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Category: Time-Sharing & Parental Responsibility

Time-Sharing or Child “Custody” in Florida

An issue has recently been addressed in the courts of another State that no longer arises in Florida, whether it is possible for parents to have joint custody or for there to be “co-domicilliary” parents — the phrase used in the litigation in Louisiana where this recent case arose, Hodges v. Hodges. Florida in it’s family law rules and statutes has for the most part done away with the concepts of “custody”, or designating who is a primary residential parent.  In Florida, there is a determination of “parental responsibility” and then of what “time-sharing” each parent will have.  Time-sharing is the time — which days, nights, holidays the child(ren) spend with each parent; and parental responsibility is who makes decision about the significant areas of a child’s life — for example, education, religion, school.

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Reasons to Hire a Guardian ad Litem for Your Time-Sharing Case

I’ve written before about the role of a Guardian ad Litem (GAL). I want to focus in this post on some of the reasons you might consider seeking appointment of a GAL for your case, and the process for getting a GAL. I’ll use the terms Guardian, Guardian ad Litem and GAL interchangeably here. Your attorney and the other parent’s attorney (or you and the other parent if you’re both unrepresented) can agree on an agreed order appointing a Guardian ad Litem for your time-sharing case, and send the order to the Judge for his or her signature. There are procedures you’ll need to follow if you’re doing this on your own – you can consult with an attorney, and there are usually case managers assigned to give some direction to clients who are representing themselves. If both sides don’t agree to appointment of a GAL, one parent/attorney can file

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The DOMA Decision, and Same-Sex Marriage in Florida

The United States Supreme Court recently handed down it’s decision in the DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) case, and ruled that the Federal government cannot deny the status of married, when applying federal laws and programs to same-sex couples legally married under the laws of their state. You can find the full text of the decision at this link United States v. Windsor. The decision does not rule on the right of a state to ban same-sex marriage and is based on the historical rights of the states to define marriage, but many parts of the decision are relevant to a state like Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage. The decision also brings to the fore-front the issue of a state’s refusing to recognize marriages from another state. Florida Statues Section 741.04 prohibits issuance of a marriage license for same-sex couples. Section 741.212 defines marriage as between a man and a

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A Guardian Ad Litem for Your Florida Family Law Case

In a divorce or other family law case, if the Judge finds that it is in the best interests of the minor child(ren) in the case, the Judge can appoint a “Guardian ad Litem”. Either party to the case can request that the Judge appoint a Guardian ad Litem, or your Judge on his or her own initiative can make the appointment. The literal meaning of the phrase “Guardian ad Litem” is guardian for the lawsuit, or guardian for the purposes of the legal action only. A primary role of the Guardian ad Litem is to investigate the facts of the case for the Judge and report back to the Court – to talk with both parents, the child(ren) and other important witnesses in the case. The types of case where Guardian ad Litems are appointed are cases where there is significant conflict between the parties regarding children’s issues and/or

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Ariel Winters, Dependency Cases, and a Child’s Best Interests

There have been reports in the news lately about the placement of 14 year old Modern Family actress Ariel Winters with her sister, because of emotional abuse by the child’s mother. The process for Dependency cases in Florida, is very similar to the events described in the news reports regarding Ariel Winters. Florida Dependency cases often begin with a call to law enforcement or to the Department of Children and Families Abuse Hotline – 1-800-962-2873 (but can also start with an action filed in Dependency Court). The case is then investigated by a child protective investigator – in Broward County, child abuse investigations are handled by specially trained investigators in the Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO). In Broward County (and I believe there is a similar process in some other counties), if there is a domestic violence injunction and there are children in the home, a BSO investigator will make contact

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Preparing for Your Florida Divorce Mediation (Part II)

Continued from Part I. For issues regarding the children, you can think about the type of time-sharing you want in the case, that you think is best for the children, and works for you and the other parent. For overnight time-sharing, relevant issues include being sure there’s a place in the home, apartment for the child to sleep, and the work schedule for each parent. Safety for the child, and for one or both parents is an issue in some cases. You’ll have to decide on how you want to handle the time-sharing exchanges and transportation, as well as money issues such as paying for extra-curricular activities, and medical, dental, vision expenses that are not covered by insurance, and who is going to get the health insurance for the child. The cost for health insurance is almost always added into and apportioned between the parents as part of the child

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Maternal Rights of Same-Sex Partners – T.M.H. v. D.M.T (Part II)

Continued from Part I. The Court ruled in T.M.H. v. D.M.T, that Florida’s statute prohibiting gay or lesbian prospective parents from adopting a child, does not operate to take away the maternal rights of a biological or birth mother. That seems like a common sense ruling, like the ruling that TMH was clearly not a “donor”, but both were major issues in the case. There was a dissenting Judge in the case who wrote an opinion stating that under Florida law, TMH — the biological mother, had lost her rights as a parent. Another important issue in the case was whether TMH had waived her rights as a parent, by signing a waiver form at the reproductive clinic — the form basically provided that TMH waived any rights she might have as a parent regarding any child resulting from her donation of her ova. The court ruled that this waiver

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Maternal Rights of Same-Sex Partners – T.M.H. v. D.M.T, A Florida Case of “First Impression”

The Fifth District Court of Appeals in Florida – the appeals court covering the north/central part of the State, recently decided T.M.H. v. D.M.T, 79 So. 3d 787 (Fla. 5th D.C.A., December 23, 2011), a case dealing with the parental rights of lesbian partners. In this case the partners decided to have a child together – one partner, TMH’s egg was fertilized and implanted by in-vitro fertilization in DMT. The child was born in 2004; the parties lived together for approximately 2 ½ years and raised their child together, and separated in 2006, but continued co-parenting for another 1 ½ years. The parents’ relationship deteriorated, and DMT moved out of the country and cut off TMH’s contact with the child. The Court described the case as a case of “first impression”, i.e. an issue that had not been decided yet by Florida’s appellate courts, and ruled that both parents –

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Florida Parenting Coordinator Rules — Sotero v. Sullivan (Part III)

Parts I and II of this post went over some of the rules for parenting coordination, in particular some of the points of contention raised in the brief Sotero opinion, and that come up frequently in cases in Broward and Palm Beach counties also. Now the issue is how important are the rules, or rather how important is it if for the focus to not be on the legal rules once parenting coordination sessions start. I don’t think there is much disagreement with the idea that it is good to make the ground rules for parenting coordination clear at the beginning, in a Court order if there is one, and in a Parenting Coordination agreement between the parents and the parenting coordinator, so that everyone is clear regarding confidentiality, how the process works, fees, the goals, etc. However, instead of or perhaps in between the worries and concerns regarding the

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