By Connie J. Byrd, Esq.
Board Member, FLAFCC
I received a link to an article today from my friends at the Florida Dependency Law Center. What a timely reminder that we need to stay focused on the young people in our lives! For families and caregivers already dealing with the emotions of divorce or other family disputes, it is easy to overlook signs of child behavior following a disaster that may signal that they are more than just bore or restless. According to Jessica Dym Bartlett, writing for Child Trends, “the presence of a sensitive, nurturing, and predictable adult is one of the most important factors to children’s well-being following a disaster.” She goes on to write that we need to “emphasize hope and positivity” so that children feel safe. I am going to work a little harder to be that influence for good in a child’s life today, and I hope you will join me!
By Connie J. Byrd, Esq.
Board Member, FLAFCC
Family disputes represent the largest number of new cases filed in circuit courts throughout Florida. In the 2015/2016 year, the Florida Office of State Courts Administrator reported more than 288,000 new family law cases opened. Of that number, 82,000 were actions dissolution of marriage, outpaced only by orders for protection against violence. (Jameson et al., 2015-2016, p. 5-2, 5-3). Though time and costs vary widely depending at least in part on the complexity of the matter, selection of process, and attorney experience, at least one source estimates the average divorce in Florida takes fifteen months and costs $13,300 (Martindale-Nolo Research). Despite the time and cost invested, emotional and financial issues are often left unresolved, as is evidenced by the 223,000 domestic relations cases that were re-opened in 2015/2016, primarily for modification and enforcement (Jameson et al., 2015-2016, p. 5-22).
What role do the professionals play in this? Mental and behavioral health professionals are asked to take positions as experts, often contributing to the already heightened sense of hurt, frustration, and failed communications between family members. Financial professionals are asked to utilize their expertise to justify polarized positions. And what about the lawyers? Many go to court the same way one would go to war – leading a battalion of well-prepared witnesses and highly trained experts into battle armed with evidence designed to obliterate the enemy. Unfortunately, the “enemy” is the family – most often permanently linked to each other by a shared past, children, extended family, and intertwined finances. As a result, no one wins.
Collaborative Divorce is a non-adversarial process where people agree to negotiate in good faith and work together to achieve mutual settlement outside the courts. A family facing divorce can agree to work with a team of professionals to meet the legal, financial, and emotional needs of everyone – husband, wife, and children – rather than turn your most intimate matters over to a court to decide for you . When should you consider a collaborative divorce instead of a traditional litigated divorce?
- When you want control over the outcome, and you are willing to participate in finding a solution that works for the whole family – for parenting plans, child support, alimony, equitable distribution of your assets, and more;
- When you either need or want a continuing relationship – because of shared children, shared businesses, or other shared family issues;
- When resources matter, and you are concerned about how much divorce will cost, how long it will take, and how much time and energy you will use – not to mention the stress and lost opportunities while you deal with the courts;
- When privacy matters;
- When you can’t get what you need in a court.
In Florida, there are two types of support decisions that may happen in a divorce – alimony and child support. For the paying spouse, alimony is often a dirty word. Alimony may be awarded when one person has a need for the support and the other party has the ability to pay.
Florida law allows for different types of alimony depending on the need. These may include:
- Periodic permanent
- Lump sum
- Bridge the gap
- Durational alimony
When a family with children faces divorce, “Best Interest of the Child” becomes an important term. Where does this come up and what does it mean? “Best Interest” is considered any time child support, time sharing, parental responsibility, or relocation are at issue.
The reality is that parents, whether married or divorced, often disagree about a lot of things when it comes to their children. But during or after a divorce, communications often break down and children get caught in the middle. If parents cannot agree on what’s best for their children a court has to decide for them. Continue reading
The quick and easy answer is no. Florida does not recognize common law marriage or de facto marriage. Both of these are terms used in some states to describe a marriage that results from a man and a woman who live together and purport themselves to society as being married. A common law marriage, specifically, results from a couple that has cohabitated as a married couple for the statutory period. However, common law marriage has not been recognized in Florida since 1968. A de facto marriage has been described as a “domestic partnership outside of marriage.” The only mention of a de facto marriage in the Florida Statutes is in 61.14(1)(b)(3) and states that Florida “does not recognize a de factor marriage.” Continue reading
What happens if a child is conceived, and then a parent dies? Can the child legally inherit from the deceased parent?
In Florida, a child posthumously born to a deceased parent may be able inherit from that parent, depending on when that child was conceived. While this is a tragic topic, children still need to be provided for after the loss of a parent and the law does recognize that need. There has been a gap between science and the law, but in recent years the Florida legislature as well as the Supreme Court has made an effort to address the particular nuances of government benefits and inheritance of this particular class of children. Continue reading
If you are thinking about divorce and you have children, then your biggest concern is probably your children. What happens after the divorce?
- Where will my children live?
- How often will I see them?
- Who gets to decide where they go to school?
- When will they get a cell phone?
- If they are old enough for sleep-overs with friends?