Couples sometimes choose to enter into an agreement/contract that sets forth their rights in the event of a dissolution of marriage. These agreements can be drafted prior to or after marriage. Prenuptial agreements are prepared while the parties contemplate marriage while postnuptial agreements are entered into after the parties have married. These types of agreement can be beneficial in preventing a lengthy and costly legal battle.
Divorces are difficult and often time traumatic on all those involved including minor children. As a result, I often find that my clients want the process of finalizing their divorce to be as quick and painless as possible. However, it is so important that you know your rights and obligations as the final judgment will determine your rights and responsibilities moving forward. Specifically, some of the most common issues addressed throughout a divorce, including equitable distribution, alimony, parenting plans, and child support, are discussed below in more detail.
Child support is governed by Florida Statutes, Section 61.30, which provides the statutory guidelines that are applied by the courts in establishing the amount of child support to be paid by each parent. In order to properly calculate child support it is important to know each parent's income, child care costs, non-covered medical and dental expenses, health insurance expenses, and the amount of overnights the child(ren) will spend with each parent. The method for calculating child support is outlined in the child support guidelines worksheet, Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure Form 12.902(e).
A Parenting Plan is required in all cases involving minor children. Florida law states that it must, at a minimum "describe in adequate detail how the parents will share and be responsible for the daily tasks associated with the upbringing of the child; the time-sharing schedule arrangements that specify the time that the 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 and registration, and other activities; and the methods and technologies that the parents will use to communicate with the child." Florida Statutes, Section 61.13(2)(b). If the parents cannot agree to a Parenting Plan then it will be established by the court. At times, the court requires the help of an expert in order create a Parenting Plan that is in the best interest of the child. A parenting plan has two separate components, (1) decision-making and (2) time-sharing.
A child that is born into a marriage is considered to be the child of the wife and husband. If a child is born out of wedlock, then the determination of paternity for that child will be governed by Florida Statutes, Section 742.10. Florida Statutes, Section 742.18 creates a procedure for a man to petition to the court to disestablish paternity and terminate a child support obligation if he is not biological father of a child. Paternity proceedings are initiated by filing a complaint, a Petition to Establish Paternity, along with several additionally required forms. Only certain parties have the right to file a paternity action. Once the paternity action has commenced, the court may require the child, mother, and alleged father to submit to a DNA test to establish paternity. This is most common when the alleged father is contesting the paternity action. If paternity is established, the father will be entitled to paternity legal rights, but legal responsibilities are also created. The court is therefore entitled to issue orders for time-sharing with the child(ren) and payment of child support.
ENFORCEMENT: There are consequences to the willful failure to comply with a court order. It is important that you are aware of your legal rights against the non-compliant party, including, but not limited to, contempt of court, order of payment through the central governmental depository, an income withholding order, payment of costs and fees, fines, and incarceration.
MODIFICATION: Florida law allows modification of a final judgment concerning property interests, parental responsibility, alimony and/or child support. A request for modification of a final judgment must be made in accordance with Florida law. Depending on the type of modification sought, the petitioner will have to make specific allegations in his or her complaint, sufficient to meet the legal standard required to successfully obtain the modification.