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Articles Posted in Custody/Time-Sharing

The ideal situation for minor children with divorced parents is, of course, for the parents to avoid conflict and collaborate as much as possible. Sadly, this doesn’t always happen. Parents may use the legal system, not as a last-resort vehicle for protecting the best interests of the children, but as a means for venting every frustration they feel toward their ex. If your ex hauls you into court alleging contempt, it is essential that you take the contempt case seriously, regardless of your opinion of the merits of his/her case. Being found in contempt can have serious negative implications for your life, including your relationship with your children, so defend against this kind of case vigorously with the help of an experienced South Florida timesharing and visitation lawyer.

It is always important to make certain that you follow the terms of the court’s order on timesharing and visitation very carefully and precisely. However, sometimes, your ex-spouse may try to allege contempt, not because you violated a black-and-white provision of the order, but merely because he/she was angry that you did not do things “her way” or “his way.” Just because you did something that was contrary to your ex-spouse’s preferences, that’s not contempt unless it is also contrary to what the judge ordered.

Presenting a successful defense against a contempt allegation, then, sometimes is simply a matter of establishing that the wrongful action you allegedly took was something that was not discussed in the trial court’s order. Take, for example, this timesharing and visitation scenario from the other side of the state.

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Changes in the law happen all the time. Whether it is a new ruling from an appeals court or the Supreme Court or a new bill from the legislature, the law continues to shift and evolve. That fact is one of the many reasons why having the right legal team on your side in your divorce case in Florida is essential. The right Florida divorce lawyer will not only be able to provide you with thoughtful advice about your case but also base that advice on the latest, most up-to-date knowledge of the law.

Alimony reform is again in the news in Florida as legislators once again debate the potential for modifying state law to eliminate permanent alimony here. Florida remains one of just a very few jurisdictions where a court can award permanent alimony to a divorcing spouse. (The others are Connecticut, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Vermont, and West Virginia.)

A bill that recently cleared an important hurdle in the House of Representatives would change that. HB 1559 would alter Florida’s alimony laws and remove permanent alimony as an option. The current reform proposal would allow for bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, and durational alimony. The longest possible duration any alimony award could run would be a period equal to one-half of the length of the marriage.

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The law office of Sandy T. Fox, P.A., recently secured an important victory in the Third District Court of Appeal on behalf of a Miami-Dade divorce client who had received an unfair ruling in the trial court. The court of appeal’s decision overturning that trial court ruling is an important reminder of the profound importance of having the right legal team in your corner. It is also a reminder that, while the law gives trial court judges very broad discretion in making their rulings, there are limits on what they can do.

The divorce case involved, among other things, the issues of alimony, child support and a parenting plan. The wife was a successful attorney who worked for the federal government and made more than $113,000 per year. The husband was a disabled former construction worker who made less than $30,000 per year, all from various forms of government benefits.

The spouses were able to use mediation successfully and resolve the division of their assets and liabilities. They also worked out a parenting plan at that time. When the case went to a hearing before the court, the spouses asked the judge to decide alimony, child support, and to adopt the parenting plan. The judge indicated that the parenting plan would be ratified.

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Here in Florida, the law strongly favors keeping the things discussed between you and your doctor or mental health provider private. There’s the doctor-patient privilege and the psychotherapist-patient privilege… and there are only a few situations where those privileges can be overcome. However, if you think that your ex-spouse’s addiction and/or mental health problems are potentially placing your children’s health and safety at risk and you need his/her medical records to prove it, now is not the time simply to assume there’s nothing you can do about it. Instead, reach out to an experienced South Florida family law attorney and find out what steps can be taken to protect your children.

A few months ago, this blog took a look at a parental responsibility dispute between a father and a mother from Polk County, the latter of whom was undergoing mental health care. In that case, the court ultimately ruled that the mother was not required to disclose her mental health records because she never did anything in that legal custody case to make her mental health an issue.

Now, we are going to look at the other side of that coin. Say you need to obtain your ex-spouse’s mental health and/or substance abuse records and get them before the judge. To do that, you need to prove that the privilege has been waived.

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Timesharing cases often can be among the most contentious types of family law matters. Sometimes, though, it’s very different. You want your ex to have time – maybe even the majority of the time – with the children, just like your parenting plan says. But lately, he/she has begun displaying troubling behaviors – perhaps indicative substance issues or maybe mental health problems. Now your focus is primarily upon ensuring the safety of your child. When you’re in that kind of situation, make certain you are doing everything you can to protect your child’s well-being. That includes retaining an experienced South Florida family law attorney.

For V.L., a mom from Naples involved in a parenting dispute, the “red flag” about her ex-husband’s mental health was a timesharing exchange in late November 2019. At some point during that exchange, the father phoned the police. An officer arrived and, upon encountering the man, “determined that the father was suffering from an anxiety attack and was in a ‘practically paralyzed’ state, barely able to communicate.”

The episode was so bad that had the child not already been scheduled to go to V.L. anyway, the officer “would not have allowed the father to leave with or without the child while he was in such a state due to the officer’s fear for the father’s and child’s safety.” The responding officer told V.L. of the officer’s “concerns about the father’s ability to care for the child during an emergency.”

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With close connections, both culturally and economically, to the Caribbean, Central America, South America and beyond, South Florida is a truly international region. The impacts of that are felt in many areas, including in family law. For areas (like here) where family law disputes cross not just state but national boundaries, it is essential to have a knowledgeable South Florida family law attorney who understands all of the laws that go along with child custody cases, including international custody cases.

One of the most important pieces of law when it comes to certain international custody disputes is something called the “Hague Convention.” While that treaty officially covers the topic of “international child abduction,” its effect on family law goes beyond just kidnapping cases. It also has the ability to impact a substantial array of child custody disagreements.

That treaty had a major impact on one Brazilian couple’s custody dispute, which was recently litigated here in Florida. The parents had married in Brazil in 2010 and welcomed a child in 2012. In 2016, the father, the child and the mother (who was pregnant with child #2) traveled to Florida so the father could advance his medical career by participating in a cardiology fellowship, and so the mother could deliver the second child in the United States.

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Many families with children – even those where divorce is involved – may go through the children’s entire formative years with everyone living in one state. For a lot of other families, though, that’s not the case. When you’re in that latter group, any legal disputes regarding parental responsibility and timesharing can become profoundly more complicated and may possibly force you to have to litigate in some far-away state. Having a skilled South Florida family law attorney by your side can provide you with immense benefit when it comes to seeking to avoid such a disadvantageous situation.

The story of an ended marriage with children and a post-separation family spread across two states hit the news recently. Devoted fans of the Real Housewives of New York reality TV show will undoubtedly recognize the name “Jules Wainstein” as one of the cast members during Season 8. People following celebrity “gossip” news will also recognize Jules Wainstein as a new divorcee. People.com reported that she and her husband, Michael, who share two children and who separated in 2016, received their final judgment of divorce this fall. Although Wainstein and her husband resided in Manhattan, she told BravoTV that she and the kids “temporarily” relocated here to South Florida, living with her parents in Boca Raton.

The mother’s comments to Bravo seem to indicate a clear intent to return to the Big Apple but, certainly, Wainstein wouldn’t be the first New Yorker who “temporarily” moved to South Florida and ultimately decided to stay. If the mother and children were to remain in Florida, any child custody issues that they would have to litigate in the future would implicate a statute known as the “Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act,” or UCCJEA.

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You probably already knew that the outcome of your family law case can be affected by the state in which the case is litigated, as another state’s laws may be different from those of Florida. But you may not have known that the outcome of your case can differ based on where it’s litigated within Florida. A case heard in Broward County might conceivably have a different outcome than if it were heard in Orange County, due a difference of opinion between the two different District Courts of Appeal (the Fourth and the Fifth, respectively) whose rulings control in those counties. This is just one more example of the many nuances of the law and just one more reason why you can benefit from having a knowledgeable South Florida family law attorney on your side.

Very recently, the Second District Court of Appeal in Lakeland made an important new ruling. In 2019, a trial court in Pasco County modified two parents’ parenting plan, switching from majority timesharing with the mother to majority timesharing with the father.

In her appeal, the mother argued that the trial judge made a critical mistake in failing to give her specific instructions on what steps she must complete in order to regain majority timesharing. In the past, the Second District court had said that, “when a trial court denies or restricts a parent’s time-sharing with his or her child, it must specify steps for the parent to take in order to regain meaningful time-sharing.” In D.M. and B.M.’s case, the court made a significant change to that rule, stating that the decision to include or forego stating such instructions is a matter of judicial discretion, so failing to put them in an order is not necessarily a legal error.

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For better or worse – and it’s often “worse” – COVID-19 has impacted nearly every part of our lives. The pandemic has damaged many marriages and created an uptick in the number of spouses seeking divorce in Florida. The virus’s impacts can also be felt when it comes to timesharing and parental responsibility in Florida. As some cases are starting to demonstrate, a parent’s failure to keep their child (or children) sufficiently safe by following governmental guidelines may be enough to cost them time with the children. This is, of course, a new and emerging area of the law so, whether you need to seek a timesharing change or to oppose one, be sure you are armed with legal representation from a skilled South Florida family law attorney.

Losing timesharing… over mask usage? Wondering how that could happen? A report from the Sun-Sentinel offers some insights. The case, litigated in Broward County, involved a Florida father, a mother who had moved from Coral Springs to North Carolina and a child with asthma. The child’s asthma placed him in the elevated risk group regarding COVID-19.

In June 2020, according to the report, the mother posted a “selfie” from the waiting room of her doctor’s office. The mother captioned the picture “no mask for this girl.” That action, which probably seemed relatively insignificant at the time, eventually came back to haunt in her Florida timesharing case.

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When you go through the process of getting a divorce and you have minor children from the marriage, there are multiple legal issues that must be synthesized and work together. If not, problems are almost inevitable. For example, if your timesharing and your child support are based upon two different parenting plans, then something is going to go wrong. Either you’ll be paying too much (or too little) in child support, or else you may be getting an incorrect amount of timesharing. Whatever has happened, you still have options; namely, through the process of making a motion for modification. To make sure you’re going about that process properly, be sure you have a skilled South Florida family law attorney by your side.

A.C. and E.C. were a couple whose divorce case was an example of this problem. The couple had two minor children, and their 2013 divorce included a parenting plan and child support order. The parenting plan gave the father roughly 82 nights of timesharing. For reasons not explained by the Court of Appeal, the child support order did something very different: it calculated support based on the father having the children for 146 nights. Obviously, this disparity could potentially make a huge difference in the child support amount calculated under the guidelines.

Four years later, the mother asked for a modification of child support. The father responded by filing a claim for modification of timesharing.

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