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Orlando Custody & Visitation Law Blog

How is property divided?

In Florida divorce cases, the courts divide marital property according to principles of equitable property division. Equitable property division does not mean that the marital property will necessarily be divided equally. Instead, the property will be divided in a manner that the court determines is fair and equitable to both parties given their relevant financial circumstances and income.

Florida law provides guidance for the determination of what is considered to be marital property, and thus subject to division, and what is considered to be separate property, and thus excluded from division. Marital property generally includes all of the property that has been acquired since the beginning of the marriage, regardless of who acquired it. It does not, however, include personal injury awards received by one spouse but not the other. Similarly, if a spouse has received an inheritance during the marriage, that is excludable as well. Gifts given to one spouse but not the other during a marriage are also excluded.

The reasons for requesting child support modification

If Florida parents need to modify existing child support orders, they may request the changes. However, they need to show that there have been significant differences in their living circumstances, and there can be a few causes for such a change.

One of the general types of changes is if the noncustodial parent's income has either decreased or increased. Noncustodial parents who have lost income and expect their financial downturn to continue may request a reduction in the amount of support that they pay. If the noncustodial parent is earning more than when the child support was ordered, the custodial parent may request an increase in the amount of the original order.

How does a DNA paternity test work?

In Florida, when someone is unsure of who the biological father of a child is, a DNA test may be done in order to determine paternity. DNA tests are 99 percent accurate, and due to this precision, test results are admissible as evidence in a court of law. Court cases involving child support, divorce, inheritance and immigration often make use of these tests when paternity needs to be officially established. Peace of mind and medical concerns are also common reasons individuals seek out these tests.

DNA testing involves the analysis of genetic material provided by the child, his or her biological mother and the alleged father. Mouth swabs are generally used to obtain the DNA needed for a test, as this method is painless and just as accurate as a blood test.

Parental relocation in Florida

In Florida, divorced custodial parents sometimes need or wish to relocate with their child. When the other parent shares physical custody or has visitation, this can sometimes be problematic. The law provides a way in which a primary custodial parent can seek approval for a relocation request, either by agreement with the other parent or by seeking an order allowing for relocation from the court.

A custodial parent who wishes to relocate his or her primary residence more than 50 miles from his or her prior one must either get approval for such relocation from the other parent or must file a petition with the court in the event there is a dispute over the planned move. In the event that an agreement is reached between the parents, the parents must put the agreement, including any changes in visitation and parenting time, in writing and submit it to the court. The court can grant such an agreement without a hearing unless the parties request to have one.

The visitation rights of grandparents in Florida

Information about grandparental visitation rights may apply to a grandparent or great-grandparent of a minor child or children, according to Florida statutes. A grandparent might be given visitation rights after filing a petition, and grandparents must notify a child's parents and give them a copy of the petition.

A grandparent may wish to file an action to secure visitation rights if a parent deserted the child, the marriage of the parents dissolved or the child was born out of wedlock. A court awards visitation rights if it is in a child's best interests. When deliberating, courts might consider the prior relationship between child and grandparent, the preferences of children, the grandparent's willingness to encourage close relationships between a child and parents and the physical and mental health of all children and grandparents involved.

How child support orders can be enforced

When a noncustodial parent is not making their child support payments on time, the Florida Department of Revenue has a number of different ways to enforce payment. Before any of these enforcement tactics are used, however, the parent will receive at least one late payment notice. If the parent does not respond to the notice or pay the child support as ordered, past-due payments may be collected through income withholding, bank account garnishment or property liens.

Individuals who are not making their child support payments may face other enforcement measures besides garnishments, liens and withholding. In some cases, a person's driver's license could be suspended because of back child support that they owe. The parent will first receive a notice of the possible suspension that they will have 20 days to respond to before losing the driver's license.

Fathers' rights explained

Traditional roles in which the father has been characterized as the breadwinner and the mother being the primary caregiver have historically resulted in mothers being awarded status as the custodial parent and fathers receiving less time-sharing. However, these traditional gender roles have changed in more recent history due to many homes consisting of two full-time working parents. In these families, it is not uncommon for both parents to share in the responsibility of raising the children.

Courts have begun to recognize a father's parental rights and, as such, prefer arrangements that provide for liberal time-sharing with both of a child's parents, as well as joint decision making. Courts make decisions pertaining to custody and the amount of time sharing to be awarded based on the best interest of the child.

Sharing child custody after a divorce

Aspects of child support, especially divvying up parenting time, can be contentious. The state of Florida has clearly outlined statutes regarding such cases. This is a sensitive aspect of divorce law that should be taken with utmost seriousness; for the most part, however, the law follows what is in the best interest of a child.

According to state law, the court shall determine all matters relating to parenting and time-sharing of each child of the parties with regard to the best interests of the child and in accordance with the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. Unless the court is given evidence that one of the parents is abusive or will inhibit a child's well-being, shared responsibility is usually granted. The court may determine that continuity and consistency are best for the child and would therefore grant more responsibility to the parent who can maintain stability for the child.

Procedural rules in regular dissolution cases

A Florida regular dissolution of marriage case begins with the filing of a legal document called a petition for dissolution of marriage. Either spouse may file the petition, but it must be filed in the circuit court of the county where the couple most recently lived as husband and wife or in the county of residence of either party.

The petition in a regular divorce case must include certain specific information such as an allegation that the marriage cannot be repaired and a statement of the relief sought from the court. The petitioner must also see that the other spouse is served with the proper documents. Upon service, the other spouse has 20 days to file an answer.

Mistakes to avoid during a Florida divorce

A Floridian may make several mistakes when getting a divorce. For instance, a person could underestimate cash flow needs upon the end of a marriage. Valuable assets like stocks, mutual funds and stocks could be sold immediately and could help with cash flow concerns. However, it is still necessary to think about how joint liabilities could affect cash flow.

This is because a lender may demand payment for a debt that an individual thought was taken care of. It may also be harder to get new credit if old joint debts are still showing on a credit report. Experts say that it is a good idea to review a credit report to ensure that debts are being properly reported to all concerned parties. If a mortgage cannot be refinanced, it may still show up on a credit report and make it harder to get credit in the future.

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