Articles Posted in Dependency

Jacksonville Adoption Attorney, Neil Weinreb helps clients understand what is an adoption under Florida Law?

In Florida an adoption is a process whereby an individual can become the legal parent of a child.  It can result in a greater level of fulfillment to the lives of adoptive parents.  It can also provide a loving and stable home to a child suffering from poverty or neglect.

What types of adoption are available in Florida?

There are three (3) categories of adoption.

  1. There are non-relative adoptions,
  2. there are adoptions that occur as a result of a dependency case, and
  3. there are step parent adoptions.

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Few people want to accept responsibility for a lifelong obligation that they were not responsible for.  There is more than one way under Florida law to create a parental relationship with a child.  Not all relationships in today’s society follow the model that involved a two parent family whereby the husband was the bread winner and the wife was a stay at home mother.  Today, the norm has changed, and single parent households are much more commonplace than they were traditionally. 

There are a number of ways that paternity can be established.  When a woman is married and she becomes pregnant, there is a legal presumption that the husband is the father.  This is true even where the husband could not physically have impregnated the wife.  Section 742.10 of the Florida Statutes covers all of the ways that paternity of a child can be established.  In short, paternity can be established when a married woman has a child, by consent, by court order, or by the legal father signing the birth certificate and notarized documents admitting paternity. 

When a woman has a child out of wedlock and applies for governmental assistance, she may find that the agency or agencies she is applying through will require her to participate in a legal proceeding to establish the paternity of the child.  In part, this is because the government wants to make the father responsible for supporting the child.  Both parents are responsible for their child and a father or mother can be required to support their child until they reach majority.  In some rare cases, they may have legal responsibility beyond the age of majority.  The author of this article has handled numerous child support cases over the last 16 years and he has seen some people have their lives wrecked after they were required to pay child support (an Obligor).  When an Obligor discovers that the child they are supporting is not theirs, disestablishing paternity may be an option for them.  Although disestablishing paternity will terminate an ongoing support obligation, it will not extinguish any child support obligation which has accrued.  Even when disestablishing paternity is successful, an otherwise Obligor may still have to pay a large arrearage. 

Unwed fathers may believe that it is unlikely or impossible to gain custody of their child when they were never married to the child’s mother.  Fathers with this attitude should think again, as the courts and society have realized that fathers can be every bit as responsible as mothers in rearing a child.  The court system may still have a few vestiges of what was known as “The tender years doctrine”.  Such is the idea that a young child should primarily be cared for by their mother.  However, most judges today that I have encountered no longer display any indication that this philosophy still exists.  The reality is that a caring father can be every bit as nurturing and responsible as a caring mother.

In Florida, paternity is established by filing an action in the Circuit Court.  The action is known as a paternity action.  The petition should be titled a Petition for Paternity and Related Relief or a similar name.  There is no legal presumption for or against a father obtaining what used to be called primary custody.  The court’s have changed from using the term custody to using the term timesharing.  It is supposed to promote the idea of the children being shared between parents.  I personally do not believe that much has changed because of the change in terminology.  That said, the law has changed regarding child support in that the non primary residential parent (the parent that has minority timesharing) can now receive a reduction in child support if he or she has the child for at least 20 percent of the overnights.  The prior rule required the non majority parent to exercise at least 40 percent of the overnights to get a reduction in child support.

In a paternity suit, a father attempting to obtain timesharing must request either shared parental responsibility or sole parental responsibility.  Sole parental responsibility is exactly what it sounds like and so is shared parental responsibility.  Even people with serious criminal histories frequently are awarded shared parental responsibility.  Florida has enumerated the factors that it considers important and that a judge must take into account in deciding custody issues between parents.  They can be found in Chapter 61 of the Florida Statutes.  In short, they equate to the best interests of the child.

National headlines were made when the wife of former U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover was arrested for domestic violence battery and resisting arrest in St. Johns County, Florida on May 13, 2018.  The altercation allegedly occurred after Lucas Glover missed the 54-hole cut at The Players Championship.  Lucas Glover told authorities that his wife gets violent every time he does not play well in a major PGA Tournament.  There were allegedly visible injuries on Lucas Glover and his mother.  Krista Glover faces a court date on May 31, 2018 and was released on a $2,500 bond.

The Glovers children were present at the home when the incident happened.  Krista Glover had been drinking throughout the day and started yelling profane insults at Lucas Glover in front of their children and his mother.  Lucas Glover told her to stop the argument while in front of the children.  The children were in bed when the physical altercation happened, and it is unknown if they observed any of the altercation or the subsequent arrest afterwards where Krista Glover allegedly resisted arrest. The couple was married in 2012 and have two children, a two-year-old son and a 5-year-old daughter.

The consequences of arguments in front of the children can be serious to both the aggressor and the victim.  The Florida Department of Children and Families may become involved if they receive an abuse report to investigate regarding the situation, which could even lead to possible removal of the children from both parties if it is alleged Lucas Glover failed to protect the children from multiple instances.  Also, it is key that alcohol was involved.  Drinking is perfectly legal and acceptable; as long as there is not a demonstrable effect on the children.  If there is a demonstrable effect on the children, alcohol treatment would most likely be ordered by a dependency court.

Mother and childBeing served with a termination of parental rights petition is the first step to a complicated process in the state of Florida.  A termination of parental rights petition must include facts alleging that at least one of the grounds listed in F.S. 38.806 has been met and that granting the petition would be in the manifest best interests of the child or children as listed in F.S. 39.810.  No answer to the petition is required, but if you answer, the petitioner will need the court’s approval to amend their petition later.

Grounds for termination are as listed:

(1)      Voluntary surrender:  When you have signed a written surrender of their parental rights to the child(ren)

Yesterday we looked at laws Jacksonville, Florida parents should know about. Here are a few more.

9. My kid is always bruised from playing. His teacher suspected we were abusing him and called the police and DCF on us. Why did she do that?
She was following Florida law, which requires any person who believes that a child is being abused, neglected or exploited to report the suspicions to the Department of Children and Families (DDCF). The law provides the person making the report with immunity, as long as she acted in good faith. If your son’s teacher hadn’t reported her suspicions, she could have been charged with a crime.

10. What does a child need to know before entering kindergarten?
Admission to a public kindergarten is not contingent upon what a child knows; if the child meets the age requirement, he or she is eligible for admission. The Florida Partnership for School Readiness has published “Performance Standards” for 3, 4, and 5 year olds. Those standards reflect what children should know and be able to do. You may access that information and other resources from the Partnership’s website. In addition, the Sunshine State Standards provide expectations for student achievement in Florida. These were written in seven subject areas, each divided into four separate grade clusters (PreK-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12).
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Like every state in the Union, Florida has a host of laws that affect you as a parent. Some of this laws or Administrative Rules may enhance your parental rights, while others, if not followed could land you in jail or create civil or criminal liabilities if not obeyed. While every Parent in the United States has a Fundamental Right to be a parent, with these rights come important responsibilities.

So how do you know what is the law? We hope this series of articles will guide you to a few important concepts regarding Florida Law.

1. How long can I keep my kids home with me before I have to send them to school?

Florida law, states that all children who are either six years of age, who will be six years old by February 1 of any school year, or who are older than six years of age but who have not attained the age of 16 years, must attend school regularly during the entire school term.

2. Does Florida law specify an age requirement for admission into a public school first grade?

Florida law does not provide a specific age requirement for enrollment to public first grade, the provisions of Florida law related to kindergarten admission and student progression dictate that first grade enrollment be limited to (1) students who turn six years old on or before September 1 who have successfully completed kindergarten; and (2) out-of-state students who turn six years old after September 1 who meet the age requirement for public kindergarten admission from the transferring state, and who have successfully completed kindergarten.
3. Can we home school our Children?

Yes. When you decide to home school a child in Florida, you must notify the school district superintendent of your intentions in writing. The letter must include names, addresses, and birth dates of the children who will be enrolled in home education and must be filed within 30 days of beginning the homeschooling process. The same process must be completed if you decide to stop homeschooling your children, and the letter again must be filed within 30 days of the termination of the home education program. You will also be required to have an annual educational evaluation of your child or children, which is to be performed by a licensed teacher within the State of Florida. If you are teaching elementary grades, an elementary teacher will be needed for the evaluation; and if you are teaching secondary grades, you will need to have the evaluation performed by a secondary teacher.
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As a Jacksonville custody lawyer, I often deal with cases where the Department of Children and Families (DCF) in Florida has started an investigation of parents because someone has anonymously called in an allegation of abuse on the child. When DCF begins an investigation, often the Department will remove the child from the parent’s home. This is called a “shelter”. If you or someone you know has been accused of harming a child and DCF is investigating, you need a custody attorney in Jacksonville, Florida to help you. There is a chance that the Department could terminate your parental rights and place your child up for adoption in the future without the help of a skilled Jacksonville, Florida custody lawyer who is trained in dependency in Florida.

WILKES, DEVIN JUAN.jpgYou think you have heard it all and then you read an article titled, “Jacksonville Police: Mom Used Baby As Shield When Boyfriend Attacked Her.” How could this be? Well, allegedly, on December 9, 2011, Devin Juan Wilkes and his girlfriend and mother of his child, Sheena Hunter, got into an argument over their relationship. The argument quickly became violent.

Reportedly, to protect herself from being beaten and stabbed Hunter grabbed their son and held him between herself and Wilkes. Wilkes then grabbed their son and threw him face first on the ground. The violence ensued with Wilkes choking Hunter and then fleeing with her car.

On January 2, 2012, authorities went to the residence, Hunter answered the door and informed the authorities she had not seen Wilkes since the alleged incident. However, after allowing the authorities in to search her residence, Wilkes was quickly located hiding in a closet. Wilkes was arrested and has been charged with numerous crimes including; aggravated assault, domestic battery and child abuse.

foster kids.jpgAs a Jacksonville Family Law Attorney I am always reading articles that relate to family law issues in the Jacksonville and surrounding areas. I recently stumbled upon a Tampa Bay Times article titled, “Is a child always better off with relatives, even after bonding with a foster family?”. This article describes the turmoil that can develop in a Termination of Parental Rights/Dependency case. Whether you find yourself having your parental rights terminated or are just interested in the issue I encourage you to read the article.

Contact a Jacksonville Family Law Attorney today for a consultation for any family law related issues.

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