FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Family Law - Divorce, Child Support, Alimony, and Paternity

Will I have to pay child support if I get joint custody and the parenting time is equal? Answer

 

Will the Court order me to pay alimony to my former spouse? Answer

Does the Court consider the length of a marriage when deciding alimony? Answer

What factors will the Court consider when establishing a parenting plan? Answer

Will I have to share my retirement account with my spouse after divorce? Answer

Can I get my spouse to pay my legal fees and costs? Answer

Will I be liable for my spouse’s credit card debt and student loans after divorce? Answer

What is mediation, and should I use mediation in my family law case? Answer

How will child care expenses be divided after the divorce? Answer

Can I stop paying child support if my former spouse violates the parenting plan and does not allow me to see my children? Answer

ANSWERS TO YOUR FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

 

WILL I HAVE TO PAY CHILD SUPPORT IF I GET JOINT CUSTODY AND THE PARENTING TIME IS EQUAL?

Whether a parent will be required to pay child support depends on a number of factors. A common myth in family law is that as long as the parties have equal parenting time, neither will owe child support. This is false.

The Florida Legislature has established guidelines to be followed when determining child support. These guidelines consider shares of parenting time, but also each of the parties incomes is well as costs for health and dental insurance, out-of-pocket medical expenses, and daycare costs.

 

The Court is required to follow these Child Support Guidelines and may only deviate above or below the statutory mandated amount by 5-percent without specific findings of fact justifying said deviation.

 

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WILL THE COURT ORDER ME TO PAY ALIMONY TO MY FORMER SPOUSE?

Unlike child support where the Florida Legislature has established guidelines thereby creating a greater sense of certainty as to this aspect of your family law case, alimony depends on each individual case and is typically up to the Judge.

 

There are factors within Florida Statutes that must be considered when determining whether alimony is appropriate. The fundamental question, however, will always be whether the party seeking alimony has a financial need and whether the other party has the ability to pay. Other factors will be considered, such as the length of the marriage, the discrepancy between incomes of the parties, the standard of living during the marriage, etc.; however, the financial need versus ability to pay test is fundamental in determining whether alimony will be awarded by the Court.

 

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DOES THE COURT CONSIDER THE LENGTH OF A MARRIAGE WHEN DECIDING ALIMONY?

 

Yes. There are different types of alimony available in the State of Florida. Depending on whether you are seeking to dissolve a short-term, moderate-term, or long-term marriage will play a role in determining the type of alimony to which one is entitled and ultimately the amount the other will be required to pay.

In the State of Florida, those marriages under seven years are considered short term marriages. A union between seven and 17 years will be considered a moderate-term marriage, while those over 17 will be considered long-term marriages. It is important to note that permanent alimony is becoming less frequent in Florida courts and is most common in long-term marriage. Permanent alimony can be available in marriages that are not long-term in duration; however, these instances are rare.

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WHAT FACTORS WILL THE COURT CONSIDER WHEN ESTABLISHING A PARENTING PLAN?

 

The Florida Legislature has established 20 separate factors which the Court is required to consider when crafting a parenting plan. These factors address issues such as which plan shall maintain continuity for the children and whether a parent is acting to facilitate a close relationship between the children and the other parent. Other matters such as history of domestic violence and substance abuse are also considered.

 

A Judge’s determination on how to craft a parenting plan is extremely fact driven and will largely come down to which evidence and testimony is effectively presented at trial.

 

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WILL I HAVE TO SHARE MY RETIREMENT ACCOUNT WITH MY SPOUSE AFTER DIVORCE?

 

It depends. For that portion of your retirement account established and maintained during the course of the marriage, the parties are entitled to equal shares. If the account was started prior to the marriage, the court will determine what amount of the retirement account is nonmarital, and therefore, not subject to equitable distribution. This fact, however, does not mean that you will necessarily have to liquidate your financial plan, subject to taxes and penalties, in order to equitably distributed your assets.

 

It is common for parties to buy the other out of a particular asset, such as in retirement account, so the retirement plan may be preserved and taxes and penalties do not need to be assessed.

 

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CAN I GET MY SPOUSE TO PAY MY LEGAL FEES AND COSTS?

Depending on the discrepancy between parties’ incomes, one party may be required to pay attorney’s fees and costs for the other party. The Florida Legislature has codified in statute a requirement that the Court consider factors to determine whether one party should be responsible for the others party’s fees and costs. The purpose of this statue is to promote fairness and equity in our family courts.

 

For instance, in a case where one party is the primary breadwinner, it would not be fair for the breadwinning party to have the best lawyer money can buy, while the other spouse, who may be a homemaker or makes less money, cannot afford an attorney of the same caliber or even an attorney at all.

 

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WILL I BE LIABLE FOR MY SPOUSE'S CREDIT CARD DEBT AND STUDENT LOANS AFTER DIVERCE?

 

Liabilities accrued during the course of a marriage are typically shared equally by the parties. If a student loan is obtained prior to the marriage, this liability will normally be excluded from the equitable distribution calculation.

 

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WHAT IS MEDIATION, AND SHOULD I USE MEDIATION IN MY FAMILY LAW CASE?

Mediation is a form of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and is required in all family law cases within the Second Judicial Circuit. The parties are required to meet with an independent third-party before going to trial in hopes that the case can be resolved without further judicial action.

 

Typically, each party and their respective attorneys will go into separate rooms, while the mediator will go back and forth extending offers and counteroffers. This process can last anywhere from 4- to 8-hours.

Sometimes the parties will resolve all pending issues through a Marital Settlement Agreement, while other times, the parties will resolve some matters and leave others to be decided by the Judge.

 

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HOW WILL CHILD CARE EXPENSES BE DIVIDED AFTER THE DIVORCE?

 

Typically, each of the parties will be responsible for paying child care expenses incurred during their parenting time; however, those expenses will be factored into the child support calculations. Each of the parties will be eligible for a credit for health and dental insurance paid for the children’s benefit, noninsured medical expenses and child care when determining child support.

 

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CAN I STOP PAYING CHILD SUPPORT IF MY FORMER SPOUSE VIOLATES THE PARENTING PLAN AND DOES NOT ALLOW ME TO SEE MY CHILDREN?

Absolutely not. You are required to pay this obligation regardless of what the other party does unless you receive a court order stating otherwise.

If your former spouse prevents you from seeing your children, the proper remedy is an enforcement order of the parenting plan by court. You cannot and should not withhold money that is intended to benefit the child or children.

The converse of these facts is also. If a former spouse is failing to timely make child support payments, you do not have the right to then withhold the children from your former spouse. Again, the proper remedy is to seek an enforcement of the underlying order by the Court.

These rights and obligations should always be viewed through a lens that puts the best interest of the children first.

 

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