Articles Tagged with custody

Published on:

Whenever possible, Florida courts give custody of children to the children’s legal mother and legal father. Custody is defined as physical residence with a parent or other legal guardian and decision-making power related to the children’s education, medical care, and other important life events. Usually, the legal mother and legal father are the child’s biological mother and her husband. If the mother is not married, a man can become the legal father by filing a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity with the court. In the case of adoption, the court transfers parental rights from the biological parents to the adoptive parents.

Once you are the legal parent of a child, it is difficult to lose your parental rights. The courts acknowledge that parents are only human, and that it is almost always in a child’s best interest to stay with his or her own parents. For example, having a criminal record or a diagnosis of a mental illness or addiction does not, by itself, mean that the court will reduce or take away your right to spend time with your children or make decisions about them. Involuntary termination of parental rights only happens when it is impossible for the parent to provide adequate care for the child or when the parent has seriously endangered the child. Continue reading

Published on:

According to Florida law, if a woman is married at the time that she gives birth, her husband automatically becomes the legal father, even if neither spouse claims that the husband is or could be the biological father of the child. (This most often happens when the mother is separated from her husband, but they have not yet finalized their divorce.) If the woman is unmarried, then it is fairly simple for the child’s biological father to establish legal paternity; the courts usually do not even require a DNA test. If the biological father wants to establish paternity, but the mother is married to someone else, however, then he faces an uphill battle. Miranda Wilkerson is a child in whose custody case the mother’s husband’s status as legal father was a determining factor, but her case is also complicated for several other reasons.

Details of the Miranda Wilkerson Case

Trista Crews and Donald Coleman met and began their relationship in 1997, when she was 14 and he was 38. They married when Trista was 16, with Trista’s mother Rita Manning giving consent for her underage daughter to marry. Nonetheless, Coleman eventually had to register as a sex offender because of the age difference in his relationship with Trista. They would go on to have three children together before separating in 2007.

Trista was separated from Donald Coleman at the time of Miranda’s birth, and he filed for divorce at around that time because he doubted that he was Miranda’s biological father. About a month later, Trista died in a car accident, and her mother Rita Manning assumed responsibility for Miranda’s care. After a long custody battle between Manning and Coleman, a judge finally awarded custody of Miranda to Coleman, who was then living in Georgia. Miranda was then three years old, and she had lived with her grandmother almost since birth. Miranda’s biological father has since tried to get custody of her, but currently available news reports offer few details about that aspect of the case. Continue reading

Published on:

No matter your profession, you have probably seen articles circulating online or on email lists about industry-specific words to expunge from your vocabulary. Most of these articles flag certain words for deletion because they are clichés or neologisms. The first time you clicked on a clickbait article telling you to avoid saying “think outside the box” or “circle back” was probably years ago, when the term “clickbait” was known only to professional writers. The family law terms you should remove from your vocabulary, however, are actually misleading. They refer to outdated concepts in family law and therefore are unhelpful in thinking about your divorce and parenting plan.

Custody

People tend to speak of one parent having custody of the children after a divorce, while the other parent has visitation. In the 1980s and 1990s, it was more common than it is now for children to spend most of their time with one parent and to spend only two weekends a month with the other parent. Now, when possible, courts often rule to have children spend at least two nights per week with each parent. Exceptions are when the parents live so far away from each other that it is not practical to transport the children back and forth each week.

Published on:

It is understandable that some spouses who are divorcing are not necessarily in the mindset to cooperate with one another. After all, fighting and disagreements have likely played a role in the decision to end their marriage. However, refusal to come to an agreement regarding one or more issues in a divorce can cause serious delays and can increase the cost of a divorce.

Before a court will grant your divorce, you and your spouse must settle numerous issues including:

  • Property and debt division;
  • Child support;
  • Time-sharing and visitation;
  • Parenting plans;
  • Alimony.

If any one of those issues cannot be settled out of court, the divorce can be delayed as the court will have to decide for you. You and your spouse will have to present evidence to support your arguments for how you want to resolve the issue at trial and the judge will rule on the matter.

A recent divorce case demonstrates just how much a divorce case can be affected by adversarial disputes instead of cooperation. After 25 years of marriage, the wife of the founder of Cancer Treatment Centers for America filed for divorce. The filing occurred in 2009 and the case is still dragging on due to several disagreements regarding a prenuptial agreement, custody, and division of their millions of dollars in assets. The case has involved numerous hearings, appellate hearings, changes of lawyers, contempt orders, and other complications, and is now finally going to trial over asset and property division. In the meantime, both spouses have likely spent an enormous amount of money, stress, and time dealing with the divorce proceedings and have been unable to remarry since their marriage is not yet dissolved after more than six years. Continue reading

Published on:

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.

Published on:

There are many different laws in Florida that can apply to divorce cases. Laws dictate how child support is calculated, how property is divided, and much more. Once again, the Florida legislature has proposed several bills that could create some major changes to two different laws that are central to many divorce cases–alimony (also called spousal support) and child-sharing (also referred to as custody).

Florida State Senator Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland) introduced Senate Bill 668, which addresses both alimony reform and child-sharing reform. In addition, House Bill 455 was introduced by Representative Colleen Burton (R-Lakeland), though it only address alimony reform and does not include any changes to child-sharing. Finally, State Senator Tom Lee (R-Brandon) introduced his own bill that solely seeks to change child-sharing and does not involve alimony. With all of these different bills introduced, the debate exists among legislators whether or not the two issues are related and whether they should be addressed together or separate from one another. Continue reading

Published on:

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.
Published on:

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

Published on:

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

Published on:

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.