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When couples are confronted with the reality their marriage is no longer viable, they often decide it is time to consider dissolving their marriage. Unfortunately, even when a couple no longer wishes to remain married, there are several contentious issues which must be resolved. When you and your spouse are able to agree on some of the matters you have to deal with, it can shorten the process, and save money. However, when there are differences of opinion you need an attorney who will work side by side with you to resolve those differences. Should you be unable to work out issues pertaining to where your children will live, cannot agree on a parenting plan, or disagree about spousal or child support matters, you need an attorney who will go into court, and represent your interests.

We have handled various types of divorce issues, including disagreements over asset distribution, child support obligations, and parenting plans. We understand both parents believe they are acting in the best interest of their children; but we also understand these matters must be successfully resolved so each parent may move forward. We help with a broad range of family law issues in both Collier, and Lee County, as well as across the Naples, FL area.

Child Support in Florida

While the courts will usually refer to Florida Statute Guideline Support calculators, it is important to understand the various factors that go into determining basic child support. The courts adhere to the belief that both parents should be responsible for a child’s financial needs, including basics like food, shelter, and clothing. However, there are other factors that will be taken into consideration including the amount of time each parent has the child in their care overnight, health insurance coverage, the parent’s tax filing status, and the cost of daycare when applicable.

Once a child support payment has been ordered by the court, it may only be modified when there are substantial changes that may impact support. For example, the paying parent changes jobs and makes substantially more or less, the child’s medical care expenses increase, etc. Whenever possible, we recommend trying to reach an agreement between parents about payment of child support. As with other aspects of parenting, the courts will need to review and accept such an agreement. Generally, the court will not accept any child support plan that does not meet the minimum state guidelines.

Florida Parenting Plans

Regardless of how contentious the relationship is between parents, they must develop a parenting plan. These plans typically include where the child will live full time, decisions about the child’s healthcare, education, and religious upbringing, as well as decisions about visitation with the parent the child does not reside with. When parents work out a plan between them, the court will have to approve the plan; if it is not approved, or the parents cannot come to an agreement on a plan, the court will draft a plan on behalf of the child. Keep in mind, the court will always take the best interest of the child into consideration; numerous factors including the child’s relationship with the parents, and even the health of the parents.

Only when there are unusual circumstances, such as a parent relocating out of state, abuse of alcohol or drugs, or in cases of domestic violence would the court refuse to grant regular visitation rights to the parent who does not have the child living with them. It is important to discuss all issues that may impact the parent’s ability to properly care for, or provide a safe environment for a child with your attorney. If both parents can create a parenting plan, we can review it to ensure it will satisfy the court.

Visitation in Florida

Unless there is a valid concern about the safety of a child, there should be a plan in place to ensure the child spends time with the parent they are not living with full-time. Family courts will be most interested in what is in the best interest of the child; the basic premise is whenever possible, the child should be allowed to maintain a strong, loving relationship with both parents. Child safety is always a concern; if there are issues the court should be made aware of before granting visitation rights, we should discuss them. In some cases, the court may order supervised visitation to ensure the safety of the children. If a visitation schedule has been previously agreed upon and there are issues that must be dealt with later, it is possible to request a modification of visitation.

Resolving Parenting Issues After Divorce

Regardless of how well thought out, there can be issues that arise impacting parenting plans, visitation plans, and child support payments. Whether it is because circumstances have changed, or one parent is not abiding by the court orders, you should work with an attorney to determine what options are available to resolve these matters. It may be necessary to ask the court’s assistance in resolving some of these matters; for example, nonpayment of support payments may require the parent to answer to a contempt of court charge. We will take the time to understand the issue you are facing, help you understand what options are available, and then help you see relief.

Domestic Violence in Florida

Whenever someone is being threatened with physical harm, verbally abused, or sexually abused, they should seek assistance from a family law attorney. In Florida, you may apply for a restraining order; there are two types of orders issued, one providing protection from a stranger who is abusive, or stalking, and one offering protection against someone you are, or were involved in a relationship with. No person should have to live in fear of their safety.

Florida Property Distribution When Divorcing

Florida uses equitable distribution when dividing up property of the marriage. When one, or both partners have assets they had prior to the marriage, if they have remained separate, the courts will typically allow that spouse to maintain control of the assets. Debts are divided in a similar manner; the exception may be the marital home mortgage, if one spouse remains living in the home, they may be required to assume any debt associated with the home.

Alimony Payments

Depending on numerous factors, one spouse may be required to pay the other using a formula established by the courts. Alimony may be temporary, a lump sum, or conditioned upon one spouse obtaining training, or education allowing them to be self-supporting. Alimony payments are taxable to the receiving spouse, and deductible by the paying spouse.

Establishing Paternity

Mothers of children born out of wedlock are automatically considered to have full legal rights to the child. Only when paternity has been established does the father have any rights, or obligation to a child. When the parents of a child are unmarried, it becomes necessary to establish paternity. If both parents agree, the process is relatively straightforward; in fact, the parents may both sign the birth certificate which would mean there is no question about paternity. However, in other cases, there are disputes, or the mother may refuse to add the father’s name to the legal records. In these instances, paternity needs to be established. The mother, or the father who believes he is the biological father, has the right to petition to ensure they are acknowledged as the parent. Once paternity has been established, the parents may need to develop a parenting plan, and one parent may be required to pay child support.

There are numerous issues which must be resolved when filing for divorce in Florida. If you are considering divorce in Collier County, Lee County or Naples, FL, you need an attorney who will work closely with you to resolve these matters as smoothly as possible. Contact the Law Office of Shayna K. Cavanaugh, P.A. for personalized, professional divorce services; we will work diligently to ensure your rights are fairly represented.