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Florida Family Law: Mandatory Disclosure

When you file and serve a petition in a Florida family law case that involves financial issues such as child support, alimony, or the division of property in debts, a clock starts ticking.  Within 45 days of the initial pleadings being served on the respondent, each party is required to provide the other party with a whole host of financial documents and information.

This is what is known as Mandatory Disclosure, and it is governed by Rule 12.285, Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure.

The following are a list of documents that are required to be exchanged:

(1) A financial affidavit in substantial conformity with Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure Form 12.902(b) if the party’s gross annual income is less than $50,000, or Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure Form 12.902(c) if the party’s gross annual income is equal to or more than $50,000, which requirement cannot be waived by the parties. The financial affidavits must also be filed with the court. A party may request, by using the Standard Family Law Interrogatories, or the court on its own motion may order, a party whose gross annual income is less than $50,000 to complete Florida Family Law Rules of
Procedure Form 12.902(c).

(2) All federal and state income tax returns, gift tax returns, and intangible personal property tax returns filed by the party or on the party’s behalf for the past 3 years.

(3) IRS forms W-2, 1099, and K-1 for the past year, if the income tax return for that year has not been prepared. Read more

When Is A Guardian Ad Litem Appointed in Florida?

You may have heard the term “guardian ad litem” and wondered what they were and when they were appointed.

In a Florida divorce or child custody case, a guardian ad litem is a professional who looks out for the best interests of a child.  Florida Statutes Section 61.401 describes the circumstances under which a guardian ad litem is appointed:

In an action for dissolution of marriage or for the creation, approval, or modification of a parenting plan, if the court finds it is in the best interest of the child, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem to act as next friend of the child, investigator or evaluator, not as attorney or advocate. The court in its discretion may also appoint legal counsel for a child to act as attorney or advocate; however, the guardian and the legal counsel shall not be the same person.

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Modifying Florida Alimony

Now that Senate Bill 718 on alimony reform has been vetoed by Florida Governor Rick Scott, many Tampa Bay residents are wondering whether there is any way to modify or terminate their alimony obligations.  The answer, in many cases, may be yes.

Chapter 61 of the Florida Statutes states that most types of alimony may be modified or terminated when there has been a substantial change in circumstances that affects the receiving spouse’s need for alimony or the paying spouse’s ability to pay. Case law tells us that a “substantial change in circumstances” means a change that was unanticipated at the time the alimony was ordered by the Court, and a change that is permanent, involuntary, and material. Examples of substantial changes in circumstance that may justify upward or downward modification include health issues, long-term unemployment, a big raise, or a large inheritance.

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Mandatory Disclosure in Florida Family Law Cases

The Florida Supreme Court provides the following commentary on Mandatory Disclosure in Florida family law cases:

Rule 12.285, Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure, requires each party in a dissolution of marriage to exchange certain information and documents, and file a Family Law Financial Affidavit, Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure Form 12.902(b) or (c). Failure to make this required disclosure within the time required by the Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure may allow the court to dismiss the case or to refuse to consider the pleadings of the party failing to comply. This requirement also must be met in other family law cases, except adoptions, simplified dissolutions of marriage, enforcement proceedings, contempt proceedings, and proceedings for injunctions for domestic or repeat violence. The Certificate of Compliance with Mandatory Disclosure, Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure Form 12.932, lists the documents that must be given to the other party. For more information see rule 12.285, Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure, and the instructions to the Certificate of Compliance with Mandatory Disclosure, Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure Form 12.932.

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Filing a Florida Family Law Case

The Supreme Court of Florida provides the following information on filing a family law case in Florida:

Filing a case. A case begins with the filing of a petition. A petition is a written request to the court for some type of legal action. The person who originally asks for legal action is called the petitioner and remains the petitioner throughout the case.

A petition is given to the clerk of the circuit court, whose office is usually located in the county courthouse or a branch of the county courthouse. A case number is assigned and an official court file is opened. Delivering the petition to the clerk’s office is called filing a case. A filing fee is usually required.

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Steps for Paying Florida Child Support Online – One Time Payments

The folks at the Hillsborough County Clerk of the Court have made a pamphlet available explaining how to make one time child support payments online.  Below you will find the steps:

  1. Go to www.myfloridacounty.com;
  2. Click on “Pay Child Support & View Payment History;”
  3. Click “Pay Child Support Online;”
  4. On the “Add Case” screen, enter the Case Number to which the payment is being applied.  If making payments on multiple cases, each case should be added before proceeding to the next screen.  You have two options to enter the Case Number:  Read more

Hillsborough County Family Law Judges Begin Utilizing Skype

As a family law attorney, I often have clients in a Florida matter that reside outside of the state.  I recommend that clients attend their hearings in person, as it gives the judge a face to match with a voice (humanizing the client) and it allows the client to see non-verbal cues from the judge, opposing counsel, or myself.  However, there are times when an out-of-state client cannot make it to a hearing; for these times I often request that the client appear by telephone, and the judge usually grants the request.

Some of the family law judges of the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit (covering Hillsborough County) have announced that they are now equipped and prepared to use Skype in the Courtroom for those clients who cannot appear in person.  This program allows the client to participate in a hearing via webcam.  Though I still recommend that clients appear in person whenever possible, this technology gives a great alternative.

The following family law judges have posted procedures for Skype:

Below is an announcement for the technology posted on Judge Ward’s profile:

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Relocation With A Child Outside of Florida

If your child has ever been subject to a custody proceeding (such as divorce, paternity, or temporary custody), then you are likely restricted in where you can move with the child under section 61.13001, Florida Statutes.  This law, known as the “Relocation Statute,” prevents a parent from moving a child more than 50 miles except under certain circumstances.

The first circumstance allowing relocation is if both parents agree.  However, strict requirements must be followed.  The agreement must:

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When Is Permanent Alimony Not Permanent? When There Has Been A Substantial Change In Circumstances.

When a judge orders a spouse to pay permanent periodic alimony, he or she may feel resigned to a lifetime of indebtedness to the one person he or she is trying to forget about. It’s that word, “permanent,” that seems so…well…permanent. But, believe it or not, Florida law has contemplated that there are times when permanent alimony may no longer be appropriate (or when the amount of alimony may be reduced).

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Keep Your Contact Information Current with the Clerk of the Court, Even After Your Family Law Case is Closed

Let’s start with a simple proposition:  Each party involved in a family law case should make sure that the clerk of the court has updated contact information for that party.  It seems easy, but taking this small step could prevent big headaches in the future.

I have heard of cases where a party has moved in the middle of the case, did not inform anyone, then complained afterwards that he had not received notice of an important hearing.  I also have seen cases where a petitioner (the party initiating the case) provides the clerk with the wrong address for the respondent (the party responding to the petition), and the clerk sends information to the incorrect address for the entire duration of the case.

I have even encountered this scenario:  Parties get divorced.  In the final judgment, Husband is required to pay Wife alimony.  After the divorce, Wife moves to a different apartment in the same apartment complex.  Husband sends alimony payments to Wife’s old address, but they get delivered to the new addressed because Postal Worker knows and likes Wife (and especially the gift certificates to Best Buy that Wife gives to Postal Worker each Christmas).

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