Parental responsibility covers two areas: (1) decision making; and (2) timesharing. Within decision making, there are three levels of parental responsibility. First, there is "Shared Parental Responsibility" where the parents must jointly confer and agree on all major decisions regarding their children. Major decisions are those involving the health, education and welfare of the children. Second, there is "Shared Parental Responsibility with Ultimate Decision Making" where the parents must discuss the issues but one parent can ultimately decide the issue even if the other parent disagrees. Third, there is "Sole Parental Responsibility" where one parent can make all the major decisions without even consulting the other parent. Regarding timesharing, there is no presumption for or against the father or mother or for or against any specific timesharing schedule. There is also no presumption for an equal timesharing schedule. The specific timesharing schedule, as well as the level of decision making, will be established by primarily considering the best interests of the child. A determination of the best interests of the child is made by evaluating all the factors affecting the welfare and interests of the child including those specifically set forth in Florida Statute 61.13(3).
E. Equitable Distribution
All the assets and liabilities of the parties will be distributed according to the following process: identification, classification, valuation and distribution. The court must first identify all the assets and liabilities of the parties. Once it has identified them, it must then classify them into marital and non-marital. The non-marital assets and liabilities are set aside and the marital assets and liabilities are valued. Once they are valued, the court will distribute them amongst the parties. The assets and liabilities will be equally distributed unless there is a justification for an unequal distribution based on the factors set forth in Florida Statute 61.075(1).
Unlike child support, there is no specific formula to calculate an alimony award. The first step in determining whether to award alimony is to determine whether one party has an actual need for alimony (their expenses exceed their income). If they have a need, the next step is to determine if the other party has the ability to pay alimony (their income exceeds their expenses). If one party has a need and the other party has the ability to pay, the next step is to determine the type and amount of alimony pursuant to the factors set forth in Florida Statute 61.08(2). The different types of alimony that may be awarded are Temporary Alimony, Bridge-the-Gap Alimony, Rehabilitative Alimony, Durational Alimony, Permanent Alimony and Lump Sum Alimony.
C. Child Support
The public policy of the State of Florida is that each parent has a fundamental obligation to support his or her minor or legally dependent child. Parents cannot waive or contract away child support because it is a right belonging to the child not the parents. To compute child support courts will use the child support guidelines set forth in Florida Statute 61.30. The guidelines take into consideration each parties net income, the number of children and the amount of overnights each parent has with each child. Although the child support guidelines amount is presumptively correct courts may be deviate from the amount by plus or minor 5 percent after considering the statutory factors and may deviate by more than 5 percent upon written findings that the guidelines amount is unjust or inappropriate.
E. Everything Else
This is the catch-all category for the issues not covered in the other areas. Some of the more frequent issues are attorney's fees, life insurance as security for a support award, the filing of tax returns, domestic violence and exclusive use and possession of a home.
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