August 25, 2011

How to Get Legal Custody over Your Grandchild


There are many reasons why a grandparent may need to care for a grandchild for an extended period of time in Florida. Obtaining a Florida court order placing the child in the grandparent’s custody would allow the grandparents to obtain medical attention for the child, the right to enroll the child in school and the right to apply for State and Federal benefits on behalf of the child. A grandparent who cares for their grandchild or who has the consent of the child’s parents may petition a Jacksonville (Duval County) Florida court for temporary relative custody.

Temporary Relative Custody in Florida may be considered when a parent is unable to care for the child due to drug or alcohol abuse, incarceration, financial instability, mental health issues, responsibilities related to work or the military. A Judge will award custody to the grandparent if it is in the child’s best interest and the parents do not object. If the parents do object, then the court must make a finding of abuse, neglect or abandonment by the parents before granting custody. The judge may also grant visitation rights to the parents, and order the parents to pay child support to the grandparent. The order may be terminated if either parent petitions the court to do so, if the judge finds that the parent is a fit parent or the grandparents consent to the termination of the order.

Temporary relative custody of a minor child may also be granted to other Jacksonville adult family members such as an aunt, uncle, sibling or first cousin. For more information on this topic, see Florida State 751- Temporary Custody of Minor Children by Extended Family.

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April 1, 2010

What Do Florida Child Custody Laws Mean for a Divorced Parent Who Wants to Relocate?

OnTheRun.jpgAccording to Florida statutes, children subject to a custody agreement may only be relocated if an agreement is reached between parents, guardians and any other person who is entitled to spend time with the child. All of these parties must agree in writing that the child may relocate with one of the parents or guardians. The written agreement must spell out the new location, the consent to the new location, and define a new time-sharing schedule for any of the parties who are not relocating. It must also spell out who is responsible for transportation costs associated with child visitation.

If one person does not agree to the relocation, the parent must file a Petition to Relocate Minor Children with the court. The petition must be served on any parties who are entitled to partial custody or visitation with the child. The petition must include the proposed new location, the date of the requested relocation and give detailed reasons for the request along with any evidence of the cause of the relocation, such as a new job offer. It must also include a proposed visitation schedule, including proposed travel arrangements.

The other parties served with the petition have twenty days to object to the court in writing. If they fail to do so the court will allow the relocation, as long as it is in the best interest of the child. If you would like to relocate and are subject to a child custody agreement, it is best to consult a qualified attorney who can help make sure all of your paperwork is in order and that you are in compliance with the law.

Read more details of the Florida law governing relocation of minor children after divorce at Florida Laws Regarding Relocation After Divorce.

If you are involved in a divorce or child custody negotiation, please contact our Jacksonville, Florida divorce law firm.

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January 12, 2010

Judge Rules That Custody Battle over Sarah Palin’s Grandson will be Public Record


Bristol Palin, the nineteen year old daughter of 2008 vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, went before a judge recently to ask that her child custody battle with former fiancé, Levi Johnston, be closed. She has filed for sole custody of her son, Tripp, saying that the child’s father is too immature to be a good parent. She argued that all of the media attention would be harmful to her son, and that our modern electronic communication systems would mean that he would be able to read stories about the battle once he is old enough.

For his part, Levi Johnston is asking for joint custody and has argued to keep the case public, saying that he fears the power Sarah Palin could have over the proceedings if they are kept secret. An Alaska judge ruled that Bristol Palin had no evidence that publicity would be harmful to the child, and that the records would remain open.

In Florida, the term joint custody is no longer used. The courts use parenting plans and time-sharing arrangements to govern the rights of parents to raise their children after a divorce. The new rules can be tricky. You should speak with a Jacksonville Divorce Attorney if you have questions regarding a divorce or custody issues. Walking into family court without an attorney is like performing surgery on yourself. It's not a good idea! You should consult with a professional who knows the laws and can protect your rights.

Read more about the Palin / Johnston custody battle at Tripp Palin custody battle to be heard in public, judge rules.

If you are involved in a custody battle, please contact our firm for expert, compassionate legal counsel.

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December 2, 2009

Warren County, Ohio Court Bans Mother (Racheal Hill) From Smoking Near Her Child

NoSmoking.jpgVictoria Anderson, now aged 9, has lived with her paternal great grandmother, Marilyn Anderson, in Dayton, Ohio since she was an infant. She has gotten “parenting time” during those years with both her mother and father. Ms. Anderson objected to Ms. Hill smoking around the child during her visits, and the Warren County court ordered all parties to protect the child from second hand smoke. The Ohio 12th district court of appeals has upheld the ruling, using judicial notice to conclude that second-hand smoke is dangerous to children. Taking judicial notice was unusual in this case, because neither of the parties presented proof in court, rather the court recognized an "avalanche of authoritative scientific studies" that show second-hand smoke poses a health danger to children. This decision could now apply to many Ohio children involved in child-custody or visitation cases.

Cases like this pit a parent’s right to smoke against a child’s right to breathe fresh air. But courts have typically decided these types of cases in the best interest of the child, rather than focusing on who has the right to do what. According to non-smokers’ rights group, Action on Smoking and Health, eighteen states have ruled that smoking near a child is a factor that should be taken into consideration when deciding custody.

Find out more about what the courts have to say about smoking and other hazards at Court bans mom from smoking near child.

If you are involved in a child custody battle, please contact our firm for expert, compassionate legal counsel.

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August 28, 2009

Florida Grandparent Visitation Rights: Florida Divorce & Paternity

Written By: Lenorae C. Atter, Florida Family Law Attorney

Florida grandparents now have rights to visitation with their grandchildren. After years of grandparents wanting visitation with their grandchildren and having no court action to take, the Florida legislature adopted Florida Statute 752.01, which allows for grandparents to file a petition for visitation with their grandchild.
The Florida law regarding the grandparents' petition states that the Court shall give reasonable visitation rights to grandparents if it is in the best interest of the child when the minor child's parents have divorced, a parent has abandoned/deserted the child, or when the child is born is out of wedlock.
This new law gives grandparents a voice in court where they previously had none. Congratulations to all you Florida grandparents that have been yearning to see your grandchildren. Since this matter is new, it is important to speak with an attorney regarding your rights and what actions to take.

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July 20, 2009

Guardian and Stepparent Adoption: Florida Family Law

Written By: Lenorae Atter, Jacksonville Family Law Attorney
Stepparent and Guardianship adoptions in Florida are a growing interest and as a Jacksonville family law attorney, I find the statute only gets the process so far. In handling the adoption, there are many different ways for issues to arise and it is helpful to have someone on your side to walk you through the process.
Nuances have been created throughout the years, not by Florida Statute, but by continuous case law. When dealing with adoption, the last thing a party wants is for someone to be able to come back into the picture claiming to have rights to the child. If you are interested in pursuing an adoption of your stepchild or you are currently the legal guardian for a child and would like to adopt, I advise you to at least consult with an attorney on the matter. Protect the child from the beginning, so no one rears their head in a couple years claiming that the adoption was not done correctly.

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July 8, 2009

Divorce and Grandparents: Florida Family Law

Written By: Lenorae Atter, Florida Family Law Attorney
Going through a divorce in Jacksonville, Florida or its surrounding areas can raise questions involving visitation, child support, alimony, etc. However, what about grandparents and the impact of divorce on them? In Florida, grandparents are not given a statutory right or any other right to the grandchildren, except as decided by the parent(s).
This matter may arise if the parties that are divorcing disagree on the grandparents having visitation, or if one of the parents is deployed, incarcerated or otherwise not allowed visitation with the children. The primary residential parent would be the decision maker for the children in that scenario. Therefore, that parent can determine with the grandparents will actually get any form of visitation with the children. As grandparents, it is best to keep a good relationship with your own child and your child's spouse/exspouse in order to preserve a relationship with your grandchildren.

July 1, 2009

Michael Jackson Baby Mama Drama: Jacksonville, Florida Family Law

1195577_us-1.jpgWHO IS MICHAEL JACKSON'S BABIES' MAMA??? In fact, who is Michael Jackson's babies' father??? News reports have surfaced that neither Debbie Rowe nor Michael Jackson are the biological parents of the three Jackson children. Thus the question arises: Who Will Get Custody of These Children? News reports are stating that Debbie Rowe served as a surrogate mother to the children meaning that her egg was not used in the fertilization of the children nor was Michael Jackson's sperm. Reports are that the children were conceived in vitro using donor eggs and donor sperm. Legally speaking, this really should not make much difference in terms of custody of the children as the children are considered heirs at law of Michael Jackson and his mother will probably be the most likely candidate to gain custody and control of the children and their interests. What this news does do is eliminate Debbie Rowe as a possible candidate for custody of the kids as she served only as an incubation chamber and has no real biological ties to the children. If you or your loved one has a question about custody, paternity, child support or any other issue in Duval, Clay, Nassau or St. Johns Counties, please contact our firm at 904-355-8888 for help in addressing these important complex matters.

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June 15, 2009

Jacksovnille Grandparent's Adoption Granted by Florida Supreme Court

LandmarkAdopt0609.jpgFlorida Times Union ran a story regarding a breakthrough in Grandparent Adoption. For the last four years, since their parents' deaths, two children have been at the center of a legal battle with both sets of grandparents at the helm. last week there was a major change in Grandparent Adoption in Florida.
The landmark decision by the Florida Supreme Court was that the maternal grandfather, George Smith and his wife, Brenda could adopt the children. George and his wife, Brenda petitioned to adopt the children approximately one month after the children's father, Eduardo Silvils, died in a car accident. The children's mother had previously died, leaving the children without a parent.
Silvils’ parents, who were not named in court documents, soutght guardianship of the children instead of adoption. The guardianship was designed to provide the children with a home and family to take care of them. The Silvils' believed it to the best for all parties because both sets of grandparents would have the opportunity to see the grandchildren, while an adoption could bar them from contact with their grandchildren.
After court action, which sided with the Silvils', the Florida Supreme Court ultimately found that a split guardianship is, "the antithesis of the right to permanence and stability that is afforded by adoptions.”

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April 8, 2009

Florida Gay Adoption: Constitutional?

The Florida Supreme Court will be deciding the issue of whether the Florida Constitutional provision stating that gays and lesbians and transgendered people in the State of Florida cannot adopt is constitutional. Miami-Dade Circuit Judge, Cindy Lederman, has ruled that the law declaring that homosexuals in Florida cannot adopt violates the equal protection clause of the Constitution. The Court in Miami-Dade applied the best interests of the child standard in reviewing the antiquated law and decided that it would be in the best interests of the child if the child remained with the two men who had raised him and cared for him and loved him while he was their child in a foster care situation.
Florida is the only state that bars gay adoption by its constitution. Now that the Circuit Court has ruled the provision unconstitutional, the Florida Supreme Court has stepped in to make a decision on the actual constitutionality of the issue. The case has sparked many concerns and interests throughout Florida and the rest of the country. Recently the Florida Family Law Section of the Florida Bar has gotten involved with the brief process due to the overall interest and best interest standards for children. The Family Law Section is a separate division from the Florida Bar, but many have publicly protested the entry of the Florida Bar in any form. However, the Family Law section feels the need to get involved in this matter due to the overall interests in protecting rights of Florida's prospective adopting parents, and the rights and best interests of children that are currently in need of a permanent home.

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March 20, 2009

Florida Family Protection: Handling DCF Actions

In Florida, the Department of Children and Families (DCF)is designed to protect children. The goal is not to shatter the home, but to protect the safety and welfare of the children. In its protective role, DCF can act in more of a prosecutorial manner and rather than seeing an incident as a possible accident, they become more accusatory in nature.
Some of the consequences of DCF involvement is that they have the ability to remove children from your home pending an investigation and during the completion of a case plan, which could take from 6 months to a year, or more. If the case plan is not properly completed, then DCF has the ability to petition the courts to declare the child(ren) dependent on the state, terminate parental rights and place the child(ren) in foster care or up for adoption.
Our firm has represented numerous parents and grandparents who have faced DCF charges for putting a child or children in harms way. The reality is that DCF can have an awful impact and disruption on your family and representation is important.

March 19, 2009

Florida Grandparents Rights: Florida Divorce and Other Issues

Grandparents' rights in Florida are not easy to accomplish. The Florida Supreme Court has held that the Florida Constitution makes it a personal right to determine who parents allow around their children, even when the excluded parties are family members. In the Jacksonville, Florida area, there are attorneys working to fight against the perception of no rights for grandparents and sometimes there are creative methods that can be used.
The common scenario we receive is someone calling and stating, "My daughter isn't allowing me or my Husband to see our grandkids! I want to file a petition for grandparent visitation with the courts! Can you help me?" While the situation is sad and usually not in the best interests of the children to cease a close familial relationship with their grandparents, the Florida law is such that grandparents do not have an inherent right to visitation with their grandchildren.
However, the situation is not completely dire. Sometimes there are ways around the issue and having someone review your particular facts may be beneficial. Recently in St. Augustine, Florida, a man was accused of killing his wife and was charged with the crime. Prior to his arrest, the man completed a Power of Attorney so that his children could be cared for by his parents. While this is an extreme example, the underlying fact remains that parents can give up their visitation with the children to their parents if they are going to be away for a length of time. This may be a "loop hole" for some looking to see the grandchild that now lives with their child's exspouse

January 19, 2009

Options for Teen Moms in Florida Family Law

mother_holding_babys_foot.jpgSarah Palin's daughter was 17 years old and pregnant, Jamie Lynn Spears was 16 and pregnant, and most likely your Florida teen knows someone in high school that's pregnant. Taking the political nature of the question out, as in Pro Life or Pro Choice, what are the options one has?
I'm pretty certain that many of these young girls really don't want to get married right now, but obviously that is an option. But, does it really solve the problem? In Florida we recognize that parents have the right to child support, so the old fashioned idea of pregnancy equals marriage is not really necessary. In fact, it statistically causes more problems later since the majority of marriages that end are due to the couples being too young when they got married.
Another answer is for a paternity test to be done and filed with the court in order to prove the child does have a father, and hold that father responsible for any child support obligations. In teen pregnancy the mother and father are sometimes in school, but the court can impute income for child support to be assessed. Also, the child does have the option of going on state funded medical insurance. However, this is a tough road altogether and it's important to make certain you're making the right choice.
The option that is often overlooked because emotions control is adoption. Adoption is a great way to provide a good home for a child and make certain that all of the child's needs are being met. The popular movie "Juno" focused on a 15 year-old making that decision and though it was a movie it actually did a great job of showing how many good parents there are that are not capable of having them on their own. For a teenage girl willing to carry a child for 9 months, but not being able to recognize the long responsibility and affect the choice will have on her life, adoption is a wonderful option.
Any of these options are available, but making certain that all parties, especially the child are cared for properly, it would be beneficial to meet with a family law attorney that handles these types of issues on a regular basis.