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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

Powers of Hillsborough County Child Support Enforcement Hearing Officers

If you are involved in a support matter involving the Florida Department of Revenue, then your case will be heard by a Child Support Hearing Officer, rather than a judge.  But what are the powers of the Hearing Officer?

Hillsborough County Chief Judge Manuel Menendez, Jr., recently updated procedures for cases involving Child Support Hearing Officers, and 13th Judicial Circuit Administrative Order S-2014-002 designates to them the following powers:

A. Hear contested income deduction orders and recommend entry of appropriate orders in accordance with section 61.1301, Florida Statutes;

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Does Florida Recognize Legal Separation?

Many jurisdictions require spouses to be legally separated for a certain period of time (oftentimes about 6-12 months) before they can get a divorce.

Florida does not have such a requirement.

However, there are many couples out there who wish to go through a “trial separation” without taking the leap of divorce.  Many want an interim step short of divorce to maintain the possibility that the parties can work things out later and reconcile.  Does Florida have any mechanisms to provide protections to spouses and children during a trial separation?

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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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Summary of Florida Alimony Reform Bill

House Bill 231, which proposes broad-reaching changes to Florida’s alimony statute, has passed the Civil Justice Subcommittee.  It next goes to the House Judiciary Committee.

The Judiciary Committee provides the following summary analysis of HB 231:

Alimony provides financial support to a financially dependent former spouse. The primary elements to determine entitlement are need and the ability to pay, but the statutes and case law impose many more criteria. There are four different types of alimony: bridge-the-gap alimony, rehabilitative alimony, durational alimony, and permanent alimony. An award of alimony may be modified or terminated early in certain circumstances.

The bill makes a number of changes to current law on alimony and dissolution of marriage. The bill:

  • Eliminates permanent alimony.
  • Eliminates consideration of the standard of living established during the marriage as a factor in determining alimony.
  • Creates presumptions for earning ability imputed to an obligee.
  • Requires written findings justifying factors regarding an alimony award or modification.

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Florida Support Unconnected With Divorce

Section 61.09 of the Florida Statutes allows a spouse to request alimony (also referred to as “separate maintenance” or “spousal support”) and/or child support without asking for divorce.

There are various reasons why a spouse may file a case for support without asking for a divorce:

  • Florida does not recognize the status of “legal separation,” so this process allows a spouse to have a trial period apart without having to make a decision regarding divorce;
  • A party may not want a divorce because of religious beliefs;
  • A spouse may not want to go through a divorce while his or her children are still under the age of 18 or living in the home; or
  • A person may not have met the six month residency requirement to file for divorce (Florida requires that at least one party to a divorce reside in the state for at least six months prior to the filing of divorce; a proceeding for support unconnected to divorce has no such residency requirement).

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Income Withholding Order

For quite some time, Florida has permitted child support and alimony payments to be deducted directly from a person’s paycheck.  This had been done through an income deduction order authorized by section 61.1301 of the Florida Statutes.

Recently, the federal government mandated that OMB Form 0970-0154 (Income Withholding for Support Order) be used in place of state income deduction forms.  Accordingly, Hillsborough County’s Thirteenth Judicial Circuit has published a packet which includes the federal Income Withholding Order along with the Florida Addendum to the federal order and a Payment Information Sheet.

If you have a matter involving Florida alimony or child support and you are looking to schedule a consultation with a Tampa Bay family law attorney, contact The Law Firm of Adam B. Cordover, P.A., at (813) 443-0615 or by filling out our online form.

No Changes to Florida Alimony Laws

In previous posts, I had written about proposed changes to the Florida Alimony Statute (section 61.08, Florida Statutes) that were under consideration in Florida Senate Bill 748 and Florida House Bill 549.

Well, as it turns out, neither of these bills passed in the Florida Legislature’s 2012 session. On March 9, the Senate Bill died in Rules, while the House Bill died in Judiciary.

If you have questions concerning your Florida alimony case and you are looking to retain a Tampa Bay alimony attorney, contact The Law Firm of Adam B. Cordover, P.A., at 813-443-0615 or by filling out our online form.

Does Florida Recognize Common Law Marriage?

You may have heard about common law marriages. Generally speaking, they are unions in which the couple has not been licensed for marriage by the state but have lived with one another for a certain period of time and have voluntary held one another out to others as being a married couple.

Prior to 1968, couples could enter into a common law marriage in Florida and have all the rights and responsibilities that come with a state-licensed marriage. However, with the passage of section 741.211 of the Florida Statutes, couples could no longer enter into common law marriages in Florida. The current iteration of section 741.211 reads as follows:

Common-law marriages void.—No common-law marriage entered into after January 1, 1968, shall be valid, except that nothing contained in this section shall affect any marriage which, though otherwise defective, was entered into by the party asserting such marriage in good faith and in substantial compliance with this chapter.

However, this statute does not abolish Florida’s recognition of all common law marriages.

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Termination of Alimony: Proposed Changes to “Supportive Relationship” Standard

According to current state law, a Florida family law judge has the option to reduce or terminate an alimony award if he or she finds that the ex-spouse receiving payment (the “obligee”) is in a supportive relationship.  The term “supportive relationship” currently has somewhat of a tough standard to overcome.  For example, one factor in determining whether a supportive relationship exists is whether the obligee and his or her current boyfriend or girlfriend call each other “my husband” or “my wife” in public.

In a bid to curtail permanent periodic alimony and ease the ability for a paying spouse (the “obligor”) to modify or reduce his or her alimony obligation, Florida HB 549 proposes many changes to the “Supportive Relationship” standard.  This bill will change current section 61.14(1)(b) of the Florida Statutes as follows (new language is underlined, while deleted language is stricken):

61.14 Enforcement and modification of support, maintenance, or alimony agreements or orders.—
(1)
(b)1. The court must may reduce or terminate an award of alimony if it determines upon specific written findings by the court that since the granting of a divorce and the award of alimony a supportive relationship has existed between the obligee and a person with whom the obligee resides. The court shall make specific written findings that support such a determination. On the issue of whether alimony should be reduced or terminated under this paragraph, the burden is on the obligor to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that a supportive relationship exists.

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