Articles Posted in Child Abuse and Neglect

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).

In Jacksonville, Florida family law , I have clients that are facing huge changes in their life whether it is from divorce or determination of paternity. The majority have never been a parent or have never been a single parent. In addition, some have jobs that have taken them from their children. The solution may be in a service being offered by Ronnie Cage, who has a Master Trainer Certification in the “Fatherhood Development” Curriculum from the National Partnership for Community Leadership. I had the pleasure of speaking with him and finding out that he coaches fathers on how to become dads to their kids whether for the first time or the first time in a long time.
Mr. Cage has found his calling in helping individuals learn, mainly fathers, to be better communicators, listeners and parents. It’s a service we could all benefit from in our lives, but we can’t often find the recipe to make the proper parent pie. Mr. Cage, and others in his field, may be the missing cookbook to better parenting.

Written By: Lenorae C. Atter

Collaborative action for divorce, child support, visitation, alimony and other family law matters is not common in Jacksonville, Florida.

Collaborative Law is being practiced in most parts of the country, including South Florida, but has not found its popularity in Jacksonville yet. As a Jacksonville divorce lawyer who wants my clients walking away with a smile rather than the need for the spa, I am a huge advocate of this process. I don’t think children should be the victim of their parents’ inability to communicate, but should be healthier through divorce because the parents have a since of stability throughout the process. That is what is offered in a collaborative law setting. It’s the attorneys and the clients, from the very beginning, agreeing that a divorce process aimed at resolving the divorce, custody, child support, marital home, assets, and finances can actually be done amicably from beginning to end.

As a Jacksonville, Florida family law attorney, I have many inquiries regarding adoptions. Recently, the interest in adoptions seems to be growing, possibly due to celebrities like Angelina Jolie and Madonna. Their adoptions have made national news more than once. However, in a struggling economy, I was curious about how adoptions are being impacted and recently heard a news story on NPR related to the issue and now discovered a news article in US Today on the same topic.
According these stories, it appears that at adoption and the option for it has grown exponentially due to the economy. Many more women, especially those with children already, are choosing to place their newborns up for adoption. This decision is being exercised at a time when families are struggling to feed the ones in their home, but also want to provide life and a family to others. Those unable to have children are grateful for the influx in available babies right here in the U.S. and in Florida. At a time when people are struggling to put gas in their cars, the country’s women have decided the ultimate sacrifice is their calling and these women and their families are providing others with a chance at what was once perceived as virtually impossible.
There really is a silver lining for a recession.

Stepparent adoption is common in Jacksonville, Florida, where we, Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A. is located. Florida recognizes adoption by a stepparent to be commonplace and tries to make the process easy on all parties. Consent of the nonparticipating parent is the best way to gain adoption rights of the child. However, some situations do not require consent of the parent.

Stepparent adoption is usually achieved when a parent remarries and the other parent has not consistenly participated in the child’s life. Upon the primary parent’s marriage, the new spouse offers to adopt the child so that the child can have an intact and stable environment with a mom and dad. Florida courts, looking at the matter in the best interest of the child, are happy to provide such a family unit to a child.

Typically, a nonparticipating parent is fine giving up their parental rights to the child, because it alleviates the need to pay future child support and they understand that the child has a chance at a two parent home. If the other parent is willing, then it is best to get them to sign a consent terminating their parental rights. This process is the easiest method for all parties.

Jacksonville, Florida and the rest of the country are feeling the stress of the economy. Times are tough, which makes people scared and angry. Domestic violence and tempers are on the rise in Jacksonville, Florida, and all across the nation. But it isn’t necessarily men who are doing all of the battering. More and more men are becoming victims of domestic violence and they are no longer taking it “like a man”. When anyone experiences violence against his/her person, it is imperative to seek help immediately. Whether that help comes in the immediate form of calling the police or subsequent to the abuse in fleeing to a domestic violence center , a hotel, or to an attorney, help is essential.

Ron Artest, Former Indiana Pacers star, was beaten and abused by his girlfriend when she struck him in the head. Artest called the police and the girlfriend was arrested. Many times men are afraid to call the police for help as the stereotype is to arrest the man when a domestic situation occurs. Men need to be encouraged to seek help whenever domestic violence is perpetrated against them.

In Florida, an injunction for protection against domestic violence can be issued and/or criminal charges can be filed against the batterer. There are provisions for protection for all and that protection should be sought before taking the law into your own hands.

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.

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

As a Florida divorce attorney, one sees many reasons that people reach divorce. Often, unhappiness describes the general mood of your marriage and you know that divorce is the only answer, its time to get your game face on and start thinking like a business person.
If you haven’t given much thought to your finances because your spouse handles them, start looking at them. You need to know what expenses you have and what assets you have.

A Georgia lawyer who personally dealt with divorce and a certified financial planner founded the Institute for Certified Divorce Planners. They offer financial survival tips for the transition from married life to single life. It’s not a “stick-it-to-your-spouse” moment, it’s a “get a grip” momemnt. They make suggestions for what to do before the papers are filed, with the goal of easing the financial impact of the transition from wedlock to singlehood

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In Florida divorces, Injunctions are prevalent. A Florida Injunction can be handled by your Florida Divorce Lawyer. There are specific criteria that must be met before a court can enter a permanent injunction. Section 741.30 of the Florida Statutes lays out exactly what must be argued to have a temporary injunction entered as a permanent injunction. The statute says that the petitioner must have been a victim of domestic violence OR have reasonable cause to believe that he or she is in imminent danger of becoming the victim of any act of domestic violence. The Elements which must be proven at a hearing before the Circuit Court are as follows:

1. Must be between family or household members.

2. The petitioner must claim to have been the victim of DV or is in fear of imminent DV attack. 3. The sworn petition shall allege the existence of such domestic violence and shall include the specific facts and circumstances.

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