Articles Posted in Custody

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When a court issues an order for visitation and timesharing of children, it is common for one or both parents to be dissatisfied with some aspect of the parenting time arrangement. Even if you both agree to the arrangement at the time of the custody case, circumstances may change and may lead to conflicts regarding the custody and visitation schedule. In such cases, you may be able to request that the agreement be modified to better suit changed circumstances. This process can take time, however, and many parents may be tempted to take the matter into their own hands. Doing so can have serious consequences from the court, however, including fines or even jail time.

The following are some examples of actions you should never take on your own regarding child custody:

  • Withholding visitation or custody rights if the other parent fails to pay child support.
  • Refusing to adhere to the visitation schedule in the parenting plan. This includes both refusing to turn the children over to the parent during their allotted time as well as failing to take the children for your own visitation time.
  • Taking the children during the other parent’s custody time.

Even if you believe that the other parent is not fit to be alone with the children, you should still not refuse to follow a custody order. Instead, you can file an emergency motion with the court if you believe that the safety or wellbeing or your children is in jeopardy. If the other parent is refusing to comply with the custody order, you should file a motion with the court to enforce the order. The court can then issue sanctions if they still refuse to obey the order. Finally, if the custody arrangement is not working for you, you should request a modification from the court.

The one time you should act on your own is if your children disappear from your home during your parenting time. In such a situation, you should first call the authorities before the court. In a recent case out of Florida, two children who were in the custody of their grandparents disappeared from the home. An Amber Alert was issued and, later that day, authorities found the children with their mother in a motel room. The mother was then arrested and may be facing criminal charges of interference with custody or even more serious charges.

Consult With a Qualified Boca Raton Child Custody Lawyer as Soon as Possible

Whether your ex-partner is refusing to agree to with the custody agreement or you want the arrangement changed for your own benefit, you should never try to solve custody matters without the approval of the courts. Violating a court order can result in serious consequences, even if you believe you are acting in the best interest of your child. Instead, you should contact an experienced family law attorney in Boca Raton who can help you explore your options to resolve your custody conflict. Please call the law offices of Alan R. Burton at 954-229-1660 for help today.

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Divorces that involve child custody and child support can often be contentious and difficult. When two spouses cannot agree on a parenting plan, visitation schedules, or other issues, the case will come before the court and the resulting hearings can be stressful and costly. This is especially true when one parent is accusing the other of being unfit for parenting. In some cases, a parent may try to claim unfitness or make other arguments to try to get primary custody of the child so that he or she does not have to pay child support.

Generally speaking, child support is determined under the law by a specific formula based on each parent’s income and expenses. Under the law, a legal parent has the responsibility to financially support his or her child whether or not he or she has physical custody of the child. Due to the Florida child support formula, many support determinations are fairly straightforward and difficult to challenge. However, a recent case involving a television personality demonstrates how these cases can still be very complex.

Challenging Parental Responsibility for a Surrogate Child

Several news outlets reported a court ruling involving former host of The View Sherri Shepherd, her ex-husband, and a child born from a surrogate mother. While they were married, reports indicate that Shepherd and her husband contracted with another woman to have a child via surrogacy using her husband’s sperm and a donated egg. Unfortunately, the marriage was over before the pregnancy was and they filed for divorce. Continue reading →

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If you have married someone who has a child from a preexisting relationship, chances are that you want to form a bond with that child and play a substantial role in his or her life. Even if you grow close with the child, the marriage alone does not give you the legal right to make important decisions for the child regarding education or health care as a biological parent would have. In addition, if your marriage ends in divorce, you will have no rights to legally pursue custody or even visitation with the child. This means both you and the child could lose an important relationship if the biological parent so chooses.

In order to have full parental rights, a non-biological parent must legally adopt a child. For this reason, many people in the Boca Raton area decide to pursue a stepparent adoption. If successful, stepparent adoptions provide all the benefits of a traditional adoption without many of the requirements under Florida adoption laws, such as a waiting period, interviews and home visits, and other “red tape.” However, there is one specific requirement for a stepparent adoption that can cause complications in your case.

Consent From the Biological Parent

The main requirement for a stepparent adoption is that the biological parent (who is not in the marriage) must consent. Three people cannot have parental rights at the same time. This means that when a stepparent gains parental rights, the biological parent relinquishes them. For this reason, the biological parent must consent to the adoption and giving up their parental rights. This can be complex and one of three situations generally results: Continue reading →

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A child custody and parenting plan order will set out many different guidelines about how you and your child’s other parent should share parental rights and responsibilities while your children are still dependents. These guidelines can involve primary physical custody, visitation schedule, how you will share in making decisions for your child, and much more. However, there are situations in which the circumstances of one parent may change and the provisions of the custody agreement are no longer feasible. One common change in circumstances is the need or want to move the child to another area of Florida or even to another state. There are many legal issues involved in child relocation and you should always seek the assistance of an attorney if relocation has become an issue in your case.

If You Agree to Relocation

If a parent plans to take a child over 50 miles away for more than 60 days, Florida law states they must obtain permission to do so from the other parent. In some situations, the other parent may simply agree to the relocation. Even so, the parents must submit an agreement to the court for approval before the move can take place. This agreement must also set out the new visitation and time-sharing schedule for after the move.

If You Do Not Agree

Cases can become significantly more complex if the noncustodial parent does not give his or her permission for the relocation. In such situations, the parent wishing to move must petition the court for permission to do so. If the other parent does not respond to the petition, the court will generally approve the relocation. If the other parent opposes the petition, a hearing will be held for the court to decide what is in the best interests of the child.

Many factors may be considered when determining whether a relocation would be in the best interests of the child. Some factors include the following:

  • How the move will affect the child’s relationship with each parent, siblings, or others who are important to the child;
  • How the move would affect the child’s physical, emotional, and educational well-being and development;
  • What the child wants;
  • The chances of preserving a meaningful relationship with the other parent after the relocation;
  • The reasons the parent wants to relocate, including whether the reasons are valid and whether the move will increase the child and parent’s quality of life and financial circumstances.

Contact an Experienced Boca Raton Child Custody Attorney for a Free Consultation

Many issues regarding child custody can arise in the months and years after an initial custody order is issued. While relocation is one of the most serious issues that can affect child custody, parents can have major disagreements about vacations, education, health care decisions, and much more. It is critical to have representation by an experienced family law attorney who thoroughly understands child custody matters in Florida both in your initial case and any subsequent issues that come up. If you are facing a child custody case, call the law office of Alan R. Burton in Boca Raton at 954-229-1660 for help today.

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With the recent breach and data leak regarding approximately 32 million subscribers to the “married dating” website Ashley Madison, many married couples have likely been facing difficult situations as news of possible infidelity became exposed. It would not be surprising, in fact, if numerous couples end up in divorce court over a leaked Ashley Madison subscription. This leads to the common question: What role, if any, does a spouse’s adulterous behavior play in a subsequent divorce case?

Questions of Fault

In Florida, you must file for divorce on a “no-fault” basis, which means that no specific reason–such as adultery–can be given for the divorce. Insteading of blaming one spouse, all divorces are based on the assertion that the marriage is irretrievably broken. For this reason, adultery has no effect specifically on basic questions of fault in a divorce.

Alimony

Though adultery cannot be considered for fault purposes, it can be considered when the family court is making other determinations, such as whether to award alimony. However, the court cannot award alimony simply as a punishment for a cheating spouse. Instead, the court must further find that the adultery affected the non-cheating spouse’s need for financial support.

Child Custody Determinations

In addition to alimony determinations, a court may consider infidelity as a factor in deciding how to award physical and legal custody. For example, courts regularly examine the moral fitness of each parent when deciding what type of custody arrangement will be in the best interests of the child. Adultery, especially flagrant or particularly scandalous behavior, may lead the court to doubt the moral fitness of the spouse who cheated and may influence a decision to limit custody or timesharing if the court believes the affair had an adverse effect on the child’s well-being.

Division of Property

Florida law requires division of marital property to be equitable and fair based on the particular circumstances of the spouses. If the court finds that the unfaithful spouse spent marital assets on an affair that otherwise would have been divided, the court can award the other spouse more assets and property. Similarly, if the cheating spouse incurred debts to pay for an affair, the court may find that those debts are the sole responsibility of that spouse instead of dividing the debt balances between the two parties.

Call a Boca Raton Divorce Attorney for Help

As you can see, adultery can play a role in a divorce case. If you suspect that your spouse has been unfaithful or if your spouse has accused you of adultery, it may cause a number of potential complications throughout the divorce process. It is important that you have the representation of an experienced Boca Raton divorce lawyer and keep your lawyer fully informed regarding any possible issues or accusations that may arise during your divorce. Florida family law attorney Alan R. Burton understands how to face such issues head-on with your best interests in mind. Call our office today at 954-229-1660 to talk about your case for free.

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Mental incapacity plays an important role in many different family law matters. Cases alleging mental incapacity of one of the spouses can become complicated and adversarial. Because you cannot actually get into someone’s head and know what they were thinking at a particular point in time, gathering and presenting evidence of mental incapacitation can be complicated. The following are some examples of when mental capacity may be at issue in a Florida family law case.

Marriage

In order for a marriage to be valid, both individuals must be of sound mind, must understand the nature and effects of getting married, and must be mentally capable of agreeing to the marriage. Simply because one person has a mental condition does not automatically render them incapacitated for marriage purposes, but if a court decides one spouse did not have the capacity to agree to a marriage, that marriage will be deemed invalid.

Prenuptial Agreements

If you sign a premarital agreement, you must have the mental capacity to understand the provisions of the agreement and the effects of the agreement should you get divorced in the future. If you did not have the ability to understand what you were signing at the time you signed, the agreement may be declared invalid.

Divorce

Mental incapacity is important in Florida divorce in more than one way. First, a Florida statute permits a spouse to get a divorce if they have been djudged to be mentally incapacitated for at least three years prior to the divorce filing. In such cases, the individual’s guardian or representative family member will be notified and will be able to appear in court on his or her behalf.

Additionally, Florida family courts will not grant a divorce that was filed by a mentally incapacitated person who does not understand the effect of a divorce. For example, a Palm Beach County judge recently ruled that an 87-year-old man with dementia could not be granted a divorce. His wife argued that his children are manipulating him for financial purposes to pursue divorce and that he would not actually want a divorce if he understood what was happening. The court agreed and dismissed the divorce case.

Child Custody

If one parent is mentally incapacitated, they will likely be unable to properly care for a child. Therefore, in such cases, the court may determine that it is in the best interests of the child to award full custody to the other parent or only provide for limited supervised visits with the incapacitated parent.

A Qualified Boca Raton Family Law Attorney Can Help

Having the requisite mental capacity is only one of many potential issues in marriage, divorce, and other family law matters. Each case will have unique legal questions and you always want to make sure you have an attorney handling your case who understands how to identify and address any potential issues. If you have any type of family law matter, you should not delay in discussing your situation with Boca divorce lawyer Alan R. Burton today. Call 954-229-1660 for a free consultation.

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Child custody is often a complex and hotly contested issue in family law cases. In many situations, parents involved in a custody case are getting divorced or ending a dating relationship and, too often, one parent may want to limit the custody of the other. One parent may allege that the other engages in misconduct or is otherwise unfit to parent the child. Though Florida law presumes that joint custody and relationships with both parents is preferable, the courts will look into such allegations to ensure that the custody determination is truly in the best interests of the child. In these situations, the court may order a custody evaluation.

Custody evaluations involve the appointment of a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) to protect the rights and best interests of the child. A forensic psychologist may also be appointed to help evaluate the situation. These professionals are expected to remain impartial regarding the two parents and focus solely on what type of custody arrangement may be best for the child.

An evaluation may include the following depending on the particular situation:

  • Interviews with the child
  • Interviews with each parent
  • Observing the way the child interacts with each parent
  • Interviewing doctors, teachers, or others who may help shed light on the parent-child relationships
  • Psychological testing
  • Alcohol and drug evaluations

When the evaluators feel they have gathered enough information to issue a recommendation, they turn a report in to the court.

Custody evaluators can take many different factors into consideration when making their recommendations, including each parent’s background, approach to parenting, opinions of the other parent, position, mental health status, as well as any incidences or accusations of domestic abuse or alienation of affection. They can also recommend that one or both parents attend parenting courses or therapy sessions as part of the arrangement.

Consult With an Attorney Before Your Evaluation

It is only natural that you will be nervous and stressed going into any evaluation interviews. However, there are certain things you should remember in order to receive the most favorable custody determination possible. An experienced family law attorney who understands how the Florida family courts handle custody evaluations can help prepare you for your interviews or meetings. A lawyer can advise you of common questions so that you are not surprised in the interview and inadvertently make a comment that can hurt your case.

Contact a Boca Raton Family Law Attorney for Assistance as Soon as Possible

Custody determinations are extremely important as they often directly affect your ability to develop and maintain a lasting relationship with your child. For this reason, you never want to go into a custody evaluation unprepared. Experienced family lawyer Alan R. Burton has helped numerous parents obtain positive custody arrangements that work for them and their children. Mr. Burton can also handle all other aspects of your divorce or family law case. If you are facing a divorce or custody case, you should not delay in calling our Boca Raton office at 954-229-1660 for help today.

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With the days getting warmer and longer, it means that the end of the 2014-2015 school year is approaching. Parents in Florida and across the United States are making plans for trips, choosing summer camps, and planning other activities to make sure their children have an enjoyable summer. If you have divorced your child’s other parent or were never married, however, summer vacation can present substantial challenges relating to child custody and visitation. If you have joint custody, both parents may want to make plans for vacations and or other outings and conflicts may arise regarding scheduling and similar matters. In order to avoid constant disputes and aggravation–which can have an effect on both you and your child–you should always plan ahead to try to best coordinate a custody schedule that will work for everyone involved. The following are only a few of many things you can do to make the most out of your child’s summer break.

Plan way ahead — Many couples decide to tackle the issues and possible complications of summer custody from the very start–during the original custody case. When they are negotiating the initial parenting and time-sharing plan to be approved by the family court, parents can try to foresee any scheduling issues over the summer and can come up with solutions that are set out in the agreement. If a conflict arises at a later date, they can refer to the parenting plan to resolve the issue.

Plan your summer calendar in advance — If you want to take your child to a concert, festival, or on a camping trip, you should try to fill out your calendar of events as early as possible. While being spontaneous can be fun, events may conflict with something the other parent wishes to do or may fall during the other parent’s custody time. For example, you do not want to both plan a weekend getaway for Fourth of July, expecting that the other one will agree to it. Instead, discuss your calendar and solve any conflicts up front before summer begins.

Always give notice of a vacation — If you plan a vacation during your scheduled custody time, there may be no conflicts about scheduling at all. Too many people believe that this means they do not have to inform the other parent that they are leaving town with the kids. However, it is important to inform the other parent of your trip for safety and emergency purposes. If you fail to inform them, you may find yourself in court having to explain yourself or, in more serious situations, may face accusations of interference with custody.

If you and the other parent are still having issues regarding summer vacation custody rights, you can consult with an experienced family law attorney who knows how to best negotiate and resolve custody disputes in a favorable way. At the law office of Alan R. Burton in Boca Raton, we can help you to plan for an enjoyable and hopefully conflict-free summer vacation with your children. Call our office for help today at 954-229-1660.

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When two parents divorce or are unmarried, the Florida family courts will carefully consider many factors in deciding how much time each parent will get to spend with the child. Though the courts often try to split the parental rights between the parents as equally as possible, they always have to keep the best interests of the child in mind when making physical custody and visitation determinations. Sometimes, if a parent disagrees with a custody or visitation order, they will take the matter into their own hands and try to interfere with the order. Florida courts take interference with custody or visitation very seriously and parents who interfere with court orders can face serious consequences.

Common interference

Custody interference most often occurs when one parent refuses to follow the schedule for visitation set out by the court in the parenting plan. This can include not taking the child to see the other parent when they are supposed to or even refusing to allow the child to communicate with the other parent on the phone. If your custody or visitation rights are being denied by your child’s other parent, there are different steps you can take to enforce the parenting plan schedule. For example, you can file an emergency motion with the courts to enforce the custody order. The court can even place the other parent in contempt and impose sanctions if they continue to interfere with custody.

Criminal interference

If a parent secretly or forcibly takes a child without authority to do so under the parenting plan or consent by the other parent, they could end up facing serious criminal charges as well as consequences in family court, including complete loss of custody rights. Florida criminal law sets out interference of custody as a third degree felony, which can mean up to five years in prison. Furthermore, some parents who physically take their children without authority face kidnapping charges, which is a first degree felony and could mean a very long prison sentence. A father recently made headlines for taking his children from New Jersey to Florida and keeping them for six weeks without authority, and he is now being held on $800,000 bail and facing kidnapping charges. As you can see, in some cases, custody interference can be extremely serious.

An experienced family law attorney in Boca Raton can help with your case

If your child’s parent has tried to disobey the custody or visitation order in your case, you should call an experienced family law attorney as soon as possible to find out how to proceed. The best way to ensure that as few issues will arise as possible is to make sure a fair and favorable custody determination is set forth in the first place. Boca Raton family lawyer Alan R. Burton can help with all aspects at any stage of your custody case, including enforcement of an existing order. If you have any type of family law issue, call our office today to discuss how we can help you.

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Like any other parent, a divorced parent may wish to take their child on an international vacation to allow them to experience other countries. However, traveling to a foreign country with your child may be more complicated if you share custody with your former spouse. In certain cases, traveling with your child can even have serious legal consequences if you do not take the adequate steps prior to your trip. The following are some issues related to foreign travel that you may face.

What does your parenting plan say about travel?

Sometimes, divorcing parents may foresee that one or both will want to travel internationally with their child and may address the issue in the parenting and time-sharing plan that was signed by the court. If your parenting plan requires the other parent’s consent to leave the United States with your child, you should always abide by that plan and obtain consent. If the other parent refuses to give consent for the vacation, you may have to seek a court order before you can travel. If you do receive a signed letter of consent or a court order allowing international travel, you should always take those documents with you on your trip should an immigration officer at another airport ask to see them.

Does your child need a passport?

If you wish to leave the country and your child does not already have a passport, you may need the consent of the other parent if your child is under 16. United States laws require both parents to appear in person and sign the form applying for the child’s passport, or at least requires a signed consent form if one parent is not able to personally appear. If the other parent does not consent to your child being issued a passport, you generally have to demonstrate court-ordered sole custody to obtain one on your own.

Possible Consequences of Failing to Obtain Consent

If you ignore the above and leave the country with your child without the proper consent from the other parent, that parent may have the ability to initiate an international parental abduction case with the U.S. State Department. You and your child may also be entered into a database called the National Crime Information Center, managed by the FBI, as a possible kidnapping case. This means that law enforcement officers will likely be notified and apprehend you when you try to re-enter the country with your child. As you can imagine, international child abduction cases can have a profound effect on both you and your child and you do not want to risk being under suspicion of kidnapping when you were simply trying to take a vacation.

An Experienced Child Custody Lawyer in Boca Raton Can Help You

If you wish to travel internationally with your child and are concerned about the legal issues that may arise, you should not hesitate to consult with an experienced Florida family law attorney. Alan R. Burton is a skilled attorney who is thoroughly familiar with the custody laws in Florida and can help you plan for your international vacation. Call today at 954-229-1660 to discuss your situation today.

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