Articles Posted in Custody/Time-Sharing

Many people likely remember that, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that same-sex couples had a fundamental right to marry in all 50 states three summers ago. Two years later, the high court made another ruling that, although receiving less news media coverage than the landmark Obergefell v. Hodges decision, also had a massive impact on families with gay and lesbian parents. That more recent ruling, from the summer of 2017, declared that the states were required to list a same-sex spouse on a child’s birth certificate if they similarly listed a mother’s husband (even if the husband was not the biological father). While some may view these battles as primarily political or social in nature, the reality is that birth certificates play a very substantial role when it comes to determining child custody after a split. Regardless of your orientation, probably nothing is more important to you than your relationship with your children, which is why you should make sure you retain a knowledgeable Florida family law attorney to handle your child custody case.

The reason this issue of names on a birth certificate matters so much is because of the way that Florida goes about deciding who has what rights when it comes to custody of, and timesharing with, a child. The law in this state grants a parent a privacy right that entitles the parent to control the amount of contact a child has with someone who does not have the status of legal parenthood.

Obviously, this matters for some opposite-sex couples, where the child may live with two parent figures, one of whom has legal status and one of whom does not. It matters a great deal, though, for a lot of same-sex couples where many of their families are in that position. It matters because, although everyone wants to think that their current marriage/relationship will last forever, many don’t. If you’re gay or lesbian, you may find yourself one day completely cut off from the child you raised for a decade or more since he/she was a baby.

There are many things that parents likely want to accomplish with the outcome of any parental responsibility and timesharing case. Certainly, in order to facilitate stability for the child, one thing that you likely want is a lasting resolution. However, that can be complicated sometimes, given that life is fluid and circumstances change. When there are future changes in circumstances that you know are going to happen, you can plan ahead in order to deal with them in your timesharing order. In order to make sure that you get a parenting plan that best meets your child’s needs and protects your relationship with the child, be sure that you are working with an experienced Florida family law attorney.

J. and S. were a couple who had a timesharing case that involved an important future event: their child’s starting kindergarten. While the child had not started school at the time that the court entered a paternity, parental responsibility and timesharing order, that beginning of school was in the not-too-distant future. The trial court’s order on timesharing declared that the child should initially spend 50 percent of the time with each of the two parents. However, once the child began kindergarten, the timesharing schedule would cease to be workable, as the parents lived roughly 50 miles apart. The court order stated that, once school started, the father would have majority timesharing with the child, unless the mother moved closer to the father’s residence.

The mother opposed this ruling. One aspect that she challenged was the court’s ruling regarding what would transpire once the child began kindergarten. This part of the order was an improper “prospective” (in other words, future-looking) decision about proper timesharing. The trial court agreed and rescinded the previous timesharing order regarding what would happen after the child started kindergarten.

You may have heard phrases like “due process” or “equal protection” on the news or in a courtroom TV show, but you may not imagine them having a substantial impact on your divorce case. You may assume that your divorce case will involve, primarily, an assessment of the factual evidence each side presents. That is not always true, however. Any family law case, like any other case, can turn on issues of fact or issues of law, including constitutional law. That’s why, no matter how straightforward or basic you may think your family law case is, you should be sure to retain the services of an experienced South Florida family law attorney.

One recent South Florida case is an example of this concept. Zanja and Richard’s case started as a straightforward paternity, timesharing, and child support matter. The court originally scheduled the hearing for one day. As is true in many cases, this pair’s hearing ran long. At the end of the first day of the hearing, the judge scheduled a second day for the continuation of the hearing. At the start of that second day, the court indicated that both sides would have a chance to present their cases-in-chief.

At the end of the second day, the parties still weren’t finished. However, this time, the judge did not allow the hearing to expand to another day. The judge ordered that, due to time limitations, each side would simply wrap up by presenting their closing arguments, and the judge would rule on what had been presented. There was one major problem:  the mother still hadn’t had the opportunity to present her case-in-chief yet.

Ideally, divorced parents are able to work together in a collaborative and cooperative fashion to meet the needs of their child when it comes to things like timesharing. Sometimes, though, that doesn’t happen. In some families, the issues of custody and timesharing can be matters of intense disagreement. Whether you need advice or in-court representation (or both) regarding timesharing issues, you should make sure you retain an experienced Florida child custody attorney.

One recent timesharing case that involved a definite lack of cooperation was the dispute between Reva and Hunter, whose situation fit into that “intense disagreement” category. The depth of their disagreement went all the way down to disagreeing about the exact hour when holiday timesharing exchanges should take place. One spring break, that disagreement boiled over. “Threats were made, texts exchanged, and the police were called,” as the court summarized it.

Of course, that also brought the parents back into court on the timesharing issue. The mother asked the trial court to hold the father in contempt of court. Instead, the trial judge concluded that the mother’s interpretation of the timesharing agreement was not reasonable and that the father was entitled a payment of his attorney’s fees by the mother.

Before you sign any agreement regarding your rights in a child custody and timesharing situation, it is important to understand fully exactly what you are agreeing to do. If the terms of an agreement include provisions that clearly encompass a move out of state, you may very possibly not be able to contest that out-of-state move later. In other words, always know before you sign. An experienced Florida child custody attorney can advise you on your rights and the relative benefits and disadvantages of any potential agreement.

The dispute between Emmanuel and Laurie was one that involved a cross-country move. The couple was married in 2011 and separated in 2015, and the wife filed for divorce in 2017. The pair had one child together. While the divorce case was still ongoing in the Florida court system, the mother, without a court order or any notice to the father, decided to move, relocating the child and herself from Florida to Michigan.

The father went to court to protest this unilateral decision regarding the child’s living arrangements. Eventually, the parents reached a mutual agreement, agreeing to leave the child in the mother’s custody pending the outcome of a mediation. They also agreed for the father to have one month of visitation during the summer, as well as a period of visitation during winter break. The agreement made it clear that, if the two parents could not reach a permanent agreement during the mediation, the father retained his rights to argue in court about the custody and timesharing issues.

Many 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.

Although the precise origin is unknown, a proverb that dates back at least as far as the 1810s says that a lawyer who represents himself in a legal matter “has a fool for a client.” The moral of the proverb is that almost any legal representation will be stronger when provided by the dispassionate, completely objective perspective of a professional who is not a party to the case. That is especially true in family law cases, in which emotions often run high, and these feelings may cloud the judgment of the self-represented litigant. Whether you are an experienced attorney yourself or someone who admittedly knows nothing about the law, you certainly want the best for your family and your family law case, which is why you should take the beneficial step of hiring an experienced Florida child custody attorney to handle your case.

A North Florida case recently decided by the First District Court of Appeal illustrates the above truth in clear detail. The husband (a doctor) and the wife (a family law attorney) were married for just less than three years when the wife filed for divorce. The couple had one child together, a daughter. The trial court established a parenting plan in October 2015. Despite that court order in place, the mother frequently did not give the father his court-ordered visitation. In 2016 alone, the father missed a total of 12 weeks (84 days) of time with his daughter because the mother refused to follow the court’s instructions, according to the court.

The father asked the trial court to find the mother in contempt of court for failing to follow the parenting plan. At the hearing, the trial judge allegedly could not completely contain his frustration with the mother. According to the mother, he sighed loudly and shook his head during the hearing, interrupted the father’s lawyer so that he could question the mother himself, and openly commented on the mother’s testimony. At one point, with regard to the mother’s alleged willful non-compliance with the parenting plan, the judge stated, “You just do what you want.”

In recent years, one of the more hotly debated issues for many people is vaccines. Since a large portion of the people who receive vaccinations are underage children, the question of whether to vaccinate or not to vaccinate can be a contentious one if a child’s parents do not agree. Sometimes, these disagreements spill over into the legal system, as was the case recently with one family from Michigan, as reported by the Washington Post. Whether or not you can use the courts to force your ex to get your child vaccinated may depend on the specific facts of your case. As a Florida parent, if you have concerns about this or any other type of vital medical decision-making element of your child custody arrangement, it is important to contact an experienced Florida child custody attorney promptly.

Many anti-vaccination individuals believe that vaccines are of questionable effectiveness and may be the source of various ailments ranging from bowel disease to autism. Vaccine proponents believe that vaccines are safe, effective, and not only an important part of good health for the recipient but also beneficial to the community at large due to something called “herd immunity.” The recent rise in vaccine opponents, vaccination proponents argue, has led to the increased occurrence of many diseases (including the re-emergence of some nearly extinct diseases), like measles, mumps, whopping cough, scarlet fever, and polio.

Thus, do you have to vaccinate your child if you desire not to vaccinate them, or, alternatively, can you get a court order that requires your ex to get your child vaccinated even if that is against the other parent’s wishes? Like many things in the law, the answer is, “It depends.”

If you have gone through the family court system, the chances are that you may have experienced stress or anxiety in anticipation of your hearing. What if my hearing doesn’t go well? What if the court’s ruling isn’t the outcome my family needs? These feelings are all normal and examples of why it helps to have an experienced attorney on your side. Perhaps you think you can’t afford an attorney. What you should do if you have such concerns is never simply assume, but instead get information first and then make an educated decision about your ability to afford representation. You may find that your options for retaining a skilled Florida child custody attorney could be greater than you might think.

A recent case from Oklahoma that made news headlines recently offered a bizarre example of what not to do in this type of situation. A mom who lived just west of Oklahoma City had a custody hearing approaching soon. She didn’t have an attorney, thinking that she couldn’t afford one. Apparently she was worried that, without counsel, her case would end badly. The mother’s current boyfriend (who was not the father in the custody dispute) decided to try to help his girlfriend. He, in an ill-advised move, phoned in a bomb threat to the courthouse. He thought, according to what he told investigators, that the bomb threat would cause a delay in the case and give his girlfriend some extra time to address her situation, according to KFOR.

For his efforts, the boyfriend received criminal charges and the prospect of a long prison sentence of 3-10 years. News reports did not indicate that the mother participated in, or knew about, the boyfriend’s bomb threat plan, but if she did, her participation could have a negative impact on her court case and her custody arrangement with her kids.

There 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.