money-300x200        There are few words that send shivers down the back of a higher earning spouse than “permanent alimony.” In Florida, Fla. Stat. 61.08, states after a couple has been married for seventeen (17) years, there is a rebuttal presumption that permanent alimony should be established to protect the lower earning spouse from financial ruin after a divorce.    But it is important to understand what the provision really means by taking it in parts.

First, Fla. Stat. 61.08 has many components all regarding alimony including:

  • how a court determines an amount of alimony

paperfamily-300x169Splitting up with your partner while having kids is one of the most challenging and grueling experiences that a person can face. Some partnerships do it beautifully, and can get past the differences that each adult may have with one another, and rather, can turn a broken relationship into a cooperative co-parenting structure that puts their children first.  But not all relationships are built equally, and not all personalities can work together past separation to effectively co-parent together.

When couples decide to split, the issues of child rearing become central to the disagreement between the parents.  Topics as simple as haircuts, sleepovers, and extracurricular activities can be a warzone between parents who are trying to gain control, or maintain their parenting structure.  To consider agreeing on larger issues like timesharing, religious decisions, medical choices, and education, seem like an impossibility.

The Florida Supreme Court has provided Forms 12.995(A-C), that are  fill in forms for parents to use in drafting their Parenting Plan for their children.   Form A, is the standard form when there is not a safety risk for children.  Form B is the form used by parents that have safety concerns based on domestic violence or other dangerous conditions that may require a parent to have supervised visitation or other safety measures for the child.  Finally, Form C, is the appropriate form to use when one parent is relocating to an area that will require specialized visitation structures, which is usually more than 150 miles from the child’s home.


Every parent has an ongoing responsibility to support their child.

All parents have to work together to raise their children to the best of their ability.  There are times of joy and also times of struggle.   Raising a special needs child presents its own victories and challenges, and parents find themselves in many cases with not only having the same pressures that every parent faces, but increased medical expenses, educational costs, and other specialized factors that cannot be imagined in a routine, typical budget.

When you and your co-parent decide to split, either by divorce or paternity action, there are also special considerations that you need to think about when planning how things will work moving forward.   Typically, child support is determined using five factors: the income of the Mother, the income of the Father, the number of overnight time-sharing that each parent has with the minor child, who pays for day care, and health insurance costs.   But, when your child has medical or psychological needs that are significant, Fla. Stat. 61.30 has several avenues for parents to ensure that the financial needs of the child are going to be met for the long term.     Discussing your child’s mental or physical needs with an experienced attorney is important in the proper calculation of the amount and term of child support for your child.    The attorneys at Wood, Atter, & Wolf, P.A, have represented parents of special needs children in determining if a child support increase, extension beyond the age of eighteen (18) years old, or other factors that may impact the provision of care to special needs children after parents have separated.

      3821753-300x225          Understanding divorce law is a tricky adventure.  When you are going through it, almost everyone has an experience or an opinion about how things should go or what you should do.   The truth is that every case, like every relationship, is different and while there may be some similarities between cases, no two cases will end up the same way.   Judges and lawyers rely on previous court cases to provide guidance in the courtroom based on how appellate, or higher courts, have decided, but in each case there will be some facts that make the case different enough that a new result can be reached.   When friends and family are making their suggestions, it is important to realize that they want to be helpful, but gaining real advice should come from an experienced attorney that can help you to have accurate, updated information in making your decisions.

                At Wood, Atter, & Wolf, P.A., our experienced family law team has represented clients as diverse and different as the cases, in which they are involved.   From Adoption to Dissolution of Marriage, we hear many of the same questions or misinformation that readers may be pondering, which could have a huge impact on your family law case. So, let’s set the record straight. 

5. “My friend [insert name here] said that she didn’t have to turn over any documents of her financial records in her divorce last year, so I won’t have to either.”

Job-Search-Unemployment-300x200The depressed economy has affected everyone from small business to individual workers. Unemployment is currently as high as it was during the Great Depression, and families are struggling to get through. Economic stimulus payments and unemployment benefits are now lifelines for many families to make ends meet. But what happens when you have had a job where your child support has been taken out of a paycheck that now isn’t coming anymore?

In many instances, child support is garnished from a parent’s paycheck via Income Deduction Order or Income Withholding Orders. When these orders are in place, the employer takes the child support out of parent’s check before they receive their net pay, just like payments of taxes or health insurance. When an employee is separated from employment, either by getting fired, let go, or terminated, the employer communicates this cease of employment to the relevant state agency that manages wage information and unemployment benefits. Once your unemployment begins, a portion of your unemployment will be held back for payment of part of your child support. If you are able, you should try to make up the difference in your child support so that you avoid issues that can arise by failing to pay child support.

Failure to pay child support is one of the many issues that arise in a family law case. When one parent seeks to have their child support order enforced by the court, it can devasting impact on the paying spouse who is having difficulty even on a temporary basis. It can also impact the co-parenting relationship significantly, if one parent feels that the other parent is not following through with their part of the deal of raising a child together. Having an experienced attorney represent you in these proceedings is not provided to you by the court, so retaining your own attorney is crucial in ensuring that your specific facts and circumstances are made clear to the court. If you do not pay your child, without taking action or providing the court with a reason why this inability was beyond your control, could result in you losing your driver’s license, paying a large amount in full, or even going to jail. Therefore, to avoid these problems, having an experienced family law attorney represent you to not only answer a Motion for Contempt or Motion to Suspend Driver’s License, or take proactive steps to let your co-parent know of your financial trouble and the courts will help to reduce this already stressful situation.

Relocation-Florida-Family-Law--300x234Family law cases are constantly evolving and changing, because like as children grow and change, their needs and the needs of the parents also change. In some instances, parents find that they have to move to a different state for a new job, better opportunities, or for a new marriage. When parents have divorced or have a Parenting Plan from a paternity case, where they share a minor child, when these changes occur, it’s important that you are aware of the limitations and procedures that you need to follow in order to make sure that you are following the Court’s previous orders in your case to be successful in attempting to move.

In some cases, co-parents have good communication and can understand how a different location can be better for the family as a whole. For example, if the Mother and Father have had a Parenting Plan for their child in Jacksonville, Florida, where they share time with their child equally, and the Mother is offered a job in Knoxville, Tennessee, where she can make double when she is making now, and the area that she is moving to offers a better educational system for their child, she can file to relocate to Knoxville with the minor child. If she and the Father can come to an agreement on how they will continue to co-parent their child, and share time and responsibility, even in light of the child moving to Knoxville, then the parties may be able to come to an agreement that can be approved by the assigned Judge on their case.

Obviously, in a situation like this, when one parent has the opportunity to be able to better provide for their child, and also the new location would be better for the minor child, then it makes senses that the parties can agree and work out issues like timesharing, holidays, and child support. It is always better for parents and children when a family can work together.

Coronavirus-1-300x123Couples fight and argue. Families get into disagreements. Roommates can’t get along. But, in some cases, these conflicts rise to the level that violence between people is dangerous and needs intervention. Our recent situation, where families, roommates, neighbors, and others are confined to their living spaces for elongated time periods highlight for many that their homes are not safe places for themselves or the people around them. It’s another serious dilemma facing us all as schools who watch over the safety of children are closed, and those who suffer feel as though they must suffer in silence, because there is no place that is safe for them to go.

Unfortunately, as liquor stores are considered “essential businesses” and many individuals face economic stress as well as fear from the Coronavirus, the climate for domestic violence is warming and becoming dangerous. Many law enforcement agencies have reported lower than normal call logs for assistance in situations of domestic violence, but that does not mean that the incidents themselves are lower, but rather that many who find themselves in a domestic violence situation feel as though there is no where for them to go, or they fear where they will have to go while trying to keep themselves safe during these days of “social distancing.”

If you are experiencing a violent or threatening situation in your home, now is not time to remain quiet. As a community, we are surging in reaching out to others, and being of service to one another in helping to get through this time. Calling law enforcement to report violence, or going to the hospital if you have been injured is not something that you should wait on in hopes that your partner will stop, no matter what they say. If you are being hurt, or threatened, you can go to the local courthouse in your area. In the State of Florida, the Courthouse remains open with a trained staff to help you to file the necessary Petition for Protection Against Domestic Violence, and the judges are reviewing these Petitions and placing temporary Orders for Protection Against Domestic Violence, if legally sufficient, to protect people during these times. At Wood, Atter, & Wolf, P.A., we are also working diligently through this time to help those in need that may need representation to facilitate the filing or advocacy in the courtroom of domestic violence injunctions to keep victims and children safe. As an experienced attorney in the field of domestic violence, knowing whether your situation is one that requires an injunction, and what services may available to help you through this time, is a main priority, as well as ensuring that your home can remain a safe place for you.

COVID-19-and-Family-Law-300x223The times we are living in are unprecedented.   As “non-essential” businesses are closing and schools seem to be either closing or “going online,” the endless spring break has created a situation where many co-parents lack the necessary guidance that they need to proceed these dark waters in effectively parenting.  Court orders are drafted to provide reasonable guidance for circumstances, but the current status of a national health emergency is not a provision contained in parenting plans.   A recent study of Americans found that the greatest current fear is that of “the unknown,” and when you do not know how to move through this situation regarding your child, that fear of the unknown is amplified.

Living in the eclipse of COVID-19/Corona has made many feel helpless, so what should you do to prepare for the virus with your co-parent?

Below are reasonable steps that every parent should be taking with their spouse or other parent.   Just because you may be living in a shared household, or under a timesharing parenting plan, communicating effectively about your plan, boundaries, and how to address the needs of your children is paramount to having a successful outcome for your minor children.

Florida-Alimony-Modification-300x246When you are getting divorced, the court is going to have any different components when dividing up your life between you and your spouse. From Parenting to Personal Property, the lists can be significant and the stress of balancing what your priorities can take its toll. In many cases, when spouses divorce, a big question that comes up is “what about alimony?”

In Florida, there is a gradient of marriages that helps to guide parties and judges as to when alimony is appropriate. In short term marriages, those under 7 years, the likelihood of substantial alimony is low. In moderate marriages, between 7 and 17 years, there is a better possibility that you will receive alimony, but more likely for the length of time that your marriage lasted. For individuals married for more than 17 years, there is a rebuttable presumption that the higher paid spouse will owe alimony to the lesser paid spouse for a long time period, and in some instances, permanently.

But what happens when the situation changes from when you get divorced? Many alimony paying spouses find themselves in new territory when they find out that their former spouse has now gotten married or is living with someone new. If there has been a substantial change in circumstances, then you may be entitled to a modification of your alimony. Marriage to someone new is a termination of alimony, but it does not happen automatically. Having an experienced Florida family attorney file a motion to stop your alimony, and being able to prove that your ex is remarried is a prerequisite to alimony termination. Next, if your ex is living with a new romantic partner, and they are sharing in living expenses, or there is a financial dependency between them, co-habitation or “living together” is another basis for when your alimony may be decreased or terminated. These cases are very evidence based, and that is the tricky part. Being able to prove that your ex is now living with someone else may be the hardest part.

Paternity-Fatherhood-Florida-Law-300x189Learning that you are expecting a child is one of the most exciting and life changing moments that parents experience.   Between the planning and wonder of what this new life will bring to your life, parents are on a roller coaster from the beginning.    In cases where the parents are not married and remain together, it seems like the perfect setting as you embark on a new aspect of your relationship.   In some instances, the years pass, and the couples stay together, as if just like married couples, raising their families and sharing in the memory making moments.   In others, just like married couples, the struggles of daily life and raising children take their toll on the central relationship between the parents and break ups occur.

We are faced in many cases where new fathers come in asking about their parental rights at various stages in the process of both expecting and raising their baby.    In Florida, if you are not married to the mother, Chapter 742, Florida Statutes, contains the state laws on how fathers and mothers can establish the rights of the Father.  Even if you have signed the birth certificate for your child, this act does not convey rights for decision making or timesharing to your child.  Many fathers are unaware that they need to take legal action to formally establish their rights as a father beyond just signing the birth certificate.    In many instances, we are asked when should I do that? Should I file paternity even if the mother and I are living together and raising our child together?

Our answer is simple.   You should file to establish your parental rights as soon as possible to the child’s birth, regardless of the living situation with your child’s mother or father.   This is important to establish your rights as a parent both moving forward with raising your child together and in case, your relationship breaks down.   In these situations, establishing yourself as a parent, or establishing the father’s rights, while you are still living together should be welcomed by both parents.   As a follow up to our answer, we often are asked, “but doesn’t that mean I will have to pay child even if we are living together?” The answer is no, you can establish your parental rights, and determine decision making responsibilities between yourself and the other parent while you get along so that should the parties break up, you already have the process started, and you can quickly modify your already existing paternity order to include timesharing and child support, while also maintaining consistency for your child.

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