event: their child’s starting kindergarten. While the child had not started school at the time that the court entered a paternity, parental responsibility and timesharing order, that beginning of school was in the not-too-distant future. The trial court’s order on timesharing declared that the child should initially spend 50 percent of the time with each of the two parents. However, once the child began kindergarten, the timesharing schedule would cease to be workable, as the parents lived roughly 50 miles apart. The court order stated that, once school started, the father would have majority timesharing with the child, unless the mother moved closer to the father’s residence.

The mother opposed this ruling. One aspect that she challenged was the court’s ruling regarding what would transpire once the child began kindergarten. This part of the order was an improper “prospective” (in other words, future-looking) decision about proper timesharing. The trial court agreed and rescinded the previous timesharing order regarding what would happen after the child started kindergarten.

Legal News GavelYou may have heard phrases like “due process” or “equal protection” on the news or in a courtroom TV show, but you may not imagine them having a substantial impact on your divorce case. You may assume that your divorce case will involve, primarily, an assessment of the factual evidence each side presents. That is not always true, however. Any family law case, like any other case, can turn on issues of fact or issues of law, including constitutional law. That’s why, no matter how straightforward or basic you may think your family law case is, you should be sure to retain the services of an experienced South Florida family law attorney.

One recent South Florida case is an example of this concept. Zanja and Richard’s case started as a straightforward paternity, timesharing, and child support matter. The court originally scheduled the hearing for one day. As is true in many cases, this pair’s hearing ran long. At the end of the first day of the hearing, the judge scheduled a second day for the continuation of the hearing. At the start of that second day, the court indicated that both sides would have a chance to present their cases-in-chief.

At the end of the second day, the parties still weren’t finished. However, this time, the judge did not allow the hearing to expand to another day. The judge ordered that, due to time limitations, each side would simply wrap up by presenting their closing arguments, and the judge would rule on what had been presented. There was one major problem:  the mother still hadn’t had the opportunity to present her case-in-chief yet.

Legal News GavelIn a perfect world, the result you get in the order of final judgment from your divorce case is wholly satisfactory to you. Unfortunately, the real world isn’t a perfect world, and the divorce judgment you get isn’t always ideal. When that happens, you may have certain options for getting it thrown out. One of these is if the judge waited too long after the final hearing to finally hand down the written order of judgment in your case. For all of the legal options available to you, consult a knowledgeable South Florida divorce attorney.

A recent example of a delay triggering a reversal was the divorce case of Elizabeth and Marc. This couple’s divorce litigation was initially a typical case. There was the petition for divorce, pre-trial steps, and then a final hearing. And then nothing…for more than two years. Two and a half years after the final hearing, the court entered a final judgment.

Not happy with that final judgment, the wife appealed. The appeals court agreed that the delay was a problem. That meant that the wife won her appeal and a reversal of the trial court’s order.

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Legal News GavelThere are several things that are essential in order to make a proposed marital settlement agreement appropriate for you to sign. Any agreement should appropriately protect your interests. The agreement also, though, should be completely clear and unambiguous so that any disputes that arise later will not trigger a whole new round of discovery and litigation. For all of these things, rely upon a skilled Florida divorce attorney to help you get the marital settlement agreement you need.

The case of Michael and Regina was an example of what happens when a marital settlement agreement isn’t unambiguous. When the couple married in 1987, Michael was a seven-year veteran of a local police department in Broward County. In 1989, the Broward County Sheriff’s Office absorbed Michael’s employer. When that happened, the couple decided to cash out the husband’s pension and spend the money.

After becoming an employee of the Broward Sheriff’s Office, the husband became eligible for an account with the Florida Retirement System. The FRS allowed some members, including this husband, to purchase service credit, which meant that the employee would be entitled to a larger benefit when he retired.

Legal News GavelIn 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.

Legal News GavelInjunctions 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.

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