How is child support calculated?

Florida Statute 61.30 governs child support. The statute details what amounts are the full obligation for a parent when you look at combined monthly net income of both parties. For example, if the mother and father earn, after taxes are deducted, an income of $2,000 per month, the total child support obligation is $442 for one child. The table details amounts up to 6 children.

In paternity and divorce cases, the Circuit Court typically handles establishing a child support obligation considering the parties' parenting plan and schedule. In these Circuit Court cases, both parties' gross incomes (before taxes and deductions) are looked at. Then, allowable deductions, including dependency exemptions, the parents' health insurance payments, the parents' mandatory retirement contributions, etc., are taken from the gross income. After, we are left with both parties' net income (after taxes and deductions). The Court considers if either party is paying for the children's child care expenses, uncovered medical and health expenses on an ongoing basis, and the children's health insurance. The Court also uses what's called a "gross up" method to account for overnights of the parties. At the bottom of the calculation, we are left with both parties' child support obligations.

This blog post is informational and not intended to provide legal advice in any way whatsoever. This post does not create a relationship between the reader and Bouchard Law, P.A.

What is a "dependency" case?

A dependency case is a civil action brought to the Circuit Court by the State through the Department of Children and Families (DCF). These types of cases are initiated based on allegations of abuse, abandonment or neglect of a child. 

When the court system becomes involved and a case is actually opened by DCF, typically the first step involves "sheltering" the child at a Shelter Hearing. This is where DCF has the burden of proving they have probably cause to believe abuse, neglect or abandonment of the child has occurred and it is then necessary to remove the child from the parent and place the child with another family member, friend, or foster parent.

The dependency process falls under Chapter 39 of the Florida Statutes. Like any other case, the process can vary based on the circumstances and allegations. Therefore, it is important that if you find yourself involved in this type of proceeding that you contact an attorney and discuss your rights and the procedure.

Here you can find a flowchart of how dependency cases may go: http://www.flcourts.org/core/fileparse.php/559/urlt/Floridas_Dependency_Flow_Chart_page1.pdf

This blog post does not create an attorney-client relationship nor is it intended to give legal advice.

Florida Family Law App

Many Florida people must represent themselves in court or in filing a case for domestic relations, divorce, custody, and other family law related cases due to various reasons.

Our firm offers "unbundled" services, such as review of pro se, someone who is not represented by a lawyer, documents and pleadings, informational consultations, and limited appearance for court dates and filings representation, depending on the case. Contact us today for a case evaluation and to see if we can assist you with these services.

There is also an app that can assist you with navigating the court system called Florida Courts Help. This tool was recently created by the Florida Commission on Access to Civil Justice. The app works on Apple and Android devices and offers a spot for people to access Supreme Court approved family law forms, links and content to information for help centers in Florida, instructions for how to proceed with your case, and information regarding low-cost legal services, lawyer referrals, and eligibility criteria. 

 

"Gray divorce" on the rise

A recent Pew Research Center article states that among U.S. adults ages 50 and older, the divorce rate has roughly doubled since the 1990s.

"The climbing divorce rate for adults ages 50 and older is linked in part to the aging of the Baby Boomers, who now make up the bulk of this age group. (As of 2015, Baby Boomers ranged in age from 51 to 69.)," according to Research Analyst, Renee Stepler, author of "Led by Baby Boomers, Divorce Rates Climb for America's 50+ Population" published March 9, 2017. 

Noted consequences of these "gray divorces" include becoming less financially secure than married and widowed adults, living alone at older ages, and having less satisfaction with social lives.

Source: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/03/09/led-by-baby-boomers-divorce-rates-climb-for-americas-50-population/

 

What is mediation?

“ 'Mediation' means a process whereby a neutral third person called a mediator acts to encourage and facilitate the resolution of a dispute between two or more parties. It is an informal and nonadversarial process with the objective of helping the disputing parties reach a mutually acceptable and voluntary agreement. In mediation, decisionmaking authority rests with the parties. The role of the mediator includes, but is not limited to, assisting the parties in identifying issues, fostering joint problem solving, and exploring settlement alternatives." See Fla. Stat. Sect. 44.1011

Particularly, “ '[f]amily mediation' means mediation of family matters, including married and unmarried persons, before and after judgments involving dissolution of marriage; property division; shared or sole parental responsibility; or child support, custody, and visitation involving emotional or financial considerations not usually present in other circuit civil cases. Negotiations in family mediation are primarily conducted by the parties. Counsel for each party may attend the mediation conference and privately communicate with their clients. However, presence of counsel is not required, and, in the discretion of the mediator, and with the agreement of the parties, mediation may proceed in the absence of counsel unless otherwise ordered by the court." See Fla. Stat. Sect. 44.1011 (d)

In all family matters, the court orders you to participate in mediation. Court mediation is offered for parties earning a combined income of less than $100,000 annual gross income. This mediation is held for 3 hours at a courthouse and depending on the circuit, a contracted attorney and/or mediator or a court-employed mediator acts as mediator. The mediator holds a specific certificate that allows him/her to act in this role. Mediators are not always attorneys and are not always family law, marital law, or Florida attorneys.

Private mediators are often utilized in cases that are high conflict, deal with multiple assets and liabilities, have special considerations regarding parenting, or have parties who earn over the allowable amount for court mediation. These mediations tend to be effective as the parties typically invest their time and money for the purpose of reaching an agreement as to some or all of the issues involved in the case.

This blog post is not intended to provide any legal advice whatsoever. This post does not create a legal relationship between Bouchard Law, P.A. and the reader and is merely intended to provide general information to the reader.

Tax consequences of divorce: Alimony recipients & tax withholding

If you are awarded alimony as part of a divorce settlement or divorce final judgment, typically these monies are not subject to tax withholding. Therefore, there may be a resulting tax liability, which should be looked at by a tax advisor so you are fully aware and prepared to pay the liability. 

Also, due to your status changing from married to single, a tax advisor can adequately inform you of the benefits/or loss of benefits that occurs due to the change in filing status from married to individual or single.

A tax professional can assist you with filling out a new W-4, if necessary. This form instructs your employer to withhold federal income tax from your pay, which may differ post-divorce due to the new status of becoming single.

This blog post is not intended to provide readers with legal advice or tax advice in any way. This does not create a legal relationship or agreement between the reader and Bouchard Law, P.A. Bouchard Law, P.A. and its attorneys and staff do not claim to be experts in tax matters.  Bouchard Law, P.A. recommends consulting a tax professional to fully evaluate your tax implications and consequences of your particular position.

Tax consequences of divorce: Dependency exemption

In Florida, the parent that has the child the majority of the time typically receives the tax exemption from the IRS. However, within marital settlement agreements, the parties may negotiate for the parent with a lesser amount of overnights to alternate the exemption or have this exemption every year. For example, if the parent with the majority of the time does not need to file taxes, that parent may utilize this dependency exemption as a bargaining chip (worth approximately $4,050.00 in 2017 as a deduction).

The IRS requires in these types of scenarios for the parents to file a Form 8332 in order to allow the "noncustodial" or parent will lesser amounts of time-sharing to take the exemption.

Another consideration is the actual value of the exemption. Currently, for every $2,500.00 above $287,650.00 in gross income, the value of the exemption is reduced by 2 percent, up to $410,150.00 total gross income. After that gross income point, the exemption can no longer be taken.

This blog post is not intended to provide readers with legal advice or tax advice in any way. This does not create a legal relationship or agreement between the reader and Bouchard Law, P.A. Bouchard Law, P.A. and its attorneys and staff do not claim to be experts in tax matters.  Bouchard Law, P.A. recommends consulting a tax professional to fully evaluate your tax implications and consequences of your particular position.

 

Tax consequences of divorce: Alimony

Alimony

For those who may be on the hook for on-going alimony payments, the word "alimony" may seem like a dirty word. However, many overlook the tax benefit of classifying payments as "alimony" versus something different, such as a property distribution.

Alimony is currently considered a taxable event meaning the recipient of the alimony is receiving taxable income. The alimony as paid is tax-deductible to the paying party, provided the settlement agreement does not state otherwise. This has been in the tax code since 1942.

But buyer beware! Tax changes are on the horizon. "Because of the new tax law, spouses paying alimony won’t be able to take a deduction while spouses receiving alimony will no longer have to report it as income..." reports the American Bar Association. Come 2019, alimony will no longer be a taxable event, which means no more tax deduction and more money flowing to the government due to the payers of alimony mostly being part of higher tax brackets.

Source: http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/new_tax_law_affects_alimony_could_spur_divorce_surge/

This blog post is not intended to provide readers with legal advice or tax advice in any way. This does not create a legal relationship or agreement between the reader and Bouchard Law, P.A. Bouchard Law, P.A. and its attorneys and staff do not claim to be experts in tax matters.  Bouchard Law, P.A. recommends consulting a tax professional to fully evaluate your tax implications and consequences of your particular position.

 

Florida Fatherhood

A common question I receive is, "What are my rights as a Father if I am named on the birth certificate?" Many times, fathers say they have a "custody" case that they wish to pursue.

Many couples start a family and live in a committed relationship, but what happens when the relationship sours? What are father's rights in Florida?

The legal system requires fathers to file what is called a "Paternity" case in order to legally establish fatherhood. This is a circuit court case that involves the couple (or the court) coming up with a Parenting Plan that addresses child support, parental responsibility, and a time-sharing schedule. 

If there is a dispute as to biological paternity, that will be looked at first. The Court may require DNA testing. If there is no dispute, which is the more common scenario, the couple may sign a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity or stipulate as to the paternity. Thereby, establishing the paternity. In some cases, paternity has already been established by the Department of Revenue in a child support proceeding. However, in these cases, the Dept. cannot go further to establish any right to time-sharing for the father.

The next step is for the couple to work on a parenting plan that is in the best interest of the child(ren). The parenting plan addresses how decisions will be made on behalf of the child (called "parental responsibility"), such as medical and educational decisions. It sets forth a child support obligation, a time-sharing schedule, holiday schedule, obligations on how uncovered medical expenses, health insurance, and extra-curricular expenses will be paid.

Contact us today to set a consultation to discuss your rights. (941) 764-1146