Family Law

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Family Law

Divorce/Dissolution of Marriage

Although commonly referred to as divorce, the terminology in the State of Florida is “dissolution of marriage.” All that is required to obtain a divorce is for the marriage to be “irretrievably broken,” which essentially means that the marriage cannot be salvaged through counseling or other means. To obtain a divorce in the state of Florida, at least one of the parties must have resided in Florida for six months prior to filing the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. The parties are not required to live in separate residences before seeking a dissolution of marriage. The court has the authority to dissolve the marriage even if one spouse does not consent to it. In other words, your spouse does not have to agree to or “give you a divorce.”

In addition to dissolving the marriage itself, there are other issues which are often determined in a divorce proceeding, including division of assets and liabilities, alimony, child custody and child support, among others. If any of these issues are disputed by the parties, the divorce is a “contested divorce.” Attorneys are usually required in a contested divorce where the parties are unable to agree on the pertinent issues. When the parties cannot reach an agreement, either on their own or after mediation, the case will proceed to trial before a judge, who will resolve the remaining issues.

The family law attorneys at Tassone & Dreicer understand the intricacies of Florida divorce law and are dedicated to providing superior legal representation. We will carefully examine the facts in your case and advise you of your legal rights and options. Contact us today so that we can begin protecting your interests.

Modifications

Florida law recognizes that needs and circumstances change over time and allows for modifications of time-sharing arrangements, child support and alimony in certain cases. For example, a significant change in income may necessitate a change in child support or alimony. Parenting plans may need to be modified due to changes in an ex-spouse’s residence location or employment. Absent an agreement between the parties, a party must prove that there has been a significant change in circumstances and that the proposed modification is in the best interest of the child. The burden of proving a substantial change of circumstances is fairly difficult as the courts generally discourage litigants from coming back to court simply to renegotiate their previous deal.

Florida law also provides for enforcement of child support or spousal support obligations that are not paid. Willful failure to pay such obligations may be considered contempt of court. A party found in contempt can face sanctions up to and including incarceration. A party can also motion the court for enforcement if there are violations of a parenting plan and timesharing schedule or if other aspects of the court order are disregarded.

We are able to assist with modifications and enforcement after your divorce or paternity case is final. If you have had a substantial change of circumstances, it is imperative to seek the assistance of an experienced family law attorney who can evaluate your case to see whether your circumstances would justify a modification and advise you of the proper steps to take.

Contact Tassone, Dreicer & Hill online now, or call us at 904-396-3344

Child Custody/Time-sharing

Read the latest article about a proposed new law on Child Time-Sharing

In October 2008, there were significant changes in Florida law which led to a new child custody statute. As part of the new law, the state largely did away with such terms as “custody,” “primary parent,” and “visitation.” The parents are now simply referred to as the Mother and the Father of the child. Courts now presume that both parents will share parental responsibilities and that each has an equal interest in raising their children, absent a finding that shared parenting would be detrimental to the child.

Divorcing parents are required to develop a parenting plan that describes how parents will share responsibility for their children’s upbringing and specifies the time that each parent will have with the children. The plan should include the following information:

  • Where the children will live
  • How parents will share child-rearing responsibilities
  • Time-sharing arrangements including division of holidays and school breaks
  • Which parent will make decisions regarding the child’s health care, schooling and extracurricular activities
  • How the parents will communicate with each other and the child
  • Who will be responsible for transporting the child and how the costs of same will be paid
  • Which parent’s address will be used for school zone purposes

If the parties can agree on a parenting plan, then the court will review it to insure that it is in the best interests of the child. Should the parents be unable to agree on the terms of a parenting plan, then a trial is conducted by the court to establish such a plan for the parties. All of the new flowery language and euphemisms aside, a trial over a parenting plan is still a good old-fashioned custody fight with all the attendant vitriol and acrimony. Witnesses such as relatives, family friends, neighbors, teachers, childcare workers and, if necessary, psychotherapists are called to testify at trial by one or both of the parents. Evidence such as the medical records, report cards, photographs of the home and criminal records are introduced to persuade the court that the child should live with one or the other parent a majority of the time.

Parenting plans are a new way of addressing child custody issues, and it is important to seek the advice of a family law attorney who is knowledgeable and experienced in these cases and the changing statutory law. The attorneys at Rice & Rose will answer your time-sharing questions and will work diligently to help you formulate a parenting plan that addresses all pertinent custody issues. Although settlement and compromise is by all means the best way to resolve children’s issues, our attorneys are experienced at custody litigation and trial should it be necessary to protect your children.

criminal law firm JacksonvilleChild Support

Both parents are responsible for the support of their children after a divorce or paternity action. In many cases, the parent with whom the child lives most of the time will receive child support from the other parent. Child support is payment made by one parent to another for support of their children after divorce or separation. In most cases, child support will terminate when the child reaches the age of 18 or graduates high school. Florida does not require a parent to support his or her child after they reach the age of majority nor to pay for the child’s college education. In cases where the child is incapacitated during his or her minority, then the courts can declare him or her a dependent child and require the parents to support the child throughout adulthood.

Child support payments in Florida are largely determined by statutory guidelines that use a formula to determine the proper payment amount. The guideline formula used by the court will look at and weigh several factors to determine the payment amount, including the net income of each parent, the number of children, the cost of health insurance for the children, the cost of child care, the special needs, if any, of the children and the amount of time the children spend with each parent. The court can depart from the guideline amount by up to 5 percent, up or down, after considering all relevant factors. A departure of more than 5 percent requires the court to make specific written findings to justify the deviation. Also, if the paying parent has the children for more than 20% of the overnights, then that parent has substantial shared parenting which will require the court to use a different formula for calculating child support and will likely reduce the amount of child support ordered.

Because it’s the child’s right to receive support, parents do not have the right to waive child support. If a parent does waive support in a divorce or paternity agreement, that waiver can later be set aside as it is a violation of public policy.

For federal income taxation purposes, child support is unlike alimony in that it is not considered as income for the receiving parent or child, nor is it tax deductible for the paying parent. Additionally, which parent gets to claim the child or children as dependents for federal income tax purposes is an issue which is either agreed to by the parties or decided by the court. Because of issues like these, it is imperative to carefully consider the terms of a marital settlement agreement, given the tax consequences.

The attorneys at Tassone&Dreicer have extensive experience in child support issues. Contact them to discuss your legal options and ensure that your child’s needs are met.

Contact Tassone, Dreicer & Hill online now, or call us at 904-396-3344

Alimony

Alimony is support paid by one spouse to the other spouse, based on one spouse’s need and the ability of the other spouse to pay. There have been recent changes to the alimony statute, and the legislature is presently considering additional changes. Some recent changes include the legislature defining a short-term marriage, a moderate-term marriage and a long-term marriage. The type of alimony, if appropriate, will be based on the length of the marriage, along with other factors, including the ability to pay and the need of each spouse. There are different types of alimony, including bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, durational and permanent.

There are a number of factors that a court will consider in determining a proper alimony or maintenance award, including:

  • Financial resources of each party, the non-marital and the marital assets, and liabilities distributed to each
  • Time needed for either party to acquire education or training for appropriate employment
  • Standard of living established during the marriage
  • Duration of the marriage
  • Age and the physical and emotional condition of each party
  • Contribution of each party to the marriage, including services rendered in homemaking, child care, education and career building of the other party
  • All sources of income available to either party

The duration of spousal support will vary depending on the facts of the particular case and on the type of alimony awarded. Some forms of alimony may not be modified, while many are modifiable based on a substantial change in circumstances. Additionally, an amendment to Florida Statute Section 61.14 provides the court with authority to modify or terminate alimony if the spouse receiving alimony resides with an unrelated person, who is providing support to or receiving support from the receiving spouse. The statute provides a list of criteria that the court must consider in determining whether such a “supportive relationship” exists under Florida law.

Whether or not you expect to pay or receive alimony in your divorce, it is important that you understand your rights with regard to spousal support. Our attorneys will examine the specifics of your case to determine whether you are a candidate for alimony or are faced with prospect of paying it. We will work to either maximize or minimize your payment depending on whether you are the paying or receiving spouse.

Injunctions/Protection Order Hearings / Injunction Violation

In the state of Florida, a spouse or family member who is the victim of domestic violence or has been threatened with imminent violence may seek an injunction (commonly referred to as a “restraining order”) prohibiting contact with the person named in the injunction. An injunction can apply to almost any incidents of violence between spouses, ex-spouses, family members, people who live together, and people who are romantically involved. The purpose of the injunction is to provide the victim with immediate protection.

To obtain such protection, a party must file a petition for a domestic violence injunction. A judge will review the petition and decide whether to grant or deny temporary relief. If the court determines that the petition is valid, a temporary injunction will be issued by the court which will be effective immediately. The matter will then be set for a full hearing within 15 days to determine whether a permanent injunction should be issued.

In addition to injunctions for protection against domestic violence, Florida law also provides for injunctions for protection against repeat violence, dating violence and sexual violence. The type of injunction obtained depends on the nature of the relationship between the victim and abuser.

Our attorneys can assist you if you need to seek an injunction or a protective order hearing. We will work aggressively to ensure that you are protected.

Child Abuse / Neglect

Nothing in our society is worthy of more protection and shielding from harm than our children. In instances where there is legitimate abuse, it should be stopped and the guilty party punished. Unfortunately, it is quite common that an innocent person is accused of this crime and left to their devices to defend the allegation. Legitimate or not, when an allegation is made that a child has been abused or neglected, not only with the Department of Children and Family Services get involved but so too with the police and State Attorney’s Office. These allegations can range from a nosey neighbor calling the police to report bruises on a child to charges in extreme and heinous circumstances where a child is found locked in a closet or a cage. As with any other violent criminal allegation, and in some instances more often, pointing a finger and alleging that this crime has occurred does not necessarily mean that the allegation is well founded. Bruises and dirt on children today can lead to an overbearing individual making a police report whereas for the children of yesteryear the idea of not having a bruise somewhere meant you weren’t outside roughhousing enough. Times have changed and so too has the alertness on behalf of children.

HOW DOES FLORIDA DEFINE CHILD ABUSE? Child abuse in Florida is categorized as aggravated child abuse, simple child abuse, and child abuse through neglect. Punishment will depend on categorization and the amount of bodily harm inflicted upon the child.

Aggravated Child Abuse occurs when a person:

  • Commits aggravated battery on a child;
  • Willfully tortures, maliciously punishes, or willfully and unlawfully cages a child; or
  • Knowingly or willfully abuses a child and in so doing causes great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement to the child.

Simple Child Abuse occurs when a person:

  • Intentionally inflicts mental or physical injury upon a child;
  • An intentional act that could reasonably be expected to result in physical or mental injury to a child;
  • Active encouragement of a person to commit to commit an act that could reasonably be expected to result in physical or mental injury to a child.

Neglect of a Child means:

  • A caregiver’s failure or omission to provide a child with the care, supervision, and services necessary to maintain the child’s physical and mental health, including, but not limited to, food, nutrition, clothing, shelter, supervision, medicine, and medical services that a prudent person would consider essential for the well-being of the child; or
  • A caregiver’s failure to make a reasonable effort to protect a child from abuse, neglect, or exploitation by another person.

HOW CAN WE HELP?

Unfortunately, often these cases are precipitated by an individual with a bad ulterior motive. Your spouse in a divorce, disapproving Grandparents, or a scorned ex-lover are all capable of pointing a finger out of revenge or in an effort to earn custody of a child. An individual not sharing your beliefs or lifestyle may also have an interest in rocking you to your core.

We understand how to handle unfounded allegations. Our policy of early diligence in our cases has often led to charges not being filed against our clients or the discovery of evidence to leverage the State into dropping the charge or offer a great deal during the pendency of your case.

Contact Tassone, Dreicer & Hill online now, or call us at 904-396-3344

Relocation

Upon filing a petition for divorce or paternity, or entry of a final judgment of divorce or paternity, a person cannot simply decide to move 50 miles or more with their minor children. Florida statutes have strict guidelines for child relocation. Whether you are attempting to move away with your child, or you are a parent trying to prevent child relocation, it is important to seek advice from an experienced family lawyer as soon as possible.

At the law firm of Tassone&Dreicer, we can provide compassionate and skilled representation in cases of relocation. Relocation disputes are complex and must be determined in accordance with applicable law in order to fully protect your rights. If you or the other parent intends to move with your children, you should contact an experienced lawyer in our firm for an initial consultation.

Numerous factors are considered by the court in determining whether relocation is in the child’s best interest, including:

  • The child’s relationship with each parent
  • The child’s age and impact the relocation would have on the child
  • The ability to maintain the child’s relationship with the non-relocating parent through substitute arrangements
  • The child’s preference, depending on the child’s age and maturity
  • Whether the relocation will enhance the quality of life for both the parent seeking relocation and the child
  • The reasons why each parent is seeking or opposing the relocation
  • The current employment and economic circumstances of each parent and whether the proposed relocation is necessary to improve the economic circumstances of the parent seeking relocation
  • Whether the relocation is sought in good faith and the extent to which the objecting parent has fulfilled his or her financial obligation to the parent seeking relocation
  • The career and other opportunities available to the objecting parent if the relocation occurs
  • Whether there is a history of substance abuse or domestic violence by either parent
  • Any other factor affecting the best interest of the child

 

Modification / Enforcement

Florida law recognizes that needs and circumstances change over time and allows for modifications of time-sharing arrangements, child support and alimony in certain cases. For example, a significant change in income may necessitate a change in child support or alimony. Parenting plans may need to be modified due to changes in an ex-spouse’s residence location or employment. Absent an agreement between the parties, a party must prove that there has been a significant change in circumstances and that the proposed modification is in the best interest of the child. The burden of proving a substantial change of circumstances is fairly difficult as the courts generally discourage litigants from coming back to court simply to renegotiate their previous deal. Florida law also provides for enforcement of child support or spousal support obligations that are not paid. Willful failure to pay such obligations may be considered contempt of court. A party found in contempt can face sanctions up to and including incarceration. A party can also motion the court for enforcement if there are violations of a parenting plan and timesharing schedule or if other aspects of the court order are disregarded. The family law attorneys at Tassone&Dreicer are able to assist with modifications and enforcement after your divorce or paternity case is final. If you have had a substantial change of circumstances, it is imperative to seek the assistance of an experienced family law attorney who can evaluate your case to see whether your circumstances would justify a modification and advise you of the proper steps to take.

Contact Tassone, Dreicer & Hill online now, or call us at 904-396-3344

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