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Calculating child support in a Florida divorce

Most residents of Central Florida are aware that the state legislature has enacted a law that establishes minimum levels determining the amount of child support that must be paid to the parent having physical custody of the child. This law, colloquially known as child support "guidelines," has a number of exceptions and qualifications that can affect a court's final determination of the amount of support that must be paid.

The statute "presumptively" establishes the child support guidelines as the amount that the court "shall order" in an initial proceeding involving child support. The court may vary the guideline amount up or down by 5% after considering "all relevant factors." The relevant factors include: the needs of the child; the child's age; the child's standing in life and standard of living; and the parents' respective financial status.

Understanding the "best interests of the child"

One of the most widely used terms in Florida divorces involving minor children is the "best interests of the child." Courts use this broad, and not altogether specific, term to decide custody disputes, determine how much child support should be paid and other questions about the post-divorce status of the children. Any couple with minor children who may be contemplating a divorce should be familiar with the basic concepts that govern the best interests of the child.

As may be expected, no specific definition of "best interests of the child" exists. Instead, courts examine a number of relevant factors in reaching their decision. Some of the factors include:

  • The wishes of the child, if the child is old enough to express a reasonable preference;
  • The health of the parents, both mental and physical;
  • Whether the child has any special needs and the ability of each parent to meet those needs;
  • Religious and cultural concerns;
  • The child's need for a stable home environment;
  • The child's interaction with members of the extended family;
  • The degree of the child's interaction with school and community;
  • The age and gender of the child; and
  • How each parent disciplines the child.

Opioid addiction leaves more grandparents raising grandkids

When someone falls victim to opioid dependency or another form of substance abuse, the silent victims are often family members who must cope with the absent loved one or even pick up the responsibilities the addict can no longer handle. More often these days, silent victims are the children of the addicts.

If your adult child is battling an opioid addiction, and you refuse to allow your grandchildren to shuffle through the Florida foster care program, you may be in the position that many grandparents are in these days: raising your grandchildren in your retirement years. In such cases, it is important that you understand your rights and limitations, and that you know where you can find support and advocacy.

The basics of determining child custody in a divorce in Florida

Most parents living in central Florida are aware that the custody of their children will be one of the most important and potentially contentious issues if they should decide to end their marriage or relationship. Yet, the process for making this decision is sometimes obscure. In order to achieve the best outcome for all parties, the parents should make an effort to understand the basic elements of the legal process that will determine child custody, visitation rights and child support.

The first step is preparation of a parenting plan by the parents. All couples with children who are seeking a divorce in Florida must agree upon and write a plan that specifies which parent will have custody, when visitation will occur and the terms of support payments. If the parents cannot agree upon such a plan, these issues will be presented to the court in a motion for child custody made by one or both parents. The court will consider evidence submitted by both parents, including any expert testimony from health care professionals. If the couple is not married, the court may order DNA testing to determine paternity. In the end, the court will make an order that serves the best interests of the child.

Helping parents in Winter Park with custody and visitation issues

Child custody can be a deeply contentious issue in any divorce or separation involving children. Parents naturally have strong feelings about where their child should live and how they should be brought up. The laws are complex, and emotions can be at a fever pitch. Understanding family law options can be invaluable to parents who are navigating the child custody process.

Several weeks ago, a previous post here described how parenting plans are drawn up. Parenting plans set out how parents will share the task of raising their children. A parenting plan will describe the schedule of visitation, health care responsibilities, educational expectations, how holidays will be handled and more. A court must find that the plan is in the best interests of the child. Parents can try to agree on a plan to submit to the court for its approval. If the parents cannot agree on a plan, the judge may need to draw up a plan for the parents.

The advantages and disadvantages of reaffirming a debt

Most people in Central Florida who decide to file a petition for bankruptcy expect to have all their debts wiped out when the proceeding concludes. What many of these people do not realize is that some debts may be "reaffirmed" - that is, they may decide to shield certain debts from the discharge powers of the bankruptcy court.

A prime example of reaffirmation of a debt is the decision by the debtor to continue to make payments on the mortgage loan for the family home. If the debt were not reaffirmed, the lender could foreclose on the mortgage and take possession of the house in such situations. The debtor usually renegotiates the terms of the mortgage loan with the lender. Renegotiated terms may include the interest rate, the amount of future payments and payment or reduction of any delinquency. A second useful example of debt reaffirmation is reaffirming the installment payment contract for an automobile or other secured asset. The reaffirmation of the underlying debt creates a new contract between the debtor and the secured party, and the debtor retains possession of the asset.

How mediation helps divorcing couples settle their disputes

Many couples in Central Florida who are considering ending their marriages worry about the emotional stress that will be inflicted upon themselves and their children. Also, many divorcing spouses view the other spouse as a bottomless pit of anger and vitriol who will use every disagreement as a weapon to inflict emotional pain. Florida courts have established a procedure which, if understood and used properly, can eliminate much of the anger, speed up the process and, most beneficially, reduce the cost of the proceeding.

The procedure is called divorce mediation, and it turns upon the use of a neutral third-party to help the divorcing couple understand how each of them views the issues between them, such as property division and child support. While mediation is usually viewed as a voluntary process, the court may order the parties to participate in mediation to speed up the process. The mediator is usually a lawyer or psychologist or social worker who has been trained in mediation techniques. A mediator can be chosen by the divorcing parties, their lawyers or, in some cases, by the judge. The mediator will usually solicit a written statement from each party or their attorney setting out the main disputes in the case and how each party thinks the dispute should be resolved.

Uncontested divorce is the right choice for some Florida couples

Divorce is never an easy process, but there are some options available to Florida couples that may make it a bit easier. When you think of divorce, a picture of two people yelling at each other in a courtroom may come to mind, but that is not a realistic picture of what it could be like for you.

For some couples, it is possible to file for an uncontested divorce. This is a faster and more cost-effective divorce option, but it is not the right option for everyone. If you are considering your choices regarding divorce and both parties are already in agreement on the terms of the final divorce order, this could be the most beneficial path for your unique situation.

Understanding Florida bankruptcy exemptions

Many people in central Florida who are considering filing a bankruptcy petition worry that all of their property, including their home, will be taken from them to pay the claims of creditors. If a person seeks discharge of all of their debts in a Chapter 7 proceeding, most, if not all, of their assets will indeed be sold to provide cash to pay creditors. In a Chapter 13 proceeding, debtors may be able to keep a significant portion of their assets by working out a satisfactory repayment plan. Regardless of which bankruptcy proceeding is selected, Florida law permits debtors to declare certain assets "exempt" from the claims of creditors. The list of exemptions is quite long, but the major exemptions can be easily summarized.

Perhaps the most important exemption is the unlimited exemption for a person's homestead. To take advantage of this exemption, the debtor must file a notice with the circuit court stating the intention to take advantage of the exemption. A second important exemption is the death or disability benefit payable to a specific individual. Alimony and child support are also exempt from the claims of creditors. Pensions belonging to state highway patrol officers, police officers, teachers and other state officers are exempt.

Understanding how the automatic stay works in bankruptcy

Many people in Central Florida think of bankruptcy as a dark, twisted road with an unknown outcome. While the end of a bankruptcy case cannot always be accurately predicted, virtually every personal bankruptcy case begins with the same event: the issuance of a court order called the "automatic stay." The automatic stay provides the debtor with immediate protection from collection actions by creditors while the evaluation of the debtor's assets proceeds.

Whenever a petition for bankruptcy petition is filed under Chapter 7, Chapter 11 or Chapter 13, the court where the petition is filed automatically issues an order that tells every creditor of the debtor to stop any and all collection actions against the debtor or the property held in the bankruptcy estate. The automatic stay affects actions to obtain possession of property from the debtor, to create, perfect or enforce any lien against property of the debtor, or to collect, assess or recovery a claim against the debtor that arose before the petition was filed.

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Diaz Family Law Firm
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Winter Park, FL 32789

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