The Hidden Truth About Child Support Laws

The goal of child support is not to punish a parent, but rather to ensure that a child is properly cared for, and that all that child’s needs are met. In fact, the overriding factor that a judge will take into consideration is what is in the best interest of a child.

However, that doesn’t mean that child support is always fair, and that was recently highlighted in a Houston case in which a man was forced to pay child support for a child that is not his biological offspring.

child support laws

Although Gabriel Cornejo, 45, proved through a DNA test that he was not the biological father of his ex-girlfriend’s child, he had already been named as the child’s father back in 2003, and a court had ordered him to pay child support.

How is that possible, and is it even legal? Let’s take a look at why this case is so important for anyone involved in a paternity suit.

Child Support Law In Texas Makes the Claim Legal

A law in Texas states that men who are not the biological father of a child, but who owed child support prior to when a DNA test proved they were not the child’s father, must still pay all back child support.

Cornejo argued that he never received the initial paternity petition in 2002 and as a result didn’t take a DNA test until recently.

As a result, Cornejo owes $65,000 in back child support payments, although he is still fighting the ruling based on his contention that he never received the original paternity petition.

Florida Law Allows Disestablishment of Paternity

If a similar situation occurred in Florida, a man would be allowed to file a Petition to Disestablish Paternity, which would legally end any child support obligation. The steps to file this petition include:

  • Filing a sworn affidavit of evidence (DNA test) that proves he is not the biological father
  • Sending a copy of the affidavit to the mother of the child
  • Showing the results of the DNA test

This petition may be denied, however, if the court finds that the alleged father ignored a written notice of paternity requiring that he take a DNA test to prove or disprove paternity.

It can also be denied if in the past, he acknowledged that the child in question was his.

Finding An Experienced Family Lawyer 

Child support laws are designed to protect the welfare and best interests of a child, and sometimes it means that a man must pay for the support of a child he did not know existed, or that is not his biological child.

These types of cases can be very complicated and need the care and expertise of a knowledgeable and experienced family law attorney that will help you navigate through the challenges these cases pose. The team at The Law Office of Eric C. Cheshire has the proficiency and the proven track record to provide you with outstanding service. Please call us today at 561-655-8844 for a personal legal consultation with Attorney Eric Cheshire.

Additional Reading

Having Trouble Collecting Child Support From Your Ex-Spouse?

When and How To Modify Child Support In Florida

9 Tips For Great Co-Parenting

In a divorce that involves children, co-parenting is one of the most important aspects of helping kids feel safe and secure during this difficult time, and for years to follow. But without the ability to compromise, some couples find that they can’t agree on the most basic issues of parenting.

co-parenting

Disagreement on major issues of parenting often leads to conflict that can make a divorce even more complicated. That’s why divorcing couples who have children should create a parenting agreement with the understanding that through compromise they can find solutions that are in the best interest of their children.

As you begin this challenging process of co-parenting, there are some things you should keep in mind that can help things go smoother.

Don’t Malign or Alienate the Other Parent to Your Children if You Want A Successful Co-parenting Relationship 

One of the worst things you can do is to criticize the other parent in front of your children. This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many parents try to make children their allies against the other parent during and after a divorce.

Maligning or alienating the other parent creates confusion, anger and resentment in your children, and makes it nearly impossible for you to come to any agreement with the person with whom you will be sharing parenting duties.

Show Respect to the Other Parent

Successful co-parenting requires mutual respect between you and the other parent. If you make a habit of positively acknowledging the other parent’s efforts, and respecting their reasonable viewpoints on the important aspects of childrearing, you will promote an atmosphere of trust. Moreover, you will make it much easier to resolve any disagreements that might arise, because these issues are more likely to be resolved with maturity and respect instead of grappling with resentment and hostility.

Make Communication a Top Priority

Communication is one of the keys to every successful relationship, and while that may not have been true for you during the marriage, it must be the cornerstone of your co-parenting efforts.

The truth is, communicating about parenting issues is very different than talking about your innermost feelings with your former spouse. You don’t have to be face-to-face to talk about issues related to the children. In fact, the ubiquity of mobile devices has rendered personal interaction obsolete, to a degree.

Make communication a priority in co-parenting, and inform the other parent about changes in a visitation schedule, changes in an agreed-upon pickup time, or even upcoming activities such as a school play or a dance.

When both parents are fully aware of what the other parent is doing, planning on doing or unable to do, it makes the co-parenting process more harmonious.

Give Your Kids the Freedom to Express Their Feelings

One of the biggest mistakes divorcing parents make is not giving their children the opportunity to voice their fears and concerns. Your kids are often the ones most affected by the divorce, and regardless of how well you co-parent, ignoring or not allowing them to express their feelings openly, will most certainly affect them negatively. Encourage your children to talk about how they’re feeling about the whole process, and explain to them how the co-parenting will work so they understand the changes that are coming. Above all, reassure them that they are still loved and cherished, despite the dissolution of the marriage. You may also wish to seek a reputable family counselor who will help your kids express their feelings in a way that is empowering to their well-being and their sense of self-worth as an integral member of the changing family structure.

Get On the Same Discipline Page

Challenges with co-parenting occur when children misbehave at times and the parent’s discipline in widely different ways.  This causes confusion and increases the likelihood that the kids will soon learn which parent is less strict, and modify their behavior accordingly.

To avoid this problem, get on the same discipline page as the other parent, and make sure that you have a unified set of consequences or discipline methods when your children misbehave. When your kids realize that both parents are united in discipline and behavioral modification methods, they are more likely to curb a negative behavior.

Don’t Avoid Family Activities

Although it may be difficult at first, it is important that you don’t avoid family activities, such as going to see your children play at a game or having an outing together.

You and the other parent are no longer a couple, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t plan some family activities that require both of you to be present. Remember, co-parenting is all about the children, not about rehashing the problems that led to your divorce.

Share Cool Things You Did With Your Kids

If you took the children on a camping trip for the weekend, or you went to an amusement park, make sure you share the experience with the other parent through videos and photos. This helps cement the co-parenting bond and helps the other parent to feel invested in the process.

Re-evaluate the Plan

It is important for you to re-evaluate your co-parenting plan every few months with the other parent to make sure things are proceeding well. This can include any adjustments that need to be made in the visitation schedule or the number of overnights that the other parent receives.

Learn To Ignore Minor Annoyances

Co-parenting involves a series of compromises, so it is best to learn to ignore minor annoyances that are not worth starting a conflict with the other parent over. Don’t be a stickler for every minor detail in the parental agreement. Learning not to nitpick over small things can help make the co-parenting process much smoother, and will encourage the other parent not to sweat the small stuff either.

Getting the Legal Help You Deserve

Co-parenting is the foundation for effectively caring for the children you share with an ex-spouse. If you are in the process of a divorce, and you want to create a Marital Settlement Agreement and Parenting Plan that includes how you and your soon-to-be former spouse will share parenting duties, hiring a family law attorney is most certainly in your best interest and the best interest of your children.

The Law Office of Eric C. Cheshire, P.A. and his experienced team can help negotiate a Marital Settlement Agreement and Parenting Plan that is fair and that protects all your rights as a parent. If you would like to learn how we can help, call us today at 561-655-8844.

Additional Reading

Do I Need To Take A Divorce Parenting Class In Florida?

Steps To Protecting Children Emotionally During a Divorce

Warning Signs of an Abusive Relationship or Domestic Violence

Relationships can be hard work, and every couple goes through challenges and hardships.  But when the regular everyday ups and downs turn violent, it can be difficult to recognize that you are actually in an abusive relationship.  If your partner has used violence or threatened you with violence, or even if they try to control your activities and actions, then you may be a victim of domestic violence or abuse.  The following discusses some of the signs that you might be in an abusive relationship and steps you can take that may help you.

As mentioned above, even if your partner doesn’t harm you physically, they can still be abusive.  Your partner might not hit you, but they can abuse you emotionally or mentally.  Here are several signs of emotional abuse:

  • Monitors your phone conversations or social media posts;
  • Isolates you and limits your interactions with family and friends;
  • Limits your access to the car or other transportation;
  • Limits your phone use;
  • Limits your access to cash;
  • Destroys your personal property;
  • Stalks you;
  • Tells you what you can or cannot do or have;
  • Threatens to take away your children or destroy you via the legal system;
  • Forces you to have sex;
  • Acts extremely disrespectful towards you and makes you feel less-than; or
  • Threatens to hurt or kill you, or a loved one.

Even if you are not experiencing violence now, you may be in an emotionally abusive relationship.  Also know that many of these actions could lead to violence in the future.  So, if you believe that you are a victim of spousal abuse, or a significant other, it is important that you don’t ignore this belief and that you find the courage to leave this relationship, as it may save your life.

While leaving an abusive husband or wife is typically the best plan of action, it is always easier said than done.  This is when a support network becomes useful.  Recognize that you are not alone in your situation.  Do not be afraid to reach out to friends and family members.  But even if you feel as though you cannot rely on friends and relatives, know that various programs throughout Florida have resources that can help victims of violent and abusive relationships.  These programs can help you leave your abusive partner and can help you establish an independent life away from your partner.  A compassionate West Palm Beach Family Law Attorney can also assist you with finding the right program for your situation.

In some instances, you may have to file a restraining order against your abusive partner.  A restraining order is a legal document that prevents your partner or spouse from contacting you or from being in proximity to you.  If you believe you or your children are in imminent risk of harm by your partner, it is imperative that you contact an experienced and knowledgeable attorney right away so that you can seek informed and protective legal counsel, the protection of a restraining order if needed, and put into contact with the proper authorities who will protect you and your children from further abuse.

Contact an Experienced West Palm Beach Family Law Attorney Today

It is not always easy to recognize that you are a victim of an abusive relationship, but when you do, it can be difficult to leave that relationship.  Acknowledging that your relationship is indeed abusive and realizing that you need help are important first steps toward getting out of a dangerous situation.  If you require assistance finding resources, or if you would like to be informed of your legal options, need help obtaining protection or restraining order, or even if you simply have questions about your situation, be sure to contact a West Palm Beach Family Law Attorney as soon as possible.  At Eric C. Cheshire, P.A., we practice exclusively in divorce and family law, and we have assisted many clients who have been domestic violence victims.  Call us today at (561) 655-8844 to schedule your personal consultation with Attorney Eric Cheshire, and find out what he can do for you.

 

What is My Parental Responsibility after a Florida Divorce?

When children are involved in a divorce, the process of navigating through child custody issues can be stressful and emotional for all parties involved.  However, because a divorce can be particularly difficult for a child, parents should make sure that their child’s care and well-being is a priority.  Parental responsibility or duties that parents should assume, ensures that the transition after divorce goes as smoothly as possible for their children. Remember that just because your relationship with your spouse is ending, it does not mean that you are no longer a caring and trustworthy parent.  That’s why it’s important for parents to conduct themselves and their activities in a manner that foremost supports the best interests of their children.

Here are 6 ways to show parental responsibility in your child’s life:

  1. Shared Parental Responsibility.  In Florida, parents are encouraged to share the rights and responsibilities, as well as the joys, of raising their children.  In fact, under Florida law, parents should share responsibility as long as it is not detrimental to their children.
  2. Parenting Plans.  In most instances, parents must come up with a parenting plan that addresses the details of raising their children including who is responsible for making major decisions or for the daily tasks associated with the upbringing of their children.  Parenting plans also typically include designations indicating who is in charge of all health care and school related matters, visitation schedules, and methods that are to be used for communicating with the children.
  3. Frequent and Continuing Contact.  After parents separate or are divorced in Florida, in most cases, both parents should have regular and continuing contact with their children.  Each parent must ensure that their children have free and unhampered access to the other parent.
  4. Promote Positive Relationships.  Under Florida law, parents have an obligation to promote positive relationships between their children and the other parent.  This means that parents should not disparage each other or discuss the divorce in the presence of their children, and they should not do anything that would estrange their children from the other parent.
  5. Pay Child Support.  Depending on the custody arrangement, one parent may owe child support to the other parent.  Child support is generally used to cover the housing, food, and clothing of the children so when a payment is not timely, the children do not receive the support they need and deserve.
  6. Seek Counseling or other Help.  Before a divorce is final, parents are ordered to attend a parenting class on the consequences of a divorce where families with children are involved.  In addition to this class, parents may have also consulted other professionals such as family therapists or counselors.  If one or both parents continue to have issues with co-parenting, or if any of the children involved appear to have a difficult time transitioning, it may be in the best interests of everyone to seek further counseling or even the advice of an experienced West Palm Beach Family Law Attorney.

Contact a Dedicated and Knowledgeable West Palm Beach Family Law Attorney Today

If you are filing for divorce and children are involved, it is imperative that you take proper steps to ensure that the best interests of your children are protected.   If you have any questions about divorce, child custody, or parental responsibility, both during and post-divorce, be sure to contact an experienced West Palm Beach Family Law Attorney as soon as possible.  At Eric C. Cheshire, P.A., we focus exclusively on divorce and family law, and we have extensive experience dealing with divorces that involve child custody issues.  Call us today at (561) 655-8844 to schedule your personal consultation with attorney Eric C. Cheshire, and find out what he can do for you.

 

High Asset Divorce in Florida: Steps to Take and Mistakes to Avoid

While every divorce presents its own unique set of issues and concerns that must be resolved, a high asset divorce (also known as a high net worth divorce) can be particularly challenging as they oftentimes involve a significant amount of money, real estate, and investments.  With a lot to lose financially, it is imperative that couples with substantial assets take steps to avoid some of the top mistakes that can occur during a division of marital assets in a divorce.  Especially if you are trying to protect your high net worth during a divorce.

Given that any mistake could lead to devastating financial losses for one party or the other, you should not hesitate to hire an experienced West Palm Beach divorce attorney who can help protect your assets in a high asset divorce and work with you to achieve a fair and equitable division of marital property in accordance with Florida law.

Costly Mistakes in High Net Worth Divorces

High net worth divorces typically involve significant assets including multiple residences or vacation properties, other real estate investments, business ventures, stocks, trusts, boats, multiple vehicles, artwork, pensions, 401(k)s, and multiple bank accounts.  Any of these assets that were acquired during the marriage, with the exception of inheritances and gifts, are generally considered to be marital assets and are owned jointly by both spouses.  Therefore, division of these assets can be complicated.

When planning on a divorce one of the first steps you should take is to consult with a skilled divorce attorney so that you can learn about what you should and should not be doing to prepare for a divorce.  The following discussion touches on a few of the mistakes you should avoid in a high asset divorce:

  1. One of the top mistakes you should avoid when seeking a divorce is to agree to anything just to get out of your marriage.  The divorce process can be lengthy, frustrating, and emotional, so it is easy to get fed up and sign away the property that may rightfully be yours.  However, you may end up regretting your decision later on, so it is important to recognize that with time and effort, you and your attorney can work towards a fair and equitable asset agreement.
  2. In a high net worth divorce, it is particularly important that you refrain from hiding any assets during your divorce proceedings.  When it comes to equitable distribution of property in Florida, the process of identifying all the assets, income sources, and liabilities involved can be extremely complex.  If one party hides assets, such as jewelry, cash, or bank accounts, and the other party does not know about these hidden assets, then a court will not be able to divide a couple’s assets properly.  It should be noted that when you are a party to a divorce, you have a duty to disclose your assets to the other spouse.  Even if you think you can transfer valuables to a third party to hide them from your spouse, if the court finds out, the transfer is likely to be found fraudulent, which can adversely affect your credibility before the court.
  3. With all the focus on assets, it is important to remember to disclose your debts and liabilities as well.  While failing to disclose your liabilities may be considered fraudulent, it could also hurt you in the long run.  For example, if you have an outstanding credit card balance that was acquired during the marriage, and you do not disclose it to the other party, then you may end up with more liabilities than you should at the conclusion of your divorce.

Other Issues the Arise In a High Asset Divorce

The Family Business and Working with an Appraiser
When one or both parties own and run a business, it is likely in the best interests of both parties that the business remains viable and growing during the divorce.  An experienced West Palm Beach Divorce Lawyer can work with you to make sure your business assets are protected and that you receive a fair value from the business.   Because the value of the business interest can be difficult to determine, divorce attorneys will typically work with appraisers or business valuation experts in order to assess the value of the family business and to equitably divide the parties’ interests in that business.

The Need for a Forensic Accountant
When parties have a high net worth, many assets that they own may be more difficult to value than others such as artwork, stocks, and significant real estate holdings.  Because figuring out the value of these assets can be difficult, even for a regular accountant, divorce attorneys often suggest consulting with a forensic accountant.  A forensic accountant is a financial professional who has auditing and investigative abilities that extend beyond just preparing income tax returns.  A forensic accountant can figure out the exact value of your assets by going through years of financial and transactional records, and they can be particularly helpful if you believe that your spouse has hidden assets from consideration in the divorce proceedings.

Stocks and Bonds in a High Asset Divorce
Certain investments that are involved in a high asset divorce may be considered separate property, particularly if they were purchased before your marriage.  However, any contributions to and earnings on those investments that occurred during the marriage are likely considered marital property.  An experienced divorce lawyer can help you to identify all of your property, including investment accounts.  Remember, as mentioned above, it is extremely important to disclose all investments in order to achieve a fair division of property.

Contact a Dedicated and Knowledgeable West Palm Beach Divorce Attorney Today
When it comes to high asset divorces in Florida, the issues that arise can be particularly complex and challenging.  That’s why it is important that you consult with an experienced West Palm Beach Divorce Attorney as soon as possible.  At Eric C. Cheshire, P.A., we focus our practice exclusively on divorce and family law.  We have extensive experience handling divorce cases that involve significant assets.  If you’re looking to file for divorce, regardless of your situation, and have questions regarding the process, call us today at (561) 655-8844. The first step is to schedule your consultation and find out what we can do for you.

 

Do I Need To Take A Divorce Parenting Class In Florida?

Under Florida law, parents who are involved in divorce proceedings are required to take a divorce parenting class.  The class is required because parental conflicts arise so often during divorce and it can be a real issue, particularly when young children are involved.  The divorce parenting class helps to minimize conflict and provides guidance to parents on how to ease any negative effects that the divorce may have on their children.  You don’t have to worry about attending the class with your soon to be ex-spouse.  You can both attend separate classes in your own time and at your own convenience.  You may also sign-up for an on-line class, to take at your convenience.

When signing up for the parenting class, you will want to make sure you take the class that has been approved by your local jurisdiction and by the Court.  So if you’re in West Palm Beach or in Palm Beach County, be sure to sign up for an approved divorce parenting class that is offered in this jurisdiction.  Whether you take an online class or in person will depend on your discretion.  A simple Internet search for Palm Beach County divorce parenting classes can give you a list of providers.

What Might I Expect When Taking The Parenting Class?

Parenting classes must be at least four hours in duration, but they can be longer.  As mentioned above, the class can either be online or in-person.  You will also likely be charged a reasonable fee for the class.  The class will typically provide information regarding the following:

  • The legal process for resolving custody disputes, and any issues that might arise;
  • The stages of divorce, and any emotions or problems that parents may face;
  • The needs of and any concerns about children whose parents are going through a divorce;
  • Information on any resources or community services that are available to help parents through the divorce process;
  • Information on family dynamics and relationships during a divorce;
  • Information on financial obligations or responsibilities such as child support;
  • Information about spousal or child abuse and neglect.

After you complete a court ordered parenting class, you will receive a certificate that will be filed with the Court so that the judge knows that you’ve complied with the class requirement.  If you do not complete the course, the Court will not finalize your divorce, and in some instances, could hold you in contempt.  What this means is that you can go to jail if you do not comply with a court ordered parenting class requirement, as this is a direct order from the Court.  So there really is no way to avoid the parenting class if children are involved and if you want your divorce finalized.

As soon as you file for divorce, it is best that you try to take the parenting course sooner rather than later so that you don’t have to worry about taking it as your divorce nears finalization.  It also is a good way to let the Court know that you are serious, responsible, and doing what’s required of you.

 

Contact a Dedicated and Knowledgeable West Palm Beach Family Law Attorney Today

If you’re looking to file for divorce, or have been served with a divorce petition and children are involved, you will be required to participate in a parenting class before your divorce is finalized.  If you have any questions about the parenting class, need help finding a class, or just have questions about the divorce process in general, be sure to consult with an experienced Family Law Attorney right away. Eric C. Cheshire, P.A. focuses primarily on divorce and family law. Call us today at (561) 655-8844 to schedule your case evaluation.

 

 

Five Child Relocation Considerations And How it will Affect Child Custody

Summertime is a popular time for people to think about moving, whether it’s to a bigger house in the same neighborhood, or to a different city or state because of a job.  When relocating, you might be considering what part of town and style of house you’d like to live in and whether your new home will be in proximity to schools and shops.  When child relocation involves custody issues, whether pre- or post-divorce, there are additional things you might want to consider before you relocate.

  1. How far are you planning on moving?  

Whether you are moving within the State of Florida or moving out of state, where you are moving to, and how far the location is from your current residence is an important consideration.  Under child relocation laws, if you decide to move more than fifty miles from your current residence, then you are required to file a petition that informs the court and your ex-spouse of your intent to move.  This is required even if your divorce and parenting plan/custody agreement is still pending.

  1. Talk to your ex-spouse

If you are considering a move, you may be able to avoid filing a petition if your ex-spouse consents to the relocation in a written agreement.  This agreement must define the time-sharing rights of both parents or any other person who may be entitled to visitation, and it must describe any transportation agreements related to visitation.  Of course, the Court should sign off on this agreement.

  1. Be prepared to provide detailed information about your planned relocation 

When filing a petition or reaching an agreement with your ex-spouse, you should be able to provide information on your new residence, when you intend to move, why you are planning on moving, and you will also have to propose a post-move time-sharing schedule and transportation arrangement.

  1. It may be a while before you can actually move

If you file a petition for child relocation with the court, you cannot relocate during the time period that your ex-spouse has time to object to your petition, which is generally twenty days.  Moreover, if your ex-spouse does object to your move, you cannot move without court approval.  After your ex-spouse objects, there likely will be a hearing where the court will decide whether to allow the move.

  1. Above all, you should consider the best interests of your child, as this is the primary issue that the court considers when deciding whether to allow the relocation.

It is always important to consider the impact that a move might have on your child.  Remember that they too will be starting over.  Maybe they will be attending a new school and will have to make new friends.  In addition, the best interests of the child are what the court considers when determining whether to grant a relocation.  Relocation cannot be based solely upon a finding that the move would serve the best interests of the parent and not their child.

Overview of Florida’s Relocation Law

Under Florida law relocation means that a parent is relocating at least fifty miles from their current residence and that they intend to live there for at least sixty consecutive days.  This definition does not include temporary relocations for purposes of education, vacation, or providing the child with health care.

If you are seeking to relocate, you should either provide the court with a written agreement regarding the relocation or file a petition to relocate.  If you and your ex-spouse can reach a consensus on the relocation, then a written agreement may be the best way to obtain approval from the court.  The written agreement must contain:

(a) the consent of both parents regarding the relocation;
(b) a custody time-sharing schedule that specifically addresses visitation for the parent who is not relocating; and
(c) a transportation arrangement that is necessary to achieve the time-sharing schedule.

Without an agreement, any parent who wants to relocate must file a petition with the court.  Florida law very specifically outlines what must be included in the petition, and if properly filed, in most cases there will be a hearing to determine whether the petition for child relocation should be granted.  The parent who is seeking to relocate must establish by a preponderance of the evidence that the move is in the best interest of the child.  The court considers the following when making a decision on child relocation:

  • The relationship that the child has with the relocating and non-relocating parent, and whether there are other significant relationships, such as with relatives who live nearby;
  • The age and the needs of the child and whether the relocation will impact their development;
  • Whether the relationship that the child has with the non-relocating parent can be preserved;
  • Whether the child has a preference;
  • Whether the quality of life will be enhanced for both the relocating parent and the child;
  • Any pros and cons of the relocation as provided by the parents;
  • The economic circumstances of the parents and whether relocating will improve those circumstances;
  • Whether the relocating parent is seeking to move in good faith;
  • Whether there are any job opportunities for the parent who objects to the relocation if that parent also decides to relocate to stay close to the child;
  • Whether there is any history of substance abuse or domestic violence;
  • Any other factors that might affect the best interest of the child.

It is important to note that anyone who has a legal right to visitation with a minor child such as a grandparent, step-parent, or guardian, who might lose visitation or time-sharing with the child, has the same rights as the parents to file an objection to a relocation and make their case before the court.

Contact Our Dedicated and Knowledgeable West Palm Beach Family Law Attorney

If you are planning to move this summer with your child or even if your ex-spouse is moving away with your child it is important that you consult with an experienced Attorney.  Eric C. Cheshire, P.A. is dedicated exclusively to divorce and family law, and as such, we will advocate for your rights and interests in any related pre- or post-divorce cases.  Call us today at (561) 655-8844 to schedule your consultation and find out what we can do for you.

 

Top Questions For Parents Getting a Divorce With a Special Needs Child in Florida

Navigating a divorce with children can be difficult, even in the best of situations, but when you and your spouse are facing a divorce with a special needs child, your custody and time-sharing decisions will require a unique and multifaceted perspective and should be given careful consideration. Children with disabilities often have special circumstances that require additional consideration, not always addressed in most common child custody agreements. Working with your lawyer and your child’s medical advisors can help your child adjust to their new living situation.

Here are the top questions you should ask yourself if you are getting a divorce with a special needs child:

1. What Preparation Should I Make Before Meeting With My Attorney?

When preparing for your first meeting with your divorce attorney, gather as much information as possible so that you can present a realistic picture of the type of care your child needs. This should include both the time required to see to your child’s individual needs as well as any extra expenses.  These costs should include medication, therapy sessions or medical equipment, and special educational opportunities that your child needs to thrive. Document this information objectively and notate which parent needs to be present for any appointments. Also, gather any legal documents related to your child’s condition.

2. How Do I Know What My Child Will Need?

Once you know you’ll be faced with divorce and custody issues with a special needs child, consult with your child’s doctors. Determine what challenges your child will face and what type of living situation will be in their best interest. Although you know your child better than anyone else, your child’s doctors have likely worked with children in similar situations. Their experience and expert advice can help you anticipate challenges and give you the information you need to make informed decisions about your child’s future shared parental responsibility and time-sharing needs.

3. What Should I Tell My Divorce Attorney?

When contacting a divorce attorney for the first time, make sure to mention that you’re the parent of a special needs child. Present your divorce attorney with the information you’ve gathered above. Discuss the likelihood of your child being able to financially support him or herself in adulthood. Most child support arrangements are created with the assumption that the child will eventually be financially independent. However, if you feel that is not a realistic outcome for your child, your divorce attorney will need to pursue a different child support agreement.

4. How Should I Approach Child Custody?

Some child custody arrangements, such as shared parental responsibility and substantial time-sharing, may not be a good fit for children with disabilities. If you and your spouse are the parents of an autistic child, for example, then you know that transitions can be difficult for children on the autism spectrum. A custody arrangement that mandates frequent overnight stays at different locations may cause problems for an autistic child. Follow the advice of your child’s doctors and your divorce attorney.  Amicably communicate with your spouse, to achieve the best possible situation for your special needs child after the divorce.

If you getting a divorce with a special needs child and facing time-sharing issues, it is important to begin working early to give your child the best possible outcome after your divorce. Seek a knowledgeable and experienced Florida divorce attorney who will craft and negotiate a divorce and child custody agreement that advocates your child’s special needs with the utmost consideration. Cheshire Family Law has been serving West Palm Beach since 1988, helping to keep families and individuals whole during and after a divorce. Contact us today at 561-655-8844 for help with your upcoming divorce.

7 Things You Should Not Do During Your Divorce in Florida

As most anyone who has been entangled in a divorce in Florida will tell you it is rarely easy or smooth. Tensions can mount, and poor decisions are made when tempers flare, only to be regretted later. When you consider the array of overwhelming details which must be decided, it’s really no wonder couples end up making mistakes during their divorce. To have fewer regrets later, consider the following tips which you should avoid doing amid your divorce proceedings.

1.Do not increase your debt in any way. Let’s face it, divorce in Florida can be a costly process. Even for the simplest uncontested divorce, both parties will likely pay their attorney from $1,500-$3,000 each—and few divorces are that simple. Aside from divorce attorney fees, at least one spouse will need money to begin a new life including securing a home which can include first and last month’s rent, utility deposits and the actual costs of moving your things. And don’t forget, instead of one set of bills on two salaries you will now be dealing with two sets of bills and an equitable distribution of your marital assets. Start practicing frugal living from the moment you decide to divorce, and don’t take on any additional debt.

2. Do not give in just to get out. Even if your marriage has become untenable, don’t be deprived of your financial future so you can escape the stress of your divorce. Make copies of every sort of financial documentation in your possession, which relates to your finances as a couple, putting them in a safe place. Credit card statements, pension fund statements, tax returns, bank statements, mortgage information—these can all be hugely important during the divorce. If your marriage and subsequent divorce is especially contentious, you may be tempted to hand over the assets just to be done with the marriage. You will almost certainly regret such a decision down the line. Remember that you are engaging in negotiations which will affect your future and that of your children for a long time to come.

3. Don’t think taxes don’t matter. Taxes are a huge issue during a divorce, not only in the filing of your personal income taxes for the year, but also in capital gains taxes on your home if you are the one who gets to keep it, taxes on alimony payments, and the important issue of who gets to claim the children as dependents for tax purposes. If you are close to the end of the year when you decide to divorce, you might want to wait until the New Year rolls around for tax purposes. It is a good idea to consult a tax professional before you start divorce proceedings.

4. Do not think you are “fine” and don’t need a family counselor. Seeing a counselor can be an enormous benefit in getting through the emotions brought on by the divorce. A therapist can help you cope with anger directed at your spouse, fear of the future, depression, and loneliness, teaching you the necessary steps to enable you to look forward to your new life. Change is hard under the best circumstances, and a reputable therapist will be able to help you and your children come through the divorce in the best way possible. Our website lists several qualified and experienced therapists, that we can recommend, who specialize in family matters.

5. Do not overlook mediation or collaborative divorce as a possible alternative to a traditional divorce:- Typically, a collaborative divorce employs the services of not only divorce attorneys, but coaches and therapists who specialize in divorce who can help lessen the stress of divorce as well as divide the property fairly. In most cases, collaborative divorce is much less antagonistic than traditional divorce. Mediation involves a divorce mediator who can also be an attorney that specializes in divorce mediation. The goal of the mediator is to aid the two parties in reaching a mutually acceptable divorce settlement. Mediation can be a continuing process, and your attorney will be a vital asset during this time, as you work on negotiating terms during the mediation process. Many people feel they are way too angry with their spouse to even consider mediation, but you could be surprised at how well it can work. Besides, most Courts, in the State of Florida, require the two parties to mediate before Trial, in an effort to resolve their divorce issues amicably.

6. Do not forget to change your Last Will and Testament as well as other important papers. Make sure you have not only changed your will but the beneficiaries on all your life insurance policies as well. Whatever property you are awarded in the divorce must have the appropriate name changes, and your home and auto insurance will need to reflect your single status as well.

7. Do not jump into a new relationship. Although this may seem obvious, many people ignore this advice and jump right into a new romantic relationship when they are at their most vulnerable. Experts say you should always wait at least a year before getting involved in any type of romance. Take some time and get some perspective about your divorce. Although loneliness can set in after your divorce, find ways to deal with it rather than getting into an inappropriate relationship.

Divorce is difficult, but it can be made much easier simply by taking a deep breath and making a concerted effort to deal with issues as they come up, get through one day at a time, and realize that a year from now things will look much different.

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You need an experienced and successful family lawyer who will explain your legal rights in easy-to-understand terms and represent you with integrity and commitment you can trust.

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Top 8 Legal Documents to Change After a DivorceAt Eric C. Cheshire, P.A., we will treat you with the utmost compassion and respect. Call us today at (561) 655-8844 to speak with an experienced West Palm Beach Divorce Attorney to discuss the details of your case.