How is Child Support Determined in Divorce?

On behalf of The Law Office of Wickersham and Bowers posted in Family Law on Tuesday October 12th, 2021

When parents split, the divorce settlement indicates who the children will reside with, and the child support also concludes the circumstances under which the other parent would meet the child. Parents frequently need to work out such arrangements, either voluntarily or with the help of their attorneys. However, if they cannot come to an amicable agreement, the court may step in to make the best decision in the child’s favor.

Matter of Consideration in Child Custody Decisions:

The court evaluates several variables while selecting who will receive custody. Although it can be challenging to ascertain, the court is focused on what will be the best option for the child. The parent who has been the primary caretaker is often the deciding factor. If the children are of legal age, the court will consider their wishes while making a custody judgment.

Some common factors influencing the court’s decision are as follows:

  • Interaction and relationships with other family members
  • Child’s age and their sex
  • Parent’s mental and physical health
  • Religious or cultural concerns
  • Stable home environment
  • School and community adjustments
  • Evidence of drug or alcohol misuse
  • Excessive parental discipline or emotional abuse

Types of Joint Custody Agreements:

Once the investigation ends, the Judge will decide between the following two custody types:

1. Joint Physical Custody

Joint Physical Custody entails the child living with both parents for “substantial periods”. The children will have “regular and continuing contact” with each parent.

However, this does not imply that the child has to spend equal time with both parents. The child would spend half of their time with the primary custodial parent.

2. Joint Legal Custody:

Joint Legal Custody is when both parents decide to share the right and obligation to make significant decisions for their child with mutual understanding. The decisions made may include:

  • Childcare costs or schooling
  • Child’s residence
  • Religious entities or activities
  • Health issues

Some differences may occur during the process of making these decisions, which may necessitate the court’s involvement.

Need Assistance? Contact Us Today:

The fear of losing your beloved child can cause severe and long-lasting anxiety. Thus, you must seek the assistance of a knowledgeable attorney to guide you through this challenging procedure. Contact us today to get a quote.

Dealing with a Domestic Violence Restraining Order

On behalf of The Law Office of Wickersham and Bowers posted in Family Law on Monday September 13th, 2021

It is neither easy to be a victim of domestic violence nor is it manageable to fight a case against it all on your own. Dealing with a restraining order for domestic violence can lead to grave consequences.

Consequences of domestic violence 

  1. Deportation: You may be vulnerable to losing your legal status in the United States. 
  2. Imprisonment: It will cost you your freedom, with 1 to 3 years of jail time.
  3. Time loss: You will be required to attend a conflict and accountability program for 52 weeks.
  4. Financial loss: In some cases, you may be charged with a penalty of $10,000.
  5. Career barriers: General livelihood and career is affected as the domestic violence charges will be added to your history.
  6. Order to stay away from home: If your partner lives in the same house and is parenting a child, the court may order you to leave the house as it will interfere with the child’s upbringing.

However, there are cases in which the accusations on the individual are false. In that case, there are several ways to defend yourself.

False allegations: 

There can be different reasons why your partner would falsely accuse you of domestic violence. It can gain their benefits in the family court and help them to obtain custody of the child. However, defending yourself is your legal right. The attorney will help you conduct a background check of your partner for any history of false allegations they might have.

Self-defense 

If you want to protect yourself against any dangerous situation, you may use self-defense. However, it could be used against you in court to degrade your records. Moreover, the pressure on police to arrest the oppressor can also make them take the wrong decision at times. 

The attorney will help you find evidence of any past injury through medical history or photographs to prove that you are not the oppressor. Secondly, the complete story can also help you give an edge in the court. 

Accidental injury 

A fight can turn into an accident sometimes. Either your partner or the police can take advantage of the situation and arrest you in the case of domestic violence. However, you can defend yourself with the help of a skilled attorney. Proofs can be provided about how the whole incident happened with the help of the attorney. To know more, get in touch to book an appointment so that we can discuss your particular case in detail. 

Keeping Children Safe During Divorce Proceedings

On behalf of The Law Office of Wickersham and Bowers posted in Family Law on Wednesday August 11th, 2021

It can be difficult to know what is best for children or how best to keep them safe during an ongoing divorce. It is important to understand the rights and responsibilities that are in place from the moment a divorce petition is filed so that children are kept safe and both parties can come out of the divorce with their parental rights and relationships intact. 

Know the Rules During a Divorce 

Regardless of the situation, it is important to know that once a legal separation is granted and divorce proceedings begin, neither parent is allowed to take children out of the state in which the divorce is occurring. 

This is done to safeguard the children and to determine the state of the family at the time of the divorce. 

What this means though is that planned trips, vacations, or other activities may have to be put on hold while the process is ongoing. 

Be Honest and Forthright

It is important to include both parents in the divorce discussion and to be as open and honest as possible without blaming or shaming either parent during the conversation. 

It also helps to allow children to express their feelings and concerns as well as ask any questions they may have about what is going to happen moving forward. It is important to remember that while the divorce is going on, it’s not a good idea to discuss custody or living arrangements unless the courts have already made a decision regarding those facts. 

The goal is to make the process as smooth as possible for the children while handling the logistics of the divorce. 

Never Use Children as Intermediaries or Bargaining Chips 

Remember that the divorce should be settled by the parents, the courts, and the legal representatives on either side. This means that children should largely be kept out of the legal proceedings. 

Using the children to communicate with your spouse should never be an option. Neither is using your children to gain leverage or information on your spouse. 

At Wickersham and Bowers we know that divorces can be messy and painful endeavors, but that’s why it’s important to have the right legal representation to help make the process as simple and pain free as it can be. 

If you’re considering a divorce, contact us today for a consultation

What to Do if You Suspect Your Ex of Neglect or Abuse

On behalf of The Law Office of Wickersham and Bowers posted in Family Law on Monday July 12th, 2021.

Separation or divorce from a spouse or partner is never easy, especially when there are children involved. You will want to maintain as civil a relationship with your ex as possible. However, what should you do if you are concerned your ex is neglecting or abusing your children? Here are some tips you need to follow before you call child protection. 

Think Before You Call

First, you need to make sure that you separate the grievances you have with your ex from any perceived problems your children are experiencing. Even if you can’t stand the sight of your ex, your children most likely don’t feel the same way. Your parenting style and their parenting style may not be the same either. Your kids may come back to your house after a weekend visitation and tell you that your ex let them eat ice cream for breakfast–although it’s not what you would do, it also isn’t really causing your kids any harm. 

There are warning signs you can look for if you suspect your ex is neglecting your children while they are with them. If you have concerns, begin keeping a record of events. For example, if your child comes back home dirty, unkempt, and in the same clothes you sent them in, you need to make a note of it. Children who are neglected often go without food as well, or they are left unattended for long periods of time when they are not old enough to care for themselves. Write down all the information your children tell you, so that you can go to police or child protection services if you need to. 

Neglect is a far different problem than abuse is. If your children come home with bruises, cuts, or burns that cannot be explained, you may need to take additional action, especially if this occurs each time your child visits your ex. You need to take into consideration normal childhood bumps and bruises. Children get hurt all the time, because they are so active. However, if there is a pattern of “accidents”, or if you child tells you the “accident” occurred because the other parent was angry, you may need to make some phone calls, especially if your child required a trip to the hospital. Of course, nearly every state, including Florida, mandates that doctors and other medical staff report any suspicion of abuse to child protection services. Once you have a list of concerns, you may need to contact a lawyer in addition to protecting your child. That way, you may be able to have visitation changed, so that your children are always under supervision. 

Can You Get a Divorce if Your Spouse Just Up and Left?

On behalf of The Law Office of Wickersham and Bowers posted in Family Law on Monday June 14th, 2021.

Can You Get a Divorce if Your Spouse Just Up and Left?

When one spouse walks out on another, severs all ties, does not take care of their share of financial obligations, and has no intention of returning, this is called marital abandonment, or desertion. Abandonment is quite different from a separation, which occurs when a married couple agrees to separate, either temporarily or permanently. Separation is not abandonment unless the spouse that leaves refuses to provide support or take care of financial obligations without cause. In some states with fault-based divorce, this is known as “willful desertion,” and comes in two types.

Criminal Abandonment

Criminal abandonment occurs when one spouse no longer provides for the care, support, and protection of the other spouse who has health problems, or a minor child, without “just cause.” As an example, if your spouse came down with a terminal disease and you did not feel you could continue to take care of them, the court will not accept this position as grounds for divorce.

Constructive Abandonment

When one spouse makes it intolerable for their spouse to stay, the person leaving can claim constructive abandonment. Being abusive, having a chronic addiction, or adultery could be used as a claim for constructive abandonment.

Claiming Abandonment

Before you can claim abandonment as grounds for divorce, you have to make sure your state allows abandonment as grounds. Some strictly no-fault states will not allow you to use abandonment as a legal tool.

To use abandonment as grounds for divorce, you will have to prove to the court that abandonment really took place. You will need to prove, as the plaintiff, that the defendant left your home and has failed to meet their financial obligations for the required period of time in your state. You must also prove there was no just cause for your spouse to leave, for things like abuse, addiction, or adultery.

If you feel you may have been abandoned by your spouse, or if you aren’t sure and would like to talk to someone to clarify your situation, contact the Law Office of Wickersham & Bowers. Schedule an appointment with one of our attorneys today.

The Implications of the Gates’ Divorce Since There Was No Prenup

On behalf of The Law Office of Wickersham and Bowers posted in Family Law on Wednesday May 12, 2021.

The recent announcement by billionaire couple Bill and Melinda Gates that they were divorcing after 27 years of marriage caught the world’s attention, as did the fact that they have no prenuptial agreement (prenup) but instead have a “separation contract” that specifies how their property will be split up when they separate. A prenup would have been agreed upon before the couple’s marriage, and would have spelled out how exactly their property would be divided in the event of a legal separation or a divorce. In contrast, a separation contract is part of a divorce proceeding because a divorce demands that a couple separate their property. In their divorce petition, the couple requested that their personal property, real property, and debts be divided based on the terms of their separation contract, which is a confidential document. 

Washington’s Community Property Law could apply to the Gates Divorce

Certain states such as Louisiana, Arizona, Texas, California, and Washington, where the couple lives, have laws stating that all assets obtained during a marriage that were not given as gifts or are part of an inheritance are considered to be “community property.” And, when a prenup is not created, community property should be divided equally (50/50) between the partners when a divorce occurs. Thus, the standard community property law of the State of Washington regarding equitable distribution may be applicable in the Gates case. All premarital assets will be exempt from equal distribution as long as it can be established that they were personally owned before the divorce was initiated. 

Community versus Separate Property

In states that recognize community property, such as Washington, marital property is equally owned by both spouses. Such property includes income, any property that was purchased with this income, and all debts that were accumulated throughout the course of their marriage. The laws regarding community property begin with the start of a marriage, and they end when the couple becomes physically separated and has the goal of discontinuing the marriage. Thus, any income or debts created afterwards will be deemed separate property that is owned only by the original owner. 

 Deciding how to divide assets usually involves the following steps:

  1. All assets and debts are classified as being either community or separate property
  2. Each asset is assigned a value through an expert appraisal or by the couple’s agreement
  3. The assets and debts are divided evenly between the spouses. 

A spouse is not permitted to move, modify, or get rid of any portion of community property without the other’s consent, but can manage his or her own half. However, the whole includes the other spouse’s half interest; that is, a spouse cannot be separated from the half of the property that belongs to them. Moreover, Washington state law stipulates that the court’s division of the divorcing couple’s property be “just and equitable.”

Do I Need an Attorney to Adopt a Stepchild?

On behalf of The Law Office of Wickersham and Bowers posted in Family Law on Monday April 12, 2021.

Although most newborn and Department of Children and Families adoptions in Florida need to be carried out by attorneys or adoption agencies, those involving stepparents do not, although help from an attorney can greatly expedite the process. Under Florida law, a stepparent adoption gives a married person the same parental rights and responsibilities over his or her stepchild as those of the birth parent. The legal consequence of such an adoption is granted by a court order known as a Final Judgment of Step Parent Adoption, by which the adopting parent becomes a parent on an equal basis with his or her spouse. The birth certificate is changed to reflect the names of both the stepparent and the natural parent. A stepparent adoption simply legalizes the parental relationship that already exists, making it official and legally valid and solidifying the bond between the child and the adopting parent.

The Legal Process for Completing a Stepparent Adoption

In Florida, the first phase of a stepparent adoption involves determining if the stepparent is qualified to adopt. Providing that the person can offer effective parenting and is married to a legal parent of the child, the person should be allowed to legally adopt.

The court case starts by filing a petition for adoption. The petitioner is the stepparent–the person adopting the child, who is then joined by the spouse. To file a stepparent adoption in Florida, the petition must include the following information:

  • The child’s date and place of birth
  • The surname the child will be given if it is being changed
  • A statement regarding how long the stepparent has lived with the child
  • Reasons for which the stepparent desires to adopt the child.

Filing the petition starts the process then the absent parent has a chance to oppose the adoption. If the absent parent avoids contesting the adoption or consents, the court will finalize the adoption, giving the child a new birth certificate showing his or her new surname and parents.

If you and want to learn about how our experienced Florida family law attorneys can help you with expediting your stepparent adoption or wish to schedule a consultation, please call us toll free at 386-252-3000 or fill out the contact form on our website. We have helped countless couples in southern Florida with stepparent adoptions, and can easily take care of the entire process for you.

What Is an Alimony Waiver and Am I Eligible to Get One?

On behalf of The Law Office of Wickersham and Bowers posted in Family Law on Monday March 8, 2021.

Alimony is a form of spousal support once you are divorced. You will usually receive it as a monthly payment as agreed by a Court or in a settlement. However, an alimony waiver is when you agree that you and/or your spouse will not be awarded any support. If you decide to waive alimony during your divorce, you will also be waiving any claim for future support.

The Purpose of Alimony

Alimony is there to help prevent any unfair financial effects as a result of a divorce. For example, if you have been a stay-at-home parent for many years and find yourself in need of an income after a divorce. In this case, you could benefit from alimony to help support you.

Why You May Waive Alimony

There are many reasons why you may decide to waive alimony, however, here are some of the most common reasons:

  • You have never relied on your spouse for financial support
  • You are the main earner in your household
  • You have not been married for very long
  • You and your spouse earn similar wages
  • You are confident you will be able to support yourself

It is important to note that an alimony waiver does not have to be mutual. Alimony can be waived by you but not necessarily by your spouse.

What Happens When You Waive Alimony?

When you decide to waive alimony, it is a permanent agreement that you cannot modify in the future. So, what happens when you feel confident in being able to support yourself at the time of the divorce but do not want to waive your rights to alimony in the future? In this case, you may want to consider entering an agreement for your spouse to pay you “one dollar a year” in support. As a result of this, it will leave room for you to ask for a rise in alimony in the future if you feel that you need it.

Receiving an award of “one dollar a year” may be appropriate for you if:

  • Your future employment is uncertain
  • You have health concerns that are preventing you from knowing if you will be able to support yourself in the future
  • You and your spouse are of old age
  • There is a chance that your spouses’ income will significantly increase in the future

The Law Office of Wickersham and Bowers provides top-notch legal representation to clients in Daytona and southern Florida. Our areas of legal practice include family lawpersonal injuryeminent domain, and estate planning and probate. Our firm has over 60 years of addressing our clients’ legal issues. Please feel free to contact us by filling out our online form or calling us at (386) 252-3000.

How Having the Right Attorney Can Make Your Adoption Go Smoother

On behalf of The Law Office of Wickersham and Bowers posted in Family Law on Friday February 5, 2021

The process of adopting a child is a long and complicated one. The combination of federal laws, state laws, the ambiguity of current laws, and the many factors that can complicate, impede, or stop the adoption process can make the adoption process seem impossible. Family law lawyers with experience and intense focus can help adoptive parents and birth parents navigate through the legal process and dramatically reduce the time and cost associated with the legal process.

Anticipating Problems Before They Arise

Many factors regarding the adoption can delay or prevent the adoption process if they are not adequately addressed. Experienced family law lawyers can help potential parents mitigate the impact of factors including one biological parent challenging the adoption, the adoptive parents’ financial histories, and any criminal records that the adoptive parents may have. 

Selecting the Best Option for the Adoptive Parents and the Birth Parents

There are multiple types of legal adoptions, including foster adoptions through the state, private agencies and matches arranged by attorneys. Family law lawyers can inform the parties involved about each option’s advantages and issues, guiding the parties involved towards the adoption type best suited for their circumstances.

Maintaining Progress and Clearing Blocking Issues

Adoptions require multiple parts and actions, and any delays or non-compliance can increase the time and cost involved with the adoption process. Family law lawyers can keep current with the adoption process, providing the parties involved with timely updates and collecting necessary information and resources to keep the adoption process moving.

Preparation for the Home Study

Potential adoptive parents must prove that their residence is fit for raising a child by completing a home study. Family law lawyers can coach potential adoptive parents on how to set up and modify their home to pass the home study.

The Law Office of Wickersham and Bowers provides top-notch legal representation to clients in southern Florida. Our areas of legal practice include family lawpersonal injuryeminent domain, and estate planning and probate. Our firm has over 60 years of addressing our clients’ legal issues. Please feel free to contact us by filling out our online form or calling us at (386) 252-3000.