Articles Posted in Florida Statutes

Parental kidnapping affects families across the nation. According to The United States Department of Justice, 200,000 children are victims of family abductions per year. Sadly, most people do not realize that domestic violence is the underlying cause in many cases.

When Jacksonville parents/ parents nationwide take their children in domestic violence cases, the kidnapping usually occurs in either of the following scenarios. In one scenario, the batterers take the children in order to harm their victims. In the other, the victims flee with their children in an effort to protect themselves and their children from the batterer’s violence.

Batterers will often use their children as a way to hurt or frighten their former spouse. For example, they may pursue custody or visitation litigation as a means of trying to control their former spouse. In addition, they may use the custody proceedings to obtain more information about their former spouse, to continue to monitor them or to perpetrate additional violence.

Jacksonville Florida parents who go through a divorce can write a parenting plan to decide how they will divide their children’s time after a divorce. The plan provides a roadmap for the child’s future, and is the most important document in a Florida divorce with children.

A parenting plan approved by the court must at a minimum: describe how parents will share and be responsible for the daily tasks associated with the upbringing of the child, the time-sharing schedule arrangements that specify the time that the child will spend with each parent, a designation of who will be responsible for health care, school-related matters, other actives, and the methods and technologies that the parents will use to communicate with the child.

A parenting plan has two separate components: (1) decision making- parental responsibilities and privileges to make decisions relating to the health, education, and welfare of the child, and (2) time sharing- where the child lives at any given time and contact with the other parent. These two aspects are distinct and must be examined according to the best interest of the child.

1056041_man_woman_heart_5.jpgIn order to file for a divorce in Florida you must file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. The petition is designed to lay out all requests of the party filing for divorce. The divorce action will require a division of marital debts and assets, so you want to make certain that you address anything regarding non-marital debts and assets be established so that there is automatically a clear definition that these items may exits. In addition, if you need alimony and/or child support, then it is also important that these matters be alleged in the petition.

As a divorce lawyer in Jacksonville, Florida, I often have clients ask if they can keep the petition simple so that the other party is not too upset by the action. This is difficult to do, especially when there are children involved, because you have to allege your requests up front so that the court will hear them when the time comes. It is important to remember that if you do not ask for it you cannot get it, so often the initial petition will ask for the sun, moon and stars because otherwise you have barred your ability to request those items unless you file an amended petition.

Also, remember that if you are the party receiving the petition, you have the right to file a counter-petition and ask for the kitchen sink as well. Divorce can be messy, but understanding the process can help alleviate some of the emotions and help you better understand that it is business deal and not an emotional one. Keeping your business mind in the forefront of the divorce can make a difficult process a little easier to stomach as it goes on.

Driver-License-Card.jpgA Florida name change of a minor child can be challenging if both parents are not present in the child’s life. Name changes are often requested so that the child bares the name of a parent, especially when one of the parents is absent. If both parents share parental rights, then a name change requires both parents to consent to the change. However, in order to change a name a petition for change of name must be filed with the court and it can then be served on the other parent.

In the event the other parent cannot be found, or the other parent is no longer a resident, then the petition may be served by publication. If there is no response to the service, either actual or constructive (published), then the other parent would be in default and the name change may occur without actual consent, but implied consent by the inaction.

If you are interested in changing your child’s name then you should speak with a family law attorney about your rights and options.

life_insurance1.JPGThe demise of death benefits in a Florida divorce. The Florida Supreme Court recently held that if a final judgment of divorce is silent about death benefits, then the policy documents control the death benefit. The reason this can be an issue is that often during a marriage spouses will take out life insurance policies and name one another as the beneficiary. When the divorce is final, if there is no further designation or language taking that right away from a spouse, then the policy itself becomes the authority of the death benefit. So, if you divorce and forget to change the actual policy, and there is no language in the final judgment regarding the death benefit, then your ex-spouse may inherit the death benefit upon your demise.

In the recent case, Crawford v. Barker, SC09-1969 (Fla. June 9, 2011), the final judgment of divorce did not specify any new ownership or beneficiary regarding the death proceeds or beneficiary for a policy held on the husband’s life. During the marriage, the husband had designated his spouse, now ex-wife, as the beneficiary on the policy. After the divorce, the ex-husband died and had not changed his policy to reflect a new beneficiary. Therefore, the ex-wife and the ex-husband’s estate battled over the funds and the Florida Supreme Court decided that since the final judgment of divorce was silent, then the deciding documents were those of the actual policy. Since the ex-husband had not changed the policy to reflect a new beneficiary, the proceeds were decided to be that of the ex-wife.

In a divorce proceeding, it is important to have a true and accurate accounting of all assets, including death benefits. In addition, if it is your intent upon the divorce to take the death benefit away from your spouse, then be certain the language of the final divorce decree reflects that. Also, try to remember that you need to change the beneficiary on your actual policy so that the death benefit does not get held up on probate court later down the line.

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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.

1345271_flores__flowers.jpgPlanning for Florida divorce before your marriage can be difficult emotionally. When deciding to use a prenuptial agreement it is important to understand that you are planning for your life together in a way that helps divide assets before and during the marriage.

Separating assets, especially if you marry later in life, can be important if you both feel that your stuff should be yours and not your spouse’s upon marriage. However, it also means that you have to think differently when entering the marriage because you do not want to use marital funds in premarital (non-marital) accounts because it mucks the water if anything were to divide you later. Non-marital assets are those things that have been purchased prior to the date of marriage, including homes, stocks, etc. However, if you use marital funds (income to you or your spouse) to increase the value of those assets, then the increased value may be considered a marital asset. When creating a prenuptial agreement it is important to know “today’s” value of the assets so you have a reference point of premarital value and marital value if the marriage were to dissolve.

If you are interested in a prenuptial agreement, you should speak with a family law attorney to understand your rights and options and how to set-up the agreement in the best possible way.

963935_mortgage_and_money_2.jpgPrenuptial agreements are enforceable in Florida if all provisions are met, especially the full disclosure of assets and liabilities to each party. In a divorce, full disclosure is necessary and required by Florida law. In developing a prenuptial agreement, the same is true because both parties have to have a full snapshot of the other party’s assets and liabilities before agreeing to the financial breakdown in case divorce was eminent. A full premarital financial disclosure is actually a tool that can be helpful in a relationship because both parties have an opportunity to better understand what they are walking into at the end of the aisle. A marriage is based on the joining of two people, but also the joining of their, “stuff.” So, having a full picture is helpful in knowing what challenges and expectations may be ahead for the couple.
Full disclosure of assets means that you are both providing bank statements, investment statements, trust holdings, properties, etc. Both parties need a clear understanding of what the other has so that the agreement can be drafted to protect them both and not just one party. A prenup is not intended to be a body of armor for the party with the most, but is designed to make certain that if the marriage were to fail, that there are contentions in place for how to divide marital assets and decide which assets are actually marital and nonmarital.
Though it may feel like planning for the marriage to fall apart, the truth is that is actually helps people to plan their life together effectively because it brings issues to the forefront where they may have never otherwise been addressed until an argument occurs.

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Is a Pre-Marital – Pre-Nuptial Agreement Always Enforceable in the State of Florida? The answer to this question like many – “It depends.”

The sad reality in our society is that most marriages will end in divorce. The United States currently has the highest divorce rate at roughly 50 percent for first marriages and almost 70 percent for remarriages. Fortunately, a premarital agreement can bring predictability and security to the circumstances surrounding settlement of your personal affairs following a marriage or remarriage.

The Florida Statutes define a “premarital agreement” as an agreement between prospective spouses made in contemplation of marriage and to be effective upon marriage. Such agreements may also be referred to as Florida antenuptial or prenuptial agreements, and informally as Florida prenups. The couple planning to be married decides how important financial matters will be resolved in case of divorce, separation or death.

Florida’s Uniform Premarital Agreement Act includes specific requirements needed for a premarital agreement to be valid and enforceable. First, the agreement must be in writing (a court will not enforce any verbal agreements between parties). Second, both parties must sign the agreement. Lastly, the agreement is valid without either party giving up any rights; the act of marriage is sufficient enough to create a valid agreement.

However, Florida law provides multiple ways in which a premarital agreement can be attacked or challenged. Examples include if either party can prove they did not sign the agreement voluntarily, due to fraud, duress, or coercion, or that the terms of the agreement were very unfair and one party was not provided fair access to the other party’s financial situation. For more information on this topic, see the Florida Statutes

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Written By: Lenorae C. Atter, Attorney

Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A.

162243_loading_zone.jpgMoving with a child can require meeting Florida statutory requirements, such as providing notice of relocation. If the parent moving has majority time-sharing (i.e. visitation or custody), then that parent needs to provide notice to the other parent of the relocation, which must include certain information in accordance with Florida law. Not following this statute can lead to the court determining you have to come back to Florida.

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