Articles Posted in Custody

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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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In Part One of this article, we examined a few of the factors that Florida family courts consider when making time-sharing and custody determinations. The following is a brief overview of some additional factors that play a role in decisions regarding what is in the “best interest of the child.”

Moral Fitness of each Parent

Under Florida time-sharing laws, courts should examine the moral fitness of each parent when deciding how parenting responsibilities and custody should be shared. “Moral fitness” can refer to many different aspects of a parent’s life, including but not limited to the following:

  • Substance abuse;
  • Verbal or emotional abuse;
  • Having undesirable visitors in the home;
  • Having frequent, numerous casual romantic relationships with several different partners;
  • Unlawful behavior or association with individuals who participate in unlawful activities; and
  • Adultery, if the adulterous relationship had a negative effect on the child’s life.

A court wants to ensure that the child has a healthy environment in which to live and that the child is not exposed to immoral or undesirable behavior.

The Ability to Communicate with Each Other and Co-Parent

Because Florida laws favor a shared parenting relationship, courts want to make sure that two parents have the ability to communicate with one another and share parenting responsibilities in a healthy manner. This may include the willingness to abide by the court-approved time-sharing and visitation schedule. Additionally, if changes need to be made to the schedule, the court will try to determine whether the parents will be able to agree and work together regarding changes or whether they will want to drag the issue back into court each time a conflict arises.

Furthermore, each parent should be willing to keep the other fully informed of any developments or issues in the child’s life and to make decisions together regarding important parenting matters. Each parent should be supportive of the other parent’s relationship with the child and should not make disparaging remarks regarding the other parent to the child. This is all meant to limit the damage and stress of the divorce or custody battle on the child’s life.

All parents in Florida who will share time with a child must have a written parenting plan that sets out numerous guidelines, including:

  • The specific time-sharing schedule;
  • Which address will primarily be used for school and extracurricular activities;
  • How the parents will communicate with the child and with each other;
  • How the parents will decide on education and health care matters; and
  • Who will be responsible for which daily parenting tasks.

Courts must approve a parenting plan before it can go into effect.

Contact an Experienced Family Law Attorney for Assistance with Your Custody Case

Because of the wide array of factors a court may consider when making time-sharing and custody decisions, you should always have the assistance of an experienced Boca Raton family law attorney who knows how to handle this type of case. Working together with the other parent can often lead to the best results, and an experienced lawyer can help negotiate a parenting and time-sharing plan that works for everyone. If you are facing any type of custody case, do not hesitate to call the law office of Alan R. Burton today to discuss your case.

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Parents may face child custody proceedings for many reasons. While many custody determinations occur as part of a divorce case, others may occur following a paternity determination or to later modify a previous custody arrangement or parenting plan. While family court judges must evaluate each case based on its individual circumstances, the child time-sharing laws in Florida require the courts to use the same standard in every case. This standard is referred to as the “best interests of the child.”

Courts generally presume that it is in the best interests of a child to maintain contact and relationships with both parents and neither favor the mother nor the father. Additionally, it is generally preferred for both parents to be involved in the decision-making process regarding how the child is raised. The courts will consider many different factors relating to parenting and the needs of the child in question when determining what arrangement is in the child’s best interest. Though the law offers some suggestions regarding factors to analyze, the court has discretion to consider any factor it deems relevant to the situation. The following are some examples of factors that are regularly considered:

Safety and Health

First and foremost, the time-sharing agreement and parenting plan should keep the child healthy and safe. If a court finds that a relationship with one parent may put the child at risk, it will not favor a shared parenting arrangement. For example, some of the following factors may cause a parent to lose custody and visitation rights:

  • History of domestic violence;
  • History of sexual violence;
  • Any evidence of child neglect, abandonment, or abuse;
  • Evidence of substance abuse in the home of a parent; and
  • Mental or physical conditions of the parent that may keep them from adequately caring for the child.

If the court has concerns, it can allow visitation though require the visits to be supervised to ensure the child is safe.

Developmental and Emotional Needs of the Child

Courts want to make sure that a parent desires to foster and maintain a meaningful relationship with their child. For this reason, courts often examine how involved a parent has been in the different aspects of a child’s life thus far. This may include whether a parent has played an active role in the child’s education or extracurricular activities, whether a parent has a relationship with the child’s teachers, coaches, medical providers, and other important figures in their life, and whether a parent is familiar with and encourages a child’s friendships, hobbies, and other healthy activities.

Additionally, the court may examine each parent’s ability to provide a stable routine for a child, including maintaining current schedules for school and activities. Courts try to minimize the disruption in a child’s life and, therefore, will consider the geographic location of each parent’s home, whether the child will have to switch schools, whether constant travel between the homes will be exhausting for the child, and more. Whenever possible, a court tries to allow the child to remain in their current community and school.

The above are only some examples of factors that courts may consider when making custody determinations. We will explore more in Part Two of this article. If you have any questions regarding child custody, call the Boca Raton office of family law attorney Alan R. Burton for help today.

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When two people decide to end their marriage, one of the most contentious issues can be child custody. Florida law does not recognize the concept of “custody” when it comes to children, but rather imposes a “time-sharing” scheme that determines how much time a child or children will spend with each parent.  The law gives Florida courts wide discretion in ordering time-sharing determinations, which must be made by considering the “best interests of the child.” Time-sharing can range from equal time-sharing to sole parental responsibility for a child based on the particular circumstances of a case. The relevant statute lists a variety of factors that the court may consider, including the following:

Any other factor that is relevant to the determination of a specific parenting plan, including the time-sharing schedule.”

As a result of this provision, the court may consider anything it deems relevant to a time-sharing schedule, including a parent’s financial problems, criminal history, tendency towards domestic violence, substance abuse problems, or other issues that could affect the best interests of the child. On the other side of that coin, a court may also consider a parent’s efforts and demonstrated ability to manage and ameliorate these and other issues. While it is obviously true that individuals can make positive life changes without the intervention of professionals or support programs, these are often effective ways to establish the existence of positive change to courts making time-sharing schedule determinations between parents. Some of the types of activities that can influence a court making a time-sharing determination include the following:

Participation in a 12-step program – For parents who have had issues with substance abuse that has affected their perceived ability to parent their child or children, participation in a 12-step program may be the type of evidence that a court could consider in determining whether these issues still exist. Often, the testimony of a sponsor or other member can help establish that the parent is successfully abstaining from substance abuse.

Credit counseling – In some cases, a court may be hesitant to award a parent a significant amount of time-sharing with a child or children due to poor living conditions caused by financial problems. For example, a parent could be in living in substandard conditions or have a history of having utilities disconnected due to nonpayment. Participation in credit counseling courses and a period of financial responsibility may be sufficient to allay any concerns the court may have that a parent’s financial situation could be detrimental to his or her ability to parent.

Anger management or other forms of counseling – The relevant statute specifically mentions that domestic violence convictions create a rebuttable presumption of detriment to the child. This means that the burden rests on the parent convicted of domestic violence to present evidence that time-sharing with that parent would not constitute a detriment to the child. In addition, other acts of violence may also be considered by the court. Participation in anger management or other forms of counseling may be sufficient to convince a court that a parent is adequately dealing with any violent tendencies that may have existed in the past.

Contact a Boca Raton Family Law Attorney Today to Schedule a Free Consultation

Florida family law attorney Alan R. Burton is dedicated to helping people with family law issues resolve them as favorably as possible. Do not hesitate to contact our office today to schedule a free consultation.

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Many divorces involve heated custody battles regarding time-sharing with the children between the two parents. Florida law presumes that sharing time and fostering a relationship with both parents is in the best interest of the children, unless sufficient evidence is presented to the contrary. However, courts in Florida are significantly less concerned with the well-being of “children” of the furrier variety—namely pets, such as dogs and cats.

Dogs and cats often have very close relationships with their owners, much like a parent-child relationship. Often, couples who do not have children consider themselves parents of their pets. Therefore, if a couple divorces, the question often arises: How is time with the pet shared? While some states have laws regarding time-sharing of pets, Florida does not have any laws specifically addressing this issue.

Florida Courts Not Very Concerned About Pet Time-Sharing Determinations

In the 1990s, one Florida couple became involved in a fierce battle over the custody of their dog in the case of Bennett v. Bennett. The court gave the husband primary custody with visitation rights to the wife, however both parties filed numerous motions for modifications of the custody arrangements and took up a great amount of time in court. Finally, a Florida Court of Appeals decided that it is not a job for the courts to spend time deciding custody disputes over pets. The appellate court stated that courts have a difficult enough time resolving custody matters involving children, and they should not waste resources regarding pets. Instead, the decision stated courts should treat pets like any other type of marital property and divide ownership equitably.

Pets Often Treated as Property

Because Florida courts will generally not make pet custody decisions, pets are treated like marital property in a divorce. Because marital property is equitably divided between the spouses according to state law, the pet usually ends up solely with one spouse or the other. Since both spouses may have equally close relationships with a pet, they may each be willing to fight at length for possession of that pet. For this reason, pet ownership can lead to costly litigation in divorce cases.

If you and your spouse can come to your own agreement regarding sharing time with a pet, you may both get to spend continued time with the pet and the property determination will not be left up to the court. For this reason, it is always best for a divorcing couple to work on a compromise regarding pet time-sharing. If you are unable to come to a compromised agreement on your own, dispute resolution techniques such as mediation or collaborative divorce may assist you.

Pet custody is only one issue in a divorce that many couples do not foresee to be a contested matter. An experienced Boca Raton divorce attorney can help you negotiate to come to a favorable agreement so that you can continue to spend time with your beloved pet without the need for expensive litigation. If you are facing a divorce, call the law office of experienced attorney Alan R. Burton for assistance today.