The P.E.A.C.E. Method
Joel Wilson likes to use the acronym P.E.A.C.E. to cover all of the issues that our Courts require you to make decisions about in Family Law:
These are issues like Custody, Time-Sharing, Relocation, Medical Decision Making, School Choice, and Religious upbringing. We all want what is best for our kids, but we do not always agree on what is best, or on how to achieve those goals. Every Divorce and Paternity matter must have a Parenting Plan that details the time each parent will spend with the children including holidays and vacations. It will also include how you will make decisions about medical matters, school choice, any religious upbringing, and participation in extracurricular activities. A Parenting Plan should be specific enough to give structure and stability, but also flexible enough to accommodate the many changes that come with raising children. Every family is unique. You and your children deserve a Parenting Plan that is right for you.
E: Equitable Distribution
How do we divide the assets and debts you built during your marriage? The court doesn’t much look at whose name is on the title of an asset. It is more about whether you built the asset (or acquired the debt) during the course of your marriage. If you did, then it is marital, and needs to be fairly divided. Most of the time, the Court divides assets and debts 50/50. That doesn’t mean that each asset and debt gets sold or divided, rather that each person should end up with roughly the same total value of marital assets and debts. Think of balancing scales. If we put $1000 on one spouse’s side, we need to put the same value on the other spouse’s side to balance out. You may have assets or property before the marriage, or that you inherited during the marriage. Those may be non-marital, and protected from Equitable Distribution depending on the specifics of when and how you received them, and what you have dome with them since then.
Alimony is a balancing test between one spouse’s need, and the other spouse’s ability to pay, taking into consideration the length of the marriage, each spouse’s ability to meet their own needs, and the historical marital standard of living. In my opinion, Alimony is the least predictable issue in family law, and has the widest range of possible outcomes in court. That makes it probably the most important issue to get legal advice about.
C: Child Support
In Florida, child support starts with a formula that considers both parties’ incomes, and the timesharing of the children. If the parties both made exactly the same income, and had 50/50 timesharing, there would be no child support. That sounds pretty straight forward, but sometimes it can be complicated to determine a person’s income. We have to consider whether bonuses, commissions, overtime, and per diem should be included as income, what to do when a person is intentionally unemployed or underemployed (they could be working more hours, or they could be working a higher-paying job), credits for providing medical insurance, child care, and other benefits for the children, etc. Child support doesn’t stop with that basic support money. It also addresses how other expenses for the children will be paid, such as medical and dental insurance and uncovered costs, child care and summer camp expenses, and the cost of extracurricular activities.
E: Everything Else
The four issues above are the primary issues in most cases, and the ones a Court will decisions about. But people can make agreements about other matters that the Court might not do on its own, and if you make an agreement, then the Court can enforce it. If there is something important to you that doesn’t fit into the Court’s cookie-cutter model, that is O.K., and we should definitely talk about it.
Wilson Family Law is a firm specializing in family law in the Brevard County Area. Through Traditional Litigation, Mediation, and Collaborative Practice, we are skilled and experienced in every method for resolving legal family disputes. Whether you are facing such an issue for the first time, or modifying an existing Court Order, our goal is to assist you in resolving your legal issues with the best outcome and the least harm to you and your family, quickly and efficiently, and for a reasonable fee.