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Protecting special needs children in divorce

No divorce is pleasant, but a divorce that involves custody and support for a child with special needs can be orders of magnitude more complex and heart wrenching than a divorce without such issues. The key is to begin planning for the child as soon as the divorce becomes more than a mere possibility.

Parents of children with special needs are usually experienced in caring for their child before the idea of a divorce begins to take root, but ensuring adequate support and custody arrangements for such a child during and after the divorce can tax even the most dedicated parent.

Modifying or enforcing orders for child support or alimony

When a Florida judge enters an order terminating a marriage and establishing financial requirements of each party, many couples who have endured the process believe that the worst is behind them. Unfortunately, the future can be unpredictable, and people's needs and situations change.

Many divorced individuals believe that they can unilaterally alter the court's order by refusing to obey it. These two problems -- a change in circumstance or refusal to obey a court order have the same solution: a motion before the court asking for an amendment to the original order or, in the case of disobedience to the original order, a motion asking the court to enforce its order by threatening punishment.

Is it getting harder to pay child support?

While you may feel disappointed that your marriage ended in divorce, perhaps your greatest regret is that you do not get to spend as much time with your children. Custody and visitation schedules can be frustrating, but you try to enjoy the time you spend together. You may feel proud and amazed at how much your children seem to grow before your eyes. Their needs are changing, and this may be one concern as you struggle to meet your child support obligations.

Child support can be a financial challenge. Because it is a set amount you pay each month, there is no room to adjust if times get tough. Keeping up may seem like all you can do, and falling behind can create an avalanche of trouble. Nevertheless, you may have an option for seeking a modification under certain circumstances.

Awarding setoffs or credits upon the sale of the marital home

For most divorcing couples in central Florida, the family home is the couple's principal asset. If the couple has lived in the home for a significant period, the house has more than likely accumulated significant value. It may also represent the couple's single largest debt in the mortgage loan or other indebtedness secured by a real estate mortgage. The law requires that the couple divide their assets fairly and equitably, and this rule almost always requires the couple to sell their home and divide the resulting proceeds or indebtedness equally. Many divorcing Floridians do not realize that the sale of the marital home may generate significant credits or setoffs against the net equity in the home.

These entitlements and setoffs must be distributed between the parties just like any other marital asset or debt, but the timing of these distributions and calculating each party's equitable share can be complex. The couple can agree on the distribution of setoffs and credits, but in the absence of any such agreement, the court will make the distribution as required by the applicable statute. The first factor is whether the exclusive use and possession of the home will be awarded to one of the parties. The court may also consider whether alimony is being awarded to allow the party in possession of the house to pay real estate taxes and mortgage installments. An order for payment of child support may also be considered by the court.

Granting temporary child custody to a third party

Most child custody disputes in central Florida divorces involve a dispute between the child's natural parents. Occasionally, however, a third party such as an aunt or uncle or grandparent may attempt to obtain custody of one or more of the divorcing couple's minor children. In such cases, the court must decide whether the natural parents are fit to have custody of the child.

A third party who seeks custody of a child must file a petition for temporary or concurrent custody. The petition must be served upon the child's natural parents. If the natural parents do not object, the court can forthwith grant physical custody to the petitioner if the court finds that such an order serves the bests interests of the child. If one of the child's parents objects to the petition, the matter must be set for further hearing and converted to a petition for temporary custody.

The legal basis for alimony in a Florida divorce

When residents of central Florida decide to end their marriages, one of their most urgent questions is whether the court will award alimony to themselves or the other party. A wife who obtains physical custody of the children wants to know whether her ex-husband will be ordered to pay her alimony, whereas the same ex-husband may worry that the court will order him to pay an excessive amount of alimony. The grounds for an award of alimony in a Florida divorce are not specific, but an understanding of the essential legal reasons for granting alimony should soften or eliminate most of these worries.

The modern name for alimony is "spousal support." Its purpose is to alleviate financial hardship if one spouse has significantly fewer assets to provide income after the divorce proceeding has ended. Alimony is usually determined after the court has made an equitable distribution of the couple's assets and debts. Alimony can be granted to either the husband or the wife. In some marriages, the spouses are able to negotiate the amount of alimony to be paid by one ex-spouse to the other. When such agreement is not possible, the court will conduct an examination of each person's financial resources, earning ability and likely living expenses. (Alimony is calculated separately from child support.)

Alimony awards in Florida explained

Alimony is one of the top concerns likely on the minds of divorcing couples here. Alimony payments are payments one of the former spouses makes to the other following the divorce, which is why most divorcing couples will want to understand the ins-and-outs of how alimony is determined in our state.

Alimony may be awarded to either of the spouses and either spouse may request alimony as part of their divorce settlement. Alimony, also sometimes called spousal support, can be awarded in different ways and for different durations.

Bankruptcy myths you should not believe

Many Florida residents currently live paycheck to paycheck. It may not take much -- one emergency, one serious illness, one unexpected expense -- to cause them to lose everything. If you find yourself one of the many who are struggling to keep finances under control, know that various debt relief options may be open to you -- such as bankruptcy.

There are a lot of people who do what they can to avoid bankruptcy at all costs. They have heard so many negatives about it that they fail to consider the good this form of debt relief can do. A lot of what is said about bankruptcy are actually myths that you should not believe. What are a few of the most common bankruptcy myths?

Annulling a marriage in Florida

A divorce is the most common method of ending a Florida marriage. What many Floridians do not understand is that some marriages are void at the beginning and are never valid in the eyes of the law. These marriages can be ended by annulment instead of divorce, that is, a legal ruling that one or both of the spouses did not have the lawful capacity or give proper consent to marry the other.

Florida does not have a statute that governs the process of annulment. If a person wishes to annul a marriage, a lawsuit must be commenced in the county where one of the spouses resides. Florida courts generally follow the common law rules for annulling marriages that were never valid. Such marriages are often referred to as void ab initio, a Latin phrase meaning that the marriage was void at its beginning. Florida law bans marriages between persons related by lineal consanguinity, that is, Floridians may not marry either of their parents, their brother or sister, first cousin, nephew, niece, uncle or aunt. Bigamous marriages are also banned. These marriages are subject to termination by annulment.

Understanding visitation rights in Florida

When a couple in our state has one or minor children and then decide to end their marriage, they must arrange adequate and convenient times for each parent to spend time with the child. This is a serious and often complicated issue. Fortunately, Florida law provides very clear guidelines for visitation by the non-custodial parent.

Our state places the initial burden for determining a visitation schedule on the parents. Each couple is required to draft and submit to the court a joint plan for how they will participate in the child's care after the divorce becomes final and how they will spend time with the child. If the parents cannot agree on a plan, the court will draft and enforce its own plan. This is called visitation "time-sharing," but the concept is easy to understand: the time-sharing plan specifies the time that the child will spend with each parent.

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Diaz Family Law Firm
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Winter Park, FL 32789

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