Articles Posted in Department of Children and Families

Children of parents who have filed for a divorce or are already divorced can now participate in free divorce classes in the state of Utah. The classes are for children aged 9-11 and are taught by a mental health professional, who helps the children learn how to communicate more openly with their parents during this difficult process. There are also free classes offered in North Florida through certain church affiliations and also through The Jacksonville Children’s Commission.

Divorce is always hard on children, especially older children and pre-teens. This program from the State of Utah is a commendable effort at easing a difficult time for children in need. Even in the face of economic trouble, it is encouraging to see the state continue to fund support initiatives for children and their families.

If you are considering divorce, please contact our firm for expert, compassionate legal counsel.

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.

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.

International adoptions are popular not only among Madonna and Angelina Jolie, but Jacksonville, Florida residents as well. As a family law attorney I have clients call once they adopted out of the country and they want to make certain their adoption is legal in the U.S. and in Florida.
Once a child is adopted by a foreign court that document finalizing the adoption can be accepted by the Florida courts as well. The procedure for doing so is important to protect yourself and any issues that may arise regarding that child.
The Florida courts do recognize foreign decrees, foreign orders, but you must petition the court to recognize the decree or order. It is best to speak with an attorney regarding this matter to make certain that all requirements are met from the beginning to speed up the finalization of your adoption which has clearly been a long time coming at this point.

International adoptions, like Madonna’s, have made the news for years in Jacksonville, Florida and throughout the country. As a family law attorney in Jacksonville, I have clients call to find out the process for such adoptions.
The reality is, as evident in Madonna’s current court case in Africa, each country has different adoption laws. In Malawi, where the child resides in Madonna’s case, there is a residency requirement for adoptions. That issue, not the paternity issue, is actually what’s holding things up for the adoption of Chifundo James. Madonna, feeling that celebrity and money can beat laws, is now caught up in the court system to show the best interest of the child is to be adopted regardless of the residency requirement.
This case is a good example of why the normal adopting family should first look into the laws associated with the country they would like to adopt from. You don’t want to get in a situation where you required to relocate for a significant period of time if you don’t have to. It’s best to contact an attorney where you live to help you in your process from the beginning.

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.

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.

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