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Question about Child Custody "Time-sharing" and Child Support

by St. Petersburg/Florida Family Law Attorney on 08/11/15

Question:  Never married dad of 2, mother wants full custody and child support. She's mad and wants $, she's made threats that if I don't pay I don't see them. I have letters, texts, messages saying she's suicidal and she's a unfit mom and doesn't want the kids and a motorized letter too. What do I do so she doesn't get child support, and full custody? She went down to part time to get more $ out of the custody.

Answer:   From the facts you described, it seems as if a "Petition for Paternity" would be appropriate in your case. You may want to get this filed as soon as possible. Cases like these can be complicated, so if you can, I would highly suggest that you contact an attorney, even if it's for a consultation. In the state of Florida, per Florida Statute 744.301 (1), "the mother of a child born out of wedlock is the natural guardian and is entitled to primary residential care and custody of the child, unless the court enters an order stating otherwise." Also, you may want to seek an emergency hearing based on the fact that your children may be in danger. It all depends on additional facts or circumstances surrounding your case. I don't mean to be redundant, but you should look into speaking with an attorney as soon as possible to address your legal issues.

Effect of Separation or Remarriage in your Florida Family Law case

by St. Petersburg/Florida Family Law Attorney on 08/10/15

Separation or remarriage may affect the classification of property as marital or non-marital, the date of valuation, and the values of assets and liabilities. [Beasley v. Beasley, 717 So 2d 208 (Fla 5th DCA 1998) (no error in combining parties' two marriages for valuation of military pension, given brevity of first separation); Heslop v. Moore, 716 So 2d 276 (Fla 3d DCA 1998) (parties' 5 year separation is valid basis to justify unequal distribution where lottery was won by wife after substantial separation during which husband provided no financial support for wife and child); Catalfumo v. Catalfumo, 704 So 2d 1095 (Fla 4th DCA 1998) (trial court did not abuse it's discretion in finding date of filing petition for dissolution of marriage as date of valuation, even though seven years past before final hearing, where value of husband's businesses significantly increased in value during lengthy separation from his individual efforts); Leon v. Leon, 652 So 2d 1164 (Fla 4th DCA 1995) (no abuse of discretion in trial court's section of valuation date as date of wife's first petition where case was dismissed and refiled one month later); Speigner v. Speigner, 644 So 2d 1035 (Fla 1st DCA 1994) (if same parties were previously marries, it is only period of present marriage that determines marital assets).]

Continuation on Guardian ad Litem issues

by St. Petersburg/Florida Family Law Attorney on 08/09/15

The guardian ad litem must file a written report which may include recommendations and a statement of the wishes of the child.  The report must be filed and served on all parties at least 20 days prior to the hearing at which it will be presented unless the court waives such time limit. [Fla Stat Sec. 61.403(5); Owens v. Owens, 685 So 2d 1038 (Fla 4th DCA 1997) (custody provisions of dissolution decree were valid, even though guardian ad litem did not receive copies of all pleadings and notice and did not file written report, where guardian ad litem had actual notice of proceedings and failed to fulfill his duty to review court file; trial court was not required to wait for guardian ad litem's written report before adjudicating custody issues in dissolution proceeding); Scarlinge v. Herrick, 711 So 2d 204 (Fla 2d DCA 1998) (guardian ad litem testifying in child custody dispute is subject to hearsay rules; although guardian's report in custody modification case contained hearsay, and guardian testified to matters that were hearsay, and guardian became advocate, guardian's actions were not so fundamentally unfair as to warrant remand for new hearing).]  Please note however, that the 20 day waiting period may be waived by agreement of the parties or by order of the court.  In some cases, the court may request an emergency interim report, even an oral report.  If such is the case, an order should be entered that sets the parameters that the guardian ad litem telephone the lawyers at least 24 to 48 hours with the report prior to the presentation of that oral report to the court.  

Are you contemplating working with a Guardian ad Litem?

by St. Petersburg/Florida Family Law Attorney on 07/31/15

If charges of child abuse or neglect are raised in your St. Petersburg, Fl case, the judge is required to appoint a guardian ad litem.  Also, you can ask the judge to appoint a guardian ad litem in any case (by motion).  The guardian ad litem will either be an attorney or a person certified by the State Guardian Ad Litem Program (in the State of Florida). The guardian ad litem has the authority to conduct an investigation to determine what type of custody arrangement is in the child's or children's best interest.  Unless you and the other party are financially unable to pay for the services of the guardian ad litem, either or both of you will be assessed the costs.  If the other party poses a danger to your child, but you cannot get the necessary proof, you may want to ask for the appointment of a guardian ad litem.  This will require you to use the following two forms:

If you are a pro se litigant, you will file the motion with the court clerk (in the St. Petersburg or Clearwater courthouse if you are located in Pinellas county), and deliver a copy of the motion and the proposed order to the judge's secretary or judicial assistant.  Ask the secretary or judicial assistant if you need to set a hearing (most likely you do), or if the judge will consider the motion without a hearing.  If a hearing is required, get a hearing date from the secretary or judicial assistant.  

How to handle Time-sharing/Child-Support Issues

by St. Petersburg/Florida Family Law Attorney on 07/30/15

Almost certainly in the State of Florida, whether you are dealing with a Paternity action, Dissolution of Marriage action, establishment of child support action, etc., there is a Final Judgment that is filed with the court.  Whether you are in St. Petersburg, Fl or any other city, both parties must strictly adhere and comply with the Order put in place.  Unfortunately, there are many instances where either one, or both parties do not follow through and have the approach of " I will take the law into my hands to solve this issue."  Wrong!  One scenario often times comes to mind when dealing with issues like this in the State of Florida.  Let's say there is a Final Dissolution of Marriage in place and filed, where it has been ordered that F must pay M, $850 per month for child support, and party F sees minor child every Sat/Sun where the exchange occurs in the St. Petersburg park.  The first couple of years, everything seems to be okay, as party F has made his monthly payments in full and on time and both parents have strictly adhered to the time-sharing schedule.  However, party M suspects that party F is on drugs and decides that she will not drop minor child off on the days that are Court Ordered.  This, you cannot do!  You must go through the Court and file a "Petition for Modification of time-sharing/parental responsibility" and allow the court to handle the issue.  Also, party F cannot say "well I do not see minor child anymore, so I don't have to  pay child support."  Again, wrong!  You are obligated to pay support, unless otherwise stated in a legally binding court Order.  Not seeing your child is not a legitimate legal reason to not pay child support and you cannot prevent a party from seeing their child if they haven't paid child support.  Address this issue through the court, by filing the appropriate "motion," or petition in the appropriate county.  

A brief overview of a divorce in the state of Florida

by St. Petersburg/Florida Family Law Attorney on 06/04/15

In the state of Florida, a "dissolution of marriage" is the same as a divorce. More importantly, Florida is regarded as a "no-fault" state when it pertains to a divorce. Essentially, this means that it doesn't take much to get a divorce.  All one party has to prove is that the marriage is irretrievably broken. Grounds for divorce are also present if one spouse is and has been declared mentally incompetent for 3 years. To initiate a divorce in the state of Florida, one party (the Petitioner) has to file what's called a "Petition for Dissolution of Marriage."  If you have children and or property, you would add that to the petition as well.  Once the petitioner files, the other party (Respondent) will have 20 days to respond. It's almost certain that the following issues will present themselves in a divorce case: alimony, distribution of marital property, child support, time-sharing, parental responsibility along with other things.  If any of the aforementioned family law issues are not resolved, the judge will hear those issues in a "Final Hearing." Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may want to have all, or most of the issues settled or agreed upon before they go in front of a judge.  Remember, his/her decision may have an impact on the rest of your life.  

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