IF MY SPOUSE RELOCATES, WHO IS GOING TO PAY FOR THE TRANSPORTATION COSTS?

If the Court orders relocation either through agreement of the parties or during a hearing, one of the factors the Court looks into is what the transportation costs are going to be for the non-custodial parent.

 What does this mean in plain English?

 If my spouse is the one that relocates the kids, how much is it going to cost me to see my kids?

One thing that we know is that long distance travel and transportation costs can be extremely expensive in certain situations.  We’ve seen various costs associated with transportation ranging from a small amount of gas money for a trip, to extensive airfare associated with overseas and international travel. 

 The factors for costs of the transportation differ on where the parents live, depending on if it’s a flight situation, whether there is an airport hub or multiple connecting flights and depending on the age of the child if they can fly without an adult. These different factors will all affect the transportation costs associated with the relocation. 

 So when making my long distance agreement, what do I need to take into consideration for the costs?

 Let’s use an example that your child is 2 years old when you agree to a relocation of the other party with the child, that would equal at least 16 years of transportation expenses associated with your time-sharing with the minor child.  Multiple that by each child if you have more than 1 child.

 To start to get an idea of the costs involved, let’s say in the example above the long distance timesharing was limited to:

                - one full month  (30 days) during the summer for the       

                 noncustodial parent, and

                - then some time at Christmas (how about 10 days?), and

                - let’s also include every other thanksgiving and spring break.

             * this is not necessarily a normal schedule, it’s just an example.

Christmas is one of the most expensive times to fly as children are normally out of school at that time and it is a peak travel time; this is usually true for Christmas, Thanksgiving, spring break, and summer break. These breaks all turn into good periods of time to make up time for the noncustodial parent if you live 2,000 miles away from each other; as every other weekend is not likely going to occur.  The transportation costs are going to be higher than a weekend in September, as these periods are the most regularly traveled periods. This has to be factored into the analysis of payment of transportation costs.

So if in the example the noncustodial parent is flying in to pick up the child that would be a roundtrip ticket home and then to bring the child back and then fly back would be another roundtrip ticket plus the child’s roundtrip ticket.  So just for one timesharing break if you bring the child back to the noncustodial’s home that could be a number of roundtrip tickets and if you multiply that over two to four times per year and then multiple that by 16 years, the costs associated with the timesharing could be substantial while the child is a minor. Keep in mind there are a lot of other variables for timesharing, which could necessitate additional costs associated with transportation.  So again this is a very important factor to remember to remember that this may not just be someone paying for a tank of gas for a 3-hour round-trip drive from city to city. 

How do people figure the payment of the transportation costs out?

 Of course we have to give the normal legal answer that every situation is usually different.

 Why is this so? Why can’t it be one size fits all?

Well, there are different situations that necessitate different results:

  • Sometimes parties will split the costs pursuant to a percentage either 50/50, 75/25, 90/10 – dependent on a whole host of factors, or
  • Sometimes one party bears all the costs, again this is based on each parties’ set of unique circumstances
  •  and then again it can be taken into consideration for child support and the Courts can take into consideration for a deviation from the child support guidelines based upon the expenses associated with the noncustodial parent’s timesharing.  Again, we stress the word “can”, the Court is free to Order what they feel is in the best interest of the child and what is fair and just for each situation. The parties can settle out of Court for payment that they deem to be fair as well if the Court will approve it.

What if I want more time?

 In some situations the parties are able to fly in for weekend timesharing or if they lived close they can drive if the financial circumstances allow for this type of timesharing.  Again, flights to and from distant locations for a short weekend are less prevalent. Sometimes we will see flights in to a locale and staying in a hotel or apartment near the other party’s residence for weekend timesharing, but again, the most frequent long distance time-sharing does not include more than about 5-8 weekends out of the year. This is an option to use floating weekends that can occur during the year at the request of the noncustodial parent, so it won’t be 26 every other weekends during the year, but it will be almost monthly contact with the minor child.

Again, this article does NOT suggest that relocations are always granted, but merely that IF the relocation is agreed to or Ordered by the Court, everyone needs to look at the transportation costs as this is a big issue in most cases. The Courts look at many factors in deciding a relocation, but this is not the topic of this article.

In conclusion it’s very important to keep this very potentially expensive factor in mind when you’re agreeing to or formulating a long-distance timesharing schedule, or an agreement based upon a proposed relocation. 

Our office deals with relocations on a regular basis and you can give us a call at (813) 272-2345 to set up a consultation relating to your proposed relocation or if you are the noncustodial parent and you are objecting to a relocation.  Sometimes it’s also helpful to speak to an attorney if either party is thinking about agreeing to the relocation and wishes to have more information or have an attorney assist in the process of negotiating the long distance timesharing and payment of transportation costs

By: William S. Foley, Esq.

Jurisdiction: Florida

What is Mediation?

Mediation is an opportunity to get things done. 

What we mean by that is that litigation is time consuming, costly and many times results in an outcome that would be more advantageous if the parties were able to come to a settlement as it costs money to get to the judge. 

Mediation is that option to get the case moving in the right direction to come to a settlement. 

It takes a meeting of the minds. 

It takes restraint. 

It takes compromise. 

It also takes reason and sometimes what would seem like a little bit of luck but attorneys know that a lot of times through hard work, preparation and consistent contact with their clients prior to the mediation helps prepare them to better informed and more able to make a decision at the mediation. 

Mediation itself in Florida is confidential and privileged.  In family law and divorce cases, which is the subject of this article, the relevant rules provide for confidentiality of mediation and settlement negotiations that take place at mediation.  So if the parties do not enter into a settlement agreement, offers and counteroffers made in compromise should not be used against them later. 

Confidentiality is very helpful as sometimes parties may be more willing to offer more than they would be willing to offer when they go to court, so then they want to make sure that these offers of compromise and settlement are not used against them later if the mediation does not work out, so it gives a forum for parties to feel comfortable to make their best offer.

A mediator is neutral and works for the agreement. The mediator is NOT the Judge. The mediator does not make decisions for the parties; the mediator helps facilitate an agreement. If you can’t agree, that’s when you turn it over to the Judge for the Judge to decide.

If you are interested in mediation in Tampa, Florida, Saint Petersburg, Florida, Clearwater, Dade City, New Port Richie, Plant City, Sarasota, Bradenton, Bartow, Lakeland, Spring Hill, Hernando, please give our office a call at (813) 272-2345 to speak with a divorce and family law lawyer that deals with mediation and is experienced in settling and litigating divorce and family law issues.

By: William S. Foley, Esq.

Jurisdiction: Florida

 http://www.wfoleylaw.com

Put Down the Phone!

In this article, we look at why parties going through a divorce will frequently make the same mistakes time and time again when it comes to damaging text messages and lapses in judgment when texting their soon-to-be-ex spouse.

Texting is easy. It takes usually no more than a minute to turn on your phone, get to the text message feature, put together a vaguely coherent message. So many times they are usually laden with acronyms and abbreviations, and sometimes very hard to understand if you are on the outside looking in. But they are easy to send out. If you were writing a letter, you would have to find paper, a pen, an envelope, a stamp and then sit down and write the letter and sign it and then drop it off in the mail. Obviously this takes considerably more time and usually is met with more thought being put into a letter. Text messages, on the other hand are sometimes indecipherable. That is why there are so many of those ‘auto-correct fail’ websites that show all different funny auto-correct mistakes that can really be funny. But why? Why, because it is easier and quicker to write something that you barely even read over and then hit SEND. It’s gone. Never to be seen again, well, until you read it and realize that you made a big mistake that can’t be taken back. That is exactly what we see in family law and divorces all the time.

When you are going through a divorce, emotions are high. It is really hard. It weighs on your psyche and it makes you act and do things that you might now always do. So if you couple that with a smartphone, usually you are bound to cause some hysteria. So what do we caution people to do?

SLOW DOWN. THINK. TAKE A DEEP BREATH.

Don’t just race though the text message if the thought just popped into your head. If you want to write it, then write it, but let it sit for a while. Come back to your phone in 30 minutes and see if it is still a good idea to send it.

This is very helpful for emails, and something we would recommend doing is not putting the email address into the email so you don’t accidentally or impulsively hit send. Wait to put the email address in after you have let it sit for a little while.

SLOW DOWN. THINK. TAKE A DEEP BREATH.

 

- By: William S. Foley, Esquire

wfoleylaw.com

Initial Consultation Questions to ask your Florida Divorce Lawyer

What kinds of questions should you ask an attorney during your divorce initial consultation?

It is important to understand that each attorney is different and therefore each attorney will have their own specific process for each of their consultations. Some attorneys will want you to fill out information prior to the consultation and also to discuss with the attorney specific background information that the attorney will need to know. Therefore, please understand that each attorney’s initial consultation is different and most of your specific questions should be answered during the attorney’s specific questioning that they have done hundreds/thousands of times with other people.

Here are some questions to ask during your divorce initial consultation:

1) Do you an area of practice that you focus on?

               If the attorney does not focus on divorce and family law matters, you may want to follow up with - have you ever handled a divorce before?

 

2) How long is the range that a case like this could last?

              Again, the attorney is in no way a fortune-teller and cannot predict the future of how long your case will last with your specific set of circumstances, but if they can tell you a range; this may help you have a handle on the situation if you have approximate time-frame that the attorney has seen in their experience.


3) If I forget to ask you something today during the initial consultation, can I call later to ask a question, or would I have to pay for another consultation?

Generally, I do not personally charge another consultation fee if a client has another question after the consultation, but some attorneys may charge and may need to see the potential client again. A reason why could include that a great deal of time may have passed and circumstances could have changed. Overall, it can put you at ease if you know that you can call later if you forget something during the consultation. During the consultation, you will be hit with a great deal of information and as it is also a confusing and emotional time, sometimes people can forget to ask all of the questions they have during their initial consultation.

4) What is the law in the state of Florida on: Parental Responsibility, Time-sharing, Parenting Plans, Child Support, Alimony, Equitable Distribution of Assets and Liabilities and Attorney’s Fees?

             Depending on what the issues in your case are, it is very important to know what the basic boiled down approach of the law is in some of the important areas of your case. Right from the start. It may not be the appropriate time to go into the minutiae of the law and specific cases, etc. But it is helpful know the State’s view on certain areas of divorce law so you can start understanding the process you are about to undertake.

5) What about the law applied to my situation? What can I ask for? What should I ask for?

                Your attorney will begin the process of analyzing your situation as soon as you provide back the new client questionnaire. As you are speaking to him or her, they will start to formulate how they wish to approach the case. As each lawyer’s approach may differ, sometimes there is not a right and wrong way to approach it; it may just be one lawyer’s view on the issues. So, feel comfortable with the lawyer’s approach to the case. Try to determine what your own goals are and if they are reasonable from the attorney. Any attorney can promise you the world, but if it is not realistic and they are only reciting back to you what you want to hear, then that may not be helpful to you in your divorce proceeding.

6) Are there any time-frames/deadlines that I need to know about?

                  This is very important as certain situations call for certain time-frames and deadlines. Speak more with your attorney about the specifics related to your case.

7) How much is the initial retainer for my case?

                Lawyers have different retainer amounts for different cases. Some attorneys ask for a refundable retainer and some ask for a non-refundable retainer.  Some retainers can be split up into a payment plan at some offices. The amount is really an important aspect of the consultation. This attorney will let you know at the end of the consultation as they will need to know your full situation before quoting you a retainer.

8) What is your hourly rate?

                 There is no set hourly rate for divorce lawyers in Florida. Each Divorce lawyer sets their own hourly rate, or it is set by their firm. Therefore, you need to know the hourly rates of the attorney and each member of the firm that may be billing on your case.

This is not an exhaustive list of questions to ask your attorney, but hopefully this will give you a basis for asking a Florida Divorce Lawyer questions during your initial consultation. 

HELP! I AM IN THE MIDDLE OF A CUSTODY FIGHT!

Article Written By William S. Foley —All rights Reserved

So what happens when you find yourself in the middle of a custody fight?

Is this something that you ever thought would happen to you?

Sometimes it is inevitable in certain cases dealing with children’s issues that they turn into a custody fight. It is usually not expected and almost never wanted. However, it does happen. Why does it happen so often? Well, both parents want the same thing. They both want the child.

The love of the child may cause people to act in ways they have never acted in their whole lives. Divorce attorneys see it every single day.

Sometimes it can also prompt some people to fight for their children to make ensure that the children’s best interests are taken into account. In these types of situations where the parent is truly looking out for the best interest of the minor child a custody battle may be warranted if it is not in the best interests for the other parent to have a majority of the time, and the other side will not agree to be reasonable and look out for the best interest of the child.

Parties can only reach an agreement when both parents are on board. This is a legal system in which agreements can be set aside and therefore such agreements must be entered into knowingly and willfully. So therefore both parties must come together in a meeting of the minds in order to form this agreement on how to handle the time-sharing of their minor children.

If the parents are unable to agree on what is in the best interests of the children then sometimes the parties feel that it is appropriate to have a third person make that decision, or assist them in making the decision.

One option is to use an expert who is trained in evaluating time-sharing, custody, parenting plans and contact with the minor children and the parent. This expert can be a social worker or psychologist but foremost has to understand the family law issues and factors that go into child custody and the time-sharing determinations. This article is written in Hillsborough County, Florida therefore it follows Florida statute 61.13, which dictates the factors the court will use to decide a time-sharing and a parenting plan.

Some factors are the facilitation of time-sharing and if one parent is more likely to facility the time-sharing with the other parent. Another factor includes making educational decisions and which parent has historically made those decisions. Other factors include domestic violence, child and sexual abuse, and related issues to the time-sharing with the minor children and the parents.

So therefore the expert may make a similar determination as the court would and sometimes they can make this the primary determination before the court even look at the issues.

Some judges are very receptive to theses evaluations and find it very helpful to the court in determining what is in the best interests of the children. However, if the evaluator does not follow the appropriate methods their recommendation is not as helpful, and the court will give little weight to the evaluation in its determination. These experts may testify at a final hearing and can be deposed, but their overall purpose and charge is to create a report and recommendation that details what the time-sharing and parenting plan should be. This recommendation can be extremely helpful to the Trier of Fact (the judge).

However, sometimes even with the assistance of an expert the parties are still unable to come to an agreement. That is when the judge makes the decision. In theses circumstance the expert may come to the court to testify or in other circumstances the parties will not use an expert to look at the child custody situation and the court must make the determination on their own with the assistance of the presented witnesses and the evidence.

The parties have to understand that just as they are human so is the Judge. Judges are human and therefore the only thing the judges can rely on is what is in front of them during that final hearing. The cannot read minds, they cannot tell the future and they cannot decide on evidence that is not presented to them.

If the final hearing only lasts a few hours it is very clear the parties will be in their Sunday best, acting their best, bringing in witnesses that will say they are the best parent possible, and generally in a normal child custody battle, they will be stating that it is not in the best interest of the minor child for the other parent to have primary residence or the majority of the time-sharing. So the courts, who are learned in this regard and understand this “best image” process, want to determine in light of the evidence and witnesses that are presented at the final hearing what is in the best interests of the minor children and not solely what one party has said about the other.

Because many of these hearings come down to a “he said-she said” argument where one side said something and the other side said the complete opposite, the court has to make a determination on who is correct and who is incorrect or untruthful. The court will normally be able to do this by weighing third party testimony or evidence the evidence presented to them. This is why it is very important in a child custody battle or fight which occurs through litigation to present witnesses and evidence that supports your case.

Your Judge cannot see into your home.

Your Judge does not know how you act with your child.

Your Judge will most likely not speak to your child (unless appropriate motions are filed and granted, under certain circumstances) and therefore does not have the same view point on the situation that either: (1) the parents could if they were able come to an agreement on their own, or (2) that an expert could see since the expert is able to speak to the child, to other family members, to both parties and review all types of evidence that the court may not be able to in this legal context.

So this author feels that while there may be some cases where there is no other option but trial and a custody battle in which the judge ultimately decides, the vast majority of cases are ready and able to be settled.

When both parties take a good long hard look in the mirror at themselves, the situation, and especially at their children, most times they are able to come to the realization that they can settle this issue; without the court as a third party judge, who will most likely never see them again but will have to dictate how the next eighteen years or however many years until the child reaches the age of majority to them. So it is always suggested that the parties do everything in their power to mediate and attempt to cooperatively settle these issues for the children, even if it is with the use of a neutral child custody expert.

There are studies that suggest, as would seem to be painfully clear, that divorce litigation, custody litigation, custody fights, and just the overall litigious nature that many couples exhibit towards each other are not conducive for the child’s development, for their upbringing, in their relationships with their parents, with friends, or in their future relationships. So therefore it is of the utmost importance for parents to at all times during custody litigation and during custody “fights” to take into extreme care the children’s best interests. That means keeping the children out of it.

The children in this regard, especially young children, feel that the divorce is their fault. Often, as they get older they seem to want to blame it on someone and later in life feel they want to blame it on both parents. There are many different stages that the child may go through during a divorce and it is always a trying and emotional time for them.

In conclusion, custody fights are not easy. They are extremely complicated. Everyone is emotional and there is no easy answer or recipe for success. Every single party is different, every single child is different, and every single judge is different so therefore what works in one situation is not necessarily what will work the next time. Therefore, the very first thing the parents must do is try to settle through mediation and negotiation without putting the issue before the judge. Then if the parents are unable to settle on their own they may choose to have an expert come in and evaluate their specific situation and recommend a custody arrangement prior to bringing the issue up before the judge. If neither option is appropriate for the parties’ situation then the case must go to trial and a stranger, the judge, will do their job and apply the law to the facts presented to them. The parties must be prepared, must be ready, and must understand that the judge’s review and determination may be a painful experience, but that the parties have exhausted every other option before requesting this and felt that going forward to trial was in the best interests of the minor child.

 

Jurisdiction: Hillsborough County, FL

Copyright 2009- 2013 William S. Foley, P.A.. All rights reserved.

What to do where you are served with divorce papers in Hillsborough County, Florida

It is normal to be confused and a little scared when served with divorce papers. Sometimes you may be served by a sheriff or a private process server. Sometimes you are served at home in front of the child and sometimes at work. No matter how it happens, you need to know how to proceed.

STEP 1

Don’t panic!

Knock. Knock. You hear the door and upon opening it you are giving legal documents with a summons by a process server or the sheriff. This can be a frightening and confusing time for anyone. Especially if you did not know that you were going to be served with divorce papers.

Some spouses have their wife/husband served at work and some at home. No matter how it is effectuated, the first thing you need to do is to not panic. The process server is just doing their job, so it is not a good idea to yell at them or blame them. They can also be used as a witness, so be careful.

Make sure you read the title of the documents served and that you have actually be served with divorces papers, and not a domestic violence injunction by a police officer, or some other legal documents. Those other types of legal proceedings that are beyond the scope of this guide.

If you have been served with a petition for dissolution of marriage, then calm down and start reading the paperwork.

STEP 2

Read the paperwork- NOW

I know it is confusing, but I have had a number of people come to see me that either did not even look at the paperwork or did not read certain documents they were served with.

In Hillsborough County, Florida, where I practice, if your case involves minor children, a standing order is put in place in your divorce case and you must abide by that standing order. You need to read the standing order and understand what the Court expects of you.

Read everything and then read it again.

STEP 3

Take notes

Again, an enormous amount of your petition package that you were served with is legal jargon, but do your best to understand what you were served with and take notes on a separate sheet of paper if possible! There are a number of people I have met with that have burned the midnight oil by staying up a highlighting and writing notes all over their petition, their spouses financial affidavit and any other motions that were filed.

Again, if you hire an attorney, or if you represent yourself during your case, you may need those documents, so please make a copy of the documents or write notes on a separate sheet of paper. You may want to start a divorce journal at this time, and writing notes in this journal would be a great start.

STEP 4

Calendar your deadline for answering the petition

If your summons states that you have 20 days to answer, then you need to abide by the petition. The normal amount of time to answer a petition for dissolution of marriage is 20 days and you must file your answer in the Court file prior to that deadline or your spouse may move for a default on your case. Also, calendar any dates in your case.

Do you have a case management order in your packet of paperwork?

If you are in Hillsborough County, you probably should. If you do not- call the clerk’s office immediately if you do not have that case management order in your packet of papers you were served with just to make sure when your next Court date is. See if there are any notices of hearings that inadvertently may not have been included in your paperwork as well. If you do have a notice of hearing or any other notices of dates to comply with in your case, calendar those dates as well.

STEP 5

Get on the internet or look for a referral to an attorney

You should start looking for an attorney immediately. Even if you do not retain an attorney for the case and you decide to proceed Pro Se (unrepresented) you would be better off served at least speaking to an attorney about some of the possibilities of things that you can plead for and if you need to file a Counter-Petition or not (beyond the scope of this guide, speak to an attorney about it if you have any other questions!) or any other emergency matters that need to be handled. While you are on the internet, start reading up on divorce topics on this site and other helpful sites to give you a basic understanding of divorce in Florida. Also, go to a bookstore and look at books on divorce, which again, are not a substitute for a lawyer, as they are not tailored to your specific set of circumstances, but they may be helpful in understanding the general process.

Jurisdiction: Hillsborough County, FL

STEP 6

Schedule one or more initial consultations with attorneys

Do yourself a favor. Get an attorney that you can live with. I have had cases that lasted years. It all depends on the facts and the parties involved. Normally, you don’t want a divorce to last that long, but sometimes complex cases and litigious cases do last a while.

So wouldn’t it be a good idea to find an attorney that you can deal with?

You are interviewing the attorney, just the same as the attorney is interviewing you at an initial consultation.

You can try to get free consultations, but at these consultations the attorneys may not give you any legal advice as it is usually just a way for the attorney to get some background in order to quote you an amount for your case. On the other hand, if you want an in-depth initial consultation, sometimes you will have to pay in order to sit down and get a good analysis of how the attorney would proceed in your set of circumstances and give you a background on Florida Divorce law.

STEP 7

Decide whether or not you want to represent yourself

The Florida Courts website is an amazing resource. www.flcourts.org as are many counties court’s websites that give information to parties that wish to proceed pro se (unrepresented) during their divorce. Some counties have forms clinics at the courthouse that you should look into if you wish to proceed without an attorney. Additionally, if you meet the standards for legal aid, you should speak to the different legal aid offices around the county to see if you qualify and if they can help you with your case.

You have a number of things that will be due very soon (i.e., mandatory disclosure, financial affidavit, discovery you were served with, etc.) so you need to know what these things are and how to prepare them.

STEP 8

File your responsive pleading

This guide cannot help you with what to file; as I said before, it is different in every case, under every set of circumstances.

Just make sure you DO FILE SOMETHING. Do not let your deadline come and pass thinking the judge may just give you a pass. Trust me, it is much more expensive for an attorney to un-do something that was done incorrectly (if they even can un-do it) rather than do it correctly in the first place.

So since this is a legal guide just for what to do in those first few days right after you are served with divorce papers in Hillsborough County, it is clear that it is beyond to scope for what needs to happen next or what may happen in other states or even some other counties. I would suggest you speak to an attorney to determine what is the best way to proceed in your case and what the law is in your jurisdiction, and they should be able to tell you what to file in your case in response to the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.

Written by: William S. Foley, Esquire

For more information, please see William S. Foley’s website