Articles Posted in Custody/Time-Sharing

Sometimes, you may have some serious items working against you in your family law case. If your case falls into that category, don’t let that intimidate you and lead you into making the mistake of simply giving up. Many times, the law is more complex and nuanced than people realize and there may be opportunities to achieve a successful outcome, even in the face of a difficult situation. In other words, don’t give up – contact an experienced South Florida child custody attorney instead.

L.S. was someone who definitely had some things working against her in her divorce case. Her husband had gone through all of the legal steps required to get what the law calls a “default judgment.” A default judgment is something that a court may award when a plaintiff has done everything the law requires of him to advance his case, but the defendant has not participated in the case in any meaningful way. When that happens, the court may enter that default judgment and, many times, that ends with the court giving the plaintiff everything he asked for in his court filings.

L.S. had not responded to the husband’s court documents that were served on her. She was given notice that the court was holding a hearing on her husband’s request for a default judgment, but she didn’t attend that, either. As a result, the trial judge granted the husband his default judgment, granting him a divorce. The judgment also gave the husband what he wanted with regard to equitable distribution, timesharing and parental responsibility.

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Some people may have the idea that attorneys just want to pursue the course of action that will lead to the largest legal fee. The reality is that the vast majority of experienced South Florida family law attorneys are focused primarily on something else – which is the best interests of our clients and clients’ families. Rarely does this involve engaging in a “scorched earth” kind of hostile, contentious legal battle. Generally, that type of extremely hostile family law litigation is driven by the client, not the lawyer.

However, even those spouses and parents who engage in “behaving badly” through the legal system are entitled to certain rights and protections. This includes things like being forced to undergo a mental health examination on an involuntary basis.

So, what do you do if your ex-spouse or the other parent of your children wants the court to make you undergo a mental health exam even though you oppose doing so? A recent case from the Florida panhandle offers some useful information about how to respond.

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Family law cases can be emotionally intense disputes and can lead to people not following their better impulses. People, feeling the pull of powerful feelings, may make mistakes during the litigation process. Just because you’ve failed to follow those better impulses in relation to a court case, that doesn’t necessary mean that those mistakes you’ve made necessarily equate to contempt of court, though.

What’s more, anytime you’re charged with contempt, you are entitled to due process of law. Just like family law litigants and their spouses, judges are human and have the potential to make mistakes under stressful circumstances. That’s one of the many reasons why you need to be sure you have a skilled South Florida family law attorney on your side: to be sure you are protected against an improper contempt citation.

Timothy and Jesica were two parents involved in just such a contentious case, which was a custody matter. The judge ordered the parents to keep “the case off social media and to prevent family members from publishing information about the custody action on social media.”

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Sometimes, the post-breakup circumstances between two parents are very contentious. Other times, the parents may decide to work collaboratively. The latter, of course, is generally the best for the child and the family as a whole, as is it more psychologically and emotionally healthy, and often less expensive, too.

Of course, as with anything — even a good thing like parental collaboration — there’s a right way to go about it and a wrong way. That’s true for working out collaborative agreements regarding the responsibilities for parenting your child. If you and your child’s other parent want to put down your mutual agreement in “black and white,” be sure that you have a knowledgeable South Florida family law attorney by your side so that you know what your mutual agreement can and cannot do.

What do we mean by “can” versus “cannot” do? Look at a case from Broward County. Mom and Dad decided that their daughter, A.C., should go live with the father in Pasco County right away, and both parents signed a “private agreement” to that effect.

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If you read or listen to enough material put out by doctors, you’ll inevitably hear many strong suggestions urging you see a particular type of doctor or undergo a particular test if your personal situation matches a certain set of facts. That’s not done just to “drum up” business. It’s done because doctors understand well the need for proper treatment of certain conditions and the risk when that issue isn’t addressed.

Family law and family law attorneys aren’t much different. There are certain people in certain situations out there who have a particularly high need for legal services, often because there’s a profoundly high risk that, if something goes wrong, it will go terribly wrong. An experienced South Florida family law attorney has the tools and resources to help you avoid that disaster scenario.

What do we mean by “terribly wrong”? Here’s an example, with a Tampa area woman who found herself in a heartbreaking situation because she hadn’t gotten the legal advice and legal services she needed when she needed them.

There are actually multiple different ways to defend successfully when you child’s other parent asks the court to modify timesharing. For one thing, you can demonstrate that the proposed change isn’t in the child’s best interest, but that can often be intensive in terms of time, money and stress. Another, and perhaps more efficient, way to stop a proposed change to timesharing is to persuade the judge that there has been no “substantial change” in circumstances since the court issued the original order on timesharing. If the other parent hasn’t sufficiently proven that a substantial change has occurred, then the law prevents the court from making any changes at all. Whatever path you choose in order to defeat a proposed change to timesharing, be sure you have an experienced South Florida family law attorney advocating for you.

When it comes to the issue of a substantial change in circumstances, the case of D.H. and A.H. is a useful one. The couple divorced and the court awarded the parents shared parental responsibility with the mother receiving majority timesharing. Then, six months later, they were back in court based on motions to modify timesharing. The judge, at that point, decided to award the father majority timesharing.

The mother appealed and she won. In her appeal, she argued that the only “change in circumstances” that had occurred since the divorce judgment was the father’s moving some 47 miles away. The appeals court agreed with the mother’s argument that a move of such a short distance was too minor to constitute a “substantial change in circumstances.”

Cutting off a parent’s timesharing, even just temporarily, is considered a relatively severe outcome in Florida. Courts generally will cut off a parent’s timesharing only in a narrow range of circumstances, and are required to give the suspended parent a clear pathway to follow to get timesharing back. What this means, from a legal perspective, is that there may be several very fruitful arguments for getting the order that suspended your timesharing reversed.

Of course, in order to do that, you must have followed all of the procedural steps correctly. When it comes to your time and your relationship with your child don’t risk proceeding on your own; be sure you have experienced South Florida family law counsel on your side. Your skilled attorney can, among other things, make sure you have all of the needed documents submitted to the court and that the arguments you present are potentially persuasive ones.

As an example of the difference a skilled attorney’s presence – or absence – can make, there’s the case of J.P. and P.D. The pair shared one child together. At some point, the trial court in Miami-Dade County ordered a temporary modification of timesharing; specifically, all of the mother’s time with the child was temporarily suspended.

With any family law litigation action, there are certain hard-and-fast rules established under Florida law. You only have a set number of days (or months or years) to take certain actions, and if you’re late, then you face serious consequences. The plaintiff has a specific burden of proof that must be met, and if the burden isn’t met, then the case ends in defeat. In other words, it isn’t enough just to know the facts of your case, you must also have someone on your side who knows the law and how to use the law’s procedural rules to your maximum advantage. For these and other benefits, look to a skilled South Florida family law attorney.

In the case of F.S. and L.D. the action being pursued was court approval of a child relocation, and the mother was the one seeking permission. In this kind of proceeding, there are specific rules. First, the parent who desires to move the child must go to court and ask the judge for permission to make the move in advance. After that happens, the other parent has a very limited period of time in which to file an objection. That is one reason (among several) why, if you receive legal papers serving you with notice that your ex has filed a request for child relocation with the court, you act with all due speed, including moving swiftly to retain knowledgeable counsel.

The law only gives you 20 days after you’ve been served with papers in which to file your objection and get that objection served on the other parent. Filing too late — or failing to file at all — can have dramatically disastrous consequences. Florida law says that if a parent files a valid request for relocation and the other parent fails to submit a timely objection, then the court can simply give permission for the relocation, unless there is evidence on record to indicate that the move isn’t in the best interests of the child. What’s more, the court can make that decision and give that approval without even holding a hearing.

In a perfect world, divorcing parents would work together collaboratively, without issue or conflict, to co-parent in the best interest of the children. Ours is not a perfect world. Co-parenting children is something that requires written boundaries and, sometimes, when those boundaries are violated, issuing penalties like contempt of court findings. However, the law limits the scenarios in which a parent can be held in criminal contempt of court. Unless you violated an explicit and precise order, and you did so intentionally, you cannot be in criminal contempt. Whether you find yourself being hauled into court and being accused of being in contempt, or you are a parent dealing with your ex-spouse’s non-compliance, your relationship with your children is vitally important, so be sure you have representation from an experienced South Florida family law attorney.

R.C. and F.C. were a couple who went through a situation not unlike many Florida couples. They married in 2002. They had three children. Then, the relationship deteriorated and the husband filed for divorce in 2013. Five months after the husband filed for divorce, the spouses both signed an agreement. Their agreement, which resolved parental responsibility (among other things), said that both parents “shall share parental responsibility for the children consistent with Florida Statute.”

In a lot of situations, a marital settlement agreement can be a positive first step toward two ex-spouses working collaboratively. Sometimes, unfortunately, that isn’t the case. F.C. returned to court in 2016, arguing that the wife was in contempt of court because she wasn’t following the terms of the settlement agreement. Specifically, the father alleged that the mother had unilaterally made several decisions regarding the children’s healthcare and general welfare, instead of consulting him as required by the agreement.

Many times custody cases involve a parent who is seeking to assume, or expand, the extent to which he or she has parental responsibility for the child. However, sometimes, circumstances might dictate that an extended family member assume temporary custody for a minor child. If you were in that position, would you know how to take the proper steps to obtain legal custody? With an outcome as important as this, you need to be sure, so make certain you have a knowledgeable South Florida family law attorney giving you the assistance you need.

A case litigated in Miami presented this type of extended-family-member-custody scenario. J.M. was a man originally from Guatemala residing in Florida. J.M. sought temporary custody of his minor sister through the Florida courts. The older brother’s legal petition indicated that the parents had abused the girl in her home country of Guatemala and that the parents had consented to their adult son assuming temporary custody over their minor daughter.

The trial judge was highly dubious of the accuracy of the assertions made in J.M.’s petition. The judge noted that, if everything in J.M.’s petition was true, then the “terribly abusive” parents had signed documents “basically admitting to these terrible acts.” The judge also pointed out that there were “certain immigration benefits” of the request being granted “in circumvention of existing immigration laws” For those reasons, the trial judge dismissed the request for temporary custody.

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