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2016 Collaborative Law Process Act Making Progress in Florida Legislature

Senate Bill 972, the “Collaborative Law Process Act,” is making its way through the Florida Senate and will hopefully become law this summer.

[UPDATE 2: Governor Scott signed the Collaborative Law Process Act on 3/24/16]

[UPDATE: The Collaborative Law Process Act Passed the Florida Legislature on 3/4/16.  Learn more about it in the following Article: Collaborative Law Process Act Protects Families’ Privacy]

The Collaborative Law Process Act creates a legal framework for families to resolve disputes outside of court.  The bill specifies that family law matters under chapters 61 or 742 of the Florida Statutes may be resolved via the collaborative process.  These family law matters include the following:

  • Divorce;
  • Alimony and child support;
  • Marital property and debt distribution;
  • Child custody and visitation (also known as time-sharing and parental responsibility);
  • Parental relocation with a child;
  • Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements; and
  • Paternity.

Families in Tampa Bay, Greater Sarasota, and throughout the state of Florida are already utilizing the collaborative process to resolve divorce and other matters privately and respectfully, but a big improvement with this bill is that there will be a statutory framework to ensure discussions had in the collaborative process can be enforced as confidential.   Read more

Pinellas County’s Standing Notice for Family Law Cases with Minor Children

When you file a family law case in a Tampa Bay court that involves children (such as divorce, paternity, or modification of a parenting plan), you will get a standing notice or order which prescribes how parents should treat one another and their children.

For the most part, parents that utilize common sense and common courtesy should have no problem sticking to these standing requirements. Below are excerpts of the requirements in Pinellas County:

1. CONTACT WITH BOTH PARENTS; SHARED PARENTING:

1.1. Contact with both parents is generally in the children’s best interests. Children are entitled to “frequent and continuing contact with both parents when the parents separate or divorce” as a matter of law.

1.2 The “primary residential parent” has an “affirmative obligation to encourage and  nurture a relationship between the children and the alternate residential parent.” A parent who restricts access of the children to the other parent and who does not encourage a relationship between the children and the other parent, perhaps should not be designated the “primary residential parent, ” as this is not acting in the children’s best interests and is not following the law.

1.3. In nearly all cases, the court orders “shared parental responsibility” of the children, which means co-parenting. The parents must confer with each other and agree on parenting decisions. Both parents must participate in all parenting  decisions and work out their time sharing schedules. If the parents cannot agree on any issue, then the court will decide.

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Florida Divorce – Time to Respond to a Petition

It is important for every person who is served with a Florida petition for dissolution of marriage to respond to the petition in a timely manner.

The petition, which sets out what a person wants a judge to do (such as dissolve the marriage, rule on custody, order child support, and divide marital property and debt), is generally personally served by a sheriff’s deputy or other authorized process server.  Once served, the respondent has 20 days to provide an answer to the petition and agree or disagree with the petitioner’s requests and allegations.

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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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Can Smoking Affect Your Child Custody Case?

As a former cigarette smoker, an article in the Washington Times regarding smoking and child custody piqued my interest. Below is an excerpt:

States are increasingly factoring in cigarette smoking in making decisions about who gets custody of minor children. The group Action on Smoking and Health, an anti-tobacco advocacy group, surveyed custody issues involving cigarettes and tobacco use.

  • In at least 18 states, courts have ruled that subjecting a child to tobacco smoke is a factor which should be considered in deciding custody.
  • No judge and no court has ever ruled that subjecting a child to tobacco smoke should be ignored in deciding custody.
  • In thousands of cases, courts have issued orders prohibiting smoking in the presence of a child, especially in vehicles.

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Factors in Relocating with a Child

If you are or have been involved in a child custody case and you wish to move with your child, you must make sure to follow the procedures of section 61.13001, Florida Statutes (the “Relocation Statute”).

Often times, parents are able to come to an agreement on relocation.  The Relocation Statute has specific requirements for the agreement, and the agreement must be filed with the court and ratified by a judge.

But what if you and the other parent cannot come to an agreement?  What specific factors does a judge look at to determine if relocation is in a child’s best interests?

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Relocation With A Child Outside of Florida

If your child has ever been subject to a custody proceeding (such as divorce, paternity, or temporary custody), then you are likely restricted in where you can move with the child under section 61.13001, Florida Statutes.  This law, known as the “Relocation Statute,” prevents a parent from moving a child more than 50 miles except under certain circumstances.

The first circumstance allowing relocation is if both parents agree.  However, strict requirements must be followed.  The agreement must:

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Is Florida the Correct State for My Child Custody Issue?

Under chapter 61, Florida Statutes, a Florida court generally has jurisdiction for a new custody case (such as (i) divorce involving children’s issues/parenting plan, (ii) paternity/ establishment of time-sharing schedule, or (iii) temporary or concurrent custody of a child by a relative) only if one of the following is true:

  • The child has lived in Florida for at least six months immediately prior to the case being filed (even if the child is or has been temporarily absent from Florida);
  • The child has moved from Florida within the past six months, but prior to that lived in Florida for at least six months; or
  • No other state or country has jurisdiction over the child (or the court of the child’s home state or country has declined jurisdiction) and the child has significant connections to Florida.

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Hillsborough County – New Child Custody Proceedings Administrative Order

Chief Judge Manuel Menendez, Jr., of the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit (Hillsborough County) recently entered a new administrative order that pertains to child custody proceedings.  Below is a summary of AO S-2011-014:

  1. For Chapter 751 Proceedings (Temporary Custody of Minor Children by Extended Family):
    1. Uncontested and Contested Proceedings:  Petitions for temporary custody of a minor child by an extended family member (i.e., grandparent, aunt, uncle, cousin, etc.) must be written and signed under oath, and filed with the clerk of the court.  The case will be assigned to the Family Law/Domestic Relations Division.  An executed Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement (“UCCJEA”) Affidavit must be included with the petition.  If the petition is being filed with the parents’ permission, written, signed, and notarized consents must be provided, unless the parents provide their consents in open court.  If a petitioner is alleging that a parent has abandoned a child, the petitioner must have evidence of abandonment.
    2. Pending Dependency Proceedings:  If a dependency case is pending when a petition for temporary custody has been filed, the Family Law judge may transfer the petition to the Juvenile Dependency Division. Read more

Ten Tips for Divorcing Parents

The following article was written by Mike McCurley for the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers:

Divorce is never easy on kids, but there are many ways parents can lessen the impact of their break-up on their children:

  1. Never disparage your former spouse in front of your children. Because children know they are “part mom” and “part dad,” the criticism can harm the child’s self-esteem.
  2. Do not use your children as messengers between you and your former spouse.The less the children feel a part of the battle between their parents, the better. Read more