West Palm Beach Family Law Attorney Serving the Area for Over 25 Years
Family law is an umbrella term that has expanded beyond just divorce to encompass a wide range of issues that can affect families. The principle behind family law is that when issues occur that lead to the break up of a family, or threaten the stability of a family, there are legal remedies that are designed to work in the best interest of all involved.
Our West Palm Beach family law attorney understands that family law is one of the most emotional and complex areas of the legal system because it deals with people who are often at a crisis point in their lives, and behavior and actions are hard to predict when individuals are pushed to the brink. Furthermore, attempting to legislate what is in the best interest of a child is not an exact science, and a wrong move in this area can affect a child’s development for many years.
Some of the areas that fall under family law are marriage, civil unions, domestic partnerships, divorce, adoption, child custody, child abduction, child support, parental alienation, domestic violence, paternity, pre-nuptial agreements and spousal support. All of these areas involve people who have a relationship with each other, which is why family law can have a potential to lead to moments of confrontation, anger, and even violence.
These are some of the reasons why it is always best to seek the advice of a family law firm when you are facing issues that tear at the fabric of the life you have worked so hard to build. An experienced family law firm has the resources – and more importantly, the experience – to navigate through what is usually a complex series of legal issues to arrive at a resolution that always puts the focus on your best interests, or the best interests of any child or children involved.
Although divorce is one of the most talked-about areas of family law, we know that there are other areas of equal importance that we help with as well.
Parental Responsibility/Child Custody
Child custody, also known as shared parental responsibility, battles often arise out of contested divorces, in which both spouses cannot come to an amicable agreement to resolve their differences. In Florida, however, the family courts are often willing to allow both parents to share parental responsibility/custody, and then the issue becomes how they will share the time they spend with the child.
This push toward co-parenting has the benefit of allowing children of divorce equal time with their parents in the hopes that this will help mitigate the emotional and psychological effects that often accompany the dissolution of a marriage. This is known as shared parental responsibility and grants both parents the right to discuss major decisions about their child, and come to an agreement. Shared parental responsibility does not always mean that a child will live with both parents on an equal basis, because a court may decide that this type of living arrangement is not in a child’s best interest. But it does give both parents the opportunity to have equal influence over their child’s life.
As a result of this co-parenting philosophy, the court does not presume that the best interest of children is to be with their mothers more than their fathers, which is why establishing an equitable shared parental responsibility agreement is the key to creating harmony.
But in some instances, the court may decide that co-parenting is not in the “best interest of the child”, which is always the primary consideration in every child custody case. If that occurs, then one parent would be granted sole parental responsibility, with provisions made for the other parent to have time-sharing (visitation) rights.
Child support is another important area of family law, and refers to the amount of money that a parent must pay for their children’s food, housing, education and other needs as determined by a Florida court. In Florida, most child support payments end when a child turns 18, although there are exceptions to this rule, such as when a special-needs child is involved.
Florida courts determine child support though a formula that factors in the parent’s income, the costs of taking care of the child, including medical bills and medical insurance, the age of the child, and the number of overnight visits each parent has with the child. The amount of child support can increase based on the changing needs of a child as well. For example, if a child suffers an accident that requires home nurse care, that would be factored into the formula to create a new child support amount that a parent must pay.
Spousal support – known most commonly as alimony – is the amount of money a spouse must pay to support the other spouse during and after a divorce. This is often one of the most contentious issues in a divorce, and can cause delays if both parties cannot agree to a resolution. Alimony can become an emotional issue, as one spouse often resents having to pay the other support, especially if the divorce was caused by factors such as infidelity.
Florida family court judges determine the amount of alimony based on a number of factors, such as:
- Length of the marriage.
- Age of spouses and their emotional and physical condition at the time of the divorce.
- Income and financial assets of both spouses – including property investments and real estate holdings.
- Future earning capabilities of spouses.
- Standard of living during the marriage.
- Contributions each spouse made to the marriage – for example, did a wife pay for her husband to obtain his master’s degree, which helped him find a higher-paying job?
In Florida, there is no alimony calculator or formula that a judge can use to arrive at an amount, so judges have wide discretion to use the factors listed above, and any other factors they deem important, to come up with a number.
If a judge decides to award alimony in a divorce case, there are typically five types of support that are permitted in Florida:
- Bridge the Gap Alimony – support for a short-term need that cannot continue for more than two years.
- Durational Alimony – support that is typically given in a marriage that lasted a short or moderate amount of time. This type of support cannot continue longer than the length of the marriage.
- Permanent Alimony – support that typically lasts until the spouse receiving the money dies or remarries.
- Rehabilitative Alimony – support that lasts only as long as it takes for the spouse receiving the money to become financially self-sufficient through education or work experience. In order to receive this type of alimony, the receiving spouse must create a plan of action on how he/she will become financially self-sufficient.
- Temporary Alimony – support that lasts only through the divorce proceeding, so that the receiving spouse can pay immediate bills.
Find an Advocate for Your Family
If you have a situation that requires the expertise of a West Palm Beach family lawyer, please contact Eric. C. Cheshire, P.A. at 561-655-8844. Family law issues such as divorce, child custody, child support and alimony are complex and difficult to navigate without the help of an experienced family law attorney. Call today for a personal consultation with attorney Eric C. Cheshire.