Child custody disputes between parents often get heated. When you are dealing with something as invaluable and precious as your child and the time you get to spend with your child, it’s no surprise that divorced spouses often have a hard time negotiating child custody terms in a calm, reasonable manner. Even after the divorce is finalized, living arrangements can change, forcing ex-spouses to once again figure out a new time-sharing agreement. Sometimes, the fighting between ex-spouses over child custody issues can get so intense that one or both spouses may act out in anger. In Orlando recently, a bitter father took his anger too far; he attempted to take his own life and his daughter’s life to prevent his ex-wife from taking his daughter to live out of state.
The man and his wife divorced in 2011 after 4 years of marriage. In court, the couple agreed to share custody of their one daughter until she turned 10, at which point they would allow their daughter to choose who she wanted to live with. Things changed when the mother was offered a new job, which would require moving from Florida to Texas. She asked the judge to allow her to take her daughter full time, claiming she would be able to provide a better life for the girl than her ex-husband would be able to, since he had recently had surgery and was facing medical problems. The man fought against this request, but the judge agreed to allow the mother to take the child full time. The mother requested an emergency pickup order of her daughter, as she feared that her ex-husband would not comply with the judge’s order, but the emergency pickup order was declined. Sadly, what happened next was a misguided act of true desperation: the man set his house on fire with himself and his daughter inside. Luckily, authorities were able to save both the man and his daughter, and both are expected to survive. The man is now facing charges of attempted murder and arson.
While child custody battles don’t typically go THAT far, they are often intense and stressful for both parents involved. That is why it is so vital to have an experienced family law attorney at your side to assist with the process. A knowledgeable and trustworthy lawyer can help minimize the devastation that divorce can cause.
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Approximately 230 couples get divorced each day in Florida. With each individual case, the judge assigned tries to make things even and fair. However, because alimony has almost always been completely up to the judge’s discretion, what is considered “even and fair” varies from judge to judge. Permanent alimony has always been common in Florida, meaning alimony lasts until the recipient dies or remarries. But alimony has been under attack for years now. Many argue that permanent alimony is very outdated, and that Florida needs a formula for determining alimony, rather than leaving the decision up to individual judges.
The Legislature has been working on a bill to make permanent alimony a thing of the past. The bill proposes a set formula that would take into account the length of a marriage when determining alimony amounts. Marriages lasting less than 2 years would generally not qualify for alimony. The bill also proposes a capped amount of the payer’s income that would go to alimony and child support.
Many praised the bill, saying these alimony changes have been needed for years. But others attacked these proposed changes, saying that this only harms woman, who are most often the recipients of alimony. Lawmakers liked the bill, and it looked as though the alimony changes were coming soon. But the House suddenly adjourned, and the bill was not passed. Why? One of the Senators insisted on making 50/50 time sharing for child custody a requirement.
The Senate and the House disagreed on this, with the Senate pushing for the 50/50 requirement, and the House proposing that judges still get to choose.
The majority of people agree that alimony needs to be standardized, but does it always make sense for child custody to be standardized? Having a standard, required 50/50 time sharing law takes the emphasis off the children and instead puts the emphasis on the parents.
It will be interesting to see what alimony and child custody changes are in Florida’s future.
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Being a single parent is stressful. Not only is it hard, but according to statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the U.S. Census Bureau, children raised by a single parent are more likely to commit suicide, end up in prison, drop out of high school, run away from home, abuse alcohol and drugs, become pregnant as a teen, as well as several other troubling issues. As a result of these findings, 17 states are stepping up and considering shared parenting legislation. If passed, these laws would do away with many sole custody rulings, and likely benefit the children involved.
Currently, courts typically award sole custody to one parent. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 83% of cases are done this way. This creates a single parent and a “visitor” parent. This oftentimes leads to custody battles between the parents. While a shared parenting plan may require some work to figure out initially, child development researchers stress that children want shared parenting and do much better if they have it.
Not only do children of all ages tend to do better with shared parenting plans, research shows that shared parenting significantly increases child support compliance and reduces fighting and domestic violence between parents. A shared parenting plan also makes it possible for both parents to pursue their careers and social lives while sharing in the duties of raising a child.
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American child custody trends have changed dramatically throughout history. Until the end of the 19th century, children were considered property of their fathers. If a father wanted his children after a divorce, they were his. Fathers had the right to keep the children from their mother. By the end of the 19th century, courts started favoring the theory that children needed to be with their mothers, applying the “tender years” doctrine. Basically the doctrine was that a child under the age of five should be with their mother. In the 70’s, courts started receiving challenges that the “tender years” doctrine discriminated against fathers.
Today, all but five states mandate that courts treat both parents equally when deciding who gets custody of children. Still, courts often will award primary custody to one parent, even when both parents are equally qualified to raise their children. Ned Holstein, the head of the National Parents Organization, says, “We believe family courts are actively hurting kids.” According to Mr. Holstein, research shows children do better emotionally and academically when both parents have an active part in their lives. As times have changed, fathers have become more active in raising their children but some courts and judges still give mothers primary custody of children regardless. Lawmakers in several states, Florida included, are pushing for measures that favor more equally shared custody.
Courts are expecting parents to endure a bit of inconvenience to ensure that the child’s best interests are being met. This may mean one parent has to drive farther to take the child to school, and it may mean divorced parents have to see each other more often than they would like, but in most cases, joint custody is what is best for the children. More courts and state legislators are realizing this, and child custody trends are changing once again.
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Divorce is tough. Emotions are swirling and stress levels are high. No one is quite sure what the future will hold. Especially for children, it can be an extremely confusing time. When parents are splitting up, it’s very common for children to feel like their lives are being turned upside-down. This feeling can continue after the divorce is finalized. It’s important to work out a parenting plan so that both parents continue to have frequent and continuing contact with their children. A good parenting plan allows both parents to share in the rights, responsibilities, and joys of childrearing.
In Florida, parents can draft their own parenting plan, which then needs to be approved by the court, or the court will establish a parenting plan for the couple. When couples can agree on a plan and work out the details themselves, everyone benefits. But there are many divorces where the couple cannot agree, and the court must step in.
Parenting plans cover issues such as custody, visitation, and parental responsibility. The plan will state whether parents have shared parental responsibility or if one parent has sole parental responsibility. The plan describes how parents will share the day to day tasks associated with raising a child, as well as how the parents will handle healthcare, school-related matters, and other activities. The plan will explain how the parents intend to communicate with each other and with the child. Additionally, Florida legislature requires the couple to file a Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) form as part of the parenting plan.
Whether the couple creates the plan or the court orders one, a parenting plan helps all parties involved know what to expect both during the divorce and after it is finalized.
To read more about parenting plans, click here.
With hits such as “Higher” and “With Arms Wide Open,” the band Creed’s albums have sold over 25 million copies, and spent more than a year (cumulatively) in the #1 spot. For the early 2000s, you almost couldn’t turn on the radio without a Creed hit greeting you. Since 2004, the band members have been doing their own solo projects, and living their lives peacefully.
At least, that is what was thought. As it turns out, Creed lead singer Scott Stapp’s wife has filed for a divorce, stating drug-and-alcohol-related bizarre behavior, and irreconcilable differences. In the filing, she is also seeking full custody of their children, saying that Stapp is overall unable to take care of his children.
The 2 have been married for 8 years, and currently reside in Boca Raton with their 3 children.
Jaclyn Stapp, former Miss New York USA, stated that Scott vanished without warning back in October, hasn’t been telling her or their kids where he’s staying, and that he’s been doing so many different drugs (crystal meth, steroids, and amphetamines) that he is not the same person he used to be. She states that she fears he will act on his previous threats of suicide and harming the family.
Also included in the petition are a collection of texts sent from Scott that she is trying to use to get a Marchman Act petition approved. If a judge rules in her favor, it could require Scott to go into treatment for at least 5 days, and up to 5 months if the judge-approved treatment requires it.
According to Jaclyn’s attorney, “her primary concern remains, as it always has been, the best interest of her children.”
Whether you’ve been tuned into things or not, there’s currently a heated national debate taking place regarding child custody. The November 2014 election cycle saw states like North Dakota vote on equal parenting time, a cause championed by the “Parental Rights Initiative”.
This controversial measure ultimately failed, by what many would consider a landslide margin – 62% versus 38%. Whereas we could easily look the other way regarding this initiative, it’d be wiser to adopt the opposite position: a radical campaign to alter child custody cases is taking place now.
Child custody is evolving all the time. You don’t need to look back far in history to see that child custody was once indivisible, meaning one parent solely held guardianship of their children. Common belief was that only one parent could raise a child, something the 20th century later revisited.
That a child could not have a proper upbringing with split parenting was a presumption difficult to overcome, but it made one thing abundantly clear – presumptions, as pertaining to divorce, are dangerous. Initiatives like what recently occurred in North Dakota and what was traditionally believed about child custody prior to the 20th century are inherently flawed ideas.
Who does a 50/50 parenting split really stand to benefit? It’s easy to see how parents are being considered before their children in some of these cases. Any legal presumption concerning equal parenting time puts a child’s welfare secondary to the interests of their parents.
So what’s the solution? Writers from the Washington Post believe it lies in crafting a ‘parenting plan’, a blueprint of sorts of how to allocate parental guidance to address a child’s needs post-divorce. These plans essentially mandate that parents work together in the best interest of their children, something far more constructive than arguing over time sharing.
When going through a divorce, an individual will likely have a thousand questions running through their minds. Who will get custody of our kids? How long will this take? How are we going to split assets? Is the family going to split, or stay close? Will I have enough money to live off comfortably afterwards? What about child or spousal support?
One of the questions that often is glossed over, however, is who will be paying for college?
According to Florida law, parents are legally required to provide support and education for their children. That means housing, food, clothes, other basic necessities, and schooling.
The problem is that this legal obligation stops once the child is no longer considered a dependent. This can be when the child turns 18, or it can be later if the child is still in high school or has a disability preventing self-support.
For most parents, though, child support stops around 18 years of age. This can be a problem for parents that have custody of their children and are receiving support payments from their ex-spouse. All of a sudden, the child is no longer dependent on you, and even though you want to be able to send your child to college, you’re facing the daunting bills all on your own.
This is where collaboration can really come in handy. It may be possible to have a court ordered stipulation where child support will continue past 18 for college expenses, but it’s much easier to simply sit down and discuss with your ex-spouse the desire to send your child to college. It’s in every parent’s best interest to see their child succeeding in college, so it’s important to do everything possible to ensure that future.
There are no hard-and-fast rules for solving these complex issues by yourself, but if you mention your concerns with your attorney, they will be able to provide you with the insight you need.
One Florida woman’s recent arrest is the perfect example of how lying to a family court is never a smart idea, even when it means protecting your children.
The incident in question involved a woman who won full custody of her child after she showed police threatening messages she had received from her then-husband via Facebook and email.
The trouble came when police looked into the exchanges a little more closely and found that the woman was lying. She had created fake accounts for her husband, and used them to send herself threats, intentionally in order to win full custody.
She was found guilty of perjury, and was sentenced to a 5-year suspended sentence.
This whole situation highlights a very important issue: There is a point where fighting for your children ends up hurting them.
If she had let the divorce proceedings play out normally, even if she was not awarded custody, she would have been able to visit with her child, and been a part of their life. Instead, now she will be in jail, and her child will grow up these early years not really having a mother, and having to live with the social stigma of a parent in jail.
Protecting your children is paramount, and you should always exercise every legal right you have to protect your kids, but as this case points out, don’t push too hard or visitation hours could mean an entirely different thing.
With a skilled family law attorney on your side, you can be assured that every possible measure will be taken to ensure the well-being of your children.
A Florida mother recently learned the hard way how being caught unprepared can cost the ultimate price: Your children.
When it comes to criminal courts, the rules are clear: Evidence of a crime leads to sentencing, which leads to punishment. In this example, if someone is found guilty of child abuse, they lose all parenting rights. In addition, that information is clearly spelled out in a special hearing, and is easy to locate.
In this particular situation, however, Linda Marie Sacks was not found guilty of any crime, and still is unable to see her children. That is because family courts do not require hard evidence to be able to sever the parent/child relationship. A family court judge can cut that tie at any point, and it will be buried in the divorce filing, making it nearly impossible to locate a paper trail of evidence in order to overturn it.
Appealing her decision will be an immensely complicated, long, and expensive process. She initially attempted to represent herself, even going as far as to write a 112-page Supreme Court petition, but that was shot down back in 2011. Meanwhile throughout this entire process, her children are growing up completely away from her, and she is only allowed a few hours of supervised visitation per month. For all intents and purposes, she is completely out of her children’s lives.
While it is nigh impossible to plan for all eventualities, the sad truth is that an experienced attorney could have seen the writing on the wall and taken preemptive steps to ensure that her proper custody agreement was in place from the very beginning, rather than letting a judge make a one-off decision which robbed her of her kids, despite there being no wrongdoing to begin with.