Category Archives: Family Law

Establishing Legal Paternity in Florida. 

In the state of Florida, the law assumes that when a mother is married and gives birth, the child´s father is the mother´s husband. On the other hand, when the mother is not married when the child is born, paternity must be established. This can be done whether voluntarily or through a court order. 

First of all, it is important to understand the difference between Biological Father and a Legal Father. Identifying the Biological Father is a relatively easy process since it describes a man who fathers a child. However, the Legal Father is the man who has the responsibilities and rights of parenthood regarding the child. A Legal Father can be established through adoption, marriage, or a court ruling. 

When the mother and the alleged father agree on who the child´s father is, both parties sign a “Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity”. This form states that the alleged father is in fact the child´s true legal father. With this document, the father gains all the legal rights and responsibilities of parenthood, which include visitation, having a paternal relationship with the child, active participation in raising the child, and providing support for him or her. 

The acknowledgment becomes final and binding sixty days after it has been signed, after which neither party can revoke or set it aside. There could be an exception if some extreme pressure or force caused a party to sign the form. 

Another way of establishing paternity is through marriage or legitimization. This means that when a mother of a child is married at the time of the child´s birth, the husband is determined as the legal father of the child. 

Legitimization can happen when a couple gets married after the child is born, given that the husband is the biological father of the child. 

If there is no voluntary acknowledgment, establishing paternity requires the filing of a court case to determine the issue. Under Florida law, any of the following persons or agencies can start the court process: 

  • The mother of the child.
  • The alleged father (the man who believes he is the father of the child or who has been identified as such by other people).
  • The child through a legal representative. 
  • The Florida Department of Revenue. 

When the Florida Department of Revenue starts the court process it is for the sole purpose of making child support orders. This means that the court does not enter orders granting parenting time. 

The court can find the alleged father to be the legal father through genetic testing or through evidence. This evidence can be gathered through testimonies or other evidence concerning the nature of the parties´ relationship with other people. 

Additionally, if the alleged father is served with a summons directing him to appear in court and he fails to do so, the judge may enter a default judgment, which then finds the alleged father as the legal father. 

When a paternity matter is started in court, it is important to know that the judge may also make orders for child support, parenting time, decision-making authority over the child, health insurance for the child, and payment of a party´s attorney´s fees and court costs. 

Establishing paternity can be a complex process that must be handled by an experienced Family Law Attorney. This way, your rights and best interests will be safeguarded. Russell Spatz is an attorney with experience in handling all types of paternity matters. Give him a call at (305) 442-0200 to see how he can be of assistance in your paternity matter.

Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements

Ideally, an individual gets married without thinking about getting divorced sometime in the future. However, being prepared for this scenario is wise and could save you a lot of time and money if a marriage ends in divorce. According to Statista (2021), there were about 750,000 divorces conducted in the United States just in 2019.  

With this in mind, having a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement seems like a good idea. And it is. 

You may already be familiar with prenuptial agreements, but postnuptial agreements can also be an option for your marriage. Both agreements are legal documents that are signed by people who are about to get married or that are already married. 

These agreements address what will happen to marital assets in the case or divorce or death of one of the partners. They may also include retirement benefits, division of financial assets, alimony payments, and spousal support. 

Despite their similarities, the most important difference lies in the date on which the document is signed. The prenuptial agreement (commonly known as a prenup) is signed before a couple is married. A postnuptial agreement is signed after the marriage. 

What is a Prenuptial Agreement? 

As mentioned previously, this is a document made before the marriage. It is a contract where the couple determines how they will divide their assets should the marriage come to an end, or if one of them passes away. 

This type of agreement is more advisable than postnuptial agreements in the sense that it is made when two people are still independent and their assets have not yet legally merged. Moreover, it is advisable to sign a prenup if one of the spouses is wealthy, expecting a large inheritance, or is entering their second or third marriage. 

What is a Postnuptial Agreement? 

Postnuptial agreements generally exist simply because couples did not think (or ran out of time) to sign a prenuptial agreement. The postnup can also be used to address concerns raised by a significant change in the finances of the couple or one of the spouses, such as a gift or a large inheritance. Another reason why one may consider having a postnuptial agreement is if previously unknown knowledge about one spouse´s financial situation surfaces.

Getting married and divorced are probably the most life-changing decisions in one´s life, and as such, you should always take the best legal steps guided by an experienced Family Law attorney. Russell Spatz has handled all types of prenuptial and postnuptial agreements over the last four decades. Make sure to give him a call at (305) 442-0200 or contact the Spatz Law Firm PL online to schedule a meeting.

Co-Parenting vs Parallel Parenting

When it comes to separation, every couple is different. Some couples end the relationship on good terms, while others can´t even look at each other. And when children are involved, it can be even more difficult. Depending on the nature of their relationship between the individuals, parents can opt to co-parent or parallel parent. 

What is co-parenting? 

Co-parenting is a post-divorce, or post separation, arrangement made by both parents to continue to raise their child(ren) together. 

This option is chosen by couples who are able to make decisions jointly about the raising of the child or children. In this arrangement, both individuals will continue to be involved in the child´s life, amicably interacting with each other for the overall benefit of their child(ren).

Part of co-parenting is having a plan that helps them be on the same page to raise their child and address important issues such as healthcare decision-making so that opportunities for conflict are minimized. 

Keep in mind that both parents take part in their child´s activities, such as school recitals, extracurricular activities, and more, so communication is key for co-parenting, and differences between parents should be put aside for the child´s benefit.  

Tips for co-parenting

  • Have good communication: as we mentioned before, being able to communicate is key if you choose to co-parent. The information that is shared should be complete and accurate. 
  • Be prepared: whether you chose a digital tool or not, make sure to have a plan and a 12-month calendar. You can include the weekly parenting time schedule, the holiday schedule, school events, and any activity that involves the child. 
  • Maintain a cordial relationship with the other parent: this is not only about being able to communicate. The way parents relate to each other can affect their child, especially when the family is all together for certain events. 
  • Be positive about the child´s visit to the other parent: each parent must be supportive of the other parent´s right to a great relationship with their child.  
  • Give the child some control over parenting time: depending on the child´s age, you may want to consider letting them have some control over the time they spend with each parent. This may help the child know that his or her opinion and feelings are important and taken into consideration. 

What is parallel parenting?

Different from co-parenting, parallel parenting is the option for couples who are constantly in conflict and are unable to communicate with each other. This kind of parenting allows both parents to spend time with the child(ren) independently. This way, the child will avoid a hostile environment and the relationship between the parents won´t negatively affect him or her. 

In a parallel parenting plan, the need for interaction will be minimized as much as possible, both when making the plan, as well as in daily life. Due to the nature of the relationship, this type of plan often requires the need for a mediator or judge to establish the terms under which the child will be raised, based upon arguments and evidence presented by both parents. 

Tips for parallel parenting

  • Keep communication brief: if there´s ever a time where communication is needed, keep in mind that is better to keep to the facts, and firmly give or solicit the information that is needed. Also consider that being firm doesn´t need to be rude. Even when communication is kept brief, friendly interactions are advised. 
  • Take a moment to check in with the child(ren).
  • Make the child the priority: leave your emotions about the other parent aside to the best of your ability, to ensure that the child´s wellbeing is the priority.

Getting divorced, or separated, and dealing with how to raise the children can be a difficult time for all parties involved. Assistance regarding custody issues is often a necessity. Russell Spatz has over 40 years of experience working on family law cases. Give him a call at 305-442-0200 to see how he can be of assistance in your child custody negotiations.

7 Best Tips to Get You Prepared For a Divorce.

Getting a divorce can be a challenging process, both legally and emotionally, due to all the changes the people involved get through. That´s why we came up with some of the best tips to get you prepared for a divorce. 

  1. Do not panic: staying calm during a divorce is important, this way you´ll be able to make decisions rationally and the process will be less hard on you. 
  2. Do your research: knowing about divorce before starting the actual process will give you peace of mind, but it will also help know what you want out of the process and the divorce itself. 
  3. Have a plan and be organized: on one hand, you´ll want to discuss with your partner how things will be handled (finances, home boundaries), how and when you will tell the children about the divorce, etc. Don´t assume anything.
    On the other hand, it´s a good idea to have backup documentation to support your positions, especially when it comes to financial expenses and movements in general. 
  4. Rely on family and friends: you don´t want to isolate during these hard times. Quite the contrary, it´s advisable to surround yourself with people who care about you and that can be a good support system for you. Emotional support is important during life-changing times. 
  5. Maintain civility: avoiding arguments with your soon-to-be ex-partner will make the divorce process easier for all the parties involved, but especially if there are children in the equation because you will most likely be co-parenting with him/her. 
  6. Take care of yourself: the most important person is you, so no matter how angry or sad you may feel, focus on taking care of yourself physically but also emotionally and mentally. This will make the process easier, but most importantly, you will be ok. 
  7. Get the help of a professional: the process of getting a divorce is not easy, and the last thing you´ll want is to deal with all the paperwork required while going through a life-changing event. Russell Spatz has been practicing law for over 35 years, and he has the experience needed for any divorce case. Make an appointment today for a consultation: 305-442-0200.

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

 

 

4 Ways To Create a Peaceful Co-Parenting Environment

One of the toughest parts of a divorce is making sure your children are happy and comfortable with their new life – this includes when you or your partner move on and there are new significant others in the picture. It’s important to find it in your heart to put your differences aside and create a relationship with the new person in your child’s life.

Here are four tips to creating a peaceful co-parenting environment:

1. Help the new partner get to know your children – Share information about your child that can allow them connect in a special way. It’s important to help them bond and build trust with each other. Something simple like their favorite color or breakfast food is a great start.

2. Talk about your worries – Communication is key. In order to run a smooth household, it’s important that everyone is on the same page. Keep things non-confrontational, but if there’s something that seems as though it may rock the boat, talk about it before it’s too late.

3. Let them know it’s totally normal – Make sure your children know that after divorce, parents often find new partners and it’s okay to have feelings about the situation. Be sure to remind them that you will always love them and they are your number one priority.

4. Give your children a voice – Allow for your children to be honest and open with you about the situation. Let them know their feelings are valid and share them with your co-parent and new partner. Keeping everyone abreast to your child’s feelings is the best way ensure that things go smoothly.

A divorce doesn’t have to be the end of a happy family. It is possible to find a new partner and create an easy-going peaceful larger family where your children are comfortable with each parent and co-parent involved. If you need assistance with your divorce or custody issues, don’t hesitate to contact Russell Spatz at (305) 442-0200. With decades of experience, Russell will do everything he can to help keep the peace.

The Difference Between Guardianships and Conservatorships in Florida

In the state of Florida many think the terms guardianship and conservatorship are interchangeable, but they in fact are very different. When a person is incapacitated or missing due to mental illness, disability, or injury, family members can petition the court for guardianship and/or conservatorship. But the rights appointed by the judge in these two situations are not the same. 

Florida Statutes Chapter 744 states a guardianship will take over in making important decisions for an incapacitated person and look after their affairs. Guardians typically have more control than a conservator since there can be medical or personal affairs involved. The courts typically use the least restrictive option and a guardianship doesn’t need to be a permanent appointment. So, if the person is only temporarily incapacitated due to an injury, it can be revoked once the person is well.

In the state of Florida, under the Statutes Chapter 747 a conservatorship applies to a family member who has gone missing. The individual in question has to have been declared an absentee. This includes circumstances where someone may have gone missing due to amnesia, mental derangement, or other mental causes. Absentees also include armed forces member who were reported missing in action, were detained in a foreign country, or have become prisoners of war.

When someone is missing there are certain legal and financial affairs that must be tended to. This is when a petition for a conservatorship comes into place. To become a conservator, you must show proof that you hold an interest in the absentee’s estate if they passed away, and you must show you are dependent on support or maintenance from the absentee. When you petition for guardianship, you have to show the court that the family member is truly incapacitated and cannot handle their financial or personal affairs. The court will appoint an expert committee to examine the individual to ascertain whether he or she is incapacitated. 

For a conservatorship this petition will list all the immediate family and next of kin. The petition will need to have specific details on what the circumstances were when the person went missing, and list reasons why you need to be appointed conservator, as well as the worth of the estate.

Whether you’re in need of a conservatorship or a guardianship, the assistance of a family lawyer will be incredibly beneficial, especially as this is likely an emotional time for you and your family. Russell Spatz has decades of experience and always puts his clients first. He’s available for a consultation today at (305) 442-0200.

4 Things to Know About Child Support in Florida

Divorce is a life altering experience that results in a number of changes for both you and your spouse’s lives, but also in the lives of your children. With divorce comes the added process of making sure that the children are provided for not only mentally and emotionally, but also financially. To do so a child support agreement may be put into place by the court. No two child support agreements are the same, but in the state of Florida there are several things that you can expect when entering into one of these agreements – no matter which side of the situation you are on.

It’s important to note that nothing is permanent and just like a custody agreement, child support agreements can be updated if there are new circumstances like a change in income whether its an unexpected drop or substantial increase. This is a matter that would need to be taken to court and often the assistance of a family law attorney is needed.

Here are 4 things to keep in mind when it comes to child support in Florida:

  1. The custody agreement will be taken into consideration – One of the biggest factors when it comes to determining child support is how much time the child(ren) will be spending with each parent. The number of overnight visits per year will help decide what the additional financial responsibility will be. The more overnights, then the less one would have to pay as its assumed they are responsible for all finances while taking care of the child. If there is a 50/50 custody arrangement in place and both parties make roughly the same amount of money, chances are no one will be paying child support in this instance. Typically, whichever parent makes more money, or has them less would be the one to pay child support.
  2. Net income will be a major deciding factor – When it comes time for the courts to calculate what the dollar amount will be net income for each parent will be taken into consideration. This means the amount of income after monthly taxes, health care, and any retirement payments, etc. This will show the true income that each parent has available to handle their actual finances each month.
  3. Don’t forget to include any daycare or health care costs – While figuring out what your child’s monthly expenses are the usual suspects like food, clothing, and shelter are important but don’t overlook things like daycare costs or medical expenses. Be sure to calculate what is needed on a regular basis, as well as what could be needed in case of an emergency. Keep track of these costs in case a change needs to be made to the agreement in order to cover such expenses at a later date.
  4. Consider an Income Withholding Order – In the state of Florida, when it comes to court ordered child support, it’s possible to have an Income Withholding Order put into place that would automatically deduct the child support payment from the payer’s paycheck, within each pay cycle through their employer. Sometimes this is mandated by the courts and usually makes things easier on both parties as it allows for a paper trail and there are no missed payments or opportunities to forget to make a payment.

If you are currently working through a child support agreement, whether you’re the one requesting the payments or the one making the payments, consider hiring a family law attorney to help you through the process. Someone like Russell Spatz can help you to understand the court’s process and to calculate an amount that works for you and your child’s needs. Give him a call today at (305) 442-0200.

4 Marital Issues That Can Cause Divorce

Marriages aren’t expected to be constantly happy, shiny, and new. As time goes on problems and disagreements are bound to occur. In a healthy relationship, these differences can be worked through via compromise or educating each other on the other’s values or views. Unfortunately, sometimes the common issues that come up in marriages are too difficult to work through and can lead to a divorce.

Here are five marital issues that often cause divorce:

Financial issues – Finances are a big factor in many marriages. Sometimes it’s a struggle to pay bills and sometimes it’s an issue if one spouse brings in more money than the other. Arguing over bills, spending, and even debt are fairly normal issues, but how those issues are resolved can have a very positive or negative impact on a marriage. If these issues keep coming up or can’t be resolved, divorce may be the last option.

An extramarital affair – Being unfaithful to one’s spouse is a common cause for divorce. While some situations of cheating can be overcome, there’s a level of broken trust and betrayal that is sometimes too difficult to push through.

Family – Many times negativity that is projected from one’s in-laws, children, or stepchildren can have a deep impact on a marriage. Coping with these issues can be tough, especially as having to pick sides between ones family and their spouse is not an ideal thing to do.

Growing apart – As we grow older, we grow into ourselves or we change in ways that often times don’t match with the growth that our partner is making. While many couples grow together and become closer, it’s also possible to grow apart or to reach a point where you are no longer in love with the person you’re married to as they’ve aged into someone who doesn’t fit your ideals of a perfect partner anymore.

No one gets married thinking that it will someday end in divorce, but the reality is, divorce is more common than we’d like it to be. Many times it’s unavoidable and really what’s best for both parties. If you are considering a divorce or are in need of a family law attorney, Russell Spatz has decades of experience and is available to help you through this emotional time in your life.

4 Signs It Could Be Time for a Divorce

couple

No one gets married with the intention of ever having to file for divorce. We all want to believe in happily ever after, but unfortunately, life happens and people grow apart or circumstances happen that make it difficult to continue being married. If you and your partner are starting to grow restless and no longer feel happy with one another or any of the following appear to be hindering your relationship, then maybe it’s time to consider filing for divorce.

Cheating – When getting married you vow to stay loyal, but that doesn’t always happen. Infidelity, whether physical or emotional, in a marriage can cause unrepairable damage. While it‘s something that can be overcome, many marriages do not survive when a spouse cheats. This is the cause of 27% of divorces.

Lack of communication – Being married is all about compromise. In order to have a healthy marriage you have to be able to talk things out with your partner and find a resolution to issues that make both parties happy and comfortable. If you and your partner aren’t communicating and working with each other there’s a large chance your marriage won’t survive.

Loss of own identity – Your relationship with yourself is just as important as the one you build with your partner. Over the years, it’s easy to “lose yourself” and this feeling can lead to depression or anger that can consume ones marriage and lead to major problems and resentment.

Abuse – Abuse can come in many forms. Physical and emotional abuse from one spouse to another is a major factor in causes of divorce. Drug abuse also plays a factor in the ending of a marriage. If you are being abused or your spouse is abusing drugs or alcohol, and counseling isn’t able to help, then divorce may be the best option.

If any of these any of these resonate with you in terms of your marriage, it may be time to consider a divorce. When looking for legal counsel, you’ll want an attorney with experience and compassion. Russell Spatz is a dedicated family law attorney who always puts the needs and feelings of his clients first.