Articles Tagged with Fort Myers divorce

It is important to note that any modification to a determination of parental responsibility, a parenting plan, or a time-sharing schedule may not be achieved without a showing of a substantial, material, and unanticipated change in circumstances. In addition, the modification must be in the best interests of the child. In a recent case in Moore v. Mcintosh, 39 Fla. L. Weekly 78a (Fla. 1St DCA 2014), the 1st DCA held that relocation does not itself constitute a substantial change in circumstances to warrant modification of a time-sharing agreement. The court cited several cases in which relocation did not constitute a substantial change in circumstances.

In Moore, the parties had entered into a marital settlement agreement which specifically stated that the parties anticipated to reside in close proximity to one another and in the same school district. Then, both parties relocated to different cities. The Court held that

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In order to prevent jurisdictional disputes with courts in other states on matters relating to child support and time sharing, Florida has enacted the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). Pursuant to the UCCJEA, the exercise of jurisdiction in making an initial custody determination lies with the child’s home state. “Home state” is the state in which a child lived with a parent or a person acting as a parent for at least six consecutive months immediately before the commencement of a proceeding involving a child.

Many jurisdictional disputes arise when one parent decides to remove the child from Florida and move to another state with the child. Then, either one or both parents will file a petition seeking establishment of timesharing and child support in their respective states. In this instance, the courts will have to decide whether Florida or the other state has jurisdiction to preside over the case.

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Pursuant to Florida statutes, alimony may be awarded when one spouse has a need for financial assistance and the other spouse has the ability to pay. If a court awards alimony, then the obligor may later seek to modify or terminate the alimony obligation if there is a substantial change in circumstances or if the obligee has entered into a supportive relationship. Pursuant to Florida statutes, the court has discretion to reduce or terminate an award of alimony if the court finds that since the granting of the divorce decree, a supportive relationship has existed between the obligee and a person with whom the obligee resides (“cohabitant”).

The burden is on the obligor to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that a supportive relationship exists. In a recent case, Gregory v. Gregory, 39 Fla. Weekly D1A (Fla. 5th DCA 2014), the 5th DCA held that once the court finds that a supportive relationship exists, the burden of proof shifts to the obligee to prove that he or she has a continued need for the financial support. In that case, the Husband sought to reduce or terminate his alimony obligation based on the wife’s supportive relationship. Ultimately, the court held that the wife was living in a supportive relationship and she failed to prove that she had the continued need for alimony.

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In a dissolution of marriage involving property, the trial court must determine what asset is marital versus non-marital, what is the value of each asset, and decide how to split the assets. The date of determining the existence of marital versus non-marital assets is the date of filing of the petition. Because cases can take several months or even years to conclude, an asset may exit at the date of filing but not exist, or its value may substantially decrease, by the date of trial. A perfect example is a bank account. In this situation, what is a court to do?

In a recent case in Ballard v. Ballard, 39 Fla. L. Weekly 1670c (Fla. 1st DCA, 2014), the parties owned a bank account that was significantly diminished by the Husband during the dependency of the case. At the date of filing, the bank account had $42,012; by the trial date, the account had no funds. The Husband testified that he used some of the money to pay his attorney’s fees. The trial court did not find any misconduct on the part of the Husband but nonetheless included the $42,012 in the equitable distribution scheme.

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