Disestablishment of Paternity in Florida

If you are a being asked or forced by a court order to pay child support for a child for whom you believe you are not the biological father you should review the article/blog written by the law firm, Ayo & Iken. Click on the attached link below.  In summary, the article describes disestablishment of paternity and provides a detailed example of a situation in which a non-biological father is obligated to pay child support.  The article discusses biological father versus legal father and lists the four basic situations in which a man could be the legal father for purposes of assuming rights and obligations as a father; one obligation of which is to pay child support.  In addition, the article discusses the process of disestablishing paternity and situations in which the court would allow such a disestablishment and when the court would deny such a request for disestablishment.

https://www.myfloridalaw.com/child-custody-law/disestablishment-of-paternity-florida/

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Tips for Florida Parenting Plans

If you are divorcing and have minor children or are co-parenting children out of wedlock and you are not living with the other parent, you will need a parenting plan.  There are three template parenting plan court forms:  Forms 12.995(a), (b), and (c).  Which version you use depends on your circumstances.  The forms are comprehensive; however, they are missing a few basic co-parenting principles.  These common-sense principles are so obvious you may question why they should even be mentioned in a plan.  However, it is worth reducing these principles to writing in the event circumstances change and you have to fall back on the plan.

First, you and your co-parent should consider identifying a couple of family members or other close family friends to stand in for each of you in the event one parent is unable co-parent or perform the obligations under the parenting plan for an extended period.  These individuals should be asked in advance of naming them in the plan if they would be willing to help and take on some of the visitation times if one parent is not available.

Second, each parent should refrain from speaking negatively about the other parent and prevent others from speaking negatively of the other parent when the child(ren) are within hearing distance.

Third, you should obtain your co-parent’s consent prior to signing your child(ren) up for extracurricular activities that will occur during your co-parent’s scheduled time with the child(ren).

Also, each parent should care for the clothing and other possessions owned by the other parent which are brought to their homes by the child(ren).  Such clothing should be returned to the other parent laundered unless still being worn because the visit did not include an overnight stay.

Additionally, depending on the age of your child(ren), routines should remain the same at each home.  For example, eating, napping, watching TV or playing videos, doing homework, outdoor activities and going to bed should occur at about the same times at each home.

Further, each parent should obtain permission from the other parent before certain material activities are performed or activities are taken.  These include engaging in potentially unsafe activities like scuba diving, allowing cosmetic surgery, tattoos or body piercing and making life- altering decisions, such selecting a college or joining the military.

Southwest Florida Divorce and Family Mediation Services

Michael Zizza

Florida Supreme-court Certified Family Mediator

www.guidingpathmediation.com

michael@guidingpathmediation.com

(239) 631-6755

Ten Considerations Before Developing a Parenting Plan

 

When you and your spouse are divorcing in Florida, there are several court forms that must be completed.  Form 12.995 is the parenting plan.  Unlike the other court forms, the parenting plan needs to be developed and not simply completed.  The parenting plan needs to consider many aspects of the children’s lives and all the details need to be carefully thought through.  A family law attorney or certified mediator can help you prepare a parenting plan, but you and your spouse as the parents are the best-qualified individuals to develop the plan.  Furthermore, it is the parents and, more importantly, the children who ultimately must live with the plan. Please devote the time necessary to develop a plan that will result in happier and well-adjusted children.

This blog is not meant to be a comprehensive guide on how to develop a parenting plan, but rather provides ten basic tips to keep in mind while developing the plan:

  1. The children’s interests, education, and safety must come first.
  1. For the plan to be a success, its development must be a joint effort of both the father and mother. Put your emotions aside and consider plan development as a business relationship.
  1. Well-structured parenting plans take into account each parent’s schedule, coupled with the necessary activities of the children.
  1. Be realistic when determining how much time you can spend with your children. Do not think about child support payments.  It is not fair to the children and under performance of parenting time will create conflicts and may have a negative impact on the children’s emotions and result in disappointment.
  1. When developing the plan with your spouse, start with the elements not in controversy. If you start with the most contentious element, the entire process will be exhausting.
  1. The plan can be as detailed as you and your spouse desire. Also, there can be some flexibility built into your plan and this may be desirable if you and your spouse are presently maintaining a somewhat amicable relationship.  However, disagreement may arise in the future and both of you may need a written schedule to fall back on if you have a dispute.
  1. Children acclimate better, particularly at a young age, with a primary home and frequent visits at the other parent’s home. However, also keep in mind that too many visits mean many transitions back and forth for the children and more exchanges for the parents.  Older children are more able to adjust to being away from one parent for longer periods of time.
  1. Consider the amount of time the children must spend in an automobile or other form of transportation when deciding on the frequency of times spent with each parent.
  1. Consistency from week to week tends to work best, although a two-week or monthly cycle can work fine depending on the circumstances. Regardless of the routine cycle that you and your spouse select, maintain consistency.  Generally, the routine cycle should only be trumped by vacations.  In turn, vacations and the routine cycle should only be trumped by holidays and special events such as birthdays and graduations.  This rule is particularly true if the parents live relatively close to one another.
  1. Devote the time to performing the research on the details of developing a parenting plan. There is an abundance of information online.  Seek advice from professionals and friends who are presently using a parenting plan. It will result in a much friendlier future for you, your ex-spouse, and the children.

Southwest Florida Divorce and Family Mediation Services

Michael Zizza

Florida Supreme-court Certified Family Mediator

www.guidingpathmediation.com

michael@guidingpathmediation.com

(239) 631-6755

Information and Document Checklist for Getting a Divorce in Florida

The following is a practical guide as to what you and your spouse will need to complete the court forms needed for filing for a divorce in Florida.  Do not be overwhelmed by other divorce checklists you may see during your internet research.  If you and your spouse are in general agreement with the elements of the divorce settlement such as child visitation and distribution of assets and liabilities, then divorce litigation may not be necessary and you may not want to engage attorneys.

Rather, you may what to hire a non-lawyer, such as a certified family mediator, to assist you in identifying and completing the court forms.  If that is the case and there are no other complicated circumstances (such as the division of a retirement account), then the following list identifies the twenty documents and items of information that are needed for the non-lawyer you select to assist you in completing the court forms and preparing you to file the divorce petition.

  1. Proof of residency. Either you or your spouse must be able to demonstrate that one of you has lived in Florida for at least six months.  Residency may be proven with a current Florida driver’s license, Florida identification card, or voter’s registration card.  The issue date of the document must be at least six months before the date the case is filed with the clerk of the circuit court;
  2. Full and formal names of each spouse;
  3. Full residential address of where each spouse is living;
  4. E-mail address of each spouse;
  5. Phone number of each spouse;
  6. Employer’s name, address and phone number for each spouse;
  7. Date of birth of each spouse;
  8. Social Security Number of each spouse;
  1. Date of marriage;
  2. If separated, date of separation;
  3. The full and formal name of each minor child;
  4. The date of birth of each minor child;
  5. Social Security Number of each minor child;
  6. Annual total compensation of each spouse (e.g., salary, bonus, tips, etc.);
  7. Gross pay rate per pay period and pay period (e.g., weekly, every other week, monthly);
  1. A pay stub from each spouse will be extremely helpful in completing the financial affidavit court forms. The pay stub will indicate types and amounts of deductions from the gross pay (e.g., income tax, Medicare, insurance, employer loans, union dues, etc.);
  1. Tax filing status (e.g., probably married) and number of dependents claimed by each spouse. Your employer or its payroll department would have this information.  If you know the filing status and number of dependents to be claimed after the divorce it will result in more accurate financial affidavits;
  1. List of ongoing monthly expenses anticipated separately by each spouse after the divorce, including credit card and loan payments, food, gasoline, automobile maintenance and children expenses (e.g., day care, clothing, lunch money and health and dental insurance);
  1. A list of assets, such as automobiles, clothes, jewelry, furniture, cash, televisions, retirement accounts (name of accounts and account numbers), bank accounts (bank name, name on the accounts, and account numbers). Walk through your house and make a list.  Estimate the value of each asset and be realistic.  Identify any assets that you believe belong to you only and should not be divided (e.g., nonmarital asset). As stated in the financial affidavit court form, typically you will only list an asset as nonmarital if it was owned by one spouse before the marriage.  Section 61.075(1) of the Florida Statutes defines marital and nonmarital assets.
  1. A list of liabilities, such as the balances of credit cards, automobile loans, mortgages, employer loans, etc. Be specific and identify lenders’ names and account numbers. Identify any liabilities that you believe belong to you only and should not be divided (e.g., nonmarital liability).

 

Southwest Florida Divorce and Family Mediation Services

Michael Zizza

Florida Supreme-court Certified Family Mediator

www.guidingpathmediation.com

michael@guidingpathmediation.com

(239) 631-6755

Need Help in Your Florida Divorce and Do Not Want to Spend Money on Attorneys?

Many divorcing couples agree on the division of assets and a shared parenting schedule.  However, they are confused about the divorce process and what to do.  They don’t know what court forms to fill out and how to fill them out.  As a result, one or both spouses will hire a lawyer and pay up to $300 an hour for the attorney to prepare and file the court documents.  

 

It has become increasingly common for couples to engage a Florida state certified family mediator for assistance and guidance through the divorce process.  Even if the divorcing couple doesn’t need mediation because they are in full agreement, they still hire a mediator as a more affordable alternative to an expensive attorney.  

 

If you and your spouse are divorcing and are in agreement concerning all or most matters relating to the dissolution, consider working with a mediator.  A certified mediator can identify the forms that need to be completed, explain how to complete the forms, prepare a parenting plan and settlement agreement and perform child support calculations.  Some mediators can perform all of the above activities for less than $500.

TYPES OF DIVORCES IN FLORIDA

Below is an explanation of divorce options in Florida.  In reading this explanation, you will realize the benefits of using a mediator as opposed to an expensive attorney. Southwest Florida Divorce and Family Mediation Services mediates throughout Florida and can assist you in your divorce.  You can contact us at (239) 631-6755 or michael@guidingpathmediation.com.

There are two types of divorces options under Florida law. They include the simplified dissolution of marriage or the regular dissolution of marriage.  Regular dissolutions of marriage can be either uncontested or connected.   Below is a summary of the two divorce options.

The Simplified Dissolution of Marriage.  As indicated by its name, the simplified dissolution is the easiest option.  The divorcing spouses do not need to hire attorneys to represent them.  However, the simplified dissolution can only be used under certain circumstances.  First, the spouses cannot have any minor children (i.e., children under the age of 18 years) and the wife cannot be pregnant.  Second, each spouse must complete the Financial Affidavit court form and the Marital Settlement Agreement for Simplified Dissolution of Marriage court form.  These forms are available online at www.flcourts.org.  It is worth a trip to the courthouse to speak to the clerk of the court, as there will be other minor filing requirements.  Clerks are generally able to answer general questions regarding other filing requirements.  Last, both spouses are required to attend the divorce hearing.

The Uncontested Regular Dissolution of Marriage.  A regular dissolution of marriage can be uncontested or contested.  In uncontested divorce cases, the spouses are not in dispute and agree on shared parenting, equitable distribution of assets and liability, alimony and child support.  The spouses must enter into a marital settlement agreement and each must complete a financial affidavit.  Also, both spouses are required to attend the final divorce hearing.  There will be other ancillary documents that need to be completed and filed.  Typically, an uncontested divorce will require that each spouse retain an attorney who will charge hourly at fairly significant rates.  Alternatively, the couple can hire a family mediator at about half the attorney’s hourly rate to (i) develop a mutually acceptable settlement agreement and parenting agreement; (ii) calculate child support payments; and (iii) assist in completing all the necessary court documents, including the financial affidavit.

The Contested Regular Dissolution of Marriage.   In contested divorce cases, the spouses are not in agreement with various aspects of the divorce.  If your divorce is contested, each spouse would generally hire an attorney to provide legal advice and prepare for litigation if a settlement cannot be reached.  The cost of a contested divorce will be considerably greater than an uncontested divorce.  However, a family mediator can assist the disputing couple at considerably lower costs.  As in the uncontested divorce, both spouses are required to attend the final divorce hearing and complete the necessary court forms.

 

Florida Parenting Classes

If you are divorcing or have a child custody matter, you should consider going to a mediator since it is significantly less expensive than each spouse/parent hiring an attorney.  As a mediator, I can assist you in settling the matter and during the process I will (i) develop a settlement agreement and a parenting plan; (ii) perform child support calculations; and (iii) assist each spouse in completing all the necessary court forms.  You can contact me at michael@guidingpathmediation.com or (239) 631-6755.

Florida Parenting Classes

Like many states, Florida also mandates divorcing spouses with minor children to attend a four-hour parenting course:  Parent Education and Family Stabilization Course.  The course covers such topics as shared child-rearing, children’s emotions during divorce, unique family dynamics, financial obligations and child abuse and neglect.

The course must be completed prior to the court finalizing the divorce.  However, it is recommended that the parents complete the course early in the divorce process.  The course must be approved by the Florida Department of Children and Families.  There are numerous providers that offer the course.

The course generally costs between $20 and $40 and is offered in a classroom setting or online.  In-class courses are generally more expensive, but are often recommended, as they offer parents an opportunity to ask questions and listen to other parents’ unique experiences.

Online courses may be preferable for those spouses that cannot attend the full four-hour block of instruction at one time.  Online courses provide the flexibility of learning at an individual’s own pace that is manageable based on a parent’s daily schedule.  A parent can log off whenever necessary and the time will be automatically logged.

If you are interested in taking the course in a classroom setting, the following link provides class dates, locations, and registration information throughout Florida with a search by county feature: http://parentinganddivorce.educationprograms.com/Parents-Children-Divorce-Classes-Florida.php?SiteCounty

If you are interested in taking the course online, the following link is a Florida Department of Children and Families listing of approved providers of the course, along with contact information for registration:  http://www.dcf.state.fl.us/programs/childwelfare/docs/ParentEducationAndFamilyStabilization.pdf

If you do not know which judicial circuit your county is in, the following link provides a map of Florida illustrating which judicial circuit each county is in: http://www.floridamediators.org/CircuitMap.html