Child Support Obligations When Unemployed

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The last four weeks, unemployment jobs claims have hit record highs. As of early July, 2020 a total of almost 1.3 million Americans are out of work. Unemployment causes stress over covering necessities like housing, utilities, and food costs. Child support obligations after a layoff or furlough can create additional anxiety. We’ll highlight what both parties can do to help alleviate the burden when unemployment due to COVID changes everything.

Florida Law Concerning Child Support Obligations

When a judge orders a parent to pay maintenance for the upbringing of his/her child(ren), that parent becomes a ‘maintenance debtor’. He/she is legally bound to pay a monthly sum for support to his/her children, who, conversely, have become ‘maintenance creditors’.

In Florida, if a parent violates the court child support order, they can be found in contempt of court, which carries a variety of penalties, including:

  1. Driver’s license or passport suspension 
  2. Seizure of bank accounts
  3. Seizure of tax refunds
  4. Liens on property
  5. Wage garnishment
  6. Payment of a fine
  7. Jail time of up to one year (And you’ll have to continue to pay support during the entire period of imprisonment!)

Things are not always simple; The courts know that nonpayment is not always the result of a deliberate choice. We’ll discuss modifications to a child support payment schedule in greater detail below.

How Do You Modify Your Child Support Payments in Florida?

According to Florida Statute 61.30, the court will determine the net income of each parent to calculate a combined net income. Using this figure in a child support guidelines schedule, the need per child is determined for different levels of combined monthly net income. To set the monthly payment schedule, the court will use a percentage share for each parent based on their respective incomes. Beyond this, child support can also include many other costs such as child care and health insurance for the child. 

The court can adjust the amount based on what it calls “deviation factors”, some of which include:

  • Extraordinary needs (medical, mental health, educational, etc.) of the child
  • If the child makes any independent income
  • The age of the child

In the same way that the child’s needs change with age, the parents’ income and expenses may increase or decrease. When a global pandemic causes the obligor to become unemployed overnight, being penalized for nonpayment on top of that would be unnecessarily harsh.  

Luckily, Florida Statute 61.13 provides for the possibility of modifying or even suspending the payment of support when there has been a substantial change to the circumstances of the parties. To accomplish this, the parties will need to go back to the court which initially set the maintenance payments and assert the changes which have occurred in his situation. Loss of employment or furlough would certainly render a party unable to pay the maintenance payments. Therefore, this gives cause for the court reconsider the monthly amount.

Getting Help From an Experienced Florida Family Law Attorney

No matter what happens, the best course for an obligor is to be able to demonstrate that they’ve done everything in their power to maintain the ordered support. When your circumstances have changed, it’s time to consult an experienced family law attorney. Whether you are an obligee or an obligor, our team can help navigate the legal proceedings towards modifying family maintenance payments. 

Contact our team now. We are available via telephone at (904) 236-5317, email, or the contact form on our website.

Virtual Trial: International Child Abduction

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Spotlighted in a recent ABA Journal article, Boyer Law Firm is proud to have conducted its first fully-virtual federal trial. This was an international child abduction case, under the Hague Convention.

Adapting to an ever-changing legal landscape is the bedrock on which our firm was founded. By staying on top of new technologies, we can be wherever our clients need us. This may be at home and around the world – even during a global pandemic. 

Read on as we outline how our team of international law attorneys were able to help make history for our firm with bringing virtual cases to trial.

Knowing the Law: Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction

In order to be an international attorney capable of offering expert legal services online, one must first have intimate familiarity with international law; specifically, the Hague Convention concerning child abduction. This multilateral treaty was enacted October 25, 1980 and helps provide an expeditious means of returning a child that has been internationally abducted by a parent from one country to another. 

The Hague Conference itself helps bring member nations together under a single court to assist with law matters across international borders. Our team of seasoned international attorneys and support staff have years of experience in crafting winning legal strategies that get the best results for our clients under the many Hague Conventions.

Latest Law Tech Helps Boyer Transition to Fully-Remote, Virtual Trials

Even before the novel Coronavirus swept the globe, our firm has continually invested in new technology. Our goal is to bring our lawyers and clients together face-to-face, even when they are across oceans apart. Being a client-centric law office does not change because of distance or circumstance. Our team delved into developing a full technology upgrade for our offices and equipment. 

With international communications rivaling global megafirms, our small team of elite professionals maintains connectedness throughout our client’s legal process. This includes taking the case to trial when necessary. This technology was put to the test and found to work seamlessly. We were able to demonstrate this with our first virtual full day trial on the Hague Convention. With two on-staff attorneys, including our founder Frances M. Boyer, our French foreign legal consultant, and a panel of eight witnesses appearing via Zoom, our team was able to represent our client remotely. 

Getting Help from an Trusted Hague Child Abduction Lawyer

con principal Attorney, Francis M. Boyer is a Board Certified Expert in International Law. He is one of only a handful of such international lawyers across the entire U.S. This kind of expertise in a smaller law office means our clients get the absolute best representation possible. They receive an unmatched level of communication and client care with our legal team. When you need an experienced, trusted international law attorney, contact us for a free case evaluation to walk you through all your options and for help charting a path forward. 

Are Foreign Prenuptial Agreements Enforceable in Florida?

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A prenuptial agreement (“prenup”) is an contract signed by both spouses-to-be before marriage. The general purpose of a prenup is for future spouses to agree to certain rules for property and asset distributions in the event of death or divorce. For instance, a couple might agree to waive rights to alimony or set monetary limits to alimony. Some couples agree to exclude certain property from being considered marital property. This could be an inherited family estate or business. Meaning, this property would not be subject to division in the event of divorce.

A foreign contract is one that was executed outside of Florida. This can be an agreement from another state or country. In the case of foreign foreign prenuptial agreements, one question that frequently arises is whether the agreement is valid and enforceable in Florida. In short, “yes” is the answer. Prenups are contracts; Contracts signed in other states or foreign countries are enforceable by Florida courts. However, there are some caveats. Courts give prenuptial agreements a higher level of scrutiny than business contracts. This is because:

  • Prenups involve personal rights (to property, for example)
  • There is a higher risk of overreach and undue or nefarious influence in the making of a prenup and
  • Often, prenups are signed in the absence of legal representation

For a foreign prenuptial agreement to be valid in Florida, wo legal requirements must be met. First, the prenup must be valid in the jurisdiction when and where it was signed. Second, the prenup must not counter to Florida public policy. The courts will use the “choice of law” doctrine, to evaluate a foreign prenup in relation to Florida public policy.

What is “Choice of Law”?

Every nation and every state in the US enacts various laws. Sometimes the laws are the same, but most often, the laws are different. Sometimes, in a given situation, different laws might apply and the different laws might be in conflict. When that happens, a court must make a choice between the competing laws.

Take a simple example related to speed limits. In parts of Germany, there are no speed limits for automobiles on the autobahn, the German freeway system. By contrast, in Florida, we have speed limits on our highways and freeways. Imagine a German tourist comes to Florida and drives 120 miles an hour down I-75. Of course, Florida Highway Patrol will pull over the tourist and issue a ticket. Now imagine that the tourist is standing before a Florida judge and attempts to escape paying the fine by stating: “But, in Germany, I can drive 120 miles an hour.” The judge will rightly and quickly respond: “Yes, but this is Florida and you can’t drive 120 miles an hour in Florida.”

Simply speaking, the judge faced a choice of law problem. In theory, German law might apply to a German citizen, but the citizen was driving in Florida. With two conflicting laws, which law should apply? In our example, the Florida judge chose to enforce Florida law since Florida has a higher interest in protecting its citizens on its roads and highways.

Why is Choice of Law Important?

The same choice of law analysis applies to prenuptial agreements. Take an example involving a prenup and a waiver of spousal support. Imagine that, in 1984, the couple married in a Midwest state. Their agreement states that in event of divorce, neither spouse could seek alimony or any sort of spousal support. In 2000, the parties moved to Florida and now are seeking divorce. The divorcing spouse asks the Florida judge to void the portion of the prenup waiving the right to alimony.

In making its decision, the Florida judge will engage in a choice of law analysis. Likely, the judge will rule that Florida law should be applied since the couple lives in Florida. After deciding the choice of law question, the judge will make a decision about awarding alimony based on Florida law. Under Florida law, alimony can be waived if certain conditions apply. Whether the spouse seeking support will become a dependent of the state is one consideration. Also important, is whether the prenup was signed under any sort of duress or fraud.

Therefore, foreign prenups are enforceable in Florida, but will be subject to a high level of scrutiny and to a choice of law analysis.

For a Closer Look at Your Prenuptial Agreement, Call Us Today.

Legal issues with respect to foreign prenuptial agreements are complex and can make a substantial impact on your future. If you need to know your rights under a prenuptial agreement, then consult a top-tier Florida family law attorney. Whether the contract was created in Florida or abroad, contact us by calling (407) 574-2573 or sending us a private message through our secure contact form. Appointments are available by telephone or video-conference for your safety and convenience.

International Law: Hague Conventions

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Any practicing international law firm worth their weight should be immediately familiar with Hague Conventions. They have been pivotal in defining many of the laws helping to govern internationally. That is to say, these multilateral agreements stem from more than a hundred years of cooperation. However, it may be surprising to learn there is not one, but some 40 different Hague Conventions. Each of them focusing on unique aspects of international law. We’ll highlight the Convention’s deep impacts on international law, and focus in particular on a Boyer specialty – international family law.

What is the Hague Conference?

The first Hague Conference was held in The Hague, Netherlands in 1893. Formally known as ‘The Hague Conference on Private International Law’, or HCCH, this global intergovernmental organization today brings together 84 states, including the U.S, and the European Union. The organization works to progressively unify the rules of private international law for the betterment of all. 

Differences Between ‘Hague Conference’ & ‘Hague Convention’

The objective of the Hague Conference is to create judicial cooperation between member states to limit issues prevailing international law. For example, conventions exist on forum shopping and fraud of judgments. To clarify, the Conference drafts, negotiates, and ratifies agreements, or ‘Conventions’, aimed at respecting the member country’s judicial authority. This is done by ensuring recognition of foreign judgments.

Various Hague Conventions touch on aspects of litigant privacy. But, not all litigants are equal before the law from one member state to another. For instance, the Conventions are not all ratified by the entirety of the member states comprising the organization. Most importantly, some Conventions are signed by the members but then are not ratified; Unfortunately, this renders them not applicable in the territories which have not ratified the act. However, even if not ratified, the Conventions still help retain a level of influence on the assessment of facts by courts. On the other hand, there are many Hague Conventions that are of universal application because they relate to universally-accepted points.

Hague Conventions Concerning Family Law 

Certainly, the most well-known Hague Conventions are the Conventions ratified by the greatest number of member states. In family law, there are several momentous Conventions that have helped shape the legal landscape:

  • Convention on the International Abduction of Children
    Desires to protect children internationally from harmful removal and to help them return to their families. Ratified on October 25, 1980.
  • Convention on the International Adoption of Children
    Concerns the powers of authorities, the applicable law, and the recognition of decisions in matters of international adoption. Ratified by the Hague Convention of November 15, 1965. 
  • Convention on International Administration of Estates
    Addresses the conflicts of laws relating to the form of testamentary provisions. Ratified by the Hague Convention of October 5, 1961 and the Hague Convention of October 2, 1973.
  • Convention on the Law Applicable to Maintenance Obligations in Respect of Children
    Desires to establish common laws applicable to the maintenance obligations of adults . Ratified by the Hague Conventions of 24 October 1956, April 15, 1958, and October 2, 1973.
  • Convention for the Recognition of Divorces
    Aimed at facilitating the recognition of divorces and legal separations of citizens within different member states. Ratified by the Hague Convention of June 1, 1970.
  • Convention for the Law Applicable to Matrimonial Property Regimes
    Ratified by the Hague Convention of March 14, 1978.

Above all, to determine if one of the Hague Conventions applies to your unique situation, there are a few considerations. Firstly, where did the event take place? Secondly, is that place a member state of HCCH? Likewise, is the issue something the member state has ratified at a convention? Further, what is the applicable rule of international law within the convention? Sound easy?

Navigating International Family Law Issues 

Instead of trying to figure out complex international law issues yourself, call on our experienced team of international attorneys. Moreover, our managing attorney, Francis M. Boyer is one of only a few attorneys in the entire U.S. to achieve Board Certification in International Law. Our dedicated team reviews all of the facts surrounding your case and helps you understand all your options going forward. Contact us now.

What if an Employee Refuses to Return to Work?

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As the economy restarts, many employers are facing the serious problem that some employees are reluctant to return to work. Some of the reluctance is driven by legitimate fears related to the coronavirus and its spread. For others, it is a matter of economics. The legal and practical issues are complex and employers must tread carefully. Retain an experienced Florida business attorney today for help. Here are a few of the legal issues that should be considered and steps to take.

Requests for Accommodation

Under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), employers must consider any request from an employee for reasonable accommodations for a legitimate disability. See 42 U.S. Code §12101 et seq. The ADA prohibits discrimination against people with physical or mental disabilities in employment. This is relevant because certain employees might legitimately claim disability based on being COVID-19 “high-risk individuals.” Examples include workers who are elderly, have compromised immune systems, or serious comorbidity health factors.

A “high-risk individual” might ask for various accommodations, such as:

  • Working from home
  • Working in a different physical work area, which may provide more social distancing
  • A modified work schedule, which might be less busy and less risky
  • Something else

What Are Employer’s Obligations?

If not requested, employers do not have to provide accommodations. In other words, no blanket rules apply. Document every request made and address them individually. An employer is not required to accept all requests for accommodation. A request to work from home can be rejected if the employee’s physical presence at the place of work is an essential part of the job. A waitress, for example, must be present physically at a restaurant to serve the customers. The ADA requires some give and take. The employer can offer an alternative, if the job duties cannot be accomplished with the proposed accommodation. In our waitress example, the employer might suggest a different schedule, such as lunch shifts, which might be less risky in terms of exposure. If the employee rejects an alternative accommodation, then the employer can consider termination.

There is no obligation to grant requests to work from home, even if the work can be accomplished remotely. Certainly, there are legitimate business concerns that may preclude an employer from granting this request. Workplace safety regulations, accountability, adequate supervision, enforcing labor laws, and cyber-security are examples of these concerns..

Practical Considerations About Unemployment Benefits

Some employees are reluctant to return to work for economic reasons. To clarify, the enhanced unemployment benefits approved by Congress in the first stimulus package ($600 per week), some employees lose money by returning to work.

Meanwhile, those who are collecting unemployment benefits must periodically report job offers to Florida unemployment officials. Therefore, and employer can subtly coax an employee back to work by being direct about their return to work. Providing a specific date, time, and at a given location. This constitutes a “offering a job” as defined by the unemployment benefits regulations.

A benefit recipient who refuses a job offer can lose his or her unemployment benefits. If this happens, then the employee has no job and no unemployment benefits. When faced with this dilemma, many employees will return to work. Employers must be careful not to threaten employees with loss of unemployment benefits. Threats could lead to litigation and, in any event, termination of benefits is not within the control of an employer.

Communication and Documentation

Proper communication with returning workers is key. Some employers make the mistake of having general, vague, and exploratory conversations with their workers. So, employers must specify when and where employees are expected to return to work. Most importantly, document ALL communications. The documented communication is proof of the employer’s expectations. In short, employers should ensure expectations are clear and legitimate accommodation requests are considered. After that, employees refusing to return to work can be terminated for job abandonment.

For an Evaluation of your Business Needs Call Boyer Law Firm

With our team of experienced Florida business attorneys in Orlando, Jacksonville, and Miami, we can help guide you through the practical and legal issues discussed in this article. Call Us at (407) 574-2573 or send us a message through our secure contact form. Appointments are available only by telephone or video conference.