School-Building-300x280Back to school is an exciting and hectic time for families. New school, new classroom, new teacher, but what if the same old situation exists with your co-parent where communication has hurdles, challenges, and yes disputes? Some families seem to do it seamlessly, by splitting the supplies list, attending orientations together, and sharing in the excitement of a new beginning. Others have more difficulty.

How can you help your children prepare to return to school with an uncooperative co-parent? First, know your parenting plan. Reading and comprehending the Parenting Plan entered in your case defines your timesharing, responsibilities, share of expense, and how the academic calendar affects your co-parenting relationship. These orders are typically routine and frequently addressed issues are set forth, and the order should provide guidance to navigate the path back to school.   At times, however, nuances and inferences can lead to issues where parents can find themselves disagreeing over simple issues. Speaking with an experienced family law attorney at the law firm Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A. to assist you in understanding what your rights and responsibilities are can provide invaluable guidance for the benefit of you and your children.  At Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A., we have been On Your Side – At Your Side since 1957.

Second, start planning early. The academic calendar for your county is readily available on the school district website. Each year has slight changes and every county is different. It’s important to look at the upcoming calendar, school supply list, and be informed so that you can be prepared for discussions regarding your children’s enrollment.

Social-Media-Icons-300x258Summer vacation is a great time for making memories and posting online to show off the special time you shared as a family on social media. But sometimes, the posts that spouses or former spouses post on social media can come back to cause problems for your divorce or post dissolution case. When parents get divorced, sometimes communication becomes less about talking about the issues facing the two people splitting up and more about building a Florida family law case. This is problematic, especially when there are children that can get caught in the middle of two adults fighting. Anger can also be a strong motivator for you or your former partner to start trolling the internet looking for information to use against each other.

While in the past, scorned partners could speak ill of the “bad partner” to friends or co-workers to garner support, social media has changed it so an angry former partner now has a global platform to spread dirty laundry, even if it’s not true. Worse than that, photos or postings can be taken out of context only to make a person look like they are doing things that are not even accurate.

The effect of social media has certainly spilled over into Florida legal cases involving divorce, modification, child support, child custody, parenting plans, relocations plans, and other matters.  Technology has also affected how things are done.  Now, a child can be called and tracked on a mobile phone.  As such, both social media and technology can be a tool and can also be a weapon in the context of a contested family law matter.  Based in Jacksonville, Florida, the law firm Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A. can connect you with a family law attorney in the practice to advise you and represent you in divorce and post divorce family law matters.

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When spouses separate and the Florida divorce is final, one party usually takes full ownership of the marital home. For one party to have full legal title to the, now, former marital home, the other party must sign a quit claim deed transferring his or her interest in the property to the other party.

Based in Jacksonville, Florida, the law firm of Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A. is experienced in disputes and issues regarding the marital home and the failure to pay the mortgage payment.  Certainly, any issue regarding the former marital home and the stability of the living environment should be addressed in a timely manner through legal representation when necessary.

If the spouse living in the former marital home is not the only spouse listed on the note with the lender (bank), then that possessing party must either refinance the note in order to remove the other spouse or obtain a new loan solely in the possessing party’s name. Usually, the parties will agree that whoever remains in the Florida marital home will refinance the home but the court can also order a party to do so or, at least, attempt to do so. It is ultimately the decision of the lender to agree to refinance the note and mortgage and remove one of the parties from the original agreement. Often, the lender will not agree to refinance the home; therefore the spouse who was awarded the home must obtain a new loan to pay off the existing loan. In order for a party to obtain a new loan, the party must qualify for such a loan according to each lender’s terms and requirements. Usually when a couple purchases a Florida home, the amount of the note and mortgage is based on individual’s income. Being recently divorced and not having that second income may make it difficult to obtain a new loan for the same house because the debt to income ratio that lenders look at and rely on has now changed.

https://www.jacksonvilledivorcelawyerblog.com/files/2017/07/06.-Wedding-300x181.jpgWho watches the television show “Married at First Sight?” (I’m raising my hand if you can’t see me.) For all the fans out there, you know that Season 4 of “Married at First Sight” took place in Miami, Florida. Out of the three couples that married at first sight, one couple decided to get divorced at the end of the show. Well, that particular couple decided to get divorced after the honeymoon but the divorce did not take place until the experiment concluded.

As the experts say from the beginning of the show, the marriages are real and so are the divorces. Even though the couples may only be married for eight weeks, they still must go through the same steps as the general public in order to have their divorces finalized. Most likely, for Season 4 couples a simplified dissolution of marriage, as the Florida courts call it, is all that is needed to divorce the couples.

A simplified Florida divorce has a few requirements which each couple of “Married at First Sight” meets. I am sure the show screens their participants in accordance with these requirements. First, the couple must both agree to use the simplified divorce procedure. If one party decides that he or she does not consent to the simplified divorce procedure then the parties must follow the more traditional route for getting divorce.

Military-Divorce-Florida-300x264The attorneys and staff at Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A. respect and salute our military and their families here in Jacksonville, Florida. This is not only because they are serving our country and protecting all of us, but also because during their time in Jacksonville, military families are vital members of our community. As with any Florida family, military families face difficulties, but the issues they experience are unique as the life of service member and their family presents different challenges. Additionally, obtaining a family law attorney who is experienced in Florida and Federal law, as it applies to military divorce is a must to ensure that your divorce is handled in the most appropriate way.

Based in Jacksonville, Florida, the attorneys at Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A. represent clients in family law matters that relate to divorce, child support, alimony, adoption, modification, custody, visitation, time sharing, and other issues.  Since 1957, Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A. has been serving its clients in North Florida including the counties of Duval, Clay, Nassau, Baker, and St. Johns County.

First, laws such as the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act, 50 UCS §521, as applied with Florida law, allows for the protection of a service-member from being found in default of an action during his or her active duty, and up to 60 days after, so that the military spouse is not found in default while serving our nation. This protection may be waived by the service-member, if they so agree.

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Fla Stat. §61.08(4) provides statutory guidelines for Florida courts to consider when evaluating importance of the duration of a marriage as a factor for alimony consideration.  In order to categorize the duration of marriages, courts look from the date the marriage began until the date one of the spouses filed for dissolution of marriage. According to the statute, short term marriages are marriages under seven (7) years, and long term marriages are all marriages that last longer than seventeen (17) years.  However, there is a “gray area” in the 10-year gap between these years. The marriages falling between the seven (7) to seventeen (17) year marriage lengths are known as marriages of “moderate duration.”

Categorizing the duration of a marriage is important. The court looks to a multitude of factors, found in Fla. Stat. §61.08 (2)(a-j), when considering the amount and the duration of an alimony award. A marriage categorized as a marriage of moderate duration is particularly important when considering an award of permanent alimony.

If a marriage is a long term marriage, as defined in the statutes, the marriage has with it a presumption in favor of a permanent alimony award. If after the court considers all other alimony factors and finds that no other alimony type would be proper, permanent alimony can be awarded. Whereas, a short term marriage would absolutely not have that same presumption. For a permanent alimony award in a short term marriage the court would have to find that exceptional circumstances exist to support such an award. Whereas, a moderate term marriage is open to a permanent alimony award also, but a higher standard of proof is necessary when awarding permanent alimony in cases of moderate duration marriages. Clear and convincing evidence as to the alimony factors must be presented to the court to prove  that the receiving spouse is entitled to alimony.

1097376_bens_eyes-300x119Child support is a means of the court obligating parents to meet the financial needs of their children. Florida Statute 61.30 is the Florida child support statute. If you are the biological, adoptive, or legal parent of a child, the state imposes a duty to support that child at a certain level, based on a number of factors. The court considers timesharing, health insurance expenses, daycare costs, household income of both parties, and prior children for whom child support is paid. In addition to this, the number of overnight stays at one parent’s house will directly affect the amount of child support that is owed.

In the state of Florida, the Florida Department of Revenue is responsible for management and enforcement of the child support program. To determine how much child support a noncustodial parent must pay, a standard needs table found in Florida Statute 61.30(6) provides a  starting point for child support calculations.

Many people seem to misunderstand that while they may be providing the other  parent with diaper, wipes, and food, this does not eliminate their obligation to providing the support ordered by the court. Even if support is not ordered by the court, a parent can request retroactive child support for up to two years, prior to an order by the court. Child support is put in place to meet a child’s needs. Typically parents believe that splitting timesharing equally will eliminate their support obligation. But, equally splitting timesharing will not always have that effect. The court will evaluate the needs of the child by considering the factors above. If the child still needs support, beyond the presumed amount of support they are receiving with equal timesharing, the court will still place a child support order in effect to supplement the deficit.

money-chainedWith many divorce cases also comes the notion of alimony. There are a number of different types of alimony in Florida, varying from permanent to rehabilitative. In some instances judges will award a party with “nominal alimony.” But, while you wont see this form of alimony in the statutes, you will see that this has developed in case law over the years. Nominal Alimony is not a form of alimony like rehabilitative, permanent, or durational, instead the nominal alimony designation is simply a space preserver to allow the receiving party to apply for a modification at a later date. Few states, including Florida, recognize this type of alimony award.

Nominal alimony differs from rehabilitative alimony because rehabilitative alimony is temporary for receiving spouse until he or she can get on his or her own feet. This is typically awarded in cases where the receiving spouse surrendered their ability to work during the course of the marriage in order to stay home and care for the kids or conduct other household duties. Rehabilitative alimony will temporarily support the receiving spouse until he or she is able to seek employment.

Whereas with nominal alimony, the court may order a spouse to pay a significantly small amount, as small as $1 a year, until that spouse is able to pay larger amount. This amount is not meant to support the receiving spouse, but instead preserves the receiving spouse’s right to receive alimony at a later date. It also reserves the court’s jurisdiction to revisit the issue of alimony should the paying spouse’s circumstances improve. The court may choose to award nominal alimony if it is likely that the paying spouse’s circumstances will change in the future and that this change would warrant alimony for the receiving spouse.  It is the court’s decision to determine whether or not to award nominal alimony.  If the court does not feel enough evidence exists to prove that the spouse’s financial circumstances will change in the foreseeable future, the court can choose not to award nominal alimony and instead enter an award for one of the statutory forms of alimony available.

Generally, children will not be called to testify as to matters in a family law case. Many parents have difficulty understanding why their child will not be called on to express their wishes, concerns, or input regarding the situation that greatly affects their lives. Florida Family Law Rule 12.407 precludes testimony from a child as a witness in custody related cases without a prior order made by the Court. To obtain an order allowing for the testimony of a child to be considered the parent requesting the testimony must file a Motion for Child Testimony with the court. The court will give consideration to the motion at a hearing in which the judge will determine the appropriateness of the child’s testimony in this case by weighing a variety of considerations. The judge will focus on the child’s maturity, ability to convey their desires, the age of the child, and the ability to make a decision without the child testimony.

While these considerations may seem like common sense, many people have difficulty understanding why children are not always allowed to be present at hearings that are determinative of their future. Parents in the midst of litigation tend to get caught up in the idea of winning the litigation and furthering those interests. It may be a misguided notion that presenting the child’s testimony for consideration by the judge would be in the best interest of the party or the child. Children at times often express their desires to assist their parents in the litigation process and then the idea of the child testifying reaches the attorney for consideration. It is very important that an attorney fully evaluates the facts surrounding their client’s case and educate their client regarding this request. There are various ways in which a child’s desires can be heard or taken into consideration by the court.

Parents who desire to have their child testify in their family law case will need to file the appropriate motion and having a hearing on the matter. If a parent believes that their child may not have the appropriate maturity to take on such a task, or if they desire to have their children’s wishes expressed in a less direct manner, the more appropriate motion may be a motion for the court to appoint a guardian ad litem. A guardian ad litem is a court appointed party who is utilized as the voice of the child to the court. The guardian ad litem acts as a messenger to the court of the child’s wishes, school progress, concerns of guardians or teachers, etc. The guardian ad litem is a respected avenue used by parties to have the child’s wishes expressed to the court, while allowing the child to remain shielded from the ups and down of continuous litigation.

divorce-300x216The Florida Statute governing child support is 61.30. This statute covers in great depth the child support laws in Florida. The statute covers the base level of financial support for each child support obligation based on the household income and also explains in great depth how child support should be calculated for an after born child. Child support is calculated by taking the combined monthly income of both parties and factoring in day care costs, health insurance costs, prior support orders in effect, and few additional factors are also considered. In the instance that a parent has an existing ordered child support obligation and then have a child subsequently born the initial child support obligation for the first child’s benefit will NOT be lowered due to the birth of the second child.

The legislature created this statute in order to prevent a child born before another from being ripped of the support that they were awarded. While the operation of this law may not always have the effect of the birth order taking precedence this is referred to the prohibition of a downward modification as a result of an after born child. The statute does not operate in terms of birth order; instead the operation is in terms of the chronological sequence of judicial orders. Therefore, if a client has a 12 year old son, and he has contributed to the support of this child without a judicial order in place, if the man then has another child and he is ordered to pay child support regarding the second born child, the court is not to consider the amount of support he voluntarily gives the 12 year old child in the initial calculation. The court can take into consideration the older child to support a downward departure from the child support calculation.

If we revisit the previous scenario and the parent was paying child support to the 12 year old in furtherance of a child support order then then second born child’s support amount would be calculated by taking the parent’s income and deducting the amount of child support already paid to the 12 year old THEN calculating the support amount. There are numerous benefits to having a child support order in effect for a parent who is receiving support. The order would solidify the support obligation, allow for a child not to have their support amount reduced by an” after born” child, and it would allow for a calculation of arrearages if support is not paid.