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Ten Tips for Divorcing Parents

The following article was written by Mike McCurley for the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers:

Divorce is never easy on kids, but there are many ways parents can lessen the impact of their break-up on their children:

  1. Never disparage your former spouse in front of your children. Because children know they are “part mom” and “part dad,” the criticism can harm the child’s self-esteem.
  2. Do not use your children as messengers between you and your former spouse.The less the children feel a part of the battle between their parents, the better. Read more

Temporary Time-Sharing Modification Due to Military Service

If a parent is activated, deployed, or temporarily assigned to military service, courts have the option of entering a temporary order that modifies a custody order.  That temporary order may provide the non-military parent with more time-sharing.  Due to recent changes to section 61.13002, Florida Statutes, the Court also has the option of designating a family member of the child to exercise time-sharing on behalf of the military parent.  Any temporary modification of the time-sharing will be dissolved once the military parent returns from the service, deployment, or temporary assignment.

Additionally, the temporary order may address child support by taking the following actions:

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Section 61.512, Florida Statutes

Taking testimony in another state.—

(1)In addition to other procedures available to a party, a party to a child custody proceeding may offer testimony of witnesses who are located in another state, including testimony of the parties and the child, by deposition or other means available in this state for testimony taken in another state. The court on its own motion may order that the testimony of a person be taken in another state and may prescribe the manner in which and the terms upon which the testimony is taken.

(2)Upon agreement of the parties, a court of this state may permit an individual residing in another state to be deposed or to testify by telephone, audiovisual means, or other electronic means before a designated court or at another location in that state. A court of this state shall cooperate with courts of other states in designating an appropriate location for the deposition or testimony.

(3)Documentary evidence transmitted from another state to a court of this state by technological means that do not produce an original writing may not be excluded from evidence on an objection based on the means of transmission.

History.—s. 5, ch. 2002-65.

Section 61.503, Florida Statutes

Definitions.—As used in this part, the term:

(1)“Abandoned” means left without provision for reasonable and necessary care or supervision.

(2)“Child” means an individual who has not attained 18 years of age.

(3)“Child custody determination” means a judgment, decree, or other order of a court providing for the legal custody, physical custody, residential care, or visitation with respect to a child. The term includes a permanent, temporary, initial, and modification order. The term does not include an order relating to child support or other monetary obligation of an individual.

(4)“Child custody proceeding” means a proceeding in which legal custody, physical custody, residential care, or visitation with respect to a child is an issue. The term includes a proceeding for divorce, separation, neglect, abuse, dependency, guardianship, paternity, termination of parental rights, and protection from domestic violence, in which the issue may appear. The term does not include a proceeding involving juvenile delinquency, contractual emancipation, or enforcement under ss. 61.524-61.540.

(5)“Commencement” means the filing of the first pleading in a proceeding.

(6)“Court” means an entity authorized under the laws of a state to establish, enforce, or modify a child custody determination.

(7)“Home state” means the state in which a child lived with a parent or a person acting as a parent for at least 6 consecutive months immediately before the commencement of a child custody proceeding. In the case of a child younger than 6 months of age, the term means the state in which the child lived from birth with any of the persons mentioned. A period of temporary absence of any of the mentioned persons is part of the period.

(8)“Initial determination” means the first child custody determination concerning a particular child.

(9)“Issuing court” means the court that makes a child custody determination for which enforcement is sought under this part.

(10)“Issuing state” means the state in which a child custody determination is made.

(11)“Modification” means a child custody determination that changes, replaces, supersedes, or is otherwise made after a previous determination concerning the same child, regardless of whether it is made by the court that made the previous determination.

(12)“Person” means an individual, corporation, business trust, estate, trust, partnership, limited liability company, association, joint venture, or government; governmental subdivision, agency, instrumentality, or public corporation; or any other legal or commercial entity.

(13)“Person acting as a parent” means a person, other than a parent, who:

(a)Has physical custody of the child or has had physical custody for a period of 6 consecutive months, including any temporary absence, within 1 year immediately before the commencement of a child custody proceeding; and

(b)Has been awarded a child-custody determination by a court or claims a right to a child-custody determination under the laws of this state.

(14)“Physical custody” means the physical care and supervision of a child.

(15)“State” means a state of the United States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the United States Virgin Islands, or any territory or insular possession subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.

(16)“Tribe” means an Indian tribe, or band, or Alaskan Native village that is recognized by federal law or formally acknowledged by a state.

(17)“Warrant” means an order issued by a court authorizing law enforcement officers to take physical custody of a child.

History.—s. 5, ch. 2002-65.

Do I Need to Purchase Life Insurance to Secure My Child Support Obligation?

Under section 61.13(1)(c), Florida Statutes, a judge may require a party to purchase life insurance to cover his or her child support obligation in the event of a tragedy.  However, an order to purchase life insurance is discretionary and will depend on the specific facts in your case.

To help you determine whether you will likely be required to purchase life insurance to secure your obligation, you should consult with a family law attorney.

Enforcement: Support Awards From Different Florida Counties

If a circuit court in Miami-Dade county ordered a parent to pay child support, that order may be enforced in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Polk, Hernando, Manatee, or any other county in Florida (so long as one party lives in that county). Along the same lines, alimony awards entered in one Florida county may be enforced in another Florida county.

Section 61.17, Florida Statutes, provides the basis for such enforcement.

Am I Required to Disclose My Finances in My Family Law Case?

Rule 12.285, Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure, requires each party to a family law matter to disclose certain financial information to the other party.  Disclosure is strictly enforced in cases with money at issue, including child support, alimony, and equitable distribution or property division. Parties are required to follow Rule 12.285’s disclosure requirements in two ways: (i) providing a financial affidavit; and (ii) exchanging certain documents (also known as mandatory disclosure).

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Mandatory Disclosure (Rule 12.285, Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure)

MANDATORY DISCLOSURE

(a) Application.

(1) Scope. This rule shall apply to all proceedings within the scope of these rules except proceedings involving adoption, simplified dissolution, enforcement, contempt, injunctions for domestic, repeat, dating, or sexual violence, and uncontested dissolutions when the respondent is served by publication and does not file an answer. Additionally, no financial affidavit or other documents shall be required under this rule from a party seeking attorneys’ fees, suit money, or costs, if the basis for the request is solely under section 57.105, Florida Statutes, or any successor statute. Except for the provisions as to financial affidavits and child support guidelines worksheets, any portion of this rule may be modified by order of the court or agreement of the parties.

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Facebook and Family Law: Be Careful What You Post

An article from Time Magazine recounts some horror stories and tales of caution emanating from the use of Facebook and other social networking sites.

A good general rule:  don’t post anything that you would be embarrassed to have your grandmother see.  This includes the following:

  • Don’t harass the other party;
  • Ensure that your friends are not harassing the other party;
  • Don’t post negative comments about the other party on your profile page, and ask others to avoid the same;

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Courtroom Civility

It is always a good rule of thumb to be respectful when entering a courtroom.  I often find myself taken aback by the appearance and behavior of people as they are asking a judge to make a major decision on serious issues–such as divorce, child support, alimony, or time-sharing–in their lives.  Many people come in shorts, chew gum, and treat the courtroom like their living room.  Such behavior leaves a poor impression on the judge and may impact the outcome of their matter.

The Family Law Division of the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit (Hillsborough County), like many courts around Florida, has a code of conduct: The Twelve Rules of Courtroom Civility.  Most of these rules are simply about common courtesy, and include the following instructions:

  • Other than to make appropriate objections, do not interrupt anyone when he or she is speaking;
  • Do not make faces or gestures at the opposing party or his or her attorney;
  • Dress appropriately and wear clean clothes.  Specifically, you should not enter a courtroom in shorts, jeans, a t-shirt, or sneakers; and
  • Do not bring any food or beverages in the courtroom, and do not chew gum.

To maximize the chances of a successful outcome in your matter, become familiar with the rules and procedures of both your circuit and your specific judge.