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Broward County Divorce Law Blog

Requirements for parents relocating with a child

Divorced Florida parents sometimes decide to move to a new location in order to get a fresh start. However, there are certain requirements that a custodial parent must meet before relocating with a child, especially if the new location is out of state.

The custodial parent will likely need to provide the court with what may be called a "good faith" reason for the relocation. Such a reason may become even more important if the move will disrupt the child's daily routine, remove them from their current school or disrupt their emotional or social stability. Acceptable reasons often can include a new job offer, moving closer to family members and if the cost of living is better. However, it should be noted that the court may take the noncustodial parent's wishes into consideration.

Best interests of the child in Florida custody matters

When parents are engaged in a child custody dispute, they are likely to hear the phrase "best interests of the child" in court. People with child custody cases may not understand what the phrase means in a legal sense. In Florida, the best interests of the child refers to the idea that courts make custody decisions designed to ensure the child's best outcomes in terms of their health, welfare and safety.

Judges make child custody decisions by weighing a number of relevant factors. Although the parents' individual wishes are considered, the child's interests are preeminent. Courts are not to give preference to one party over the other simply due to their respective genders. Instead, the factors considered by the courts are aimed at informing their best interests determinations.

Prenuptial agreements in Florida

Although it is common to approach marriage from the viewpoint that it will last, divorce is a significant reality for many couples, and property division decisions can be contentious. Planning for the possibility may limit difficulties if the issue arises, especially if you have significant assets or own a business that could be affected by divorce action later on. The use of a prenuptial agreement may enable you to define separate holdings and to create a plan for property division if you later divorce. By not planning carefully through a prenuptial agreement, you could be required to split important holdings with your partner.

A serious concern in drafting your prenuptial agreement is whether it will be viewed as valid later on. Legal challenges to such agreements are common, especially if a spouse's net worth is significant or if a separate business or property gains in value over the course of the marriage. Protecting your agreement from challenges may depend on appropriate wording and on the manner in which the document is reviewed and signed by your fiancee.

When inheritance becomes a marital asset

Florida residents considering divorce may be concerned about how property is divided. In Florida, property is divided equitably between the spouses. There are two types of property in matters of divorce. Marital property is that which is acquired during the marriage. Separate property is the property individuals own before they marry. Marital property is divided in divorce, and separate property is not.

There are exceptions to the rule. If a spouse personally inherits money or real property during the marriage, the inheritance is considered separate property. The same holds true for awards from personal injury lawsuits or gifts. If the funds are mixed with the funds in a joint account, the ability to retain separateness dissolves. Placing joint funds into an inheritance account also commingles the funds. In addition, if inherited funds are used for joint purposes such as home improvements, the inheritance becomes subject to property division.

Who gets the house in a divorce?

Determining who gets the marital home is often one of the most contentious issues in a Florida divorce. If there are children involved, a court will normally allow the spouse who has physical custody of the children to keep the home. When a couple with no minor children divorces, a judge's decision about who gets the house might be more difficult.

In cases where one of the spouses paid for the house with their own separate funds, the house will legally belong to them. Money that is considered separate funds would have to have been acquired prior to the marriage or through an inheritance. If one spouse can prove that the house was paid for with separate funds, they can then order the other spouse to leave the premises.

Are there different types of alimony?

In general terms, alimony is a means for divorcing partners to maintain a quality of life similar to that which they experienced during the marriage. Also known as spousal support, alimony orders may come in different forms.

In many divorce cases, alimony is ordered by the court when there is a marked disparity between the incomes of the two spouses as well as their respective capacities to earn. Courts tend to order spouses who make considerably more in income than do their ex-spouse to pay spousal support. However, the type of alimony the court might order often depends upon a multitude of factors, including the duration of the marriage and the alimony recipient's proximity to financial independence. In Florida, courts may award alimony as a short-term tool or a long-term tool for achieving self-reliance.

Learning about spousal support

Florida law provides for the award of several different types of alimony as part of divorce proceedings. Some spouses may receive permanent alimony, while others may receive temporary alimony until the divorce is finalized.

One of the most common types of spousal support is rehabilitative alimony. This type helps the lower-earning spouse receive limited assistance while he or she goes through retraining or acquires additional education so that he or she can reenter the workforce. The goal is to provide help for a finite period of time so that the recipient can become self-supporting. The court may be more willing to grant this type of alimony when the party has potential or a background that demonstrates that he or she can establish or re-establish a viable career. For example, if the party had quit college to care for the couple's children, the court may award rehabilitative alimony for a reasonable period of time that would allow the recipient to complete his or her education.

What are the visitation rights of a grandparent in Florida?

Florida courts will grant a grandparent reasonable visitation with their grandchild if the court deems it to be in the best interests of the child. In order for a court to award visitation, one of the parents must have deserted the child, the child was born out of wedlock or the child's parents' marriage ended in dissolution.

In determining whether grandparent visitation is in the best interests of the child, the court looks at a number of factors. The court considers whether the grandparent will encourage a close relationship between the child and his or her parents, the quality and length of the prior relationship between the grandparent and the child and what the child wishes if able to express his or her preference.

Shared parental responsibility in Florida custody cases

Parents undergoing a child custody dispute can expect that most family courts will assign parents shared responsibility for their children, even when one parent may have primary residential or physical custody. Custody decisions encompass more than just determining with which parent a child will primarily live. It also involves courts determining how major decisions that affect the children's lives will be made.

In most cases, courts will order the parents to share parental responsibility. This means that parents must confer with one another when making major decisions regarding the children. In other words, both parents will have a say in where the child will attend school, what doctor the child will see, whether the child will receive counseling and in what religion, if any, the child will be raised.

What is a parenting plan?

A parenting plan is a blueprint for the resolution of challenges that parents and their children may face prior to, during and following a dissolution of a marriage. Florida law changed the way that parenting issues are governed in divorce proceedings in 2008, and the biggest change is the requirement that a parenting plan be developed for every child involved in an action for dissolution of a marriage.

In a parenting plan, the details for how parents intend to share the daily duties of raising their child are addressed. Time-sharing agendas and issues such as how each parent communicates with the child and which parent will hold responsibility for education-related matters are also planned. The more cooperative the parents are with each other in developing a parenting plan, the easier the divorce process becomes.