At the beginning of May 2020, the City of Orlando gave thousands of nominees to a very specific categories for Orlando Weekly’a Best of 2020. And because of your love and support, The Law Office of Erin Morse was able to lock in two very important categories; Best Kept Secret and Best Local Big Shot Who’s Not an Elected Official. We are honored that we have been nominated with some of Orlando’s biggest personalities, businesses and organizations. The final round runs June 24 through Aug. 2 and only you can help us. Just like last time, click the link below to the Local Color Section and scroll down to Best Kept Secret and Best Local Big Shot Who’s Not an Elected Official and vote Erin Morse.

 

Divorce can be extremely stressful, especially when children are involved. Explore how custody and child visitation is determined during proceedings.

A recent census found that 69% of children under the age of 18 live with two parents while another 23% live with their mother. The other 10% live with their father, nonparental family members, or other legal guardians.

The road to child custody and child visitation is often a rocky one. It’s not as simple as following the child’s wishes, although what the child wants does play a large role in the proceedings.

Without a strong grasp on custody and visitation laws, it can be difficult to make the case that will grant you the relationship with your child that you desire.

Read on to find out everything you need to know about how child custody and visitation schedules are determined in Florida.

Establishing Custody

The 2019 Florida Statues regarding child custody can be confusing for those who do not have a background in law. For this reason, it is in your best interest to hire an attorney that specializes in child custody law.

To help you understand what to expect of this process, we’ve broken down the basics regarding the establishment of child custody.

Legal and Physical Custody

Child custody determines who is in charge of care, decision-making, and maintenance of a child under the age of 18. The state of Florida breaks custody down into legal custody and physical custody.

A parent with legal custody has the right to make educational, medical, religious, and disciplinary decisions for the child. A parent with physical custody is responsible for providing basic necessities. They live with the child and must ensure day-to-day wellness.

Typically, the parent who has physical custody will also have legal custody. However, the Florida court can establish forms of custody in which these responsibilities are divided up between two parents.

Sole Custody and Joint Custody

Sole custody grants both legal and physical custody to one parent. Joint custody, which Florida refers to as shared parental responsibility, entails that both parents share legal and physical custody.

If you and your former spouse are granted joint custody, there is still the question of who will be named the primary joint custodian. It is expected that both parents will reach agreements relating to legal custody. However, the child will live with their primary joint custodian for the majority of the year.

The Florida court system prefers to establish shared parental responsibility as frequently as possible. However, whether or not they can do so depends on a number of factors that we will discuss below.

Factors That Affect Custody

Initially, you, your former spouse, and your child have a say in the most suitable custodial arrangement. However, if you cannot come to an agreement with the help of mediation, the decision will go to the court.

The court will take into consideration the following:

  • The moral, mental, and physical status of each parent
  • The parents’ ability to provide financial and emotional support
  • The willingness of both parents to honor the time-sharing schedule
  • The parents’ ability to meet the child’s developmental needs
  • The involvement of each parent with the child including, but not limited to, attendance of parent-teacher conferences, special events, and doctors’ appointments
  • The necessity of third-party care such as a nanny
  • The permanence of the proposed primary home and the continuity of the child’s current situation
  • The child’s history at home and at school
  • Existing ties and love and affection between the child and parents
  • Any history of domestic violence, sexual abuse, or neglect

The court is looking to see if the child has a better relationship with a certain parent. They’re also ensuring that the parent can provide stability and security for the child. Sole custody is usually only rewarded if there is a history of domestic violence with one of the parents or if one of the parents was never involved in the child’s life.

Gathering the necessary information can be overwhelming. You will need to have documents that reveal your own income and involvement in the child’s life, amongst other things. Fortunately, there are plenty of online resources that will help you through this process.

In nearly every case, visitation is required. Even if one parent has sole custody, they can only deny the other parent visitation rights if the court has deemed this the best option for the child. We will discuss child visitation guidelines below.

Establishing a Child Visitation Schedule

According to Florida State Law, a parenting plan is required even when the parents are not disputing a time-sharing schedule. This parenting plan should be agreed upon by both parents. Once the parents have come to an agreement, the court must approve it.

If the parents cannot come to an agreement, the court will settle upon a parenting plan that is still legally binding. If one or both parents refuse to cooperate with the parenting plan, they will face legal consequences.

The Types of Parenting Plans

There are three main types of parenting plans that may be used in settling visitation rights.

A typical time-sharing plan is used when both parents are deemed fit to care for the child. It is used when the parents receive joint custody.

A supervised and safety-focused parenting plan is necessary only when one parent requires supervised visitations. It is used when one parent has sole custody but the other parent is not barred from seeing the child altogether.

A relocation or long-distance parenting plan is necessary when one parent is relocating to an area that is not considered local to the other parent. Even if one parent moves for their job or other valid reasons, they still have the right to see their child a reasonable number of times a year. Note that the primary joint custodian may also relocate as long as it is not deemed harmful to the child.

What Goes Into a Parenting Plan

A parenting plan establishes the responsibilities divided between two parents of a child. It also determines the visitation schedule they must follow. When you’re settling on a visitation schedule, there are certain things you will need to discuss.

First, establish a residential schedule. This relates to the day-to-day care and outlines what days of the week or weekends of the month that the child is staying with each parent.

Second, discuss a holiday schedule. This can be a sensitive topic because oftentimes, both parents want to spend major holidays or birthdays with their child.

You may have to make concessions that hurt in the present. Remember that you are doing what’s best for the child by allowing them to spend quality time with your former spouse.

Finally, establish a summer vacation schedule. Summer is often a time that the non-primary joint custodian can spend more time with their child because the child is no longer location-bound to their school district. Many parents divide summer vacation time-sharing evenly but this up to you and your former partner.

Remember that you have to discuss not only the time shared with each parent but also the modes of transportation the child can rely on. Will one of you pick the child up from the other’s home? Will you involve a third party or establish a neutral meeting ground?

These may seem like things that you can establish on a day-to-day basis but the court will want answers upfront. Once again, it is in the child’s best interest that you hammer out all of these details with a mediator or in court. Otherwise, you run the risk of personal feelings getting in the way of the child’s ability to see both parents.

How Is a Child Visitation Schedule Settled?

In the process of determining a workable visitation schedule, the court will once again revisit the questions they asked in deciding upon custody. Some of the main concerns will revolve around each parent’s ability to take the child to school. In other words, if one parent lives far from the child’s school, they will likely not receive weekday overnight visitation.

Once a visitation schedule is agreed upon, modification is not ideal. It will only happen if material, substantial, and unanticipated changes occur.

For example, the visitation schedule may be altered if one parent loses their job and is no longer financially able to provide for the child. It also may be altered if one parent has a drug or alcohol relapse, experiences mental illness issues, or runs into problems with the law.

Overall, the ultimate goal of the court is to ensure stability for the child in spite of the change in relationship status between the two parents.

Find a Child Custody and Visitation Attorney in Orlando, Florida

If you are seeking legal counsel to settle issues of child custody and child visitation in Orlando, Florida, you’ve come to the right place.

Contact us so that we can discuss your case as well as any financial concerns and scheduling concerns you may have.

Divorce can be a stressful experience, especially when children are involved. Learn how to create a solid parenting plan that works for both parties.

Divorce rates are on the decline, but 39% of marriages will still end in divorce.

If you’re facing a divorce, you’re no doubt entering one of the most stressful events of your life. If you have children, your worries are compounded.

Who will get custody of the kids? How can you create structure in their lives while your own life is unraveling? Most importantly, how can you ensure your kids receive the love and attention they need?

Many kids experience difficulties after a divorce, including behavioral problems and poor academic performance. But that doesn’t have to be the case with your children. The key lies in creating (and executing) a successful parenting plan.

What is a parenting plan? Why is it so important? And how can you create one that works for your family’s unique circumstances?

In this post, we’ll discuss those questions and more. Read on to learn how to write a parenting plan for court and your own personal use.

What Is a Parenting Plan?

A parenting plan is a legal document that outlines how you and your ex will care for your children after the divorce. It is generally required by the family court as part of the divorce process.

The plan should include every major aspect of your kids’ lives, including custody, visitation, and communication methods. (We’ll discuss this in more detail later).

If possible, you and your ex should be the ones to create the parenting plan, since you know your kids and your circumstances best. If you aren’t able to reach an agreement, the court may take steps to create a plan for you or suggest the services of a family law attorney.

What Should I Know Before Creating a Parenting Plan?

Although a parenting plan is a legal document, it doesn’t need to include technical or legal jargon. What it should include is plenty of details outlining how you and your ex will handle your responsibilities.

The court wants to see that your plan will provide a safe, stable, and loving environment for your kids. They want the assurance that your children’s physical and emotional needs will continue to be met.

Of course, your circumstances are different than any other couple in the midst of a divorce. A parenting plan template is a great place to start, but you need to customize it to fit the unique needs of your family.

Remember: The parenting plan is for the benefit of your kids, not yourself. You need to be willing to make compromises and be accommodating to whatever is in your kids’ best interests.

The most common mistake couples make is writing a plan that’s too vague. Include every detail and scenario you can think of, such as who will pay for medical expenses and what happens if one or both parents decide to relocate. You’ll also want to explain how you’ll resolve disagreements and if your kids are allowed to travel out-of-state or abroad.

When reviewing your plan, the court will evaluate:

  • Each parent’s health and ability to provide for their kids
  • Your children’s age and maturity level
  • Proximity to the extended family
  • Proximity to established schools or religious organizations
  • Any plans for one or both parents to relocate
  • Everyone’s preferences on custody arrangements (each parent and each child)
  • Any past or present legal misconduct

If possible, it’s best to work on this plan together. If you can’t reach an agreement, each parent may submit their own plan to the court for consideration and approval.

Parenting Plan Template: What to Include

Now that you’ve got an overview of the plan, let’s discuss specific items you should include.

1. Living Arrangements & Scheduling

This is the basis for your plan, as it outlines how each parent will physically provide for the children.

Will your kids live primarily in one residence or divide their time evenly between both of you? Who is responsible for pickup and drop-off? Will you bring your children’s belongings back and forth, or will your kids have two sets of most items?

What about daycare or babysitting arrangements? How will each parent communicate with their children when they’re visiting the other? When and where will the children spend time with their friends, and who will transport them to events such as parties or after-school activities?

You should also discuss how you’ll handle any changes or disruptions to the normal schedule. What if it’s necessary to make a change due to illness, special occasions, or an unforeseen event? How much notice will you give, and will there be make-up time for missed visitation?

2. Holidays, Vacations, & Events

Will your kids spend certain holidays with the same parent each year? Or will you alternate between households?

Create a plan for:

  • Religious holidays
  • Secular holidays
  • School breaks
  • Summer vacation
  • Birthdays
  • Mother’s Day
  • Father’s Day
  • Graduation
  • Weddings and funerals

Again, include as many details as possible, including transportation, length of stay, or any plans to “split” the time over certain holidays.

3. Health Matters

Who will provide medical and dental insurance (if any) for the children? How will you make decisions about routine or emergency treatments?

What about arrangements for routine checkups or dentist visits? Who will take the kids to these appointments? Who will take time off work and stay home if one of the children gets sick?

Will each of you have access to your children’s medical records? What about arranging for any special needs like eyeglasses, speech therapy, or orthodontia? How will you make decisions that are in your child’s best interest?

4. School & Extra-Curriculars

Where will your children attend school? Will they enroll in a special program or require tutoring after hours?

What about parent-teacher conferences or other school events? Who will attend? Who will pay for school trips, lunches, or other related expenses?

What if your child must be absent for any reason? Can either parent take the child out of school for the day? What circumstances are allowable (or not) for the child to miss school?

If your child plays sports or belongs to an after-school club, who will handle transportation arrangements and associated costs? Will both of you attend games or competitions?

5. Religion & Culture

Will your household include any religious instruction or activities? Will your kids accompany you to church or other religious services? How will you make these decisions?

What about relevant cultural events and activities? If you live in a bilingual household, what will be the primary language spoken at home? Will your children be instructed in a second or third language?

Consider the extended family too, such as grandparents. How often and when will they visit, and who will be there during the visits? How can the extended family communicate with your children?

What about everyday lifestyle and discipline? What rules will be in place for bedtime, allowance, homework, dating, and other expectations?

6. Communication Between Parents

How will you and your ex communicate after the divorce is finalized? Over the phone, by email, in person?

How will you keep track of your children’s schedules? Will there be a written or virtual calendar available where you can access and add relevant events?

How much notice will you give in the event of travel plans, schedule changes, or other disruptions? How often will you communicate about your children? What about emergencies—how will you get in contact with each other?

Other Factors to Consider

Your divorce may be contentious, but try to take a step back and be reasonable when it comes to your kids. You may no longer love your ex, but your kids likely still do.

Focus on creating a plan that will help them maintain a strong relationship with each of you. If they’re old enough, consider their preferences about who they’ll live with and how they’ll spend time with each of you.

If you have legitimate concerns about your ex’s ability to care for the children, put it in writing. You may not agree with certain aspects of their parenting style, but this is different than concerns over binge drinking or drug use.

Most of all, avoid putting your kids in the middle of your divorce. Assure them of your continued love and support during and after the process. Respect their needs by enjoying the time they’re with you and avoid criticizing what your ex chooses to do.

Do You Need Help With Your Parenting Plan?

Some couples are able to sit down and create an effective parenting plan on their own.

But what if the relationship is strained and civil communication is difficult (or impossible)? This is where a lawyer experienced in family law and child custody can help.

Your divorce is undoubtedly stressful, but making a parenting plan doesn’t have to be. It just takes time and consideration to decide what will work for you and your ex—and what is ultimately best for your children.

Are you going through a divorce in the Orlando area? Don’t go it alone.

We can help with all aspects of the divorce process, including assistance with your parenting plan. Contact our law office today with any questions or concerns.

Getting divorced is tough, but deciding how the money will work can be more difficult. Read on to learn about alimony in Florida.

Up to half of the couples in the United States end up getting divorced, and Florida has the 7th most noteworthy divorce rate.

Florida is one of the most stressed states, particularly about financial situations.

Whether it’s because of money or other factors, many cities in Florida have high divorce rates. In Live Oak, for example, the divorce rate is 23%.

Regardless of where you live, alimony is one of the fiercest divorce battles to face.

And alimony in Florida is particularly challenging to determine, mainly because there is no mathematical formula for doing so.

Getting divorced is hard enough as it is, but figuring out how the money will work between divorced couples can be even harder.

Keep reading to learn all about alimony in Florida.

What Is Alimony?

Alimony is also referred to as “spousal support.” Alimony is the legal obligation to provide financial support to a spouse after a divorce.

State divorce law varies, so alimony is issued by a divorce decree that works according to state divorce law.

Alimony is much different than child support, though people sometimes confuse the 2.

Alimony is considered taxable income to the receiving spouse. Plus, it’s deducted from the income of the spouse who is paying.

Child support payments, on the other hand, aren’t deductible to the paying spouse. They aren’t taxable to the receiving spouse either.

Child support is paid. There are no tax concerns that come into play, unlike alimony.

 

One important thing to remember about alimony in Florida is that there is no mathematical calculation for determining an amount. Child support payments, on the other hand, are determined based on the payee’s income.

There Are Different Type of Florida Alimony

Florida law has 5 different types of alimony.

A judge will award these 5 different types in whatever combination that seems fair under the particular circumstances of that divorce.

Alimony payments can consist of periodic payments from one spouse to another or a single lump-sum payment.

Spouses can agree on different terms and conditions of alimony on their own. A spouse can also opt to give up alimony entirely, which typically occurs in exchange for another valuable type of property.

What Are the Different Types of Alimony?

As we mentioned above, there are 5 different types of spousal support in Florida.

Bridge-the-Gap Alimony

Bridge-the-Gap alimony starts after the divorce is final, but it’s short term. The most it’ll go for is 2 years.

The purpose is to help the receiving spouse meet those temporary needs like living expenses while they wait for a home to sell or enter into an educational program to allow for better employment prospects.

Temporary Alimony

Temporary alimony only lasts the duration of the divorce. It’s awarded to a spouse who needs financial support during the divorce process.

As soon as the divorce is final, temporary alimony ends.

Rehabilitative Alimony

Rehabilitative alimony exists to assist the receiving spouse in acquiring training or education that’s necessary for appropriate employment.

A spouse who requests rehabilitative alimony must submit a plan that outlines the amount of money and time they need to complete their program.

Durational Alimony

A court could award durational alimony if other types are insufficient to support a spouse’s needs.

The maximum term of durational alimony pertains to the length of the divorced couple’s marriage.

If you were married for 20 years, for example, you won’t be able to receive alimony for any longer.

Permanent Alimony

When the recipient spouse’s economic needs are forecasted to be permanent, an alimony award will be permanent too.

A judge who awards permanent alimony always has to state the reasons why another form of alimony wouldn’t be fair or reasonable under the facts of the particular case.

Permanent alimony exists to provide support to a spouse who can’t be self-supporting at a standard of living that’s as close as possible to the marital standard that was set before.

What Factors Will a Judge Consider?

Every court makes decisions on requests for alimony based on many different facts of the case.

They must determine whether or not the spouse who’s requesting alimony meets the standard to prove the alimony is necessary.

The court also has to determine whether or not the wealthier spouse has the ability to pay. But, only exceptional circumstances would cause a court to award alimony if it leaves the paying spouse with significantly less income than the recipient.

When a judge finds that there is both a need and an ability to pay, they consider all relevant factors in deciding which alimony to award.

These factors include things like:

  • All sources of income
  • Time and expense required for education and training
  • The marital standard of living
  • The duration of the marriage
  • The financial resources of the spouse who’s seeking maintenance
  • Each spouse’s contribution to the marriage
  • Any tax consequences of a potential alimony award
  • The responsibilities each party will have for children under 18 that they have in common

If adultery occurred and it caused financial harm to either spouse, that will also be taken into account.

Alimony in Florida Works Best with Representation

Divorces are tough, no matter the circumstances. The best thing you can do if you’re going through a divorce is to hire a professional who specializes in family law.

Alimony in Florida is more complicated than in other states because there is no set formula or means for calculating what it is.

Plus, there are so many factors to consider and lots of paperwork to submit.

If you’re going through a divorce, contact us so that we can help you through the process and get you the fair results that you deserve.

 

 

 

 

Do you plan on getting separated from your partner and want to keep your kid at all costs? Here are 10 serious signs you need a child custody lawyer.

Child custody matters can get messy. You both have a vested interest in raising your child, and may also still be healing from the loss of the romantic relationship.

However, you need to handle the legal aspect of this situation by hiring a child custody lawyer that can protect your interests.

It’s vital that you do what is in your child’s best interests, and that means getting your fair shake as a parent. Consider the points below so you know when hiring a lawyer is necessary.

1. Hire a Child Custody Lawyer If You Live in Different Places

Whether you split due to a divorce or just the end of a long-term relationship, you’ll need to put a custody arrangement in writing. This becomes more difficult when you live in different places.

Simply put, you’ll absolutely need to bring in a child custody lawyer if you’re living in different areas. When you’re living in two different cities or regions, the judge will need to consider the distance and where it makes the most sense for the child to live.  In Florida, the traditional concept of child custody is dead and they instead practice “shared parental responsibilities”.

If you’re in two different states, you will potentially be dealing with two entirely different family court systems. This means you’ll need to learn where and how to file, and what sorts of circumstances the situation is subject to.

Having a lawyer lets you make sense of these issues for you.

2. If the Other Parent Has Hired a Lawyer

It’s definitely important to hire an attorney if the other parent has already retained an attorney. If that’s the case, you’re already behind the legal 8-ball and will need to catch up. and ensure legal requirements are not missed.

When you hire an attorney, you can be at the cause and not the effect of the situation. Without a lawyer, you’ll likely be at the whim of whatever filing the other parent and their attorney submit.

3. Your Ex Is Trying to Keep the Kids from You

Sometimes, the other parent is flat-out being aggressive in trying to deny you your rights to your kids.  This is of course not the mandate behind share parenting.

As long as you’re not abusive or unfit, you have every right to get a child custody arrangement that lets you see your child, and share in the time caring for your child and the responsibility.

If your ex is playing games, creating roadblocks, or breaking the law to keep you from your child, you’ll definitely want to get in touch with an attorney immediately. Your lawyer can intervene and expedite the process of getting in front of a judge and putting a halt to these sorts of actions.

Having a lawyer encourage and facilitate order also puts a third-party between you and the situation, which can help deescalate your involvement. That’s important since these situations are emotionally charged and can open up an entirely different can of worms. Sometimes your strong and emotional attachment can cause definite difficulty for yourself.

4. You Believe Your Child Is in Danger or Being Mistreated

When you believe that your child is in danger, you’ll need to report mistreatment or get in touch with Child Protective Services.

Having a lawyer get involved will not just protect your rights as a parent, but it’ll also get your child out of a potentially abusive or dangerous situation. Your attorney also has enough of a handle on the law to put together evidence that can be useful in pursuing criminal charges as well.

5. A Court Order Has Been Issued

When a judge issues a court order, you’ll definitely need to get the help of an attorney.

A court order dictates concrete custody for shared parenting and visitation schedule. Each state has its own laws in this regard, so you need to figure out how you must respond based on where you live.

In many situations, you’ll be hiring a lawyer so that you can address the order that was filed, to either enforce or modify the order. Having an attorney lets you explain your case in detail, and assert your parental rights.

It’s important to assert your position at a final hearing so your shared parenting is protected.

6. You’ve Been Forced to Take Anger Management or Other Classes

Family court orders often come with a series of stipulations. One situation that people run into is having to take anger management classes, share parenting or other counseling.

There’s nothing at all wrong with anger management, but if you feel like you’ve been wrongfully ordered by the court, it can put your custody rights at risk.

This sometimes happens when a parent tries to sway the judge against the other and engage in sharing. They may fabricate or exaggerate certain stories to paint the other as someone unable to control their anger so that the judge limits access to the child.

Since these types of tactics are nefarious and damaging, you’ll absolutely want the help of a child custody attorney, who can ensure the share parenting laws are being followed.

7. There Have Been Some Significant Complications to the Case

Don’t wait until you’re in over your head to call a lawyer. There are situations where your case starts in a straightforward manner but then becomes more complicated.

For instance, you may begin filing for joint custody or share parental responsibilities, but then your ex begins to get evasive or less cooperative. Or maybe they started a relationship with someone that you don’t feel comfortable having around your kids, and you gro concerned for their safety.

Since these matters get so complicated, you’ll definitely need the help of a lawyer that can jump to your defense.

8. The Case Has Several Complex Matters

As time goes on, the case can become more complex due to life changes. You or your former spouse could have remarried or even had another child by the time family court hearings conclude.

You may have also significantly increased or decreased your income, moved to another area, or have differences of opinion on where to send your child to school. In fact, if the two of you are having significant differences of opinion on how to raise the children, these matters will need to be hashed out in court as well.

Your attorney can help you in court, in addition to opening channels to negotiate an agreement with the other parent and their attorney. Many child custody lawyers are also skilled mediators, which can come in handy with these cases, and ensuring the shared parenting is working for your unique family.

9. Your Child Custody Case Is Costly

If your child custody case is costing you a bit of money, it’s best to bring an attorney on board to make sure your money is being spent productively, which in Florida is known as share parental responsibility, sole parental responsibility or ultimate decision making responsibility.

When your case involves any sort of disputes over getting sole custody, partial custody, or joint custody, you’ll need an attorney that can sort out the details. A child custody case that continuously goes back and forth with multiple hearings might cost you thousands and thousands of dollars, so make sure that you are spending this money in a way that works out for you.

With access to an attorney, you’ll optimize this spending, rather than spending money on trial and error while DIYing your case.

10. You Received a Summons for a Hearing

Once you’re hit with a summons, you’ll need to craft a proper response. By working with an attorney, you’ll be able to respond to the summons in a way that helps your case, and ensures the court will hear your side of the case.

When you fail to respond to the summons in a timely manner, or not at all, your ex has the right to move forward in the case and receive a court judgment without your participation.

Having an attorney that you can strategize with lets you know when to file for continuances to buy more time, how to prepare for any hearing that you have to fulfill, and argue your case to the fullest.

Know What to Look for in an Attorney

Finally, be sure that you choose wisely when looking for a child custody lawyer, no matter where your case may be.

Find someone that fits your sensibilities, and who responds promptly whenever you have a question. Be sure that you have access to an attorney that can prioritize your case, and who you trust to handle it from start to finish.

You’re always better off finding a great attorney by getting references and taking your time to make the wisest decision.

Hire a Child Custody Lawyer for Your Case

When you need the help of a child custody lawyer, it’s important that you do some research. These are the primary situations in which you should definitely call in a custody attorney.

At the Law Office of Erin Morse, you’ll get attentive care for any child custody situation. We can help whether you’re creating a court order, trying to negotiate custody arrangements, or need help modifying a judge’s decision.

We’d be happy to offer you a consultation for your case.

If you need help with a child custody case, contact us for more information.

Child Support Legal Services
In Florida, divorced or separated couples often share joint custody of their children. However, sometimes location or other complications make this arrangement impossible. When one parent has sole physical custody of the children, the non-custodial parent is required to pay child support. Other conditions require support payments as well. Both parents are required to take part in meeting the needs of their children.

Generally, child custody and support are established during divorce proceedings. However, parents who were never married are still entitled to child support. All children are entitled to support to meet their basic needs. If you are having difficulty getting child support that is owed to you, it is best to consult a Florida family law attorney.

Procedures for Obtaining Child Support

To legally obtain child support, you must go through the court system or visit your local child support office. If you and your partner create a verbal or written agreement together, non-payment cannot be pursued by the law. While you may be able to reach an agreement at the time of separation, you cannot be sure one partner won’t change their mind. Your family law attorney will help you get started with the proper forms.

After filing your claim for child support, you will be contacted for information regarding your financial situation and that of your spouse. (If you applied for other government assistance, child support enforcement may have been contacted on your behalf.) It is important to comply with this step. However, it can be difficult to gather information about a parent wishing to avoid payment. Your attorney and the support enforcement office can help get this information. You must also disclose any court case that has involved your child in the past. It may take 6 to 8 months to obtain the support order.

Determination of Payment Amount

In Florida, the income of both parents and the amount of time the child spends living with each parent work to determine the payment amount. There are many factors that define the final amount, but Florida payments are determined by the following calculations.

  • 1 child – 20 percent of income
  • 2 children – 28 percent of income
  • 3 children – 32 percent of income
  • 4 children – 40 percent of income
  • 5 children – 45 percent of income
  • 6 children – 50 percent of income

Along with the use of the calculator, other factors are considered. Some special circumstances may be considered regarding the income of both parents, and the healthcare needs of the child. Florida guidelines include some additional deviations. Payments may be different from the amounts calculated above if the child has excess medical, psychological, or educational expenses. This change would distribute these needs evenly between both parents.

The age of the child(ren) is an important factor regarding the payment amount. Older children may have larger expenses. The independent income earned by the child may also be considered. If parental income varies with seasons, payments may need to be changed as well. A parent will not be required to pay more than 50 percent of their income toward child support payments.

Your custody plan will also be considered when determining payments. The number of overnight stays is an important factor. Other activities may be considered as well. If a parent fails to uphold a joint custody arrangement, support payments may be modified.

Enforcing Child Support Payments

In the event that your spouse refuses to pay or stops making payments, there are ways to enforce support through Florida law. Sometimes, it is difficult to obtain information about a parent attempting to dodge support payments. A family law attorney can help you find the best options to regain unpaid child support.

The Enforcement Unit of the Child Support Department may take the following actions to enforce payment.

  • Wage Garnishment – Employers can deduct the amount of support owed before payment for labor.
  • Freezing Bank Accounts – A computer search can reveal active bank accounts of non-paying parents which can be frozen.
  • Referral for Contempt – Failing to follow a court order is contempt of court which can lead to fines and jail time.
  • Suspension of Licenses – Vehicle and professional licenses can be temporarily suspended.
  • Liens – Liens can be placed on real estate and personal property.
  • IRS Interception – Tax returns can be taken to help cover delinquent payments.
  • Lottery Winnings – If a parent wins more than 600 dollars in the Florida state lottery, the winnings can be used for delinquent support.

Florida child support enforcement works with departments in other states to ensure payment from parents who live in another state. In cases that involve other states, enforcement tactics are used that comply with the laws in both states. A family law attorney is especially useful in these cases to act as a liaison between the cases of each state.

If the support you receive is insufficient, you may be able to modify your payments. This is done by filing a modification petition with the court. This is usually only considered with a significant financial change by either parent. It is important to note that once the modification is filed, the court must see in through even if payments decrease.

How a Family Law Attorney Can Help

There are laws in place to support the needs of children and the families who care for them. However, court cases can become lengthy and difficult. Your family law attorney understands the statutes surrounding your case. An attorney can help you speed up the process by preparing the proper forms, searching for a missing parent, and enforcing support payments.

Child custody and support cases are always difficult and painful for families to endure. Providing for your child(ren) should not be a complication of your separation. If you are facing a child support case in the Orlando area, contact our office today to schedule a free consultation. The Law Office of Erin Morse is ready to fight for your right to provide the best care for your children.

Putting Your Children, Not Your Divorce First

Children deserve to have a healthy relationship with their parents. Parents who are going through a divorce may not be able to be with the children everyday, but through mutual respect of the divorce and separation and putting the children first, the children will feel as if they can better maneuver the separation. This mature approach to a situation that is already mentally taxing can help the children to go a long way. As the child custody and child support related duties are assigned, allowing the children to be the center and in the winning position should be the goal for the parents.

Making a stand for your children is what should be front and center. Child custody is a serious position to have. It is in the interest of the both parents if they decide on child custody in a healthy manner. Both parents can agree to disagree on the dissolution of their relationship, but coming up with a game plan on how to make certain the children are fully supported is key.

CHILD SUPPORT

Child support is put in to place in order to protect and provide for the child. The parent with child custody receives the money to use for raising the child. Remembering this fact and not focusing on how the ex-partner will receive the money can remove a lot of misunderstandings. The financial support is for the parent who has custody to use for the children.

Child support is necessary. In focusing on the game plan of putting the children first, it is best to remember to put egos aside. Child support payments continue until the child is 18 years of age. There are special circumstances where the support may continue if the child is unable to care for him or herself. In Florida paying child support is a necessary step in order to ensure that both parents are involved in the upbringing of the child. Florida has laws in place in order to make certain that both parents participate in hopes of having the child grow up to become an upstanding and balanced individual.

Florida assists parents with the following issues:

  • court orders
  • support enforcement
  • collection from the parents living in another state
  • to enforce payment via income withholding
  • to find a missing parent
  • establish paternity

THE AMOUNT OF SUPPORT

Thе amоunt оf support varies per each situation. The parent who is responsible for paying support reports how much they are making and the judge assesses. The support is an agreement made by negotiating, mediating or a court decision. Factors that are considered for the percentage to pay is the paying parent’s income. Additionally, the parents can agree and arrange for who pays for medical insurance. If the parents do not do this the court may order the paying parent or both parents to pay for the insurance or medical bills.

Without being too afraid that your bottom line will all go away, it is important to understand that the support amount is also based on what the parent is capable of earning as per their education and job skills. Taking on a low wage job in order to avoid child support payments is not a way of making certain that your child is first and winning in the game of life. The court will assess accordingly and may decide that even with a lower paying job the paying parent must pay a higher amount.

MAKING PAYMENTS

In order to comply with the state’s law, payments have to be made. The judge will set how often and how the payments are made if the parents cannot come to an amicable agreement. In too many cases, the parents forget about the importance of the child and start to have a tug-of-war about if they should make payments and if the receiving parent is taking advantage of the situation. If the child has pushed to the side like this, then the payment will be made via the state of Florida’s child support agency.

Not making payments is not putting the child first. In the event that this happens Florida has laws in place to get payments back on track. Modifications and adjustments can be made under special circumstances. If both parents are in agreement they will do so in an agreement of which the court must approve. If the parents are not on the same page the court will decide and could decide to not make a change at all.

When the paying parent does not pay, then the repercussions could be the following:

  • Credit bureaus are notified of the unpaid amount and this affects the paying parent’s credit
  • Tax refunds are taken and diverted accordingly
  • Loss of driver’s license
  • Criminal charges brought forward and jail time served or a fine imposed
  • Lien against property which makes it impossible to sell the property or to transfer it

TAXES

The state works hard to make certain that the child is receiving the child support needed. The benefit goes to the parents when the child is getting the support they need.

Parents are encouraged to have a talk with their accountant in order to learn of the tax benefits.

ATTORNEYS AND MEDIATORS

By hiring an attorney more in depth information can be learned about the situation. Hiring a lawyer in Florida can be helpful in order to make certain the person is going in to the support case with all eyes open and aware of the options.

There is also online information available. Just remember that in order to be fully prepared hiring an attorney may be the next best move to protecting your assets and keeping the child first.

With the help of the Internet there are calculators which help in figuring out how much you may receive and how much is possible overdue. The Internet, however, can never fully assess your personal situation. Hiring an attorney, you can share the specific information about your situation.

Remembering that you and the other parent are in a lifelong commitment to the child is going to be the best goal of putting the child first and not the divorce. The divorce becomes a secondary item on the list of what is important. By keeping a sound mind and the ability to communicate, only then can agreements be made. The divorce attorney you choose will assist in making certain that the child custody and child support are front and center.

The holidays are supposed to be a joyful time of year spent with loved ones. Some families have a little more stress during this season, however. Split families have to share child custody during the holidays. This can be a stressful situation for parents to decide on and, with some many emotions involved, may require help from an Orlando divorce attorney.

With the holidays quickly approaching, now is the time to begin working out a time sharing and visitation schedule for child custody during the holidays. By getting it all figured out now, it can prevent unnecessary stress, confusion, and arguments with the other parent when the time comes. Even if you have joint custody or pay child support, you still need to have a holiday schedule in place.

When the courts become involved in a child custody or Orlando divorce case, the judge almost always grants joint custody or shared custody of the child. This means shared holidays, too. The only time this isn’t the case is when the judge believes it would be detrimental to the child to have to spend more time with a certain parent.

How to Split Child Custody During the Holidays

Most often, a judge will split time during the holidays so that both parents are able to spend an adequate amount of time with the child. This usually means that the judge will grant some kind of time sharing order to the parents that is different than their normal joint custody schedule.

The child custody agreement will likely be different during the holidays than during the rest of the year. Even if the parents have joint custody, one parent pays child support, or one parent only gets one weekend a month, the agreement during the holidays will probably be different.

The two parents can decide how to split up the holidays themselves, but sometimes there will be a disagreement. When this happens, the courts typically have to get involved to make sure that the shared custody schedule is fair for the holidays.

There are a couple different ways that you could split up holidays. One method may work better for your family than the other method, so it is important to think all factors through before deciding. Orlando divorce courts do what they think is best for the child, so if you and your child’s other parent can come to a fair agreement, it is one less step to do in court. The different options include:

  • Switch holidays every other year

One parent would have the child on Christmas in 2018, and the other parent would get to spend Christmas of 2019 with the child. You would do this for every holiday. If you choose to divide up visitation this way, you won’t have to miss seeing your child on a holiday for two years in a row.

  • Split the holiday in half

One parent will get the child in the morning, and the other parent will get to have the child for the rest of the day. This option requires the most planning because you will have to figure in traveling. If you live far from the other parent, a portion of your child’s holiday will be spent traveling, and that isn’t always best.

  • Have the same scheduled holiday every year

This would mean that the parent who gets Christmas gets it every year, and the other parent never gets to spend Christmas with the child. This is important to think about, as well, because both parents will have to sacrifice some of the holidays.

Final Thoughts on Sharing Parenting Time During the Holidays

Both parents want to spend the holidays with their child, but in the case of Orlando divorce, parents are required to split the holidays in some way. If you are struggling to set up a joint custody or child support agreement during the holidays, an Orlando divorce attorney might be the way to go.

How To Establish Paternity In Florida

Studies show children with involved fathers have an advantage compared to children with distant relationships with their dads. Whether the relationship is biological, adopted, or unmarried consummated devotion these factors play a critical role in establishing the father’s paternity.

Fathers have been fighting for neutral custody of their children for years. Still today, paternity in Florida isn’t any easier, but with the help of an Orlando divorce attorney, child custody and child support is awarded fairly.

Matrimonial Paternal Rights

Paternity in Florida represents over 16,000 family court action filings each year. To legally recognize a father’s rights of child custody he needs to file a paternity action establishing paternity.

It’s presumed the husband is the biological father for children born during a marriage. The statute of limitations for challenging the father’s paternity begins when he signs the hospital’s paternity acknowledgment form after the child’s birth.

Each year the Florida Office of the State Court Administrator reports family court filings. Orlando divorce attorneys handle the largest percent of court filings (paternity) compared to civil, criminal or probate.

  • YE 2016 -2017 Florida family court filings (paternity) rose to 38.5 percent, up from 2008 at 28.2 percent.
  • Fathers are blocked or severely limited to time-sharing with their children during the divorce proceedings or separations.
  • Florida encourages a father’s involvement and his legal responsibilities to child support.

Cohabitating Paternity

The percentage of couples choosing to cohabitate before and after the birth of a child continues to rise. Establishing paternity gets complicated when the couple separates.

In most cases, unwed fathers have absolutely no legal rights to their children. The biological mother has full physical and legal custody of the children until the father can legally establish paternity.

  • U.S. Census reported almost 25 percent of Florida household were unmarried adults in 2001.
  • In 2018, 8.5 million unmarried couples were living together in the U.S.
  • Cohabitating partners represent more than 1 million homes with at least two children.

Merely being identified on the birth certificate as the father, does not lawfully prove parental rights in the eyes of the court. Before paternity in Florida can be ascertained, an affidavit of paternity is needed to begin the paternity action. Experienced Orlando divorce attorneys work with the father to authenticate his claims of fatherhood.

Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgement

Sometimes voluntary paternity occurs for married or unwed couples with children. Orlando attorneys ensure a father’s rights to have a healthy relationship with the child or children.

Here, the mother and legally recognized father will sign under oath a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity. In Florida, the document is an admission of the child’s legal father for establishing paternity. The action supports parental legal rights, child custody responsibilities including visitations, active participation in raising the child and child support.

  • Fathers failing to exercise paternity rights could lose custodial rights.
  • More important, the child’s development is impacted without the emotional bonds and financially support.

Before signing the acknowledgment document, each parent needs to consider the consequences because it is irrevocable in most situations. After signing, the courts accept the father as the person with legal rights to the child.

For more information on paternity situations and strategies valued by the State of Florida to support a father’s parental rights, please contact our office.

Fathers believing, they have lawful rights to participate in a child’s life and need assistance in establishing paternity, or wish to contest the court orders, should discuss the circumstances, and consider trustworthy counsel on legal paternity resolutions.