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Time Sharing & Children: Creating Happy Holidays

Time Sharing & Children During Holidays | LaFrance Law

After a divorce or during a separation, it’s important to prioritize your children’s needs, especially during the holidays. Divorced parents must have open communication about gift giving, trip planning and time sharing in order to have a stress free and happy holiday. There are several ways that divorced parents can spend a holiday with their kids and involve their children in the plan so their voice can be heard.

Option 1: Keep the Tradition Going

Depending on the ages of your children, maintaining established family traditions can keep the magic in the holidays by celebrating together as a family. While this approach may not work for all divorced or separated parents, this option gives you time to spend with your children without having to coordinate schedules.

Option 2: Split the Holidays

A common method for separated parents over the holidays is to split the holidays evenly over the course of the year. If you get to spend Christmas Day with your children, your ex-spouse would get to have New Years and so on. Depending on what works best, holiday schedules can alternate every year or one parent can celebrate the same holiday every year.

Option 3: Share the Day

One other way to spend the holidays is to split the actual day apart so that each parent can have time with the children on the actual holiday. Unless your children are old enough to drive, you will still have to chauffeur them between destinations. This option does require some compromise, planning and coordination between parents to determine scheduling needs and wants.

Option 4: Choose a Different Time to Celebrate

Similar to splitting the holidays, but with less coordination, parents can choose an alternate day to celebrate the holiday. If one parent is unable to celebrate on the exact day, that parent can choose the next day or the following weekend to celebrate. This way they can still have the joy of celebrating the missed holiday without having to wait until the next year. Parents would also not have to schedule the day together, because each would have their own separate day to spend their time as they wish.

Child custody determines how children will be raised and the visitation rights of each parent. Custody arrangements will play a role in which options you have available to you. You may only have an alternating weekend schedule, you may be on a rotation schedule or you may only see your children seasonally. Keeping the legal ramifications in mind and working with your ex-partner, choose the best option for your children to create fantastic holiday memories this year and for years to come.

Understanding Divorce in Florida

Understanding Divorce in Florida

What to Expect When Getting a Divorce

If you and your spouse have decided or are thinking about getting a divorce, it can be a confusing and long process. In Florida, divorce is known as dissolution of marriage and there are different types of dissolution dependant on your circumstances. The process for each type and the outcomes are different. Below is a summary to help you understand the basics of getting a divorce and what options are available to you.

Petitioning for Dissolution of Marriage in Florida requires at least one person from the marriage to be a Florida resident for at least six months. The average cost of divorce in Florida can vary depending on the type of divorce and the circumstances between the divorcing party.

Types of Divorce in Florida

One type of divorce is uncontested where both parties agree upon all the issues involved in the dissolution of marriage. The parties will disclose all relevant information with a lawyer. Once both spouses agree to all issues on a Marital Settlement Agreement and it is presented to the Florida Court System, their divorce is final.

If during this settlement agreement one of the spouses is not able to agree with something, then the process is restarted with a contested divorce.

A contested divorce starts with a petition filed with the Florida Courts and outlines any financial support or relief that person would like to have. After the paperwork is filed by one spouse, the other spouse has 20 days to respond and file a counter-petition if they want. After the spouses have approved the petition, both parties have an average of 45 days to provide a financial affidavit. This is a statement that will include your expenses, income, assets and liabilities you currently have.

If either person is struggling to resolve the issues on the petition, a mediation will be arranged to help resolve this without a trial. After mediation, if there are still unresolved issues then these will be determined by a judge at court. Each person will be given the opportunity to present evidence to provide the judge with what the best course of action should be.

Children and Divorce

It is required in Florida that parents attend a parenting course that shows how divorce can affect their children. The court will determine child custody for each parent based on the best interests of the child. Any child support amount will be determined for minor children when the parenting plan is created. The parenting plan includes how the parents will share the responsibilities of taking care of the child and how the child will be spending time with both of the parents.

Simplified Dissolution of Marriage

Another type of divorce that is often less costly and less time consuming than attending mediation or a trial is a Simplified Dissolution of Marriage. A marriage can be eligible for Simplified Dissolution of Marriage if:

  • Both parties agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken
  • There are no minor children
  • The assets and liabilities have already been divided and agreed upon
  • Neither person is seeking alimony
  • You are giving up your right to trial and appeal
  • You and your spouse are both willing to go to the same final hearing

It is not necessary to have a lawyer in this case, but it is recommended to ensure that all the paperwork is completed and filed properly to prevent delays and additional costs.

Will Adultery Affect the Outcome of My Divorce

Florida does not have fault-based divorce. The only way to show the need for divorce is that the marriage is irretrievably broken or that one of the spouses has been mentally incapacitated for three years. You can prove your marriage is irretrievably broken if:

  • One person committed adultery
  • One person was emotionally or physically abusive
  • One spouse abandoned the other for at least six months prior to filing for divorce
  • Both spouses have lived separately for more than a year

The caring lawyers at LaFrance Law understand that each case calls for a unique approach to reach the best possible resolution. Contact us via the sidebar form on the right or by giving us a call at (813) 930-5542.

5 Back to School Co-Parenting Tips for Divorced Parents

Sending your children back to school as a divorced parent requires a bit more preparation than it typically would as a couple. Not only do you have to keep track of you and your children’s agenda, but you’ll have to be aware of your co-parents’ schedule as well.

Effective co-parenting involves a great deal of communication, setting expectations, and building a network of support for your child. These co-parenting tips for divorced parents will help you accomplish all of this as well as get you and your child on the path to success for the new school year.

1. Parenting Plan

Getting on the same page as your co-parent is the first step in assisting your child with having a great school year. That’s why we recommend putting together a detailed parenting plan from the start in an effort to alleviate obstacles in the future.

If you already have a custody arrangement plan in place, we recommend reviewing the existing procedure together and making any necessary adjustments. Some reasons for changes may be:

  • The previously agreed drop-off/pick-up time doesn’t work anymore
  • A parent is relocating
  • A change in the children’s needs
  • A change in financial circumstances

2. Set the Tone with a Good Attitude

A positive demeanor toward your co-parent can make a big difference in your child’s outlook on life, overall behavior, and academic performance. You don’t want to put extra pressure or stress on your children with arguments and outbursts. Stay optimistic and your child will reap the benefits.

3. Meet Your Child’s Teachers

Make sure your children’s teachers are aware that you and your co-parent have separated. If this significant life change isn’t mentioned to the teacher, they may not be able to offer the support and guidance necessary to help your child succeed. In fact, studies have reported that children whose parents have divorced are much more likely to repeat a grade in school. Don’t leave your child’s instructors out of the loop. Get them onboard to include an additional support person for your child.

4. Set Guidelines with your Co-Parent

These guidelines go beyond the parenting plan and they can go a long way in helping your child live a normal life with consistent rules. While we understand that you may not come to an agreement on everything, it can be beneficial to set a foundation of standards. Some guidelines that you may want to set expectations on are:

  • Bed times or curfew
  • Homework schedule and goals
  • Cold lunch vs hot lunch expectations
  • Buying school supplies

5. Attend Important Events Together

Showing support as a team can have a significant positive impact on your child. Not only will you prove to your young one that both of his or her parents support him or her, but you’ll also be demonstrating how to manage relationships like an adult.

It’s important to mention that you don’t have to attend every single event together, but for the monumental life moments that will be remembered for years to come, it’s important that your child has support from both parents. Some important events could include:

  • The first day of school
  • Parent-teacher conferences
  • School plays/choirs
  • Sports events/big games

Additionally, always try to have a least one parent at every event. To help with scheduling, we recommend creating an online calendar that everyone has access to.

LaFrance Law has Moved

At LaFrance Law, we know that family law matters, such as an impending divorce or custody hearing are stressful for those involved and our goal is always to provide excellent service with empathy for our client’s unique situation.

In order to provide our clients with the best representation possible, we have moved to a new location in Tampa’s SoHo business district. Our new office at 2503 W Swann Avenue is located approximately one mile south of the I-275 Armenia/Howard exit to provide easy access for clients in Tampa and the surrounding Hillsborough, Hernando, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk and Sarasota counties.

Summer Time Sharing Tips for Separated Parents

Summer Time Sharing Tips for Separated Parents

Summer break is here and that means family vacations, summers camps and for some, part-time jobs and summer school. Summers can shake-up family routines and for blended families and separated parents, it can completely alter the normal time sharing schedule. Children may have an extended visit with their non-primary parent, step-children may be coming to stay for part of the summer, or you just want to plan a family getaway. So how do parents effectively deal with these changes?

  • Communicate & Stay Flexible: Sit down with your ex to discuss dates and any travel plans to create a summer schedule that you can agree on, but even the best plans can fall apart and adjustments may have to be made.
  • Don’t Bad Mouth Each Other: You may not always agree, but your kids don’t need to know that. Children may not act like they hear or care what you are saying, but those statements can stick with them and put a damper on their visit.
  • Don’t Jam It All In: If your child is staying with you for a few weeks, don’t try to jam a years’ worth of activities into that time. Trying to do too much can often lead to stress for everyone involved. Talk with your kids to find out what they want to do and prioritize from there.
  • Sending the Kids Away: If your child is going for an extended stay with their other parent, it is important not to intrude on their time together. Check-ins are great, but keep it to a minimum so your child can enjoy their time without distraction. If other children are staying home, use the opportunity to do some one-on-one bonding.

Kids look forward to summer break all school year and with a little preparation, you and your ex can make it one of the best summers yet.

The Effect of Substance Abuse on Custody

Creating a parenting plan and time-sharing schedule that both parents agree on can be challenging. If parents cannot come to an agreement, the matter can be taken to court to be resolved. While in court, accusations of substance abuse may be brought up. Often, these allegations are made in an attempt to sway a judge’s ruling in the accuser’s favor. Whether it’s ultimately founded or fabricated, the state of Florida court system will take the accusation seriously to make sure that no children are being put into a potentially unsafe situation.

Substance Abuse & Addiction Resources
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA) provides free and confidential information for English and Spanish speaking individuals and family members facing substance abuse and mental health issues.

Once such an accusation has been made, the accuser will be asked to provide potential evidence, and regardless of who made the accusation, both parents will be required to take a drug test. A failed drug test does not automatically alter the current custody agreement. The state of Florida courts will also look at evidence showing a history of substance abuse and may appoint a Guardian Ad Litem for the child to impartially evaluate the situation.

The state of Florida strives to provide children of separated parents a stable living situation while encouraging both parents to be involved in the welfare and education of their children. If one or both parents have a history of substance abuse the courts will evaluate the risk of harm to the child and if the parents are willing to take a proactive approach to overcoming their addiction.

If it has been determined that the current custody agreement puts the child in a potentially dangerous situation, the time-sharing and parenting plan can be altered to limit visitation or require supervised visitation. These changes do not have to be permanent if the parent can prove that they are taking steps to end their addiction the courts will reevaluate the situation to determine if unrestricted visitation can be re-instated.

6 Most Common Questions About Child Custody

One of the most stressful aspects of a separation or divorce is how it affects children. The state of Florida always encourages parents to put aside any differences and do what is best for the child. As parents, there can be a lot of questions and concerns that arise regarding your children. At LaFrance Law, we have been helping families develop and execute effective child custody agreements for over 20 years. To help you navigate the regulations set by the state of Florida here are some of the most common questions we hear.

How is Custody Determined?

During an uncontested divorce, parents will need to come to an agreement regarding time sharing and decision making. Since these decisions are made without the aid of the Florida court system, this parenting plan must still be submitted in writing for official approval.

If a parenting plan cannot be agreed upon, the court will step in to assist with the process by determining what will be in the best interests of the child based on state statute 61.13. Evidence can be submitted through personal testimony or witness testimony by family, friends, teachers, etc. This evidence can be used to demonstrate why a particular statutory factor favors one parent over another.  Parents are also able to secure the services of a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) who will interview and observe the family, witnesses and even the child (if they are old enough) and make a recommendation to the court regarding custody.

Can I Get Primary Custody?

The state of Florida no longer assigns primary or secondary custody and refers to custody as time sharing. Usually, time sharing is split 50/50, but if the parents cannot agree or the courts find that equal time sharing is not in the child’s best interest one parent can be granted majority time sharing (anything over 50%).

What is the Parenting Plan?

A parenting plan is a document created to establish guidelines and rules regarding time sharing for each parent during the school year, holidays and summer vacation. This plan also establishes how both minor and major decisions regarding anything from health to schooling for the child are made. Even when a parent has sole parental responsibility, they may still have to consult with the other parent but will still make the final decision on their own.

How Much Child Support Will I Have to Pay?

Because Florida does not assign primary custody, determining child support is based on the combined income of both parents and the number of children as defined by Florida statute 61.30. Each parent’s share of the total support obligation is based upon how much of their respective income accounts for the combined net income.

Calculating Child Support (Example)
For instance, the Father is earning 65% of the combined net income and the total support obligation is $1,000, the Father’s basic support obligation is $650 and the Mother’s is $350.

Each parent also has an obligation to contribute to the health insurance cost to cover the children and to contribute to any daycare expense and unreimbursed medical expenses. These expenses are generally split per the parent’s respective pro-rata share of the combined net income. Once the basic obligation of each parent is determined, consideration must be given to the impact of time-sharing. If a parent has at least 20% of the overnight time-sharing with the children during the year, then that time-sharing percentage must be factored into the calculation of the support.

Is Custody Affected if I’m in the Military?

Even when there is a parenting plan and time sharing schedule, having one or both parents in the military can complicate these agreements. In 2008, House Bill 435 was passed to provide “active, deployed or temporarily assigned to military service” parents options to temporarily assign another person to act on their behalf in regards to the child. The Bill also makes it difficult for the families of service members to modify an existing time sharing order without “clear and convincing” evidence that a change is in the best interest of the child.

Can I Move My Child Out of the State of Florida if I Share Custody?

If you are looking to make a move that is more than 50 miles away for more than 60 days, you must not only inform the other parent but also get consent to make the move. If both parents agree to the relocation it must be recorded in writing with any modifications to the parenting plan and time sharing schedule included. If the parent who is staying in Florida does not agree a petition can be submitted that outlines why and where you want to move with updates to previous agreements. The courts will then evaluate the information and decide based on the best interests of the child.

Top 10 Things To Know If You’re Getting Divorced

 

Whether you have already started the divorce process or believe divorce is in your future, it is important to be as prepared as you can be for such a life-changing event. Our years of experience with divorce law has provided insight that we can share.

1) Gather your financial documents, such as tax returns, bank account records, retirement statements, and investment account records. Inventory your assets, including taking photographs of the property in your home. If you do not know all the finances related to your marriage, this information will be obtained in the divorce process. Don’t forget to include pension and retirement asset information.

2) Every case is different. Your friend who went through a divorce is well intentioned, but their facts and circumstances are not the same as yours. Trust your attorney, they went to law school and practices divorce law for a living.

3) The divorce process can be long and confusing. You may want to get to court immediately, but your attorney must follow court rules and procedures that may not allow an immediate court hearing. Trust that your divorce attorney is working diligently to move your case forward and provide you the best representation possible.

4) Don’t settle your case for the sake of moving on and putting the divorce behindyou. Make sure you make an informed decision and at a time when your emotions are not controlling your thinking.

5) Until you file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, even if you are separated, you and your spouse are still responsible for any assets or debts the other spouse acquires. Any interest earned or debts that are acquired will be equally distributed between both parties.

6) To file for divorce in Florida, you or your spouse must be a resident of the state for at least 6 months prior to filing or a member of the armed forces stationed in Florida. Fault is not a basis for divorce in Florida. The most common basis to dissolve a marriage is establishing that the marriage is “irretrievably broken”.

7) If you are contemplating divorce, consult with an attorney before you move out of your home. Moving out of the marital residence can impact time-sharing with your children as well as carry financial implications.

8) Consult with an attorney before you sign anything. Entering a binding agreement to resolving issues such as time-sharing, asset and debt division, child support and alimony without the benefit of knowing the law on those issues can have unintended, often disastrous consequences.

9) You will have an opportunity to engage in settlement discussions with your spouse in a process known as mediation. Neither party can be compelled to settle the case at mediation. In the event you cannot settle your case through mediation, you are entitled to have the issues determined by a Florida state judge.

10) Try to avoid unnecessary conflict. Do not argue with your spouse about the issues that will be resolved in the divorce process. During the divorce process, emotions are likely to run high and arguments can escalate quickly. Avoid any conflict that could lead to a domestic violence situation.

What Happens After the Loss of Parent?

No matter the circumstances, having a parent pass away is an emotionally challenging time for the whole family. There are additional challenges for children of divorced or separated parents: what will happen now, where will they live, what else is going to change?

Government-Provided Benefits for Children

The United States Social Security Administration provides survivors benefits to unmarried children under the age of 18 and disabled children who were diagnosed before the age of 22. These benefits are calculated based on what the deceased parent would have received in social security upon retirement.

The State of Florida takes special interest regarding children of divorced and single parents to ensure that their day-to-day life remains as stable as possible during a separation. When a parent has passed away the state has also created guidelines regarding child support and custody to prevent additional stress for children and their family.

How is Child Support Affected?

The death of a parent will automatically end the obligation to pay child support for the deceased parent. If that parent failed to make some or all of their child support payments before they passed away, any past-due child support will be the responsibility of the decedent’s estate.

What Happens When the Custodial Parent Passes Away?

If the parent the child primarily resides with has passed away, placing the child with their living parent is the first choice. When the other parent is not available and there is a will in place clearly identifying a guardian, the State of Florida will try to follow those wishes as closely as possible. If there is no will and the other parent is not eligible to care for the child, the State of Florida will try to identify other relatives or close family friends for the child to live with.

Whether the loss of a parent happened suddenly or was due to a long illness it is still an emotionally charged time for children and their families. Knowing what to expect for your children can provide a sense of comfort and is one less thing to stress about.

Why Establishing Paternity Matters

Why Establishing Paternity Matters

According to the CDC, about 40% of children are born to unmarried women. In Florida, the mother of a child born out of wedlock is the natural guardian with sole legal rights in respect to the child unless paternity is established.

So, what is paternity? And how does it affect you as an unmarried father? The definition of paternity according to Merriam-Webster is the “quality or state of being a father.” In Florida, paternity is the court accepted legal fatherhood of a child above and beyond being the biological father. Unless the biological father who is not yet the “legal father” establishes his paternity, he has no rights or obligations to the child.

How do you establish paternity in the eyes of the Florida courts? There is the opportunity to voluntarily establish paternity at birth or after if both sides agree and then sign an acknowledgment of paternity. Paternity can also be established through an administrative or judicial order that utilizes genetic testing to confirm paternity.

So what happens if…

  • You receive a Notice of Proceeding to Establish Administrative Support Order from the Florida Department of Revenue to request child support for a child.

– The Administrative Tribunal is in place to determine paternity as well as order you to pay child support. The Administrative Tribunal does not have the jurisdiction to award you visitation, custody or any other important parental rights.

  • You have a child with a woman who was and is married to another and they are claiming that the child is a product of the marriage and you have no parental rights in regards to the child.

– To protect the child, Florida law requires that every reasonable presumption be made in favor of legitimacy. This means that a child born during a marriage is presumed to be legitimate and the husband is believed to be the father. It can be more difficult to assert parental rights for the biological father in this situation, but not impossible.

Why Should You Establish Paternity?

By determining paternity early, you can avoid issues like the two examples above. Raising children can be an enjoyable and rewarding experience. Establishing paternity provides you with the knowledge that, in the eyes of the Florida courts, your child is not only biologically yours, but also legally – giving you equal rights and responsibilities.

By proving paternity, you have the assurance that you will be able to spend time with your child, no matter the status of your relationship with the mother. You are also an integral part of decision making for matters that involve your child, like health care and education. Aside from the benefit of having their father involved in a child’s life, establishing paternity can also entitle the child to health insurance or government benefits that the father receives.

Whether you need to establish paternity or have any family law concerns, the caring lawyers at LaFrance Law are experienced and skilled at asserting and protecting your parental rights.