Articles Posted in Shared Parental Responsibility

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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When a marital relationship breaks down, that breakdown can cause some spouses to respond in a hyper-adversarial way, especially if there are children involved. They may try to lay hands on all kinds of privileged information, such as your past medical history and treatments. Often, this evidence is irrelevant and inadmissible, but you still need to know how to go through the correct legal steps to avoid having to divulge this very private and sensitive information. The right South Florida family law attorney can be instrumental in keeping your private medical information private.

S.R. was a mom caught in that kind of circumstance. After she filed for divorce, her husband, T.R., sought to force 11 medical providers, each of whom allegedly had provided medical, psychological or psychiatric care to S.R at some point, to divulge their records of any such treatment. The husband asked for a wide range of disclosures, including “notes, prescriptions, treatment records, consultation reports, lab reports, blood work reports, office notes by staff of the facility and any electronic records maintained during the course of treatment.”

In addition, the husband also asked the court to order S.R. to disclose all the records she possessed pertaining to “medical and/or psychological and/or psychiatric treatment or counseling” she’d undergone in the previous five years.

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In many child custody and visitation cases, the parents often receive shared parental responsibility. When they do, there are certain restrictions that exist regarding how decision making must be structured. In one recent case, the Fourth District Court of Appeal reversed a trial court order because the parents had shared parental responsibility but the court order also purported to give the father ultimate decision making power in situations where the parents could not agree.

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A well-known idiom points out that “the devil is in the details.” Divorce and child custody arrangements can be a lot like that. That’s because there are a lot of details, both great and small, that must be addressed in order to create a working shared parental responsibility relationship. Decisions that parents who share joint custody must work together to make may run the spectrum from choosing the child’s schools to religious training and attendance to participation in sports or other extracurricular activities. Whatever the subject matter is, it’s important to understand what the courts can and cannot demand when it comes to a parenting plan. One plan from Southwest Florida got thrown out by the 2d District Court of Appeal recently because it improperly stripped away rights from one of the child’s parents.

The case, which originated in Naples, involved the children of M.L. (father) and A.L. (mother). The couple had a parenting plan in place, but some time later, the mother went back to court seeking a modification. The trial court made a modification to the order, awarding shared parental responsibility to both of the parents but also declaring that “if a child does not desire to attend an extracurricular activity, the child shall not be required to attend.”

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The protracted court case involving the medical care of a 4-year-old Palm Beach County boy took another turn recently, when the child’s mother refused to appear in court as ordered, leading Circuit Judge Jeffrey Gillen to issue a warrant for her arrest, the Sun-Sentinel reported. The case centers around the decision to perform a circumcision on the boy, which the father supports and the mother opposes. Counsel for the mother has argued that she is acting to protect her child, but the Florida courts have consistently upheld the father’s right to make the decision regarding the circumcision, as the mother voluntary relinquished this decision-making right as part of parenting plan agreement signed by the mother in 2011.

D. N. and H. H. welcomed a baby boy on Oct. 31, 2010. The parents later signed an agreed parenting order that stated that the father would handle all matters related to completing the child’s circumcision, including scheduling the appointment, transporting the child and paying for the procedure. The mother agreed to sign all necessary forms to permit the procedure to take place.
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In a victory for gay and lesbian parents, the 5th District Court of Appeal reinstated a lesbian’s parental rights regarding the child she had helped raise with her now former partner. The court’s ruling stated that the child’s biological mother could not invoke the authority of the court system to approve the other woman’s adoption of her son and then use those same courts to take those parental rights away simply because the women’s relationship ended.

The case centered upon the son of two lesbian women, identified in court records only as “C.P.” and “G.P.”, who were in a committed relationship from 2005 to 2012. In 2007, C.P. conceived and gave birth to a son. G.P. was present at the boy’s birth and was designated as a parent on all of the child’s medical and school documents. G.P. took on an equal role to C.P. in parenting the child for the first four years of his life.

In January 2012, G.P. legally adopted the boy. The couple had filed their request as a “step-parent adoption.” The couple then obtained an amended birth certificate naming both women as the child’s parents.
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Peter Loftin, owner of the former Gianni Versace mansion on South Beach, Casa Casuarina, has been served with a paternity lawsuit by a former Miami Dolphins cheerleader. The lawsuit was filed on June 5, 2009 in the Miami-Dade county marital and family law court. The case is assigned to Miami-Dade Circuit Court Chief Judge Joel H. Brown, who presides over child support, divorce, alimony and paternity cases south of Fort Lauderdale.

Any woman who is pregnant or who has a child, any man who has reason to believe that he is the father of a child or any child may file a paternity action in circuit court to determine the paternity of a child when paternity has not previously been established. The court can require the child, mother and alleged fathers to submit to DNA testing that are generally acceptable within the scientific community to show a probability of paternity. The DNA test is conducted by a qualified technical laboratory.

A Final Judgment of Paternity generally will address child support, including but not limited to, a monthly amount, uncovered and out-of-pocket medical and dental expenses, hospital and medical expenses, costs of confinement, bills for pregnancy and child birth and any other expenses incident to birth. In addition, a Final Judgment of Paternity may also address shared parental responsibility, time-sharing schedules and a parenting plan so that both parents can have a meaningful relationship with the minor child.

A mother asked for a South Florida attorney’s advice regarding the shared parental responsibility of her minor child. The mother and father divorced in a Fort Lauderdale divorce court six years ago and as part of their parenting plan the parties implemented both shared parental responsibility and a time sharing schedule. As part of their marital settlement agreement, the couple agreed to raise their minor child in the Jewish faith. However, when the father remarried a Catholic woman sometime after the divorce, he began exposing his child to the Catholic Religion.

The mother was concerned because it appeared the new religious experiences both confused and upset the child. First, the marital settlement agreement specified that the parents would share parental responsibility which means that the parents must cooperate on their selection of schools, doctors and even religious affiliations. Second, because the marital settlement agreement specifically stated the minor child would be raised in the Jewish faith the father’s conduct is in violation of the agreement and the court’s final judgment.

The mother could file a Motion for Contempt and Enforcement. This means that the mother would ask the court to coerce the father to stop violating the marital settlement agreement, thus in effect forcing him to comply with the terms of the agreement.