Articles Posted in Foster Care

Written By: Lenorae C. Atter, Attorney

Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A.

484200_blue_calculator_54.jpgRetirement and pension accounts are often a source of of issue in a Florida divorce case. When divorcing, the law states that marital assets, including bank accounts, mutual accounts, pension and retirement accounts, must be equitably divided. However, each party can waive their right to the other’s retirement or pension funds. When dividing pension and retirement accounts, the divide is not only based on the total in each account at the time of the parties’ separation. The division is actually based on the amount contributed into the accounts during the marriage. So, if you work at your job for 20 years, then marry for 2, your spouse is only entitled to the amount contributed and earned during that two year period of time. However, if you have been married the entire time you’ve worked at that job, then the entire amount is divided equally.

Written By: Lenorae C. Atter, Attorney

Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A.

1129738_vintage_clock_2.jpgFlorida law holds that a short-term marriage is one that lasts for 7 or less years in accordance with Florida Statute 61.08(4). If a marriage is for less than seven (7) years, then the court may find that certain provisions of equitable distribution of assets do not apply, as in a recent Florida case Lacoste v. Lacoste, 36 FLW D784 (Fla. 1st DCA April 14, 2011).


When an infant relative of Vanessa Alenier was seized by child welfare workers, Ms. Alenier took the child into her home. However, when she asked Florida for permission to adopt the boy, a question on the adoption forms gave her pause. It asked if she was gay. Not wanting to begin her parental journey with a lie, she reported to the state that she is indeed gay, even though she knew that Florida has a thirty three year old law banning gays from adopting.

Even as a Miami appeals court was seeking to determine the constitutionality of the ban, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Maria Sampedro-Iglesia approved the adoption – the third such adoption by a gay couple to be approved in Florida in the last year and a half.

Sampedro-Iglesia wrote in her order that, “there is no rational connection between sexual orientation and what is or is not in the best interest of a child. The child is happy and thriving with [Alenier]. The only way to give this child permanency . . . is to allow him to be adopted [by her].” She also declared in her ruling that she believed the law to be unconstitutional.

Adoption.jpgNovember is National Adoption Awareness Month, and to celebrate, Floridians all across the state will gather at special ceremonies and community events. And Florida residents have a lot to celebrate; Florida has been recognized nationally for its success in placing foster children in permanent homes.

The success of the program is attributed to a federal funding program that allowed Florida child welfare workers to focus services on at-risk children. Florida has used the funds to provide services such as parenting classes, counseling, mentoring and enhanced support for relative adoptions. The program has reduced the number of children living in foster care and group homes by a third and has cut the re-abuse of children in half. The resulting reduction in caseloads has allowed child welfare workers to focus on getting foster kids adopted, which they have done in record numbers as well.

The program does face some problems going forward. Across the board state budget cuts could mean that Florida will fail to meet minimum state funding requirements to qualify for the federal program. And whether or not Florida makes the funding cut, the program will expire in two years. Find out more about Florida’s foster kids at Celebrate adoption.

Adoption.jpgAlex Sink is the chief financial officer of Florida, and considered the leading democratic candidate for governor of the state. She recently addressed 300 attendees at a gay rights group fundraising dinner, telling them that she believed homosexuals should be legally allowed to adopt children, as long as it is in the child’s best interest. She said that judges should determine what is in a child’s best interest on a case by case basis. Florida is currently the only state to explicitly ban homosexuals from adopting.

Ms. Sink’s opponent, Republican Bill McCollum, has said he would defend Florida’s ban on gay adoption. The debate comes at a time when a state appeals court is considering the case of a gay man in North Miami who wants to adopt his two foster children. The race between McCollum and Ms. Sink is considered close. Find out more about how gay issues are affecting the race at Sink backs adoption by gays, lesbians.

Any adoption will require legal pleadings, documents and proper notice. The adoption of a child is an important decision that should be handled with the services of a family law attorney to make sure procedures are followed correctly. If you are considering adoption, please contact our firm for expert legal support.

In Florida, the courts in Miami overturned the ban on gay adoptions in August 2009. Judge Cindy S. Lederman wrote in her opinion that excluding gay couples defeats Florida’s mission to provide all children permanent families. The state has claimed that gays are more likely to suffer from psychological imbalances and substance abuse than heterosexual couples, although several well-respected organizations have said that gay parents do not negatively affect a child’s upbringing.

A statewide resolution must be determined by an appellate court before the ban is officially lifted. Florida is the only state to ban homosexuals from adopting children. A few other states prevent unmarried persons from adopting children, which effectively bans gays, who are not legally allowed to marry in those states. Mississippi allows single people to adopt, no matter what their sexual orientation, but prohibits same-sex partners from adopting jointly.

The state attorney general’s office has appealed the decision so the gay and lesbian community in Florida await the decision to see if they will have the “right” to adopt in Florida.

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.

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.

The Florida Supreme Court will be deciding the issue of whether the 2008->Ch0063->Section%20042#0063.042 target=”_blank”>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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