Articles Posted in Parental Rights

Very often a client will tell me he or she wants the best possible outcome in a divorce case. He or she may want the other Parent to have diminished time with their child. Much of the time this parent thinks they are protecting their child from what they see to be a bad person. They have confused their failed relationship with this person with a failed parent, which is an entirely different thing. I take a different approach…is my client’s position a reasonable one that I can justify to the Judge? The one issue that must remain on a client’s mind is this: Will a third party (read the Judge) find my position reasonable?

I find this one of the most important and effective of tools to obtain good and fair results in the courtroom, even when I can’t achieve every single one of my client’s goals. Reasonableness speaks to credibility. It also assumes that possibility of some win-win, and enables the Court to feel it has achieved substantial justice. Judges don’t generally like giving one side everything they ask for, unless of course they are really displeased at the other side.

By staking out a position that the judge will find thoughtful and reasonsable, you may gain wiggle room in other areas that you deem to be more important. Winning in Family Court means everyone walks out a winner. And a very happy Judge.

Few Floridians realize that although the DNA test is the strongest evidence we can get to prove actual genetic relationships that there is a difference between Legal Fatherhood and Genetic Fatherhood in Florida.

For instance if a Legal Father finds out that he is not the Genetic Father of the child and despite this fact allowed himself to be listed on the child’s birth certificate, he cannot disestablish his paternity. Any even trickier provision states that a Legal Father cannot disestablish his paternity if a government agency directed him to take a DNA test and he refused. The reason for the refusal appears to be irrelevant, so if he doesn’t want to pay the cost of a DNA test, he loses his right to deny that the child is his.

During the holidays, the stress level for many Florida families inevitably goes up. With the much of Florida still stuck in the 2009 recession, unemployment still very high and the foreclosure rate in and around Jacksonville still at record levels, when family problems creep into the picture, stress can go through the roof. Add a separation or dissolution of marriage to the picture and the situation can seem unbearable.

Competing parents can make this unseeingly unbearable situation far worse by fighting over sharing time with their children. But a wise parent, with their eye on the long term will add perspective to their thought process. How do you add that perspective? By remembering two things. First, just because the holidays do not seem like a joyous time right now, does not mean that your children feel the same way. Find ways to hide this stress from your children. Don’t make them associate the holidays with economic and marital stress.

Second, instead of fighting with the competing parent, why not talk things through? Most parents don’t want their children to go through the stress of a divorce and when both parents share that attitude, the stress of sharing time with their children decreases with the level of cooperation.

In Jacksonville all divorces where there are minor children (under the age of 18 in most cases) require a “parenting plan.” This is also true in paternity cases.

In a Jacksonville Divorce, a parenting plan is created to establish the roles of each parent in regards to important decisions about a child’s education, health care, physical, social, and emotional well-being and must include:

A description of who will be responsible for health care, school-related matters, and other activities.

As an Orange Park Child Custody Attorney, I often see cases involving child abuse and child neglect. I run into these issues primarily in cases involving termination of parental rights or simply child custody disputes.

Florida defines abuse as “any willful act or threatened act that results in any physical, mental, or sexual injury or harm that causes or is likely to cause the child’s physical, mental, or emotional health to be significantly impaired. Abuse of a child includes acts or omissions. Corporal discipline of a child by a parent or legal custodian for disciplinary purposes does not in itself constitute abuse when it does not result in harm to the child.

When I run into cases involving allegations of child abuse I always tell my clients of the importance of reporting such abuse. Florida Statute § 39.201 defines when it is required to report child abuse, abandonment, or neglect.

The Department of Children and Families are considering terminating the parental rights of a Brevard County couple whom were arrested in March of this year on three counts of aggravated child abuse. The couple, Michael Marshall and Sharon Glass, reportedly admitted to locking up a 13 year old boy in a bathroom and withholding food and care as a form of punishment. When the boy was found he weighed a startling 40 pounds. Responding police reportedly stated the boy looked as though he was an inmate in a concentration camp.

It is believed that three children were found in Marshall’s and Glass’s home. The boy and his 11 year old sister are Marshall’s children, whereas a third child, a boy, is Glass’s. Marshall’s two children are now in foster care and Glass’s child is with his father. Caseworker’s are reporting that if the Department succeeds and has the parental rights of the couple terminated then Marshall’s children could be adopted by another family.

As an Orange Park Family Law Attorney I turn to Florida Statute 39.806 when dealing with sad cases like that described above. This Statute covers the Grounds for Termination of Parental Rights, which range from mutual consent by the parties to abuse, neglect and abandonment. However, this Statute not only specifies what are grounds for termination of parental rights but also specifies circumstances which do not establish grounds for termination of parental rights.

As a Jacksonville Child Custody Attorney, I often see cases involving child abuse and child neglect. I run into these issues primarily in cases involving termination of parental rights or simply child custody disputes.

Florida defines abuse as “any willful act or threatened act that results in any physical, mental, or sexual injury or harm that causes or is likely to cause the child’s physical, mental, or emotional health to be significantly impaired. Abuse of a child includes acts or omissions. Corporal discipline of a child by a parent or legal custodian for disciplinary purposes does not in itself constitute abuse when it does not result in harm to the child.

Neglect, on the other hand, “occurs when a child is deprived of, or is allowed to be deprived of, necessary food, clothing, shelter, or medical treatment or a child is permitted to live in an environment when such deprivation or environment causes the child’s physical, mental, or emotional health to be significantly impaired or to be in danger of being significantly impaired. The foregoing circumstances shall not be considered neglect if caused primarily by financial inability unless actual services for relief have been offered to and rejected by such person. A parent or legal custodian legitimately practicing religious beliefs in accordance with a recognized church or religious organization who thereby does not provide specific medical treatment for a child may not, for that reason alone, be considered a negligent parent or legal custodian; however, such an exception does not preclude a court from ordering the following services to be provided, when the health of the child so requires:”

pregnant teen.jpgIf you are parent of a teenage girl in Florida, I am sure you have seen the show 16 and Pregnant, documenting the tribulations of teenage pregnancy. Some of these teens contemplate abortion. It is important to know that in Florida the parents of a teen who is pregnant have rights when it comes to the abortion of their soon to be grandchild.

The Florida legislature recently passed a bill that will go into effect on October 1, 2011, giving more rights to these parents during the occurrence of their minor daughter’s abortion. One of the rights in this bill is the right to be notified. A physician administering the abortion must give the parents of a minor “constructive” notice by way of first-class mail AND by certified mail.

Please contact a Jacksonville Family Law Lawyer for more information on this or similar issues.

Last year, the Florida House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill that would help protect the parental rights of mothers and fathers serving in the military. Unfortunately, time ran out before the state Senate could consider the bill, so it will have to be re-voted on. However, it seems likely that the bill will pass in the house and again move to the senate.

The bill attempts to solve some of the problems military parents face, such as visitation rights when the parent has to be away for a prolonged period of time. The bill allows the parent to ask the court to delegate parental rights to another one of the child’s family members, not limited to the other parent and including the child’s stepparent.

To illustrate, let’s say the father of a child has custody of the child over the summer, but the father will be away for several weekends and a full week during that time. Instead of simply sending the child back to her other parent, the child could, with the court’s permission, remain with her stepmother while the father is away.

On December 23, 2011, the Florida 5th District Court of Appeal handed down a ruling on a very unique case. The case involved a lesbian couple who had been in a committed relationship for eleven years, and prior to splitting up, had a child together. One mother donated an egg, which was then planted in the other mother who gave birth.

The question before the court was, who is the mother?

According to Florida law, the woman who gave birth is the mother. However, the District Court in this case felt differently and ruled both mothers have parental rights. The District Court reasoned that the U.S. and Florida Constitution trumps Florida law and Florida’s laws have not kept pace with the times.

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