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What are The Child Custody Laws For Unmarried Parents in Florida?

Posted on: June 3, 2019 by in Family Law
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custody laws for unmarried parents

When a couple separates, it is never easy on a family. If children are involved, it’s important for parents to try to reach a compromise on child custody, visitation rights, and child support. However, achieving this level of compromise may be easier said than done for most people. Parents who are going through a divorce should always try to settle these matters outside of the courtroom. Florida family courts always encourage divorcing parents to agree to the terms and conditions of their divorce through mediation or other means. However, what if you’re unmarried? How are custody laws determined for unmarried parents? Can the mother keep the child away from the father in Florida? Does an unwed father have rights? In this article, we’ll answer these and other questions concerning custody laws for unmarried parents.

What Is Best For Divorcing Parents — And Their Children?

If the two divorcing parents can agree to some compromises, and if they can arrange for their own custody, support, and visitation agreements, a judge will sign off on the agreement in most cases, provided that it satisfies the child’s best interests. Florida, like other states, prefers joint or shared legal custody when possible after a divorce. That gives each parent equal authority over the decisions in the child’s life (such as schooling and medical care), and it also means that both parents are legally obligated to care for and support the child.


Actual physical custody of the child is typically also shared by both parents, with the child spending some days or weeks with one parent and other times with the other parent. In some states, a court will award both parents “joint legal custody” with the stipulation that one parent is the “primary physical custodian.” In other states, the court will give “primary” custody to one parent while the other parent receives “reasonable” visitation rights.

Generally, however, and beyond all of the legal terminology and the many quite minor legal differences among the states, what typically happens after a typical divorce is that the parent who is not the primary caretaker during the school week is granted weekends or other time with the child. This is unless there is strong evidence that such an arrangement would be detrimental to the child’s best interests.

Adhering To The Visitation Arrangement

Divorced parents must adhere to the visitation arrangement that they have agreed upon or to the arrangement that has been imposed by the court. However, when a non-custodial parent’s efforts to spend court-ordered visitation time with his or her child are blocked or frustrated by the custodial parent, the non-custodial parent will have to file a court action and request that a judge enforce the visitation order. In South Florida, non-custodial parents can obtain legal help by contacting an experienced Boca Raton family law attorney.

Child Support For Divorcing Couples

In every state, both legal parents are required by the law to support their children financially, regardless of whether or not the parents were married when the child was born, or whether or not they married at a later time. In most divorces with children, the court will order the noncustodial parent to contribute a specified amount of child support each month. A family law court can modify the monthly amount of child support if parental incomes or the needs of the children change.

The precise child support amount a court will order hinges on each parent’s assets, income, and the cost of housing, healthcare, and other necessary expenses including dental bills and school expenses. Each state has its own child support guidelines that are established by law. In your own state, an experienced family law attorney can probably give you a rough idea of the child support amount that the court will require.


When a Florida court issues a child support order or a visitation order, that order must be followed. If an ex-spouse fails to comply fully with a court order, the state of Florida provides a number of legal tools to persuade the parent into cooperating. Noncompliance can lead to stiff penalties in this state. If a parent doesn’t pay despite the ability to do so, that parent can face contempt of court or even criminal prosecution.

Florida Custody Laws For Unmarried Parents

  • All mothers instantly get parental rights to their children at birth.
  • Fathers are granted custody and visitation rights depending on a DNA paternity test.
  • Florida custody laws for unmarried parents state both parents share equal custody rights.
  • Unmarried child custody includes the parent’s right to decide things about the child’s life like education, religion, and medical care.


  • Both biological parents are given the legal term “parent.”
  • For joint custody, a parenting plan must be submitted to the court along with the proof paternity.
  • If a child is old enough, the Florida custody laws for unmarried parents take the child’s preference for where to live into account.

Who Gets Custody?

If both parents of a child are legally established, then unmarried parents will go through the same procedures to obtain custody, visitation rights, and child support as if they were married. They might go through something similar to mediation to discuss terms on schedules, finances, and living arrangements. However, if the child was born to the unwed mother without legally establishing paternity from the father, the mother will have sole custody of the child in the state of Florida.

Does an Unwed Father Have Visitation Rights?

A father that hasn’t legally established paternity to a child has no legal rights. Custody laws for unmarried couples in Florida state that the mother is the natural guardian. She has legal custody the second the child is born. A father can request visitation, but it will be completely up to the mother to decide if she wants the child to see the father. If the mother is concerned about the father refusing to give the child back after a visitation, she should proceed with caution. It’s always recommended for visitations to take place inside the mother’s home with supervision or a safe public place. This is especially true if it’s the first time that a father is meeting the child.


Can the Father or Another Relative Take the Child Away?

An unmarried mother who is the sole custodian of the child must remember that she is protected under the child custody laws for unmarried parents. No one, not even the natural father, can take the child without a court order and a legally established paternity test. If a relative of the father or the father has taken the child, it’s important to call law enforcement and the Department of Children and Families immediately.


What if the Parents Decide to Get Married?

Under Florida law, the father doesn’t need to have a paternity test in order to get married or be considered the legal parent of the child. If the couple does marry, the marriage along will legitimize the child. Both parents will have equal rights if they get married.


Why Does the Mother Get Sole Custody?

Some people find the custody laws for unmarried parents to be unfair or solely favoring the mother. Since the mother automatically gains sole custody when the child is born, many fathers find these laws to be unjust. The father has no legal right to visit with the child in these circumstances. However, this same law also prevents unwed mothers from filing for child support from fathers without a paternity test. It’s important to remember that there’s a balance to this system. If a father would like visitation rights, shared custody, or the ability to influence the child’s life at all, the father needs to take a paternity test. It’s the only way to resolve the issue and move forward with custody arrangements. Child custody lawyers will always recommend a paternity test to establish legal parenthood.

What Happens When Things Change?

No custody, support, or visitation agreement is necessarily permanent. As circumstances in a family’s life change, the agreements or court orders regarding custody, support, or visitation can be modified to reflect those changes. A job loss or an unexpected injury or illness, for example, may require a return to the court for a modification of the court’s orders. Parents can’t do this privately even if they are in agreement – the court must approve any changes to court orders. In South Florida, a Boca Raton family law attorney can assist parents who need to have court orders modified.


The key to success for parents in all of these situations is the best interests of the child. If both parents are sincerely committed to working in the child’s best interests,  most disputes and acrimony can be avoided. Remaining disagreements can usually be compromised or negotiated. If divorcing parents can cooperate and put their children first, they can almost always remain in charge of their family’s future. It is possible to avoid harsh orders from a judge.

For More Information on Custody Laws for Unmarried Parents

If you have questions or concerns about your rights as an unmarried parent, it’s important to speak with a Boca Raton child custody attorney as soon as possible. Even if there are no conflicts or obstacles presenting themselves now, there could be in the future. A family law attorney can help you to provide proof of paternity, gain visitation rights, or establish joint custody. An attorney can also help you to protect your child from a parent that does not have their best interest in mind. Reach out to an experienced family attorney today.

Will My Divorce Go To Trial?

Posted on: May 27, 2019 by in Divorce
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divorce go to trial

Many divorcing couples will be concerned that their divorce will go to trial. This is mostly a concern for couples who may be experiencing a high level of conflict. Spouses who can’t agree on the terms of their divorce will end up going to trial. It’s important to note that family courts always encourage spouses to settle all of their differences out of court. If your divorce goes to trial, it could become long, expensive, and emotionally challenging. In this article, we provide tips for avoiding a trial, the costs of a divorce trial, and tools for handling your divorce if it does go to trial. In addition, we address some important legal terms that you should be familiar with before you move forward.


Tips for Avoiding a Divorce Trial

No one wants to hear that their divorce will go to trial. It’s always important to reiterate to divorcing couples that they should try to settle out of court. One avenue to help you avoid a trial is mediation. Mediation is when both spouses work with a neutral third party called a mediator. A mediator is someone who will help both parties reach an agreement on the terms and conditions of the divorce. When going through mediation, it’s important to:


  • Choose the right mediator. A mediator shouldn’t be siding with either party.
  • Be prepared and have all your necessary documents ready
  • Be open to compromise
  • Make a priority list. Know what terms you’re willing to be flexible with and what terms are the most important to you.


Sometimes mediation can take time. Couples experiencing a lot of conflicts will have to meet multiple times to negotiate, compromise, and settle. If there is absolutely no chance your divorce can be settled through mediation, your divorce will go to trial.


The Difference Between a Divorce Hearing, a Divorce Trial, and Final Judgment Hearing

Divorce Hearing: The main thing you should know about a divorce hearing is that it’s considered temporary. These are temporary court orders that are given to each party to establish some terms before the divorce trial. The purpose of these temporary court orders is to offer some stability to their situations. At a divorce hearing, a judge will make decisions regarding child custody and visitation, financial responsibilities, property management and rights, and other matters.


Divorce Trial: A divorce trial is focused on making permanent decisions. Each spouse and their attorneys will be able to plead their case for certain matters concerning the dissolution of the marriage. This will include their preferences for child custody, child support, alimony, retirement, and division of assets. You’ll have to disclose information on all of your finances, credit cards, loans, property, and retirement funds. If it’s a highly contested divorce, a divorce trial can get ugly. Each party should be prepared to defend themselves and present evidence to support their points.


Final Judgment Hearing: A final judgment hearing is also known as a Divorce Judgment and Decree. As you can probably guess, this is when a judge will make his final order. This will be the ultimate decision made on all of the issues presented. These orders are considered final and permanent and the judge will provide reasons why he or she has made these rulings.


Cost of a Divorce Trial

If you know that your divorce will go to trial, it’s important to consider the financial cost. Unfortunately, divorce trials are not inexpensive. Divorce trials can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000. These costs will be determined by where the divorce is taking place, how many contested issues there are, attorney fees, and how long the trial is. Every individual divorce attorney charges a different hourly rate or a flat rate. These fees can range from $70 an hour to $500 an hour. Remember that you’re being charged for every hour that your attorney works on your case. This could involve travel time, phone calls, pre-trial prep, and other legal work.


Tips for Getting Through It If Your Divorce Goes to Trial

Remember that your attorney is there for you every step of the way. Reach out to your divorce attorney if you have questions or concerns about the trial. The more you know and understand about your divorce trial, the less stressful it will become. Keep family members and your support system close to you. Once you realize that your divorce will go to trial, start to practice self-care such as getting enough sleep, eating healthy, and taking space from your ex. If this is a highly contested divorce with a lot of conflicts, it’s important to avoid power struggles or arguments with your ex. This is especially true if children are involved. Contact an experienced divorce attorney today to learn more about divorce trials and the best way to handle them.


How To Handle An Uncooperative Co-Parent

Posted on: May 3, 2019 by in Family Law
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How To Handle An Uncooperative Co-Parent

If you’re currently dealing with an uncooperative co-parent, you’re not the only one. While some couples fall into a stress-free co-parenting relationship after divorce, not everyone is that lucky. Most couples will struggle in the early stages. You may need time to allow emotions to settle and get into a co-parenting groove. But even with time, some bad co-parenting habits are hard to break. If you believe you’re dealing with an uncooperative co-parent, it can be difficult to know how to handle conflict or navigate their uncompromising behavior. That’s why we’ve composed this list of tips and best practices to help you deal with an uncooperative co-parent.


1. Preemptively Address Issues

If you anticipate that your ex will choose conflict over reason, there are ways to address it early. You can place successful co-parenting strategies into the language of your divorce settlement. For instance, you can request that each parent attends co-parenting counseling sessions if problems arise after the divorce is finalized. This allows you to share expectations about your co-parenting relationship. It also shows you have a willingness to participate in conflict resolution.


2. Set Emotional Boundaries

It’s important to set proper boundaries the second your co-parenting relationship starts. Once the divorce is over, there’s no reason to dig up old issues or emotions. Try not to engage when your ex is provoking you. Setting emotional boundaries can help you move on. In addition, your children will be exposed to less conflict if you refuse to participate in it.


3. Let Go of What You Can’t Control

Remember that you cannot control what your ex-spouse does or feels. High-conflict personalities will choose to engage in anger over logic any day of the week. That’s a challenge that they have to overcome. Be sure to identify what battles do and don’t belong to you.


4. Use Non-Combative Language

Somedays, it can feel almost impossible to communicate with an uncooperative co-parent. No matter what you say or do, you can’t seem to escape the conflict. While using the right language won’t solve all of your problems, it can help. Avoid using violent or combative words with your ex. When speaking about the children, try to use “we language” so your ex knows you’re in this together.


5. Stick to Your Commitments

It is possible to lead by example after your divorce. Sticking to the terms of the divorce settlement and co-parenting plan puts you in a powerful position. Just because your ex likes to throw a wrench into your co-parenting plan, it doesn’t mean you have to do the same. If you end up back in court, it will be highly beneficial for you if you’re seen as the responsible parent.


6. Know Their Triggers

It’s important to become aware of your uncooperative co-parent’s trigger points. Expenses? Extended family issues? Scheduling? What are the key issues that create conflict between both of you? By being more aware of what these triggers are, you can navigate around them in a more peaceful way or avoid these topics altogether.


7. Encourage a Healthy Relationship with the Kids

Don’t forget at the end of the day, you want your kids to have a healthy relationship with both of their parents. That is your goal after divorce. Despite how angry you are or how much hate you hold for this person, they’re still a staple in your child’s life. Don’t forget about what’s most important here.


8. Avoid Direct Contact with the Uncooperative Co-Parent

Research shows that reducing the amount of direct contact in high-conflict divorce is your best defense. This might mean communicating via text or email more often than in person. You may want to have relatives help with transitions between homes. If emotions are still running high, taking space and focusing on your relationship with your children is highly recommended. You may have to only avoid direct contact temporarily until the dust starts to settle.


9. Keep a Record

If this uncooperative co-parent continues to showcase bad co-parenting behavior, you need to keep a record of it. Remember to save emails or text messages that express their uncompromising behavior. Start to keep documentation of any major issues. While everyone hopes that their behavior will change, sometimes it doesn’t. If you end up back in court for whatever reason, you want to have enough evidence to support your points.


10. Get Support from a Parental Responsibility Lawyer

If the issues persist with your uncooperative co-parent, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Contact a parental responsibility lawyer that has experience with high-conflict divorce. A lawyer can help you set new co-parenting goals as well as proper boundaries between you and your ex. Give a parental responsibility lawyer a call today to learn more about how to make your co-parenting relationship better.

What is Voluntary Impoverishment in Florida?

Posted on: April 27, 2019 by in Family Law
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Voluntary Impoverishment in Florida

Unfortunately, some parents will go to great lengths to stop paying child support. One of the more common ways a parent thinks he or she can beat the system is to put themselves in poverty, or at least make it look like they are living in poverty and claim they can’t afford the payments.

However, if your ex-partner has stopped paying child support, he or she may still be liable to pay if a judge determines they are voluntarily impoverished. Sometimes, they claim they can no longer afford to pay due to a change in circumstances, or they are no longer earning enough to carry on with their child support payments.

If you’ve never heard of voluntary impoverishment before, don’t worry. Below contains everything you need to know about it, what the courts typically look for when determining if a parent is voluntarily impoverishing themselves, and what you need to do to file a claim for the child support you and your child are due.

Voluntary Impoverishment Explained

Voluntary impoverishment is the term given to a parent that is manipulating the system to avoid paying child support.

It means a person is voluntarily, or deliberately, choosing to become poor and reduce his or her standard of living to a state of poverty. Believing that if they are living in poverty, they will not have to pay child support as they do not have the money to do so.

There are a few ways one can do this.

  1. One way is to change job/pay to earn less than they are capable of
  2. Start hiding some of their earnings from the Internal Revenue Service to come under the threshold for paying child support

This is not fair to the other parent or the child. Voluntary impoverishment is a severe matter. The court can base child support payments on what they believe a parent is capable of earning, rather than what the parent is making if the judge suspects a parent is trying to game the system.

How Do Courts Determine if a Parent is Guilty of Voluntary Impoverishment?

Generally speaking, a court will look at these factors to evaluate if a parent is trying to game the system with voluntary impoverishment:

  • The timing of when/if they changed jobs to a lesser paying job.
  • The physical condition of the parent to determine how able they are to work.
  • Their level of education to determine the types of jobs they can do and earnings expectancy.
  • If they have avoided paying or fallen behind in child support in the past.
  • Their work history to look for any suspicious changes in behavior.
  • Any other concerns raised by the other parent.

If a court has reason to suspect a parent is guilty of any of the above, it has the legal power to start investigating them to look for conclusive evidence.

Even if their earnings have dropped so much that they don’t have to pay child support under their current agreement if a judge determines the parent has done this deliberately a court can still enforce them to pay child support based on the amount they should be earning.

The amount the parent must pay depends on the judge and the parent’s unique circumstances. It’ll come down to an individual’s circumstances and calculated based on several factors.

What Should You Do if Your Ex-Partner is Participating in Voluntary Impoverishment?

The first thing you need to do is to contact the Office of Child Support Enforcement. They will be able to give you the correct legal advice tailored to the information you’re giving them and where you live.

They may advise you to speak to a family lawyer or a localized governing body. This depends on where you live and your circumstances, but it’s a good idea to be prepared with information. Hopefully, you can summarize any previous child support payments, how much/many payments your ex-partner has fallen behind on, and what you think they’ve done to change their circumstances to avoid paying child support.

Don’t panic if not, in any case. If they suspect there is a good reason to investigate a parent for voluntary impoverishment, they will take all the necessary steps to ensure they seek a correct and just amount of child support.

It’s worth noting that a parent can still be labeled voluntarily impoverished if they have never been employed, or haven’t worked since the child was born, or longer. So, if you’re currently not receiving any child support due to the other parent not working, it’s worth seeking legal advice.

The key here is to do something about it if you suspect your ex-partner is doing something to avoid paying. The Office of Child Support Enforcement cannot investigate without you speaking up and raising suspicion.hSpeak with a child support lawyer at Lewert Law, L.L.C. today to see how we can be of service. Call (561) 220-0123 for a free consultation.

3 Reasons Divorce Mediation Fails

Posted on: April 18, 2019 by in Divorce
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Divorce Mediation Fails

If you’re about to go through a divorce, you’ve probably heard friends or family members mention the term ‘mediation’. Will you be using a mediator? Are you and your spouse considering going through mediation? These will be common questions that people closest to you might ask. That’s because mediation is a highly desirable path for those who are going through a divorce. Mediation is a way of avoiding a lengthy and emotional divorce trial. It’s a method that promotes compromising strategies rather than aggressive legal demands. Mediation can be a promising approach to divorce. But what happens if divorce mediation fails? What happens next? In this article, we explain what mediation is, why it sometimes fails, and what to do if it does.


What is Mediation?

As soon as you and your spouse decide that a divorce is your best option, you’ll most likely discuss going through mediation. Mediation is the process of discussing the terms and conditions of the divorce without a judge or a trial. You’ll work with a legal counseling professional called a mediator. The mediator should be a neutral third party that has no connections to either spouse. The point of their job is to facilitate the discussion and help the two parties reach an agreement. Mediators are trained professionals that are there to encourage communication, collaboration, and compromise. A mediator can help both parties work out specific issues, find new perspectives, and regulate disagreements. Some couples may meet once or twice for mediation. Others may need a week or two to work out all of the details of their divorce. Divorce mediation fails when both parties can’t reach an agreement and refuse to continue to work with a mediator.


Reasons Why Divorce Mediation Fails

There are a lot of success stories out there from couples that chose to resolve everything in mediation. It’s a less expensive, less dramatic, and less emotional approach to divorce. Plus, the divorce can be finalized in a much quicker fashion through mediation as well. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out the way couples wished it would. There are certain situations that can stall or halt resolutions through mediation. Here are a few common reasons why divorce mediation fails.


  1. They’re not committed to finding an agreement. In many cases, divorce mediation fails because the couples are not committed to reaching an agreement or working towards a solution. Mediation takes time and energy. You have to work towards meeting these terms and conditions in the divorce. Couples who don’t put the work in and aren’t interested in showing up to mediation appointments are not likely to succeed in mediation.


  1. There’s too much conflict. This is probably one of the most obvious reasons why divorce mediation fails. When there is a high level of conflict and low levels of civility, the chances of reaching a compromise decrease significantly. While some couples have the ability to put emotions aside during mediation, others will have a much harder time being open and kind throughout the process. People who are filled with resentment and anger will struggle through mediation.


  1. The mediator is favoring one side. If there’s even an ounce of an imbalance with your mediator, it can throw the entire process off the rails. One powerful reason that divorce mediation fails is that the mediator is suspected of favoring one party over the other. If there are any issues with the mediator, it’s strongly recommended to find a new one and start the process over.


If Divorce Mediation Fails

If you’ve come to the realization that your divorce mediation isn’t going in the direction you wanted it to go, you may have to explore the next steps. First, it’s important not to give up hope entirely if your divorce mediation fails. It may be worth taking time to allow emotions to settle. It’s possible to allow time to heal and try mediation a second time. This happens more than people think. Many divorcing couples have found more success with second or third attempts at mediation instead of just giving up on it altogether. However, if mediation wasn’t successful on the second or third attempt, and you’re unwilling to settle, you’re most likely going to have to go to trial. This should be the final option after exercising all other methods. Trials will be long and expensive, but they’re sometimes necessary for those who cannot reach an agreement.


For More Information on Divorce Mediation

If you’re approaching a divorce, it’s strongly recommended to work with both a mediator and a divorce attorney. Having your own divorce attorney can assure you that you have someone on your side that represents your best interests. A board-certified Boca Raton mediation lawyer can guide you through the mediation process and a trail if your divorce mediation fails. Contact an experienced Boca Raton divorce attorney today to learn more about your options.

Are More Millennials Getting Prenups?

Posted on: April 10, 2019 by in Divorce
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Millennials Getting Prenups

Millennials are famous for starting and ending popular trends. The generation that brought you the selfie has a new focus on their horizon. It turns out; the prenuptial agreement is something that they’ve deemed necessary in their lives. The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers discovered that 51% of lawyers recently noticed a significant increase in millennials getting prenups. Why the sudden jump in this premarital contract? Millennials are approaching the prenup from a very different perspective than previous generations. They’ve offered some sound reasons why they believe prenuptial agreements are essential. In addition, the traditional concepts of marriage have shifted with millennials. To help you understand this new phenomenon, here are ten reasons why millennials getting prenups is a move in the right direction.


  1. Marrying Later in Life


There’s been a steady and significant trend in marrying later on in life. Millennials have proven that they’re in no rush to get married and start a family. Instead of the traditional path of marrying right out of college at 23 years old, this generation is more likely to wait until their mid-30’s to settle down. They’re able to see marriage from a realistic and mature perspective, which helps them to see the prenup in a more reasonable light.


  1. Bringing More Assets Into a Marriage

Since they’re marrying later on in life, they’ve had the opportunity to earn more money and collect more assets at this point. Unlike their parents’ generation, they’re entering marriage with more to protect. This is one of the main reasons millennials getting prenups has become such a popular trend.


  1. More Women in the Workforce

The days of women being called ‘spinsters’ at 30 years old is over. Society should retire the word altogether. The fact is, there are more women in the workplace than ever before. The traditional idea of the male making more money and demanding a prenup is dying. Statistics are showing more millennial women requesting prenuptial agreements.


  1. Traditional Gender Roles are Changing

Millennial couples are more interested in sharing responsibilities. In the past, men have taken more control over their finances while women watch over household budgets. Men have traditionally set the terms and conditions on joint bank accounts, insurance, or credit cards in prenuptial agreements. Millennials getting prenups are more likely to want to share ownership and responsibilities when it comes to their finances.


  1. They See Themselves as a Team

When asked why they deem a prenup necessary, millennials will often say that they see themselves as a team. As a team, they set their expectations for marriage and divorce together. They want to set these terms now while they’re on the same page instead of years from now when conflict could cloud their judgment.


  1. Consider it a Business Deal

In addition to millennials getting prenups as a team, they also see it as a business deal. The emotional aspects of it aren’t as prevalent as they have been in the past. Prenups are no longer seen as a pessimistic approach to marriage. Prenups are simply business agreements that both parties form together.


  1. Protect Their Independence

Millennials getting prenups are protecting their independence in case disaster strikes later on in life. They understand that they can set terms to protect their property, finances, and assets. Passing up this level of protection is seen as juvenile or naive by this generation.


  1. They Understand the Realities of Divorce

One thing the Internet has offered to millennials is the ability to do their research. They’re well aware of the fact that divorce rates have steadily hovered around 50% for decades. They’re much more realistic about marriage and divorce than previous generations.


  1. They Set Terms that Can Potentially Save Their Marriage

A lot of millennials also see that a prenuptial agreement could save their marriage. Since you’re able to set conditions on divorce, like mediation, trial separations, or marriage counseling, more millennials are choosing to place these terms in a prenup. For instance, they might make it mandatory that they attend three weeks of marriage counseling before reaching an agreement on divorce.


  1. Millennials Getting Prenups Have Peace of Mind

Last but certainly not least, millennials getting prenups can experience peace of mind. They can sign this premarital contract and, hopefully, never have to look at it again. People can say what they want about millennials and their trends, but this trend with prenups is indisputably smart. They’re approaching marriage realistically and maturely. They know that protecting themselves and their assets is important. If you plan on getting married in the near future, you may want to consider a prenuptial agreement. These millennials have pointed out some incredible reasons why this contract can offer security and peace of mind. Contact an experienced Boca Raton Pre-Nuptial attorney today to learn more about how you can create a prenuptial agreement for you and your future spouse.


Fact or Myth: Courts Favor The Mother in a Child Custody Case

Posted on: March 29, 2019 by in Family Law
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Courts Favor The Mother in a Child Custody Case

When parents get divorced, the terms of child custody can weigh on the entire family. Not knowing who gets custody can be stressful and frustrating. Not only is the process stressful, but parents can become confused and misled by all the myths circling around child custody cases. Gossip from other families’ divorce cases can spark a lot of fear. For instance, many people believe that the courts favor the mother in a child custody case. This myth has been proven wrong time and time again, but the idea still haunts a lot of fathers out there going through a divorce. The truth is, the courts do not favor one parent or the other without hearing from the family first. There are a lot of factors that are taken into consideration before a final custody decision is made. In this article, we discuss why people may believe the courts favor the mother in a child custody case, how one parent gets full custody, and what you have to prove to make that happen.


Courts Favor The Mother in a Child Custody Case: Myth

Today, family courts all over the country will approach a child custody case with an open mind and a balanced perspective. They encourage both parents to be a part of the child’s life whenever possible. Leaning towards one parent or the other before hearing the case is not common practice. However, there’s a good reason why people might still believe this myth that the courts favor the mother in a child custody case. This is because it used to be common practice for the courts to lean towards putting custody of the child with the mother. This was especially true if the children were young (toddlers or early elementary school age children). This was also at a time when mothers served more traditional roles in the home. Now, it’s more common to see both parents working full time and sharing responsibilities. That’s precisely why this practice has been phased out. The judge will rule on whatever path is in the best interest of the child.


What Factors Determine the ‘Best Interest of the Child’?

Since we’ve established that you can’t trust that the courts favor the mother in a child custody case, we can cover the factors that do matter. When deciding a child custody case, family courts will want to determine what is in the best interest of the child. The courts will want to know:

  • Both parents’ medical histories, mental and physical. Is one parent or the other physically or mentally incapable of caring for the child?
  • The financial stability of both parents. Do they hold steady employment? Does one parent make a significantly higher salary than the other? Are they able to provide basics like shelter, food, clothes, and medical care?
  • The child’s age and gender.
  • The child’s medical history, both mental and physical.
  • If the child is over the age of 12, what is their desired outcome? The courts will ask what they prefer in these cases.
  • Is the child more emotionally connected to one parent or the other? The emotional bond is an important factor in all custody cases.
  • What do the parents want? Is the arrangement amicable? Do they agree on joint custody? Is there a chance the ruling will be challenged?
  • Does each parent support and encourage the child to have a connection with the other parent?
  • The quality of life each parent can provide.
  • Each parents’ lifestyle and habits. Is one parent struggling with alcohol, drug, or gambling addictions?
  • Is there a history of domestic abuse in the home?
  • How long will it take for the child to adapt to their new home or lifestyle? Does living with one parent over the other disrupt the child’s routine? Will the child have to change schools? Will it involve moving to a new city or state?


Is Full Custody a Possibility?

As mentioned above, when it comes to child custody, the family courts want both parents to be involved in the child’s life whenever possible. However, of course, full custody is possible in certain circumstances.

  • If one parent moves away and shows little to no interest in caring for the child
  • If there’s a long history of physical or sexual abuse with one parent
  • If one parent is addicted to drugs or alcohol
  • If one parent has no home or shelter to provide for the child

These sort of situations might lead to full custody of one parent. However, you’ll have to provide evidence of these circumstances in order to get full custody.


For More Information on Child Custody Cases

If you’d like more information, contact a trusted Boca Raton child custody attorney. They can provide you with all of the resources you need in order to move forward with your case. Connect with Lewert Law today to learn more about your child custody options!

What Are Supportive Relationships?

Posted on: March 16, 2019 by in Family Law
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What Is A Supportive Relationship

After a divorce, there’s always a chance that one spouse will have to pay alimony to the other. Alimony payments serve an important purpose. Alimony is seen as necessary financial assistance to the spouse that earns significantly less than the other. But what happens if these circumstances change in the future? What if your ex-spouse meets someone new and moves in with this person? Does this change the amount you pay? Can this new supportive relationship terminate alimony payments altogether? These and other questions are answered in this summary of supportive relationships and their effect on alimony payments after a divorce.


Can Alimony be Modified or Terminated?

First and foremost, it’s important to remember that alimony can be modified due to a number of factors besides remarriage or death. For instance, a significant change in income or cost of living could modify alimony payments. Even tax laws, a sudden disability, or financial emergencies could all spark an adjustment in alimony payments. In addition, if the person receiving alimony payments becomes involved in a supportive relationship that provides financial assistance, this could also be a reason why alimony payments are modified.


What Are Supportive Relationships?

Florida legislature passed the Supportive Relationship Statute in 2005. This opened the door to legally adjusting alimony payments if the alimony recipient is receiving financial assistance from a new supportive relationship. The entire point of the legislation was to prevent an alimony recipient from receiving regular alimony payments as well as substantial financial support from a new relationship. However, this legislation never specifically defined what a supportive relationship is, making it difficult to prove that this relationship exists. Divorce attorneys and alimony payers are responsible for providing evidence that an ex-spouse is in a supportive relationship that offers considerable financial assistance.


How Do You Prove a Supportive Relationship Exists?

It’s important to note that if you strongly believe that your ex-spouse is in a supportive relationship, you can’t simply stop your alimony payments based on these beliefs. As stated above, this needs to be proven in a court of law. A judge will only terminate the payments if the supportive relationship is proven “by a preponderance of the evidence”. The alimony recipient is not responsible for disproving any of the evidence that is brought forward by the spouse paying alimony. The judge will review various economic and lifestyle factors before he or she can determine if alimony payments should be modified. For instance:


  • How long have the two individuals been living together? Would this location be considered a permanent residence for both of them? Florida courts will want to know the extent of time of their cohabitation. The longer they’ve lived together, the more likely the chances are of proving a supportive relationship exists.
  • What does the relationship look like? Are they in a romantic relationship? Is it a business relationship? Are they open about this relationship in public? A judge might ask about how the two individuals met and how they spend their time together.
  • Are they sharing assets? Do they have joint bank accounts? Do they split bills down the middle or is one person paying utilities and rent? If they’re sharing assets and bills or if the new partner is providing all of this, it’s more likely to be labeled as a supportive relationship.
  • Have they purchased properties together? Have they made any sizable purchases together? For instance, if they both purchased a car that they share and pay for together, this could be a strong sign of a supportive relationship.  


What Does NOT Qualify as a Supportive Relationship?

To properly understand what a supportive relationship is, it helps to know what is NOT a supportive relationship. If your ex-spouse moves in with their parents after the divorce, this is not considered a supportive relationship. Even if your ex-spouse is receiving financial assistance from their parents, it’s still not a supportive relationship. Blood relatives or relatives through marriage do not count as supportive relationships. In addition, if your ex-spouse is cohabiting with a friend, boyfriend, or girlfriend, but they keep all of their finances completely separate, it’s not considered a supportive relationship. Remember that spouses paying alimony need to be able to prove that substantial financial assistance exists.


For More Information on Supportive Relationships

If you’re currently paying alimony, but you believe your ex-spouse is in a supportive relationship, action should be taken. It’s unjust to make payments if their financial lifestyle has significantly changed. Since it is challenging to prove a supportive relationship in court, it’s highly recommended to work with an attorney. An experienced Boca Raton cohabitation lawyer can provide you with the guidance you need in these circumstances. They’re experts in alimony modifications and providing evidence to prove a supportive relationship exists. Contact a divorce attorney today to learn more!


What is a QDRO?

Posted on: March 8, 2019 by in Divorce
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After most people go through a divorce, their focus tends to turn to their future. There are always immediate issues to deal with, such as living arrangements, child custody, or alimony. But after that, there’s retirement. That’s when QDRO comes into play. QDRO stands for Qualified Domestic Relations Order, and it’s a requirement for anyone looking to split up a retirement plan, after a divorce, legally. Since it’s both a complicated and necessary document, it’s important to understand the drafting process, how long it takes, and who should be involved in the creation of this type of court order. Without a QDRO, you can’t guarantee that you will benefit from an ex-spouse’s retirement savings. In this article, we provide everything you need to know about the Qualified Domestic Relations Order process.


QDRO Defined

Many divorcing couples will hear of a QDRO for the first time with their divorce attorney. That’s because retirement plans are under heavy protection federal law and they used to be excluded from divorce proceedings. However, after 1984, Congress passed a law that made a special exception. They created qualified domestic relations orders to allow for retirement plans to be split after a divorce or legal separation. In effect, specialists started focusing solely on drafting QDROs and creating legal pathways for 401(k)’s, retirement plans, and pensions to be divided up. In order to complete a QDRO, you’ll need to include:


  • The retirement plan owner’s full name and the address of their permanent residence
  • The payee’s full name and the address of their permanent residence
  • The percentage that the alternate payee will receive
  • How the attorneys determined that percentage
  • Amount of payments  that will be included in the QDRO
  • The processing of payments


Obtaining a Qualified Domestic Relations Order

After the finalization of your divorce, there will be a judgment regarding the separation of assets. This is when you’ll know if you were granted a portion of your ex-spouse’s retirement plan. However, when a judge simply states that you’ll receive a portion of the retirement plan, that doesn’t automatically make it complete. This is when a QDRO becomes necessary. For instance, let’s say that a judge grants you 50% of your ex-spouse’s retirement plan. This judgment alone does not immediately make it true. It’s at this point that you and your attorney should begin to discuss drafting a Qualified Domestic Relations Order.


How Long Does the QDRO Process Take?

Unfortunately, the procedure doesn’t move along as quickly as most would like. However, it is an important document that passes through a lot of important hands, so it needs to be completed accurately. It’ll take anywhere between three to six months for a QDRO procedure to be complete. Of course, when the two parties and plan administrators agree to the terms of the QDRO, each step moves along quickly and efficiently. If the parties can’t agree to the terms of the QDRO or if one of the plan administrators gets held up along the way, it could take a lot longer. It’s also important to remember that every retirement plan is unique and has different terms and conditions. Finding practical ways to divide them can take time.


Here are the basic steps in a Qualified Domestic Relations Order process:


  1. Begin drafting the QDRO.
  2. Obtain a plan administrator’s approval.
  3. Have all of the parties involved approve and sign the QDRO.
  4. Submit the signed QDRO to the court for final approval by a judge.
  5. Send a certified copy of your finalized QDRO back to the plan administrator.


Who is the Alternate Payee?

The spouse that’s required to split their retirement plan is referred to as a participant. The alternate payee is the individual that’s receiving the portion of the retirement plan that’s stated in the QDRO. Most of the time, this will be an ex-spouse that has a significantly lower income than the income earner. It’s important to remember that the alternate payee doesn’t necessarily have to be the ex-spouse. However, it can’t be a close friend or extended relative either. Under federal law, the alternate payee can be a spouse, former spouse, child, or other dependents of the participant.

For More Information on Obtaining a Qualified Domestic Relations Order

If you’ve been granted a portion of your ex-spouse’s retirement plan, it’s never a good idea to wait to complete a QDRO.  A divorce attorney can get the process moving as quickly and as smoothly as possible. As mentioned above, the process can be long, complicated, and include a lot of discussions with attorneys and plan administrators. It’s important to be able to depend on a legal expert to explain each step and navigate any legal issues that may arise along the way. The process is a lot less daunting when you’re working with an experienced attorney that can help you to understand your options. Contact one today for more information!

Planning for Divorce – Cynical or Proactive

Posted on: February 28, 2019 by in Divorce
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Planning for Divorce

Getting married is always an exciting time in anyone’s life. It’s a time to celebrate love, new beginnings, and commitment. This is why it’s often difficult to bring up the idea of divorce when people are engaged to be married. Many couples find the idea of discussing divorce before marriage to be the least romantic thing on the planet. It is true that planning for divorce before you get married can seem cynical or pessimistic. But does planning for divorce before marriage have to be so dark? Could it be considered proactive to make a plan that protects you and your assets if a romantic disaster occurs?

Discussing plans for a potential divorce has become more and more popular these days. This is especially true amongst millennials and younger generations. These young couples are very aware of the realities of divorce. They know that it’s not necessarily cynical to be prepared. They understand that it’s essential to protect yourself and plan for a divorce before you walk down the aisle.

What is a Prenuptial Agreement?

A prenuptial agreement (often referred to as a “prenup” or “premarital agreement”) is a written contract that you and your soon-to-be spouse will create together. Prenuptial agreements will usually list each persons’ property and assets and specific instructions on how everything will be divided if the marriage fails. However, a prenuptial agreement can include much more than that. Prenups can include guidelines for specific scenarios. For instance, you can state in a prenuptial agreement that you will agree to see a marriage counselor for a certain length of time before you decide to divorce. It’s strongly advised to speak with a divorce attorney at this stage to help you decide what kind of conditions you’d like to set for you and your spouse in an unfortunate case of divorce.


Why Would You Want a Prenuptial Agreement?

Many engaged couples will avoid planning for divorce at all costs. Some believe that planning for divorce before marriage can curse the relationship. Of course, the thought of separating at this stage of a commitment can be uncomfortable and even awkward. However, this is a perspective that’s been evolving over the years. First, discussing divorce before marriage can help you and your partner understand the weight of marriage and what it involves. It’s an opportunity to discuss expectations and responsibilities.

While some couples only see marriage as a romantic commitment, others realize that it’s also a business relationship. You’ll have shared properties, assets, and even debts in the future. It’s important to talk about the possibility of untangling these items before they’re tied together. With the recent increase of prenuptial agreements, it’s clear that more couples are seeing this contract as a sign of strength and protection instead of a sign of weakness and pessimism.


What Happens if We Don’t Have a Prenuptial Agreement?

This is one of the most important questions that a newly engaged couple can ask themselves. In the worst case scenario, what happens if we do not prepare for divorce? What if we don’t have a prenuptial agreement? The truth is, there’s a lot that lies outside of your control if you don’t have a premarital contract. The state’s laws will dictate who owns what property that the two of you have accumulated during the marriage. Depending on how the marriage ends, you could end up paying alimony, child support, and splitting your retirement or pension with your ex-spouse. The point is that without a prenuptial agreement, the splitting of assets, income, savings, and property can become very messy. Planning for divorce before marriage allows you to prepare for the worst. Many engaged couples will feel more secure in the marriage knowing that a prenuptial agreement contract exists.


Who Should be Planning for Divorce Before Marriage?

A common myth is that only celebrities or wealthy couples should be planning for divorce. It is true that when you have a lot of money, assets, and property, it’s better to have a premarital contract. However, the days of only wealthy people planning for divorce are over. Every couple should plan for the possibility of divorce. Having a contract can help you both to express your ideas for your financial future and identify how you’d like to move through financial obstacles if you’re no longer together.


For More Information on Planning for Divorce

If you’re planning a wedding, it’s highly recommended also to have a plan for what would happen in the event of a divorce. A Boca Raton divorce attorney can help you identify certain terms and conditions for your premarital agreement. Since divorce is so prevalent, nowadays, it’s important to prepare beforehand. Contact experienced divorce attorney, Lewert Law, today to learn more about how you can protect your financial future and create a premarital contract with your future spouse today.

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Kelley Ms. Lewert never lost sight of the practical realities of my divorce. Although she listened compassionately so that she understood what she needed to, she did not let me lose sight of my goals and what was acheivable within the system even when things got emotional. She protected my financial interests and my personal interests. Thanks to Ms. Lewert, I no longer have to deal with a difficult ex-. She didn't always tell me what I wanted to hear, but because of that, my case did not drag out longer than it should have. I never felt that she put her own interests ahead of mine. Her judgment was reasonable and her advice sound. She and her staff were good at dealing with difficult and unreasonable people in a professional and ethical way. Thanks to Ms. Lewert, I never got drawn into senseless battles, recovered as quickly as possible from my divorce and was able to move on and enjoy a better life. I have recommended her repeatedly to others who need an excellent family lawyer.

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