February 12, 2013

Where Do I File for Divorce, Custody, Timesharing, and/or Child Support in Florida?

As a Jacksonville, Florida family law attorney, I often get questions from clients as to where their case should be handled if two parents and/or spouses live in two different cities. The question is one that does not always have an easy answer, as there are Florida family law rules governing, Florida statutes establishing the correct place to file a case, and there is also Florida case law that is down from the courts on the subject. Therefore, like many things in family law matters, it depends on the circumstances. To best answer this question, examples can be quite useful.

Example 1: Marie and Hank are married and spend the bulk of their marriage in Jacksonville, Florida where they purchase a home. After eight years of marriage, Marie and Hank decide to separate and Hank takes a job in Atlanta, Georgia. After a year of separation they would like to get a divorce realizing that reconciling is not an option.

Even though Hank is now a resident of Georgia and could technically file for divorce in Georgia, there is an issue of Georgia having control over the property of the marital home. Therefore, in order to make the divorce as clean as possible, Marie and Hank would most likely need to file for divorce in Jacksonville, Florida where the marital home is located. If they decide to file in Georgia, then Marie and/or Hank may have to take extra steps to enforce any court orders regarding the marital home.

Example 2: Maggie and Fred have a child, Calvin, together. They reside as husband and wife in Orlando, Florida for five years and then decide to separate. Fred and Maggie agree that given the demands of Maggie's job, Fred could have majority time-sharing with Calvin. Fred and Calvin then move to be closer to Fred's parents in Jacksonville, Florida. After seven months of living separately, Maggie decides to file for divorce in Orlando, Florida. Fred contests that Jacksonville is the proper place for the case since that is where he and Calvin live.

In this scenario, according the UCCJEA, which establishes jurisdiction of a child for court purposes, the child's residence for the six month before filing for divorce is in Jacksonville, so Fred could and should move the case to Jacksonville.

Example 3: Martha and Henry have a child, Charlie. They divorce in Pensacola, Florida in 2010. In 2011, Martha and Charlie move to Jacksonville and Henry moves to Miami, Florida. In 2012 Martha wants to get a modification of child support and Henry wants to modify his time-sharing schedule. Neither party is sure where to file.

This issue arises often in family law cases. In this type of case, the case law and Florida Statutes indicate that the case is still in Pensacola, Florida unless and until that court relinquishes jurisdiction (i.e. the courts are held in different jurisdictions, Duval County is the 4th judicial circuit) to another court. Either party may request that the court in Pensacola relinquish its hold of the case so that the parties may go to court in a more convenient location. If both parties are requesting the change, then Martha would win for the case to be moved to Jacksonville over Miami since it is where Charlie resided for at least six (6) months.

Dealing with these issues in a family law case can be challenging. If you are going through a divorce or need to modify a prior order, then you should speak with an experienced family law attorney to find out your rights and options.

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November 28, 2012

What Is Considered Income in Determining Florida Child Support?

Written by: Lenorae Atter, Attorney

641084_money.jpgAs a Jacksonville, Florida divorce and family law attorney I often have clients that are going through a divorce or paternity case with children. In handling such cases, I believe it is important to educate my clients on child support; it’s use and how it is calculated in Florida. Child support is not simply a magic number than a judge or attorney comes up with, but a guideline calculation based on Florida Statute 61.30. The first step in determining child support is to know the incomes of both parents. The child support calculation is based on the monthly income available to each parent.

In order to calculate guideline child support it is important to know what “income” actually is. While some people work for a company and earn an hourly wage, others work on a salary, while others may work on commission or have their own business. So, how does Florida define income for purposes of calculating child support? Florida Statute 61.30(2)(a) provides a list of what gross income is, but does not limit the income to the following:

1. Salary or wages. This is either the salaried amount of an employee or the wages earned, such as hourly wages gained on a weekly/monthly basis.

2. Bonuses, commissions, allowances, overtime, tips, and other similar payments. In determining the monthly amount for the employee the court and/or attorneys often due an averaging calculation. Since bonuses, overtime, tips, etc. are normally not the same month-to-month it is better to take earning samples from approximately one year if not longer. In order to do this, the parties are required to provide tax returns, paycheck stubs and other documentation to show their earnings. The average of the numbers can then be used to determine the actual monthly income of a party.

An example is if Frank works on a salary of $50,000 per year and has bonuses each year that total $50,000. Then, Frank’s monthly income is actually based on $100,000 divided by 12 months.

3. When a party owns his/her own business, then business income to that party is based on sources like self-employment, partnerships, independent contracts, etc. For determining actual “business income” you must take the gross receipts and subtract out necessary and ordinary business expenses
For example, Frank has a business of his own and has contracts totaling $10,000 per month. Frank has business expenses for rent, marketing, etc. of $5,000 per month. Therefore, Frank is able to pay himself a monthly income of $5,000. Or, if Frank takes distributions, then the court may look at those to determine Frank’s income.

4. Disability benefits and social security benefits. These are considered income to the party since they are designed to support the party and his/her family.

5. All workers’ compensation benefits and settlements.

6. Monies gained from unemployment or reemployment benefits.

7. Pension, retirement, or annuity payments.

8. Alimony received from either this court action or another that has been court ordered.

9. Interest and dividends received from any and all accounts.

10. Rental income, this is based on the amount taken in for rent minus legitimate, ordinary expenses associated with the property.

11. Income from royalties, trusts, or estates.

12. Reimbursed expenses or in kind payments to the extent that they reduce living expenses.

13. Gains derived from dealings in property (such as selling properties and having an independent mortgage on said properties).

If you are going through a divorce involving children or a paternity case, then you should find out your rights an options by speaking with an experienced lawyer in your area.

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November 9, 2012

Can Parental Rights be Terminated for Not Paying Child Support in Florida?

Written by: Lenorae Atter, Attorney

788179_brothers_and_sisters.jpgTerminating a parent’s parental rights in Florida is not easy. As a Jacksonville family lawyer I often have clients that are frustrated because one parent has continuously failed to pay child support. The parent may have hired the Florida Department of Revenue to find the parent, but been unsuccessful in getting result. The parent who is responsible for the child the majority of the time often grows tired of always having to track down the “deadbeat parent”. However, Florida laws protect parents’ rights and want to make certain that the children’s best interests are looked after.

Under Florida law, nonpayment of child support is not enough to show abandonment of a child. A parent cannot seek to terminate another’s rights simply because child support has not been paid. Also, a parent cannot deny the other time-sharing (i.e. visitation) with the children simply because child support has gone unpaid. Child support and time with your child are two very different things and the Florida courts treat them as such.

If a parent has been absent from a child’s life, in that the parent has failed to make any contact including through letters, cards, emails, etc. then there may be grounds to seek a termination of parental rights. Also, if the paternity of a child has never been established through the court and the parents were unmarried when the child was born, then a parent may seek to have the child adopted by a stepparent by establishing that the father is unknown and that a diligent search has been conducted for the father. If a parent is not involved in the child’s life, or the parent has been absent more than present and agrees to the termination of his/her rights, then that parent’s rights may be terminated by consent. If a parent files a petition to terminate the other parent’s parental rights and the parent is properly served with the petition and never files an answer, then that parent’s rights may be terminated by default.

In cases where a parent has been absent, there are ways to establish that the best interest of the child will be served by terminating that parent’s rights. However, you have to go through the process correctly so that nothing comes back to haunt you or the child later. Understanding the process for terminating a parent’s rights is vital to moving forward.

If you do impede on a parent’s rights to see the children, and the other parent alleges such, then you may not be able to get his/her rights terminated by the court. In fact, if it is shown and found by the court that the only reason the other parent has been absent is because of the other, then that parent may be able to see additional time with the children, ask for a change to the time-sharing schedule, etc. Withholding a child from a parent, without good legal cause (i.e. abuse) can be detrimental to both the child and the parents. Simply telling the court that the other parent failed to pay child support and therefore you did not allow time-sharing will hurt you more than help you.

If you have a case involving an absent parent and wish to better understand your rights and options you should speak with an experienced family law attorney in your area.

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October 30, 2012

In Florida, How Does Child Support Change if One Child Turns 18, Graduates from High School or Otherwise Becomes Emancipated?

Written by: Lenorae Atter, Attorney at Law


In Florida, child support terminates upon one of the following occurring:
1. Graduates from high school by his/her 19th birthday;
2. Marries;
3. Joins the military; or
4. Becomes emancipated.

Florida previously required a parent, normally the parent responsibility for child support, to modify the child support in accordance with the oldest child reaching one of these criteria. So, when a child turned 18 and graduated from high school, if there was an income deduction order in place or child support was paid through the State, then it continued until the paying party actually petitioned the court to terminate the obligation.

In recent years, the Florida legislature has addressed this issue to provide a child support step-down when there are multiple children or to terminate at a certain date when there is only one child. The courts have recently been divided on what it means to step-down child support once a termination issue exists. The question has been whether child support should be calculated based on the child support calculation or be a pro rata step-down based on the number of children.

An example of child support being recalculated for the number of children is as follows: Mom and Dad have two children. Child One is born August 1, 2000 and Child Two is born August 1, 2002. Mom has majority time-sharing with the children and Dad is going to pay child support for two kids based on the child support calculation. If Mom makes $4,000 per month and Dad makes $4,000 per month and neither provide daycare or have health insurance costs for the children, then Dad will pay Mom about $660 per month. Once the child support for child one terminates, Dad will pay Mom, based on the calculation, about $440 per month.

The following is an example of the pro rata deduction: Same as above, but upon the child support termination of Child 1, the child support would actually be calculated for a step-down as $660 ÷ 2 (number of children). Therefore, Dad would pay Mom $330 per month and Mom would need to modify later if she felt it necessary. Therefore, the obligation to modify then falls on the party receiving child support instead of the party obligated to pay support.

While there are courts divided, the Florida Supreme Court has not yet ruled as to which is the correct method to be applied. Therefore, it depends on which jurisdiction or court area you reside in to determine what type of step-down is correct for your child support order.

If you reside in the Jacksonville area, then the pro rata share order ultimately controls. The order regarding child support needs to be written in a way to show the figures for child support and what the termination date is for each child. If there is an income deduction order or income withholding order entered in your case, then it should also state this language so that the payor’s employer is aware of the date of change. You should speak with an experienced family law attorney in your area to better understand your rights and options.

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August 15, 2012

When Can I Get Child Support in a Florida Divorce or Paternity Case?

Written by: Lenorae Atter, Attorney at Law

1385312_ten-fifty-four.jpgIn Florida, child support is an issue that often arises when parents separate. Parents that go from living in a home together and share expenses regarding the home and child often have financial concerns when their relationship does not work out. As a Jacksonville family law attorney, I handle cases involving divorce, paternity, child support, and the like. In the representation of my clients over the years I have seen more emotional concern over the parties’ financial situation than anything else. I attribute this to the fact that parents want what is best for their children and when financial means are threatened, my clients feel that there is inadequacy in their parenting. What then occurs is clients often want to have child support established sooner rather than later in order to continue to provide for the child.

In cases involving paternity establishment or divorce, the parents often want to understand how they will afford living on their own. The question most commonly asked when there are children involved is, “What can I expect to get in child support.” The reason is not because the mother or father wants to take money from the other parent, but because she/he knows that the money will be helpful to providing food, shelter, transportation and all other needs of the child and that she/he may not be able to afford those things on his/her own. When I represent the parent that is not fighting for time-sharing (e.g. visitation) with the child, then I normally explain to him/her the fact that child support is meant to provide for all needs of the child as if the parents were still residing in the same household.

In a two-income home, the child is allotted the benefits of living in what both parents can afford, and child support is designed to help keep that feeling of stability for the child. In divorce and paternity establishment cases, when the parents decide to separate and child support and time-sharing are issues, then I will try to work something out sooner rather than later regarding child support since it is a guideline calculation based. If we cannot reach an agreement without court action, then it may be necessary to file Motion for Temporary Needs.

A Motion for Temporary Needs is just that, it is a request made upon the court to establish a temporary time-sharing plan and award child support until such time that the divorce or paternity case is final. In cases where time-sharing is an issue, the case may take a long period of time and the majority time-sharing parent normally needs support between the opening and closing of the case. While many people feel that the outcome will be the same in the temporary needs hearing as in the final trial that is not always the case. The temporary hearing allows for some testimony, but will probably not factor into account any social investigations, parenting coordination, and the like that may come about as the case progresses. Therefore, the temporary needs hearing is designed to take a snapshot and make a determination based on the best interest of the child in the midst of further court actions.

The non-paying parent may accumulate arrearages in child support unless child support is paid in a timely manner. The benefit is not only to determine child support for the majority time-sharing parent, but it also helps decrease arrearages to be assessed in the final hearing. If a parent is not paying child support, then the lack of payment may equal a lump sum that is owed once child support is established. In Florida, the requesting party can go back two (2) years from the date of filing for child support. Therefore, the sooner child support gets paid the less will be owed in the future.

You should speak with an experienced family law attorney to better understand your rights and options when dealing with a child support case.

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August 14, 2012

Child Support Changes in Florida Family Law: Automatic Child Support Cut-Offs

Written by: Lenorae C. Atter, Attorney at Law

754431_in_business.jpgRecent changes in Florida family law have made it easier to handle child support modifications upon the 18th birthday or graduation date of a child. Previously, in a Florida divorce or other child support case (e.g. paternity cases) when child support was ordered it would go on forever unless one of the parties modified or terminated the child support order with the courts. Now, Florida law allows for the child support to be terminated without new for further court action or intervention.

Child support is based on the number of children, income of the parties and other related issues such as daycare, health insurance, etc. The prior law calculated child support for all children and did not allow for automatic changes based on the age and/or graduation date of the child. For example, Martha and Dave have two children, Carl, 7 and Carla, 17. Child support ordered for both children and was stated to terminate on Carla's graduation date, June 2010. Carla graduated from high school but neither Martha nor Dave modified the child support and Dave still had the full amount of child support deducted from his paycheck. Dave later tried to modify to decrease child support to pay for only Carl and asked to be reimbursed for overpayment. While his child support was reduced, he was not able to get reimbursed for overpayment because it was looked at as a gift to Carl and/or Carla.

Now, Florida law allows for the child support to be automatically reduced once the child either turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever is later. For example, the order for child support or Carla and Carl would now say child support is ordered in the amount of "x" for both children. Beginning July 1, following Carla's graduation of June, child support will be paid in the amount of "y" for the remaining child. Also, once Carl turns 18 or graduates high school, Dave will automatically no longer owe child support. If Dave’s child support is being garnished from his wages, then his employer most likely set-up automatic cut-off dates for payroll purposes. However, if the employer continues to take funds from Dave’s paycheck, then Dave may be able to get reimbursed by his employer. This however, also means that Martha most likely received the money so it may messier than necessary to obtain said funds. What Dave should do, prior to Carl’s graduation, is confirm with his employer that they do have it set-up to stop garnishing his wages at the appropriate time.

All of these factors and dates are now placed in an order for child support. Also, if child support is paid by garnishment of wages, then an income deduction or income withholding order is entered with the court and provided to the paying party's employer. That order now also has the date that child support will stop so it should automatically be set-up with payroll not to be secured after the dates specified.

If you have a child support case in Florida, you should make certain that you understand your rights and options. Speaking with an experienced family law attorney or divorce lawyer can be beneficial to you during your case.

Related Articles:
Can a Professional License be Suspended or Denied for Nonpayment of Child Support of Alimony in Florida?

Florida Child Support Can Be Reduced or Increased Due to Visitation

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August 1, 2012

Can a Professional License be Suspended or Denied for Nonpayment of Child Support of Alimony in Florida?

865417_rejected.jpgIn Florida, a failure to pay child support or alimony can result in the loss or suspension of a professional license. If a party fails to pay the ordered support, then the party in need of said support may file a petition with the court to suspend the license of the responsible party. The Florida Statute regarding such a petition requires that all other recourses be used before filing for the suspension of a license. The statute also gives provisions that must be followed before the petition can actually filed with the court. As a Jacksonville divorce and child support lawyer, I can vouch for the importance of following statutory requirements because of the statutory requirements are not followed, then the court may throw out the action all together.

Before filing a petition for the suspension or denial of a professional license, Florida Statute 61.13015, you must first send notice to the responsible party that she/he has 30 days to pay the delinquent support obligation or enter into an agreement for payments to be made regarding the delinquency. The responsible party is required to reach out the requesting party to establish such payments and to provide proof that such payments have been made.

If there is no response from the first notice, then the requesting party must send a second notice to the obligated party that states the amount owed and that she/he has 30 days to pay the delinquency or to set-up a payment arrangement to pay the amount owed. If an arrangement is made, then it should be reduced to writing and formalized with the signatures of the parties. The party responsible for the support should provide proof that the first payment has been made.

Both notices should be sent the obligated party by certified mail. The return receipt will suffice as service and receipt of the notice and the 30 days starts on the date it is signed. The notice should be mailed to the last known address filed with the State depository. If the address is incorrect or there is not one filed with the State, then service must be done by publication. The statute, however, is not clear as to whether both notices must be published or if the first publication will suffice. As an family lawyer, I tend to make such decisions based on what I believe the intent, and would suggest running the notice twice or for 60 days. The court knows whether the article was published because the publication site will provide confirmation of such.

If the obligor does not contact the requesting party within the timeframe established, then the needing party may filed the petition for suspension or denial of a professional license, as long as one of the following does not apply:

1. That the denial or suspension would harm the obligor or his/her employer irreparably; or
2. The denial or suspension would not ultimately accomplish the goal of getting payments; or
3. The party responsible for payments shows proof that she/he tried, in good faith, to reach an agreement regarding the delinquency.

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July 20, 2012

What is a Motion for Contempt and How is One Used in Florida?

Written by: Lenorae Atter, Attorney at Law

952313_gavel.jpgIn Florida, when the court enters an order regarding a divorce, child support, paternity, or other matter, then the court is telling the parties what they must do. If one of the parties is not doing what was previously ordered by the court, then the other party may file a Motion for Contempt, which means that she/he is asking the court to hold the offending party in contempt of court. Contempt of court basically means that a party has willfully and voluntarily not complied with the court’s orders. So, a motion for contempt is a way for the court to enforce the prior orders by punishing the offending party if she/he is held in contempt.

How does this work? If Mary and Frank have a paternity case and the judge entered an order that Frank will pay Mary $500 per month in child support, then Frank must pay $500 per month in child support. If Frank has a job and an ability to pay $500 per month and he chooses not to pay, then Mary may file a Motion for Contempt action against Frank. Mary would state in the motion what the prior order required and what Frank has not done. If Mary paid an attorney to file the action, then she may ask that Frank also pay for her lawyer fees since his actions are the only reason she had to hire a lawyer. Mary may also state that since Frank is voluntarily not paying child support that he should be put in jail.

When the judge ears Mary’s motion, Mary must inform the court of the situation and Frank has to prove that he cannot afford child support. Mary may show evidence to the judge that Frank is working and that he can pay, but is choosing not to. If Mary is successful, the judge may find that Frank is in contempt of court and the judge, if she/he believes Frank is acting voluntarily, may require Frank to go to jail for a set period of time or pay the amount of prior owned child support plus attorney fees. If Frank is successful, then the judge may determine the arrearage and impose that on top of Frank’s prior child support obligation. If Frank had not paid in two months, then he owes $1,000 in arrearage and he may have to pay $500 plus an amount towards the arrearage.

These issues do not only go to child support, but may include withholding the child from the other parent for time-sharing, disparaging the parent to the child, not paying alimony, or any other provision of an order. If you have such a situation, then it would be wise to contact an experienced family law attorney to find out your rights and options regarding having the prior order enforced. Not only can it provide immediately relief to the situation, but it also will help in establishing a record of behavior if a modification is ever needed.

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July 9, 2012

Florida Child Support; Understanding Child Support, Why It's Necessary and How It's Calculated

Written by: Lenorae Atter, Attorney at Law
1388609_real_estate_concept_2.jpgAs a family lawyer in Jacksonville, Florida, I handle cases involving child support. Often when I meet with clients they are concerned not only about the visitation they will have, but also whether they will be required to pay child support. The next thing clients want to know is how much the child support will be. While I understand the financial concerns regarding child support, I try to also educate clients on what child support is meant to provide for the child. Basically, in Florida, child support is designed to help maintain a lifestyle for the child that is similar to that which she or he would have if the parents remained in the same household. So, what is considered in determining Florida Child Support?

First, Florida Statute 61.30 regards child support as a necessity for the child, which cannot be negotiated away. Since the benefit is for the child and not the parent, the parents are not supposed to negotiate the right to child support. The idea is that the child is not able to make such a determination and the parents’ role is to protect the child and look out for his or her best interests. In so doing, Florida believes that determining child support and paying child support is vital to properly caring for the child.

Second, Florida Child Support Guidelines provide for the calculation to be used in determining what will be owed in a child support case. The guidelines first start with the incomes of the parties. Child support is meant to determine the overall financial needs for the child, as if the parents were in one house. In so doing, the calculation requires that both parties’ incomes are put into the equation to determine the Father and Mother’s pro rata share of the combined income. For example, Cathy and Sam are divorcing and have a child together; their combined income is $100,000. Cathy makes $40,000 per year and Sam makes $60,000 per year. Therefore, Cathy’s pro rata share of their combined income is 40% and Sam’s is 60%.

Next, the guideline looks at which parent pays for certain monthly expenses for the child. For example, if Sam provides for health insurance for the child at $100 per month and he pays for the child’s daycare at $800 per month. Well, Sam is given credit for these payments, which may decrease what he would pay in child support or it may increase what Cathy will pay in child support depending on who has the child the majority of the time.

Then, the guidelines also look at the time-sharing of each parent. For example, if the Cathy and Sam are going to have equal time-sharing (though not the norm for North Florida cases), then child support will be reduced accordlingly. The idea is that if a parent is going to have the child equal time, then both parents will be contributing to the everyday needs of the child, equally. However, it does not mean that no child support will be owed. Again, if Sam makes $60,000 per year to Cathy’s $40,000 per year, then there may need to be some money paid to Cathy by Sam even if the time-sharing is 50/50.

Child support does give credits for some other miscellaneous items, so it is beneficial to speak with an experienced family law attorney to best understand your rights and options when dealing with such matters.

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May 8, 2012

Florida Divorce: Why Custody Plan Evaluations Are Important

Written by: Lenorae Atter, Attorney at Law

First, the Florida legislature changed child custody to "primary timesharing parent" in October, 2008. However, since most of us are familiar with child custody and custody issues, this article will still address the issue as the historic term, "custody."
As a Jacksonville Florida family law and divorce attorney, dealing with paternity cases and divorces with children, custody issues often arise and the Social Evaluation is an important factor in helping the parents better understand the issues facing the children, and the evaluation assists the judge in having a better understanding and comprehension of what is in the best interest of the children. In Jacksonville and throughout Florida, the social investigation is a component of the case that may be used in its entirety by the judge or may give the judge a basis for a particular ruling. In addition, the evaluation can provide the parties with a stepping-stone or format by which to reach an agreement regarding visitation issues.

The social investigation is conducted by a professional, usually someone with a psychology and law background, and the investigator actually interviews the parents, speaks with witnesses, talks to the kids, look at school records, etc. Once the reviews and statements are completed, the evaluator writes a comprehensive report to demonstrate the findings for each parent, child, and the overall assessment of a parenting plan and recommendations for the court regarding any other matters that should be addressed (i.e. whether counseling is recommended, communication issues, etc.).

So how do you present well in the social investigation? Basically, parties are often concerned that they need to present themselves in a certain light to impress the investigator. However, most of the individuals handing these matters can tell when a party is putting on a show. The idea is not to be fake or phony, but to present your concerns for the children, explain your relationship with the children, and truly identify your wants and needs and the children’s wants and needs before the interview. Being genuine with the investigator is beneficial because it allows the investigator to truly determine any family issues that may need to be addressed, the impact the divorce/separation is actually having on the children and the like. The reason for the investigation is not to berate the parents, but to simply identify what may be in the best interest of the children in the present and in the future.

Extend a mental olive branch to the other party. During your interview with the evaluator, do not destroy the other parent with disparaging remarks. Describe the parts of parenting that the other parent does well and be honest in your comments about the children's relationship with their other parent. Then share the things that do concern you about the other party, or about the separation of the children. You do not have to make it sound like everyone is great, you’re getting divorced there were issues in the home, so being real about the situation can be helpful in reaching the right conclusion for your case.

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April 5, 2012

Florida Child Support When the Other Parent Chooses Not to Work?

Written by: Lenorae Atter, Attorney at Law

1287061_businessman_in_the_office_1.jpgIn Jacksonville and throughout Florida, child support is dictated by a statutory guideline calculation. The calculation takes the income of both parents, gives credit to the parent responsible for paying for the child’s health insurance and daycare and the overnight time-sharing schedule. The calculation is meant to put the child in the same position she or he would have been in had the parents lived in the same household. However, since it is based on incomes, what happens if one of the parents doesn’t work or a parent voluntarily quits his or her job to avoid paying child support?

In Florida, income may be imputed, meaning established without actual pay, if the parent is found by the court to be voluntarily unemployed or underemployed. For example, if it can be shown that the parent has a medical degree, but is a cashier at a grocery store, then the court may conclude that the parent is voluntarily underemployed from his or her skill set. This is especially valid if the parent has been working as a doctor during the marriage, and upon divorce decided to work as a cashier. If the court determines that the parent is underemployed voluntarily, then the court may impute income to the parent equal to that of recent work history, qualifications, and the earning level for someone in a comparable position in the community.

If a parent decides not to participate in child support proceedings, then the court may impute income to the parent based on the median income of full-time, yearly workers based on the US Bureau of Census findings. However, if the Court finds that the parent needs to stay home with the child, then the court may not impute income under the following conditions defined by Florida Statute 61.30(2)(b):
a. The unemployment or underemployment is voluntary; and
b. Identifies the amount and source of the imputed income, through evidence of income from available employment for which the party is suitably qualified by education, experience, current licensure, or geographic location, with due consideration being given to the parties’ time-sharing schedule and their historical exercise of the time-sharing provided in the parenting plan or relevant order.

When income is to be imputed, the burden of proof, meaning the party responsible for proving to the court that an imputation of income is proper, falls on the requesting party. Also, all facts or evidence regarding what the income should be falls on the requesting party. What this means is that Parent X is asking the court to impute income to Parent Y, then Parent X must present evidence as to why the income of Y should be imputed, such as providing proof of the medical degree. Also, Parent X must present evidence to what amount of income should be imputed. The way to do this is to show evidence of past earnings (i.e. tax returns for the last 5 years), potential earnings in the area as a similar doctor, if available (i.e. a doctor may testify), and/or actually presenting the median income of annual full-time workers are reported by the U.S. Bureau of Census. You should speak with an family law attorney about your rights and options concerning these matters and to make certain they are presented correctly to the court.

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March 29, 2012

College and Child Support in Florida

Written by: Lenorae Atter, Attorney at Law

667996_porquet_guardiola.jpgChild support is often a topic in my divorce and paternity case appointments I have as a family law attorney in Jacksonville, Florida. As a divorce and family law attorney, I meet with clients to explain their rights and options and what are provided for under Florida law. Child support is a hot topic for many, especially when they are divorcing and there have previously been talks of college and how to pay for it. In Florida, child support is ruled by Statutes, which establish how to calculate child support and for how long child support must be paid.

During a marriage, it is common for spouses to discuss their children’s future as it relates to school and continuing on to college. College is an expense that many parents are concerned about, and rightfully so. As more kids decide to go to college due to the necessity of having a degree to find a job, parents think more about how they will pay for the rising cost of tuition and living expenses. However, when the parents decide to divorce, they now consider child support to get the kid through high school and wonder how it will impact the child’s ability to attend college.

Florida Statute 61.30 provides for the child support guidelines and establishes the time frame in which child support is required. Said guidelines provide for child support of the child through his/her 18th birthday, or date of graduation if there is an expected graduation date after the 18th birthday and the child is on track to graduate. If the child is not on track to graduate until she or he turns 19, then the child support can be extended through that expected date of graduation. Also, if the child has been diagnosed with an illness, disability or mental health problem and needs ongoing, long-term care, then child support may be provided for an indefinite period of time. However, there is not a provision that requires either parent to support a relatively healthy child through college. The only way that may be accomplished is if both parents agree to have it put into an order.

If the parents consent to ongoing support through college, then the agreement should be written with the financial expectations of each parent. If the parties agree to continue supporting their child through college, then the document should have how each parent will be contributing and what expenses will be handled by each of them and/or jointly. The reason for this is that without details specifying the obligation, the court may have a difficult time deciphering the intent of the parties if either party tried to have the order enforced for noncompliance of the other.

In most cases, parties are able to negotiate the terms of their divorce, time-sharing, child support, etc. In so doing, they can have more control over the outcome of the case versus waiting for the judge to make the ultimate decision as it relates to them and their children. Having more control over the outcome can also lead to interesting negotiations that can be more creative and may think through more long-term issues then what the court will ultimately rule on, like college. It is a good idea to speak with a family law attorney about your rights and options.

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March 15, 2012

Can Florida Impose Interest on Child Support Arrearage?

Written by: Lenorae Atter, Attorney at Law

1319861_children_crossing.jpgFlorida child support is calculated based on child support guidelines established by statute. In Florida, child support is based on the combined income of the parties and their pro rata (apportioned rate) that they each contribute. The calculation allows for credits to be given the to the parent that pays child’s insurance and daycare expenses. As a Jacksonville family lawyer, I often explain to clients that child support is based on their relative incomes because the child is entitled to live as if the parents were under the same roof. However, once child support is established, the court can enforce any back-owed child support up to two years from the date of the original filing of a petition for support. In that situation, the court can actually establish arrearage that must be paid back, sometimes at a minimal rate.

Recently, there was an appeal regarding whether child support arrearage can have an interest rate attached to it and if there can be a change to how it is paid back, since often it is at $20 per month. The Florida appellate court laid out the following guidelines for establishing interest and payments:

a. That a final order creates or establishes the presumption that the responsible party has an ability to pay the child support ordered and a presumption that the paying party would have the ability to pay the purge amount (full amount owed) at the time of a contempt hearing. A contempt or enforcement hearing is normally held when one or both parties fail to perform in accordance with the court.
b. At the contempt hearing, the responsible party has the burden of proving that s/he lacks the ability to pay.
c. The installment payments established for back child support must be reasonable and an amount that has the child support arrearage paid back by the time the child reaches the age of majority (18 or graduates from high school).
d. If the receiving party requests an interest be charged, then the court must grant the interest. The interest would start at the time when the obligation was due.

What this helps to establish is that there is an ability to get interest on past owed child support. Interest is determined by Florida statute and is often updated on an annual basis given changes in inflation. The other factor that this helps establish is that back-owed child support needs to be pain, in full, by the time the child support obligation ends so that there are not pending payments owed until the child is in his/her 50s, since that defeats the point of child support as it is intended by law.

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February 22, 2012

Florida Child Support Can Be Reduced or Increased Due to Visitation

1340700_playground_climbing_area.jpgChild support in Florida cases is based on the income of the parties and the total income of a shared household. The pro rata share of each party’s income is a determining factor in the overall calculation of child support. As a Jacksonville lawyer handling child support cases, I try to educate my clients on what child support is meant to provide, including a roof over the child’s head, electricity and water for the child, gas in the car to transport the child, etc. A factor in the determination of child support is time-sharing or visitation exercised by the parties. In Florida, there is an automatic calculation of time-sharing at 20% of the time and anything over that amount may be a factor in reducing the amount of child support. In addition, the Florida child support guidelines provide credits for multiple items, including but not limited, daycare expenses and health insurance. In determining the income of the parties, the Florida Statute allows for the income of the parties to be determined based on taxable and nontaxable income, so if a party is in the military that party’s BAH and BAS pay will be considered income.

Florida family law cases are often required to go to mediation to determine child support, time-sharing (e.g. visitation or custody pre 2008), and the like. A mediated agreement is an agreement between the parties regarding all aspects of the case and it is reduced to writing and entered as an order with the court. However, if the parties do not have a time-sharing plan that is ultimately formalized into writing and entered by the court, then child support may be impacted. For example, if the case ONLY involves child support, such as cases brought by the Florida State Department of Revenue, then child support will be calculated without a time-sharing plan.

Sometimes, parents decide that they do no need to go to court to establish a time-sharing plan because they already have a verbal agreement and there are no visitation issues associated with their case. As such, the parties may allow the court to determine child support without actually entering a true time-sharing plan with the court. However, in 2011 the 1st District Court of Appeals in Florida made it clear that child support calculations may only defer from the usual 20% time-sharing credit IF the time-sharing plan is reduced to writing and entered as a time-sharing plan with the court. In the case before the appellate court, the parties had agreed to a verbal time-sharing plan where the nonresidential parent had the child 40% of the time. The appeals court found that unless the time-sharing plan was reduced to writing and approved by the court, then the 40% time-sharing that had been established by the parties could not reduce child support. Therefore, the paying party was required to pay more than would have been necessary had the time-sharing plan been entered with the court. DOR o/b/o Sherman v. Daly, 74 So.3d 165 (Fla. 1st DCA 2011).

If you have a child support case, it is important to file a counter-petition to request that a time-sharing plan be entered by the court so that child support and your time-sharing can be properly established.

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January 16, 2012

How Can I Guarantee I Will Get Child Support or Alimony Payments in Florida?

701012_writing_a_check_1.jpgA concern regarding child support and alimony, in Florida, is that once it is ordered, the other party will not pay. As a Jacksonville, Florida divorce and family law attorney, my advice is to clients is generally the same regarding this issue, once alimony and/or child support are ordered by the court, we should do an income deduction order. Such orders can be done only after the order establishing support is entered by the court. Once that is done, the court can enter an income deduction order, which lays out the payment schedule for the paying party. In addition, the income deduction order is sent directly to the employer of the responsible party so that the wages can be garnished.

Establishing child support and alimony in Florida is based on statutory guidelines. The calculation for child support is based on the income of both parties and their pro rata share of the total income of both. Credits may be given for such things as the child’s health insurance and daycare or if a parent has a prior child support obligation. Alimony does not have such a calculation in Florida, but is based on need and ability to pay.

Once the court determines how much will be owed in child support or alimony, the court may enter an income deduction order at the request of a party. The payments made by garnishment are not made directly to the receiving party, but to the State depository. In addition to the employer receiving the income deduction, the State is also provided a copy so that an account may be set-up for both the paying and receiving parties. The money is then garnished each month, in accordance with the order, for the length of time established in the order.

The income deduction order will give figures for the amount to be garnished and for what purpose. If child support and alimony are required, then each will have their own paragraph, but may be on the same order. The order will have specifics for each payment, including the monthly amount and for how long the deduction order is valid. For example, child support may end on July 1, 2013, if a child is going to be 18 and has an expected date of graduation of June, 2013. Alimony may be ordered for the length of time necessary, like rehabilitation alimony, which may be for 2 years.

The income deduction can be done on the pay schedule of the paying party, so while child support is $500 per month, it may come out at $230.77 biweekly if that is the pay schedule for the responsible party. If alimony is ordered, then it will be based on the same type of schedule. Once the employer takes the money out, the money is transferred or sent to the State depository. The State has separate accounts for each party and the receiving party can choose how to receive payments, either by a check or debit card that is reloaded upon each payment.

In addition to making certain that the payments are made each month, the income deduction order also helps keep track of payments. If the responsible party fails to make payments, then the State can provide a print out that indicates payments made and whether there are any arrearages owed.

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January 13, 2012

Florida Termination of Parental Rights for Stepparent Adoption or Other Means.

763367_missing_.jpgAs a Jacksonville divorce and family law attorney, I often have clients ask me if they can have the other party’s parental rights terminated due to the lack of participation in the child’s life. In child support cases, when a parent has not paid child support nor attempted to contact the child or have any visitation with the child, the primary parent grows weary of tracking down the other and tired of explaining to the child why the other parent is not involved in the child’s life. Other times that this topic arises is when a parent remarries and the stepparent wants to adopt the child. However, terminate the rights of a parent, without consent, is not as easy as 1, 2, 3 because it is a big deal to give up rights to the child and for the child to give up rights to the other parent. The Florida legislature has given provisions that protect children, but ultimately, if the other parent does not respond to the court action, then by default his/her parental rights may be terminated regardless of the provisions.

The main factor in terminating parental rights is whether the other parent agrees to the termination. Termination of parental rights may be accomplished by consent of both parties. However, if there is no one there to step-in as the other parent (e.g. stepparent adoption), then the court may require financial information for the remaining parent to show that the parent is financially capable of independently providing for the child. The reason for this is that parents that do not have financial means to provide for the child may request some type of government assistance, such as Medicaid for the child’s healthcare. The State then has an interest in the case and the Court needs to protect the State from the remaining parent presently asking for such assistance from the government and voluntarily relieving the other parent of financial support.

If the other parent’s whereabouts are unknown, then a diligent search must be completed. If the missing parent is the father, then the search must include the Florida Putative Father Registry. The Putative Father Registry is a place where men should register their name and identifying information if there is any chance that he may be the father of a child in Florida. Once the registry search is completed, that notice of search is filed with the court. In addition, regardless of mother or father, the requesting party must also publish notice of the case in a local newspaper in the city of the last known address of the parent. If no answer or reply is ever received, then parental rights may be terminated by default. Once a clerk’s default is entered, a final default hearing must be held with the Judge to determine whether it is in the best interest of the child for the parent’s rights to be terminated.

If the absent parent does reply and objects to the termination of his/her rights, then a different form of the case must be pursued. This type of case requires evidence for the court to find that the absent parent has, in essence, abandoned the child or acted in a way that warrants termination of his/her rights.

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December 30, 2011

Does an Income Deduction Order or Wage Garnishment Work for Alimony and Child Support in Florida?

1043017_success1_srb.jpgFlorida divorce and child support laws dictate what may be paid in alimony and child support based on the facts of each case and incomes of the parties. Often, the paying party does not like the idea of writing a monthly check and the receiving party does not like worrying about whether the check is actually in the mail. Florida divorce and child support clients often ask their lawyer if there is another option and thankfully for both sides, the answer is, “Yes.” Florida Statute61.1301

An income deduction order basically garnishes the wages of the paying party per the payment agreement or order that was entered with the court. For example if you are ordered to pay child support at $300 per month and alimony at $100 per month, then the order will reflect when those payments will be made and to whom. If there is an income deduction order, then wages are garnished before you actually receive your paycheck and the money is automatically sent to the State Disbursement Unit.
Just as the paying party has an account, the receiving party has an account with the State Disbursement Unit and that account has to be set-up by the receiving party. The payments will then be made by check or they can go into an account, which the receiving party will receive a debit card for and that money can then be accessed like it’s own bank account.

If a the paying party is paid once per month, twice per month, or weekly, the order will actually reflect how the payments will be divided at each pay period. There is a nominal fee associated with an income deduction order and the party responsible for paying the support pays that fee. The ease of the service is that the parties do not have to speak each month or worry that they are not receiving credit for their payments because the state keeps an accounting of everything for them. This is helpful if an issue ever arises where one party claims that payments have not been made because you can actually get a print out of the accounting and provide that to the court if a Motion for Contempt is ever filed. Also, it gives some ease to budgeting because the money is automatically removed or given, so there is no question as to when the money may or may not hit your account each month.

The other nicety is that there is peace-of-mind for having the money going through a third party accounting system because there are assurances that your money is being received. Having an income deduction order also lessens the possibility of returning to court for nonpayment because the case is harder to prove for the receiving party when the State is keeping track of each penny in and out. Also, if you ever remarry, then there are not issues of that money having been there and then each month your new spouse watching it deplete from your account, which often does bring new stresses to a relationship, especially when it comes to alimony payments.

If you are going through a divorce or child support case, then it is a good idea to speak with a family lawyer about your rights and options regarding payment of child support or alimony.

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December 26, 2011

Can My Wages Be Garnished for Child Support in Florida?

998275_business_time_4.jpgChild support in Florida is based on numerous factors, including the income of the parents, the time-sharing/visitation schedule, etc. In a child support case, such as divorce or paternity actions, the Court may enter an order requiring one party to pay child support to the other, or sometimes, for both parents to pay support to a third party (i.e. when an extended family member is taking care of the child). When entering the child support obligation, the court determines which party will be responsible for paying child support based on multiple factors in the child support calculation outlined in Florida Statute 61.30. As a divorce lawyer in Jacksonville, Florida I often receive questions about how to stop child support once a child reaches 18 years of age. Thankfully, the Florida legislature recently modified how child support will be stopped instead of having to go back to court. Of course, like all new laws, it only impacts the orders that have been entered since it was entered, so there are still some hoops to jump through if your child support obligation is older than October of 2010, Florida Statute 61.13.

Florida Statute 61.13 provides some guidelines for determining the nuances of child support, such as the length of time support will be paid, how it will be paid and the like. The Statute provides that child support can be paid through an income deduction order, which means that the wages of the paying party may be garnished. When an income deduction order is entered, there are provisions that must be in the order so that the payroll department and the Florida Department of Revenue are all speaking the same language from the beginning until the end of the obligation.

Since October, 1, 2010, the order must have language not just specifying the date for the child support to begin, such as January 1, 2012, but also when it will end (e.g. the child’s 18th birthday or date of graduation if it falls within 743.07(2)). Also, the order must specify how much support will be owed each month initially, and if there is more than one child, then what the child support will be when the oldest child no longer qualifies for child support. The order will also say whether the money will be deducted monthly, bimonthly or at the payroll schedule of the responsible party.

The change in these orders is helpful because previously, when a child reached the age of 18 and graduated from high school, the income deduction order remained in effect until the Court terminated the obligation. This forced the paying party to file a Supplemental Petition to Modify or Terminate Child Support and go through the hassle of hiring an attorney and paying a new filing fee. The change is a good one, but is one that the court must be careful in its language to make certain that the children have support until they meet one of the many nuances for which they qualify for child support, including an expected graduation date after their 18th birthday.

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December 9, 2011

Florida Divorce: Can I Get Alimony and/or Child Support if I Separate From My Spouse?

162243_loading_zone.jpgDivorcing parties often separate before their divorce is finalized. When parties separate, even if by agreement, it does not mean that simply not having a court order means that a party is not entitled to alimony and/or child support. Spousal support is based on a need for support and the other party’s ability to pay, often this need is immediate and the party is entitled to receive funds from the date of the separation. Also, child support is designed to keep a child in the same lifestyle s/he would have if the parties were still living together, therefore, the need for child support is established at the time of the separation.

Florida Statute 61.09 allows for the determination of child support and alimony to be determined back to the date of separation. Florida Statute 61.09 states as follows:
“If a person having the ability to contribute to the maintenance of his or her spouse and support of his or her minor child fails to do so, the spouse who is not receiving support may apply to the court for alimony and for support for the child without seeking dissolution of marriage, and the court shall enter an order as it deems just and proper.”

A Florida family law attorney can help guide you through the separation and divorce process and help you to better understand your rights and options.

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October 31, 2011

How Does Florida Define Shared Parental Responsibility in Divorce and Custody Cases?

1145534_3d_maze_4.jpgFlorida divorce and paternity cases often revolve around one parent saying they want “sole custody.” However, there is a difference between “sole custody” and parental responsibility in Florida Statutes. Florida divorce statutes define many terms, including parental responsibility.

Shared parental responsibility is defined by Florida Statute 61.046(17) as when both parents have parental rights of the child and share responsibility for the child’s upbringing. This is typical in most cases because both parents have a responsibility to be a parent to the child and to make all life-related decisions for the child, together, regardless of the geographical location of the parents.

If you are going through a divorce or paternity case in Florida, then you should speak with a family law attorney about your rights and options.

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October 28, 2011

How is Income Defined in a Florida Child Support or Alimony Case?

911431_writing_check.jpgAlimony and child support are determined by a number of factors in Florida. Some factors that are considered and used for calculations are income and health insurance, which are defined by Florida Statute 61.046.

Income is used to help determine the ability for a party to pay alimony in Florida. Income is also used to shoe a need for alimony that one party may have, such as being on a fixed income. Child support is actually calculated by using the incomes of both parties to determine what the overall income of the household would be and each parent’s pro rata share of the same. Florida Statute 61.046(8) defines income as, “any form of payment to an individual, regardless of source, including, but not limited to: wages (e.g. hourly or tips), salary, commissions and bonuses, compensation as an independent contractor, worker’s compensation, disability benefits, annuity and retirement benefits, pensions, dividends, interest, royalties, trusts, and any other payments, made by any person, private entity, federal or state government, or any unit of local government.” Basically, any form of payments received by a party.

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October 26, 2011

How is Health Insurance Defined in a Florida Divorce or Paternity Case Involving Child Support?

1334532_ambulance.jpgA Florida divorce involving children or a paternity action will require, by Florida Statute, a determination of child support. Florida child support is based on a few factors, which are defined by Florida Statute. The factors considered in the child support calculation are the incomes of the parties, daycare costs, and health insurance costs. Understanding how Florida Statutes define these factors is key to understanding child support and how it is calculated.

Under Florida Statute 61.046, the Florida legislature established definitions found throughout the statutes involving divorce and child support cases. When calculating child support, the party that pays the health insurance costs actually receives a credit for such. Florida Statute 61.046(7) defines heath insurance as, “coverage under a fee-for-service arrangement, health maintenance organization, or preferred provider organization, and other types of coverage available to either parent, under which medical services could be provided to a dependent child.” This means that a party may have healthcare coverage under any of these types of scenarios, which also covers the children of the parties.

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October 23, 2011

What Does the “No Fault” Part of Florida Divorce Law Mean?

divorce.jpgFlorida is a “no-fault” divorce state. The idea is that you do not litigate why you are divorcing, but simply litigate a resolution to the divorce (i.e. distribution of assets, child support, alimony, etc.). To that end, Florida Statute 61.044 abolished certain defenses, such as condonation, collusion, recrimination, and laches.

Condonation is the defense that basically says, “You knew I was doing it and you were fine with it at the time.” This is not a defense to divorce because ultimately, it does not matter why the marriage broke-up, just that it’s not getting fixed.

Also, the defense of collusion has been abolished, so the parties cannot have a secret agreement being held over each other. For example, if a party tries to go to court and say, “She told me she would not ask for alimony.” That is not a defense to a request for alimony.

Recrimination, under Florida Statute 61.044 is abolished. Again, when the reason for divorce is not an issue, saying, “Well you also had an affair,” does not really help your legal case for the division of assets.

Laches are also abolished from a divorce defense because laches ultimately gives rise to another being responsible for a debt. However, a marital debt is going to be divided equally and the idea that the other party is responsible is not at issue in Florida.

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August 23, 2011

Military Divorces - Child Support and Alimony


Marriages have unfortunately become one of the many casualties of war and deployment. For members of the military based in Florida, it is not unusual for spouses and families to be separated for extended amounts of time. The transition back home can cause strains on both marriages and family relationships. Although there are the same grounds for a military divorce as there is for any divorce proceedings in Florida (either your marriage is irretrievably broken or your spouse is mentally incapacitated), other issues in a military divorce may differ from a civilian divorce.

Just like members of the general public, military service members still have an obligation to provide support to their children. However, enforcing these obligations can become more complicated when a parent is a member of the military. Military spouses often encounter two major issues related to child support agreements: (1) Military members receive various forms of special pay, and former spouses may be unsure how much is entitled to for child support, and (2) It may be difficult to enforce a child support agreement if a military member is not making payments. If a former spouse is not paying their child support then it is possible to seek a garnishment of wages or involuntary allotment order to protect your child’s rights to support.

Federal laws govern the rights and obligations of both military members and their spouses in the event of a divorce. The Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act governs the issue of determining spousal support, among other complex issues in a military divorce. An experienced Jacksonville military divorce attorney can help explain your right and responsibilities regarding spousal support and the USFSPA.

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August 19, 2011

Florida Family Law and Military Servicemen and Servicewomen


A divorce involving military families from or in Jacksonville, Florida can be complex because a military divorce has distinct issues that can involve Florida and federal law. Generally, dissolution of marriage is governed by the laws of the State of Florida, but the federal government has enacted legislation that applies to divorces and family law matters involving servicemen and servicewomen. Federal law governs when a military proceeding may take place, under what circumstances it may be postponed and how active military personnel may be served. Florida law also provides residency requirements for military families.

Child support in Florida is based on the child’s best interests and alimony is based on several factors. The factors a court will consider while determining property alimony award if any, are: (a) standard of living during the marriage, (b) duration of the marriage, age, physical and emotional condition of each party,(c) financial resources of each party, (d) liabilities and how they are distributed, and (e) contribution of each party to the marriage. Similar to a court dissolving a non military marriage, a court must make special findings as to a military member’s pay and allowances.

Similar to all dissolutions of marriage in Jacksonville, Florida, property division in a military divorce is based on the equitable distribution of marital assets. When spouses have inherited property, obtained significant assets or debts and have complex retirement/ pension plans, the marriage will be harder to dissolve. A military divorce that includes military retirement benefits will be governed by the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act.

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July 28, 2011

Modifying Child Support in Florida

678948_writing_check.jpgChild support is modifiable in Florida. Modifying child support requires that a substantial change in circumstance. Simply not having a job does not automatically mean that a party qualifies for modification, the party must prove that she/he was fired or laid off from the job and it was not voluntary on his/her part. Also, if a party leaves a job for a less paying one, then that is considered voluntary underemployment and does not qualify for grounds of child support modification.
Florida calculates child support based on incomes of the parties and modifying that number requires a significant deviation (up or down) in the incomes of the parties. The increase or decrease of income, if significant enough, can lead to a change a child support in regards to the calculation. however, a small deviation, such as a 5% increase or decrease would not significantly impact the guidelines and therefore does not give rise to a modification.
Both parties are allowed to ask for a modification. This allows both parties access to the courts so that an increase or decrease in child support can be properly assessed based on the present situation. This is helpful for those that get divorced or have a paternity action while the children are young because over time both parties will most likely make more money and child support should be inflated to keep up with the households the child lives in the majority of the time. Also, if the child decides to reside with the each parent equally, then child support should be modified to reflect that time-sharing differential.
If you have questions regarding child support, you should speak with a family law attorney to better understand your rights and options.

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July 20, 2011

Florida Alimony and Child Support Must Be Determined Separately

Written By: Lenorae C. Atter, Attorney
Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A.

754431_in_business.jpgChild support and alimony laws of Florida often go hand-in-hand. In Florida, child support is calculated based on the income of both parties. In Florida, alimony is considered income to the party receiving the funds, including the person having to pay taxes on the alimony. As such, Florida requires that alimony be determined separately from child support and the order reflect said division to be certain that child support is properly calculated.
Florid child support is based on the income of the parties, their pro-rata share of their combined incomes, daycare expense, child insurance expense, whether there are mandatory union dues, a few other factors. Basically, the idea is to keep the child in the same financial position s/he would have been in without the parents living in separate homes.
Alimony is designed to help keep the spouse in a lifestyle similar to that in the marriage and is based on the length of the marriage, contribution to the marriage, educational sacrifices, and other factors. It is determined based on the need for alimony and the ability for the other party to pay alimony.
According to the Court, both must be determined separately to assure that calculations are correct for each need.

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July 8, 2011

Divorce in Family with Twins: Florida Divorces

691442_balloons.jpgDivorce is more prominent with families that have twins according to a recent study completed by Dr. Anupam Jena of Massachusetts General Hospital. The study looked at over 800,000 families since the 1980 census that claimed to have twins. Of that number, the study found that in families where twins were the oldest that 14% of the mothers were divorced from the father of the twins, which led to the conclusion that twins led to a greater increase in divorce for families. However, the increase in divorce is slight since mothers with only a single eldest child reported divorce 13% of the time.

Divorce can manifest in a number of ways, including income changes, stress increases, expense hikes, etc. When two children are the same age it does take a financial hit on a family because there is not the ability to pass down clothes, cribs, etc. In addition, two babies staying up all night puts both parents in a sleep deprivation, which can lead to stress increases. The parents can manage these factors, so simply having twins does not predetermine your marriage failing, but failing to recognize the stresses and addressing them together can lead to divorce.

If you are thinking of filing for divorce, it is a good idea to find out your rights and options by speaking with a Jacksonville divorce lawyer.

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June 24, 2011

Does Child Support Mean Tax Exemption in a Florida Child Support Case?

Written By: Lenorae C. Atter, Attorney
Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A.

369111_taxpapers.jpgIn a divorce or other child support case, I am often asked which parent can claim the child as a tax exemption. According to Florida State 61.30(11)(a)(8), the parent with the majority timesharing is required to file the IRS waiver of claiming the tax exemption if the other parent is current in child support payments. This is enforceable when the parents have agreed, or it has been ordered that they alternate tax years claiming the child.

However, according to Wamsley v. Wamsley, 954 So.2d 89 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2007), it is error for the court to order the tax exemption be given to a parent that is not current in child support payments. What this means is that even though the order may alternate tax years for the exemption, the parent with the majority timesharing does not have to file the waiver of exemption if the other parent is behind in child support.

You should speak with a family law attorney if you have a problem with the tax exemption or an issue involving child support.

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June 21, 2011

Florida Child Support Through Income Deduction Order Keeps the Payor and the Company on the Hook

Written By: Lenorae C. Atter, Attorney
Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A.

1046879_house_symbol_3.jpgIn Florida, child support is determined based on the child support guidelines. In addition, if the payee requests an income deduction order, then the child support will be garnished from the payor's wages with a fee established by the State. The fee is minimal and is assessed to the payor for the service of having the garnishment done.
If child support is not paid, then the payee (receiving party) may file a motion for contempt. If the child support was to be garnished an the employer failed o do so, the. Both the payor and the employer can be held in contempt. Often, if the parties are found to be in contempt (not obeying court order) then the attorney fees an costs established to bring the action may be paid by the offending parties.
If you have an issue with child support, including your wages not being garnished, then you should speak with a lawyer about your rights and options.

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June 1, 2011

I Just Found Out I Have Teenage Child; How Does Florida Calculate Child Support?

Written By: Lenorae C. Atter, Attorney
Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A.

1173688_high_school_woes.jpgAs a Florida family law attorney, I often have calls from men that have been served with paternity papers who have just discovered they have a teenage child. Often, these men have already started their own family by the time they are told about the child and now they are looking to pay child support for the benefit of a kid they do not know. Florida law understands this can be an issue, so it only allows back child support only be calculated two years from the date of filing the petition for paternity. In addition, Florida case law has established that if the father did not know of the child and has children prior to finding out about the child, then child support may be calculated giving him credit for the children he presently has. The Florida child support guidelines gives credit for having a prior child support obligation, so the Florida courts have said that the father should get the same credit for kids he has in his life prior to the discovery of an unknown child.
To calculate child support for the children presently living with the father, the court may use a couple of calculations. The one that is easiest is taking the incomes of the father's present household, as if the parents were getting divorced, and establishing what the child support obligation would be. Once that is established, then that number is put into the Florida child support calculation as a credit to the father.
It is important to present the right argument to the judge for the calculation to be done, so speak with a family law attorney if you have a paternity case.

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May 26, 2011

How Long Does It Take To Get Divorced In Florida?

Written By: Lenorae C. Atter, Attorney
Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A.

708452_hourglass_4.jpgAs a Jacksonville divorce lawyer, I am often asked how long a divorce will take. The time for a divorce is based on a number of factors including whether there issues involving children; marital assets; alimony; personal businesses; etc. In addition to the issues surrounding the divorce, the court also has a calendar that it uses in scheduling hearing dates and trials. No matter how quickly a divorce agreement can be reached, you are still at the mercy of the Judge's calendar to go for a final hearing.
If you and your spouse agree on things, then a consent agreement may be reached at the very beginning and the divorce can be done rather quickly. However, if there are fights along the way regarding all matter surrounding the divorce, then the process can take anywhere from 6 months to 6 years. Parties are required to attend mediation and with a divorce surrounding multiple issues like children; business divisions; division of other marital property; then the parties may agree to attend more than one mediation session to work through all of the issues instead of leaving the ultimate decision to the Judge. Hopefully, understanding the process will lead to a faster resolution to the divorce.
If you are going through a divorce, it is good to speak with a family law attorney about your rights and options so you understand what you are fighting for and over.

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May 20, 2011

What Is the Difference Between a Family Law Attorney and Divorce Lawyer?

Written By: Lenorae C. Atter, Attorney
Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A.

883985_business_law.jpgAs a Jacksonville, Florida lawyer working in family law I am often asked what a family law attorney does. Basically, family law consists of handling divorces, child support cases, paternity cases, visitation or time-sharing matters, adoptions and the like. A divorce lawyer is just a more specific way of saying the same thing as, "I handle family law cases." When hiring an attorney to handle your divorce case or related matters, then looking for a family law attorney versus a divorce attorney or lawyer may broaden the scope in your search and better fit your needs.
Family law or divorce lawyers are one in the same, so you are not doing anything wrong by hiring a family law attorney instead of a divorce attorney to handle your divorce case. It is no different than referring to a lawyer as an attorney.

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May 11, 2011

Establishing Paternity in Florida

1123144_walk_on_pier.jpgPaternity cases in Florida often require two actions to be taken, such as follows:
1. A Petition to Establish Paternity: Often filed by the mother against the father, so it only requests child support the majority of the time.
2. A Counter-Petition to Establish Paternity and a Time-Sharing/Parenting Plan. This is generally filed by the father to guarantee that he has visitation with the child, which is referred to as a time-sharing plan in Florida.
If you are trying to fight a paternity action, as the father, then you will also need to file a Motion for DNA testing so that the DNA test is completed before filing a counter-petition.
If you are dealing with a paternity case, it is good to speak with a lawyer that handles family law cases in Florida so that you can best understand the process and your rights and options.

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May 6, 2011

In Florida, What Should I Expect to Pay In Child Support and Can I Change It If I Lose My Job?

Written By: Lenorae C. Atter, Attorney
Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A.

1222661_sweet_home_1.jpgAs a lawyer in Jacksonville, Florida, I have a number of clients that want to know what they will pay in child support. Whether they come to me for a divorce, paternity action o modification of child support there is always concern for what should be budgeted.

Child support is based on factors of income, expenses paid for the child (daycare, health insurance, etc.), and time-sharing. Child support guidelines provide a calculation for how all of these factors are broken down and what the monthly obligation will be.

Once child support is calculated and ordered, it can still be modified of there are substantial changes of circumstance (i.e. Laid off from job). However, modifications should be petitioned immediately or else you will continue to be bound by the initial calculation and other consequences can occur, such as driver license suspension, jail time, etc.

Child support is not designed as a punishment to parents, but as simply providing support for the benefit of your child. When it seems like a high number consider that it is designed to provide the home, food, transportation, health needs , and other things for your child. In addition, it is designed to keep your child in the same lifestyle he would have if both parents lived in the same home.

When dealing with child support, issues it is a good idea to speak with a family law attorney to understand the process an your rights and options to be considered.

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May 5, 2011

In Florida, Is Alimony A Factor in Child Support Calcuations?

Written By: Lenorae C. Atter, Attorney
Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A.

1030781_calculator_ballpoint_pen_and_paper.jpgIn Florida, if alimony is a factor in a divorce, with children, then alimony must first be determined in order to properly calculate the child support. Child support is based on the income of both parties and alimony is considered income to one spouse and a reduction of income to the other parent.
First, alimony is based on factors of the length of the marriage; the contribution to the marriage; the lifestyle of the parties during the marriage; and the supporting spouse's ability to pay.

Once alimony is determined the other factor for child support would be the time-sharing plan of the parties. Once that is done, the income of the spouses are put into the child support guidelines along with the time-sharing plan and a number for child support can then be calculated.

If you are going through a divorce with alimony an child support as factors, you should speak with a divorce lawyer to fully understand the process along with your rights and options.

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May 4, 2011

How Is Florida Child Support Calculated?

Written By: Lenorae C. Atter, Attorney
Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A.

665434_dollarsign.jpgFlorida child support is determined by the income of both parties. Florida has child support guidelines that provide a calculation to figure out what is owed to a parent.

Florida child support guidelines are based on the income of both parties, what their combined incomes are and what each parent's share is to that total. For example, if you both make $5,000 per month then you have equal shares to the combined total of $10,000 per month. Therefore, child support is based on the needs of the child and divides that need by 50% to the parent having time-sharing.

Florida child support guidelines also factor in the time-sharing split. The idea is that if you are both spending 50% of your time with the child and making equal money, then no child support should be owed because you are equally responsible for the needs of the child.

When determining child support there are a number of other factors put into the equation, such as: insurance costs for the child; daycare costs for the child; and other factors. To best understand the calculation you should speak with a family law attorney.

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April 28, 2011

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff in Your Divorce: Dividing Property in Florida

1339588_catering_-_soup_plates.jpgWhen divorcing, dividing personal property and assets can be the most challenging part of any case. When going through a divorce it is important to remember not to sweat the small stuff because it can ruin a good agreement.

When going through a divorce it is important to remember that emotional decisions are not always the best or the best use of your time and money. Mediation is required in Florida divorces and you will have ample notice of when mediation will be. Prior to that time, it is a good idea to take stock of your personal items and what is important for you to keep. Try to think in terms of items that are important and hold value to you versus just wanting something to fight over when trying to equally divide the property.

Mediation is an opportunity to work through the issues of your case and hopefully reach an agreement. You don't want to be at the end of your mediation having resolved the hard issues of visitation/Time-sharing and alimony only to start fitting over a set of plates.

If you are going through a divorce it is often times helpful to get advice from a Florida divorce lawyer so that you better understand the legal process, your rights, and the Florida States and Case Law applicable to these legal matters.

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April 26, 2011

What is Standard Visitation in Jacksonville, Florida?

Written By: Lenorae C. Atter, Attorney
Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A.

617909_girl_in_suitcase.jpgIs there such thing as regular visitation in Florida and what does guideline visitation mean? Time-sharing has replaced term visitation in Florida and primary time-sharing parent has taken the place of custodial parent. So, with visitation having changed does that mean that visitation guidelines have disappeared? In some jurisdictions, such as Duval County, Florida, the guidelines exist for purposes of assisting with a time-sharing plan, but are no longer the standard used by the court.

Jacksonville is located in the 4th Judicial Circuit, which means that those guidelines still help lay a foundation for the standard, but are no longer court ordered guidelines when the parents cannot agree on a time-sharing plan. What the guidelines suggest is that the primary time-sharing parent have the child the majority of the time and the non-residential parent have the child once per week, typically on Wednesday, from the time school gets out until around 8 p.m. and every-other weekend from Friday when school gets out until 6 p.m. on Sunday evening. Holidays alternate by years, such as on parent will have time-sharing on Thanksgiving in even-numbered years and Christmas in odd-numbered years. Summers are generally split where each parent has one-half of summer and during that time the primary time-sharing parent goes on the same time schedule as the other parent has during the year.

If you are looking for a standard to apply to a time-sharing plan this is one that provides for flexibility because it was designed to be the "minimum" amount of time-sharing by the non-primary time-sharing parent. However, if you and the other parent can agree on a separate plan, then that can be incorporated into your time-sharing and parenting plan. If you have concerns about time-sharing and know that you and the other parent do not agree, then a parenting coordinator may be necessary. You should speak to an experienced lawyer in order to better understand your rights and options regarding time-sharing and other issues.

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April 22, 2011

What Is Parental Responsiblity in Florida?

Written By: Lenorae C. Atter, Attorney
Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A.

933320_rock_paper_scissors.jpgWhat do shared and sole parental responsibility mean when going through a divorce or family law action in Florida? Parental responsibility gives parents the right to make decisions they feel are in the best interest of their children, such as the following: public or private schooling; participating in sports; seeing grandparents; etc. When a family is divided through divorce or circumstance (i.e. a paternity action), then there becomes a question of whether one parent should get to make those decisions or if the responsibility should be shared equally by the parents (e.g. sole parental responsibility or shared parental responsibility).

In most cases, the Court will award shared parental responsibility to the parents involved in the litigation. The idea is that while the parents may not see eye-to-eye on all things, they should be able to come together for determining the decisions that go to raising their children since they chose to have children together. A parenting plan can establish certain guidelines that will be enforceable by the Court if the parents are unable to agree on certain things and there can a provision in the final order for the parents to attend mediation if they cannot reach a decision together.

In some cases, one party may continuously make decisions that have been harmful to the children (i.e. excessive drinking). If there has been a pattern of behavior of the parent not caring for the children or a parent not making decisions in the best interest of the children, then the other parent may request or petition to the court that the other parent not get to exercise parental responsibility on the bigger decisions regarding the children (i.e. private or public schooling).

If you are seeking to get sole parental responsibility, then you should speak with a lawyer that works in family law matters of this magnitude. Understanding your rights and options is best when moving forward with your divorce or paternity action.

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April 18, 2011

Do I Get to Claim My Children on Taxes After a Divorce?

Written By: Lenorae C. Atter, Attorney
Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A.

369107_taxpapers.jpgWhich parent should claim the children as dependents on their taxes when separated or divorced? Working as a lawyer in family law matters in Jacksonville, Florida, I get this question often. If there are children involved in a divorce, then typically one parent will be responsible for paying child support and one parent will have the children the majority of the time. In essence, both parents are responsible for the expenses created for the children, so determining which parent gets to claim the children on his/her taxes comes down to the facts surrounding the case.
If the divorce is finalized without a clause in the final order establishing which parent claims the children as a dependent on annual taxes, then typically the parent with the majority of time with the children will claim the children as dependents on the annual taxes. However, the parties can agree that they will alternate years of claiming the children as dependents on their annual taxes.
If the parents have equal time-sharing with the children, there may be a presumption created that they will alternate tax years. However, the presumption is not one that is legally binding if one parent chooses to claim the on taxes and files before the other. This may create an issue with the IRS and without the final order from the divorce specifically establishing the plan, then it may be the first filed will be honored.
If you are divorcing and have children, then make certain to address this issue with your ">attorney and the court. In a divorce order, you want to verify that there is a clause regarding the dependents being claimed so that there is no confusion or issues that arise with your ex-spouse or the IRS.

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March 21, 2011

Florida Allows Temporary Support While The Divorce Is Pending to Help The Spouse With No Money

Written By: Lenorae C. Atter, Attorney
Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A.

1132671_problematic.jpgFlorida divorce/family law courts recognize discrepancies in the incomes of both parties and have developed access to courts early in the process through a Motion for Temporary Needs. Once filed, there is a hearing to establish the needs of the parties until the divorce can be finalized. The motion for temporary needs can include the following issues:

1. Who will live in the marital home while the divorce is pending.
2. When children are involved, a temporary time-sharing plan (visitation).
3. Child support to be paid based on that [time-sharing plan] schedule.
4. Spousal support (determined based on the same provisions as general alimony, but sometimes it is more generous on the temporary basis since the separation is fresh and expenses are unknown).
5. Attorney fess and costs that were necessary for filing the divorce and getting representation. The idea is that if one party can afford an attorney, then the other party should have the same ability.
6. Any other items that need to be determined early so that the parties can make it from the filing to the final hearing.
7. Florida courts recognize that some spouses do not have the income of the other and may have a need for assistance while they go through a divorce.

The idea of providing for the parties during the divorce proceedings is to keep the parties on an even playing field. To better understand your rights and options regarding the issues above you should speak with an experienced divorce/family law attorney.

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March 18, 2011

In Florida, nonpayment of Child Support Can Equal No Driver's License

Written By: Lenorae C. Atter, Attorney
Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A.

0301-license_revoked.jpgFlorid child support payments are required by law and an order is established either through an action for divorce or paternity. If child support is not paid, the responsible party’s driver's license can be suspended through the Division of Driver's License (Department of Highways and Motor Vehicles). According to Florida Statutes, §322.058 suspension of a driver's license can be done when the Division of Driver's Licenses has notice that the responsible party failed to comply with the law.

Often, the suspension of a driver’s license will put pressure on the party responsible for paying child support and they will make efforts, to have their license reinstated.

If you are dealing with a family law matter involving child support, it is wise to get the advice of your rights and options from a qualified family law attorney.

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March 15, 2011

Florida Child Support and Bankruptcy: What Are Your Options?

Written By: Lenorae C. Atter, Attorney
Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A.

While Jacksonville, Florida has an influx of bankruptcy filings over the last few years, child support continues to be ordered in divorce and paternity actions. If a parent files bankruptcy after child support is ordered, then Bankruptcy does not discharge that support obligation.

Florida law makes it clear that child support is for the benefit of the child and the parent receiving the money acts as the trustee of said funds for the child; therefore, the money is not considered income to the receiving parent for purposes of bankruptcy filed by that parent.

Since the money is considered support for the child, it is not a debt that can be discharged through the filing of bankruptcy. However, if the paying parent has a reduction in income by no voluntary action (i.e. laid off from job), then s/he can file for a modification of child support.

If you are dealing with bankruptcy and family law matters, it is a good idea to find out your rights and options from an experienced attorney.

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March 4, 2011

Florida Allows Alimony and Child Support Without Divorce

Written By: Lenorae C. Atter, Attorney
Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A.

In Florida, if you are going separate ways in your marriage, divorce is not a requirement to receive alimony and/or child support in Florida. If you and your spouse are separated, then the party in need of spousal or child support may petition the court without filing for divorce (Florida Statute 61.09). This allows for parties to separate without the pressure of divorce if that is not their ultimate goal.
The Court establishes alimony based on the same factors that are considered in a divorce proceeding, per Florida Statute 61.08, such as length of the marriage, contribution of the parties during the marriage, lifestyle of the marriage, etc.

Child Support is determined based on the child support guidelines in Florida Statute 61.30, as it would be under any other proceeding in family law matters ( divorce, paternity, etc.).

Child Support is based on the income of the parties, so if alimony is awarded, it will be factored in as income to the receiving party for purposes of child support.

Continue reading "Florida Allows Alimony and Child Support Without Divorce" »

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February 28, 2011

Florida Mother's Can Seek Child Support Through Establishment of Paternity

Written By: Lenorae C. Atter, Attorney
Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A.

In Florida, a Birth Certificate signed by both a mother and father lays a presumption that the one signing as the father is the child's biological father, however, it does not lay a foundation for the father to have rights or obligations to the child in the eyes of the law. Therefore, if you have a child and are no longer in a relationship with you child's father and you were never married, then you must establish that the father's paternity in order to establish his obligation to pay child support.

In order to establish paternity, you must file a petition with the court alleging paternity of the respondent and seek support for the child. The alleged father can file a counter-petition for timesharing (previously known as visitation).
If you choose not to establish paternity of the alleged father, then he does have the right to file a petition for determination of paternity so that he may establish his rights to the child. Once those rights are established, the obligation for support follows. Until either you or the father file for said establishment of paternity, the father has no legal recognition as the child's father. However, if you ever seek assistance from the State of Florida, such as Medicaid, then the The State of Florida may require a petition for determination of paternity in order to protect the State from having to pay assistance for a child that another individual is obligated to support.

Continue reading "Florida Mother's Can Seek Child Support Through Establishment of Paternity" »

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February 23, 2011

Florida's Enforcement of Child Support - Motion for Contempt

Written By: Lenorae C. Atter, Attorney
Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A.

Florida enforcement of child support can be brought through a Motion for Contempt if the responsible parent, the obligor, fails to pay child support per the order of child support entered by the Court. When a child support order is entered, it is done so based on the reported income of each parent and if an issue of nonpayment arises, then there is a presumption by the Court that the obligor maintains the ability to pay and it is up to that parent to prove otherwise.

If the obligor informs the court that s/he is unemployed or underemployed involuntarily, then the Judge may order that party to do the following:

1. Look for employment
2. File reports with the court, or the Florida Department of Revenue if the obligor is in receipt of Title IV services, that explain the party's efforts in the search for employment.
3. Provide notification to the Court once employment is found.
4. Take part in programs that provide job training, placement, work experience or other similar programs that may be available to the obligor (chapters 445 and 446 of the Florida Statutes).

If the obligor voluntarily and unilaterally decides not to comply with the Court's order, then s/he may be held in contempt. Contempt matters can range in punishment, but can include time in jail, with a purge or release amount totaling the owed child support amount.

Continue reading "Florida's Enforcement of Child Support - Motion for Contempt" »

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February 21, 2011

How Are Uncovered Medical Expenses Divided in Florida Cases Invovling Children

Written By: Lenorae C. Atter, Attorney
Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A.
Florida divorce cases involving children, child support cases and paternity cases often provide for support of the children based on Florida Child Support Guidelines in Florida Statute 61.30. However, the guidelines do not address medical expenses regarding the children, except for health insurance coverage purposes. So, how does Florida divide the parental financial responsibility for uncovered medical expenses for the children?

Often, agreements reached by the parties will include language that the parties are required to equally split the uncovered medical bills. These issues recently came up in the Florida 2nd District Court of Appeals, which ruled that uncovered medical expenses should be divided in relation to each parents percentage of income, as in the child support guidelines. Zinovoy v. Zinovy, 36 FLW D34 (Fla. 2nd DCA, December 29, 2010).

So, what does this mean? Florida child support is based on the overall income of the parents. Basically, if each parent makes $5,000 per month, then the overall monthly household income is $10,000 and each parent is 50% responsibility for that amount. So, their children's uncovered medical expenses would be divided 50/50. If one parent makes $4,000 per month and the other makes $6,000 per month, then the uncovered medical expenses would be divided 40/60. This helps maintain a fair balance based on the incomes of the parents.

Continue reading "How Are Uncovered Medical Expenses Divided in Florida Cases Invovling Children" »

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February 14, 2011

Florida Child Support Cases Require Filing a Financial Affidavit and Complying with Mandatory Disclosure Documents

334225_press_conference.jpgFlorida paternity and divorce cases involving children require child support to be calculated. Child support is based on the income of both parties and in order to establish that the Court does not simply accept testimony. So, how do parties actually provide proof of their individual incomes?

Florida divorces are ruled by Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure, which requires that both parties file a financial affidavit. A financial affidavit details the monthly expenses of the individuals including their income and expenses. In addition to personal expenses, the financial affidavit requires the children’s expenses be calculated as well. That way the court knows which parent is paying for childcare and the child’s health insurance, which all goes into the child support calculation. Since it is an affidavit, the parties must sign and have the affidavit notarized.

In addition to the financial affidavit, the parties are required to provide documentation outlined in Mandatory Disclosure, also detailed in the Florida Rules of Family Procedure. Some of the documents required are the following:

a) At least three (3) months of bank statements for all accounts held individually and jointly. Joint accounts are any accounts with the party’s name on them, including those held for elderly family members.
b) At least three (3) months of paycheck stubs. If you are paid hourly and work overtime, it is a good idea to provide as many months as possible.
c) Any and all loan applications filled out by the individual or done as a cosigner. This documentation often has questions related to your income and allows the Court to see what type of loans you may have outstanding.

All of these items help establish the actual income of each party and what the children’s needs are. Child support is based on the combined income of the parties and what each individual’s percentage of contribution is to that combined amount.

Continue reading "Florida Child Support Cases Require Filing a Financial Affidavit and Complying with Mandatory Disclosure Documents" »

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February 11, 2011

Florida Allows Income Deduction for Child Support and Alimony Obligations from Paternity and Divorce Actions

Written By: Lenorae C. Atter, Attorney
Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A.

754431_in_business.jpgAs a Jacksonville, Florida family law attorney, I represent clients in paternity, child support and divorce cases. Payment of obligations for child support and alimony seem to weigh on both parties because one needs the support and the other wants to make certain payments are made on time so there are no future actions for lack of payment. The answer is that Florida does allow income deduction orders to be entered against the party responsible for payment, which means that wages can be garnished for the support. Income deduction is an easy way for the obligor to pay the money owed and it allows the money to be direct deposited into the proper account. In addition, it allows for proper accounting of all monies paid so that accusations of nonpayment can be properly defended.
According to Florida Statute 61.103, an income deduction order can be entered in connection with an order that establishes the support obligation for child support or alimony. The income deduction order must state that an order for the obligation has been entered by the court and it must include the date the order was entered, the court that entered the order (i.e.

Jacksonville is the Fourth Judicial Circuit) and it must provide the court number associated with the original order.
Once the income deduction order is entered, the court must furnish the obligor with a statement rights and remedies associated therewith and provide details of the fees associated with the deduction, the amount to be deducted, that notice will be given to the obligor's employer and that subsequent employers must be notified by the obligor, and other factors related to Title IV-D cases.
Income deduction orders can be a good tool used by both parties in a divorce, paternity or child support case because it helps protect the interests of both parties. and

Continue reading "Florida Allows Income Deduction for Child Support and Alimony Obligations from Paternity and Divorce Actions" »

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February 8, 2011

Florida Residency Requirement for Filing Divorce

Written By: Lenorae C. Atter, Attorney
Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A.

In Florida, to file for divorce, you must reside in the State for at least six (6) months prior to filing a petition with the court. The Florida residency requirement only requires one of the parties to have residence in Florida, to file here and actions can be brought against a party that resides outside of Florida.
An example would be if you and your spouse live in New York and decide to separate and during the separation you move to Florida for at least six (6) months, then you can file for divorce in Florida though your spouse still resides in New York. Typically, if there is an issue with children, the matters involving the children will be in the court where the children physically reside. However, the actual divorce, equitable distribution of assets, etc. can be decided by a Florida court.
The easiest method of proving your residence is by showing the Court a Florida drivers license. If you do not have one or it was not issued six months prior to your filing for divorce, then you can use the following: lease agreement that signed and dated; utility bill, in your name; or anything that may show the court that you have actually resided in Florida for six (6) months. If you do not have one of those available, then you may have a signed affidavit by someone that can attest that you have lived in Florida for the required time.

Continue reading "Florida Residency Requirement for Filing Divorce" »

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January 28, 2011

Do I Have to Attend Mediation in My Florida Divorce, Child Support, Timesharing or Paternity Case?

Written by: Lenorae C. Atter, Attorney
Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A.

In Jacksonville, Florida family law matters, such as divorce, paternity actions, timesharing, and child support must go to mediation before a trial can be conducted. Mediation is a court ordered process that allows parties to reach an agreement, with the help of a neutral third party, without having all issues decided by a judge.

Typically, when a family law case begins a petition for the action is filed with the court. Once the opposing party files an answer the case is then brought to court for the judge to determine a trial date and order the parties to mediation. A mediation, which is a neutral third party trained in mediating (assisting parties to reach an agreement) is ordered by the court and typically the parties will agree on who will be the mediator. If the parties cannot agree on the mediator, then the Judge will assign one to the case.

Mediation is a good tool because it keeps the decision-making on the parties and their attorneys. The parties have more control over the outcome if they can reach an agreement on the issues. If all issues cannot be decided upon, but some can, then there can be a partial settlement and the remaining issues can be heard at trial for the Judge to make the ultimate decision.

When attending mediation, it is a good idea to keep an open mind and know that negotiations are a give and take. In family law issues, emotions often run high and it is difficult to make a business decision with such emotions. If you can, it is good to have an attorney with you because your attorney can help you better process the information and make a sound decision.

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January 26, 2011

Florida Options for Collecting Unpaid Child Support

Written by: Lenorae C. Atter, Attorney
Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A.

Florida child support that has been ordered but gone unpaid may be collected through a Motion for Contempt or by the Department of Revenue's Child Support Enforcement. A court order is enforceable, so if you have not received child support payments, you may want to look into both a private action of a Motion for Contempt and the State's assistant with enforcement.

A Motion for Contempt may be brought by the parent that should be receiving child support that was previously court ordered. The action requires the party responsible for paying support to show to the court why s/he is not paying. If the obligor (the one owing support) cannot show good cause for nonpayment and cannot present the court with a financial solution to the support presently owed and the amount owed for past support, then that parent may be held in contempt. One result for being held in contempt may be jail time, with an amount for release set at what is owed in support. The action may also lead to a financial solution that requires child support, plus back support to be paid.

If Child Support Enforcement (CSE) is aware of the arrears owed, because the money was owed through the State Depository, then CSE may get the obligor's driver license suspended, keep any tax refund going to that parent, freeze that parent's bank accounts, petition the court for jail time, etc. Florida has an interest in getting support for children because otherwise that child may be on State support. Therefore, the State is quite active in enforcing support obligations.

When such issues arise, it is a good idea to speak with an attorney that can guide you through the process and further explain your options.

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January 24, 2011

Calculating Florida Child Support Past and Present

Written By: Lenorae C. Atter, Attorney
Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A.

Florida child support is calculated using child support guidelines established in Florida Statute 61.30. If child support is not being determined until after the parties have separated, or later in the child's life if the parents were not together, then there may be back child support owed. In accordance with Florida Statute 61.30(17), the court cannot order child support going back further than two (2) years from the date of filing a petition for support. The reason for this provision is to protect a parent from child support going back to the birth of the child, if the child is now much older. It also helps in determining the past support owed because a determination of the income of the parents would have to be made back to the birth of the child(ren) if the provision were not in place, since most individuals are not making the same today as they were 5 years ago.
When back child support is owed, it is generally paid in a monthly figure that is less than the monthly child support amount. For example, if child support of $500 per month is owed and back child support is owed, then the court may say $100 per month shall be paid to that amount. So, each month, the responsible party will have to pay $600 in support until the arrears are paid in full. Then the monthly obligation will continue at $500 per month.
Child support does calculate a number of factors and it is best to speak with an attorney that can do a proper calculation in determining the amount owed for present and past support.

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January 19, 2011

How is Child Support Determined in Florida?

How is child support determined in Florida? Florida child support is based on Florida Statutes 61.29 and 61.30 , which provides the breakdown for calculating child support. The calculation is designed to put the child in the same position s/he would be if mom and dad lived in the same home. The idea is that mom's income plus dad's income equals the child's net household income, so the calculation determines what percentage of the household each parent is contributing. Also, it gives consideration for the parent paying for daycare and the parent paying for the child's health insurance.
Child support used to end on the child's 18th birthday or upon his/her graduation from high school if the child would be 19 at expected date of graduation. It was recently changed and the law now requires that a real date be placed in the child support order so that it self terminates at that time.
Child support previously only provided compensation for time spent with each parent, if the non-primary parent spent over 146 overnights with the child(ren). The law recently changed to give compensation and credit to the non-primary timesharing parent, if that parent 73 overnights with the child, then that is considered "Substantial Time Sharing" and child support is calculated based on the amount of time the child(ren) spends with each parent.
These changes should help reduce the amount of fighting between parents and one parent feeling like s/he is paying too much in child support or requiring that parent to return to court for child support payments to stop once the child(ren) no longer qualifies for child support.

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January 14, 2011

What Factors Are Considered in Alimony Divorce Cases in Florida?

Alimony or spousal support, in Florida, is determined by the set of facts surrounding the divorce, not a calculation like you have in Florida child support cases. Unlike Child Support, the determination is not based on a statutory guidelines that says x +y = z, instead factors of the marriage are used to determine what “z” will be. Some factors used to determine whether there is alimony to be awarded and how much that alimony will be are as follows:
How long was the marriage? If the marriage was 0 – 7 years, then that is considered a short-term marriage, 7 – 16 years that is a moderate-term marriage and 17 or more is a long-term marriage.
What was the standard of living during the marriage? If both parties worked and made relatively equal money, then there will be no alimony. If one spouse worked and the other did not, then alimony will most likely be awarded.
How much will be awarded? This is the most difficult thing for the court to determine because it brings into consideration the above factors and looks at what is available to each party regarding finances, assets, property, etc. Basically, a lifestyle cost analysis has to be completed to see what is available and needed by each party.
If you are going through a divorce and feel that alimony is a factor, you should speak with an experienced divorce attorney to find out what factors will be considered in your case.

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November 11, 2010

How is Florida Child Support Calculated?

Money%20divide.jpgWhen couples with children divorce in Florida, the court endeavors to establish child support so the well being of the children does not suffer just because they are no longer living in a two-income household.

In Florida, child support is calculated based on the incomes of both spouses and credits are given based on who is paying for childcare costs (the custodial parent) and health insurance.

Florida child support is based on both spouses’ monthly income and is paid monthly. It is designed to cover a portion of the children’s expenses, including housing, food, clothing, school supplies, etc., and to provide the children with the same standard of living they enjoyed prior to the divorce – or as closely as possible.

Florida child support calculations are based on the income of both spouses and their percentage of contribution to the overall household income. For example, if each spouse makes $40,000 per year, the total household income is $80,000 and each is contributing half, or 50 percent. If the child support calculation comes to $1,000 per month, then the noncustodial parent will pay half, or $500.

When the cost of childcare is factored in, the spouse paying child support receives a 75 percent credit for the money paid. So if childcare is $100 per month paid by the custodial spouse, that spouse would get a credit of $75. The same is true for insurance payments.

If you have questions about child support, contact a Jacksonville divorce attorney to assist you with making a valid calculation.

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October 15, 2010

Failure to Pay Child Support Lands Father of 23 in Jail

Adoption.jpgA man who is being called the “biggest deadbeat dad in America” was sentenced to 23-48 months in jail for failure to pay child support to the mother of two of his 23 children.

According to court records, the Michigan man was in debt for more than half a million dollars owed in back child support. Howard Veal, 44, has admitted to fathering 23 children by 14 different women. He is currently unemployed, and had been ordered to pay 10 to 100 percent of the $63,000 in back child support owed to Sherri Black, the mother of two of his children, to avoid charges. He told the court he was unable to pay because he could not find a job.

However, Kent County Judge Dennis Leiber called Veal “the poster child for irresponsibility” and sentenced him to more jail time than Michigan sentencing guidelines provided for, saying that Veal is “an insult to every responsible father who sacrifices to provide for their children.”

Veal reportedly has an additional 14 child support cases pending against him. In the past seven years, he has paid Black only $90 in child support for their two children, who are 11 and 16 years old.

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September 7, 2010

Does Bankruptcy Law Put Credit Card Debt Ahead of Support Payments?

Credit%20card%20lock.jpgAccording to an article at WomensENews.org, advocates for women’s financial security say that the new financial overhaul legislation passed last month did nothing to reform a 2005 bankruptcy law they say benefits credit card companies and harms single mothers.

The advocates say that most divorced men who file Chapter 13 bankruptcy are required to repay a portion of their credit card debt, and that this debt is usually prioritized over payments for child support and alimony.

The article said that many divorced women find themselves competing with credit card companies for support payments, and that since those companies have many more collection resources, women often lose.

However, while this may happen, it is not supposed to happen. In fact, under current bankruptcy law, the nonpaying spouse is first in line of any creditors, meaning both alimony and child support payments take precedence over satisfying credit card or other debt. The bankruptcy trustee oversees the payments, not the paying spouse – and the trustee must keep the nonpaying spouse informed of the bankruptcy proceedings.

If your ex has filed for bankruptcy and is in arrears on support payments, that bankruptcy filing will not eliminate the obligation to pay. For back support, you will need to file a proof of claim with the bankruptcy court. Your Florida divorce lawyer can provide you with all the information you need about how bankruptcy affects divorce and support payments.

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September 4, 2010

Kids to Billionaire Dad: Pay Up for Being Gone

ChildofDivorce.jpgThe two adult children of billionaire developer Donald Bren, who is currently ranked #16 on the Forbes list of wealthy Americans with an estimated fortune of $12 billion, are suing their father for not being a part of their lives.

They are asking for retroactive child support in the amount of $400,000 per month for a period of 14 years, for a total of just over $67 million each.

Christie Bren, 22, and David Bren, 18, say that while they did not suffer any economic hardships while growing up, they were emotionally damaged because of the absence of their father, Donald Bren.

Jennifer Gold, Bren’s ex-girlfriend and the mother of Christie and David, sued him in 2003 on behalf of the children, who were minors at the time.

In a Los Angeles courtroom, Donald Bren testified that he had made an agreement with Gold that she would raise the children and he would provide financial support. Bren’s attorneys say that he has paid more than $10 million in child support, as well as college and graduate school expenses.

On Aug. 27, the jury took only three hours to find in favor of Donald Bren, saying he had lived up to his obligations and denying his children any additional access to his fortune beyond what he had already agreed to pay until both reach the age of 25.

If you have a child support issue and need help, contact our Jacksonville family law firm.

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July 31, 2010

Recent Changes to Florida's Child Support Laws


Effective January 1, 2011, any and all child support orders entered into on or after October 1, 2010 must provide:

1. The termination of the child support shall end on the child's eighteenth birthday, unless otherwise agreed to by the parties.
2. A child support schedule. This schedule shall state the amount of the monthly child support obligation for all the minor children at the time the order is entered. The schedule shall also provide the amount of child support that will be owed for any children remaining after one or more children in the order are no longer entitled to receive child support.
3. The month, day and year that the reduction or termination of child support becomes effective.

The recent changes also provide the Child Support Guidelines and Principles that will be follow by the Florida family courts.
1. Each parent has a legal obligation to support his or her minor or legally dependent child.
2. The guideline schedule is based upon the parents' combined net income that the child would be receiving if the parents were still living in the same household.
3. The goal of the guidelines is to encourage fair and efficient settlement of child support issues between parents, as well as minimize the need for litigation.

Continue reading "Recent Changes to Florida's Child Support Laws" »

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June 28, 2010

Israeli Man Breaks Record For Highest Number of Divorces

GoldMedal.jpgA Jewish Israeli man recently broke the country’s record for the highest number of divorces – again. Previously, the record for the most number of divorces for one person was seven. This unnamed man has now been divorced eleven times. He reportedly told the Rabbinical court that he usually divorces his wives after two years and remarries as soon as possible. He appears to be addicted to the “experience” of meeting and courting a new wife.

The man reports that he has never experienced any difficulty in finding a new wife, and he has never paid any alimony or child support, even though he has been ordered to do so. His most recent ex-wife claims that he never worked while they were married, living off of her earnings and running up a large debt. The Rabbis did praise the man for going through all the appropriate religious procedures for getting a divorce, including issuing his wife a Get. He plans to remarry. Find out more about his marriage plans at Record 11th divorce granted to Jewish Israeli man.

Marriage is a serious commitment and divorce is a painful and difficult experience. It is strange and sad that this man takes it so lightly. If you are considering divorce, please contact our firm to discuss your case with a Florida Family Law Attorney.

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June 9, 2010

Florida Divorce Law: How to Change a Child Support Order

Custody-hands.jpg Due to high unemployment and other adverse economic factors, modifying an existing child support order is no longer as uncommon as it used to be. If you have lost your job or have had your income adversely impacted by recent economic conditions, there are two ways in which you can seek a change – either an increase or a decrease -- in child support payments.

First, you should work with your ex-spouse to determine if they might be agreeable to a modification in child support terms. If you agree, then you only need to ask a judge to approve the modification.

If you and your spouse cannot agree on modified child support, you will need to go to court. The court can grant either a temporary or permanent modification, depending on your individual circumstances.

If you are seeking an increase in child support, you may be able to get a temporary modification if your child has had a new medical condition or emergency, there is an increase in school, daycare or other cost of living expenses. If you have suffered a job loss or disability you may also qualify for an increase in child support until you are able to find new employment.

Conversely, if you are seeking a decrease in child support, the court may grant it if you have suffered a job loss, pay cut, disability or if your income has changed for any other reason. If your spouse has an increase in income from a new job, pay raise or remarriage, you may also qualify for support modification.

If you are the paying spouse, it is important that you contact a divorce attorney to file a modification of support request as soon as possible. If you violate the terms of your current court order by not paying, the consequences could be severe.

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June 2, 2010

Alimony is Inevitable: Florida Divorce Myths and the Truth Behind Them


Florida divorces do not mean alimony payments. Myths can be cruel to the outside world that is interested in pursuing a divorce. In Florida, there is no such thing as alimony being a certain. Myths such as the following list are created as scare tactics and used to create fear, fear would be having to pay alimony no matter what, fear would also be that you are not entitled to alimony, which is also dependent on Florida divorce law.

1. Is counseling needed before you can get divorced.
2. It matters if I or my spouse had an affair.
3. Alimony is involved in every case.

Today's topic of alimony is one that can be multiple sets of blogs, and in fact are on this site in a multitude of areas. It is a large topic because in Florida alimony is controlled by many factors: length of the marriage, contribution to the marriage, status quo of the marriage, education of the parties, and many other small details. Also, there is are different forms of alimony: permanent, lump sum, rehabilitative and bridge the gap.

If you and your spouse have two incomes, equal education and the ability to earn relatively the same income, chances are you will not be receiving nor paying alimony.

If you have been married for 17 years and one spouse has been a homemaker, given up his/her education for the benefit of the other, provided the household support instead of the income, then permanent alimony will most likely be rewarded. Permanent alimony is designed to help keep the spouses in the same lifestyle to which they have grown accustomed, but factors in the sacrifices of both parties. It is difficult to expect a spouse to enter the workforce after 17 plus years of supporting the family or other spouse by being the homemaker. The one sacrificing to stay home should not be punished for the marriage breaking.

If you have been married for less than two years, most likely your divorce will not have an alimony component. Length of the marriage holds a great weight in determining alimony. A short-term marriage, which is technically defined as anything under 10 years, does not often hold alimony. The only form that may come into play in a two year marriage is "bridge-the-gap", which is designed to help a spouse move from married to single life. This is for a set time period, often 6 months to a year.

If you have been married for 10 years, one spouse gave up entry into medical school to support the other's education and now the educated spouse is working and the sacrificing one has been earning lower income or taking care of the home, most likely rehabilitative alimony will be an issue. Rehabilitative alimony is designed to assist in educating or training a spouse so that he/she can reenter the workforce and have a chance to be self supporting.

There are obviously different scenarios for all couples and this is not a blueprint for everything related to alimony. However, it is a basic outline for what to expect in different categories of marriage. If you are thinking about a divorce know the facts not just the myths. It is always a good idea to speak with an attorney trained in family law matters so that you go into the situation armed with knowledge not fear.

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May 31, 2010

Florida Divorce Common Myth of Counseling

Florida divorce myths and realities can be difficult to separate when emotions are involved. This week on this blog we will be looking into them and what the truth is behind the myth. The myths we most commonly hear as divorce lawyers are the following:

1. Divorce counseling is needed before you can get divorced.
2. It matters if I or my spouse had an affair.
3. Alimony is involved in every case.

The reality is that counseling will be asked of you at the final hearing for your divorce. Typically the Judge will ask, "Have you and your spouse gone through any type of counseling?", if not, then the next question is, "If I ordered counseling do you feel it would change the status of your marriage?" If the answer is, "no," then the Judge does not order marriage counseling. If the answer is, "yes," then welcome to the world of counseling to see if your marriage can be reconciled. This, however, does not dismiss your divorce claim and it does not take you back to step one. It simply puts the case on hold for the length of counseling to determine if reconciliation is possible.

The reason that people often think that it is a requirement in Florida is due to two possible reasons, the first being the question being asked and the second is knowing someone that has opted for counseling that cannot pursue their divorce until counseling has been attempted. It is important to remember that people often talk about what they have been through, but their perception is different due to the emotional charge of the situation. If you are seeking a divorce, be certain to ask an attorney all of your questions and concerns because stopping the fear is essential to moving forward in the right frame of mind.

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May 22, 2010

The Cost of a Florida Divorce

Shopping for a Jacksonville divorce attorney can be challenging. The first concern people often have is the price of a family law attorney. However, the legal ramifications of a divorce are just as important, if not more so, than those that involve actually getting married. So, why do we choose to spend thousands of dollars on a wedding dress, but want to count pennies on the divorce?
First, you should know that the cost of your divorce is determined by the complexity of your case and the issues that will need to be taken care of throughout the process. Also, attorneys that practice family law a.k.a. divorce law, charge by the hour. So, a retainer secures a certain amount of hours of their time and saves you from being billed once per week for the hours they have worked. Knowing your bills makes them easier to manage. Also, you have a right to know and you should know what your attorney charges per hour and how they bill that time.
The reality is that we, as a socially, are more willing to spend money on the "fun" things in life than the "necessary" things. Women spend thousands on their dress and men spend thousands on the engagement ring because we are excited about the end result. Divorce does not hold the same excitement, so neither does paying the bill. If you are in a position where divorce has become a necessity, do not start your search for a lawyer based on the negative and worrying about the cost, but try focusing on the outcome, which will ultimately place you in a position not to worry about the next argument every time you open your eyes in the morning.
The excitement of waking up without the yelling, concern or heartbreak should be enough to motivate you outside the cost into the thinking about your future. It's not to say that all divorces need to be extremely expensive. What it does mean is that the majority of divorces that will protect your future interests effectively are also not going to a minimum. Think of it as an investment in your future and securing your future in a way that is protected by the Court.
The things you should focus on when hiring an attorney have to do with whether you and your attorney click on how you see your divorce playing out. If you think that you can agree on most things, do not hire someone that tells you not to give in. If you need alimony do not hire an attorney that will not fight for alimony. The reality is that attorneys, like wedding dresses, do come in different styles and you have to find the one that is right for you, not the one that is just priced to your liking.

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May 12, 2010

Florida's Alimony May Be Getting a Facelift


Florida alimony is due for a facelift and this year's legislation has decided to do the work. Currently, Florida House Bill 907 is sitting on Governor Crist's desk for a signature. What does this mean for those who may receive or pay alimony?
Well the main change will be that "Bridge-the-Gap" alimony, which historically is designed for a determinable (by the Court) period of time to provide for support from married to single life. Now, the time-frame will be defined with a stroke of Governor Crist's pen.
According to the intent of Florida HB 907, "Bridge-the-Gap" alimony will no longer be dependent on issues surrounding the divorce, but simply a two (2) year time frame. This type of support will be available for no more than two (2) years. While some who are recipients of this type of alimony may be cringing as they read, the reality is that this may not be a bad thing for either party. The reason is, if you become too reliant on money that is only there for a short period of time, previously 1 - 5 years, then it will make the inevitable transition that much more difficult. Knowing that you only have, no matter what, 2 years to rehabilitate yourself from married to single life, actually gives you a timeframe to see where you're going and when you need to get there.
The pie in the sky can be a bitter sweet transition in the family law world. However, what about the reality that some individuals may need more education? Well, rehabilitative alimony is getting a few nips and tucks, but it is still going to be an option.
The difference between "Bridge-the-Gap" and "Rehabilitative" is that the first is designed to smooth the transition so that you have additional income to help support your bills until you can get them reduced. The latter, rehabilitative, is designed for the individuals that need just that, rehabilitation into the working world. For some couples, one may not have finished college because s/he was supporting his/her spouse and now to get back into the working world s/he needs to finish school. This may be a two year process or a five year plan, it is dependent on the need and history of the marriage (length, standard of living, educational history, etc.).
Due to possible changes in the Florida law, it is vital that you find out your options from someone qualified to inform you of them. Contact an attorney about when these changes, if signed, will take affect and how they may affect you.

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May 11, 2010

Florida Child Support - How is it calculated?


Florida child support is not designed to hurt your bank account. In Florida, child support guidelines use the incomes of the parties with a few credits given: childcare costs (who is paying?) and health insurance (who is paying?).
First, the income of the parties and their percentage to the overall household is how guideline support is determined. For instance, if you W makes $50,000 per year and H makes $50,000 per year, then the combined income is $100,000 per year and each is contributing 50%. So, if the child support calculation is $1000.00, then the parent without the majority of time with the child will pay $500.00.
The cost of child care is factored in, and the person paying gets a 75% credit of the money paid. Therefore, if childcare is $100 per month paid by W, W will get a credit of $75.00. The same is true with insurance payments.
Child support is based on the monthly income of the parties since child support will be paid monthly. Payments can be made on the payroll cycle of the responsible party.
Child support is NOT designed to put money in the other party's pocket. It is actually calculated to provide for a portion of the child's expenses, including but not limited to: a roof, utilities, food, gas in a vehicle to get the child to/from school, clothing, school supplies, shampoo/conditioner and toothpaste. It is everything the child needs and would have if the child's parents were still living in the same home. The child's well-being should not be and is not dependent on a on one-income household simply because the child's parents are no longer together.
If you have questions about child support, establishing or modifying what is owed, you should contact an attorney for a true calculation to be completed on your behalf.

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May 5, 2010

Florida Divorce: Contempt or Modification?

1125087_person_jail.jpg As a Jacksonville, Florida divorce attorney, I recognize the reality that most divorces are never final. If the divorce has the following components: alimony, child support, debt distribution, marital home division, etc., it is likely an issue will arise after the divorce is "over". Your options, if any of the above payments or ordered actions stop, is to file a Motion for Contempt against the other party. However, if you are the payor or the offending party and the reason you have ceased action per the court order is for reasons outside your control (loss of employment, injury, etc.), then you have the option to file a Supplemental Petition to Modify the prior order.
Contempt is when one is voluntarily not complying with a court order. If the individual is found in contempt, the non-offending party can ask for attorney fees and costs be paid by the one in contempt. Also, if the party is held in contempt fines can be assessed and, depending on the severity, jail time can be ordered.
Modification of an order is when one's circumstances have involuntarily and substantially changed. In today's economy modifications are prevalent. In Florida, child support is simply a statutory calculation based on the incomes of the parties. If the income of one party has been decreased or increased by more than 15%, then that is a substantial change and a petition for modification should be filed.
Do not become the victim of circumstance, take a proactive approach and modify your divorce order before you are held in contempt. If you have been the receiving end of someone not complying with a court order or you are experiencing a change in your circumstance that could lead to a modification, do not hesitate to look into your options. Attorneys can help explain your rights and the best course of action for you to take.

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April 30, 2010

Florida Timesharing / Visitation: A Parent's Plan or Goal?


Florida children that are the product of divorce are now a familiar with
visitation planning. Florida timesharing plans came into law in 2008 and
were introduced to help ease the need for a custodial parent to be
determined. It was also developed to keep the children's interest in
the forefront of the divorce or child custody action. The question is, in a world not capable of consistent time management, how are the children really impacted by
this plan change?
In 2010, in Florida and throughout the US we, as a society make work more important than our kids and our health. Time
management becomes important when exercising timesharing with your
children. Calendaring your days, your child's activities and family
gatherings/vacations. To make the judicial system work for you, manage
your time with your kids as if they are the next customer to contract
with you. You would not blow off a meeting with an investor so don't
do it to your kids.
If you see that there is a constant issue with your timesharing plan,
then modify it. If there is a substantial change in circumsance,
modifications of your final order are allowed. Do not become a victim
or allow your child to become a victims if a poorly executed
timesharing agreement, contact an attorney regarding your options.

April 28, 2010

Florida Paternity - Do You Have Legal Rights to Your Child?

Florida paternity is established by marriage or the Court, not by signing a Birth Certificate. A Birth Certificate does nothing more than give the presumption that you are, in fact, the father of your child. If you are not married to the mother ( at least 10% of couples living together are not married), then the Court does not recognize you as the baby's daddy.
To establish your rights to the child, it is important that you speak with an attorney so that your child does not grow-up without you. What you need to ask your attorney:
1. How do I file a Petition to Establish Paternity?
2. Do I need to take a Paternity test?
-- This is dependent upon whether the parties agree with each other, if there is reason to believe you are not the father, or if another man is listed as the father on the birth certificate.
3. How is Florida child support determined?
4. How is visitation determined?
-- Florida now has a timesharing plan that needs to be filed with the Court. This can be visitation that ranges from every-other-weekend to 50% of the time, if not more.
5. Is there a way to do this with the Mother agreeing?
-- If you and the mother can work an agreement on a number of the issues, it still needs to be formalized with the court. However, you can file a consent agreement, meaning you both agree to the above issues regarding your child.

April 22, 2010

Florida Divorce Petitions and Counter-Petitions... Larry King the Eighth and Counting

Larry King filed for his eighth divorce last week. In his petition for divorce, he requested joint custody of the children. Wife, Shaun Southwick, filed a counter-petition requesting full custody of the children, child support and alimony.

A petition for divorce is one that lays out the reasons for the divorce, which are often summarized as "irreconcilable differences." The petition is also where one addresses their needs from the outcome of the divorce: alimony, child support, division of property. In order for both parties to have their needs heard by the Court, often, the party originally served with the petition will file a counter-petition, which lays out their needs and wants. That is how the Larry King divorce has two filings in one case.

In their upcoming battle, the Court and the parties will have to determine the basis for all of the requests made in both of their petitions. Simply by asking for the sun, moon and stars does not equal delivery of the same. Shawn Southwick will be required to show evidence as to why Larry King does not deserve equal timesharing with their children. She will also have to show why she is entitled to alimony and whether that should be offset by the alimony she is requesting. Typically, alimony is considered an income and child support is based on the incomes of the parties.
As this plays out, the Larry and Shawn have a number of things to work out and hopefully the children will not be the losers behind this eighth inning.

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April 21, 2010

Florida's Residency Requirements - Divorce, Child Support and Timesharing

Filing for divorce, child support or timesharing modifications in Florida require that you be a resident of the state. Residency is determined based on Florida Statute 61.021, which requires that an individual be a resident of Florida for at least six (6) months prior to filing an action within the State Court.
Residency can be determined by a number of factors, the most common of which is your drivers license. If you have moved to Florida, make certain to get your new drivers license immediately, so that you can prove your residency when the time comes.
Another way to prove residency is by providing a lease agreement, utility bills, or by having an affidavit signed by a neutral third party that can verify you have lived in the State for the required period of time.
There are emergency situations that can provide access to the Court without meeting the residency requirements, but meeting those requirements can be challenging.
If you have just moved to the State and are in need of any family law services (divorce, child support modification, etc.), upon consulting with an attorney be certain to let him know when you moved to the State. That way you are getting the most accurate information at the beginning.

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April 18, 2010

Larry King Files For Eighth Divorce From Seventh Wife


World famous broadcaster and renowned interviewer Larry King and his wife Shawn Southwick each filed for divorce on Wednesday, April 14. The couple has been married for over 10 years and have two young children. Larry King, 75, has been married 8 times to seven different women. He married one of his ex-wives a second time.

The couple has reportedly had ongoing problems in their marriage including an allegation that King had an affair with Shawn's sister Shannon Engemann, although King and Engemann both deny the affair. King has told the press that he did not sign a prenuptial agreement with Southwick. King is reportedly worth over $100 million. In California married couples split earnings acquired during the marriage.

In Florida, the equitable distribution of marital property is one of the most litigated aspects of divorce. There are a number of laws you need to know about if you are getting divorced in Florida. A Florida Family Law Attorney can help you preserve your rights and protect your property. Navigating the Florida Family law statute by yourself can be a dangerous proposition. Final divorce judgments can have adverse, long-lasting consequences. If you have questions about a divorce contact a Florida Family Law Attorney.

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March 23, 2010

Understanding Divorce in Florida – “Regular Dissolution of Marriage”

Florida.jpgI recently wrote a blog article about dissolution of marriage in Florida. Today I am going to cover one of the types of dissolution available, called a “Regular Dissolution of Marriage.” This is the most common type of dissolution in Florida.

To start the regular dissolution process, either the husband or the wife may file a petition of dissolution of marriage with the circuit court, stating that the marriage is “irretrievably broken” and setting out what he or she wants from the court. The other party then has twenty days to file an answer to the original petition. When they do so, they have the right to address the matters laid out in the original petition and to add any other issues they want to be addressed by the court.

Florida family law court rules require that the two parties then provide each other with certain financial documents and a financial affidavit within forty five days or before any at temporary relief hearing. If either of the parties fail to provide the required information, the court may dismiss the case or not consider the requests of the non-compliant party. Both parties to the divorce or the court can change these requirements, except for the financial affidavit, which is mandatory if financial relief is sought in the case.

Couples may agree on all terms before or soon after the initial petition is filed, in which case they sign a written agreement which is presented to the court. In these uncontested cases, the divorce can be made final in just a few weeks. If the parties cannot agree, they may be required to seek mediation and may end up in a trial before a judge.

The more a couple can agree on, the easier the process is for them and for any children involved. Find out more about regular dissolution of marriage in Florida at Divorce In Florida.

If you are involved in a divorce or child custody negotiation, please contact our Jacksonville, Florida divorce law firm.

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March 15, 2010

Florida Housing Crash May Keep Unhappy Couples from Seeking Divorce


Even in a booming economy, couples on the verge of divorce might worry about how divorce will affect their finances. When the economy and the housing market are bad, as they have been in Florida lately, many couples may believe that they just can’t make it without two incomes, no matter how unhappy they are in their marriage.

This problem is only exacerbated for families who are upside down on their mortgages. The Florida housing market has been hit particularly hard in the last few years, making properties across the state undervalued compared to their mortgage notes. Investments and savings have been hit hard as well.

When it comes to divorce, Florida is an equitable distribution state, meaning that all marital assets are divided equitably between divorcing spouses. For many Florida couples, the only things that will end up being divided between them are their debt payments.

Financial dependence is not a good reason to stay in a loveless marriage. There are other options:

• Credit counseling can help couples or individuals set up a payment plan with a lower interest rate for consumer debt.
• Mortgage refinancing, if it is an option, can help lower both your debt obligation and your monthly payments.
• Short selling your home is another option for getting out from under an upside down home mortgage and starting with a clean slate.
• Bankruptcy, either chapter thirteen or chapter seven, may be an option that could save your home and clear your debt obligations.

If you are afraid to file for divorce simply for financial reasons, it may be best to discuss your options with a family law attorney. Get more tips and advice for handling your finances after divorce at SEEKING A DIVORCE AND FINANCIAL INDEPENDENCE IN A DOWN ECONOMY.

If you are considering filing for divorce, please contact our Jacksonville, Florida divorce law firm.

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March 10, 2010

Understanding Divorce in Florida – “Dissolution of Marriage”

Florida.jpgIn Florida, the official term for divorce is “dissolution of marriage.” Many states, Florida among them, have done away with fault as grounds for divorce. This was done to lessen the potential harm to the family that might be caused by the divorce process. Fault may however be considered for determination of alimony, equitable distribution of assets, or determination of a parenting plan.

Either partner may file for the divorce. It must only be proven that a marriage existed, that one of the spouses has been a resident of Florida for at least six months immediately preceding the filing, and that the marriage is irretrievably broken.

In addition to the irretrievably broken ground for divorce, there is also a seldom-used incompetency ground; the competent spouse must prove that the other spouse has been incompetent for at least three years before the filing for this ground to be used.

The actual divorce process is an emotionally trying time for the parties involved. Floridians often do not know their rights and responsibilities in a divorce. While court clerks and judges can answer some questions, they are prohibited by law from giving legal advice.

A Florida family law attorney can answer your legal questions and advise you on your rights, your children’s rights, your property rights, your responsibilities and even your tax liabilities during a divorce.

Before filing for a dissolution of marriage, it is prudent to make sure that you have tried as hard as you can to save your marriage. Professional marriage counselors can help you and your spouse work out your difficulties and make your marriage stronger than ever. Many Florida communities and religious organizations offer free or inexpensive counseling services to help save your marriage. Your lawyer can also recommend a qualified professional in your area. Find out more about this topic at Divorce In Florida.

If you are involved in a divorce or child custody negotiation, please contact our Jacksonville, Florida divorce law firm.

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March 6, 2010

Lauderdale County Co-Parenting Hotline may Expand to Serve Jacksonville, Florida


When divorced Florida parents are forced to deal with child custody issues, tempers can run high – especially if the divorce was not amicable and the parents disagree with the approved parenting plan. Now those parents will have a way to better handle disagreements and build better relationships with their children. A help line has been set up for Lauderdale County, Florida parents that can help them get through child custody issues with less anger and frustration. This is important because fights between divorced parents can cause lasting emotional scars on their children.

The help line, which falls under the umbrella of Families First, offers parents a third party to help them manage and solve parenting disputes. When a call comes in, volunteers talk with both of the parents to help them diffuse angry feelings and come to a suitable compromise.

The line is staffed by twenty one volunteers, who are required to complete a six week training course before answering the phones. The Lauderdale center fields around fifty calls per month. The help line has been so successful in Lauderdale County that a task force has been created to investigate establishing call centers in other areas in Florida, including the Jacksonville, Florida area.

Read more about the co-parenting help line at Help line lessens tensions.

If you are involved in a divorce or child custody negotiation, please contact our law firm for legal counsel.

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February 25, 2010

Buying a New Home during Your Florida Divorce


When a couple divorces, one of the spouses generally needs to find a new place to live. Unfortunately, various legal issues can seriously complicate this already complicated financial transaction. So, when buying a home before your divorce is finalized, there are a few important considerations to keep in mind.

If the new home is purchased without marital assets, you should have nothing to worry about; but things can change quickly in a divorce, and if your divorce isn’t finalized yet, those non-marital assets you used to purchase the home may turn out to be considered marital assets at a later date. If you purchase a home with funds that are considered marital assets you may be required to sell the home to pay a claim to your ex-spouse.

The best thing to do, if you can’t wait to buy the home, is to consult with your attorney. A qualified Florida divorce attorney can help make sure that you get to keep your new home after the divorce. Your lawyer may be able to get a preliminary order allowing you to purchase the home even while the divorce is still pending, while preventing your ex-spouse from making a claim against the property.

It is probably also a good idea not to start your home search until you are aware of the total child support, alimony, and debt payments you will be required to pay or be entitled to receive. Read more tips for purchasing a home during a divorce at Buy a New Home During Divorce.

If you are involved in a divorce, please contact our Jacksonville, Florida law firm for legal counsel.

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February 17, 2010

Rap Artist Flavor Flav Reported to Owe Thousands in Back Child Support


William Drayton Jr. is best known by his stage name, Flavor Flav. Recently, the 1980’s rap star from the group Public Enemy has made a big comeback by appearing on such reality TV shows as The Surreal Life, Strange Love, and Flavor of Love. But according to the Albany, New York Child Support Collection Division, Drayton owes back child support payments to Mary Parker, the mother of three of Drayton’s children.

Drayton will be required to appear in court to answer charges that he owes Ms. Parker over sixty three thousand dollars in back child support payments and private school tuition. The back child support payments are due to a judge increasing Drayton’s responsibility from just over one hundred dollars per week to over eight hundred dollars per week, and making the ruling retroactive to 2008, when Ms. Parker originally filed an amendment to the child support agreement.

Drayton plans to contest the charges, claiming that he has regularly paid Ms. Parker more than he was required to by the original agreement. Drayton’s recent success has prompted several other complaints from family members, including a daughter who said that he reneged on an offer to pay for her last semester in college. Karen Ross-Fortunate is the mother of three of Drayton’s other children, and has charged that he has not financially supported her children either. Drayton has seven children.

In Florida you can file for a modification of a child support obligation if there has been a significant change in circumstances or the modification is at least a 10% difference between the existing amount and the proposed amount or $25 per month. The distinction is dependent on the length of time it has been since the child support order was entered. A can help you get a child support modification.

If you are having trouble collecting your child support payments, please contact our Jacksonville, Florida law firm for legal counsel.

Read more about Flavor Flav’s child support troubles at http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-met-adoption-difficult-20100214,0,7012433.story.

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February 17, 2010

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie Sue Tabloid over Divorce Story, Attend Super Bowl in Miami, Florida Together


News of the World, a British tabloid, recently ran a front page story purporting to describe all the details of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s divorce, including financial and child custody negotiations. The problem is that the Hollywood power couple claims they are not splitting up, and they have filed suit against the paper for making “false and intrusive allegations” about their relationship.

The LA divorce attorney reported by the News of the World to be involved in drawing up separation papers for the couple has made a statement denying any contact with the family by herself or any member of her firm.

According to lawyers for the family, News of the World has refused to retract their story or apologize for their content. Further, the stories have been widely republished, using the original story as source material. The paper has declined to comment about the lawsuit.

Since the rumor has started about the impending divorce, Jolie and Pitt were seen together with their son Maddox in Miami, Florida at the Super Bowl. Read more details about the lawsuit over phony divorce reports at BRAD PITT AND ANGELINA JOLIE TAKE LEGAL ACTION OVER SPLIT CLAIM.

If you are considering divorce, please contact our Jacksonville, Florida law firm for legal counsel.

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February 16, 2010

Memoir of a Divorced Father Helps Families Deal with Divorce


Studies have shown that fifty percent of children of divorce in Florida and nationwide have problems later in life that are related to their parents’ split. Author Tony Rassini has just released a new book, entitled "Dad, It's Time to Tell the Truth!" Discover what happens when two parents hate each other more than they love their kids, which he wrote partly to help his son deal with the aftermath of his own “ugly” divorce.

The book is written as a memoir, and follows Rassini’s attempts to be a good father to his four children during and after his bitter divorce. He documents his interactions with lawyers, doctors, and the courts, and looks at how all of these interactions affected his children. In the end Rassini realized that the only thing he had to give his son was the truth.

Divorce is a difficult time for both adults and children. Being age-appropriately open and honest with all family members is the best way to smooth over hard feelings and ensure that all parties can get on with their lives without any lasting scars. Reading about Rassini’s journey can help others going through divorce realize that they are not alone. One of the most important factors in the divorce process is having a family law attorney who will advocate on your behalf while also knowing how to avoid needless litigation which ultimately costs you extensive amounts of money and possibly the respect of your family members.

If you are considering divorce, please contact our northeast Florida firm for legal counsel.

You can read excerpts from the book at Father Loses it All and Mends Relationships with His Children.

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February 11, 2010

California Man (Henry Lisowski) Allegedly Kills Estranged Wife (Rosa Lisowski) to Avoid Paying Child Support

PoliceCar.jpgHenry Lisowski allegedly threatened his ex-wife with murder two years before she disappeared in March of 2008. After several months of searching for the woman, police received a letter from Lisowski saying that his wife had died and that he had thrown the body in a dumpster. Prosecutors maintain that the man killed his wife because she was taking him to court for child support. Defense attorneys claim that his wife died from falling down the stairs and Lisowski hid the body because he was afraid her death would look suspicious.

At the time of Ms. Lisowski’s disappearance, Lisowski had been ordered to pay $1000 a month in child support, and a hearing had been scheduled to determine if he had underreported his income in order to avoid paying more. It later turned out that he had underreported his income by over one hundred percent.

When questioned by police about his wife’s disappearance, Lisowski claimed that she was a drug addict and believed that the drug cartel had gotten to her. Lisowski had fresh scratch marks across his cheek when he was questioned. He also expressed no interest in taking the children into his home.

If Lisowski is convicted, he could face life in prison. See more details of the murder trial at Prosecutor: OB man killed estranged wife over child support dispute.

If you need a prenuptial agreement or are considering a divorce or separation, please contact our Jacksonville, Florida law firm for legal counsel.

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January 14, 2010

Understanding Prenuptial Agreements


Many people feel that asking for a prenuptial agreement is the end of romance. Others believe that prenuptial agreements are only for the rich. Neither of these statements is true. Prenuptial agreements are appropriate in a number of situations and should be seriously considered before entering into a marriage, which is a legal partnership. A prenuptial agreement is a signed contract that spells out exactly how a couple will handle different aspects of their marriage to include finances, real and personal property, alimony, and several other concerns that often arise throughout the marriage and possibly in a divorce. While this may not seem very romantic, it can be an empowering and positive experience. Probably for these reasons, more and more “average” couples are signing these agreements lately.

Some of the benefits of a “prenup” include facing financial details and discussing them openly, preserving inheritance or the financial well-being of children from a previous marriage, protecting business assets, spelling out financial expectations, and reducing battles over finances in the case of divorce. Of course, there are drawbacks as well; agreements can be set aside if they are found to be fraudulent, unfair or signed under duress. They can be perceived as not being romantic and can imply a lack of trust between partners.

If you are considering a prenuptial agreement, remember a few key points:
- Don’t wait until the last minute. Springing an agreement on someone days before the wedding is not a good idea.
- Don’t hide your feelings or your assets.
- Each person should hire his or her own attorney.

Call a Jacksonville Family Law Attorney to help you understand your options with marital agreements.

Find out more about this topic at Prenuptial Marriage Agreements.

Please contact our law firm for help drafting your prenuptial agreement.

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January 8, 2010

Tiger Woods’ Marital Problems Bring Up Issues of Florida Rules Governing Premarital Agreements and Child Custody


In the wake of nearly a dozen women claiming to have engaged in extra-marital affairs with golfer Tiger Woods, his wife, Elin Nordegren Woods has reportedly moved out of the couple’s mansion and moved back to Sweden, her home country. The couple does have a prenuptial agreement, but the contents of the agreements are not open to the public. The Woods’ prenuptial agreement is a premarital contract, and theirs will be governed by the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act of section 61.079 of the Florida Statutes. Their prenuptial agreement likely spells out how much alimony Ms. Woods is entitled to receive, if any, the distribution of property and other assets, and any other miscellaneous arrangements that were contemplated by the parties at the time they made the agreement . The right of a child to support may not be adversely affected by a premarital agreement. Premarital agreements, like other contracts, usually hold up in court as long as they are legally executed and do not contain unconscionable clauses. To create a premarital agreement that is legally sufficient to protect your interests you should seek the assistance and expertise of a licensed Florida Family Law attorney.

As for the children, Sam and Charlie, Florida has no presumption of marital custody, meaning that the father and the mother have an equal chance of gaining time-sharing depending on what is in the child’s best interest. Florida rules governing child custody changed substantially in 2008. The terms custody, custodial parent, non-custodial parent, visitation, primary residential parent, and secondary resident parent were eliminated from the statute. The disposition of children after a marriage is now determined by parenting plans and time-sharing schedules. These arrangements are governed by Florida Statutes chapter 61.

In light of the alleged extramarital indiscretions by Tiger Woods it is likely that Ms. Woods may have strong arguments for her to be the parent with more timesharing with the children and be entitled to receive substantial child support. In order for her to be able to move the children to Sweden with her she will have to petition the court and show why it is in the childrens' best interests. Tiger would be entitled to object to moving the children so far from the marital home. Find out more details about the prenuptial agreement at

Tiger Woods gives us pause to contemplate prenups and child custody.

If you would like to draft a prenuptial agreement or are considering divorce, please contact our firm for expert family law legal counsel.

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January 6, 2010

Understanding Different Types of Florida Alimony

Florida law recognizes several types of alimony. Which type or types of alimony are awarded depends on the individual characteristics of the marriage. Some factors a judge may consider are adultery, the length of the marriage, and the employment prospects of both partners. In Florida, the alimony payments must be decided on before the court awards child support.

Temporary alimony: This type of alimony is awarded to maintain a person’s lifestyle while the divorce case is pending. As an example, a husband who worked and paid the household bills while his wife stayed home to raise the kids could be required to continue paying the bills until the divorce agreement is finalized.

Bridge-the-gap alimony: This type of alimony is designed to help one of the parties get back on their feet and start supporting themselves after the divorce. It is generally awarded for a period of two years.

Permanent periodic alimony: This is awarded if one of the parties requires indefinite support, and is generally awarded for longer marriages. The support usually lasts until the death of one of the parties or until the person receiving the support remarries or is living with someone who contributes financially to the relationship.

Rehabilitative alimony: This is requested if one of the spouses needs time to acquire new job skills or education. This type of alimony requires a specific plan.

Lump sum alimony: This is one large payment, which may be money, the marital home or other martial assets. The court will usually award this type of alimony if there is extreme hostility between the divorcing parties or if one of the parties is terminally ill.

Read the entire article at Florida Family Law: Alimony/Spousal Support.

If you have any questions about the type of alimony you may be entitled to in a divorce, please contact our firm for expert divorce law counsel.

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December 10, 2009

Study Finds that Without Community Support, Low Income Abused Women are Likely to Return to Abuser

SadWoman.jpgA recent study published in the Psychology of Women Quarterly paints a bleak picture for low income women who are subject to abuse. Even those who seek help for domestic violence issues suffer from depression, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and have to deal with stressful issues like child custody and child support, unemployment and finding affordable housing. Their situation has driven many of these women to return to their abusive partner.

The study points out that most domestic violence programs are focused on getting the woman away from her abuser and starting the legal proceedings to protect her and legally dissolve the relationship if necessary. Very few offer counseling, guidance or follow up to see how the women are doing after they leave. The researchers recommend that programs be offered for these women that provide housing opportunities, job training, transportation and child care so that they do not feel forced to return to their abusive partner because they have nowhere else to go. You can read more about the study findings at Nancy Hengeveld: Without support, battered women often return to their abusers.

If you are involved in an abusive relationship, please seek help for yourself, and then contact one of our Family Law Experts for compassionate legal counsel.

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December 9, 2009

Fort Lauderdale, Florida – Man (Francisco Rodriguez) Ordered to pay over $10,000 in Child Support for Someone Else’s Daughter

DNA.jpgFransisco Rodriguez is married with three children of his own. According to the state of Florida, he is also legally the father of the fifteen year old daughter of an ex-girlfriend, even though DNA tests and the girl’s own mother have confirmed that Rodriguez is not her biological father. He reportedly owes more than $10,000 in back child support, and he has already spent a night in jail because of it. The girl’s mother has written to the state asking them to not require Rodriguez to pay the child support.

Rodriguez is legally on the hook for the child support payments because the mother named him on the birth certificate and he claims he didn’t receive notification until about 4 years ago – after the deadline to contest paternity had passed. By that time a Florida court had already legally named him as the father three years earlier when he failed to appear in court. Rodriguez says he never received the notices because he changed addresses quite a few times. In light of the new information, the court has ordered its own DNA test, which Rodriguez has taken. The girl and her mother did not appear as ordered for the DNA test.

In the case of paternity, lawmakers and the courts struggle to strike a balance between the rights of all parties involved. Some groups even go so far as to suggest that DNA tests at birth should be mandatory in order to avoid later legal battles. If you are involved in a child custody or paternity issue, please contact our firm for expert legal counsel.

Find out more about paternity laws in Florida and around the country at Florida man owes $10,000 for child who's not his.

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December 3, 2009

Understanding Spousal Support

MoneyvLove.jpgIf you are considering a divorce, you may be entitled to, or you may be ordered to pay spousal support to your former spouse. What does that mean? Spousal support, also referred to as alimony, is money paid to one spouse by the other in order to support the first spouse’s lifestyle after the divorce.It is completely separate from child support. Alimony is only ordered in about ten percent of divorce cases. Permanent alimony awards are largely a thing of the past; most courts will only award temporary spousal support, lasting from a few months to a few years.

While different states have different laws when it comes to alimony, it is usually awarded to a person who did not work outside the home during a marriage. Most states require the potential recipient to demonstrate financial need. Those with savings or assets sufficient to support themselves will generally not receive alimony. Prenuptial agreements may also spell out what spousal support will be awarded.

Federal law requires equal consideration for both men and women when awarding spousal support, but women have largely been the recipients of spousal support after a divorce, mainly because the majority of non-working spouses have traditionally been women. But there is nothing stopping a stay-at-home husband from collecting alimony in a divorce settlement.

Divorce is difficult, both emotionally and financially. Spousal support can make life a little easier for someone who has been out of the workforce for awhile. If you believe you are entitled to spousal support, or if you have been ordered to pay spousal support, you will need the help of an accomplished family law attorney. Please contact our firm for expert legal help.

Find out more about spousal support / alimony at What is Spousal Support?

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November 20, 2009

TV Food Celebrity (Mary Jo Eustace) Dumped by Husband (Dean McDermott) for TV Star Tori Spelling, Tells All in New Book

Divorce.jpgTV cooking show host Mary Jo Eustace was not very well known until her husband, actor Dean McDermott, divorced her to marry heiress and famous Hollywood actress Tori Spelling in 2006. McDermott and Spelling met on the set of a lifetime movie they were working on together. Ms. Eustace has said she was taken by surprise when her divorce garnered major media attention.

Ms. Eustace has said that her divorce was a shocking surprise as well as very public and humiliating. One of the insults the newly married couple heaped on Ms. Eustace included offering to produce a reality show where Ms. Eustace looks for a new husband. Ms. Eustace declined, and instead is launching her own reality show, which will help women in midlife reinvent themselves after divorce. And she has written a book to tell the world about the pains of her divorce; the book is entitled Divorce Sucks: What to Do When Irreconcilable Differences, Lawyer Fees and Your Ex's Hollywood Wife Make you Miserable.

In the book she talks about the divorce and her reaction to it, which has included getting over the betrayal of her husband and making more time for herself. You can read more about the new book at Life after divorce: Mary Jo Eustace enjoys her second act.

Divorce is very hard emotionally for all parties. Many people going through a divorce , especially those left for another person, are filled with anger and sadness caused by the actions of their former partner. Ms. Eustace’s book shows that, while divorce is difficult, it may the answer to a happier life. If you are considering divorce, please contact our firm for expert, compassionate legal counsel.

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November 16, 2009

Tough Economic Times Have Many Floridians Seeking Lower Child Support Payments

According to the Florida Department of Revenue, the bad economy is creating especially hard times for those paying child support. They report that the number of requests for modified child support payments has increased, mirroring the state’s rising unemployment rate. Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties (Florida) have already received 831 requests this year, compared to 648 in 2006. Requests haven’t been this high since Hurricane Ivan.

Many of the applicants are reporting that they can’t find work, or that the work they can find pays a lot less than their former employment. Others are giving up looking for work altogether, some living on food stamps welfare, while still others are going back to school to improve their chances for higher paying work. The court looks favorably on payers who seek out more education, because in the long term it will have a positive effect on the children. Unfortunately, while they are in school they usually have to lower their child support payments during that time.

Requests for lowered payments aren’t the only thing increasing along with the unemployment rate; uncollected child support is climbing as well. Almost $29 million has gone uncollected in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties this year, and there’s still one month to go before the end of the year. The number of disputes that lead to litigation are climbing as well, as people become more desperate.

If you believe you will not be able to continue making child support payments as required, it is important to file for a modification to your child support responsibility as soon as possible. Contact our firm for expert legal counsel.

You can find out more about the effects of the economy on child support payments in Florida at Economy hits Pensacola area child support.

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November 10, 2009

Kate Gosselin Says She is Not Sure if She Wants to Remarry

Divorce.jpg Kate Gosselin, mother of the eight children featured in the TLC reality show, “Jon & Kate Plus 8” has been going through a very public divorce from her husband, Jon Gosselin. On a recent episode of the show, she answered questions from viewers, including whether or not she feels she would like to marry again in the future. Her answer was “I don't know, I really don't want to be married again, but I don't want to be alone. The alone-ness is really alone.”

Many people who go through a divorce feel the same way as Ms. Gosselin. Divorce is very hard emotionally for all parties. A divorce can feel very similar to the death of a loved one, and people need to allow themselves time to heal emotionally. But for many people, divorce is not the end but the beginning of their new, healthier life. And that may very well include a new romance.

If you are considering divorce, please contact our firm for expert, compassionate legal counsel.

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November 6, 2009

The Rich and Famous Aren’t Much Different from You and I When it Comes to Divorce

Movie stars, millionaires and other VIPs work very hard to keep their personal details private – especially when it comes to divorce. They claim they have a greater need for concern about identity theft. For business executives, the business itself can intervene to protect confidential company information that might come out in the divorce. Of course, news organizations are fighting to keep everything in the public domain. The controversy pits privacy against the first amendment.

Certainly the same concerns exist for non-famous wealthy couples, who may want to keep their financial documents and dirty laundry out of the public domain. There are ways to keep the divorce settlement confidential in Florida, and we are a law firm that knows the ins and outs of accomplishing the goal of confidentiality in Florida for high end divorce settlements.

If you are considering divorce, and want to keep the details private, contact our firm for expert legal counsel.

Find out more about this topic at Rich, famous push for secrecy in divorce.

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November 4, 2009

Temporary Divorce Orders Can Provide Immediate Relief

Many clients need immediate help when they first start going through a divorce. The idea that a divorce can take many months to finalize is very upsetting for most people. But there are temporary motions that can be filed to address issues such as temporary child support, custody, possession and occupancy of the marital home and the like. Temporary orders are legally binding guidelines that both parties must follow until the divorce is finalized.

Some common items covered in a temporary divorce order include:
- An agreement not to use the other party’s credit or make a large purchase without advance written notice
- Jointly owned property cannot be sold or used for collateral
- Insurance policies must remain in effect
- A child visitation and child support agreement
- No changes should be made to retirement accounts
- Agreement as to who will remain in the family home

If you are considering divorce, please contact our firm for expert, compassionate legal counsel.

Find out more about temporary divorce orders at Temporary Divorce Orders .

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November 2, 2009

Military Divorces Require Special Legal Expertise

Military divorces are subject to certain laws that are not applicable to civilian divorces. As an example, those active in the military are entitled under federal legislation in some cases to delay a divorce or to take advantage of court-appointed counsel. Additionally, military pensions are subject to different rules than private retirement accounts or other types of pensions. Calculating alimony and child support is also affected by federal regulations, as is the location of the actual divorce proceedings.

As a Jacksonville, Florida law firm, Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A., specializes in military divorces and is well prepared to deal with the unique issues that a military family has to deal with, such as child custody as a result of deployment as well as how to divide and calculate military pay and pension.

If you are an active service member who is considering divorce, please contact our firm for expert, compassionate legal counsel.

Find out more about this topic at Military Law and Divorce.

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October 30, 2009

Co-parenting Helps Couples Ease the Impact of Divorce on Their Children


For parents going through a divorce, keeping things civil can be difficult. Not keeping things civil can be difficult for the children involved. As divorcing parents are starting to look for alternatives to fighting over and in front of the kids, co-parenting classes are gaining in popularity. Co-parenting classes are designed to help parents deal with conflicts that come up about the kids after the couple has split. The classes can help parents deal with their anger and frustration in more positive ways, working together to solve issues before they became a fight.

Divorce is a hard time for children, and it is even harder if the parents are not getting along or not speaking to each other. Co-parenting teaches adults much better ways of coping with disagreements, which not only eases the burden on the children, but models positive interactions that they can use in their own lives.

If you are considering divorce, please contact our firm for expert, compassionate legal counsel.

Find out more about this topic at Divorce 101: Co-Parenting Experts Help Couples Like Jon and Kate Gosselin.

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October 30, 2009

Can My Spouse's New Partner's Income Be Used When Calculating Child Support In Florida?


by Whitney R. Lonker, Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A.

I get a lot of calls in my Jacksonville, Florida divorce law practice asking if a new step-parent's income can be used when calculating or modifying a child support obligation. The answer under Florida law is "no". Only the gross incomes of the mother and father are used in calculating a child support obligation and this does not change if one spouse remarries. Even if one spouse remarries, is not employed and is living on the ocean due to the new spouse's income level, the courts will only consider the gross incomes of the parents to the child. If you have a child support question or a modification of final judgment issue, please call our firm for sound, caring advice.

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October 22, 2009

Utah State Courts Offering Classes for Children of Divorce

Children of parents who have filed for a divorce or are already divorced can now participate in free divorce classes in the state of Utah. The classes are for children aged 9-11 and are taught by a mental health professional, who helps the children learn how to communicate more openly with their parents during this difficult process. There are also free classes offered in North Florida through certain church affiliations and also through The Jacksonville Children's Commission.

Divorce is always hard on children, especially older children and pre-teens. This program from the State of Utah is a commendable effort at easing a difficult time for children in need. Even in the face of economic trouble, it is encouraging to see the state continue to fund support initiatives for children and their families.

If you are considering divorce, please contact our firm for expert, compassionate legal counsel.

You can find out more about these classes at Courts offering divorce education class.

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October 20, 2009

Florida Parents Can Lock in College Tuition Starting October 19th

Starting Monday, October 19th and running through January 31, 2010, parents have the opportunity to lock in the 2009-2010 tuition rates for Florida state universities by enrolling their children in the state-sponsored Florida Prepaid Plan. Under the plan, any child may be enrolled, from birth until they reach their junior year of high school. Parents, guardians or other relatives can pre-pay the tuition all at once or make monthly payments. If the child opts to attend a private or out-of-state school, the money can be refunded or transferred to the chosen school.

In a divorce, the courts do not require either parent to pay for college or to have a child support obligation after high school. But it frequently comes up in the dissolution and settlement process. Locking in tuition rates under the Florida Prepaid Plan is a great idea for any parent, even if they are in the middle of a divorce.

If you are considering divorce, please contact our firm for expert, compassionate legal counsel.

Find out more about this topic at Enrollment for Florida's prepaid college tuition program starts Monday.

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October 20, 2009

Couples Save Financial, Emotional Distress with “Collaborative Divorce”

An emerging divorce method, using what is called a "collaborative process," brings legal, financial and mental health professionals together to help encourage cooperation between the divorcing couple. The method is starting to gain momentum as the Florida Bar has drafted legislation to codify collaborative divorces into Florida state law. The Jacksonville Bar Association recently sponsored a seminar on the topic, which drew a large percentage of mental health professionals.

Currently, collaborative divorce is a voluntary process that is entered into when a couple signs a document stating that they will not take their divorce to court. Financial and mental health counseling is included as part of the process. An added benefit is that a collaborative divorce usually costs significantly less than litigation. It also allows families to structure financial details with more fluidity than is usually the case in traditional divorce proceedings. The process not only eases the divorce process for couples and their families, it also eases the case load on family court.

Any divorce method that cuts down on fighting and animosity is good for both the couple and their children. People who are under the stress of a divorce can only benefit from having a team of professionals help them work their way through all the details amicably.

If you are considering divorce, please contact our firm for expert, compassionate legal counsel.

Find out more about this topic at Collaboration allows for a kind divorce.

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September 1, 2009

Paying Child Support After Termination of Parental Rights?: Florida Family Law


Are you paying child support after your rights have been terminated? Child support, according to Florida law, is the right of a child with parents living in separate households. The child support obligation begins at the child's birth if the parents are not married, even if paternity has not been established. Once paternity is established, the Court can go back two years, within the life of the child, for back child support.
If your rights have been terminated to a child, but you owe back or retroactive child support, or your support is in arrears (you have not paid regularly), then you may still pay child support after termination of your rights, but only the amount that was due as of the time your rights were terminated.
An example: A child is born outside of wedlock and the mother files a Petition to Establish Paternity. The petition is granted when the child is 2 years old and is going to be $100/month (not realistic numbers), which means the Father is $2,400.00 in arrears due. The court will have him pay $100/month + $50/month towards the arrears until they are paid in full.
Well it will take the Father 48 months or 4 years to pay off the $2,400.00. If before that time the father agrees to terminate his parental rights because the Mother has remarried and her husband wants to adopt, then the Father is still responsible for whatever the balance due is on the $2,400.00 until it is paid.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding this matter, please contact an attorney.

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August 27, 2009

Florida Divorce Myths: Florida Visitation and Child Support

Written By: Lenorae C. Atter, Florida Family Law Attorney

In a Florida divorce, I realize there are divorce myths, which seem to circulate from Jacksonville to Miami. If you are going through a divorce there are certain myths that people seem to tell.
The most common myth for in a divorce with children is that the new time sharing law requires that you and your spouse have 50/50 visitation with the Child. This is not true. The Court looks at the best interest of the Child and in so doing, the visitation will be a factor. It is often not considered proper for 50/50 because the Child has different rules in each house, which plays a role in the child's ability to do well in school, at home and in extracurricular activities.
The second myth is that child support is negotiable. This is not true, because according to Florida Statute, a parent cannot negotiate away the Child's right to child support. Support for a child is determined on the income of both parents and tries to place the child in the same position s/he would have been had the parents stayed together.
The third is that if you aren't allowed or use the time sharing (visitation) then you do not have to pay child support. If the lack of contact is due to you or your spouse, that does not alleviate your financially responsibility to your child. Visitation does not equal child support.

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August 26, 2009

Florida Stepparent Adoption


As an attorney Jacksonville, Florida I have handled stepparent adoptions and seen the incredible impact and purpose it has for a family. If you are married and your child views your spouse as their parent, then you are probably wanting to pursue a stepparent adoption action. Whether you were previously married or had a child out of wedlock, and the other parent has not been in your child's life, then your current spouse and you may have discussed a stepparent adoption.
There are a few steps in getting a stepparent adoption and it is wise to discuss your case with an attorney that has experience in the area. However, to bring a few important issues to light I will explain the process.
1. If you are the Mother of a child and have not spoken to the child's father or have no way of contacting the child's father, then you may have to do a request into the Office of Vital Statistics Putative Father Registry. If no one has claimed that he may be the father of your child, then you will receive a certificate stating such.
2. An Affidavit of Diligent Search may need to be filed with the Court, which proves that you have looked for the other parent and have been unable to locate him/her.
3. If you do know where the other parent is, then he/she may voluntarily consent to the Termination of Parental Rights.
4. If the other parent refuses to consent, but has been absent from the Child's life for an extensive period of time, then you may file a Petition for Termination of Parental Rights that lays out the groundwork for why his/her rights should be terminated.
5. Once any or all of the above is completed, then you can file a petition for stepparent adoption.
In so doing, the stepparent is basically telling the court that she/he will be responsible for the wellfare and financial responsibilities of the Child. That she/he understands and consents to the Child having the right to claim to be his/her natural child for purposes of inheritance. That she/he has the financial ability to provide for the Child now and even if the parties (husband and wife) were to divorce.
It's an amazing process. While it sounds difficult due to the actions needed in steps 1 through 4, it is often quite simple and painless for the parties seeking the action. The reality is that the Court wants to know that the actions are in the best interest of the child. It is always better for a child to have two parents when available.

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August 25, 2009

Florida Parental Rights, Termination and Child Support


In Jacksonville, Florida, as a family law attorney, I receive questions about terminating parental rights. This is not an easy process since there are many protections in place for parents. I will probably do a series of blogs on this topic in order to cover each area, but we will start with the consent and agreement of both parties.
If a parent would like to terminate his/her parental rights, then there are certain things that must be in place. The following would be required:
1. There is another person to take the role of mother/father both emotionally and financially.
2. The parent is doing so knowingly with full understanding and willfully.
3. The termination is in the best interest of the child.

If these things are met, then the Court may grant termination of parental rights. The difficulty is, this does not alleviate child support that may be due from years of nonpayment. If a parent owes child support arrearages (back child support), then the termination of their rights does not alleviate or diminish the back child support to be paid.
The only time that can go away is if the other parent (non-terminating) is willing to forgive any and all arrearage. However, if the payments were through the state's Department of Revenue, then even agreeing does not end the State's interest in collecting that money on behalf of the Child.
If this is something that you are interested in pursuing, it is best to work with an attorney on this matter whether your are the one terminating or the one requesting termination.

August 24, 2009

Florida Visitation or Time Sharing: Rights of a Parent Living Away

Written By: Lenorae C. Atter, Florida Family Law Attorney

In Florida, many courts have time sharing or visitation guidelines and they can be specific to distance. In Jacksonville, we have the 4th Judicial Circuit Guidelines, which provide for time sharing throughout the school year and holidays.

Time sharing is now the correct term for visitation and a time sharing plan is required in a case involving children. You can either use the court guidelines develop your own, as long as the other party and/or the court agrees with the schedule.
Long-Distance Guidelines in Jacksonville set-up a number of opportunities for visitation. There is an ability to continue with alternating weekends, but it must be done in the town where the child resides. You can have once/month at your home, depending on the situation surrounding your case. In addition, you will be entitled, again depending on the facts of your case, to timesharing during the Spring Break time each year and summers beginning 5 days after school gets out until 2 weeks before school commences.
Long distance timesharing often has costs associated, so you have to determine what is best for you and the other parent for the child to stay connected to both parents.

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August 21, 2009

Florida Relocation Statute- Florida Divorce and Time Sharing/Vistation

Written By: Lenorae C. Atter, Florida Family Law Attorney

In Florida, there is a relocation statute if you are moving with a child. As a Jacksonville divorce and family law attorney, I realize that not everyone understands that moving may require court action. Relocating for a job, marriage or any other reason? If you have a child and looking to move, then you may have to file a Petition for Relocation with the Court.
Florida law has a Relocation Statute, which requires that a relocation petition be filed with the Court if you are planning on moving, with your child, 50 miles or more away from your current residence. This is required if the move or relocation is for more than 60 days.
Filing a petition for relocation also requires that the other parent is served with the papers and (s)he has 20 days to file an objection. If an objection is not filed within that time period, then the Court will assume the move is in the best interest of the Child.
If the other parent will agree to your relocation, then you can file an agreement with the Court. The catch is, there a number of provisions within the Relocation Statute that must be met or you could face contempt, the Court can require you to return, and the Court may go so far as to change the primary residential parent.

August 11, 2009

Florida Divorce and Child Support Frequently Asked Questions

By: Lenorae C. Atter, Jacksonville Family Law Attorney
1. What will I pay in child support?
- Child support is a calculation mandated by Florida Statute 61.30 and is based on the net income of the parties as a whole and the individual's percentage of that whole. There are things taken into the calculation consideration such as mandatory retirement and union dues, insurance costs of the child(ren) and day care costs for the child(ren). There can be considerations given for special needs or circumstances, but typically the calculated number will be the actual child support to be paid.

2. Which parent will get the child(ren)?
- The court can look at the history of the family unit, to which parent will be more likely to provide for the child's needs, etc. Ultimately the decision is based on the best interest of the child. While the Courts should look solely to the factors impacting the child, sadly there are still biases that sometimes remain, but those can be defeated under the right set of circumstances.

3. How often will I see my child?
- In Jacksonville, we have 4th Judicial Circuit Time Sharing Guidelines, which sets up the minimum amount of visitation. Each circuit is different, but many have the same concepts in place. Basically, the guidelines set-up alternating weekends, one night per week for dinner, and alternating holidays. Summer timesharing is often switched.

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July 28, 2009

Military Family Law: Child Support, Alimony and Retirement

Written By: Lenorae C. Atter, Florida Family Law Attorney

In Jacksonville, Florida, as a family law and divorce lawyer, I represent a number of individuals who have been or are in the military. Military family law differs in that many different amounts of income are factored in for purposes of child support and alimony. In addition, retirement is based on the military's determination of years in plus points earned during the time served in the Reserves.
In order to best determine the rights you and your children have while dealing with a military family case, it is best to speak with a lawyer that is familiar with all aspects of the system. BAH and BAS do change, but child support still factors those in. In addition, since some of the benefits are based on marriage and children, the military actually has some control until a civil court determines the actual amounts to go to the other party.

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July 25, 2009

Jacksonville Visitation and Family Law Attorney Featured in Florida Times Union

In a Florida Times Union article this week, summer visitation/timesharing was a topic of the article, " 'Summer switch' under way for divorced parents, kids", which quoted our attorney, Lenorae C. Atter, on the ins and outs of summer timseharing.
The article focused on the changes for both the children and the parents during the summer months, when visitation alternates from weekends to six (6) week visitation/timesharing. Lenorae Atter added to the article her thoughts on the matter stating, "Atter did the summer switch herself as a child and said problems can arise when kids want to go to camp or other activities in the summer, which can lead parents to feel like “their time” is being infringed upon." She went onto include that timesharing plans and parenting plans work to assist the parties in better communicating with each other and taking the children's interests into consideration as they get older.
Timesharing and parenting plans have been in effect since October 1, 2008, and they are helping parents put the children's needs first in the divorce. A great first step in the way we handle visitation in the future.
Lenorae Atter's reference to "sit back and enjoy the ride" truly is a motto for parents and children to benefit from in the annual time exchange.

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July 8, 2009

Divorce and Grandparents: Florida Family Law

Written By: Lenorae Atter, Florida Family Law Attorney
Going through a divorce in Jacksonville, Florida or its surrounding areas can raise questions involving visitation, child support, alimony, etc. However, what about grandparents and the impact of divorce on them? In Florida, grandparents are not given a statutory right or any other right to the grandchildren, except as decided by the parent(s).
This matter may arise if the parties that are divorcing disagree on the grandparents having visitation, or if one of the parents is deployed, incarcerated or otherwise not allowed visitation with the children. The primary residential parent would be the decision maker for the children in that scenario. Therefore, that parent can determine with the grandparents will actually get any form of visitation with the children. As grandparents, it is best to keep a good relationship with your own child and your child's spouse/exspouse in order to preserve a relationship with your grandchildren.

July 6, 2009

Stability in a Divorcing World: Florida Divorce

In Jacksonville, Florida family law, I deal with cases involving children, divorces, support, visitation and custody, and as d a person interested in my work, I find different information helpful. What is most interesting, however, is that there are so many different statistics we can view, pieces we can read on the effects of divorce, societal changes and how they are affected, and multiple other news and information outlets regarding this topic. However, it does not seem like most of the information provided is from firsthand experience and what a child may have witnessed in their broken home(s).
Recently, I was reading an article in the Washington Post on, the book "The Marriage- Go-Round" and how Americans have a higher rate of divorce than any other country in the world. Not only that, Florida has a higher divorce rate than mid-west or western states. The article discusses the whys and why nots and stability's role in our lives. "If you already have a child and you've broken up with the other parent, slow down. Take your time bringing new people into your household." Andrew J. Cherlin, a Johns Hopkins University sociologist.
The issues raised in the book and the article are all factors in considering a "Parenting Plan," which is now a requirement in divorces involving children. It allows you to factor in the many difficult decisions you and your exspouse will be making through your child(ren)'s life. It's important to consider factors in dealing with new relationships and introducing them into your lives. It also allows you to consider birthday, graduations, weddings, etc.

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July 1, 2009

Michael Jackson Baby Mama Drama: Jacksonville, Florida Family Law

1195577_us-1.jpgWHO IS MICHAEL JACKSON'S BABIES' MAMA??? In fact, who is Michael Jackson's babies' father??? News reports have surfaced that neither Debbie Rowe nor Michael Jackson are the biological parents of the three Jackson children. Thus the question arises: Who Will Get Custody of These Children? News reports are stating that Debbie Rowe served as a surrogate mother to the children meaning that her egg was not used in the fertilization of the children nor was Michael Jackson's sperm. Reports are that the children were conceived in vitro using donor eggs and donor sperm. Legally speaking, this really should not make much difference in terms of custody of the children as the children are considered heirs at law of Michael Jackson and his mother will probably be the most likely candidate to gain custody and control of the children and their interests. What this news does do is eliminate Debbie Rowe as a possible candidate for custody of the kids as she served only as an incubation chamber and has no real biological ties to the children. If you or your loved one has a question about custody, paternity, child support or any other issue in Duval, Clay, Nassau or St. Johns Counties, please contact our firm at 904-355-8888 for help in addressing these important complex matters.

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June 19, 2009

Florida Divorce and Business

Written By: Lenorae C. Atter
As a family law attorney in Jacksonville, Florida, I handle a number of different divorce cases. The issues are always different because individuals and their assets, debts, businesses, incomes and matters related to their children are always different. One thing I have noticed is the surprise of my clients when they discover a business that was started during the marriage is actually a marital asset or liability, depending on the company's solvency.
In order to define the asset/liability, it is important to recognize what the business is and if the business is solely dependent on the spouse(s) work. A business valuation is typically a good idea, so that an outside, neutral party can determine the actual value of the property.
The other factor in determining the actual income of the parties relies on getting the business information since a number of business owners pay personal things from their business accounts. These accounts are all discoverable during the divorce proceedings, so both sides are on equal footing throughout the process.
Multiple financial actions, businesses and assets, is a great reason to incorporate a neutral financial planner/advisor into the right types of divorce proceedings. One previously mentioned in my blog was Collaborative Law, which uses a neutral financial advisor to assist the clients in reaching an amicable resolution to the divorce.

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June 17, 2009

Florida Divorce and Preserving Your Rights

In a Jacksonville, Florida divorce, just the entry of the, "parties are returned to the status of being single" does not bar a claim for child support, division of assets and liabilities and all other related issues. Basically, it is a tool often used so that the parties can declare themselves divorce, but the proceedings continue the path they were on.
The difficulty is, when one party sees this, it may cause panic, tears, concern and frustration. Actually going about the process correctly takes finesse, patience and understanding for the other party. Explain to them that they are not stopped from getting matters resolved, but simply taking care of one issue, the actual marriage that still holds them as "husband and wife."
When going through such a process, make certain that you have certain things in place like a provision that the Final Judgment does not preclude further action. However, in regards to child support, Florida law makes it clear that you cannot actually negotiate away your right or responsibility to child support.

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June 10, 2009

Child Support Collection & Credits in Jacksonville, Florida

Lately I have been getting a lot of clients who are having trouble with one of two problems: 1. they are owed child support and can't collect it or 2. they are paying child support at an exorbitant exaggerated rate and cannot get credits for the overpayments. Oftentimes the Department of Revenue is not able to handle the number of cases they are receiving and sometimes mistakes are made. Here is an article about an Orlando woman who was having child support woes. http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/orl-asecsupport041909apr19,0,6230693.story If you are having trouble collecting child support that is owed to you or if you are paying too much and are not getting credited properly, please call our firm for help.

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June 5, 2009

Out-of-State Father and Child Support: Florida Family Law

In Florida, the statutes regarding paternity, child support, visitation and custody have different laws when dealing with an out-of-state parent. I am a Jacksonville area divorce and family law attorney and recently I had a case involving a mother and child that reside here and a father that lives out-of-state. The issue that was difficult to overcome is, "which court is proper to bring actions regarding the child?"
Florida Statute 48.193 requires that the out-of-state resident to have some form of contact with the State of Florida. While the presumed father has the option to prevail on this issue if he has not been in Florida, nor was the child conceived in Florida, that does not resolve the issue for the presumed father.
Once a child resides in Florida, the Florida courts have jurisdiction over that child through the UCCJEA and Florida Statute 61.514. Therefore, all actions dealing with visitation and custody must be brought in Florida, so an out-of-state court may be required by the presumed father, to determine paternity and possibly child support, but if the father wants visitation with the child, he will be required to file in Florida.
Also, if any of the actions in Florida Statute 80.2011, then Florida can have jurisdiction over all aspects involving the child, regardless of the other party's contacts with Florida.
Basically, if someone brings the issue of jurisdiction when dealing with a child, the individual will most likely have to hire an attorney in two (2) states as opposed to one (1). It ultimately makes more sense for all actions to be handled in one court and one state and to save the cost for attorneys.

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May 22, 2009

Parenting Coach: Florida Divorce and Family Law

In Jacksonville, Florida family law , I have clients that are facing huge changes in their life whether it is from divorce or determination of paternity. The majority have never been a parent or have never been a single parent. In addition, some have jobs that have taken them from their children. The solution may be in a service being offered by Ronnie Cage, who has a Master Trainer Certification in the “Fatherhood Development” Curriculum from the National Partnership for Community Leadership. I had the pleasure of speaking with him and finding out that he coaches fathers on how to become dads to their kids whether for the first time or the first time in a long time.
Mr. Cage has found his calling in helping individuals learn, mainly fathers, to be better communicators, listeners and parents. It's a service we could all benefit from in our lives, but we can't often find the recipe to make the proper parent pie. Mr. Cage, and others in his field, may be the missing cookbook to better parenting.

May 20, 2009

Jacksonville, Florida Divorce, A New Approach: Collaborative Law

Written By: Lenorae C. Atter

Collaborative action for divorce, child support, visitation, alimony and other family law matters is not common in Jacksonville, Florida.
Collaborative Law is being practiced in most parts of the country, including South Florida, but has not found its popularity in Jacksonville yet. As a Jacksonville divorce lawyer who wants my clients walking away with a smile rather than the need for the spa, I am a huge advocate of this process. I don't think children should be the victim of their parents' inability to communicate, but should be healthier through divorce because the parents have a since of stability throughout the process. That is what is offered in a collaborative law setting. It's the attorneys and the clients, from the very beginning, agreeing that a divorce process aimed at resolving the divorce, custody, child support, marital home, assets, and finances can actually be done amicably from beginning to end.
For those of you who are skeptics, I promise it works. It brings in the two sides, but it also incorporates a neutral mental health professional, financial advisor (if needed), mental health therapists for both sides (if needed), and mental health therapists for the children (if needed). It's a way for constant fighting to be put to a halt so that you can learn to communicate, since like it or not, you are going to have issues arise during your life and the life of your children and why not figure out how to work through those than just agree to disagree for the next 80 years. Who needs the stress?

May 1, 2009

Florida Divorce and Communicating with Your Child

Florida Family Law has a new requirement for a Florida Parenting Plan for any divorce involving children. As a Florida Family Law attorney, I think this is a great way for parents to put the children first in their divorce. However, it's just as important to communicate with your children when you're going through a divorce.
We all think that divorce or issues involving our kids is an "adult" issue. The truth is that children feel the affects from beginning to end. As much as divorce may have impacted your life, their life is impacted even more. During a divorce, it is important to keep an open line of communication with your children. Remind them that this is not their fault, remind them that you are both their parents regardless of what mom and dad decide to do. Remind your children that they will still see the other parent.
Think of divorce as a way to learn new communication skills with not only your soon to be ex-spouse, but your children too.
Intentional conversation, open conversation, can make the difference for you and the children. Do not be afraid to let them in, just do not use the opportunity to put the other parent down. Open communication does not equal negative communication. The trick is to remain positive, but realistic. Do not promise things that you cannot deliver, simply let them know what is happening and how things will change, but also how some things will stay the same.
The boxing gloves, while they should never be put on, should be reserved for the attorneys and the other parent, NOT the children.

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April 13, 2009

The Taxation of Health Benefits in Florida: How It Will Affect Family Law & Children's Health Benefits

In Florida, when parties obtain a dissolution of marriage and there are children involved, one issue is which party will carry the health insurance on the children. If the party who does not have primary timesharing with the children carries the health insurance for the children, he or she will receive a "credit" towards the child support obligation to help cover the cost of the health insurance. As such, it can be a benefit to be the party who sustains the health insurance obligation. However, recently, the government has been exploring the idea of taxing health insurance benefits to employees. Under the current law, employer contributions for health insurance premiums provided for employees are not taxable income to employees, but that could change in the near future. Be aware that if health benefits become taxed as income to the party maintaining the insurance on behalf of the children that this could affect the child support, net monthly income and "credits" provided to the obliging party.

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April 13, 2009

Laid Off Florida Dad Left with $200 Per Month After Child Support Payments Were Increased by Court

MoneyvLove.jpgWhen John Nelson of Orlando Florida was making six figures as a software executive, it was no struggle for him to pay $2200 a month in child support to his ex-wife. But when he got laid off and couldn’t find work, the story was different. He filed for a reduction in his support payments, but had to wait nearly a year to get to court – and he was required to keep paying the support while he waited for his case to come up.

By the time his case was heard, Nelson had found a job as a high school science teacher, making significantly less than at his previous job. He was astounded when Family law Judge Julian Piggotte not only denied his request to lower his payment, but actually raised his responsibility by $300 a month – leaving him just $58 a week to live on. The judge then recused herself from the case because her husband is a coworker of Nelson's ex-wife. Nelson sold his house and moved to Georgia to look for a better paying job. While he may be able to afford the large child support payments, he will be living father away from his kids. Find out more about this topic at Many Dads Asking For Changes In Child Support.

When a parent loses a job, the children still need food, clothing and medical care among other things. Courts make child support decisions based on what is in the best interest of the child, not of the parents. If you are involved in a divorce or child support issue, please contact our firm for expert legal counsel.

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April 10, 2009

Florida Divorce In A Bad Economy

In Jacksonville, Florida, like the rest of the nation, parties are finding it difficult to make the final split and afford a divorce attorney to deal with important issues. Issues that can arise in a Florida Divorce are: the dvision of assets and debts; calculating alimony; child support payments; child custody; domestic abuse; and the valuation and division of the family business.
Some suggestions in divorcing in a bad economy include finding a divorce attorney in Jacksonville, Florida who will work with you on attorney's fee payments, who will provide a free consultation or who may engage in a limited appearance on your behalf to draft and file your pleadings or to serve subpoenas or summonses. There are many creative ways to secure a good divorce or family law attorney in Florida in the waning economy. Be certain to inquire about ways to ease the payment and the process when speaking with a family law attorney.
Divorces can get expensive, but they don't necessarily have to. Be savvy and ask questions. This is a great time to buy a house or a car. Shop for a divorce attorney in the same way as you would those items. You will not be disappointed when you get the same good deal.

March 20, 2009

Florida Family Protection: Handling DCF Actions

In Florida, the Department of Children and Families (DCF)is designed to protect children. The goal is not to shatter the home, but to protect the safety and welfare of the children. In its protective role, DCF can act in more of a prosecutorial manner and rather than seeing an incident as a possible accident, they become more accusatory in nature.
Some of the consequences of DCF involvement is that they have the ability to remove children from your home pending an investigation and during the completion of a case plan, which could take from 6 months to a year, or more. If the case plan is not properly completed, then DCF has the ability to petition the courts to declare the child(ren) dependent on the state, terminate parental rights and place the child(ren) in foster care or up for adoption.
Our firm has represented numerous parents and grandparents who have faced DCF charges for putting a child or children in harms way. The reality is that DCF can have an awful impact and disruption on your family and representation is important.

March 19, 2009

Florida Grandparents Rights: Florida Divorce and Other Issues

Grandparents' rights in Florida are not easy to accomplish. The Florida Supreme Court has held that the Florida Constitution makes it a personal right to determine who parents allow around their children, even when the excluded parties are family members. In the Jacksonville, Florida area, there are attorneys working to fight against the perception of no rights for grandparents and sometimes there are creative methods that can be used.
The common scenario we receive is someone calling and stating, "My daughter isn't allowing me or my Husband to see our grandkids! I want to file a petition for grandparent visitation with the courts! Can you help me?" While the situation is sad and usually not in the best interests of the children to cease a close familial relationship with their grandparents, the Florida law is such that grandparents do not have an inherent right to visitation with their grandchildren.
However, the situation is not completely dire. Sometimes there are ways around the issue and having someone review your particular facts may be beneficial. Recently in St. Augustine, Florida, a man was accused of killing his wife and was charged with the crime. Prior to his arrest, the man completed a Power of Attorney so that his children could be cared for by his parents. While this is an extreme example, the underlying fact remains that parents can give up their visitation with the children to their parents if they are going to be away for a length of time. This may be a "loop hole" for some looking to see the grandchild that now lives with their child's exspouse

March 11, 2009

It's Prep Time for a Florida Divorce

As a Florida divorce attorney, one sees many reasons that people reach divorce. Often, unhappiness describes the general mood of your marriage and you know that divorce is the only answer, its time to get your game face on and start thinking like a business person.
If you haven't given much thought to your finances because your spouse handles them, start looking at them. You need to know what expenses you have and what assets you have.

A Georgia lawyer who personally dealt with divorce and a certified financial planner founded the Institute for Certified Divorce Planners. They offer financial survival tips for the transition from married life to single life. It's not a "stick-it-to-your-spouse" moment, it's a "get a grip" momemnt. They make suggestions for what to do before the papers are filed, with the goal of easing the financial impact of the transition from wedlock to singlehood

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March 9, 2009

Putting Down the Boxing Gloves: Florida Divorce

In Florida, when going through a divorce or separation, it is important to get a lawyer that understands the importance of putting down the boxing gloves.
You are ending a marriage and going from love to shuttering at the sounds of her voice or the site of his face, an experienced divorce attorney should take control and guide the client through a constructive not destructive approach. Even though the client may want to "take him for all he's worth" or "destroy her", its the lawyer's responsibility to provide a workable solution especially if there are children involved.
The members of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers have proven that resolutions are often reached without the need for trial. In a 2007 poll, 58 percent of its members indicated that more of their divorce cases over the past five years were settled without trial. Only 12 percent said they were resolving fewer cases without trial. In this present economy, it has been shown that there is a clear preference among middle-income clients to reach agreements without a trial to cut down on the costs of the litigation.
This is not to say that nasty divorce cases are a thing of the past. Not so. In Florida Family, the areas of custody and parenting issues are the highest contested disputes, followed by spousal support and division of retirement accounts.
Due to the new Parenting Statute that went into effect October 1, 2008, the issue of shared parenting should help reduce custody litigation. Nonetheless, the level of resentment the parties may have for one another can drastically affect both the tone and the strife of divorce proceedings.
In the end, there is usually never a true "winner" in a divorce proceeding because of the emotionalism of the area of law. However, your lawyer must be experienced enough to counsel you through the proceeding and to protect your interests from the initial client consultation through mediation to the final hearing. Its important to find a lawyer who doesn't create roadblocks to settling just so he/she can pay his mortgage by billing you. Once the boxing gloves come off and people start to heal, a workable agreement should be able to be reached for both parties ultimate best benefit.

March 6, 2009

Child Support and Bankruptcy: Florida Divorce, Paternity and Child Support

In dealing with Florida family law cases with children, child support is an obvious factor. When going through a Florida divorce or paternity action child support will most likely be ordered by the court. In today's economic times, many more Floridians are facing bankruptcy and how that affects their Florida child support obligations.
Often, one party files for bankruptcy believing that any financial obligation to the other party will be dischargeable in the bankruptcy. On October 1, 2005, the new bankruptcy law went into effect and is entitled BAPCPA. The new law changed many things in the bankruptcy code including how a "domestic support obligation" will be treated. The support obligation can come in many forms such as alimony, child support, money owed to a spouse, or a money obligation incurred during a divorce agreement. Before BAPCPA, the bankruptcy law stated that you could NOT discharge a child support obligation or alimony in a Chapter 7 but you could discharge any money owed to a spouse under a divorce agreement as long as the money wasn't a part of the child support or alimony obligation. This is usually termed as an "equalizing payment" in the final agreement or judgment
Under the old law, if the spouse filing for bankruptcy couldn't pay the debt or if discharging the debt would be less detrimental to the spouse receiving the funds, it could be listed and discharged. Not so with the new law. In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the spouse will still have to pay and will not be able to discharge the debt so when the bankruptcy is over, the spouse will still owe the debt to the other spouse
If you or your spouse are having to file for bankruptcy, I encourage you to explore the idea of filing a joint case. This may be more beneficial to both of you in the end. The Bankruptcy Law Network is a blog that contains lots of good information concerning bankruptcy. If you are considering bankruptcy, you should check out this blog because it has information regarding bankruptcy, debt and collection.

March 2, 2009

Jacksonville, Florida's New Parenting Plan Requirements

In Jacksonville, Florida, Family Law and Visitation took on a new role on October 1, 2008 and the way custody and family law has been practiced in Florida is no more. With the new parenting plan statute, judges are no longer to use taboo words such as custody, visitation, custody litigation, primary residence or access and contact. The words will now be replaced with the terms "parenting", "parenting plan litigation" or "time sharing schedule litigation", "time sharing majority of the time", and "time sharing".When dealing with visitation and parent-relations, "best interests" of the child factors have now changed and new factors have been implemented in Florida Family Law. The Florida parenting plan statute is designed to isolate the children from the divorce proceedings as much as possible and to emphasize drafting a plan to help parents in divorce meet the child's needs.
The following factors are now considered when parents are divorcing and custody and children are at issue:
(a) The demonstrated capacity & disposition of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close & continuing parent-child relationship, to honor the timesharing schedule, and to be reasonable when changes are required.
(b) The anticipated division of parental responsibilities after the litigation, including the extent to which parental responsibilities will be delegated to third parties.
(c) The demonstrated capacity & disposition of each parent to determine, consider & act upon the needs of the child as opposed to the needs or desires of the parent.
(d) The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity.
(e) The geographic viability of the parenting plan, with special attention paid to the needs of school-age children and the amount of time to be spent traveling to effectuate the parenting plan. This factor does not create a presumption for or against relocation of either parent with a child The permanence, as a family unit, of the existing or proposed custodial home.
(f) The moral fitness of the parents.
(g) The mental and physical health of the parents.
(h) The home, school, and community record of the child.
(i) The reasonable preference of the child, if the child is of sufficient age.

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February 23, 2009

Florida Divorce and Injunctions, What's Your Function?

In Florida divorces, Injunctions are prevalent. A Florida Injunction can be handled by your Florida Divorce Lawyer. There are specific criteria that must be met before a court can enter a permanent injunction. Section 741.30 of the Florida Statutes lays out exactly what must be argued to have a temporary injunction entered as a permanent injunction. The statute says that the petitioner must have been a victim of domestic violence OR have reasonable cause to believe that he or she is in imminent danger of becoming the victim of any act of domestic violence. The Elements which must be proven at a hearing before the Circuit Court are as follows:
1. Must be between family or household members.
2. The petitioner must claim to have been the victim of DV or is in fear of imminent DV attack. 3. The sworn petition shall allege the existence of such domestic violence and shall include the specific facts and circumstances.
4. Jurisdiction: Where petitioner currently resides, temporarily resides, where respondent resides, where domestic violence occurred.
There are specific ramifications of a temporary injunction being made permanent. If the petition is granted the respondent will be required to complete a 26 week Batterers' Intervention Program (and pay for it) if (a) the respondent has willfully violated the temporary injunction or (2) has ever been found guilt of a crime involving violence (batteries) or threat of violence (assaults). You should contact a Florida Family Law attorney regarding your needs for an injunction or to defend against allegations made against you.

February 20, 2009

Managing Divorce and Finances

Navigating your way through unchartered divorce territory can lead to trouble. Often, paying for a divorce can be difficult, especially when one of you makes little to no money. Normally, one spouse ends up footing the bill and incurring extra expenses while the other spouse pays for very little. What can you do when you're waiting for the divorce to be finalized??? TEMPORARY NEEDS HEARING is the answer!

In a temporary needs hearing, a judge will look at each party's income to debt ratio and order a temporary spousal support, child support and marital debt payments. The temporary needs hearing is probably the most important hearing during the dissolution process before finalization occurs. It helps to set the tone for the rest of the divorce process and it also identifies the responsibilities of each party regarding the marital liabilities.

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February 18, 2009

Economic Storm Hits Florida Divorces

1060924_rail_2.jpg In Florida, rising tides of economic instability play a dramatic role in divorce. During their pending divorce, couples are remaining under the same roof due to the housing market. Divorce lawyers recognize that the marital home has transformed from an asset to a liability. However, the idea of splitting the debt associated with the home can be very appealing.

Divorce is affected by the economy because it plays a roled in factoring spousal support, debt division, living arrangements and tax consequences of the parties. In a Florida divorce, the parties assets and liabilities are divided equally, the marital home is the major asset in most cases. The slow market has created difficulties for the parties because most of the time, the marital home has not sold by the time the divorce is being finalized. With difficult time, often there are difficult questions, divorce is no different. Questions range from: Who is going to be responsible for the mortgage? to Who gets to live in the home while it is on the market? Hard times need creative solutions,just as Congress, and divorce lawyers can help divorcing parties navigate through the muddy waters of the present market.

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February 16, 2009

How Does Florida Determine Child Support Payments?


Florida law requires that all divorcing couples with children have a parenting plan, which includes support obligations for both parents. How do the courts in Florida determine a parent’s child support responsibility? The formula, outlined in Florida Statute 61.30, uses the parents monthly income to figure the total child support payment amount. Then each parent is assigned a percentage of responsibility based on their income as a percentage of the total income of both parents. There are some other factors that come into play as well.

Child care: 100% of child care costs due to employment must be added to the support amount.

Health insurance: Any premiums and ongoing medical expenses not covered by insurance must be added in.

Determine the actual amount of support: Florida allows parents to increase or decrease support obligations by as much as 5% without court approval.

Adjust for overnight visits: Child support must be calculated based on the number of nights the child regularly stays with each parent.

Add a provision for terminating child support: In order to automatically end support payments when the child turns eighteen, joins the military, or other recognized events, parents must include a provision for this in the parenting plan. Otherwise the parents will have to return to court to reduce or eliminate the payments.

Consider insurance: The court may require a payer to obtain life insurance. The court cannot require disability insurance, but parents can include a provision to maintain an existing policy.

If you are considering divorce and have children, please contact our firm for legal counsel. Find out more about Florida child support law at Florida Parenting Plans - Child Support Issues to Consider.

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February 13, 2009

Visitation Rights in Florida: Can My Former Spouse Leave the State of Florida With My Child?

In a majority of Florida visitation cases, stopping the relocation of a custodial parent is difficult. After a divorce, determining paternity, or separating, relocating or moving with a child is not as easy as hiring a moving van. In Florida, there is a relocation statute requiring the relocating parent to inform the other parent of his or her intention to relocate and file that notice with the courts.
Once notice is provided, the parent that is not relocating has the option to file an objection to the move, with the court. Once that objection is filed, the judge must have a hearing to determine if the move will be permitted.
At the hearing, the parent that is relocating must show the court that the move is in the child's best interest and that it will not infringe on the non-relocating parent's visitation and relationship with the minor child. Also, there has to be a showing that the parties are able to afford travel expenses involved in continuing that visitation.
The courts want to preserve the non-relocating parent's relationship with the minor child and if the relocation would significantly diminish that relationship then the courts may be more apt to preserve the visitation rather than allow the relocation.

Written by: Whitney R. Lonker
Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A.

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February 11, 2009

Bankruptcy and Child Support: Florida Family Law

In Florida, an economic recession with a child support obligation is not easily overcome. Bankruptcy does not discharge a child support obligation.
Section 523(a)(15) of 11 U.S.C. Sec. 23 now says that debts incurred by a debtor to a spouse, former spouse or child, in the course of a divorce or dissolution action, cannot be discharged in bankruptcy. Notice how the law includes debts owed to a child. In Florida, the law states that the child support belongs to the child, and the parent acts as a trustee over that money to use for the care and benefit of the child prior to the child attaining the age of the majority which is usually eighteen (18) years of age. The child support obligation cannot be discharged in bankruptcy.

Written by: Whitney R. Lonker
Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A.

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February 2, 2009

A Florida Divorce Makes Yankee Fans Happy


New York Yankee fans can rest assured that Alex Rodriguez (A-Rod) will be able to focus on baseball this year. His Florida divorce is over after less than a year battling with his (ex) wife, Cynthia Rodriguez. The couple was able to reach a settlement agreement, trumping the need to go to court.

Cynthia Rodriguez filed for divorce in Miami, Florida in July, 2008. The petition filed with the court stated, “The marriage of the parties is irretrievably broken because of the husband’s extramarital affairs and other marital misconduct.” Florida is a “no-fault” divorce state, meaning that the affairs really held no legal bearing on alimony. However, any money A-Rod used in advancing the relationships could come back to pad the pocket of Mrs. A-Rod. For example, a trip to England to visit a certain pop star could be fully reimbursed depending on the settlement reached by the couple.

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January 30, 2009

How Often Can I See My Child? Florida Visitation and Timesharing

In Florida, the parent that does not have the child the majority of the time does have rights. The court's main objective is to foster a good relationship between children and parents. In Jacksonville, Florida, the Court has developed the 4th Judicial Circuit Visitation/Timesharing Guidelines to help institute a satisfying schedule for both parents. These guidelines are suggested for parents that cannot reach a satisfying agreement regarding timesharing (visitation). If you and the other parent are able to agree on a schedule, then you can have a more liberal plan in place. Factors in determining the proper timesharing/visitation is also different when the child is under the ageto attend school and it changes if the child lives in a different city or state, depending on the distance.

Parental time sharing is considered important in Florida because it is in the best interest of the child to have a relationship with both parents, if possible. Florida Statute 61.13 details some of the aspects of handling visitation, but typically the courts in your area will have certain guidelines they follow. It's important to know what rights you have as a parent and to implement those rights with the court.

Written by: Lenorae C. Atter
Family Law Attorney
Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A.

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January 28, 2009

A Divided Home - Florida Timesharing and Visitation


Having grown up in Florida, in a divided home. this is something I know a lot about. As a family law attorney in Jacksonville, Florida, I utilize what I learned as a child in dealing with similar situations. Dividing holidays, birthdays, special occasions and family vacations are a concern for any parent going through a divorce or paternity action. In Jacksonville, FL, we have the 4th Judicial Circuit Visitation Guidelines, which were designed by the court to make division of time easier on parents when they cannot reach an agreement.
Development of a timesharing and parneting plan assists the parents in formulating their schedule for the youth of the child, not just year-to-year. For instance, in accordance with the Jacksonville-area guidelines, holidays are alternated between the parents. In odd numbered years Thanksgiving will be with one and Christmas will be with the other and it will switch for the following,even-numbered year. If you are fortunate to all live in the same city, then it is alternated a little differently.
In approaching the subject with your children, it's important to keep a positive attitude about the changes. Remembering the "silver lining" ideas, such as more presents and twice the celebrations. I remember having two birthday parties, which seemed like the coolest thing in the world when I was a kid.
When separating and developing two different households things will never be perfect, but they can and often do work.

By: Lenorae C. Atter
Family Law Attorney
Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A.

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January 26, 2009

How can I get alimony? Florida Alimony Statute

Florida Statute 61.08 provides the rules for receiving alimony. However, only the courts and many lawsuits have created the boundaries for what are considered short-term and long-term marriages. As such, many people feel that if they are married and their spouse provided for them, then they are entitled to alimony in some capacity.

If you have ever dealt with child support issues or other family law matters, then you may know that the amount in child support is determined by a calculation and the numbers don't really change one way or another because it's really a black and white issue. However, that is not true with alimony, and there are many factors that can be considered. However, the focus here is not in the aspect of determining whether you'll receive alimony, but just to clarify a few terms that you probably could not find on your own.

In first determining alimony, your legal representative and/or the court will evaluate the length of the marriage. In Florida, a long-term marriage is considered anything over 15 years of marriage and a short-term marriage is anything up to 10 years. Many people fall within a gray area, which the court has the right to use its discretion in determining and that is the 11-15 year marriages. It is important to realize that the court does have discretion to rule in accordance with the lifestyle of the parties, the work dynamic of the parties, and many other aspects. Also, since Florida does not recognize an equation for the process, often each judge has his/her own way of determining how, if any, alimony should be determined.

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January 21, 2009

Child Relocation in Florida and How It Impacts Custody and Visitation

In Florida, moving with a minor child is more than just hiring a mover. Florida Statute 61.13001 gives you specific directions in dealing with this topic, but not following the statute can lead to many issues.

If you are moving 50 or more miles away and you plan on taking your child(ren), then the statute requires that you inform the other parent by Notice and let the court know of the change. The other parent has the right to object to your relocation after receiving notice. If you move before the relocation is entered with the court, then you can be forced to return to Florida, with the child. Failure to comply can lead the court to order you stay in Florida; change the primary residence of the child; or other otions available to the court. It is important to understand that Florida Statute 61.13001 is very precise and has a number of requirements, it is important to follow the statute precisely and would be beneficial to seek legal counsel.

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January 19, 2009

Options for Teen Moms in Florida Family Law

mother_holding_babys_foot.jpgSarah Palin's daughter was 17 years old and pregnant, Jamie Lynn Spears was 16 and pregnant, and most likely your Florida teen knows someone in high school that's pregnant. Taking the political nature of the question out, as in Pro Life or Pro Choice, what are the options one has?
I'm pretty certain that many of these young girls really don't want to get married right now, but obviously that is an option. But, does it really solve the problem? In Florida we recognize that parents have the right to child support, so the old fashioned idea of pregnancy equals marriage is not really necessary. In fact, it statistically causes more problems later since the majority of marriages that end are due to the couples being too young when they got married.
Another answer is for a paternity test to be done and filed with the court in order to prove the child does have a father, and hold that father responsible for any child support obligations. In teen pregnancy the mother and father are sometimes in school, but the court can impute income for child support to be assessed. Also, the child does have the option of going on state funded medical insurance. However, this is a tough road altogether and it's important to make certain you're making the right choice.
The option that is often overlooked because emotions control is adoption. Adoption is a great way to provide a good home for a child and make certain that all of the child's needs are being met. The popular movie "Juno" focused on a 15 year-old making that decision and though it was a movie it actually did a great job of showing how many good parents there are that are not capable of having them on their own. For a teenage girl willing to carry a child for 9 months, but not being able to recognize the long responsibility and affect the choice will have on her life, adoption is a wonderful option.
Any of these options are available, but making certain that all parties, especially the child are cared for properly, it would be beneficial to meet with a family law attorney that handles these types of issues on a regular basis.

January 12, 2009

Florida Man Still Gets Child Support Bills After Death

Some people may think that child support ends with death. "Well, when I die, at least, I will not have to pay child support any longer." Not so fast, the family of Scottie Pippen is still getting child support bills for him even thought he has been dead for 10 years. The story was reported in the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

The family attempted to clarify this matter many times over. Unfortunately, some child support office is chasing down a dead man when efforts could be made to better pursue living child support obligors in the State of Florida.

Child support is court ordered pursuant to a hearing or agreement of the parties. Typically, when the child graduates high school, marries, emancipates, or otherwise becomes self sufficient. The Court order of child support must be reviewed to determine the duration of the child support obligation in Florida.

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January 9, 2009

Florida Driver's License Suspension - Failure to Pay Child Support?


In Florida, a driver's license can be suspended through the Division of Driver's License (Department of Highways and Motor Vehicles) when a person fails to pay a child support obligation. The procedures for suspending a driver's license can vary if the case is being pursued by the Department of Revenue as compared to a party with or without an attorney. Pursuant to Section 322.058, Florida Statutes Suspension of Driving Privileges Due to Support Delinquency - Reinstatement, a driver's license can be suspended when the Division of Driver's Licenses receives notice that a person has failed to comply with a subpoena, order to appear, order to show cause or similar order.

The statute was passed a tool for those receiving child support and as a punishment for those required to pay child support. It is a tool because the suspension or threatened suspension of driving privileges often encourages the person obligated to pay the support to catch up on the payments. It is a punishment of sorts at times because the suspension does punish or take away rights from the person who fails to pay for the child support obligation.

If there is a legal issue regarding child support, alimony, divorce, driver's license suspension or other Family Law related matters, it is important to retain the services of a Family Law Lawyer to represent your interests and rights.

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