Articles Posted in Divorce

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Although there have been several recent attempts to abolish permanent alimony in Florida, all those recent attempts have failed.  Permanent alimony is still alive and well in the State of Florida.

So what does this mean to you, either as a potential recipient, or as a potential payor of alimony?  Permanent alimony is generally, as a rule, reserved for those cases in which the marriage has lasted at least 17 years.  Once that 17 year threshold is met, the potential for either paying or receiving permanent alimony is quite real.

An award of permanent alimony is not however, based solely upon the years of marriage between the parties.  The court is still required, and is mandated by Florida Statute 61.08 to consider the 10 factors listed in that statute regarding the award of alimony.

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All income available to the recipient of alimony should be taken into consideration prior to the court assessing the amount of alimony to be paid.

Income from all sources reduce the “needs” of the spouse who is claiming alimony from the other party.  “Needs versus ability to pay” is the general standard utilized by the courts in determining alimony awards.  The importance of examining all sources of income available to the recipient of alimony cannot be understated.

Interest earned on 401(k) retirement accounts should be considered as income available to the spouse even though the spouse is not able to draw on the income until he or she reaches the age of 65.  Niederman v. Niederman, 6o So3rd 544 (Florida 4th DCA 2011)  stands for that very principle.  This is true regardless of whether the recipient of the alimony award has attained the age at which funds may be withdrawn without penalty.

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Child support, under Florida law, is initially established by applying the Florida child support guidelines.  The child support guidelines are applied to not only a final hearing in a dissolution of marriage action, but are also applicable in temporary support proceedings

Florida Statute 61.30(1)(a) specifically states that the child support guideline amount is utilized to establish the amount of child support,  whether in a temporary or permanent proceeding.

When the court is assigned the task of determining the amount of child support that is going to be paid, a trial court is permitted to deviate from the amount of child support as provided for in the guideline amount, based on a myriad of different factors, as noted in Florida Statute 61.30(1)(a)(11).  There are 11 separate factors itemized under this statute which provide for different scenarios for deviating from the child support guidelines.  Take a few moments to read through that section to see if any of the listed factors will provide you with a basis to seek additional child support over and above the amount as set forth under the child support guidelines.

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A trial court in a divorce proceeding lacks the legal authority to order the sale of jointly owned real property, unless there was a specific pleading asking for partition of the real property.

Partition is a request that is made by one of the parties to sell jointly owned real property.  The court in the case of Martinez v. Martinez, 573 So.2d 37 (Fla. 1st DCA 1990) specifically held that a court has no authority to partition or order the sale of  jointly held real property in the absence of an agreement between the parties or a specific pleading filed in the case requesting partition.

The court does, however, have the right to award a 100% interest in a parcel of real property to one party or the other in a dissolution of marriage case, as part of the equitable distribution ordered by the court, as provided under Florida Statute 61.075.

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Bonus income can be paid on a regular and routine basis, or it could be paid for an isolated event.

The law is clear however, that in order to include bonus income in a child support calculation, there must be evidence that the bonus is regular and continuous before it can be included in a party’s income for purposes of calculating child support.

In Rudnick v. Rudnick, 162 So 3rd 116 (Florida 4th DCA 2015), the husband experienced a substantial spike and his income for the year of his divorce.  He testified that he was a political consultant, who experienced an unusually high level of income in the year 2012 due to the presidential election that year.

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Extreme caution should be exercised when a party in a dissolution of marriage action seeks temporary emergency relief without giving notice to the other party.   This is what is commonly known as ex parte relief, which is seeking relief without providing any notice whatsoever to the other side.  These types of proceedings are at substantial risk of reversal based upon a denial of due process of law.

There is a basic premise under the law that states that absent an emergency, failure to give notice to the other party is tantamount to a denial of due process of law.   The appellate courts throughout the State of Florida routinely reverse temporary custody orders entered without notice to the other party, or with insufficient notice, or with insufficient opportunity to be heard.  Putting it a different way, there are at least two sides to every story, and both parties should be afforded the opportunity to present their position to a judge, prior to the Court making any adjustments regarding a previously existing time-sharing schedule between the parents.

The former husband, Basem Yunis, ran afoul of these basic principles when dealing with an ex parte motion seeking emergency relief.  You can read about the facts in his case in Suleiman v. Yunis, 168 Southern 3rd 319 (Florida 5th DCA 2015).

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A trial court is required to make sufficient findings about an individual’s ability to pay alimony.  A litigant requesting alimony has the burden of proof on both his or her financial need as well as the other spouse’s ability to pay and meet that need. Gilliard v. Gilliard, 162 So3rd 1147 (Florida 5th DCA 2015).

In a recent case, Rutan v. Rutan, 177 So3rd 35 (Florida 2nd DCA 2015), the trial court noted the well-known ability of “self-employed spouses, in contrast to salaried employees, to control and regulate their income.”

Reasonable inferences made by a trial court from the evidence submitted regarding a party’s income are not enough. Inferences, no matter how reasonable, do not constitute a satisfactory substitute for the trial court making specific findings concerning the actual amount of income that would justify an alimony award.

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Changing the surname of the minor child after divorce is no simple matter.  As a matter of fact, the burden of proof in such a situation is extremely high.

The standard for changing the child’s name is whether the change is in the child’s best interests or is necessary for the welfare of the child.  Azzara v. Waller, 495 So.2d 277 (Fla. 2nd DCA 1986) stands for the proposition that a minor’s surname should only be changed when the evidence affirmatively shows that such change is necessary as necessitated by the welfare of the child.  In Coolidge v. Ulbrich, 733 So.2d 1092 (Fla. 4th DCA 1999), the court stated that a child’s surname should remain unchanged absent evidence that the change is necessary for the welfare of the child.

When a trial court changes the surname of a minor child without adequate evidence, it constitutes an abuse of discretion.  A petitioning parent cannot meet the heavy burden in these situations by making assertions which are conclusory, speculative, unsupported by competent and substantial evidence, and irrelevant to the best interests of or for the welfare of the child.

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Did your divorce case turn out different than you expected? Are you considering a review and appeal of your case? If you’ve answered yes to these questions, you should be prepared to review your conduct through the course of the trial court proceedings.

The right to file an appeal is not without limitations. Appeals will be dismissed in dissolution of marriage cases where the appealing party has been held in contempt for failure to pay court-ordered support, or if the appealing party does not comply with the trial court’s orders within a set period of time.

Where an appealing party has disobeyed an order from the trial court, the appellate court may, in its discretion, either entertain or dismiss an appeal.  Where dismissal is ordered, it is mandatory however, that the disobedient appealing party be given a period of grace, prior to the effective date of the dismissal, in which to comply with the disobeyed order.

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The current law in Florida provides that a parent cannot relocate or change the location of their principal residence if that change of residence will be more than 50 miles from their current residence.  If a spouse is considering a move that is more than 50 miles away, they must obtain either the written consent of the other spouse, or seek approval from the court.  The relocation provisions of Florida law are found in Florida Statute 61.13001.

In the absence of a statutory or contractual provision to the contrary, the proper method to measure the distance between 2 points is the straight line or quote as the crow flies” measure. If the distance using the straight-line test measurement is less than 50 miles, a move can be made by one parent without consent from the other parent or approval from the court. This would be true even if the move is 49 miles away.

However, simply because a move is less than 50 miles away, does not mean that other aspects of a parenting plan would be effected.  A move 49 miles away would most definitely effect the school boundaries, and therefore the school that the minor child would attend.  Does this mean that the moving or relocating parent has a right to change schools without obtaining the other parent’s consent?