Stuart N. House, P.A.

Why You Absolutely Must Pay Child Support

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Failure to pay child support is a very serious issue to the state of Florida, as well as the federal government. If a parent does not pay child support after being ordered to do so by a court, he or she likely will experience a number of negative consequences. The penalties for deliberately failing to pay child support are severe. Our lawyers wrote this blog to enumerate some of the possible consequences, as well as discuss a couple of options for parents who may be struggling to keep up with their child support payments.

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Penalties are Steep

Non-Payment of child support could result in:

  • A Finding of Contempt: A parent who is ordered to pay child support by a court (hereinafter referred to as the "obligor") and fails to do so may be found in contempt of court. If a court determines that the obligor has willfully failed to pay child support when he or she had the means to do so, the obligor could be subject to fines, sanctions and even jail time.
  • Driver's License Suspension: The State may suspend the obligor's driver's license and/or motor vehicle registration for non-payment of child support.
  • Professional License Suspension. The State may suspend an obligor's professional licenses and certificates for non-payment of child support. This may include, but is not limited to, the licenses or certificates necessary to practice as a certified public accountant (CPA), real estate broker, doctor, nurse, pharmacist, teacher, child care provider or collection agent.
  • Seizure of Assets. Federal income tax refunds, state lottery winnings, and unemployment compensation can all be intercepted by the government to pay child support. Bank accounts may be levied.
  • Liens. A lien can be placed on the obligor's real property or personal property, such as a boat, motor home or recreational vehicle. If the obligor attempts to sell the real or personal property, the lien becomes a potential hindrance to sale and must be paid in connection with any sale of the property.
  • Garnishment. The obligor's income may be garnished or attached to pay past-due child support.
  • Passport Denial. The United States Department of State may decline to issue or renew a passport to an obligor who is delinquent in payment of child support.

These are just some of the potential consequences of failing to pay child support. Each child support enforcement case is unique, and the government has many enforcement tools at its disposal.

What if you fall behind?

A parent who is struggling to keep up with child support payments is not without options. It is a fact of life that parents sometimes lose their jobs, get sick or struggle financially for other reasons. When parents find themselves in a temporary financial bind, they may work with their lawyer to file a motion to temporarily abate child support payments. Parents who experience a more substantial and permanent change of financial circumstances may request that their attorney file a petition to modify their child support obligation.

When child support is not paid, the consequences can be harsh. Therefore, wise parents will do everything possible to comply in good faith with any court orders, and promptly seek help from a Coral Springs child support lawyer if they fall behind in payment.

Tips for Surviving a Deposition

Saturday, September 10, 2016

According to Black's Law Dictionary, a deposition is "a witness' out-of-court testimony that is reduced to writing (usually by a court reporter) for later use in court or for discovery purposes," in which the client is required to answer questions posed by the opposing party's divorce lawyer. Responses to those questions can later be used in court, and may also precipitate more digging into certain aspects of the case.

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During the deposition, the opposing divorce attorney will attempt to gauge the client's credibility. The client's presentation, appearance and truthfulness will be scrutinized. This might sound intimidating, but with advanced preparation, it doesn’t have to be.

Here are some essential tips for getting through:

Before the Deposition

  • PREPARATION WITH ATTORNEY. The client's divorce lawyer plays a crucial role in his or her success. Clients should meet with their attorney at least once to go over the rules of deposition and questions that will likely be asked. A practice session may be held, and the attorney might provide the client with written instructions on the deposition process. The client should review his or her attorney's instructions carefully well in advance of the deposition.
  • DRESS AND GROOMING. As stated earlier, the opposing party's attorney will be observing to determine how the spouse will present in court. We advise our clients to dress in the same proper attire as they would for court. This serves to show the opposing party that the process is being taken seriously.
  • FATIGUE AND ANXIETY MANAGEMENT. It is helpful to be well-rested before a deposition. Getting sufficient rest the night before a deposition will assist the client in managing his or her emotions. For the same reason, it is beneficial to have a light meal prior to being deposed.

During the deposition

  • TELL THE TRUTH. The client does not benefit in any way by lying. When asked questions that are embarrassing, the client may understandably be tempted to be dishonest, but should always answer truthfully to the best of his or her knowledge.
  • LISTEN CAREFULLY. It's much harder for a client to tell the truth when he or she hasn't really listened to the question. Anxiety and defensiveness can make active listening difficult. The client should strive to remain calm and listen attentively to each question posed.
  • KEEP IT SIMPLE. While clients should always answer questions truthfully, they should not volunteer extraneous information. Long, rambling explanations are unnecessary. If a question calls for a simple "Yes" or "No" answer, clients are advised to stick to that.
  • REFRAIN FROM JOKING. During a deposition, the court reporter or videographer records just about everything said. A wisecrack made in jest may cause chuckles when spoken, but will sound terrible when read out loud in court. Clients should keep in mind that anything they say may be used against them in a court of law.

The aforementioned are just a few points to keep in mind when a deposition is imminent. By working closely with their attorney throughout the process, Coral Springs and Parkland clients will survive a deposition – and might even conquer it.

Why Proper Attire Matters in Family Court

Saturday, September 10, 2016

When you show up to a Broward County courtroom for the first time, the judge knows nothing about you or the other party beyond what's in written court filings. During a hearing, the parties are generally not permitted to address the judge unless specifically directed to do so. Even in silence, a form of communication with the judge and with all others present is taking place. From the moment the parties enter the courtroom, their appearance speaks volumes.

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Points to consider

Ask yourself:

  • What does my attire say about me?
  • Does my attire demonstrate respect for the court and for myself?
  • Does my attire show that I am taking this process seriously?
  • What impression am I creating?

While impressions are not as important as facts, they do matter. For example, if a client is involved in a dispute over parental responsibility, the moral fitness of each parent is a factor that the court is required to consider pursuant to Florida Statute 61.13. For example, If a party wears a t-shirt to court displaying questionable content, this could create the impression that the client is not morally fit. Mental and physical health are other factors that the court must consider, according to the same statute. If a party dresses in an outlandish, bizarre manner or fails to follow basic rules of personal hygiene, the client's mental or physical health may be called into question.

Business attire or similar

In the 17th Judicial Circuit Court of Florida, where most Broward County clients are likely to have cases heard, business attire is suggested when attending court. It's just a recommendation – likely as an accommodation to those who might not own such clothing – but a client should strive to dress in a way that shows self-respect, personal dignity and the utmost respect for the court.

Appropriate attire for court does not have to be costly or ostentatious. After you have retained a Coral Springs family law attorney, ask him or her for useful suggestions regarding your choice of clothes. All human beings are inevitably influenced to some degree by the personal appearance of others. When involved in a family law court case in Coral Springs, dress like it matters. All other things equal, attire could be the determining factor in your case.

Who Determines Children’s Vaccinations and Treatment?

Saturday, September 3, 2016

When parents can't agree, child custody lawyers often step in

Making medical decisions for a child is a parental responsibility. Pursuant to Florida Statute 61.13(2), parental responsibility should be shared by both parents unless shared parental responsibility is determined to be detrimental to the child. Florida Statute 61.046(17) defines shared parental responsibility as "a court-ordered relationship in which both parents retain full parental rights and responsibilities with respect to their child and in which both parents confer with each other so that major decisions affecting the welfare of the child will be determined jointly."

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When it comes to medical decisions like whether a child will be vaccinated or whether a child will be prescribed a certain medication, parents are supposed to make a decision together, even if they are no longer a couple. Florida Statute 61.13(2) requires that parents submit a parenting plan which spells out who is responsible for healthcare decisions. This requirement provides a useful opportunity for parents to discuss healthcare decisions in advance, before an emergency arises.

Disagreements frequently arise

Unfortunately, situations do arise when well-meaning parents have diametrically opposed opinions regarding a healthcare decision. For example, one parent is convinced that a child suffers from ADHD and requires a prescription for this condition. The other parent is vigorously opposed to this course of treatment due to religious, ethical or other reasons. If the parents are unable to reach agreement, they may choose to litigate. The parent seeking (or opposing) treatment would need to plead in court that shared parental responsibility regarding healthcare decisions is detrimental to the child. The parent could also request that the court grant ultimate decision-making authority to one parent. If the parents are in the process of divorce, the request for ultimate decision-making authority regarding medical decisions would be part of the petition for dissolution of marriage. If the parents are already divorced, or were never married, the parents would likely need to have an a Coral Springs child custody attorney work on their behalf to file a supplemental petition for modification or initiate an action specifically to establish parental responsibility and decision-making rights.

Detriment to the child must be proven

A parent seeking the ultimate right to make medical decisions must prove that detriment to the child will occur if shared parental responsibility continues. The court may order that a guardian ad litem become involved to investigate allegations affecting the child. The role of the guardian ad litem is discussed in Florida Statute 61.403. A guardian ad litem is appointed to advance the best interest of the child. This person may interview the child and any other person having information concerning the child’s welfare. The guardian ad litem may inspect the child’s medical records and any other records relevant to the child's welfare. He or she may even request expert examinations of the child and the child's parents by medical doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, or other mental health professionals. The court often orders that the fees and costs of the guardian ad litem are borne by both parents.

Parents seeking ultimate decision-making authority regarding a child's healthcare should be prepared with facts and credible evidence. They should also be prepared to cooperate fully with the guardian ad litem if one is appointed. The court's primary consideration when considering which parent will make medical decisions will be the child's best interest, as dictated by the laws governing Coral Springs and Parkland.