Are You Filing For a Divorce With Minor Children Involved?

In a divorce where children are involved, you will need what is called a Marital Settlement Agreement and a Parenting Plan. If you and the other party are able to agree to the terms, these documents will be presented to the court and included in the final judgment dissolving your marriage.  After you are divorced, your Marital Settlement Agreement and Parenting Plan will serve as written guides for how you will divide money and parenting tasks.  Alternatively, if you and the other party cannot agree the Judge will order the details of a divorce will be ordered by and Judge and the specifics of a Parenting Plan will be decided by the Judge.

 The following will give you a brief outline of some of the elements involved in the process of a divorce.

 Marital Settlement Agreement

A Marital Settlement Agreement lists the terms of the divorce and the relationship between the two spouses after the divorce, which covers equitable distribution, child custody, debt division, alimony and any other relevant issues related to the divorce. This agreement is non-modifiable at any time so it is very important that you know your rights and make the right decision knowing that this can not be changed. 

 

Equitable distribution

Equitable distribution also known as property division, is the fair, but not necessarily equal, division of all marital property, assets, and debts.  This complex concept is discussed in Section 61.075 of the Florida Statutes. Both spouses should be aware of what was owned and owed prior to the marriage, what has been acquired since the marriage, and what is currently owned and owed.

 You and your spouse will decide how to divide or distribute all of your assets and debts so that you can achieve a financial divorce. Some of your assets include:   your home, retirement accounts, bank accounts, investment accounts, possessions, businesses, insurance policies, cars, etc. Your liabilities will include debts – such as your student loans, credit card debts, car loans, mortgage debt, etc. If you and your spouse do not agree on how to divide your assets and debts the Judge will do this for you based on the criteria in the Section 61.075 of the Florida Statutes.

 Alimony

Alimony, also known as Spousal Support, is money or other property paid in fulfillment of a duty to support one’s spouse after a separation or divorce.  If a divorcing couple does not agree to an alimony plan, a judge may order alimony.  There are a number of factors to consider when deciding the question of alimony but the key factor will be the receiver’s need and the payor’s ability to pay.

Section 61.08 of the Florida Statutes

(a) The standard of living established during the marriage

(b) The duration of the marriage.

(c) The age and the physical and emotional condition of each party.

(d) The financial resources of each party, including the non-marital and the marital assets and liabilities distributed to each.

(e) The earning capacities, educational levels, vocational skills, and employability of the parties and, when applicable, the time necessary for either party to acquire sufficient education or training to enable such party to find appropriate employment.

(f) The contribution of each party to the marriage – including services rendered in homemaking, child care, education, and career building of the other party.

(g) The responsibilities each party will have with regard to any minor children they have in common.

(h) The tax treatment and consequences to both parties of any alimony award.

(i) All sources of income available to either party, including income available to either party through investments.

(j) Any other factor necessary to do equity and justice between the parties.

 

Once alimony has been ordered, it may (or may not) be modifiable later on. When discussing alimony, divorcing couples should discuss whether or not this alimony will be modifiable as to the duration (length of time) and/or as to the amount, and what circumstances would warrant a modification.

 

Child Support

The principles in Section 61.29 of the Florida Statutes establish the public policy of the State of Florida in the creation of the child support guidelines. These principles are:

  • Each parent has a fundamental obligation to support his or her minor or legally dependent child

  • The guidelines schedule is based on the parent’s combined net income estimated to have been allocated to the child as if the parents and children were living in an intact household

  • The guidelines encourage fair and efficient settlement of support issues between parents and minimizes the need for litigation

Child support is calculated using a specific, statutory formula (as outlined in Section 61.30 of the Florida Statutes), is known as the Child Support Guidelines Worksheet.  This formula utilizes each parent’s net income the number of overnights, the payment of childcare expenses, and the child’s health insurance to come to the correct amount of child support.  In order to correctly calculate child support you should remember the following:

 A parents’ net income is calculated by subtracting the amount the parent pays in (i) Federal, FICA and Medicare taxes; (ii) mandatory retirement contributions, (iii) mandatory union dues; (iv) health insurance coverage – for the parent only; (v) court-ordered child support from prior cases; and (vi) alimony, from the parent’s gross income.

 The court may adjust or modify child support at any point in time. So as circumstances change either parent may return to court and request a modification of child support. The criteria the court uses to make this decision is outlined in Section 61.30(11) of the Florida Statutes. Child support terminates on a child’s 18th birthday unless the parents agree otherwise.

 

Everything Else

In this section, you and your spouse may include anything else that you agree is relevant including how you will handle the dependency tax exemption for your child, legal expenses, the purchase of life insurance, guidelines for future communications, or visits with the family dog.

 

Parenting Plan

A Parenting Plan is required in all cases involving time-sharing with minor child, even when time-sharing is not in dispute. The Parenting Plan must describe in adequate detail:

  • How the parties 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 minor child will spend with each parent

  • A designation of who will be responsible for any and all forms of health care, school-related matters, including the address to be used for school-boundary determination, registration, and other activities

  • The methods and technologies that the parents will use to communicate with the child

In creating the Parenting Plan, all circumstances between the parents, including their historic relationship, domestic violence, and other factors must be taken into consideration. Determination of the best interests of the child shall be made by evaluating all of the factors affecting the welfare and interest of the particular minor child and the circumstances of that family, as listed in Section 61.13(3) of the Florida Statutes.

 

“That which is in the best interests of the minor child” are the primary consideration in the Parenting Plan. It’s hard to say what would be considered to be in the best interest of the child as each court and each judge is different. There are a few factors and circumstances that most judges consider to be in the children’s best interest:

  • Physical and emotional safety: Courts almost universally believe the child’s best interests are served when the child is placed in a physically and emotionally safe environment free from abuse and neglect.

  • Consistency: Most courts believe consistency is in a children’s best interests and do not favor moving the child from residing with one parent to residing with the other. They also typically do not favor disrupting the child’s schedule, school, and school activities, or moving the child away from friends and extracurricular activities

  • Both parents: Unless one parent has been found unable to care for the child, courts will almost always find that a child’s best interests are served when the child is able to build a relationship with both parents. In other words, it is a very rare move for a court to approve a parenting plan that significantly or completely cuts the child off from seeing the other parent.

  • Family ties: While perhaps not as important as the other factors, if the child has developed significant ties with extended family members like grandparents, aunts, and uncles, a court will likely take this into consideration when determining the child’s best interests. So, for example, a parenting plan that proposes to move a child to a different home and away from the grandparents when the child has a close, loving relationship with the grandparents and has seen them nearly every day of her life might not be approved by the court.

Once the Marital Settlement Agreement and The Parenting Plan have been developed and agreed upon by the parents, the documents will be filed in the court and a hearing will be set.

 

If you have questions or need advice, contact me today. I’m here for you. Call now to schedule your FREE Consultation with me, Attorney Erin Morse.

When Should You Speak With A Child Custody Attorney

Child custody cases can be an emotional and stressful process. It is only natural that you do not want to share your child, however, Florida custody laws favor joint custody. As a matter of fact, Florida does not even use the tradition concept of custody, instead they made determinations of shared parenting based on the best interests of the minor child. It can be difficult to know when it is time to call an experienced child custody lawyer and the following are only some examples of when it may be wise to call for help.

Facing Divorce or A Paternity Case

If you are getting divorced and you have children, child custody will certainly be a major part of your case and you always want an attorney who has experience with child custody matters. In addition, even if you have never been married, you may suddenly be facing a paternity case. This can happen if you are a mother and a man is claiming paternity and wants to have time sharing and other parental rights to your child, or if you are a father seeking rights to shared parenting and a time-sharing schedule. Either way, seeking skilled legal representation is important.

Ex Wants To Move With Your Child

If your child’s other parent has majority time sharing and wants to move away with your child, it can severely limit the amount of time that you spend with your child and can completely change your time-sharing arrangement. Whether you want to fight the move or consent to the move, you should still speak with an attorney as the shared parenting agreement will have to be revised and you want to protect your rights to ensure that the time-sharing schedule can increase in other areas – such as expanded time over the summer, holidays, and school vacations.


Want To Relocate With Your Child

If you have majority time sharing and want to relocate due to a job, to be closer to family, or another important reason, you must get permission from your child’s other parent prior to moving, or request leave of court. This can be challenging and you want to have a child custody lawyer who has experience with relocation cases on your side.


Your Child’s Schedule Has Changed Substantially

As your child gets older, their activities and schedule will almost certainly change. For this reason, a time-sharing and parenting plan that worked when they were younger may no longer be practical. In such cases, you can seek to have to the parenting plan and time-sharing schedule modified to better suit the needs of your child and you should consult with a child custody lawyer for help in doing so especially if your child’s other parent is fighting against any modification of the agreement.


Call Our Orlando Child Custody Attorney For Help

Shared Parental Responsibility can be a complex issue that can have long-term effects on your relationship with your child and in many other aspects of their life, including your schedule and potentially where you live. At the Law Office of Erin Morse, our experienced child custody attorney has helped to resolve many custody disputes both as part of a divorce case and as a separate matter with unmarried parents. If you are facing any type of case involving your child, your first call should be to schedule an initial consultation with Erin Morse, Esquire.

Common Misconception: We Both Agree so We Don’t Need to Go To Court

Not too many people battling over child custody really ever want to go through the courtroom experience. Ending a relationship can obviously be challenging and the thought of going to court can be quite scary for many people, especially when it involves the possibility of losing their children. That’s why some individuals would much rather resolve things without having to go to court.

 However, there is a common misconception that going to court is not necessary if both parties agree on the terms. While it is true that many couples use family law attorneys or mediation to come to a settlement without the help of a judge, there are some issues that really should be settled in court no matter what. For example, when child custody and child support are part of your breakup, having a court oversee those issues is a very smart choice.

 You might ask: “if we already agree on everything, then why do we need to waste our time in court? Of course, being able to come to an agreement together, as two levelheaded and responsible adults is a great idea for both you and your children. However, what happens if things don’t go as planned a few months, or a year, down the road?

 For example, let’s say you or your ex suddenly decides that the child custody arrangement isn’t so fair after all? Then what happens? Or, perhaps your ex who agreed to pay child support decides he doesn’t want to pay as much, doesn’t want to pay at all, or wants to condition the child support on your doing something for him? How would you handle that situation? These are the kinds of things that can happen after couples split up, and if there is no court order in place, then there’s little to no recourse you can take to remedy the problems.

 Plus, when feelings are hurt and emotions run high it becomes a lot more difficult for angry, former partners, to reach a new agreement. That’s why it is so important to go to court and have a judge make everything official, even if you already have an agreement in place that everyone is happy with.

 In fact, if you already have a plan that both parties agree upon then the court process should be much simpler and quicker to manage (i.e., less costly!). Plus, in the event that your ex isn’t happy with the agreement, or decides to renege on his promises to you, you will now have protection in place in the form of a court order, which cannot be changed without the court’s permission.

 While most people would rather avoid the courtroom, going to court is very helpful with child custody and child support matters. If you need assistance in Orlando and the surrounding areas, contact us today at (407) 900-7451 or click here to connect with us online. You can depend on the Law Office of Erin Morse to help with your child custody and child support matters.

Ways To Make Divorce Easier On Children

Going through a divorce is definitely an emotional and confusing time for both the children and adults. Unfortunately, sometimes children become bargaining chips or pawns against the other parent. Working out the details of a split can be messy, which means we can take our eye off of how our children are handling the situation, and what is in their best interest.

 However, while you and your spouse may have irreconcilable differences, it doesn’t mean your kids have to suffer. In fact, you should be putting special focus on them, as it’s likely just as traumatic for them as it is for you.

 Here are seven things to keep in mind regarding your children during a marital split…

 

1. Do Not Fight In Front Of The Children

This actually goes for married parents and those going through a separation of unwed parents, but yelling at the other parent during this already emotional time can have more dire consequences for children in many cases. At no time should you ever speak badly of the other parent or yell at the other parent.

Divorce itself is not what causes children pain, it’s watching their parents battle openly. This can heighten anxiety and stress in children, and even cause fear if their parents are always at each other’s throats. Children can pick up on the tension about the other parent. It truly is your duty to shield them from this tension and encourage the other parent to do the same.

2. Remind Your Child It’s Not Their Fault

Many children, especially if they’re older and understand what’s happening, may automatically think they are the cause of the split. However, it’s important to take to the time to explain they’re not the cause of the turmoil and that they’re loved by you and their other parent.

 Failing to show love for your child during this time can seriously affect their self-esteem. The act of telling your children they’re loved needs to be done more than once – it should be a regular reassurance. Take the time to be with your children and make sure to give them that one on one attention.


3. Do Not Talk Badly About The Other Parent

In some cases, divorcing parents like to use their kids as weapons against each other by saying negative things about their former spouse to them. Those statements could include that the other half doesn’t care about them, or doesn’t work hard enough for them, which kids can take very personally. When you speak badly about the other parent, you are speaking badly about your children. After all, they are made up of one half of the other parent.

If you have a beef to clear up with your former spouse, do it in person or over the phone in a rational manner – don’t give your children negative messages that they will ask the other parent about. This is not a healthy way to teach children about conflict resolution, and it will ultimately erode a child’s sense of self-worth. Your job right now is to lead by example and teach these healthy coping mechanisms and communication through conflict.

 

4. Try To Limit Change To Your Children’s Routines

If you’re finding that a living arrangement will be changing drastically due to a divorce, which takes one or both parents out of the family home, try to ease this transition. This may take some creativity so try to plan it so the child can remain in the same school and see the same friends if possible.  

 Trying to figure out new school or childcare arrangements can be tricky, especially when you’re trying to figure out other elements of the divorce such as financial details. Your child may love their surroundings and have made friends, and taking them out of that environment unnecessarily could cause some resentment. Find the good and positive aspects of your “new normal”. Allow children to have moments of being upset or disappointed remind them it is okay to feel that way.

5. Let Your Children Express Their Emotions

 You may be in “damage control” mode and are trying to sugarcoat the situation, but you also have to accept that kids will likely have reactions you might not like. Don’t discount your child’s anger or confusion; your focus should be allowing them to ask questions and seeking affection.

 You should allow them to vent a little and expect to answer a variety of questions regarding the situation. One approach is to ask your child if there’s anything they’d like to do or talk about that would make them feel better, notes the source. It also says that not all kids react right away, so be prepared a few weeks or even months down the road to weather a storm. In many of these circumstances having the children participate in counseling can helpful. 

 

6. Look Forward To Your Time With Your Children

 If a custody agreement is already in place, then you should plan to make the most of your time with your kids – whether that’s 1-day a week or 4-days. You love your kids and likely put some effort into arranging the agreement to have them, so show them they’re important. Even if your time is limited, make the best of it and don’t let your circumstances ruin your relationship you have with your children. 

A custody agreement is about the kids, not you. The hardest part for co-parenting is remembering that time with the child is not a prize to be won, but a gift to be cherished. Make the most of it, and include activities you know they’ll enjoy. 

7. It’s Never Too Late To Apologize

 Divorce can be emotional for children, they are surprisingly able to withstand and recover quickly from difficult conditions. They can bounce back with a little encouragement. If you think your behavior hasn’t been perfect lately, draw your line in the sand, and improve your behavior and reactions as soon as possible.

 So while you’re not ready to say sorry to the other parent, you can tell your kids you’re sorry for any pain you’ve caused them and promise to do better. Whether it’s putting on a smile for them, avoiding talking about the other parent, or just letting them be a kid. This can be a lot tougher for older teenaged kids to accept but telling your kids you’re sorry and making them your priority can go a long way to preventing bitterness later on. Don’t forget that sometimes you’ve got to “fake it until you make it” … meaning that the more you speak positively and act positively, it will become your self falling prophecy.

 

Let Our Experienced Divorce Attorney Morse Help You

Call now to schedule a free consultation to speak with an experienced and passionate Family Law Attorney Erin Morse to help you with your legal matter. For sound advice and effective representation regarding your Florida divorce, call the Law Office of Erin Morse in Orlando at 407-900-7451.

Is A 50/50 Time Sharing Good For A Child?

Many people start a divorce or paternity case with the impression that 50/50 timesharing/visitation is in the best interest of their child. However, this premise does not take into account that each family is unique and has its own
individual dynamics and circumstances.

Children show the best adjustment in divorce or paternity cases where there is a cooperative co‑parenting, shared responsibility (shared decision-making) and limited conflict between the parents.

Children should have substantial contact with both parents. However, this does not mean that an equal timesharing/visitation arrangement is best for all children. The focus of any parent engaged in a divorce or paternity action should be upon the quality of the relationships (both between the parents themselves and between the parents and the children and each child). Quality is not always determined by the amount of time a child spends with you as a parent. There are a number of circumstances in which 50/50 timesharing/visitation may not be in the best interest of the child. Those circumstances include, but are not limited to:


Special needs of a child.

One parent may be better suited to deal with a child’s special need/developmental disability than the other parent. Such situations with children include ADHD, anxiety, autism, developmental delays, and other related developmental and physical special needs;


Geographical facts of the parents’ residences.

If the parents live any substantial distance apart from one another, then a 50/50 timesharing/visitation schedule would require troublesome travel for a child during the school year. The child would have difficulty traveling from each parent’s home to school. It seems implausible that children should be on the road at 5:00 or 6:00 a.m. to attend their chosen school. It also will make it difficult for the child to participate in extracurricular activities and maintain friendships that the child develops at school.

Parents, who are divorcing or separating, need to remember that as children grow older, their peer relationships become more and more important. Also, consistent excellent academic performance by students requires adequate rest and a consistent schedule that meets their needs. 50/50 timesharing/visitation cannot provide that in all circumstances;


Determine Best Timesharing/Visitation for Your Family Now with a Family Law Assessment!

Some family dynamics are not suited for a 50/50 timesharing/visitation schedule. For instance, when one parent is largely absent from the home and the caregiver role, the other spouse has had to act as the role of the primary caregiver for the child. Particularly where children are young, it would be highly disruptive to them to change this type of dynamic. In addition, a parent who has been largely absent from the home and caregiver role during the marriage is likely to continue to be largely absent from the home and the caregiver role at the conclusion of the divorce, despite the court’s order for a 50/50 timesharing/visitation. This would result in the primary caregiver having to care for the child without receiving child support to offset the increased expenses of providing extra care; and A Florida 50/50 timesharing/visitation schedule assumes that all parent-child attachments are the same. Research, over the past decades has conclusively proven that not all attachments between parents and their children are equal. There is a hierarchy of attachments which need to be recognized.

Exceptions to 50/50 Florida Timesharing

There is no psychological research that supports equal timesharing/visitation as being the best for all children and all families. Consequently, divorcing or separating parents should always be aware that they should be seeking a timesharing/visitation schedule for their child which is in their child’s best interests. Parents should not be caught up in any premise that assumes a particular schedule for timesharing/visitation fits all families. Each family should be attempting to devise a timesharing/visitation schedule that is in the best interest of their children and best suits their family’s situation and circumstances.

Let Our Experienced Orlando Family Law Attorney Help You

Reach out to an experienced Board Certified Family Law Attorney for legal advice and effective representation to your unique situation. Fill out a form online or call the Law Office of Erin Morse in Orlando at (407) 900-7451 to schedule a consultation with Attorney Morse.

Protecting Yourself Online: Divorce & Social Media

Social media allows us to comment quickly and casually about our lives, but during a divorce, the consequences of sharing sensitive information may affect the outcome of a divorce settlement. In Florida, divorce lawyers and family law attorneys can use blogs, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter posts and more, as evidence in court, so it’s important for people in the midst of divorce to be careful about over-sharing.

In the midst of a painful divorce, it can be tempting to make negative comments about an ex. It’s important to understand the repercussions if you choose to do so. If there are children involved and the court believes your dialogue traumatic or damaging, contact with your children may be restricted. A child’s well-being is incredibly important in the eyes of the law.

 

During a Divorce Avoid Posting these Things on Social Media

If you’ve been celebrating your new single status by attending more parties or bars than usual, you may want to remove sensitive photographs from the web, especially if you have children. You could be seen as an irresponsible parent, and you could lose custody.

Social media users also need to avoid the impulse to show off new purchases. Avoid posting pictures of the Harley your spouse wouldn’t let you buy, a new vacation home in Puerto Rico, or of the flying lessons you’re taking. Evidence of major purchases or extravagant spending could impact your divorce settlement or give the other party cause to investigate your earnings statements.

 If you have a new girlfriend or boyfriend in the picture, be sure to keep it private. A skilled divorce attorney may try to position you as someone who wasn’t committed to the marriage.

 For someone going through a divorce, protecting your image is important. If you feel like you can’t control yourself online, it might be best to refrain from using your accounts until the divorce is over.

Contact Our Caring and Experienced Orlando Family Law Attorney Today

 If you or someone you know has experienced these divorce warning signs, schedule a consultation to discuss your situation with an experienced family law attorney. You don’t need to go through the divorce process alone. Our family law attorney at Law Office of Erin Morse will help you discuss your case, understand the Florida divorce process, your options and rights, and help guide you through this process. We proudly serve our clients throughout Orlando and the surrounding areas; including Orange, Seminole, Volusia, Lake, Brevard and Osceola counties.  
 

Schedule a consultation today by calling us at (407) 900-7451 or completing a contact form.