Payment of Travel Expenses for Long-Distance Parenting Plans

In matters where the parents live in different states or even different cities within the same state (usually more than 50 miles apart), there is often a long-distance parenting plan.  A long-distance parenting plan usually involves the child or children residing with one parent the majority of the time and spending significant holiday, school break, and summer time-sharing with the other parent.  The travel component of a long-distance parenting plan often involves either air travel or significant automobile travel and related costs, which results in the parents incurring more expenses than they would if they lived in close proximity to one another.

Defining Travel Expenses

When considering the sharing of travel expenses, it is very important to first properly define travel expenses.  If air travel is involved, are the travel expenses defined as only the airfare for the children only or do they include flights for an adult to accompany the children?  Do travel expenses include rental cars and hotels in the event that they are necessary?  If so, how is the reasonableness of the expense of a hotel room or rental car defined?  At Tampa Bay Family Law & Mediation, P.A., we discuss all of these critical issues with our clients to ensure that they are properly protected.

Pro-Rata Sharing of Expenses

How are the time-sharing transportation expenses shared?  The child support statute, section 61.30, Florida Statutes, provides generally that child-rearing expenses should be shared by parents pro-rata in accordance with their financial means.  Several appellate courts have held that the expense of transporting a child or children for time-sharing is a child-rearing expense like any other which should be shared by the parents in accordance with their financial means.  Aranda v. Padilla, 216 So.3d 652 (Fla. 4th DCA 2017).  In other words, time-sharing travel expenses should be shared in the same ratio as the allocation of other expenses such as uncovered medical expenses and extracurricular expenses unless the court finds that a different allocation is necessary to reach an equitable result.   McWillson v. McWillson, 192 So.3d 719 (Fla. 1st DCA 2016); Miller v. Miller, 826 So.2d 480 (Fla. 1st DCA 2002).

Reimbursement of Travel Expenses

While not exclusive, there are two (2) different ways that a court typically directs the payment of the time-sharing transportation expenses:

  1. Typically, the court will order one parent to reimburse the other parent with their percentage share within a certain period of time (such as 15 days or 30 days).

  2. Alternatively, if there is a legitimate concern that one party will refuse to pay their percentage share, the court has the authority to calculate an average monthly figure for travel expenses and make an appropriate adjustment (ie., increase or decrease) to the monthly child support obligation.

Nevertheless, in cases where there are travel expenses, these costs can be very significant and it is important to address them correctly and in detail in order to avoid problems after the case is over.

Contact Us Today

If we can assist you with issues related to long-distance parenting plan expenses, child relocation, or other areas of marital and family law, please contact Tampa Bay Family Law & Mediation, P.A.at (813) 251-6222 to schedule a consultation. 

 

Default Judgments in Family Law Matters

You retained an attorney, your pleadings were properly prepared, filed, and served on the other party.  Yet the other party will not file responsive pleadings or return any communications from you or your attorney.  What happens next?  

It is time to move for a default judgment. This is a motion stating that the other side refuses to respond to the documents that were served or take any action in the pending divorce case.

The first requirement is to file the petition for divorce and have it properly served on the opposing party. This generally requires that a process server physically serve the documents on the other party.  The Court will require whoever served the documents to swear to the service under oath.  This rust be done properly or the Court will not grant a motion for a default judgment. 

However, it is not always be that simple.  If the process server cannot locate the other party, then you or your attorney must satisfy the requirements of legal notice. This requirement is usually satisfied by posting proper notice in a local periodical for a set amount of time. The Court will then consider the party served for the purposes of the case.

Once the other party is properly served, they have 20 days to file a responsive pleading.  Because the family court is a court of equity, the court will likely be lenient with this timeframe if the served party asks for an extension.

If the other party fails to file an answer, the Court will not take any action on its own.  The burden will be on the original petitioner to file a motion for clerk’s default and once the default is entered, schedule a final hearing before the Court on the matter.  The case will not move forward without it.

The Court will then examine your petition and the evidence presented. So long as everything is in order, the Court will likely enter a default final judgment resolving your case.

To schedule a consultation with a Florida Board Certified Marital and Family Law Attorney, please contact our office today.

My Case is Settled. Now What?

I have an Uncontested Divorce or my Contested Divorce is Settled.  Now What?

If you have an uncontested divorce or a contested divorce that has been settled, you may be wondering: now what? The next step in the divorce process is to appear before your assigned judge for an uncontested final hearing. This article addresses what happens, where to go, what to wear, and what to bring.

Where and How Long?

Your hearing will be short (typically less than five minutes) and likely scheduled at the same time as other uncontested final hearings. You will need to appear at the courtroom listed on the Notice of Hearing and bring your Florida Drivers License. It is important to arrive on time for court. We strongly recommend that you give sufficient time to proceed through security at the courthouse.

What to Bring?

Please dress appropriately for court. While business attire is not required, we recommend a minimum of slacks and a button-down shirt for men and slacks or skirt with a blouse or a dress for women. Shorts are not permitted and will likely result in your hearing being rescheduled.

What Will Happen?

At the time of the final hearing, you will be asked a series of questions from either your attorney or the judge, depending on the manner in which the judge elects to conduct the hearing. The questions will center on whether you meet the jurisdictional requirements for a Florida divorce such as residency, whether your marriage is irretrievably broken, and whether your marital settlement agreement was signed freely, voluntarily and you intend to be bound by it.

Will I be Divorced?

Absent any unusual circumstances, at the conclusion of the hearing, the judge will likely sign the Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage and you will be divorced.  You will likely receive a conformed (stamped) copy in court. To obtain a certified copy of your Final Judgment, you will need to purchase one from the Clerk of the Circuit Court.

For more information about uncontested final hearings in divorce cases, please contact our office.