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Plantation Family Law Blog

Parenting coordination should be the norm, not the alternative

We recently discussed the positive shift from the idea of "winning" child custody to the more collaborative approach of time sharing and co-parenting after divorce. Today courts in Florida recognize the importance of having both parents in a child's life, rather than creating a court-ordered void where one parent might have been.

A timely follow-up to that discussion is the recent New York Times article, "How Divorced Parents Lost Their Rights." In it, the writer, who is a psychology professor, points to the historical reluctance of courts to get involved in child-rearing disputes between married parents, yet judges often have a hand in deciding child custody matters for divorced or separated parents.

Developing workable parenting plans without going to court

The commonly used terms used to be "visitation" and "child custody." There was something controlling about them. They suggested a situation in which only one parent had control and influence over a child, while in another situation only the other parent had control and influence over the child. The terms suggested little, if any, overlap.

While "visitation" and "child custody" are still widely used, Florida courts now recognize the importance of both parents working together to give their children the best life possible, even if the parents are not married and don't necessarily get along. The increased emphasis on protecting children's best interests through the inclusion of both parents can be gleaned from the terms now used to describe parenting arrangements: parenting plans and time sharing. 

When a parent quits a job to avoid paying child support

Sometimes in particularly acrimonious divorces, the spouse who would otherwise pay a certain amount of child support purposely quits his or her job in an attempt to lower the support payments. In ordering child support, the court bases the decision in part on the separate incomes of the parties involved. By quitting a job, some people think they can get around paying support.

However, under Florida law, a court may impute -- or attribute -- additional income to the paying parent -- the obligor -- if he or she voluntarily quits a job or takes a pay cut. The obligor parent may not actually have the imputed income, but the court may still require monthly support payments based on the sum of the actual income and the imputed income.

Some things you should know about Florida child support

Many Florida parents going through divorce or separating are not quite sure of how child support works in our state. The legal language regarding child support is complex, so let's discuss some aspects of child support in a way that is easy to understand

First, let's clarify two terms: "obligor" and "obligee." The parent who pays child support is the obligor, and the parent who receives support is the obligee.

Child support payments can be deducted directly from the paying parent's paycheck, or both parents can request that the obligor parent be in charge of making payments directly to the obligee parent. The court has to approve if the parents request a parent-to-parent payment plan.

Lesbian adoptive mother's parental rights upheld by FL high court

Like other states, Florida is seeing important changes in family law with regard to same-sex couples. As yet, the state does not recognize same-sex marriage, though a number of courts have ruled that Florida's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. Another major ruling supporting the rights of same-sex parents recently came from the Florida Supreme Court.

In 2007 a lesbian couple used an anonymous donor to conceive a child. After the birth, the child was raised by both women. In 2011 the partners petitioned to have the non-biological mother legally adopt the child. The following year, the adoption was approved, and both of the women's names were listed as parents on the child's birth certificate. The last name of the birth mother was also changed to that of the adoptive mother and their child.

Ex-husband seeks child support after surrogate gives birth

Social change and advances in technology continue to affect the way families are formed in Florida and throughout the country, and not every state's laws have caught up with the changes.

For example, couples who are unable to give birth to a child together may choose a surrogate to carry the baby. However, as more disputes over these matters arise, it becomes clear that legal protections aren't in place in every situation. With that said, all parties involved should be acutely aware of their rights and responsibilities and ensure that the proper legal steps are taken.

On what grounds can a child support order be modified?

Modifying a divorce order -- whether it deals with spousal support, child custody or child support -- tends to be a complicated matter. For child support, Florida has a legal formula that we call the child support guidelines. The guidelines account for these factors:

  • Both parents' incomes
  • The number of children to be supported
  • The costs of child care, including health care

The guidelines are used to set up a baseline amount, though the amount of child support could be lower or higher than the amount generated by the formula, depending on factors such as special needs the child may have. A child support order can also be modified under certain provable circumstances, which we'll consider here.

Can a parent coordinator help resolve your child custody dispute?

In the last 10 years, much has changed in Florida law with regard to child custody arrangements in divorce proceedings. It used to be that the judge's job was mainly to divide up the parents' control over their children. The result was that one parent was essentially awarded more rights than the other.

These days, however, the courts focus more on establishing parenting plans that include both parents as much as possible. Of course, in some cases, issues such as drug addiction or domestic violence make one parent unfit to protect the best interests of the child. Most of the time, though, the courts will encourage the parents to work together to establish a detailed parenting plan.

Has your ex fallen behind on child support?

If your ex-spouse has ever fallen behind on child support payments, then you may have considered taking him or her to court. Depending on individual circumstances, a single missed payment could place a significant financial burden on a custodial parent, not to mention a series of missed payments.

In any case, protecting the child's best interests should always be the top priority, and custodial parents should not be afraid to do what is legally necessary to provide for their children. Ideally, parents who don't see eye to eye on financial and other matters will be able to shield the child from parental disputes. However, sometimes full-on family conflicts arise from money concerns.

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