Last week's blog focused on the ways in which child support orders can be established. Following a child support order, life moves on and circumstances may change. This week's blog focuses on child support modifications and enforcement of child support orders. Because situations can change, many paying and child support recipient parents may wonder what options are available to them if they need to modify their child support order or need help collecting child support based on an existing order.
Under Florida law, every parent has a responsibility to help pay for the raising of his or her child. For noncustodial parents, -- that is, parents who don't live with their children -- this obligation has to take the form of state-administered child support payments. This system is overseen by the state's Department of Revenue, which assists families in over 1 million cases and serves nearly 1 million minor children.
There are two primary ways that the family law system in Florida helps divorcing parents establish child support obligations. Child support can be ordered through an administrative process. This begins with a notice requesting noncustodial parents provide financial information and other types of information to determine their child support obligations. Once the amount is ordered, if the noncustodial parent does not agree to the amount, additional options such as a hearing are available.
Divorce can involve a number of changes and transitions, including the division of property between the divorcing spouses. When a couple is divorcing, marital and non-marital property is divided. According to property division rules, the court is required to determine what is included among the marital property that has been acquired during the marriage up until the date of separation.
The court will also need to value the marital assets. Couples can acquire a number of assets during a marriage, ranging from real estate, such as a home or other real estate assets, to cars, jewelry, artwork and other types of assets. While Florida courts follow equitable distribution rules to ensure the division of assets is fair, there are a number of circumstances that may be taken into account when dividing assets. Establishing a spouse's rights to certain assets is important and may require a variety of different considerations.
Divorce is an important aspect of the family law system for couples to have access to. The Second District Court of Appeals in Florida recently issued a decision providing for the right of same-sex couples to be divorced. When gay marriage was made legal in Florida, the issue of gay divorce was not immediately resolved. Gay divorces and the ability of gay couples to divorce remained up to the judge hearing the case and continued as a subject of debate. According to one expert, the recent decision makes it clear that gay couples can receive legal divorces in Florida .
In reaching its decision, the court concluded the government does not have a legitimate interest in denying gay couples divorces. The decision grants gay couples access to the courts for dissolution of their marriages, division of their assets and child custody arrangements. While divorce is not likely a happy occasion for anyone, it provides an important function for couples who have decided to end their marriage.
It is commonly understood that following a divorce, many circumstances may change as life, of course, is full of changes. Following a court order or settlement agreement concerning child support, modifications may be necessary for either one or both parties as circumstances change down the road.
For parents either seeking a modification or contesting a modification of a support order, it is important to understand what is involved. The government and, of course, the court are involved in child support issues. In circumstances when the financial situation of either of the parties has significantly changed, or the child's circumstances have significantly changed requiring a modification of child support, a child support modification may be possible.
The need for a parenting plan in all child custody situations was recently discussed on this blog. A parenting plan is required in custody sharing situations and can either be agreed upon by the parents and any others who are part of the time sharing arrangement or can be established by the court in the absence of an agreement between the parents.
In child custody circumstances involving relocation, important requirements must also be met. A relocation parenting plan is required when a parent intends relocate either the parent's or child's principal residence greater than 50 miles away or when pursuing a modification of the child custody or time-sharing order.
Parenting plans are used in all circumstances when custody of children is shared. In Florida, there is a legal process that can help guide the development of a parenting plan. If the parents of a child have not agreed to a parenting plan, each can submit a proposed parenting plan to the court. In circumstances when neither of the parents of a child file a proposed parenting plan or agreed upon parenting plan, the court will step in to develop a parenting plan for the child.
The minimum requirements for a parenting plan include how each of the parents will share the responsibility for daily tasks related to the upbringing of the child; how the parents will share time that each spends the minor child, including a time-sharing plan; a determination of how the responsibility for health care and school-related decisions will be made; and how the parents will communicate with the child, including preferred technologies.
We are all generally familiar with what paternity tests are, however, if you are involved in a paternity action or paternity dispute, you may have some anxiety about how they are conducted and how accurate paternity test results are. Paternity testing is used to determine if a man, usually referred to as the putative father, is the biological father of a child.
To conduct a paternity test, DNA testing is conducted on a small amount of fluid or tissue from both the child and putative father. DNA is considered a unique genetic fingerprint which is why it can be used to determine the identity of a child's biological father. Typically blood samples, or cells collected from inside the cheek, are used to test to determine if the putative father and child are a genetic match.
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.
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.