Articles Posted in Best interests of minor children

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Child support is supposed to cover a child’s basic needs, such as food and shelter. What about educational expenses, though? Education is hardly a luxury; school attendance has been mandatory for American children for well over a century. Providing for a child’s education is an important aspect of parenting. Thus, Florida parenting plans include provisions about which parent is responsible for making various decisions related to the children’s education. What happens when parents divorce while their children are enrolled in private school?

The Children’s Best Interest

Every question related to a parenting plan is, at its core, about the best interest of the children.  Education is one aspect of child-rearing about which parents are likely to have strong opinions.  Some parents feel that sending children to a private school, even if it requires great financial sacrifice on the parents’ part, is the only way to ensure that the children study in a safe environment where teachers are genuinely invested in the children’s success. Others feel that private school tuition is an unnecessary expense and that parents could help their children more simply by saving money to help them with college tuition and other expenses related to early adulthood. The education issue is a perfect example of why parenting plans are individualized and not one size fits all. Continue reading

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When it comes time for the court to determine and establish a time sharing and parenting plan between the biological parents of a minor child, the court applies the “best interests of the child” test in making its consideration.

There are numerous factors that the court will look at in making its determination as to the best interests of the child.  All of these various factors are set forth in Florida Statute 61.13.  You can review the criteria under the statute and examine the nonexclusive list of things the judge will be looking at when you go to court.

What happens in a case, however, when only one biological parent is competing with a relative, for example, a grandparent, for custody and time sharing with a minor child?  How will the court look at a situation like this? Will the judge apply the same standards regarding the best interests of the child in structuring a time sharing or custody arrangement of the child?

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The amount of child support paid has a direct correlation to the number of overnights that the child spends with each parent.  Therefore, child support is not just based on the respective incomes of the parents, but must also include the number of overnights that the child spends with each of the parents.

When you are seeking review of an inaccurate calculation for child support, generally the lack of having a transcript of the of the record from the trial court will be fatal to your review of any errors.  However, child support is a whole different matter, separate and apart from review of alimony or equitable distribution errors.  The reason for this is that child support is not a requirement imposed by one parent on the other, rather it is a dual obligation imposed on the parents by the State of Florida.  See Quinn v. Quinn, 169 So3rd 268 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2015).

The right of child support is a right that belongs to the child, and the parents do not have the right to waive the amount of the child’s support.

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Extreme caution should be exercised when a party in a dissolution of marriage action seeks temporary emergency relief without giving notice to the other party.   This is what is commonly known as ex parte relief, which is seeking relief without providing any notice whatsoever to the other side.  These types of proceedings are at substantial risk of reversal based upon a denial of due process of law.

There is a basic premise under the law that states that absent an emergency, failure to give notice to the other party is tantamount to a denial of due process of law.   The appellate courts throughout the State of Florida routinely reverse temporary custody orders entered without notice to the other party, or with insufficient notice, or with insufficient opportunity to be heard.  Putting it a different way, there are at least two sides to every story, and both parties should be afforded the opportunity to present their position to a judge, prior to the Court making any adjustments regarding a previously existing time-sharing schedule between the parents.

The former husband, Basem Yunis, ran afoul of these basic principles when dealing with an ex parte motion seeking emergency relief.  You can read about the facts in his case in Suleiman v. Yunis, 168 Southern 3rd 319 (Florida 5th DCA 2015).

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Changing the surname of the minor child after divorce is no simple matter.  As a matter of fact, the burden of proof in such a situation is extremely high.

The standard for changing the child’s name is whether the change is in the child’s best interests or is necessary for the welfare of the child.  Azzara v. Waller, 495 So.2d 277 (Fla. 2nd DCA 1986) stands for the proposition that a minor’s surname should only be changed when the evidence affirmatively shows that such change is necessary as necessitated by the welfare of the child.  In Coolidge v. Ulbrich, 733 So.2d 1092 (Fla. 4th DCA 1999), the court stated that a child’s surname should remain unchanged absent evidence that the change is necessary for the welfare of the child.

When a trial court changes the surname of a minor child without adequate evidence, it constitutes an abuse of discretion.  A petitioning parent cannot meet the heavy burden in these situations by making assertions which are conclusory, speculative, unsupported by competent and substantial evidence, and irrelevant to the best interests of or for the welfare of the child.

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A final divorce decree providing for the custody of a child can be materially modified only if there (1) are facts concerning the welfare of the child that the court did not know at the time the decree was entered, or (2) has been a substantial change in circumstances shown to have arisen since the decree.  The petitioning parent bears an extraordinary burden to prove a substantial change in circumstances.

A party, in order to modify a final judgment of dissolution of marriage, must allege and prove an unanticipated substantial, material change in circumstances since the entry of the final judgment.  See the case of Chapman v. Prevatt, 845 So.2d 976 (Fla. 4th DCA 2003) for a further discussion of this topic.

In Blevins v. Blevins, 172 So. 3rd 568 (Florida 5th DCA 2015), the former husband successfully appealed his former wife’s supplemental petition seeking to modify their final judgment of dissolution of marriage.  The modification order in this case was based primarily upon the court’s concern regarding the distance of the child’s school, which was a one-hour drive from the former wife’s residence.

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The current law in Florida provides that a parent cannot relocate or change the location of their principal residence if that change of residence will be more than 50 miles from their current residence.  If a spouse is considering a move that is more than 50 miles away, they must obtain either the written consent of the other spouse, or seek approval from the court.  The relocation provisions of Florida law are found in Florida Statute 61.13001.

In the absence of a statutory or contractual provision to the contrary, the proper method to measure the distance between 2 points is the straight line or quote as the crow flies” measure. If the distance using the straight-line test measurement is less than 50 miles, a move can be made by one parent without consent from the other parent or approval from the court. This would be true even if the move is 49 miles away.

However, simply because a move is less than 50 miles away, does not mean that other aspects of a parenting plan would be effected.  A move 49 miles away would most definitely effect the school boundaries, and therefore the school that the minor child would attend.  Does this mean that the moving or relocating parent has a right to change schools without obtaining the other parent’s consent?

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A major issue between parents who split up is who will get custody of their child. In many cases, if you do not particularly like the other parent or believe he or she may be irresponsible in some way, you may want to obtain sole custody rights. However, getting sole custody in Florida is extremely difficult.

In order to understand why this is the case, you should have a basic understanding of custody laws in Florida. First, there are two different aspects to child custody:

  • Physical custody: the time you spend with your child visiting you or living with you; and
  • Legal custody: the right to be a part of major decisions in the child’s life, including schooling, activities, religion, and medical care.

In Florida, physical custody is called “parenting time” and legal custody is often referred to as “parental responsibility.” How these rights are divided between parents is set out in a parenting plan that must be approved by the courts. Continue reading

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Facing a court case involving your children can be emotional and stressful. The following are only some of the questions that are frequently asked of child custody attorneys regarding this type of case in Florida.

Can I get sole custody of my children?

It is important to note that instead of the terms “joint custody” or “sole custody,” Florida law refers to “equal time-sharing” or “majority time-sharing.” While the law favors time-sharing with both parents, it is possible in some situations to have your children with you the majority of the time. However, courts will generally allow at least some visitation with the other parent except in exceptional circumstances. So, unless the other parent does not want to see your children, you will have to share some time with your children.

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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.