Frequently Asked Questions - Family Law


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What are Time Sharing and Parenting Plans?

In Florida, the idea of custody is no longer used. Instead, courts utilize Parenting Plans that layout time-sharing schedules and outlines as to decision-making for a minor child. Time Sharing is the amount of time or overnights a minor child will spend throughout the year with each parent. A Parenting Plan is required in all cases involving minor children even when these issues are not in dispute. The Parenting Plan must be developed and agreed to by the parents and court. If the parents are unable to reach an agreement, then the court will decide at trial.

How is Child Support Determined?

The Florida Legislature has determined that each parent has a fundamental obligation to support a minor or legally dependent child. The amount of child support to be paid is based on the income of each parent and the amount of time each parent has with the child or children. If a parent doesn't work, then income will be imputed to them. This means the court will make the calculations as if they do have an income. The amount of income to be imputed will depend on that person's income potential.

Is There a Preference in Court for the Mom?

In Florida, there is no presumption for or against the father or mother of a child or for any specific time-sharing schedule. The law says a child should have frequent and continuing contact with both parents after parents separate, and that parents should share the rights and responsibilities, and joys, of raising children.

Who Will Get to Keep the House in the Divorce?

Equitable Distribution refers to the way both assets and debts will be split between the spouses, and it requires an equitable or fair division. This includes the marital home, bank accounts, businesses, retirement accounts, vehicles, debts and loans, and house hold items. Many families' biggest and most important asset is their home, and a determination needs to be made to know when the home was purchased, how much the home is worth, how much is owed, and what factors will be applied to decide what a fair division would be.

What are Paternity and Father's Rights?

Many couples with children were never married to each other and are not required to be. However, fathers of children born out of wedlock do not have any rights or obligations regarding their child or children until paternity is established in a court of law. This is true even if the father is listed on the birth certificate because Florida law says the mother of a child born out of wedlock is the natural guardian of the child and is entitled to primary residential care and custody of the child unless the court enters an order stating otherwise. For this reason, Fathers in this situation need to file for Paternity in court so that a Parenting Plan can be established. Mothers can also bring a Paternity case against the Father of a child to establish the respective rights and obligations as to the child.

Can I Get Sole Custody of My Child?

In Florida, the idea of custody is no longer used. Instead, courts determine either Shared Parental Responsibility or Sole Parental Responsibility. Florida law states that courts should order Shared Parental Responsibility to both parents unless it would be detrimental to the child. Shared Parental Responsibility mean the parents must jointly make all major decisions for the child. If your case merits awarding you Sole Parental Responsibility, this will likely affect the other parent's ability to see the child. It is important that you share these concerns with your attorney.

Will I Receive or Pay Alimony and Spousal Support?

Alimony is determined separately from Child Support, and it depends on the requesting spouse's need and the opposing spouse's ability to pay. In some instances, the Court will impute income to a spouse who is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, meaning her or she will be treated as if they earn more money than is reported. The length of the marriage is also an important factor in determining alimony.