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Broward County Family Law Blog

Things to think about when considering adoption in Florida

In today's society there are a variety of different types of family arrangements. Children may form strong attachments to adults other than their birth parents, such as step parents, following a divorce. Children may ultimately form bonds with step parents that are similar to the bonds they have with birth parents. Because of the reality of different types of families today, there are different situations when individuals may wish to adopt. Adoption can have both important legal and emotional benefits.

Step parents may form strong emotional bonds with their spouse's children following a new marriage. In some circumstances, families may enjoy official and legal recognition of the relationship between the child and the step parent. Depending on the circumstances, other adults, such as aunts, uncles, grandparents and close family members, may wish to seek an adoptive relationship.

Alimony modifications again on the table in Florida

Modifications to alimony laws are again being considered in Florida. A bill is currently being considered in Florida that would end permanent alimony. Changes in the alimony laws that permit permanent alimony have been sought for years by individuals who oppose what can amount to a lifetime of spousal support. Those in favor of retaining permanent alimony argue that permanent alimony provisions provide protections for spouses who do not pursue a career to take care the family home or children and can be left without means to support themselves following a divorce.

The changes that are currently being considered seek to provide a middle ground for the two sides of the permanent alimony debate. The alimony formula that is proposed with the new law would base the amount of alimony the recipient spouse would receive on the length of marriage and the income differences between the two spouses. The formula would also be used to determine the length of time of the alimony payments and limit alimony payments in duration to between 25 and 75 percent of the length of the marriage.

Child support enforcement consequences are serious

As most parents are aware, a child support order establishes the legal obligation of a parent to make child support payments. Child support orders commonly include details related to the amount of child support owed and the frequency by which it must be paid. While child support orders generally include basic information related to how child support is paid, orders are also specific to the parties.

Florida helps to enforce child support orders and collect child support payments that are owed. If child support is not timely paid, there are a number of consequences which serve as methods of child support enforcement. The state may send parents who fail to timely make child support payments late payment notices and may report the non-payment through the credit reporting process. The state may also engage in income withholding, wage garnishment or intercept federal income tax refund monies or workers' compensation benefits.

How do I establish paternity and why is it important?

There can be a variety of important reasons to establish paternity for a child. Paternity establishes the legal father of a child. In turn, establishing the legal paternity of a child provides rights and benefits for the child and all parties involved. When a Florida resident has a paternity issue, it can be worth it to understand the benefits, process and expectations related to a legal determination of paternity.

For the child, establishing paternity allows the child to know the identity of the father; have the father on the child's birth certificate; provides access to family medical history for the child; may provide health and life insurance rights for the child when available; provides for a variety of different types of support from both parents; and allows for receipt of important benefits, such as government benefits, when applicable, as well as inheritance rights.

Prenuptial agreements can facilitate important conversations

Prenuptial agreements may be appropriate for all different kinds of people in a variety of different places in their lives and a variety of different situations. Many couples, however, may be intimidated by prenuptial agreements or not fully understand their purpose or how a prenuptial agreement might help them. One useful purpose of a prenuptial agreement is to open important dialogue between the partners concerning discussions the couple may want to have prior to marrying.

The benefits of prenuptial agreements extend beyond the division and protection of assets, though they do that too. Prenuptial agreements open up communication and can help manage expectations between partners. While there may be many benefits to having a prenuptial agreement, prenuptial agreements can also clarify up front how property the partners entered the marriage with will be treated and, likewise, how property the couple acquires together during the marriage will be treated.

What are my rights to spousal support if I get divorced?

Financial security and your financial future can be serious considerations at the end of a marriage and as a couple approaches divorce. Depending on the circumstances, how to support yourself and whether or not you may be entitled to receive spousal support, also referred to as alimony, can be a significant concern.

If one divorcing party has a need for spousal support, and the other party can pay, the court may require spousal support. In some situations alimony may be ordered on a permanent basis. It can also be ordered on a rehabilitative basis, a temporary basis and in some other types of situations. A combination of different types of alimony may also be ordered. Alimony may be required to be paid according to a schedule or as a lump sum.

Family law legal resources are available to help all couples

Especially with the recent change to marriage laws, family law issues are as important as ever for gay couples. It has been just over one month since the same-sex marriage ban in Florida was struck down and same-sex couples became legally able to marry in the state. High numbers greeted the first day and smaller numbers were recorded throughout the rest of the month. Though reportedly smaller, one-third to one-fourth of marriage licenses in different counties throughout the state were issued for same-sex couples. The reported numbers may not be entirely accurate, however, because not all marriage license forms require gender information.

Newly married same-sex couples report there are a variety of legal and administrative tasks to take care of following becoming legally married. Official changes from domestic partners to spouses can be made and a variety of legal name changes and ownership updates have to be made. When planning for marriage, there are a variety of important legal considerations couples may wish to concern themselves with and options available to couples, straight and gay, to help them plan for the legal aspects of their union.

What is on the horizon for same-sex marriage in Florida?

Although the gay marriage ban in Florida was recently overturned so that same-sex couples can legally marry in the state, some same-sex couples may wonder what some of the impacts of this important change are and what the future holds for same-sex couples and married same-sex couples in Florida.

While no one can predict the future, the U.S. Supreme Court is now positioned to review the constitutionality of same-sex marriage bans throughout the United States. The issue will be reviewed by the high court later in the spring and the decision is expected this summer. Although the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the ban in Florida, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals elsewhere in the U.S. has upheld the legality of same-sex marriage bans. The conflict in federal law prompted the Supreme Court to review the issue.

Adoption options for gay couples in Florida may be improving

The recent legal changes allowing gay marriage in Florida may also have an impact on adoption rights and the adoption process for gay couples and families in the state. Historically, it has been difficult for same-sex couples to adopt and enjoy the same legal protections and rights in the state of Florida concerning their children as heterosexual couples.

In 2010, a ban preventing gay individuals from adopting children was struck down, however, challenges for same-sex couples to adopt together remained in place. Limited, and cumbersome, methods existed through which same-sex parents could ensure the same parental rights as heterosexual couples. Because of the limited parental rights of one of the parents in a same-sex household, family members of the biological parent, or parent who legally adopted the child, could enjoy greater rights concerning the child than the other parent in some circumstances.

Ruling makes same-sex marriage, and divorce, legal in Florida

As is true for any straight couple seeking a divorce, same-sex couples face issues and concerns about the process. A federal judge recently overturned Florida's ban on same-sex marriage which prompted Florida same-sex couples to line up to get married. Other gay and lesbian couples responded to the court's ruling by seeking a same-sex divorce. The ruling brought a possible end to the legal limbo some married gay and lesbian couples in Florida have faced.

Many of the couples were married in other states where same-sex marriage is legal. Because Florida did not recognize their unions as legal, however, the couples could not divorce in Florida but because of extended residency requirements in other states necessary to obtain a divorce, they were unable to divorce in those states. The legal limbo some married same-sex couples seeking a divorce in Florida found themselves in left them without legal resolution concerning property division, child custody or other common divorce-related legal issues. A variety of additional personal and professional considerations can also be implicated for individuals unable to divorce.