Family law is often the most contentious of all areas of litigation. Emotions run high and stress is felt all around, even if both parties believe it is best for them to part. At Winthrop Law Offices, we work with our clients to resolve issues in the least acrimonious way.
Floridians primarily divorce on the grounds of insupportability, meaning the couple has differences so great there is no hope for reconciliation. Under certain circumstances, there is also a provision for divorce due to mental incapacity. During the divorce process, important decisions must be made and marital assets must be equitably distributed.
Either party may request alimony from the other spouse. In making its decision, the court will consider many factors, including, but not limited to:
- The standard of living during the marriage.
- The earning capacity of each party including education levels, vocational skills and employability.
- The duration of the marriage and contribution each party made to the marriage.
- Age as well as physical and mental health of each party.
The court may consider “any other factor necessary to do equity and justice between the parties.”
Both parents are required to contribute to the support of their children. The amount which each parent contributes depends on a large number of factors, taking into account the complete financial situation of each party. Generally, one parent pays support to the parent with whom the children spend the most time.
Contempt and Enforcement
If one party fails to obey a court order, the other party may bring a contempt action against the disobeying party. The court may hold an evidentiary hearing. If the party willfully failed to comply with an order with which he or she was capable of complying, that party will be held in contempt and penalties imposed.
Custody: Parental Responsibility
Florida courts encourage parents to spend as much time as possible with their children. They also expect each parent to foster a relationship between the children and the other parent. The law refers to custody as “parental responsibility.”
The court may order sole responsibility to one parent, or shared responsibility to both parents. The court will also order a time-sharing schedule. In making these orders, the court may consider the wishes of each parent or of a child who is old enough to express his or her desires.
Courts also encourage parents to draft their own parenting plan. If that is impossible, the court will make custody decisions based on what it determines is in the best interest of the children.
Visitation and Relocation
Under Florida law, visitation is parental “time-sharing.” Time-sharing plans include:
- Residential schedule defining when the children will be at each parent’s home.
- Vacation schedule determining where the children will be for each vacation.
- Summer break schedule defining where the children will spend their summer vacation.
Parents who plan to relocate need a court order allowing the relocation even if both parents agree it is okay. Provisions must be made for visitation, health care, or any other child care need. The party who is relocating must make satisfactory visitation transportation arrangements for the children.
If there has been a history of domestic violence or child abuse, the court will consider that in determining issues of custody. A person does not need to be convicted of a domestic violence charge in order for the court to deny custody and/or visitation.
If you believe you and your children are in danger due to domestic abuse, at Winthrop Law Offices, we can help bring this to the attention of the court so that you can be provided the protection you need.
On the other hand, if you have been falsely accused of engaging in domestic violence, and believe the allegations are only made to deny you custody and visitation with your children, we can help.
Some people balk at the idea of a pre-nuptial agreement, but it is really like an insurance policy. You do not expect your house to burn down, but you purchase fire insurance just in case. The same is true of a pre-nuptial agreement.
Florida courts will uphold written pre-nuptial agreements signed by both parties if they meet the following criteria:
- The parties fully disclosed their assets and liabilities.
- The agreement was entered into voluntarily without fraud or duress.
- Enforcing the agreement would not be unconscionable or against public policy.
While a pre-nuptial agreement can cover almost any eventuality, a person cannot give up their right to child support by way of a pre-nuptial agreement.
Post-nuptial agreements are similar to pre-nuptial agreements. They are written agreements entered into by a married couple and voluntarily signed by both parties. Issues generally included relate to the acquisition and division of property. In order to be enforceable, there must be no evidence of fraud or duress.
After the family law court enters a final order, the order can only be modified if there is a material and substantial change in circumstances. For example, if a parent paying child support suddenly loses his or her job, through no fault of their own, they may ask the court to modify the amount of child support.
A custody order may be modified if the children’s educational needs have changed. Another reason would be if the custodial parent became incapable of caring for the children.
When a married woman gives birth, the presumed father of the child is her husband. There may be circumstances when a man other than her husband claims paternity and steps must be taken to establish paternity.
When an unmarried woman gives birth, paternity must be established either voluntarily or by court order in order for the father to have visitation rights or for the mother to collect child support.
If you need a family law attorney, contact us at Winthrop Law Offices. We are located in Boca Raton, West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale.