Articles Posted in Florida Statutes

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Fla Stat. §61.08(4) provides statutory guidelines for Florida courts to consider when evaluating importance of the duration of a marriage as a factor for alimony consideration.  In order to categorize the duration of marriages, courts look from the date the marriage began until the date one of the spouses filed for dissolution of marriage. According to the statute, short term marriages are marriages under seven (7) years, and long term marriages are all marriages that last longer than seventeen (17) years.  However, there is a “gray area” in the 10-year gap between these years. The marriages falling between the seven (7) to seventeen (17) year marriage lengths are known as marriages of “moderate duration.”

Categorizing the duration of a marriage is important. The court looks to a multitude of factors, found in Fla. Stat. §61.08 (2)(a-j), when considering the amount and the duration of an alimony award. A marriage categorized as a marriage of moderate duration is particularly important when considering an award of permanent alimony.

If a marriage is a long term marriage, as defined in the statutes, the marriage has with it a presumption in favor of a permanent alimony award. If after the court considers all other alimony factors and finds that no other alimony type would be proper, permanent alimony can be awarded. Whereas, a short term marriage would absolutely not have that same presumption. For a permanent alimony award in a short term marriage the court would have to find that exceptional circumstances exist to support such an award. Whereas, a moderate term marriage is open to a permanent alimony award also, but a higher standard of proof is necessary when awarding permanent alimony in cases of moderate duration marriages. Clear and convincing evidence as to the alimony factors must be presented to the court to prove  that the receiving spouse is entitled to alimony.

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As a Jacksonville, Florida family law attorney, divorce, visitation and custody issues are part of my daily practice. Visitation and custody are usually emotional and working with a client on their parental demeanor is vital in moving forward and eventually going to court. When dealing with custody and visitation of a child it is important that the court sees that you are willing to cooperate with one another in an effort to look out for the best interest of the child(ren).
As of October, 2008, the Parenting Plan Statute went into effect with the purpose of countering bad behavior. The time-sharing and parenting statute requires all parents to file and have the court approve a parenting plan that lays out exactly how all issues of time sharing with the minor children are going to be handled. Instead of limiting yourself to only two options, winning it all or losing, there is another, more productive way to approach the custody issue. The approach may require more maturity than some parties can muster, but, for those able to shift gears, think rationally and be patient, the following approach can be rewarding for them and their children. These steps can lead to a better solution for all, especially the children.
Think about, discuss and decide what your ultimate goals are for the kids. What outcomes would you like to see? Many people would want some of the following (or similar) goals:

1. Family Relationships
a. The kids having a great relationship with both parents
b. The kids having a great relationship with their extended families
c. Financial security for the children
d. Having a safe, secure home for the children
e. Having good schools for the kids
f. Providing for a college education for the children
g. Providing sports opportunities for the children
h. The opportunity for the kids to learn music, art or other interests

Each parent can decide what he or she thinks would be important goals for their children. Broader, underlying goals are more helpful and meaningful. If both parents think of goals in broad terms, they often can agree on them.

2. Look at the big picture.

a. Financial abilities of the parents
b. Parental/family member time available
c. What homes and schools are available and affordable
d. What the parents’ neighborhoods are like
e. The existing relationships between parents and children and the roles each parent plays with the children
f. What community resources are available
g. What special needs, if any, a child has
h. What interests the child has

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Written By: Lenorae C. Atter, Attorney

Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A.

1125087_person_jail.jpgBefore the introduction of the Romeo and Juliet Law in Florida, two victims may have existed in a sexual battery of a minor conviction. Florida law stated that a minor (16 years of age and under) cannot consent to having sexual intercourse. Therefore, the older boyfriend or girlfriend of a minor could be charged and convicted of statutory rape and be placed on the Florida sex offender list for a lifetime if s/he engaged in intercourse.

Written by: Lenorae Atter, Attorney at Law

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First, the Florida legislature changed child custody to “primary timesharing parent” in October, 2008. However, since most of us are familiar with child custody and custody issues, this article will still address the issue as the historic term, “custody.”
As a Jacksonville Florida family law and divorce attorney, dealing with paternity cases and divorces with children, custody issues often arise and the Social Evaluation is an important factor in helping the parents better understand the issues facing the children, and the evaluation assists the judge in having a better understanding and comprehension of what is in the best interest of the children. In Jacksonville and throughout Florida, the social investigation is a component of the case that may be used in its entirety by the judge or may give the judge a basis for a particular ruling. In addition, the evaluation can provide the parties with a stepping-stone or format by which to reach an agreement regarding visitation issues.

The social investigation is conducted by a professional, usually someone with a psychology and law background, and the investigator actually interviews the parents, speaks with witnesses, talks to the kids, look at school records, etc. Once the reviews and statements are completed, the evaluator writes a comprehensive report to demonstrate the findings for each parent, child, and the overall assessment of a parenting plan and recommendations for the court regarding any other matters that should be addressed (i.e. whether counseling is recommended, communication issues, etc.).

So how do you present well in the social investigation? Basically, parties are often concerned that they need to present themselves in a certain light to impress the investigator. However, most of the individuals handing these matters can tell when a party is putting on a show. The idea is not to be fake or phony, but to present your concerns for the children, explain your relationship with the children, and truly identify your wants and needs and the children’s wants and needs before the interview. Being genuine with the investigator is beneficial because it allows the investigator to truly determine any family issues that may need to be addressed, the impact the divorce/separation is actually having on the children and the like. The reason for the investigation is not to berate the parents, but to simply identify what may be in the best interest of the children in the present and in the future.

Extend a mental olive branch to the other party. During your interview with the evaluator, do not destroy the other parent with disparaging remarks. Describe the parts of parenting that the other parent does well and be honest in your comments about the children’s relationship with their other parent. Then share the things that do concern you about the other party, or about the separation of the children. You do not have to make it sound like everyone is great, you’re getting divorced there were issues in the home, so being real about the situation can be helpful in reaching the right conclusion for your case.

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In the state of Florida, if a parent has been convicted of misdemeanor, first degree or felony domestic abuse charges, the judge may rule that it is not in the child’s best interest to award custody or time-sharing rights to that parent. The same is true if the parent is in prison for a crime that would warrant terminating parental rights. If a parent is denied parental responsibility by the courts, he or she has the right to ask a judge to consider evidence that might prove that it would not harm the child to allow the parent custody or visitation rights. The court’s job is to look at the fitness of the parents and what is in the best interest of the child. As a Jacksonville divorce and family law attorney I often have parents ask whether they will be granted time-sharing (visitation) or if they have a chance of getting majority time-sharing (custody). When evaluating this question, it is important to look at the historical nature of the family unit, the likelihood of the parent facilitating a good relationship with the child and the other parent, and multiple other factors. When there are reports, accusations or evidence of abuse in the family, then the question of custody is harder to answer because those factors will be considered by the court due to the interest in not putting the children in harm’s way.

If the parent has not been convicted of a domestic violence or child abuse offense, the judge will generally consider evidence of abuse, even if the accusing party has never filed an injunction for protection from domestic violence against them. The judge will use the evidence to determine what type of parental rights the alleged abuser is entitled to. The accused or convicted, may present evidence and testimony to dispute such accusations or to show the judge how things have changed since the incident occurred. If certain activities have been completed, including counseling, then the court may take that into consideration in determining whether there is still a propensity to commit violent acts.

If an abusive parent is awarded visitation rights, the other party may request that the visits be limited or supervised. It will be up to the judge to decide whether or not the abuser represents a risk to the child or the other parent that warrants supervised or restricted visitation. A neutral third party, like the Family Nurturing Center in Jacksonville, Florida, typically does supervised visitation. The center actually observes the visitations and records them for additional protection of the children. If supervised visitation or time-sharing is ordered and over time there are no issues, then the parent observing such time-sharing may ask the court to modify the time-sharing plan to stop the supervision, but the court will again evaluate the case based on the best interest of the child.

1114882_winter_road.jpgOften parents going through a custody battle think about whether they would like to stay in the same place where they are fighting the battle. Working as a divorce attorney in Jacksonville, Florida, I have noticed that many individuals feel that once they have gone through their divorce or custody issues, they really would like to relocate to a different city. When this issue comes up, whether it be for a job change or a life change, the answer is always the same in a Florida case involving children: If you have the child the majority of the time, then you must put the other parent on notice of your intent to relocate. Florida Statute 61.13001 is the Relocation Statute that dictates how a parent can move with a minor child in Florida.

As is the case with most statutes, understanding the terms is the key to actually following the provisions laid out by the legislature so that you are in compliance with Florida law. If you do not follow the statutory requirements, then you may move to your new place only to be forced back to Florida by the court and your ex.

To summarize the Statute, a relocation is based on a parent moving away from the primary residential address for more than 60 consecutive days and that move is more than 50 miles away from the residence. Basically, if you live in Jacksonville and move to Orlando, then you have to file for relocation under the statute.

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Florida courts make a plethora of decisions regarding children. These decisions range from timesharing and decision making, safety and permanency planning, and proceedings for termination of parental rights. Whenever courts make such decisions, it must consider whether its decision would be in the “best interests” of the child. Most States have a statute requiring that the child’s best interests be considered whenever certain types of decisions regarding a child’s custody, placement or other critical issues are made. Although there is no specific Florida statutory definition of “best interests of a child,” the concept typically refers to the deliberation that courts undertake when deciding what type of services, actions and orders will best serve a child as well as who is best suited to take care of a child.

During a Jacksonville Florida child custody proceeding, the court will consider a number of factors to determine the “best interest” of a child. These factors may include the love, affection, and other emotional ties between the parents and the child; the mental health, physical health and morality of the parents; and most importantly, which parent is more likely to encourage contact between the child and the other parent. For a complete list of the best interests factors, see Florida Statute 61.13.

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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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Parental kidnapping affects families across the nation. According to The United States Department of Justice, 200,000 children are victims of family abductions per year. Sadly, most people do not realize that domestic violence is the underlying cause in many cases.

When Jacksonville parents/ parents nationwide take their children in domestic violence cases, the kidnapping usually occurs in either of the following scenarios. In one scenario, the batterers take the children in order to harm their victims. In the other, the victims flee with their children in an effort to protect themselves and their children from the batterer’s violence.

Batterers will often use their children as a way to hurt or frighten their former spouse. For example, they may pursue custody or visitation litigation as a means of trying to control their former spouse. In addition, they may use the custody proceedings to obtain more information about their former spouse, to continue to monitor them or to perpetrate additional violence.

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Jacksonville Florida parents who go through a divorce can write a parenting plan to decide how they will divide their children’s time after a divorce. The plan provides a roadmap for the child’s future, and is the most important document in a Florida divorce with children.

A parenting plan approved by the court must at a minimum: describe how parents will share and be responsible for the daily tasks associated with the upbringing of the child, the time-sharing schedule arrangements that specify the time that the child will spend with each parent, a designation of who will be responsible for health care, school-related matters, other actives, and the methods and technologies that the parents will use to communicate with the child.

A parenting plan has two separate components: (1) decision making- parental responsibilities and privileges to make decisions relating to the health, education, and welfare of the child, and (2) time sharing- where the child lives at any given time and contact with the other parent. These two aspects are distinct and must be examined according to the best interest of the child.