What terms should be included in a separation agreement?Although a legal agreement is not required when a couple decides to separate, working out certain details can preserve harmony, protect rights, and promote predictability. A separation agreement may be most advisable when the parties have very different financial situations, such as when one spouse is the wage-earner and the other is raising the couple's children. A formal separation agreement can help ensure that all family members' needs will be met.
An attorney can make sure that a separation agreement covers all necessary details and complies with applicable law. Although it may seem like a good idea to save money by having one lawyer draft or review the agreement, it is really in each party's best interests to be separately represented, so that each lawyer can draft or review the separation agreement with his or her client's needs in mind. The terms of such agreements will vary, depending on the needs of the particular parties involved, but the following items should be addressed:
- The spouses' right to live separately;
- Custody of the children;
- A visitation schedule, or a provision for reasonable visitation;
- Child support;
- Alimony or spousal support;
- The children's expenses, including medical, dental, educational, and recreational;
- Property and debt division;
- Insurance, including medical, dental, and life; and
- Income taxes.
- The spouses' right to live separately;
What happens to the property that each spouse owned before the marriage?In most states, whether they follow a community-property or equitable-distribution scheme, the property that each spouse owned before the marriage, as well as property given to or inherited by one spouse during the marriage, remains that spouse's separate property. It may, however, be considered as part of the total circumstances in determining a fair allocation of the marital property.
In addition, if non-marital property is not kept separate from marital property, it may lose its separate characterization and become subject to division.
Example: If one spouse had a bank account containing $5,000 before the marriage, but during the marriage the spouses both made deposits and withdrawals from the same account, the amount in the account at the time of divorce or separation will probably be deemed marital property, to be divided between the husband and wife. If, on the other hand, the spouse with the $5,000 account deposits only other non-marital money, such as inheritances to him or her alone, in the account throughout the marriage, all the money in the account will probably remain with that spouse upon divorce.
A house owned by one spouse prior to marriage presents unique issues, because often both spouses contribute to the home's maintenance and mortgage payments during their marriage. In some states, this commingling of marital and non-marital assets converts the home to marital property. Perhaps the fairer resolution, however, applied in other states, is that the amount of equity in the home at the time of marriage remains the original owner-spouse's property, but the increase in equity value during the marriage is marital property that belongs to both spouses. The same principles apply in cases involving increases in the value of a family business owned by one spouse before marriage.
What kinds of assets are divided in a divorce?The parties in a divorce can agree to the division of, or the judge will divide, all marital or community property owned by the parties. Generally speaking, this includes most of the property the couple acquired during the marriage, including the marital home; a second or vacation home; home furnishings and appliances; artwork; vehicles, including cars, boats, airplanes, snowmobiles, and motorcycles; money; stocks, bonds, and other investments; pensions; and privately owned businesses.
The value of other, more intangible property is also often divided. Examples of divisible intangible property include the value of a patent on an invention, the value of the celebrity status of a spouse's name, the goodwill value of a business owned by one spouse, and the value of a professional degree earned by one spouse. The value of these intangible assets will generally only be divided when both spouses made a substantial contribution to that value, either directly or indirectly, such as by supporting the spouse to whom the asset is more directly attributable.
It is not always easy for a spouse to identify all of the assets that may be available for valuation and division, especially if the other spouse is less than forthcoming with the details. This is where the parties' lawyers can help. Through the legal process known as discovery, the parties' attorneys exchange documents that reveal each party's income, assets, and liabilities. Documents such as tax returns, personal financial statements, bank account statements, brokerage house records, real estate records, loan applications, and business records usually give a clear indication of each party's financial situation. In addition, each spouse is usually deposed by the other spouse's attorney. At the deposition, the questioned spouse will respond, under oath, to questions designed to gather all necessary information about his or her assets and income.
If necessary, additional parties may be deposed, such as employers, bankers, or business partners. If these additional witnesses do not come forth willingly, their presence can be compelled through the issuance of a subpoena, which is an official legal document that commands their participation.
What is the legal divorce process like?Although some divorces are very simple and can be handled with a minimum amount of red tape and delay, such as when there is no significant property involved and the couple has no children, most divorces are far more difficult and can take many different courses. The following, however, is a basic outline of the divorce process.
- One spouse contacts a lawyer, who assists in the preparation of a petition (or complaint), the legal document that sets forth the reasons why the divorce should be granted and outlines the relief sought.
- The petition is filed with the court and served on the other spouse, together with a summons that requires that spouse's response.
- The served spouse must respond within the time limit prescribed or it will be assumed that he or she does not contest the petition, in which case the petitioner will be granted the requested relief. The response, or answer, must set forth the relief that the answering spouse requests.
- The parties, through their attorneys, engage in "discovery," during which they exchange all documents and other information relevant to deciding the issues in the divorce such as property division, spousal support, child support, etc.
- The parties may attempt to reach a settlement based on the full disclosure to each other of all relevant information. The settlement process can be initiated voluntarily or facilitated by the parties' lawyers or a neutral third party, such as a mediator.
- If a settlement is reached, the agreement encompassing the terms of the settlement is submitted to the court at an informal hearing. The judge will ask both parties a few basic factual questions and whether they understand and freely entered into the agreement.
- If the judge approves the agreement, he or she issues a divorce decree that includes the terms to which the parties agreed. If he or she does not approve it, or if there has been no agreement, the case will go to trial.
- At trial, the attorneys present the evidence and arguments for both sides, and the judge decides the unresolved issues, including child custody and visitation, child and spousal support, and property division, and grants the divorce.
- Either or both parties can appeal the judge's decision to a higher court.
- One spouse contacts a lawyer, who assists in the preparation of a petition (or complaint), the legal document that sets forth the reasons why the divorce should be granted and outlines the relief sought.
What are parents' obligations to their children?Every parent has the duty to provide his or her children with the basic necessities of life, including food, clothing, and shelter. This duty usually terminates when the child is emancipated, which generally occurs at the age of eighteen, when the child graduates from high school, when the child enters the military, or when the child marries, but the support obligation can extend beyond that point if the child is unable to support himself or herself and would become a public obligation without familial support. The law generally does not dictate the level of support that is provided when the children live with both parents, but when, through divorce or other circumstances, the child is living with one parent, there are strict rules about the amount of financial support provided by the non-custodial parent.
In most instances, parents also have the responsibility to provide necessary medical care for their children. If parents refuse life-saving medical treatment for their children, the state may intervene against the parents' wishes, even if they made their decision on religious grounds.
Parents must also make sure that their children meet school attendance requirements. They do, however, have the right to decide whether the child's education will be in a public school, a private school, or through home schooling.
Stepparents have no legal obligation toward their stepchildren. When they assume the role of the sole provider of the child's support, however, they may be held accountable for providing that support even if the marriage to the child's biological parent ends. Of course, if a stepparent adopts a stepchild, the obligations are the same as they are in any other parent-child relationship.
How is child support collected if the person responsible for paying it moves to another state?Under the Revised Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act (RURESA), an order for support issued by the family court in one state will be enforced by the family court in another state to which the paying parent moves if certain conditions are met. Under RURESA, the custodial parent has two options for how to proceed to collect support.
Under the first option, the custodial parent who receives the support must register the order for support in the county where the payer parent now lives. The family court in that county can provide information on the proper registration procedure. That court will then move to enforce the order and make the non-custodial parent pay. The payer parent can, however, go to court in his or her new home state and argue that the child support amount should be modified downward, and if he or she is successful, the child's home-state court is stuck with the reduced amount. A newer interstate support act called the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, which has been adopted in some states, does not allow the court in the new home state to modify the original court's support order.
Alternatively, the custodial parent can go to the family court in his or her home state to commence an action to enforce the support award issued by that court. The enforcement agency that serves that court will then notify the payer's new home state so that enforcement actions, such as wage withholding, can be implemented there. Under this method, the payer cannot get the award modified in his or her new home state. The new state's court can, however, determine that the amount of child support ordered is too high and require that only a portion of it be paid, but the original state does not have to accept the reduced amount. The payer remains liable for the full amount as originally ordered, and if he or she fails to pay it, the original state may issue an arrest warrant, and the delinquency can show up on the payer's credit report.
Once a court issues a child support order, can the amount of support that is paid be changed?The amount of child support is modifiable under certain circumstances and through a variety of methods. The simplest method is for the parents to agree to a change, but the court must approve even an agreed-upon change in order to be enforceable.
Example: If the payer parent loses his job and asks the custodial parent if he can go a few months without paying support until he has a new job, the custodial parent may voluntarily agree to this modification. If, however, she later decides that she wants to collect the amount of support that went unpaid during that temporary period, the court might support her if it never formally approved the change.
When there is no voluntary agreement, the party seeking the change must request a court hearing at which each side will present, usually through counsel, the reasons supporting and opposing the modification. The court usually will not grant the request unless there has been some fairly significant change in circumstances that justifies the change, such as a significant increase in either parent's income through a remarriage or job change or a substantial change in the needs of the child. Changes in the child support laws, too, may justify a change in previously issued orders. Also, an increase in the cost of living can warrant an upward modification of child support, but generally these periodic increases are provided for in the original order so that the parties do not need to make repeated court appearances each time there is a significant change in the cost of living.
Other anticipated changes that can be provided for in the original child support order include a reduction upon the emancipation of each child, an increase when a child enters college, or any other change based on an event that the parties anticipate and that will have an impact on need or ability to pay.
How is the amount of child support calculated?Each state has developed guidelines that help establish the amount of child support that must be paid. The guidelines vary significantly from state to state, but they are all generally based on the parent's incomes and expenses and the needs of the children. In some states, the guidelines allow judges greater discretion in determining the amount of child support that must be paid, but in other states any variance from the guidelines must be carefully justified or it can be readily overturned on appeal. Often, the guidelines are set out in a chart-type format that calculates the child support amount as a percentage of the paying parent's income that increases as the number of children being supported rises. It is important to remember, however, that the guidelines are just that-guidelines-and they are not fixed amounts that must be applied under any and all circumstances. Judges are free to deviate from the guidelines when there are good reasons to do so. If, for instance, one party or a child has higher than average expenses, the amount can vary. Or if the court determines that the paying parent is voluntarily earning less than he or she could for the purpose of minimizing the child support obligation, the judge can calculate the amount of child support based on what the payer is capable of earning.
Despite the variations from state to state, there are some general factors that are almost universally considered by judges issuing child support orders, including
- The child's standard of living before the parents' separation or divorce;
- The paying parent's ability to pay;
- The custodial parent's needs and income; and
- The needs of the child or children, including educational costs, daycare expenses, and medical expenses, such as for health insurance or special health care needs.
- The child's standard of living before the parents' separation or divorce;
Under what circumstances will the court award alimony or spousal support?The obligation of spouses to support each other does not necessarily terminate when they divorce. If the divorce will leave one spouse with very little income and the other with enough to contribute to the low-income spouse's support, the court will usually award alimony, at least temporarily.
Although historically spousal maintenance was typically awarded to homemaker wives, to be paid by breadwinning husbands, that is no longer always the case. Now, either spouse may be awarded alimony if the other has the more substantial income and the recipient spouse's income is insufficient to support him or her at the level to which the spouses were accustomed during the marriage.
Spousal support is often awarded in cases in which one spouse has put his or her education or career on hold in order to raise the parties' children while the other climbed the career ladder and achieved a higher income. In such cases, the alimony will often be temporary, providing income for the period of time that will enable the recipient spouse to become self-supporting. This temporary, or rehabilitative, spousal support enables the spouse receiving it to further his or her education, reestablish himself or herself in a former career, or complete childrearing responsibilities, after which time he or she can be self-sufficient. If one spouse is unable to get a good-paying job, however, due perhaps to health or advanced age, the support award may be permanent.
The amount and duration of alimony depends on several factors, including:
- The age of each spouse;
- The health of each spouse;
- The income of the primary breadwinner; and
- Standard of living the parties enjoyed during the marriage.
- The age of each spouse;
Is There a Way to Keep an Attorney from Protracting Litigation Purely to Expand Attorney’s Fees?In the case Moakley v. Smallwood 27 F.L.W. S175 (Fla. Feb. 28, 2002) the Florida Supreme Court outlined the rule that a trial court has inherent authority to impose attorneys’ fees on the attorney when the attorney is guilty of bad faith. A detailed fact situation must support that conclusion and the award of attorneys’ fees must be consistent with the actual loss to the client. The specific facts should be presented to the court. In addition Florida Statute 57.105 and additional Florida cases can be used to request the Court to award attorney’s fees for vexatious and frivolous litigation.
What is the Proper Valuation of a Business to Determine Equitable Distribution?When a business is part of marital property it is subject to equitable distribution. The way that is determined includes such factors as the assets and debts of the business. In addition it includes the “good will” that makes the business valuable through reputation and history in the community. However, “personal good will” is not considered a marital asset and cannot be taken into consideration in the value of the business for purposes of equitable distribution. Recent cases reinforce the importance of properly calculating the value of “good will” when equitably dividing the assets of a marriage.
Florida Statute 61.13. Support of children; parenting and time-sharing; powers of court(1)(a) In a proceeding under this chapter, the court may at any time order either or both parents who owe a duty of support to a child to pay support to the other parent or, in the case of both parents, to the person with custody in accordance with the child support guidelines schedule in s. 61.30. The court initially entering an order requiring one or both parents to make child support payments has continuing jurisdiction after the entry of the initial order to modify the amount and terms and conditions of the child support payments when the modification is found necessary by the court in the best interests of the child, when the child reaches majority, when there is a substantial change in the circumstances of the parties, when s. 743.07(2) applies, or when a child is emancipated, marries, joins the armed services, or dies. The court initially entering a child support order has continuing jurisdiction to require the obligee to report to the court on terms prescribed by the court regarding the disposition of the child support payments.
(b) Each order for support shall contain a provision for health care coverage for the minor child when the coverage is reasonably available. Coverage is reasonably available if either the obligor or obligee has access at a reasonable rate to a group health plan. The court may require the obligor either to provide health care coverage or to reimburse the obligee for the cost of health care coverage for the minor child when coverage is provided by the obligee. In either event, the court shall apportion the cost of coverage, and any noncovered medical, dental, and prescription medication expenses of the child, to both parties by adding the cost to the basic obligation determined pursuant to s. 61.30(6). The court may order that payment of uncovered medical, dental, and prescription medication expenses of the minor child be made directly to the obligee on a percentage basis.
1. In a non-Title IV-D case, a copy of the court order for health care coverage shall be served on the obligor's union or employer by the obligee when the following conditions are met:
a. The obligor fails to provide written proof to the obligee within 30 days after receiving effective notice of the court order that the health care coverage has been obtained or that application for coverage has been made;
b. The obligee serves written notice of intent to enforce an order for health care coverage on the obligor by mail at the obligor's last known address; and
c. The obligor fails within 15 days after the mailing of the notice to provide written proof to the obligee that the health care coverage existed as of the date of mailing.
2. a. A support order enforced under Title IV-D of the Social Security Act which requires that the obligor provide health care coverage is enforceable by the department through the use of the national medical support notice, and an amendment to the support order is not required. The department shall transfer the national medical support notice to the obligor's union or employer. The department shall notify the obligor in writing that the notice has been sent to the obligor's union or employer, and the written notification must include the obligor's rights and duties under the national medical support notice. The obligor may contest the withholding required by the national medical support notice based on a mistake of fact. To contest the withholding, the obligor must file a written notice of contest with the department within 15 business days after the date the obligor receives written notification of the national medical support notice from the department. Filing with the department is complete when the notice is received by the person designated by the department in the written notification. The notice of contest must be in the form prescribed by the department. Upon the timely filing of a notice of contest, the department shall, within 5 business days, schedule an informal conference with the obligor to discuss the obligor's factual dispute. If the informal conference resolves the dispute to the obligor's satisfaction or if the obligor fails to attend the informal conference, the notice of contest is deemed withdrawn. If the informal conference does not resolve the dispute, the obligor may request an administrative hearing under chapter 120 within 5 business days after the termination of the informal conference, in a form and manner prescribed by the department. However, the filing of a notice of contest by the obligor does not delay the withholding of premium payments by the union, employer, or health plan administrator. The union, employer, or health plan administrator must implement the withholding as directed by the national medical support notice unless notified by the department that the national medical support notice is terminated.
b. In a Title IV-D case, the department shall notify an obligor's union or employer if the obligation to provide health care coverage through that union or employer is terminated.
3. In a non-Title IV-D case, upon receipt of the order pursuant to subparagraph 1., or upon application of the obligor pursuant to the order, the union or employer shall enroll the minor child as a beneficiary in the group health plan regardless of any restrictions on the enrollment period and withhold any required premium from the obligor's income. If more than one plan is offered by the union or employer, the child shall be enrolled in the group health plan in which the obligor is enrolled.
4. a. Upon receipt of the national medical support notice under subparagraph 2. in a Title IV-D case, the union or employer shall transfer the notice to the appropriate group health plan administrator within 20 business days after the date on the notice. The plan administrator must enroll the child as a beneficiary in the group health plan regardless of any restrictions on the enrollment period, and the union or employer must withhold any required premium from the obligor's income upon notification by the plan administrator that the child is enrolled. The child shall be enrolled in the group health plan in which the obligor is enrolled. If the group health plan in which the obligor is enrolled is not available where the child resides or if the obligor is not enrolled in group coverage, the child shall be enrolled in the lowest cost group health plan that is available where the child resides.
b. If health care coverage or the obligor's employment is terminated in a Title IV-D case, the union or employer that is withholding premiums for health care coverage under a national medical support notice must notify the department within 20 days after the termination and provide the obligor's last known address and the name and address of the obligor's new employer, if known.
5. a. The amount withheld by a union or employer in compliance with a support order may not exceed the amount allowed under s. 303(b) of the Consumer Credit Protection Act, 15 U.S.C. s. 1673(b), as amended. The union or employer shall withhold the maximum allowed by the Consumer Credit Protection Act in the following order:
(I) Current support, as ordered.
(II) Premium payments for health care coverage, as ordered.
(III) Past due support, as ordered.
(IV) Other medical support or coverage, as ordered.
b. If the combined amount to be withheld for current support plus the premium payment for health care coverage exceed the amount allowed under the Consumer Credit Protection Act, [FN1] and the health care coverage cannot be obtained unless the full amount of the premium is paid, the union or employer may not withhold the premium payment. However, the union or employer shall withhold the maximum allowed in the following order:
(I) Current support, as ordered.
(II) Past due support, as ordered.
(III) Other medical support or coverage, as ordered.
6. An employer, union, or plan administrator who does not comply with the requirements in sub-subparagraph 4.a. is subject to a civil penalty not to exceed $250 for the first violation and $500 for subsequent violations, plus attorney's fees and costs. The department may file a petition in circuit court to enforce the requirements of this subparagraph.
7. The department may adopt rules to administer the child support enforcement provisions of this section that affect Title IV-D cases.
(c) To the extent necessary to protect an award of child support, the court may order the obligor to purchase or maintain a life insurance policy or a bond, or to otherwise secure the child support award with any other assets which may be suitable for that purpose.
(d) 1. Unless the provisions of subparagraph 3. apply, all child support orders entered on or after January 1, 1985, shall direct that the payments of child support be made as provided in s. 61.181 through the depository in the county where the court is located. All child support orders shall provide the full name and date of birth of each minor child who is the subject of the child support order.
2. Unless the provisions of subparagraph 3. apply, all child support orders entered before January 1, 1985, shall be modified by the court to direct that payments of child support shall be made through the depository in the county where the court is located upon the subsequent appearance of either or both parents to modify or enforce the order, or in any related proceeding.
3. If both parties request and the court finds that it is in the best interest of the child, support payments need not be directed through the depository. The order of support shall provide, or shall be deemed to provide, that either party may subsequently apply to the depository to require direction of the payments through the depository. The court shall provide a copy of the order to the depository.
4. If the parties elect not to require that support payments be made through the depository, any party may subsequently file an affidavit with the depository alleging a default in payment of child support and stating that the party wishes to require that payments be made through the depository. The party shall provide copies of the affidavit to the court and to each other party. Fifteen days after receipt of the affidavit, the depository shall notify both parties that future payments shall be paid through the depository.
5. In IV-D cases, the IV-D agency shall have the same rights as the obligee in requesting that payments be made through the depository.
(2)(a) The court shall have jurisdiction to approve, grant, or modify a parenting plan, notwithstanding that the child is not physically present in this state at the time of filing any proceeding under this chapter, if it appears to the court that the child was removed from this state for the primary purpose of removing the child from the jurisdiction of the court in an attempt to avoid the court's approval, creation, or modification of a parenting plan.
(b) Any parenting plan approved by the court must, at 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, other activities, and the methods and technologies that the parents will use to communicate with the child.
(c) 1. The court shall determine all matters relating to parenting and time-sharing of each minor child of the parties in accordance with the best interests of the child and in accordance with the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. It is the public policy of this state to assure that each minor child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents separate or the marriage of the parties is dissolved and to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities, and joys, of childrearing. There is no presumption for or against the father or mother of the child when creating or modifying the parenting plan of the child.
2. The court shall order that the parental responsibility for a minor child be shared by both parents unless the court finds that shared parental responsibility would be detrimental to the child. Evidence that a parent has been convicted of a felony of the third degree or higher involving domestic violence, as defined in s. 741.28 and chapter 775, or meets the criteria of s. 39.806(1)(d), creates a rebuttable presumption of detriment to the child. If the presumption is not rebutted, shared parental responsibility, including time-sharing with the child, and decisions made regarding the child, may not be granted to the convicted parent. However, the convicted parent is not relieved of any obligation to provide financial support. If the court determines that shared parental responsibility would be detrimental to the child, it may order sole parental responsibility and make such arrangements for time-sharing as specified in the parenting plan as will best protect the child or abused spouse from further harm. Whether or not there is a conviction of any offense of domestic violence or child abuse or the existence of an injunction for protection against domestic violence, the court shall consider evidence of domestic violence or child abuse as evidence of detriment to the child.
a. In ordering shared parental responsibility, the court may consider the expressed desires of the parents and may grant to one party the ultimate responsibility over specific aspects of the child's welfare or may divide those responsibilities between the parties based on the best interests of the child. Areas of responsibility may include education, health care, and any other responsibilities that the court finds unique to a particular family.
b. The court shall order "sole parental responsibility for a minor child to one parent, with or without time-sharing with the other parent" when it is in the best interests of the minor child.
3. Access to records and information pertaining to a minor child, including, but not limited to, medical, dental, and school records, may not be denied to either parent. Full rights under this subparagraph apply to either parent unless a court order specifically revokes these rights, including any restrictions on these rights as provided in a domestic violence injunction. A parent having rights under this subparagraph has the same rights upon request as to form, substance, and manner of access as are available to the other parent of a child, including, without limitation, the right to in-person communication with medical, dental, and education providers.
(d) The circuit court in the county in which either parent and the child reside or the circuit court in which the original order approving or creating the parenting plan was entered has jurisdiction to modify the parenting plan. The court may change the venue in accordance with s. 47.122.
(3) For purposes of establishing or modifying parental responsibility and creating, developing, approving, or modifying a parenting plan, including a time-sharing schedule, which governs each parent's relationship with his or her minor child and the relationship between each parent with regard to his or her minor child, the best interest of the child shall be the primary consideration. Determination of the best interests of the child shall be made by evaluating all of the factors affecting the welfare and interests of the minor child, including, but not limited to:
(a) The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship, to honor the time-sharing schedule, and to be reasonable when changes are required.
(b) The anticipated division of parental responsibilities after the litigation, including the extent to which parental responsibilities will be delegated to third parties.
(c) The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to determine, consider, and act upon the needs of the child as opposed to the needs or desires of the parent.
(d) The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity.
(e) The geographic viability of the parenting plan, with special attention paid to the needs of school-age children and the amount of time to be spent traveling to effectuate the parenting plan. This factor does not create a presumption for or against relocation of either parent with a child.
(f) The moral fitness of the parents.
(g) The mental and physical health of the parents.
(h) The home, school, and community record of the child.
(i) The reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient intelligence, understanding, and experience to express a preference.
(j) The demonstrated knowledge, capacity, and disposition of each parent to be informed of the circumstances of the minor child, including, but not limited to, the child's friends, teachers, medical care providers, daily activities, and favorite things.
(k) The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to provide a consistent routine for the child, such as discipline, and daily schedules for homework, meals, and bedtime.
(l) The demonstrated capacity of each parent to communicate with and keep the other parent informed of issues and activities regarding the minor child, and the willingness of each parent to adopt a unified front on all major issues when dealing with the child.
(m) Evidence of domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect, regardless of whether a prior or pending action relating to those issues has been brought.
(n) Evidence that either parent has knowingly provided false information to the court regarding any prior or pending action regarding domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect.
(o) The particular parenting tasks customarily performed by each parent and the division of parental responsibilities before the institution of litigation and during the pending litigation, including the extent to which parenting responsibilities were undertaken by third parties.
(p) The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to participate and be involved in the child's school and extracurricular activities.
(q) The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to maintain an environment for the child which is free from substance abuse.
(r) The capacity and disposition of each parent to protect the child from the ongoing litigation as demonstrated by not discussing the litigation with the child, not sharing documents or electronic media related to the litigation with the child, and refraining from disparaging comments about the other parent to the child.
(s) The developmental stages and needs of the child and the demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to meet the child's developmental needs.
(t) Any other factor that is relevant to the determination of a specific parenting plan, including the time-sharing schedule.
(4)(a) When a parent who is ordered to pay child support or alimony fails to pay child support or alimony, the parent who should have received the child support or alimony may not refuse to honor the time-sharing schedule presently in effect between the parents.
(b) When a parent refuses to honor the other parent's rights under the time-sharing schedule, the parent whose time-sharing rights were violated shall continue to pay any ordered child support or alimony.
(c) When a parent refuses to honor the time-sharing schedule in the parenting plan without proper cause, the court:
1. Shall, after calculating the amount of time-sharing improperly denied, award the parent denied time a sufficient amount of extra time-sharing to compensate for the time-sharing missed, and such time-sharing shall be ordered as expeditiously as possible in a manner consistent with the best interests of the child and scheduled in a manner that is convenient for the parent deprived of time-sharing. In ordering any makeup time-sharing, the court shall schedule such time-sharing in a manner that is consistent with the best interests of the child or children and that is convenient for the nonoffending parent and at the expense of the noncompliant parent.
2. May order the parent who did not provide time-sharing or did not properly exercise time-sharing under the time-sharing schedule to pay reasonable court costs and attorney's fees incurred by the nonoffending parent to enforce the time-sharing schedule.
3. May order the parent who did not provide time-sharing or did not properly exercise time-sharing under the time-sharing schedule to attend a parenting course approved by the judicial circuit.
4. May order the parent who did not provide time-sharing or did not properly exercise time-sharing under the time-sharing schedule to do community service if the order will not interfere with the welfare of the child.
5. May order the parent who did not provide time-sharing or did not properly exercise time-sharing under the time-sharing schedule to have the financial burden of promoting frequent and continuing contact when that parent and child reside further than 60 miles from the other parent.
6. May, upon the request of the parent who did not violate the time-sharing schedule, modify the parenting plan if modification is in the best interests of the child.
7. May impose any other reasonable sanction as a result of noncompliance.
(d) A person who violates this subsection may be punished by contempt of court or other remedies as the court deems appropriate.
(5) The court may make specific orders regarding the parenting plan and time-sharing schedule as such orders relate to the circumstances of the parties and the nature of the case and are equitable and provide for child support in accordance with the guidelines schedule in s. 61.30. An order for equal time-sharing for a minor child does not preclude the court from entering an order for child support of the child.
(6) In any proceeding under this section, the court may not deny shared parental responsibility and time-sharing rights to a parent solely because that parent is or is believed to be infected with human immunodeficiency virus,but the court may condition such rights to require that parent in an order approving the parenting plan to observe measures approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the United States Public Health Service or by the Department of Health for preventing the spread of human immunodeficiency virus to the child.
(7)(a) Each party to any paternity or support proceeding is required to file with the tribunal as defined in s. 88.1011(22) and State Case Registry upon entry of an order, and to update as appropriate, information on location and identity of the party, including social security number, residential and mailing addresses, telephone number, driver's license number, and name, address, and telephone number of employer. Each party to any paternity or child support proceeding in a non-Title IV-D case shall meet the above requirements for updating the tribunal and State Case Registry.
(b) Pursuant to the federal Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, each party is required to provide his or her social security number in accordance with this section. Disclosure of social security numbers obtained through this requirement shall be limited to the purpose of administration of the Title IV-D program for child support enforcement.
(c) In any subsequent Title IV-D child support enforcement action between the parties, upon sufficient showing that diligent effort has been made to ascertain the location of such a party, the court of competent jurisdiction shall deem state due process requirements for notice and service of process to be met with respect to the party, upon delivery of written notice to the most recent residential or employer address filed with the tribunal and State Case Registry pursuant to paragraph (a). In any subsequent non-Title IV-D child support enforcement action between the parties, the same requirements for service shall apply.
(8) At the time an order for child support is entered, each party is required to provide his or her social security number and date of birth to the court, as well as the name, date of birth, and social security number of each minor child that is the subject of such child support order. Pursuant to the federal Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, each party is required to provide his or her social security number in accordance with this section. All social security numbers required by this section shall be provided by the parties and maintained by the depository as a separate attachment in the file. Disclosure of social security numbers obtained through this requirement shall be limited to the purpose of administration of the Title IV-D program for child support enforcement.
Florida Statute 61.13001. Parental relocation with a child(1) Definitions.--As used in this section, the term:
(a) "Change of residence address" means the relocation of a child to a principal residence more than 50 miles away from his or her principal place of residence at the time of the entry of the last order establishing or modifying the parenting plan or the time-sharing schedule or both for the minor child, unless the move places the principal residence of the minor child less than 50 miles from either parent.
(b) "Child" means any person who is under the jurisdiction of a state court pursuant to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act or is the subject of any order granting to a parent or other person any right to time-sharing, residential care, kinship, or custody, as provided under state law.
(c) "Court" means the circuit court in an original proceeding which has proper venue and jurisdiction in accordance with the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, the circuit court in the county in which either parent and the child reside, or the circuit court in which the original action was adjudicated.
(d) "Other person" means an individual who is not the parent and who, by court order, maintains the primary residence of a child or has visitation rights with a child.
(e) "Parent" means any person so named by court order or express written agreement that is subject to court enforcement or a person reflected as a parent on a birth certificate and in whose home a child maintains a residence.
(f) "Relocation" means a change in the principal residence of a child for a period of 60 consecutive days or more but does not include a temporary absence from the principal residence for purposes of vacation, education, or the provision of health care for the child.
(2) Relocation by agreement.--
(a) If the parents and every other person entitled to time-sharing with the child agree to the relocation of the child, they may satisfy the requirements of this section by signing a written agreement that:
1. Reflects the consent to the relocation;
2. Defines a time-sharing schedule for the nonrelocating parent and any other persons who are entitled to time-sharing; and
3. Describes, if necessary, any transportation arrangements related to the visitation.
(b) If there is an existing cause of action, judgment, or decree of record pertaining to the child's residence or a time-sharing schedule, the parties shall seek ratification of the agreement by court order without the necessity of an evidentiary hearing unless a hearing is requested, in writing, by one or more of the parties to the agreement within 10 days after the date the agreement is filed with the court. If a hearing is not timely requested, it shall be presumed that the relocation is in the best interest of the child and the court may ratify the agreement without an evidentiary hearing.
(3) Notice of intent to relocate with a child.--Unless an agreement has been entered as described in subsection (2), a parent who is entitled to time-sharing with the child shall notify the other parent, and every other person entitled to time-sharing with the child, of a proposed relocation of the child's residence. The form of notice shall be according to this section:
(a) The parent seeking to relocate shall prepare a Notice of Intent to Relocate. The following information must be included with the Notice of Intent to Relocate and signed under oath under penalty of perjury:
1. A description of the location of the intended new residence, including the state, city, and specific physical address, if known.
2. The mailing address of the intended new residence, if not the same as the physical address, if known.
3. The home telephone number of the intended new residence, if known.
4. The date of the intended move or proposed relocation.
5. A detailed statement of the specific reasons for the proposed relocation of the child. If one of the reasons is based upon a job offer which has been reduced to writing, that written job offer must be attached to the Notice of Intent to Relocate.
6. A proposal for the revised postrelocation schedule of time-sharing together with a proposal for the postrelocation transportation arrangements necessary to effectuate time-sharing with the child. Absent the existence of a current, valid order abating, terminating, or restricting visitation or other good cause predating the Notice of Intent to Relocate, failure to comply with this provision renders the Notice of Intent to Relocate legally insufficient.
7. Substantially the following statement, in all capital letters and in the same size type, or larger, as the type in the remainder of the notice:
AN OBJECTION TO THE PROPOSED RELOCATION MUST BE MADE IN WRITING, FILED WITH THE COURT, AND SERVED ON THE PARENT OR OTHER PERSON SEEKING TO RELOCATE WITHIN 30 DAYS AFTER SERVICE OF THIS NOTICE OF INTENT TO RELOCATE. IF YOU FAIL TO TIMELY OBJECT TO THE RELOCATION, THE RELOCATION WILL BE ALLOWED, UNLESS IT IS NOT IN THE BEST INTERESTS OF THE CHILD, WITHOUT FURTHER NOTICE AND WITHOUT A HEARING.
8. The mailing address of the parent or other person seeking to relocate to which the objection filed under subsection (5) to the Notice of Intent to Relocate should be sent.
The contents of the Notice of Intent to Relocate are not privileged. For purposes of encouraging amicable resolution of the relocation issue, a copy of the Notice of Intent to Relocate shall initially not be filed with the court but instead served upon the nonrelocating parent, other person, and every other person entitled to time-sharing with the child, and the original thereof shall be maintained by the parent or other person seeking to relocate.
(b) The parent seeking to relocate shall also prepare a Certificate of Serving Notice of Intent to Relocate. The certificate shall certify the date that the Notice of Intent to Relocate was served on the other parent and on every other person entitled to time-sharing with the child.
(c) The Notice of Intent to Relocate, and the Certificate of Serving Notice of Intent to Relocate, shall be served on the other parent and on every other person entitled to time-sharing with the child. If there is a pending court action regarding the child, service of process may be according to court rule. Otherwise, service of process shall be according to chapters 48 and 49 or via certified mail, restricted delivery, return receipt requested.
(d) A person giving notice of a proposed relocation or change of residence address under this section has a continuing duty to provide current and updated information required by this section when that information becomes known.
(e) If the other parent and any other person entitled to time-sharing with the child fails to timely file an objection, it shall be presumed that the relocation is in the best interest of the child, the relocation shall be allowed, and the court shall, absent good cause, enter an order, attaching a copy of the Notice of Intent to Relocate, reflecting that the order is entered as a result of the failure to object to the Notice of Intent to Relocate, and adopting the time-sharing schedule and transportation arrangements contained in the Notice of Intent to Relocate. The order may issue in an expedited manner without the necessity of an evidentiary hearing. If an objection is timely filed, the burden returns to the parent or person seeking to relocate to initiate court proceedings to obtain court permission to relocate before doing so.
(f) The act of relocating the child after failure to comply with the notice of intent to relocate procedure described in this subsection subjects the party in violation thereof to contempt and other proceedings to compel the return of the child and may be taken into account by the court in any initial or postjudgment action seeking a determination or modification of the parenting plan or the time-sharing schedule, or both, as:
1. A factor in making a determination regarding the relocation of a child.
2. A factor in determining whether the parenting plan or the time-sharing schedule should be modified.
3. A basis for ordering the temporary or permanent return of the child.
4. Sufficient cause to order the parent or other person seeking to relocate the child to pay reasonable expenses and attorney's fees incurred by the party objecting to the relocation.
5. Sufficient cause for the award of reasonable attorney's fees and costs, including interim travel expenses incident to time-sharing or securing the return of the child.
(4) Applicability of public records law.--If the parent or other person seeking to relocate a child, or the child, is entitled to prevent disclosure of location information under any public records exemption applicable to that person, the court may enter any order necessary to modify the disclosure requirements of this section in compliance with the public records exemption.
(5) Content of objection to relocation.--An objection seeking to prevent the relocation of a child must be verified and served within 30 days after service of the Notice of Intent to Relocate. The objection must include the specific factual basis supporting the reasons for seeking a prohibition of the relocation, including a statement of the amount of participation or involvement the objecting party currently has or has had in the life of the child.
(6) Temporary order.--
(a) The court may grant a temporary order restraining the relocation of a child or ordering the return of the child, if a relocation has previously taken place, or other appropriate remedial relief, if the court finds:
1. The required notice of a proposed relocation of a child was not provided in a timely manner;
2. The child already has been relocated without notice or written agreement of the parties or without court approval; or
3. From an examination of the evidence presented at the preliminary hearing that there is a likelihood that upon final hearing the court will not approve the relocation of the child.
(b) The court may grant a temporary order permitting the relocation of the child pending final hearing, if the court:
1. Finds that the required Notice of Intent to Relocate was provided in a timely manner; and
2. Finds from an examination of the evidence presented at the preliminary hearing that there is a likelihood that on final hearing the court will approve the relocation of the child, which findings must be supported by the same factual basis as would be necessary to support the permitting of relocation in a final judgment.
(c) If the court has issued a temporary order authorizing a party seeking to relocate or move a child before a final judgment is rendered, the court may not give any weight to the temporary relocation as a factor in reaching its final decision.
(d) If temporary relocation of a child is permitted, the court may require the person relocating the child to provide reasonable security, financial or otherwise, and guarantee that the court-ordered contact with the child will not be interrupted or interfered with by the relocating party.
(7) No presumption; factors to determine contested relocation.--A presumption does not arise in favor of or against a request to relocate with the child when a parent seeks to move the child and the move will materially affect the current schedule of contact, access, and time-sharing with the nonrelocating parent or other person. In reaching its decision regarding a proposed temporary or permanent relocation, the court shall evaluate all of the following factors:
(a) The nature, quality, extent of involvement, and duration of the child's relationship with the parent proposing to relocate with the child and with the nonrelocating parent, other persons, siblings, half-siblings, and other significant persons in the child's life.
(b) The age and developmental stage of the child, the needs of the child, and the likely impact the relocation will have on the child's physical, educational, and emotional development, taking into consideration any special needs of the child.
(c) The feasibility of preserving the relationship between the nonrelocating parent or other person and the child through substitute arrangements that take into consideration the logistics of contact, access, and time-sharing, as well as the financial circumstances of the parties; whether those factors are sufficient to foster a continuing meaningful relationship between the child and the nonrelocating parent or other person; and the likelihood of compliance with the substitute arrangements by the relocating parent once he or she is out of the jurisdiction of the court.
(d) The child's preference, taking into consideration the age and maturity of the child.
(e) Whether the relocation will enhance the general quality of life for both the parent seeking the relocation and the child, including, but not limited to, financial or emotional benefits or educational opportunities.
(f) The reasons of each parent or other person for seeking or opposing the relocation.
(g) The current employment and economic circumstances of each parent or other person and whether or not the proposed relocation is necessary to improve the economic circumstances of the parent or other person seeking relocation of the child.
(h)That the relocation is sought in good faith and the extent to which the objecting parent has fulfilled his or her financial obligations to the parent or other person seeking relocation, including child support, spousal support, and marital property and marital debt obligations.(i) The career and other opportunities available to the objecting parent or objecting other person if the relocation occurs.
(j) A history of substance abuse or domestic violence as defined in s. 741.28 or which meets the criteria of s. 39.806(1)(d) by either parent, including a consideration of the severity of such conduct and the failure or success of any attempts at rehabilitation.
(k) Any other factor affecting the best interest of the child or as set forth in s. 61.13.
(8) [FN1]Burden of proof.--The parent or other person wishing to relocate has the burden of proof if an objection is filed and must then initiate a proceeding seeking court permission for relocation. The initial burden is on the parent or person wishing to relocate to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that relocation is in the best interest of the child. If that burden of proof is met, the burden shifts to the nonrelocating parent or other person to show by a preponderance of the evidence that the proposed relocation is not in the best interest of the child.
(9) Order regarding relocation.--If relocation is permitted:
(a) The court may, in its discretion, order contact with the nonrelocating parent, including access, time-sharing, telephone, Internet, webcam, and other arrangements sufficient to ensure that the child has frequent, continuing, and meaningful contact, access, and time-sharing with the nonrelocating parent or other persons, if contact is financially affordable and in the best interest of the child.
(b) If applicable, the court shall specify how the transportation costs will be allocated between the parents and other persons entitled to contact, access, and time-sharing and may adjust the child support award, as appropriate, considering the costs of transportation and the respective net incomes of the parents in accordance with the state child support guidelines schedule.
(10) Priority for hearing or trial.--An evidentiary hearing or nonjury trial on a pleading seeking temporary or permanent relief filed under this section shall be accorded priority on the court's calendar.
(a) This section applies:
1. To orders entered before October 1, 2006, if the existing order defining custody, primary residence, time-sharing, or visitation of or with the child does not expressly govern the relocation of the child.
2. To an order, whether temporary or permanent, regarding the parenting plan, custody, primary residence, time-sharing, or visitation of or with the child entered on or after October 1, 2006.
3. To any relocation or proposed relocation, whether permanent or temporary, of a child during any proceeding pending on October 1, 2006, wherein the parenting plan, custody, primary residence, time-sharing, or visitation of or with the child is an issue.
(b)To the extent that a provision of this section conflicts with an order existing on October 1, 2006, this section does not apply to the terms of that order which expressly govern relocation of the child or a change in the principal residence address of a parent.
Laws 2006, c. 2006-245, Â§ 2, eff. Oct. 1, 2006. Amended by Laws 2008, c. 2008-61, Â§ 9, eff. Oct. 1, 2008.
[FN1]Reviser's Note 2008: Section 9, ch. 2008-61, amended s. 61.13001 without publishing subsection (8). Absent affirmative evidence of legislative intent to repeal it, subsection (8) is published here [Florida Statutes], pending clarification by the Legislature.
Current through Chapter 298 (End) of the 2008 Second Regular Session of the Twentieth Legislature.
(C) 2008 Thomson/West