Articles Posted in Modification (Custody/Time Sharing)

gavelMany times, people may associate legal phrases like “due process of law” with criminal cases. The reality is, though, that all parties in criminal and civil cases are entitled to due process of law. Part of this due process protection says that a court generally cannot take action against you without proper notice and a chance for you to be heard. To make sure that all of your rights, including your constitutional rights, are protected in your case, be sure you have a skilled Florida child custody attorney on your side.

One recent family law case in which this issue of due process played a key role in the outcome was a matter that involved a long-distance family dynamic and some allegedly dysfunctional relationships. The father lived in southwest Florida, while the mother lived in Indiana. The Florida courts had jurisdiction over the issue of timesharing. Problems allegedly began emerging, and, in early 2017, the mother decided to take legal action. According to the mother, the father was taking improper steps to alienate the children from her. The “extreme” alienation allegedly included the father’s urging the children not to obey the mother and his making “hateful, inflammatory, outrageous and false allegations” about the mother in his social media posts.

In a situation like this, there are two types of rulings by the judge that the mother could seek. Normally, a modification of timesharing would only take place after the court gave both sides notice of a hearing, allowed both sides to attend the hearing, and heard both sides’ proof. In “emergency” situations, though, a court can take action without going through these steps. That’s what happened in this case. The mother requested emergency relief during the mid-morning of Feb. 8, 2017. The father’s former attorney found out about the hearing in the 3 o’clock hour that afternoon, but he no longer represented the father. At 10:30 the next morning, the hearing went forward without the father or any legal counsel representing him. The judge ordered the suspension of the father’s timesharing, cut off all contact between the father and the children, and ordered the father to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.

gavelThere are several things you should assess before you decide to go to court seeking a modification of a divorce judgment or alimony, child custody/timesharing, child support, or other family law-related court order. First, you have to “have a case,” meaning that the facts of your case must indicate that the law is potentially on your side. Second, you have to be entitled by the law to bring your case in the place where you want to file (which is known as “jurisdiction”). If you don’t have these things, you likely won’t be able to achieve the outcome you want. An experienced Florida child custody attorney can help you make these types of analyses and determine a path forward for you and your family.

The issue of jurisdiction can potentially trip up litigants because it involves a more technical understanding of legal and procedural intricacies. Take, as an example, the case of Clifton, who lived in Jacksonville. Some years earlier, Clifton had married Elizabeth, and the couple had three children. The couple later divorced, and a New York court entered the divorce order terminating the marriage. The couple agreed that the mother would be the primary residential parent and that the father would pay child support until the children turned age 21.

As happens for a lot of families, things evolved over time. The two older children had each turned 18, and one of them had moved in with the father in Florida. The mother and the other two children lived in Georgia.

gavelWhen you are dealing with a child custody or timesharing case that crosses state lines, the case can become complicated. You must deal with all of the requirements of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. That law says that custody and timesharing cases generally must be heard by a court in the child’s “home state.” However, if you live in Florida, and your child’s home state is somewhere else, there are certain situations in which you may still be able to bring your case here. In a recent Fifth District Court of Appeal case, the appeals court upheld a Florida trial court’s decision to modify timesharing, based upon the presence of “emergency” circumstances.

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Divorce with childA recent case originating in Tallahassee provides a useful lesson in how a parent must go about presenting a case for a timesharing modification based upon parental alienation. The First District Court of Appeal upheld a trial judge’s refusal to modify a timesharing agreement because the father’s case was insufficient to demonstrate the sort of extreme, substantial, and unanticipated action required by the law to re-open the issue of timesharing. The court explained that this type of request sets up a very high hurdle for the parent seeking modification, and although the father’s allegations were “troubling” and demonstrated a contentious relationship between the parents, they weren’t enough.

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domestic violenceAs a parent, one of your primary goals in life is the nurturing and protection of your children. When discovering that domestic violence has taken place in the home of your ex-spouse — and in full view of your children — you will probably feel spurred to take action. The law does allow the courts to make emergency changes to custody, timesharing, and visitation arrangements when situations like this occur. However, as one case from the Second District Court of Appeal shows, it is important to understand exactly what the courts can and cannot do for you when this sort of thing happens.

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father and daughterFor many parents, events in their lives may trigger within them a desire to reconnect with the children from whom they’ve become distant. Depending on the perspective of the child’s other parent, this may not always be easy. A recent case originating in Palm Beach County is a useful reminder to all Florida parents that, even if your desire to forge a closer relationship is strong, you cannot demand a change in your timesharing based solely upon proving that you’ve gotten your life in order. Simply getting your life back on track doesn’t amount to the sort of change in circumstances recognized by Florida law that would allow a court to change your timesharing schedule, according to a Fourth District Court of Appeals ruling.

The case, which involved ex-spouses C.R. (father) and S.R. (mother), was based on a complicated, although not entirely uncommon, set of facts. The husband and wife had one minor child together when they divorced in 2008. As part of that divorce judgment, the court ordered shared parental responsibility with the mother as the primary residential parent. The father had visitation twice a week, on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

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Baker-ActA mother whose custody arrangement with her daughter unraveled after an involuntary psychological commitment in 2010 achieved a measure of success in a recent ruling from the 2d District Court of Appeal. While the appeals court upheld a trial court’s decision regarding primary residential custody of the child, the appeals court struck down mandates barring the mother from speaking her native Spanish to the child and forcing the mother to pay the entire bill for the timesharing supervisor who was required to attend all of the mother’s supervised visitations.

The case involved the daughter of D.F. (husband) and his then-wife, P.F.. The couple, who married in 2003, split up in 2006 shortly after the daughter’s birth. The marital settlement agreement included a timesharing schedule in which the girl resided with her mother four days per week, and with her father for three days. The agreement also named the mother as the primary residential custodian.

The mother was involuntarily committed in 2010 for psychological reasons. The father went to court seeking an emergency order to revoke the mother’s timesharing and to have himself named primary residential custodian. The court entered the order. About a week later, the mother was released and began fighting to overturn the emergency order. What ensued was a protracted battle regarding decision-making, timesharing, who was responsible for paying the timesharing supervisor, and other related issues. The trial court issued an order that kept the father as primary residential custodian and imposed many restrictions on the mother.

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counting moneyA recent case originating in Jacksonville led the 1st District Court of Appeal to throw out part of a trial court’s decision to modify a parenting plan and calculate child support. The evidence in the case did not show that a substantial change in circumstances had taken place to warrant a plan modification, and there was also insufficient evidence to support the manner in which the trial court calculated each parent’s income in arriving at the father’s support obligation amount.

The case centered around the daughter of T.B. (father) and V.B. (mother), a couple who divorced in 2005. In 2011, the father sought to amend the parenting plan. He also filed a motion asking the court to lower his child support obligation.

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hands.jpgOne of the most frustrating things for a parent can be when the other parent does not comply with the parameters for timesharing established by the court. When that happens, the parent who has lost time with the child has certain legal options. It is important to understand what the law can and cannot do for you in these situations, and what you must establish to achieve a favorable outcome. One recent example of this was a case from Volusia County in which the 5th District Court of Appeal threw out a trial court order that modified timesharing in the father’s favor after the mother repeatedly failed to meet her obligations under the original timesharing order.

Originally, T.K. (father) and K.C. (mother) mutually worked out a timesharing arrangement regarding their child as part of a paternity action. However, 10 months later, T.K., a member of the military stationed in southern California, was back in court asking that K.C. be held in contempt. The mother, on three different occasions, improperly blocked the father from exercising his timesharing, according to T.K. The trial court held a short evidentiary hearing and concluded that the mother was in contempt for multiple violations of the parenting plan. The trial court awarded the father his attorney’s fees and court costs, and it also altered the parenting plan. Under the modified plan, each parent had the child 50% of the time, rotating in three-month intervals.
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Gavel3.pngGenerally, in order to obtain a modification in your timesharing agreement, both parents must be placed on notice that the court’s ruling may bring about a change in the current plan. In some situations, a court may alter the timesharing arrangement without notice if an emergency exists. The 3d District Court of Appeal recently overturned a Miami-Dade County trial court order because the mother did not have proper notice, and the conditions for an emergency change did not exist.

After several years of marriage, Tal Bronstein and Elizabeth Bronstein divorced in 2012. The couple had one minor child. By the time the divorce was finalized, the husband lived in Colorado.
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