Frequently Asked Questions
Below are some frequently asked questions we often encounter when people contact my firm. If you would like more in-depth answers, I invite you to read through this website and contact me, family law and divorce lawyer Alan R. Burton to schedule a free initial consultation.
Q. What are the residency requirements to file for divorce in Florida?
A. Either party, but not necessarily both, must be a resident of Florida for at least six months.
Q. What county am I required to file my divorce case?
A. A divorce action is generally filed in the county where the parties last lived together as husband and wife.
Q. Will the judge make a custody determination of my minor children?
A. No, not exactly. Use of the term custody, as well as the term "primary physical custodian," have been abolished and removed from Florida statutes. Although a judge will no longer make a custody determination, a judge will create a parenting plan if the parties are unable to reach their own agreement concerning the minor children.
Q. What is a parenting plan?
A. A parenting plan is a written agreement signed by both parents and covers important issues regarding their minor children.
Q What has to be included in the parenting plan?
A. At a minimum, a parenting plan must include the names of the minor children, dates of birth and specify the days that each parent is to share time with the minor children; who will be responsible for the day-to-day decisions affecting the welfare of the minor child or children, who will provide health insurance for the minor child; and whose home will be designated as the child's residence for school boundary purposes.
Q. Can a parenting plan be more detailed than simply providing for an allocation of time sharing with the minor children?
A. Absolutely. A parenting plan can be as detailed as the parties require and can agree upon. A parenting plan can include provisions for the type of communication that each parent shall have with the minor children, whether that be by email, telephone, Skype, etc. Additionally, you can include provisions for ultimate decision-making authority to either parent as to certain specific issues. For example, if the parties are unable to agree as to what is in the child's best interest, the agreement can provide that one parent or the other shall have the ultimate decision-making authority on that issue. This can include medical decisions, educational decisions as well as the extracurricular activities for the minor child. The possibilities are limitless and subject only to the imagination of the parties.
Q. What happens if I am unable to come to an agreement regarding all the provisions of the parenting plan?
A. If you are unable to agree on everything, you can enter into a partial agreement and let the court determine your unresolved issues.
Q. I have heard that the law is now 50-50 or equal time sharing for each parent. Is this correct?
A. No, it is not. Although the public policy of the state of Florida is to afford each parent the opportunity to have a continuing and meaningful relationship with his or her child after a divorce or separation, that does not necessarily mean equal time.
Q. If the time sharing is not equal, and we are unable to agree to a time-sharing schedule, how will that matter be decided?
A. The court will schedule a special set hearing, listen to witnesses and receive exhibits into evidence, and will decide what type of schedule is in the best interests of the child.
Q. At what age does child support end?
A. Child support ends when a child attains the age of 18. This is the general rule; however, every rule has exceptions. If the child is between the age of 18 and 19, is in his or her last year of high school, is performing in good faith and is expected to graduate before the age of 19, child support continues until the child's graduation. Additionally, if the minor child is declared to be dependent based upon some type of pre-existing mental or physical disability, child support can continue for the duration of the child's life.
Q. I have three minor children for whom I am paying child support. When my oldest child attains the age of 18 do I need to go back to court in order to obtain a reduction in child support?
A. Current child support orders provide for an amount of support for all of the minor children involved, along with the computation for the amount of support to be paid to the remaining children as each child attains the age of majority. If you have an order like this, you do not have to go back to court for a reduction. If your order is not as specific, you will need to go back to court in order to obtain a reduction in the child support obligation.
Q. I have tried to obtain copies of my child's school records, but for one reason or another the school is refusing to provide me with copies. Am I entitled to receive copies of all of the school records, just like the way my spouse receives them?
A. The answer is yes. You have the absolute right to obtain any school or medical records of your child in the exact same manner as your spouse is receiving those records.
Q. I heard that Gov. Scott signed a bill last year that provided for equal time sharing with my minor children. Is this in fact true?
A. No, it is not true. The Florida legislature submitted a bill to the governor that provided for a presumption in favor of equal time sharing between the parents. That particular piece of legislation was vetoed by Gov. Scott.
Q. What type of alimony is currently authorized under Florida law?
A. There are currently five types of alimony, if you include lump-sum alimony, which are authorized under Florida. They include bridge-the-gap alimony, rehabilitative alimony, durational alimony and permanent periodic alimony.
Q. How many years can I receive an award of bridge the gap alimony?
A. The maximum amount of years that bridge-the-gap alimony can be paid is two years.
Q. How many years am I entitled to receive durational alimony?
A. The maximum number of years that you can receive durational alimony is equal to the number of years you have been married.
Q. If I am receiving rehabilitative alimony, but I have been unable to rehabilitate myself, may I convert my alimony to permanent periodic alimony?
A. Yes, subject to proving to the court that you have made a good faith effort to rehabilitate yourself but have been unsuccessful.
Q. My ex-wife is living with someone, but she has not remarried. May I obtain a reduction in my alimony payments based upon this situation?
A. Yes, this is known as a supportive relationship. If you can demonstrate to the court that your ex-wife is living in a supportive relationship, you should be successful in reducing or even eliminating your alimony obligations.
Q. I have a new job offer. Can I move to another state with my child?
A. Florida law does not allow you to relocate more than 50 miles from your current residence without the written consent of your ex-spouse, or by court order.
Q. I have to make an immediate decision regarding my new job offer out of state. What can I do to expedite court approval to relocate if my spouse does not agree?
A. You can file a petition to relocate on a temporary basis. Generally, courts are authorized to hear a temporary petitioner relocate within 30 days of the date of filing.
Q. How do I initiate a petition to relocate with my child?
A. You are required to file a petition to relocate, and include an allegation that there have been material and substantial changes in circumstances, which are involuntary and beyond your control and necessitate the filing of your petition to relocate. The petition must be in the best interests of the minor child. The court will consider any evidence that you want to offer in support of your petition. The petition must be sworn to, and include, among other things, a proposed substitute time-sharing plan. If you fail to include your proposed substitute time-sharing plan, your petition is defective and will be either dismissed or denied.
Q. What is the burden of proof that I must meet in order to be successful on a petition to relocate?
A. A preponderance of the evidence.
Q. What evidence do I have to provide to the court in order to be successful with my petition to relocate?
A. Florida statute 61.13004 is the statute that deals with relocation. Contained within that statute is a list of various factors the court looks at when entertaining a petition to relocate. Although there are several specific factors for the court's consideration, the primary consideration is whether or not the relocation will be in the best interests of the minor child.
Q. My spouse signed an application for a credit card without my knowledge or consent. Am I liable and responsible for this account?
Q. I obtained a student loan during the course of my marriage. Is my spouse responsible for 50 percent of this loan?
Q. My wife and I obtained an automobile, and we both jointly signed the loan from the bank. I am keeping the car. Is my wife responsible on the loan if I do not make the payments?
Q. I lost quite a bit of money gambling in Las Vegas during the course of my marriage. My wife traveled with me frequently to Las Vegas and enjoyed these trips. Does she have a claim against me for the money that I lost gambling in Las Vegas?
A. No, under the facts as you have presented to me, your wife knowingly, freely and voluntarily participated in the trips to Las Vegas, and she would not have a claim against you for any of the marital money that you have lost.
Q. I have been involved with a married woman. She has just given birth to my child. Her husband is not aware of his wife's activities nor does he know about me. May I file a petition for paternity in order to establish my parental rights, including time sharing with the child?
A. The answer to this question is generally no. If the mother has a child during an intact marriage with another man other than her husband, the other man may have difficulty establishing his paternity. The presumption under law favors legitimacy. If a child is born during an intact marriage, both the husband and the wife can prevent the actual biological father from attacking the presumption of legitimacy. These cases are all handled on an individual basis, with an emphasis based upon the best interests of the child.
Q. My child's mother does not want me to be involved with my child. She promises me that if I stayed away from the child she will not seek child support from me, and she is even willing to put this agreement in writing. Is this agreement enforceable?
A. The answer is no. Any agreements that attempt to waive child support are against public policy, are unenforceable, and void as a matter of law. Contact Alan Robert Burton, Attorney at Law
Call or email my offices in Boca Raton or Fort Lauderdale to schedule your free initial consultation. Call (954) 229-1660 or my cell at (954) 295-9222. I maintain flexible office hours to accommodate your schedule and to discuss your family law issues.