Articles Posted in Custody

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Imagine the following scenario: A woman with a one-year-old daughter marries a man who is not the biological father of her child. The stepfather takes an active role in parenting the little girl and considers her to be his own child. The biological father does not play a significant role in his daughter’s life. After twelve years of marriage, the woman decides to get a divorce and wants to cut all ties with her former spouse. The stepfather wants to seek visitation rights of the child he has considered to be his own for many years.

With the constant blending of families in recent decades, a stepparent’s right to visitation with a stepchild is a common issue that arises in divorce cases. Many people seek legal advice asking the following question: Do I have visitation rights regarding my stepchild following a divorce? Unfortunately, in Florida, the short answer to this question is no. Florida is actually one of four states that provide no rights to stepparents for visitation or parenting following a divorce. Though a stepparent will not have any legal rights regarding stepchildren on which to fall back, there are certain steps that a person can take to have a better chance of preserving the ability to visit with stepchildren after a divorce.

Work for an Amicable Divorce

Just because a stepparent has no legal rights to visitation does not mean that the divorcing spouses can never agree to visitation on their own terms. There are many tools that allow couples to decide their own fate in divorce and leave the decision-making power out of the hands of a judge. If you work to keep the peace with your spouse and engage in positive problem-solving techniques such as mediation or cooperative divorce, there is a better chance your spouse will recognize your honest desire to continue a relationship with your stepchildren and will agree to visitation.

Consider an Adoption

If the biological parent is truly not in the parenting picture and is willing to give up parenting rights, you may be able to adopt your stepchild as your own during the course of the marriage. Once you adopt a child, you will have the full rights and responsibilities of a biological parent, including rights to visitation and shared custody following a divorce. Though stepparent adoption is not an option in every case, it is always an option worth pursuing to ensure you retain access to your stepchildren should your marriage relationship sour.

If you are a stepparent who wishes to make sure you preserve a relationship with your stepchildren should you face divorce, it is a good idea to explore your options well before marital problems start, if possible. If you wish to pursue an adoption or simply want advice for an amicable divorce, experienced Boca Raton family law attorney Alan R. Burton can help you. We work for creative family law solutions that are the best result for everyone involved, so please do not hesitate to contact our office for help today.

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The state of Florida and particularly South Florida, is a melting pot of many diverse individuals from all around the world.

Due to the great diversity of people, you frequently see many Americans marrying people from foreign countries. When these couples have children, divorce can bring about some serious issues regarding the stability of the minor children.

Divorce frequently creates a considerable amount of anger between the parents, and the minor children are often times used as pawns by the parents.

In happier days, family trips abroad were generally wonderful experiences for the family and particularly for the children. Now that a divorce proceeding has commenced, just the thought of a minor child traveling abroad with one of their parents can send shivers up the spine of the other parent.

Parental kidnapping is a real event and it happens every day across this country. Just the other day a child was recovered in Mexico, after having been unlawfully removed from central Florida to that country by her father. This is the story of Cara Cox, as reported by CNN.

These kinds of situations can be prevented, but early action and intervention is required. Passports for children should be promptly removed from the control of a parent who has ever made a threat about kidnapping. Any threat should be considered “real”,
If a parent refuses to surrender a child’s passport, you should seek immediate relief from the court for a turnover of the passport. Additionally, a court order for supervised visitation or time sharing should be considered if the facts support that relief.

Immigration should also be alerted and put on notice of the potential threat.

There are state and Federal laws designed to assist in the recovery of children taken abroad unlawfully. An example is found in the provisions of the Hague Convention, which purpose is to foster cooperation and assistance from foreign countries in returning children.

These laws can be complex and tedious, and could take years to implement and enforce.

The better course of action is to be preventive, and take all immediate precautions as the circumstances warrant. Be proactive, and trust your gut feelings. .

Contact a Florida Family Law Attorney for Help

Family laws and court precedents can change on a regular basis. If you have any family law matter or concerns, you should always consult with a family law attorney who is familiar with Florida law and keeps up to date on any new changes. If you are facing divorce or any other issue in Boca Raton or Fort Lauderdale, do not hesitate to contact experienced lawyer Alan R. Burton for assistance today.

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Thousands of adoptions occur across the United States every year. Most of them proceed very smoothly and without any unexpected surprises.

However, there are a handful of adoptions that do occur that involve unsuspecting problems, and result in heart wrenching stories.

One recent story involves Sonya, a young child adopted by a Tennessee couple. The biological father’s rights were believed to have been terminated. The biological father received a 10 year sentence for illegally transporting firearms. State law provided for termination of his parental rights based upon the ten-year sentence that he received. This sentence paved the way for the adoption Sonya.

Unfortunately for Sonya, her biological father, whom she had never met, negotiated his ten (10) year sentence to 7 1/2 years, which resulted in reinstatement of his parental rights.

As you can well imagine, the outcome for Sonya has not been a pleasant one. The family court judge relied solely on biology, when he voided the adoption and placed Sonya with her biological father. The judge did not consider the best interests of the child, which should always be the paramount concern with this judge or any other judge.

The adoptive parents of bringing this matter back to the attention of the judge for him to consider the best interests of Sonya. You can read more about the story of Sonya by clicking on this link to CNN.

The primary concern for any family court judge should always be the “best interest” standard for the child. Biology, in many, many cases, standing alone, will not result in the “best interest” for a child.

If you are facing possible child custody or visitation issues, experienced Florida family law attorney Alan R. Burton will help you stand up for your rights with your child. He knows how to fight for you and your child. Do not hesitate to contact our offices in Boca Raton or Ft. Lauderdale for help today.

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Incredible as it sounds, the Massachusetts legislature is considering such a bill. The proposal should not be considered in a vacuum however, as it applies only in specific situations, when minor children are involved.

The proposal was designed to promote and protect the best interests of the minor children, whose parents are in the midst of a divorce.

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Robert LeClair, a local Massachusetts lawmaker proposed the bill, after going through a bitter divorce himself. The specifics of the bill would be to prohibit the parent in possession of the marital home, from engaging in any type of sexual relationship with a new partner during the parties separation, and prior to the divorce proceedings concluding.

The bill would would have to be passed by the state legislature, and then approved by the governor.

The language of the bill reads as follows:

“In divorce, separation, or 209A( restraining order)proceedings involving children and a marital home, the party remaining in the home shall not conduct a dating or sexual relationship within the home until a divorce is final and all financial and custody issues are resolved, unless the express permission is granted by the courts,”

The law, if passed, would raise some interesting questions about obtaining the necessary evidence to prove a violation of the law. Since children are generally not allowed to testify in court, absentee spouses will need to become quite creative in order to prove their case. This bill will most certainly keep the private detectives in Massachusetts quite busy.


Source:
The Huffington Post, “Massachusetts Bill Could Ban Sex During Marriage“, Emily Thomas, March 24, 2014

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Under Florida law, minor children are not permitted to move more than 50 miles away from their current residence, unless written consent is provided by a parent, or by court order.

An interesting situation arises when a minor child wishes to attend a private school in a out-of-state location. The obvious question becomes whether or not the attendance at this new school would be considered a relocation, thereby requiring the parent to comply with Florida Statute 61.13001.

The answer to that question was recently addressed in the case of Blakely v Blakely, 38 Florida Law Weekly D2170c. In that case the court deemed the attendance of the child at an out-of-state high school to be an educational decision for the child and not one of relocation, therefore the relocation statute in Florida was not applicable.

This analysis of the law was also set forth in the case of Young v Hector, 833 So2d 793, 794 (Fla. 3d DCA 2002).

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Custody of children in Florida is governed by the standard of the “best interests of the child.” In actuality, the term “custody” is no longer used in Florida. The terminology that is used by the court’s is what is known as “time-sharing.”

Time-sharing is established in a parenting plan, which is a written agreement between the parents of the minor child. The parenting plan may be as general or specific as the parents of the minor child may require.

At a minimum, the parenting plan should provide for the day-to-day responsibilities for the minor child, the days the minor child will be with each respective parent, the school district in which the child shall attend school, who will provide the health insurance for the child and who shall make decisions regarding the best interests of the child
Every parenting plan will be different because the needs of the parents and the minor child will be different in each case. Every family has their on unique circumstances.

I would encourage you to call me to discuss your particular situation. I can be easily reached at 954-295-9222. There is no charge for you to discuss your case with me during your initial conference. I am an experienced Boca Raton lawyer with over 30 years of experience, with offices in Fort Lauderdale and Boca Raton..

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Child custody issues, or extensive litigation in order to “win” the title of primary custodian should become a thing of the past. All of the reasons to litigate these issues have been abolished under Florida law.

Instead, Florida has adopted what is now referred to as time sharing with minor children, which is established under the provisions of a parenting plan. The requirements for a parenting plan are found in Florida Statute 61.13.
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Furthermore, the trend today is approximating an equal time sharing arrangement whenever possible. Each case would be decided on its own merits, but if it is geographically feasible based upon the distance between the parents home, and consideration of other statutory factors as found in Florida Statute 61.13, the most likely outcome will be a 50-50 split.

The best interests of the child will always be the guiding principal in consideration of the court approving a parenting plan. The plan, at a minimum, must establish how the daily tasks associated with the upbringing of the child are to be apportioned; the times each parent is to have with the child; who is to be responsible for the health insurance for the child; and which parent’s address is to be utilized for school purposes.

A parenting plan can be as detailed as the parties require, or it can simply cover the minimum requirements under Florida law.

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Under Florida law, terms such as custodian, primary custodian,and any other use of the term custody have been abolished.

Florida has now adopted what is known as a parenting plan, the provisions of which can be found in Florida Statute 61.13 (2)(b). A parenting plan must include, at a minimum, certain things, as follows: a detailed description as to how the parents will share and be responsible for daily tasks associated with the upbringing of the child; the time-sharing schedule arrangements that specify the time that the minor child will spend with each parent; a designation of who will be responsible for any and all forms of health care, school-related matters including the address to be used for school boundary determination and registration, and other activities; and the methods and technologies that the parents will use to communicate with the child.

Developing a parenting plan is an individualized matter, and every plan should be tailored to your family. It is important to consult with an attorney who handles these child issues on a routine basis.

Alan R. Burton, Esq., a Boca Raton, Florida attorney
, has been in practice for over thirty years, and deals primarily with divorce and other family law cases.

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dad and daughter desktop.jpgIn 2008, the Florida legislature made substantial changes to the law in reference to minor children. The primary and most significant changes made by the 2008 amendments to section 61.13, Florida Statutes, was the abolishment of the terminology of “primary residential parent.”
The effective date of the amendments were on October 1, 2008, and the changes were to have prospective application only. The changes could not be utilized to effectuate any modifications to agreements that were previously entered into by individuals prior to October 1, 2008. See the case of Hahn v. Hahn, (Fla. 4th DCA 2010).

The Hahn case is an interesting case to read. It clarifies many points of law that have arisen under the 2008 amendments to section 61.13. Although the designation of “primary residential parent” has been removed from the statute, the trial court is still required to consider the best interests of the child if called upon to create a parenting plan. The trial court must still “determine all matters relating to parenting and timesharing of each minor child of the parties in accordance with the best interests of the child. Section 61.13(2)(c)1., Florida Statute (2008)(amended October 1, 2008).

The Hahn case involved modification proceedings that were filed two years after the final judgment was entered, and before the effective date of the new statute. It was error on the part of the trial judge to apply retroactively the provisions of the new statute.

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whisper desktop.jpgObviously, the courts won’t hesitate to enter any orders when necessary to protect minor children from harm. This would include orders for supervised visitation against a parent if the circumstances warranted this type of relief.

In the divorce proceedings between N.W. and M.W., 41 So.3d 383 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2010), the mother alleged that the father was sexually abusing the parties’ daughter. As a result of those allegations, the father was restricted to supervised visits with his daughter. The father subsequently moved for unsupervised visits, and the mother moved to admit the child’s hearsay testimony regarding the sexual abuse pursuant to section 90.803(23), Florida Statutes (2009). The court denied the mother’s request, and re-instated the father’s unsupervised visitation.

The mother filed a timely appeal, and the appellate court reinstated the order for supervised visitation. The court said that the trial court had applied the incorrect standard of law.

The proper standard for admitting hearsay statements of children was succinctly stated in State v. Townsend, 635 So.2d 949, 954 (Fla. 1994). The trial court has responsibility in ensuring that child hearsay statements satisfy a strict standard of reliability before admitting them as evidence. The trial court must make findings that satisfy two criteria:” (1) the source of the information through which the statement was reported must indicate trustworthiness; and (2) the time, content, and circumstances of the statement must reflect that the statement provides sufficient safeguards of reliability.”

As the Townsend case makes clear, the focus on these types of cases is on the person to whom the statement was made by the child and the manner in which the statement was made.

The appellate court also noted that the mother sought to introduce statements made by the child to the mother, the grandmother, a therapist, and a family friend. The trial court’s order was reversed because, as the appellate court found, the trial court made no findings with regard to any of these sources and also failed to address the individual statements and circumstances under which they were made.

The trial court neglected to follow the mandates of the Townsend case, as established by the Supreme Court of Florida.

If you or any of your family members require expertise in the admissability of hearsay evidence in order to protect a child from harm, you can contact me directly by clicking on my name, Alan R. Burton, Esq.