At Pacheco Perez P.A., located in Miami, Florida, we focus our practice primarily on family law. We handle a wide range of family law and divorce-related issues, including child support, timesharing, distribution of assets and liabilities, and domestic violence.
Timesharing is often one of the greatest challenges for parents who decide to split up. Each wish to have as much time with their child(ren) as possible, but complicated schedules can lead to frustration and hard feelings. It is easy to slip into behaviors that can land a parent in trouble for parenting time interference.
In many cases, the interference is indirect. Rather than purposefully depriving the other parent of their time with the child, these behaviors disrupt communication or have small but continuous impacts on parenting time. Although these behaviors may just seem like bad habits, they can land a parent in contempt of a court order – which can result in hefty fines or even jail time.
Showing up late to exchange custody
If the custody agreement requires parents to exchange custody of their child at certain times and dates, and one parent is consistently late dropping the child off, they may have an interference issue.
Ignoring calls or texts
Hitting “ignore” when a call from you ex comes through may not seem like a big deal but refusing to let your child communicate with their other parent can easily become a problem. A pattern of disrupting communication can be seen as a violation of a custody order.
Connecting parenting time to child support
In some cases, a parent who feels they are being denied parenting time might stop paying child support. Or, if the other parent fails to pay child support, the parent receiving support might decide to withhold parenting time. Both choices constitute parenting time interference. Child custody and child support are distinct legal issues and shouldn’t be tied up together.
If you and your spouse are headed for divorce, one of your main concerns may be over the custody of your child. You are probably used to spending a great deal of time with your child, and it may feel unsettling to think about any potential limitations on your time together.
Most people understand that some decisions regarding child custody must be made before divorce can be finalized. However, those who have not been through the divorce process before may not realize who ends up making those decisions, and, truthfully, the answer depends on the individual situation.
You and your spouse may work together toward an agreement
You may have the most influence over child custody outcomes if you and your spouse work together to come to reach an agreement. If you and your spouse struggle to get along, you may still be able to reach a child custody agreement out of court through an alternate dispute resolution process.
Mediation and collaboration are the two most common alternate dispute resolution processes in Florida. Mediation involves spouses meeting with a neutral mediator, who will help guide the couple’s conversations toward resolutions. Collaboration involves both spouses, their attorneys and other professionals working together to reach resolutions.
The main difference between mediation and collaboration is how easily a couple can pursue litigation later. If a couple tries mediation, but cannot reach a resolution, they can still take the matter to court with relatively few hurdles. If a couple does not reach a resolution in collaboration, they must both find a new attorney to represent them in court.
A court will decide if an agreement cannot be reached
If you and your spouse cannot reach an agreement on custody arrangements, a court will decide for you. If this occurs, the court will make its decision based on the best interests of your child, which may be determined by considering several factors.
Some factors a court may consider, include:
Each parent’s history to encourage the child’s relationship with the other parent
Each parent’s ability to prioritize the child’s needs above his or her own
How long the child has lived in a stable environment
The mental and physical health of each parent
The child’s record at home, school and in the community
Any history of domestic violence
The child’s developmental stage
The child’s needs
Each parent’s involvement in the child’s activities
Often, courts prefer to award custody arrangements that involve parents sharing child rearing responsibilities. This is because it is usually in a child’s best interest to maintain a relationship with both parents. However, other custody arrangements may be awarded if the circumstances warrant it.
Every family’s situation is unique, and sometimes processes like mediation and collaboration are not appropriate. However, with a decision as important as child custody, it can be valuable to understand all of your options, so you can pursue the best one for your family.
If you live in South Florida, you almost certainly know that June is Pride Month (and this year is especially momentous in light of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots). There are many things to celebrate during Pride Month each year, including the 2015 Supreme Court ruling that made same-sex marriage legal nationwide. Prior to that ruling, the practice was legal in some states, illegal in some states and constitutionally banned in others.
In the years since same-sex marriage became legal, many gay and lesbian couples have gotten married, and a significant number have gotten divorced. Although certain gay couples might view divorce as a failure (especially after just being granted the right to marry), some see it as another sign of equality and parity with heterosexual couples.
This was the subject of recent article in the Atlantic. The author notes that he and his husband were married in California about two years before the Supreme Court ruling. And the pair ultimately separated and divorced about five years after getting married. He said that the divorce was difficult and messy (like most divorces), but that it also demonstrated that his marriage had been recognized by the state and that he was being subjected to the same (less-than-enjoyable) responsibilities as heterosexual couples.
The author also notes that he and others have experienced moments of guilt and shame about letting down the LGBTQ community and potentially giving gay-marriage opponents ammunition to claim that same-sex marriages are bound to fail because marriage should only be between a man and a woman (obviously, these feelings were illogical, but hard to dismiss nonetheless).
But upon reflection, gay divorce may be one of the clearest signs of marriage equality, because it relieves members of the LGBTQ community from needing to serve as positive examples to justify same-sex marriage. The author says: “It may be ugly, but divorce—just as much as marriage—is part of the rights and responsibilities that come with marriage equality.”
Whether you are in a same-sex marriage or a heterosexual marriage, divorce is a protection and responsibility granted to each person who needs to utilize it. If or when that time comes for you, please discuss your options with an experienced family law attorney in your area.
Take time to mourn: You don't want to dwell on the past, but you shouldn't hide from it. Set aside time every day, at least for the first few weeks after your divorce, to mourn.
Lean on your support group: You may feel alone, but nothing is further from the truth. You have friends, family and coworkers who are willing to help you during this difficult time. Don't be afraid to open up to them.
Try something new: Now that your marriage is in the past, you don't have anything weighing you down. Get more involved with something that'll make you happy, such as traveling or taking up a new hobby.
Even though it's important to plan for the future, don't get so far ahead of yourself that you make rash decisions during the divorce process.
Knowing what to expect and how to protect your legal rights will allow you to get what you deserve in regards to property division, spousal support, child support and child custody. You don't want to look back at your divorce and realize that you made mistakes that will affect you in the future.
You don't want to do anything to hurt your soon-to-be-spouse -- so you may have some concerns about asking for a prenuptial agreement. Also, you don't want to say anything that your partner takes the wrong way, as they may get the wrong impression that you're already thinking about what could go wrong in your marriage (or looking for a way out).
Talk about the reasons you want a prenuptial agreement: Hiding your true feelings will only make things worse. Share information on your reasons for wanting a prenuptial agreement, as well as your fears. For example, if you have concerns about protecting the inheritance rights of children from a past relationship, don't hesitate to share your thoughts.
Don't force your partner into anything: Not only does this push them further away, but it could also result in the creation of an invalid prenuptial agreement.
Ask questions: As you discuss the pros and cons of a prenuptial agreement, ask questions to help you better understand where your partner is coming from.
Along with the above tips, don't feel that you have to figure everything out in one conversation. You can get the basics in place, take some time away and then revisit the creation of a prenuptial agreement when it makes sense.
You don't create a prenuptial agreement because you're hoping to get a divorce in the future. Instead, you create this legal document because you never know what the future will bring.
If the time comes to discuss a prenuptial agreement, follow these tips and protect your legal rights as you work through the finer details of the document.
If you're moving toward the divorce process, it's time to learn more about alimony. While it may not end up being a part of your divorce settlement, it's still a good idea to understand how it works.
Alimony, also known as spousal support, is a monthly payment made by one former spouse to the other. The purpose of alimony is to reduce the economic impact of divorce on one spouse who is at a financial disadvantage.
Following is some important information about alimony:
Who determines if alimony is awarded? This is determined on the state level based on various laws and procedures. Guidelines vary from state to state, and no two cases are exactly the same.
What does a family law court look at? When determining eligibility for alimony, the court typically considers the following: if one person is unable to support themselves after the divorce, if they lack the financial means to provide for reasonable needs and/or if the parent with physical custody of their children is unable to secure a job outside of the home.
How is the amount of alimony calculated? This is looked at on a case-by-case basis, and typically includes an examination of: length of the marriage, standard of living, age, physical health, ability of the person to secure employment and overall financial health.
If you're preparing for divorce and feel that you should receive alimony or if your spouse is seeking alimony from you, learn more about the laws that govern it in Florida. Taking the right steps upfront will help you protect your legal rights and seek a fair agreement.
Income tax returns: Gather tax returns, both individual and business (if applicable), for the last three to five years. This should include federal, state and local tax filings.
Bank account statements: This includes all bank accounts, including checking, savings, business checking and money market among any others you have. A minimum of six months of statements is a good place to start.
Proof of income: This typically includes your pay stub, but may also come in the form of a letter from your employer.
Copy of your prenuptial agreement: If you have one, it's important to review it in detail and keep it close by. It'll factor into many aspects of your divorce, primarily property division.
Retirement account statements: Even if you're young, this isn't a detail to overlook. Retirement account statements, such as those associated with a 401(k) or IRA, heavily factor into property division.
As you get started, don't be surprised if you're asked to dig up other documents, such as those pertaining to joint debt and life insurance.
With the proper level of organization, it's easier to understand the divorce process and feel good about your ability to protect your legal rights. And once your divorce is finalized, you'll look back and realize you did everything you could to negotiate an agreement that's in your best interest.
If you missed out on creating a prenuptial agreement before your wedding day, it's not too late to take action. You still have the opportunity to create a postnuptial agreement with your spouse, which is essentially the same thing.
There are many things to include in a postnuptial agreement, such as provisions regarding property and debt division.
Opting for a verbal postnuptial agreement as opposed to a written agreement
Pressuring your spouse to sign a postnuptial agreement
Asking your spouse to sign a postnuptial agreement before reviewing it
Including invalid provisions
Including incomplete or false information
An agreement that is grossly unfair to one person
It sounds easy enough to prevent these postnuptial agreement mistakes, but it's possible for one or more of them to sneak up on you. This is often the result of rushing the process, as you both want to put it in the past as soon as possible.
If you're interested in creating a postnuptial agreement with your spouse, answer these questions:
What should you include and what should you leave out?
What steps can you take to avoid confrontation and bad feelings?
Are there any sticking points that can cause an argument?
By answering these questions, you can prepare yourself accordingly.
One of the most difficult conflicts many parents face after divorce is understanding and respecting each other's parenting rights. It is natural for many parents to want their child entirely to themselves or to push boundaries to control which parent sets the tone for how to raise the child. While these tensions are easy to understand, they often cause one parent to act in ways that are not productive for the family and violate the other parent's rights in Florida.
Depending on how much one parent obstructs the rights of the other, this behavior may qualify as parenting time interference. Courts that oversee divorce and custody issues do not look favorably on a parent who interferes with the rights of the other parent, and may remedy this situation by removing parental privileges, ordering mandatory make-up time for missed custody or visitation, or may even serve a parent with criminal charges.
If your own experience with your child's other parent involves parenting time interference, you may want to use the law and the courts to protect your rights. A strong legal strategy and documentation of unacceptable behavior help keep your rights secure, and allow you to focus on building and maintaining a relationship with the child you love.
Whenever one parent's behavior causes the other parent to miss their court-ordered parenting time with their child, this generally qualifies as direct parenting time interference. Of course, sometimes these things are unavoidable because of unpleasant surprises like illness or transportation difficulties. If your child's other parent generally respects your time and parenting choices but has car trouble on a day when you should take custody of your child or have scheduled visitation, it is frustrating but probably does not justify taking legal action.
However, if the other parent repeatedly keeps you from enjoying your parenting time, or is constantly late or unavailable to exchange custody, you may want to review your legal options.
Preventing another parent from spending their court-ordered time with their child is not the only way one parent may interfere with the other. Courts also recognize indirect interference, which includes obstructing communication between a parent and child and undermining the authority of the other parent to the child.
Courts may get involved if one parent does not allow the other speak to their child over the phone or through messages, or if a parent instructs their child to spy on the other parent during their parenting time. It is also worth noting that parents are not typically allowed to speak negatively about each other in the presence of the child, which undermines the parent-child relationship.
Protecting your rights is one of the most important parts of your job as a parent. If you believe that your child's other parent violates your parenting rights, do not let this pattern of behavior continue. With proper legal action, your rights remain secure and you have time and energy to focus on raising your child as you see fit.
If you've come to the conclusion that divorce is the best solution to your marital problems, don't hesitate to dive into the finer details of the process. The more you learn the easier it becomes to move forward without making costly mistakes.
Learn more about the process: There is more to the process than telling your spouse you want to divorce. For example, learn more about divorce mediation, property division, child custody and child support.
Make a list of your assets and debts: This allows you to prepare accordingly, while also avoiding a situation in which your soon-to-be ex-spouse hides assets or uses a joint credit card or loan for personal gain.
Consider the impact on your children: If you have children together, think about how it will impact them now and in the future. This will allow you to prepare accordingly.
Plan for the future: Divorce will change your life in many ways. For example, you may need to find a new place to live. This will also impact your financial situation, especially if you weren't working while married.
When you do these things before asking for a divorce, it's easier to prevent mistakes that cost you time and money.
Once you prepare accordingly and have the initial conversation with your spouse, you can then focus on filing for divorce and preparing yourself for everything the process will bring. When you know what to expect and how to protect your legal rights, your stress level won't be nearly as high.