Articles Posted in Dependency Issues

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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.

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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.

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Florida Adoptions are governed by Chapter 63 of the Florida Statutes. In Jacksonville and surrounding areas, the court will look to Chapter 63 in handling the many areas of adoption that arise. The different types of adoptions are the following:

1. Private adoptions

2. Step-parent adoptions

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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

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In dealing with Florida family law cases with children, child support is an obvious factor. When going through a Florida divorce or paternity action child support will most likely be ordered by the court. In today’s economic times, many more Floridians are facing bankruptcy and how that affects their Florida child support obligations.

Often, one party files for bankruptcy believing that any financial obligation to the other party will be dischargeable in the bankruptcy. On October 1, 2005, the new bankruptcy law went into effect and is entitled BAPCPA. The new law changed many things in the bankruptcy code including how a “domestic support obligation” will be treated. The support obligation can come in many forms such as alimony, child support, money owed to a spouse, or a money obligation incurred during a divorce agreement. Before BAPCPA, the bankruptcy law stated that you could NOT discharge a child support obligation or alimony in a Chapter 7 but you could discharge any money owed to a spouse under a divorce agreement as long as the money wasn’t a part of the child support or alimony obligation. This is usually termed as an “equalizing payment” in the final agreement or judgment

Under the old law, if the spouse filing for bankruptcy couldn’t pay the debt or if discharging the debt would be less detrimental to the spouse receiving the funds, it could be listed and discharged. Not so with the new law. In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the spouse will still have to pay and will not be able to discharge the debt so when the bankruptcy is over, the spouse will still owe the debt to the other spouse

937464_wheel_of_fortune___.jpg A Jacksonville, Florida man was arrested in April 2008, on charges of child pornography. Having committed a crime in the home, the man’s $280,000 home was seized by the government.

In Florida and throughout the country, the police can seize a person’s property such as a home, vehicle, money, etc. if it can be determined that the property was used in the commission of the crime for which the defendant was arrested. It appears that the Jacksonville man had almost 20,000 photographs and videos of minors engaging in sexually explicit acts. Since the man viewed these pictures and videos in his home, and the crime was furthered in his home, the state had the right to seize the entire home. Now he is living in an even bigger house as he was sentenced to four years in Florida State Prison.

Written by: Whitney Lonker

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We hear about teen pregancies from Florida to California all of the time. Ranging from politicians to pop stars, the issue seems to be a constant in our lives. Sarah 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.