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Child Support

Destin Child Custody: Relocating with the Child

A common issue that  parents face after the initial child custody location is when the parent that has the majority of time-sharing, or primary custody, over the minor child(ren), seeks to relocate from the principal address or residence.  When speaking about “relocation” in this blog we are referring to a distance of fifty miles or more from that principal residence and a time period of sixty days or more.  A temporary move (or absence) for reasons such as vacation, education, or health care do not qualify.

The easiest way to resolve relocation is by agreement.  This means that the parents reach a settlement on how to modify the current child custody, time-sharing, arrangement as a result of the relocation.  Often, when we are talking about a significant geographic relocation, the typical shared parenting plan that awards one parent every-other weekend visitation becomes logistically impossible.  As a result of this logistically impossible scenario, that parent may receive greater visitation with the child(ren) during extended winter and spring breaks as well as longer summer visitation.

If the parties can not agree to a change in the time sharing schedule as a result of relocation, Florida Statute 61.13001 requires the parent seeking to relocate to file a “petition to relocate” and serve the petition on the other parent.  After service of the petition, the Court can issue temporary orders, including a temporary order restraining the child from relocating or ordering the child to return if the parent/child have already relocated.

If relocation is contested, the court must make a determination on whether or not it is in the best interest of the child to relocate with the parent.  Some of the factors the court considers are:

(a) The nature, quality, extent of involvement, and duration of the child’s relationship with the parent or other person proposing to relocate with the child and with the nonrelocating parent, other persons, siblings, half-siblings, and other significant persons in the child’s life.
(b) The age and developmental stage of the child, the needs of the child, and the likely impact the relocation will have on the child’s physical, educational, and emotional development, taking into consideration any special needs of the child.
(c) The feasibility of preserving the relationship between the nonrelocating parent or other person and the child through substitute arrangements that take into consideration the logistics of contact, access, and time-sharing, as well as the financial circumstances of the parties; whether those factors are sufficient to foster a continuing meaningful relationship between the child and the nonrelocating parent or other person; and the likelihood of compliance with the substitute arrangements by the relocating parent or other person once he or she is out of the jurisdiction of the court.
(d) The child’s preference, taking into consideration the age and maturity of the child.
(e) Whether the relocation will enhance the general quality of life for both the parent or other person seeking the relocation and the child, including, but not limited to, financial or emotional benefits or educational opportunities.
(f) The reasons each parent or other person is seeking or opposing the relocation.
(g) The current employment and economic circumstances of each parent or other person and whether the proposed relocation is necessary to improve the economic circumstances of the parent or other person seeking relocation of the child.
(h) That the relocation is sought in good faith and the extent to which the objecting parent has fulfilled his or her financial obligations to the parent or other person seeking relocation, including child support, spousal support, and marital property and marital debt obligations.
(i) The career and other opportunities available to the objecting parent or other person if the relocation occurs.
The party seeking relocation with the minor child must show by a preponderance of the evidence that relocation is in the best interest of the minor child.  If the proponent of relocation meets this burden, then the parent opposing relocation must then attempt to show that relocation is not in the best interest of the minor child.
If you are a parent facing a relocation issue, I recommend you consult with an Okaloosa Family Law Attorney to discuss your case.
Jeremy S. Keich is a Destin Divorce Attorney  representing clients in matters involving divorce, child custody, child support and paternity issues.  None of the information contained in this blog should be construed as legal advice nor shall the communication be construed as forming an attorney-client relationship.  For more information about Jeremy S. Keich or to contact him about a Walton County Child Custody Case or Okaloosa County Family Law Matter please visit www.keichlaw.com or call (850) 460-2989.

Destin Divorce: Marital vs Nonmarital Assets

Outside of the child custody determinations one of the most heavily litigated issues in a dissolution of marriage (divorce) case is the division of the marital property.  This includes both marital assets as well as liabilities(debt).  Florida acts under the premise that marital property should be divided equitably and has adopted the term “equitable distribution”.  However,   a party may claim  a special equity  in marital property.  For the purposes of today’s blog however the focus will remain on discussing the difference between marital and nonmarital assets

Florida Statute 61.075  defines “martial assets” as:

– Assets acquired and liabilities incurred during the marriage, individually by either spouse or jointly by them.

– The enhancement in value and appreciation of nonmarital assets resulting either from the efforts of either party during the marriage or from the contribution to or expenditure thereon of marital funds or other forms of marital assets, or both.

– Interspousal gifts during the marriage.

– All vested and nonvested benefits, rights, and funds accrued during the marriage in retirement, pension, profit-sharing, annuity, deferred compensation, and insurance plans and programs.
– All real property held by the parties as tenants by the entireties, whether acquired prior to or during the marriage, shall be presumed to be a marital asset.
– All personal property titled jointly by the parties as tenants by the entireties, whether acquired prior to or during the marriage, shall be presumed to be a marital asset.
“Nonmarital assets” are defined, pursuant to Florida Statute 61.075 as:
– Assets acquired and liabilities incurred by either party prior to the marriage, and assets acquired and liabilities incurred in exchange for such assets and liabilities;
– Assets acquired separately by either party by noninterspousal gift, bequest, devise, or descent, and assets acquired in exchange for such assets;
– All income derived from nonmarital assets during the marriage unless the income was treated, used, or relied upon by the parties as a marital asset;
– Assets and liabilities excluded from marital assets and liabilities by valid written agreement of the parties, and assets acquired and liabilities incurred in exchange for such assets and liabilities; and
– Any liability incurred by forgery or unauthorized signature of one spouse signing the name of the other spouse. Any such liability shall be a nonmarital liability only of the party having committed the forgery or having affixed the unauthorized signature. In determining an award of attorney’s fees and costs pursuant to s. 61.16, the court may consider forgery or an unauthorized signature by a party and may make a separate award for attorney’s fees and costs occasioned by the forgery or unauthorized signature. This subparagraph does not apply to any forged or unauthorized signature that was subsequently ratified by the other spouse.
If a party makes a claim to the contrary of the normal definitions of marital assets, the burden of proof shall be on the party asserting the claim that the subject property, or some portion thereof, is nonmarital.
The cutoff date for determining marital assets is the date the parties enter into a valid separation agreement (or any other date expressly defined in the agreement), or the date the petition for dissolution of marriage is filed.  The date for determining the value of the assets is the date or dates the judge determines to be fair and just.  The judge may also assign different dates for different assets.

As you can see several issues may arise when seeking to divide marital assets or making a claim that certain property is nonmarital.  If you are seeking a divorce and have marital or nonmarital assets you may want to consider consulting a Destin Divorce Lawyer about your case.

Jeremy S. Keich is a Destin Divorce Attorney  representing clients in matters involving divorce, child custody, child support and paternity issues in Okaloosa and Walton County.  None of the information contained in this blog should be construed as legal advice nor shall the communication be construed as forming an attorney-client relationship.  For more information about Jeremy S. Keich or to contact him about a Walton County or Okaloosa County Family Law Matter please visit www.keichlaw.com or call (850) 460-2989.
 

Destin Child Custody Considerations: The Preference of the Child(ren)

It  is not uncommon for a prospective client(parent) to say that the court should award him/her primary custody of their child(ren) because the minor child(ren)  told that parent that he or she want to live with that particular parent.  However, the child’s preference may or may not matter in child custody determinations because the judge presiding over  a child custody determination, whether during an initial divorce case or in a subsequent child custody modification, must consider and act in favor of what is in the best interest of the child.

Florida Statute 61.13(3) outlines the many factors the judge considers when making initial child custody determinations as well as modifications to original child custody determinations to determine exactly what is in the best interest of the child.  Specific to this blog is 61.13(3)(i) which allow the judge to consider “the reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient intelligence, understanding, and experience to express a preference.”

Based on the plain language of the statute referenced in the paragraph above, the court must first find that the child is intelligent enough and has the adequate understanding to take the child’s preference under consideration in the first place.  For example, a judge is more likely to hear the preference of the minor child if the minor child is fourteen years old compared to the preference of a child who is only seven years old.

From a practical consideration, the attorneys should also be concerned about involving any minor in the  actual litigation by asking the child to testify  in child custody  determinations.   In fact, there are other alternatives outside of hearing the child testify, to notify the judge of the child’s preference and these alternatives will be discussed in a later blog.

However, even if the child exhibits sufficient intelligence, understanding, and experience, as to where his preference is made known to the court, the child’s preference alone is not enough to satisfy the best interest of the child standard in making a child custody determination.  Moreover,  a change in preference by the child, will not qualify as a substantial and material change in circumstances necessary to modify child custody either.

In conclusion, while the preference of the child is helpful for a parent involved in litigation involving child custody, the bottom line is that this factor alone will not be held to be in the best interest of the child and the party seeking child custody must be diligent in proving to the judge that there or other factors pursuant to Florida Statute 61.13(3) which serve as the reason why that parent should be awarded primary custody (or majority time-sharing) over the minor child(ren)

Jeremy S. Keich is a Destin Divorce Attorney  representing clients in matters involving divorce, child custody, child support and paternity issues in Okaloosa and Walton County.  None of the information contained in this blog should be construed as legal advice nor shall the communication be construed as forming an attorney-client relationship.  For more information about Jeremy S. Keich or to contact him about a Walton County or Okaloosa County Family Law Matter please visit www.keichlaw.com or call (850) 460-2989.

Walton County, Florida Divorce: Alimony

In every divorce case, either spouse may request alimony or spousal support.  While the traditional notion has been that women are entitled to spousal support based on their traditional role as a stay at home wife/mother, nothing precludes the father/husband to seek alimony when the facts or circumstances are appropriate.  The determination of alimony is a multi-step process.  First, the court must determine whether the party seeking alimony has a need for alimony.  Second, if the court determines that the spouse does in fact have a need for alimony, the court must then determine whether or not the other spouse actually has the ability to pay alimony.  These two steps are generally determined and reviewed by conducting an analysis of each parties current financial situation including their assets, liabilities and income.

If the court is satisfied that there is a need and the ability to pay exists, the court must then determine the type of alimony to be awarded.  In Florida the different types of alimony are bridge-the-gap alimony, rehabilitative alimony, durational alimony, permanent alimony or any combination thereof.  Alimony may be paid periodically, lump sum payment of both.

In determining the type and amount of alimony to award, the court must then review:

– the adultery of either spouse and circumstances thereof

– The standard of living established during the marriage.

– The duration of the marriage.(The presumption is that a short-term marriage is a marriage having a duration of less than 7 years, a moderate-term marriage is a marriage having a duration of greater than 7 years but less than 17 years, and long-term marriage is a marriage having a duration of 17 years or greater. The length of a marriage is the period of time from the date of marriage until the date of filing of an action for dissolution of marriage.)
– The age and the physical and emotional condition of each party.
– The financial resources of each party, including the nonmarital and the marital assets and liabilities distributed to each.
– The earning capacities, educational levels, vocational skills, and employability of the parties and, when applicable, the time necessary for either party to acquire sufficient education or training to enable such party to find appropriate employment.
– The contribution of each party to the marriage, including, but not limited to, services rendered in homemaking, child care, education, and career building of the other party.
– The responsibilities each party will have with regard to any minor children they have in common.
– The tax treatment and consequences to both parties of any alimony award.
– All sources of income available to either party, including income available to either party through investments of any asset held by that party.
– Any other factor necessary to do equity and justice between the parties.
Each specific type of alimony has been created for a specific purpose as defined in Section 61.08, Florida Statutes, and explained below:
Bridge-the-gap alimony: This is short-term alimony awarded to assist a party by providing support to allow the party to make a transition from being married to being single. The length of an award may not exceed 2 years. Bridge-the-gap alimony terminates upon the death of either party or upon the remarriage of the party receiving alimony. Bridge-the-gap alimony is non-modifiable.
Rehabilitative alimony: Awarded to assist a party in establishing the capacity for self-support through either the redevelopment of previous skills or credentials or the acquisition of education, training, or work experience necessary to develop appropriate employment skills or credentials. Prior to awarding , there must be a specific and defined rehabilitative plan.  An award of rehabilitative alimony may be modified or terminated based upon a substantial change in circumstances, noncompliance  or upon completion of the rehabilitative plan.
Durational alimony:  Awarded when permanent periodic alimony is inappropriate. The purpose  is to provide a party with economic assistance for a set period of time following a marriage of short or moderate duration or following a marriage of long duration if there is no ongoing need for support on a permanent basis. Terminates upon the death of either party or upon the remarriage of the party receiving alimony. The amount of an award may be modified or terminated  based upon a substantial change in circumstances however, the length of an award of durational alimony may not be modified except under exceptional circumstances and may not exceed the length of the marriage.
Permanent alimony:  Awarded to provide for the needs and necessities of life established during the marriage  for a party who lacks the financial ability to meet his or her needs and necessities of life following a dissolution of marriage.  the court must first find that no other form of alimony is fair and reasonable under the circumstances. An award of permanent alimony terminates upon the death of either party or upon the remarriage of the party receiving alimony. An award may be modified or terminated based upon a substantial change in circumstances or upon the existence of a supportive relationship.
A party involved in a dissolution of marriage in Walton County or Okaloosa County who is seeking alimony or spousal support or defending a claim for alimony or spousal support should strongly consider consulting with a Walton County or Okaloosa County divorce lawyer or family law attorney.
Jeremy S. Keich is a Walton County Divorce Attorney  representing clients in matters involving divorce, child custody, child support and paternity issues.  None of the information contained in this blog should be construed as legal advice nor shall the communication be construed as forming an attorney-client relationship.  For more information about Jeremy S. Keich or to contact him about a Walton County or Okaloosa County Family Law Matter please visit www.keichlaw.com or call (850) 460-2989.

Walton County, Florida Grounds for Divorce: “Irretrievably Broken”

Florida is a “no fault” state when determining grounds for a divorce.  In other words, either party is not require to prove that his or her spouse is at fault and the basis for a divorce(e.g. adultery).  Instead, all the party seeking the divorce (dissolution of marriage) must allege is that the marriage is now “irretrievably broken”.  This is a low burden for the party to prove.  In fact, the Court does not even need corroborating evidence to find that the marriage is irretrievably broken.

When the parties have no children and the other spouse does not deny that the marriage is irretrievably broken, then the judge typically enters a judgment dissolving the marriage if he agrees.  However, in cases where eh other party denies the marriage is irretrievably broken or when the parties have minor children, the court can order one or both of the parties to counseling, continue the case for a period no longer than three months to see if the parties can reconcile, or take any other action that the court finds may be in the best interest of the child. (One occurring theme in family law cases involving minor children is that the child’s best interest is paramount in the resolution of the case.)

Jeremy S. Keich is a Walton County Divorce Attorney  representing clients in matters involving divorce, child custody, child support and paternity issues.  None of the information contained in this blog should be construed as legal advice nor shall the communication be construed as forming an attorney-client relationship.  For more information about Jeremy S. Keich or to contact him about a Walton County or Okaloosa County Family Law Matter please visit www.keichlaw.com or call (850) 460-2989.

Walton County, Florida Basic Child Support Calculation

In Walton County  family law cases where minor children are involved, one of the most  litigated issues is the calculation  of child support to be paid on behalf of the minor child(ren).  In Florida, the legislature has passed a child support guideline that presumptively establishes the amount due based on the combined monthly net income of the parents (See: Section 61.30, Florida Statutes).   Each parent’s percentage share of child support shall be determined by dividing each parent’s net monthly income by the combined net monthly income. (The dollar value shall be determined by multiplying the child support amount by each parent’s percentage share of the combined net monthly income.)   The gross monthly income for each parents shall be determined by:

– Salary or Wages;

– Bonuses, Commissions, Allowances or Tips;

– Business income from sources such as self-employment, partnership, close corporations, or independent contracts;

– Disability Benefits;

– Workers’ Compensation Benefits or Settlements;

– Unemployment Compensation;

– Pension, Retirement, or Annuity Payments;

– Social Security Benefits;

– Spousal Support received in a previous marriage or the marriage before the court;

– Rental Income;

– Income from Royalties, Trusts, or Estates;

– Reimbursed Expenses or In Kind Expenses;

– Gains from Property Dealings

Generally, child care costs and health care costs that are prepaid by a parent shall be deducted from that parent’s percentage share of child support.  Retroactive child support may be ordered for a period not to exceed twenty-four months where the parents were not residing together witht he child.

This demonstrates the basic formula used to calculate child support in Walton County, Florida.  As with any legal issues, there are exceptions and/or variances that for the basic child support calculation that will be discussed in greater detail in a later post, which are laid out in Florida Statute 31.30.

Jeremy S. Keich is a Walton County Divorce Attorney  representing clients in matters involving divorce, child custody, child support and paternity issues.  None of the information contained in this blog should be construed as legal advice nor shall the communication be construed as forming an attorney-client relationship.  For more information about Jeremy S. Keich or to contact him about a Walton County or Okaloosa County Family Law Matter please visit www.keichlaw.com or call (850) 460-2989.

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