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HIV AIDS & Florida Child Custody

May a Florida Family Law Court deny a parent custody rights solely because he or she has HIV or AIDS?

According to section 61.13(6), Florida Statutes, the answer is no, but the court may take some actions.

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Private Child Custody Proceedings: Florida Collaborative Practice

When people are seeking to gain child custody rights in Florida – whether through divorce, paternity, establishment of parenting plan, grandparent custody, or other proceedings – the first step they usually take is file a petition with the Clerk of the Court.

Generally speaking, this is a mistake.

By filing a petition, they are entering into the public court system which pits mother against father.  This is an adversarial system which oftentimes leads parties to engage in emotionally and financially draining court battles, and all dirty laundry gets examined and aired.

But there is another way, a private way of determining parental responsibility and child time-sharing schedules.  It is called collaborative practice, also known as collaborative family law.

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Florida Divorce and Fathers’ Child Custody Rights

Many people believe that, in Florida divorces, there is a legal presumption that mothers should get majority time-sharing (formerly known as primary custody) with the parties’ children.  This is simply not the case, as judges fashion Florida time-sharing schedules based solely on the best interests of the children, regardless of the gender of the parents.

Florida Statutes Section 61.13(2)(c)1 states specifically that “[t]here is no presumption for or against the father or mother of the child or for or against any specific time-sharing schedule when creating or modifying the parenting plan of the child.”

So what factors do judges look at to determine children’s best interests when shaping time-sharing schedules?

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Rights Recognized in Tampa’s Domestic Partnership Registry

As President Obama today expressed his support for gay marriage, the State of Florida continues to define marriage as “a legal union between one man and one woman,” leaving homosexuals in loving relationships in a state of legal limbo.  Attempting to fill in the gap, many local county and municipal governments are passing “domestic partnership registries” which codify certain rights to heterosexual and homosexual partners.  Tampa, for one, has passed an ordinance creating a domestic partnership registry.

Related:  Five Legal Steps Florida LGBT Parents Should Take

[Related:  In A Florida Child Custody Case, Does It Matter That I Am Gay?]

[Related:  In Which County Should I File My Florida Adoption Case?]

Tampa’s domestic partnership law recognizes the following rights for registered partners (to the extent that these rights are not superseded by other laws or ordinances or by contract):

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TMH v. DMT: Florida Appellate Court Recognizes Parental Rights of Both Lesbian Mothers in Case of Fertilized Egg Transplant

Here’s the story:  Two women are in a committed lesbian relationship when they decide to have a child together using reproductive technologies.  One woman (the “Genetic Mother”) supplies the egg and has it fertilized.  That egg is then implanted into her partner (the “Birth Mother”) who gives birth in 2004.

Related:  Five Legal Steps Florida LGBT Parents Should Take

[Related:  In A Florida Child Custody Case, Does It Matter That I Am Gay?]

[Related:  In Which County Should I File My Florida Adoption Case?]

The child is given a hyphenated last name, combining the names of the Birth Mother and Genetic Mother.  Birth announcements are sent out, proclaiming both partners to be mothers of the child.  The partners reside with one another and the child in Florida, and they all live happily ever after.

Until 2006, when the Birth Mother and Genetic Mother break up.

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Hillsborough County Posts Administrative Order on “Parental Notice of Abortion Act” Cases

Hillsborough County has posted Administrative Order S-2011-046 on “Parental Notice of Abortion Act” (Florida Statutes Section 390.01114) Cases.  The administrative order, which provides a basic explanation of the Parental Notice of Abortion Act, reads as follows:

The Parental Notice of Abortion Act (hereinafter “Act”), section 390.01114, Florida Statutes, provides that a termination of pregnancy may not be performed or induced upon a minor unless the physician performing or inducing the termination of pregnancy has given at least 48 hours actual notice to one parent or to the legal guardian of the pregnant minor of his or her intention to perform or induce the termination of pregnancy. The Act further provides for judicial waiver of notice to the parents or legal guardian. The court is required to give these proceedings precedence over other pending matters to the extent necessary to ensure that the court reaches a decision within three (3) business days after a petition is filed.

It is necessary for the prompt and efficient administration of justice to update the procedures for handling parental notice of abortion act cases to ensure that proceedings under this Act are handled in an expeditious manner. By the power vested in the chief judge under article V, section 2(d), Florida Constitution; section 43.26, Florida Statutes; and Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.215(b )(2), it is therefore ORDERED:

1. Filing of Petition

All petitions seeking a judicial waiver of the notice requirements of section 390.01114, Florida Statutes, will be filed in the Juvenile Dependency Division.

2. Assignment of Case

Immediately upon filing, the Clerk of the Circuit Court (hereinafter “clerk”) will assign the petition to one of the Unified Family Court divisions by using a random equitable distribution system. For purposes of this administrative order only, a Unified Family Court division is a division within any of the following subject matter divisions: Domestic Relations/Family Law, Domestic Violence, Juvenile Dependency, Juvenile Dependency Crossover and Juvenile Dependency Specialty.