You will see significant changes in the law affecting both alimony and child support in 2010 and 2011. Many of these changes may affect your child support and alimony claims, and may also warrant modification of existing orders affecting your rights and obligations to pay support into the future. Especially crucial to members of the United States military, if you or a family member are at risk of long-term deployment, new laws may affect your parental rights and should your child be at risk of abduction, either nationally or internationally, there are new protections available to prevent the abduction and punish the abducting parent. Be sure that your attorney is well versed in the new amendments to the law before making any claims or defenses before the Court, or your rights may be permanently impaired.
DURATION OF THE MARRIAGE: New provisions effective July 1, 2010, precisely define the length of marriage as short term (less than seven years), a moderate term (from 7 to 17 years), and long term (17 or more years). The name of the marriage is measured from the date of the marriage to the date of the filing of a petition for dissolution of marriage. The length of your marriage will impact what type of alimony you are awarded and should be considered when requesting the court.
TYPES OF ALIMONY: Several new types of alimony, long controversial in the State of Florida, have now been codified. Effective July 1, 2010, the legislature has delineated the types of alimony available in the state as Bridge the Gap, Rehabilitative, Durational, Permanent or any combination thereof. Alimony may be awarded in a lump sum, or as periodic payments, or both. Each type of alimony has specific provisions regarding the elements of the claim, as well as the length and modifiability of the award. Your attorney should advise you taking into consideration your particular history, needs, and future expectations.
INCOME DEDUCTION ORDERS: Effective October 1, 2010, each income deduction order for the payment of child support must provide the exact month, day and year of termination or reduction of the support, as well as the amount of child support for any remaining children upon termination of the obligation for one child. This new requirement will require that in each case involving more than one child, child support must be calculated for one, two, three, and so on, children, so that an “automatic” reduction is in place upon the emancipation of each child. Your attorney should make these calculations ahead of time so that you are safeguarded in the future when your older children emancipate.
IMPUTATION OF INCOME: Effective January 1, 2010, the legislature has codified the court’s ability to impute income for purposes of calculating support, when there is no other information available regarding the salary of a parent obligated to pay support, or that parent fails to participate in the court proceedings. Absent any information to the contrary; the court will impute income for purposes of calculating support at an amount based upon census data, which is currently an annual salary of $41,000.00. Depending on your circumstances, you need to address this new provision of the law in preparing for any hearing where support is addressed.
REDUCTION FOR SUBSTANTIAL TIME-SHARING: Effective January 1, 2011, a parent exercising more than 20 percent of the overnights with his/her children will be entitled to a significant reduction in child support. This is a noteworthy change, for those non-residential parents who exercise more than one overnight per week with their children, in addition to alternating weekends, because the former statute required a 40 percent timesharing arrangement before the court would allow any reduction for time-sharing. Other changes in the child support guidelines include allowing a deviation in support based upon the allocation of the child tax credit, dependent care credit, and the earned income credit. Be sure your attorney takes into consideration these new factors in calculating your support claims in both initial and modification proceedings. If you are a parent who currently exercises more than 20 percent of the overnights with your child, you may be entitled to a downward modification of an existing support obligation. It may be beneficial to child support payers to have their attorney recalculate their support obligation based upon the new guidelines to see if they are entitled to such a reduction.
MILITARY PERSONNEL: In the event, you are activated, deployed or temporarily assigned to military service over 90 days and your ability to comply with your court-ordered time-sharing is materially affected as a result of military service, House Bill 25 may significantly change your parenting rights. This new law will allow you to appoint a designee to exercise time-sharing, or even parenting responsibilities, on your behalf. This designation may include a new spouse (step-parent), your parents, or even a sibling, under certain circumstances. While the new law attempts to address the risk of permanent modification resulting from one parent being deployed and to prevent the parent remaining behind from interfering in an existing relationship with the deployed parents’ immediate family, this new law may impinge upon constitutional parenting rights. If you, or your child’s other parent, is in the military and you are dealing with such a claim, you will need to assure that the request strictly complies with the law, to pass constitutional muster. Military personnel should ensure that their attorney is well versed in the constitutional implications of exercising the rights under this new law before they spend thousands of dollars in making or defending such a claim.
CHILD ABDUCTION PREVENTION ACT: Effective January 1, 2011, CS/HB 787 amends section 61.45 of the Florida Statutes to add additional risk factors a judge may consider in deciding if a child is at risk of abduction, and adds preventative measures the court may take if it finds a child is at such a threat. The new bill also provides that violation of a parenting plan may subject a party to civil or criminal penalties or a state or federal warrant under state and federal laws. Parents should consider including these new protections in a parenting plan, so that their child may be protected from national or international abduction.
Please note that Urban Thier & Federer, P.A. does not represent you and cannot take any action on your behalf unless and until you enter into a formal written Legal Representation Agreement.
by Patricia M. Lee