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Articles Posted in Custody/Time-Sharing

Parents typically want the best for their children and aim to raise them in a loving and stable environment, but not all parents possess the ability to properly care for their children. As such, in some instances, the courts will make the difficult decision to terminate parental rights. In some cases, the court will legally sever the parent-child relationship despite the fact that the parent is making strides towards improvement. This was demonstrated in a recent Florida ruling in which the court affirmed the trial court’s order in which it terminated a mother’s parental rights, despite evidence the mother had made marked progress. If your parental rights are in jeopardy, it is critical to retain a seasoned Florida child custody attorney to help you fight to protect your rights.

History of the Case

It is reported that the Florida Department of Children and Families instituted an action to terminate the mother’s parental rights with regard to her two minor children. The court developed a case plan that the mother was required to adhere to in order to maintain her parental rights. The mother failed to adhere to the plan, and the court issued a final order terminating her rights. The mother then appealed.

Grounds for Terminating Parental Rights in Florida

The appellate court affirmed the trial court ruling after reviewing the facts of the case. In its brief opinion, the appellate court noted that the mother initially neglected to comply with the case plan, but testimony indicated that she recently began to make progress. The appellate court explained, however, that there was nonetheless substantial evidence that supported the trial court’s determination that termination of the mother’s parental rights was in the best interest of her children. Continue reading ›

Back on May 10, the FDA opened the door to 12-to-15-year-olds receiving the Pfizer vaccine for COVID-19. Many parents greeted this news with profound joy, while others were highly skeptical. One poll showed that 43% of parents surveyed were in favor of their 12-to-15-year-old getting vaccinated as soon as possible, while another 29% were opposed to having their 12-to-15-year-old child receive a COVID-19 vaccine. This is the sort of split that can – and many family law attorneys believe will – lead to litigation. As with any potential dispute like this, the welfare of your child is what’s paramount. So, if protecting that means legal action, make sure you have representation from an experienced South Florida family law attorney.

Several news sources, including MarketWatch, have reported that family lawyers and other experts expect a surge of disputes over kids and COVID-19 vaccinations. As one attorney put it, some parents “are going to fight over their children, given the opportunity, and make any kind of power play that they can.”

In the past, some courts outside Florida have taken up vaccine-related issues. Courts in Texas, Colorado, and North Carolina have all sided with the parent who desired the child’s immunization. A court in Pennsylvania modified custody from shared legal custody (with primary physical custody to the mother) to sole custody to the father because the mother had repeatedly flouted a court order allowing the father to get the children vaccinated.

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There are lots of nuances about the law that skilled South Florida parental responsibility lawyers know keenly well but that laypeople aren’t familiar with. This can include very recent – and very important – changes in the law. A knowledgeable family law attorney can provide your case with the benefit that comes from a completely updated knowledge of the law and experience-based awareness of what those changes will mean to you.

The issue of timesharing was an example of one of those areas where a highly important change occurred recently. Until late April, certain types of timesharing cases could have radically different outcomes depending on where they were filed.

The Fourth District Court of Appeal, whose ruling impact Broward and Palm Beach counties, said that, if a trial court issued a modification that reduced a parent’s timesharing, then the order must include specific “concrete steps” that that parent could take to get his/her timesharing restored to where it was before the reduction.

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If you’ve read about enough court cases, you’ve probably encountered tales of people who made some regrettable choices. Perhaps it was the criminal defendant who appealed his sentence only to have the appellate process end with him getting an even longer sentence. This may give you pause if you’re considering a motion regarding your ex-spouse’s misconduct in your parental responsibility and timesharing case, as you may fear that going back to court may mean you exiting with a worse arrangement than when you entered. You should not, however, let this fear deter you. With the help of a skilled South Florida timesharing lawyer, you will generally be protected from this happening.

Confused about what we mean? Let’s look at this real-life parental responsibility and timesharing example from the Orlando area. A trial court had ordered two parents to place their child in a pre-K program roughly halfway between the parents’ homes. Because the child had an individual education plan (IEP,) that was impossible, and the school system ended up placing the child in a school close to the father’s home.

According to the father, the mother frequently did not transport the child to pre-K when she had timesharing. Frustrated, the father filed a motion asking the judge to hold the mother in contempt and to suspend the mother’s timesharing. The mother filed no counter-motions.

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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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