Category Archives: Family Law

What is Retroactive Child Support?

Child support is a major factor when it comes to raising the children of parents who are no longer together. In the state of Florida both parents are equally responsible for being able to provide for their children, whether they reside with them or not. After a divorce or separation the courts will typically require the parent who the child is not living with on a full time basis to pay for a portion of the expenses that are incurred in the child’s life. Retroactive child support may come into play if there are certain circumstances where the bulk of the expenses related to the child falls directly on the custodial parent.

What Circumstances Can Lead to Retroactive Child Support?

According to Florida law, retroactive child support can only go back as far as 24 months. This means that no matter how long the situation has gone on, payment is only expected to cover the last 24 months worth of expenses that have been created.

Ways retroactive child support can be put into place:

  • If a divorce takes several months and during that time a bulk of the expenses falls directly on the custodial parent – for example daycare or school expenses.
  • If a woman who had a child out of wedlock decides to seek retroactive child support, that support will not go back any further than two years.
  • Retroactive child support could also be past due child support once it is ordered and goes unpaid.

Divorce is never an easy thing to navigate, especially when there are children involved. It’s in your best interested to work with an experienced family law attorney who knows the ins and outs of the process. Your attorney will work with you on issues related to child support and those that may involve retroactive child support. Russell Spatz has years of experience in this field and can help guide the way through these tough times.

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5 Health Impacts of Divorce

The reasons why a marriage dissolves can sometimes include the fact that the couple was no longer happy together, and in fact, their relationship had become toxic. Unhappy marriages can lead to unhealthy lifestyles and choices. However, when a couple decides to divorce, there can be other physical and psychological health impacts that arise from the dissolution of the marriage. Sometimes, these adverse health effects can be treated, but it’s a good idea to understand what to look for as someone is going through a divorce.

Here are five health impacts of divorce that you should be aware of and work toward preventing.

  1. Excessive or Chronic Stress

Divorces are stressful, and there is no way around that. However, there are certain things that you need to watch out for to ensure that the stress is not getting out of control. Chronic stress can lead to an increased risk for many other harmful health conditions such as heart disease, anxiety, depression, weight gain, serious digestive issues, and overall malaise. When someone is suffering from an excessive amount of bad stress, his or her overall health can decline rather quickly, so it’s essential to combat the stress as soon as you can.

De-stress tip: Even though you may not feel like it while you are going through your divorce, it’s important to keep self-care at the top of your priority list. Self-care could be as simple as taking time once a week to do something that makes you feel good. Make sure you are attending to your needs and wants. It won’t make the process go any faster if you are just always stressed, so give yourself regular permission to continue to do things that help you to relax.

  1. Depression

Depression can evolve from the chronic stress you are experiencing as a result of the divorce if you are not staying very intune with the way that you are feeling. Separation can mean a significant life change for most people, as they shift into a way of life that does not involve their spouse, and often involves less of their children. It’s normal to feel sad about the loss of the life you once had but pay attention to the warning signs of depression and how you are dealing with stress and sadness. If you have been consistently feeling blue for more than two weeks in a row, it may be time to talk to a doctor about how your sadness is affecting your overall mood. There is no shame in getting help to try and mitigate the adverse effects of depression.

Mood lifting tip: It can be hard to find happy moments throughout your divorce process but try and make the best of the good moments you do have. If you have kids, maybe this is an excellent time to try something fun for the first time or take them to that restaurant you always drive by instead of just through the drive-through for dinner. If you don’t have kids, use some of your free time to reconnect with good friends, or invite a new friend to grab drinks or dinner. Engage in activities that take your mind off of the divorce process you are experiencing.

  1. Sleep Problems

Sleep is one of the most important aspects of overall good health. When you are stressed out or depressed, it’s easy to lose sleep. The problem arises when you start to lose sleep regularly, as sleep deprivation can be a slippery slope. One sleepless night can turn into another and another, and before you know it, you’re a walking zombie. Loss of sleep can affect everything from your waistline to your heart health and can cause conditions like anxiety and depression. Since many of these conditions are linked to each other, it’s important that you address the issue of a lack of sleep as soon as you notice the problem.

Sleep better tonight tip: Some swear by meditation and sleep aid apps on your phone. If you are having difficulty sleeping because your racing thoughts about your divorce are never-ending, you may want to consider meditation before bed. There are apps or videos online that can walk you through guided meditations that are explicitly geared to helping you sleep. Sound machines may also be a good way to help you drown out your thoughts by listening to the calming ocean waves before you sleep, even if you are miles from the nearest beach.

  1. Weight Gain

There’s no doubt that the above-mentioned health problems can also contribute to weight gain, which is another negative health impact of divorce. When someone is going through a significant lifestyle change like a divorce, it can mean that eating habits also change. It may be that you are no longer eating at home as much or taking refuge in comfort foods to help lift your spirits. If you went from being in a marriage to being a single parent most of the time, you might find that you don’t have as much time to work out or exercise on your own as you used to. When your eating habits and your workout schedule changes, you may be at risk for weight gain and the problems associated with that, such as an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and mobility issues.

Get back on track tip: If you find that you are at a loss for time to exercise as you are going through your divorce, start by incorporating small workouts in throughout the day. Instead of park by the entrance to the store, park farther out to give yourself a walk. Take the stairs instead of the elevator and drop down to do a one-minute plank each time you leave your desk for something. These are all ways that you can start to get your body moving and think about being active again.

  1. Alcohol Abuse

Divorce indeed provides a prime opportunity for someone to start abusing alcohol. Perhaps you aren’t at home with the kids every night now, and instead, find company in a neighborhood bar. Maybe you are spending more time with single friends and attending networking happy hours. All of these activities can be good in small doses, but keep an eye on the amount of alcohol you are actually consuming. Alcohol abuse can have many health impacts such as liver cirrhosis and mental impairment, as well as contribute to weight gain, heart disease, depression, and anxiety. There is nothing wrong with being more social as you are going through your divorce, but don’t allow your drinking to get out of hand in ways that will negatively impact your overall health and well-being.

Socialize sober tip: Instead of inviting friends to join you at the bar, switch up your activities and ask friends to meet for a Sunday morning yoga class and juice bar or take a walk to get coffee. Both of these activities can be done without alcohol and still allow you to catch up with friends and be social. As a bonus, by asking your friends to do active social activities, you are also giving yourself time to exercise instead of consuming empty calories, which is better for overall health.

Divorces can be incredibly painful and can cause many different physical or psychological effects. The best thing you can do is to be on top of any of these types of adverse health impacts.

If you are going through a divorce or separation, you should contact an experienced family law attorney to be on your side throughout the whole process. One way to take some of the stress off of your back is to have an attorney who you can trust and who will help you through the legal part of the separation.

 

References:

The Disturbing Ways Divorce Can Impact Your Health. (2019, January 23). Retrieved from https://dadsdivorce.com/articles/the-disturbing-ways-divorce-can-impact-your-health/

 

Facts About Prenuptial Agreements in Florida

When two people decide to enter into a marriage, what they are really doing is signing a legal contract of marriage. Though the hope is that they maintain the contract until death, the reality is that many couples that get married also get divorced. Because divorce can be messy, and a separation of assets does not always leave each spouse in the same place or better than, many prospective spouses choose to sign a prenuptial agreement in Florida.

Why Sign a Prenup?

Spouses may want to sign a prenup if one or both of them has a large number of assets that they want to protect in the event of a divorce. If there are children from a previous marriage, the parent of those children may also want to protect their inheritance in the unfortunate event of a divorce. Additionally, a prenuptial agreement may be in place to pre-determine which spouse will be paid alimony and for how long if the marriage contract is broken.

What Can be Included in a Prenuptial Agreement in Florida?

Usually, a prenup will cover the financial rights of each spouse. This includes the ability to manage property and who gets what property in the event of a divorce, as well who will be in charge of the property in the event of a death or other disability.

A prenup will also state what assets will remain with the spouses following a separation or divorce. For instance, if one spouse enters the divorce with significantly more assets than another, he or she may want to protect those assets from being separated if the marriage dissolves.

Life insurance policies, retirement plans, and alimony are also topics that can be included in a prenuptial agreement. However, it’s important to note that the issue of child support cannot be pre-determined through a prenuptial agreement. The courts will calculate Child support at the time of divorce depending on the financial status and ability to care for the children of each parent at that time. Custody of the child will also be determined by a judge based on the child’s best interest at the time of divorce or separation.

Enforceability

A prenuptial agreement must be in writing, and both spouses must sign it. If it is found that one spouse did not sign voluntarily, or was threatened by physical or psychological punishment, the courts may find the agreement void. Additionally, if one spouse was not given fair and responsible disclosure of the other spouse’s financial assets and debts at the time of signing the agreement, the spouse may challenge the validity of the agreement.

Even if the agreement is unfair, it may not be ruled void unless it can be proven that one spouse did not receive accurate and fair information regarding the finances of the other prior to the marriage and signing of the agreement. It’s important that at the time of preparing the prenuptial agreement, both spouses disclose their finances in full.

Changing or Canceling the Agreement

If the spouses want to change or cancel the prenuptial agreement at any time during the marriage, they may do so as long as they put the changes in writing and both sign the document.

It may be sad to think about what would happen in the event of a divorce prior to a marriage, but it is important that each spouse protect themselves financially, especially when it comes to assets that were acquired prior to the marriage. At every step of the way, it would be beneficial to seek the advice of an experienced family law attorney who can help you through the process of preparing a prenuptial agreement.

 

References:

 

Thomas, A. (2015, March 27). Prenuptial Agreements in Florida. Retrieved from https://www.divorcenet.com/resources/prenuptial-agreements-florida.html

 

 

 

Simple Ways to Make Divorce Easier on Your Kids

The fact of the matter is that divorce is never easy. Whenever there is a separation of two people, especially if there are kids involved, it will be a complicated process. It’s often hard for children to understand why their parents are no longer together, so explaining divorce to children can make it even harder. However, there are some things that parents can do to try and make the process of marital separation more tolerable. When it comes to your children, here are some simple ways to make divorce easier on your kids.

Keep in Touch Easily with Social Media

There may be some negative aspects to social media, but if used in the right way, especially during and after a divorce, it can be an easy and positive way for families to stay in touch. Unfortunately, after a separation, there may be long periods of time where one parent goes without seeing their child. Through social media, the non-custodial parent has an easy way to make sure they stay updated on the events in their child’s life.

Social media and texting also provide a simple way for parents to maintain consistent communication with their child when they are not around physically. By sending a text or social media message, a parent can show that they are there for the child without much effort or interference from the other parent. In the same way, social media and text conversations allow the child to have a direct line of communication with each parent without having to disclose all discussions to the other parent.

Don’t Argue in Front of the Kids

This may seem like a no-brainer, but in the heat of the moment, it may be easy just to start or continue an argument while your child is nearby. This is a huge mistake that can have lasting consequences on their emotional health and future relationships. Children are constant observers, and they are learning from their parents subconsciously each day. If their first and only role models are always fighting and angry, they will carry that sentiment with them throughout their lives.

Make it easier on your child or children by saving the arguments for times when you are alone with your ex-spouse, or go through an attorney to handle any legal or financial discussions.

Minimize Disruptions to Your Child’s Routine

In a time when your child’s whole life is changing, it’s important to maintain consistency wherever you can. This may mean ensuring that your child continues to participate in after-school activities or that you have a family dinner with your child each night. Whatever efforts you can make to ensure that your child has a consistent home life will go a long way in helping them get through the divorce.

Legitimize Feelings

Your child will go going through complicated feelings and emotions that they have never had before when there is a family separation. It’s important that you validate and legitimize your child’s feelings. They may not even understand why they are feeling sad or angry, but it’s important that you don’t tell them to “suck it up” or to get over the fact that they are losing a parent in the home. Divorce can be an extremely traumatic event in a child’s life, and it’s essential for them to have the emotional support of both parents.

Get Help

Divorce is hard on everyone, so it’s important that you, as parents, get the help you need to handle your new life in an emotionally healthy way. It’s hard to take care of someone else if you are not taking care of your own emotional needs, so seek professional help if you need to. If you feel that your child would benefit from therapy with or without you, this is also a positive way to help your child handle the internal changes that occur with divorce.

Any time there is a familial separation, you should contact an experienced family law attorney. Your attorney can help you navigate the legal complexities of divorce so that you can focus on taking care of your children and home life.

 

References:

One Plus of Texting, Social Media: Divorce Made Easier on Kids. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.usnews.com/news/health-news/articles/2019-02-26/one-plus-of-texting-social-media-divorce-made-easier-on-kids

Lyness, D. (Ed.). (2015, January). Helping Your Child Through a Divorce (for Parents). Retrieved from https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/help-child-divorce.html

 

 

 

Preparing for Spring and Summer Travel During or After Divorce

Taking family vacations during the spring and summer can become a bit more complicated when a couple is going through a divorce. No longer are you planning travel as a whole family, but one parent or the other wants to take the kids out of town, or even out of the country without the other parent participating. This scenario can become even more complicated when you add in one parent’s new significant other or spouse as the family further separates and prepares for travel during or after a divorce.

Many times, parents become territorial over their children following a separation, and children, unfortunately, become a pawn in a game the parents play against each other. This can be detrimental to the goals of everyone involved, but most importantly to the emotional health of the child. Therefore, it’s essential that parents work out their travel arrangements ahead of time, or at least don’t involve the children in any post-divorce dispute.

When preparing for spring and summer travel arrangements during or after divorce, here are some things to consider.

Custody Arrangements

When going through a divorce with children, parents must decide on a custody arrangement. This means that parents either share custody, or one parent has primary custody while the other has visitation rights or a certain percentage of custody. Through a parenting plan, couples must decide how they will organize the care of the children after the divorce is final. Often, this parenting plan will include information on which parents are allowed custody during certain holidays or school breaks. It’s important that both parents involved abide by the restrictions of the parenting plan and custody agreement to avoid any additional legal issues.

If parents cannot agree on which vacation times are assigned to each parent, a judge may have to be the one who decides based on the custody arrangements. Therefore, it’s important that all parents who are going through a divorce consult with an attorney to understand what rights they have when determining custody and vacation time with their kids throughout the year.

Spring and Summer Travel During or After Divorce

Parents should always consult with their custody agreement and the other parent before traveling anywhere with their child during or after divorce, but this is even more important when there is international travel involved. Many parents may find restrictions in travel allowances, and each parent must always abide by the agreement set in place. Additionally, any international travel may require both parents to sign off on documentation, and therefore, both parents must agree to the travel.

The primary custodial parent can ban travel with the other parent and child, which may require the traveling parent to file a motion with the courts. This potential threat to future travel for a parent further highlights the importance of having a qualified family attorney on your side who can help you understand what rights you are entitled to as a parent.

In any situation when a parent is considering travel with the child, the child’s needs and safety should come first. If the child has other obligations at home, is ill, or has work, school, or social engagements, it’s important that the non-custodial parent honor those obligations and not force the child into traveling just to prove a point to the other parent. The child should not be used as a way to assert power or get back at a former spouse. Divorce is not a game to be won, and each parent should absolutely place a priority on the wishes of the child.

If you are going through a divorce and wish to travel with your child this spring or summer, consider obtaining a family attorney to help you navigate any intricacies in your custody agreement or parenting plan. It’s important that there is open dialogue and agreement between former spouses, but it is also essential that you understand your rights as a parent.

 

References:

Retrieved from https://www.hg.org/legal-articles/travel-restrictions-for-parents-and-child-after-a-divorce-47485

Retrieved from https://thespatzlawfirm.wordpress.com/?s=travel

 

Tips for Co-Parenting During the Holidays

After a divorce, co-parenting your children can still create many challenges throughout the year, but these may be significantly magnified as the holidays approach. Between events and gatherings with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends, you and your former spouse may be competing for precious time with your little ones.

It’s important to always follow the parenting plan established over the course of your divorce in order to avoid any major issues that could further damage the family, but in addition to that, here are a few more tips for co-parenting during the holidays.

Prioritize Your Kids

Never forget whose wellbeing is most important to consider, despite what happened with your former spouse. Make sure you are considering your children with each decision you make year-round, but especially during the holidays, which are supposed to be a fun and enchanting time.

You may feel the need to pull your kids in many different directions to visit family in the limited amount of time that you have together, but this may not serve your children well. Kids may become exhausted and not enjoy quality time if you are not taking their needs into consideration. Remember, this is a time for making memories, not for running your children into the ground and creating resentment for holiday functions. If your kids need a break, think about how you can incorporate that into the festivities.

Coordinate Gifts

If you and your spouse coordinate how you will handle gifts, you can limit the need to one-up each other each year. Decide on a budget, and make sure you aren’t getting the same gifts on your kids’ lists. Your children will be happier in the long run if both parents share the gift-giving duties equally as opposed to one outdoing the other.

Make Plans, But Be Patient

As stated earlier, it’s important to always follow the parenting plan set by the court when it comes to holiday time with your kids, but even more than that, make sure you have a plan for the time spent together. If there are extra activities or events that you would like for your child to attend, make arrangements with your ex to ensure that each parent is getting equal time.

Additionally, be patient. The holidays can be busy and stressful, especially if there is a lot of back-and-forth. Try to let the small things go, and remember that the most important thing is the experience of your child.

Never Argue in Front of the Kids

Though there may be disagreements from time to time, keep your arguing to a minimum and out of range of the children. Divorce is hard enough on kids, but repeated arguments between parents can be internalized by your children and cause them much distress throughout their lives. Consider settling disagreements after the kids go to bed or over email when decisions can be placed in writing in order to deter future arguments or misunderstandings.

Don’t Give Up on Self-Care

If you can’t take care of yourself, it’s very difficult to take care of others. Therefore, it’s important that you take some time to enjoy the holiday season as well. When the kids are with your ex, take time to relax, spend time with friends and family, and ensure that you are both physically and emotionally healthy. This will create a more positive atmosphere for the whole family and keep tensions to a minimum when the children are around.

In the event of a separation or divorce, it’s important to contact an experienced family attorney. Your attorney will help you through the process of creating a parenting plan and custody schedule that is beneficial for the whole family.

 

References:

Conklin-Danao, D. (2017, November 23). Co-Parenting During the Holidays: 5 Tips to Follow. Retrieved from https://www.divorcemag.com/blog/co-parenting-during-the-holidays-tips-to-follow/

 

Equitable Distribution at the Dissolution of Marriage in Florida

closed up photo of man in black blazer facing tablet

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Divorce is always a hard topic. Even if there are not children involved in the marriage, spouses must divide their belongings and assets earned during the marriage as they part ways.

In the state of Florida, we have what is called an “Equitable Distribution” of assets and liabilities acquired during the marriage. This basically means that any marital property will be equally distributed after a divorce. These include assets acquired jointly by the spouses during the marriage; enhancements of non-marital property due to the efforts of a spouse; jointly titled property, even if it was acquired as non-marital property; gifts from one spouse to another during the marriage; and joint bank accounts.

Just as assets are divided, so must liabilities.  A marriage between two people can have many benefits and successes, but also comes with risk and sometimes failures. Equitable Distribution covers both sides.

The Process of Dividing Through Divorce

During the divorce process, the first consideration is always the dependent children, if there are any. The court will handle issues of custody and child support prior to the equitable distribution of property. After the children are taken care of, the court will award each party their non-marital property, or items that were acquired before the spouses were legally married. However, it’s important to note that non-marital property can become marital property, as in the example of a spouse’s name being added to the title of a property owned by the other spouse before the marriage.

An example of non-marital property could be a personal bank account that is only in one spouse’s name that was opened prior to the marriage and not used for marital expenses.

The equitable distribution of properties acquired during the marriage will follow the non-marital assets. After the equitable distribution of property, the court will determine alimony, if any is awarded.

What Does the Court Consider?

According to Chapter 61 of Florida Statutes, which discusses equitable distribution. The following items are considered by the court when dividing the marital assets and liabilities. Some items may be awarded in a larger percentage to one spouse over another depending on “competent and substantial evidence” of the lawyer of that spouse.

(a)       The contribution to the marriage by each spouse, including contributions to the care and education of the children and services as homemaker.

(b)      The economic circumstances of the parties.

(c)       The duration of the marriage.

(d)      Any interruption of personal careers or educational opportunities of either party.

(e)       The contribution of one spouse to the personal career or educational opportunity of the other spouse.

(f)       The desirability of retaining any asset, including an interest in a business, corporation, or professional practice, intact and free from any claim or interference by the other party.

(g)       The contribution of each spouse to the acquisition, enhancement, and production of income or the improvement of, or the incurring of liabilities to, both the marital assets and the nonmarital assets of the parties.

(h)      The desirability of retaining the marital home as a residence for any dependent child of the marriage, or any other party, when it would be equitable to do so, it is in the best interest of the child or that party, and it is financially feasible for the parties to maintain the residence until the child is emancipated or until exclusive possession is otherwise terminated by a court of competent jurisdiction. In making this determination, the court shall first determine if it would be in the best interest of the dependent child to remain in the marital home; and, if not, whether other equities would be served by giving any other party exclusive use and possession of the marital home.

(i)        The intentional dissipation, waste, depletion, or destruction of marital assets after the filing of the petition or within two years prior to the filing of the petition.

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

In an amicable divorce, both parties will sign a “Marriage Settlement Agreement” (MSA), which will lay out exactly how everything will be divided after the dissolution of the marriage. However, in many cases, this process will be handled in mediation or by a judge.

Courts will be as equal as possible when dividing assets and liabilities at the end of a marriage, but a competent family attorney may be able to help a spouse recover exactly what he or she is owed. If you are facing a divorce, contact a family attorney as soon as possible in order to assist you through the distribution of property earned over the course of your marriage. The Spatz Law Firm is here to answer your questions. Please give us a call at 305-442-0200.

References:

A Seven-Step Analysis of Equitable Distribution in Florida Part 2: Distributing Marital Property. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.floridabar.org/news/tfb-journal/?durl=/DIVCOM/JN/jnjournal01.nsf/Articles/8323D0F2AB6652FB85256ADB005D627A

Equitable Distribution in Florida Dissolution of Marriage – Florida Divorce Source. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.divorcesource.com/ds/florida/equitable-distribution-in-florida-dissolution-of-marriage-3703.shtml

 

The Role of Foster Parents in Florida

Foster parents in Florida

In an unfortunate event that happened in southwest Miami-Dade this year, a foster mother was shot in her home by the biological parents of the children in her care. The biological mother then took the children to her own home, where she was later arrested. The foster mother was shot because she refused to give the children back to their biological mother when the mother demanded them, presumably in order to protect the children. Due to the arrest record of the biological mother, who had spent time in prison for child abuse and was charged again with child neglect, the children had been put into the custody of the Department of Children and Families for their own safety and well-being.

Situations like these often leave people wondering, what rights do foster parents have?

Basics of Foster Care

Children who grow up in foster care often have tough childhoods where they have moved around between their own home and the home of foster parents, and sometimes they are placed with several different foster parents. However, the idea behind foster homes is to provide the child with a more stable and nurturing environment than what the biological parents can provide.

  1. Foster care is meant to be temporary.  It often comes to an end when the child is either adopted, reunited with his or her biological parents, or turns 18. Foster parents may initiate a termination of parental rights against the biological parents, but this is a rare situation. Usually the foster parent keeps the child until the state deems that the biological parent is fit for custody of the child.
  2. Foster parents must be emotionally and financially committed. In order to be a foster parent, a person must be completely committed to the loving care of a child that is not their own. Fostering a child is not a paid position, and all though foster parents are given a small stipend to help with food and clothing for the child, the parent must be able to financially support their own family and needs
  3. .Foster parents have to meet certain criteria. All foster parents consent to a criminal and child abuse registry check, as well as health and home inspections. They are responsible for regular communication with the caseworker assigned to the child and may be required to work with the state on the reunification visits with biological parents.
  4. Foster parents have the same responsibilities as any other parent. Foster parents do everything that biological parents do, including enroll the child in school, take the child to medical and dental appointments, and attend any meetings related to the child’s well-being or foster status. In essence, anyone who commits to being a foster parent is taking over the role of the parent of the child with all its responsibilities.

Deciding to foster a child is a big decision that should not be taken lightly. Anyone who chooses to take in a foster child should be prepared to be fully committed to the well-being of the child in his or her care. Some foster parents may choose to apply for adoption of the child in their care if that becomes an option, though it is not required, and it is not a guarantee.

If you are involved in a situation that may require children to be placed in foster care, you should contact a reliable family law attorney. There are rights and obligations on the side of the parents as well as the state, and an attorney can assist you through the process.

 

References:

Batchelor, A., Burke, P., & Anwer, S. (2018, August 31). Foster mother shot, 2 children taken from home in southwest Miami-Dade. Retrieved from https://www.local10.com/news/crime/foster-mother-shot-2-children-taken-from-home-in-southwest-miami-dade

Trudeau, J. (2010, April 08). Foster Parent Rights in Florida. Retrieved from https://www.avvo.com/legal-guides/ugc/foster-parent-rights-in-florida

 

Who Can Become A Foster Parent? (1970, September 21). Retrieved from http://www.myflfamilies.com/service-programs/foster-care/who-can-become

 

FAQ. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.familiesfirstfl.com/about-us/faq/

 

 

Legal Guardianship for Adults

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Most adults are responsible for themselves when it comes to legal matters. Once you are a legal adult, you can make decisions based on the law in cases of money or property without someone else making those decisions for you. However, if an adult in the state of Florida becomes incapacitated due to injury or illness, there are measures set in place to ensure that someone will become responsible for the legal rights of the incapacitated person. In Florida, a guardianship is a legal proceeding where someone is appointed to make decisions and handle the legal matters of a person who becomes incapacitated, otherwise known as a “ward.”

How & Why is a Guardian Appointed?

If an adult becomes incapacitated, that means that he or she has been judicially determined to lack the capacity to manage their property, legal matters, and issues related to health and safety. A court can determine that someone is entirely or partially incapacitated depending on the findings of an expert committee.

Anyone can file a petition to the court stating that the incapacitation of another deems him or her eligible for a legal guardian, but it is up to the court to decide and enforce guardianship. Once a petition has been filed, a committee of three expert members is formed to review the case of the potential ward, which includes a physical, mental, and functional assessment. This committee is usually made up of two physicians and another expert in the condition of the person in question. The committee will submit a report to the court with these findings related to the capacity of the individual.

After the report is presented to the court, a judge will decide if a person is wholly or partially incapacitated, if at all, based on the factual evidence discovered by the committee. If someone is deemed to be in full capacity of him or herself, then the judge will throw out the petition for guardianship.

Who Can Be a Guardian?

Any adult resident in the state of Florida and some family members outside of the state may be appointed guardian of a ward as long as they have not been convicted of a felony, and are fully capable of handling the duties of being a guardian. A nonprofit entity may be granted guardianship in certain situations, and a bank trust can be appointed guardian of an individual’s property.

What Does a Guardian Do?

Ultimately, the court will decide what the ward is incapable of doing and assign the rights and responsibilities to the guardian. A guardian will be required to report regularly on the property and health of the ward. He or she will also be responsible for the medical, mental, and personal care of the ward, as well as determining the best place for the ward to live depending on the requirements of the court.

A guardianship does not have to be a permanent arrangement, as some wards may recover and become capable of exercising their own rights after some time. In this case, the court would conduct another assessment to determine whether the ward has recovered from their incapacitation and release them from the guardianship if there is a full recovery.

If a guardianship is petitioned or necessary, it’s important to hire an attorney who is experienced in the area of family law and guardianships. The guardian is also required to have representation by an attorney throughout the process. In legal documentation, the person who becomes the ward can also designate their preferred guardian before an incapacitating event.

References:

Consumer Pamphlet: What Is Guardianship? – The Florida Bar. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.floridabar.org/public/consumer/pamphlet030/#WHAT IS A GUARDIANSHIP?

Enforcing Child Support in Florida

A separation between parents can be heartbreaking on an emotional level, but it will also create other hardships in the life of a family. Financially, it can be difficult to lose an income when raising a child, especially if one parent will be responsible for most of the care of the child. Therefore, we have measures in place to ensure that children who are involved in a divorce or parental separation are eligible to receive financial resources.

In the state of Florida, all children under the age of 18 have the right to receive ongoing financial support from both parents. Many times this is in the form of child support from one parent to the parent who has primary custody of the child. It’s important to note that you don’t have to be married to be required to pay child support to the other parent. If paternity is established, child support can be required.

Enforcement of Child Support

Child support is determined based on the income of both parents in the state of Florida. If the parent who is required to pay child support fails to pay, there can be severe consequences. In the state of Florida, you can be considered in contempt of court for failing to pay court-mandated child support.

In order for one parent to report a failure to pay, he or she should contact the local child support office through the Department of Revenue and report the failure to pay by the other parent. A case for hearing will be filed, and a hearing officer will hear the case. The hearing officer is not a judge but can offer recommendations to a judge based on the evidence in the case. If the hearing officer deems that the neglectful parent has the means to pay the child support but willfully failed to pay, the Department of Revenue can file a “motion for contempt.”

Moving Out of State

A parent who moves out of the original state where the child support was ordered is still obligated to pay, and it is still possible to enforce the child support order in the new state. There is a Federal law called the “Uniform Interstate Family Support Act” that has been adopted in all 50 states to protect the child support orders of other states. If a parent moves to another state, that state cannot change the child support order of the previous state if the other parent or child still resides in the original state.

Penalties of Failure to Pay Child Support

If you are found in contempt of court for failing to pay child support, these are some of the penalties you may receive.

  • Suspension of Driver’s License or vehicle registration
  • Suspension of business
  • Fine
  • Bank accounts may be seized
  • Income tax return may be seized
  • Passport denial
  • Jail or prison time

Any time there are issues arising with child support, you should contact a qualified family law attorney who has specialized knowledge and experience related to child support cases. The well-being and financial resources of your children should always be most important, and a family law attorney can help you determine the best course of action.

References:

Child Support Enforcement in Florida. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://statelaws.findlaw.com/florida-law/child-support-enforcement-in-florida.html

 

Child Support. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.miamisao.com/services/child-support/

 

Wolf, J. (n.d.). Here’s How to File for Child Support in Florida. Retrieved from https://www.thebalance.com/how-to-file-for-child-support-in-florida-2998005

 

Vohwinkle, J. (n.d.). What Single Parents Should Know About Child Support. Retrieved from https://www.thebalance.com/how-to-collect-child-support-1289811