At the beginning of May 2020, the City of Orlando gave thousands of nominees to a very specific categories for Orlando Weekly’a Best of 2020. And because of your love and support, The Law Office of Erin Morse was able to lock in two very important categories; Best Kept Secret and Best Local Big Shot Who’s Not an Elected Official. We are honored that we have been nominated with some of Orlando’s biggest personalities, businesses and organizations. The final round runs June 24 through Aug. 2 and only you can help us. Just like last time, click the link below to the Local Color Section and scroll down to Best Kept Secret and Best Local Big Shot Who’s Not an Elected Official and vote Erin Morse.
Every year the Orlando Weekly Magazine give the citizens of Orlando the opportunity to put the spotlight on and celebrate what makes The City Beautiful unique by nominating locally owned businesses and certain individuals. This year, The Law Office of Erin Morse has been nominated in two great categories; Best Kept Secret and Best Local Big Shot Who’s Not an Elected Official. We are honored to have been nominated by our clients and the great people of Orlando, but we still need your help. Click the link below and scroll down to Best Kept Secret and type in “The Law Office of Erin Morse” then hit the nominate button. Then, Scroll down to Best Local Big Shot Who’s Not an Elected Official and type in “Erin Morse Esq.” and hit the nominate button. Thank you for your support.
Divorce can be extremely stressful, especially when children are involved. Explore how custody and child visitation is determined during proceedings.
A recent census found that 69% of children under the age of 18 live with two parents while another 23% live with their mother. The other 10% live with their father, nonparental family members, or other legal guardians.
The road to child custody and child visitation is often a rocky one. It’s not as simple as following the child’s wishes, although what the child wants does play a large role in the proceedings.
Without a strong grasp on custody and visitation laws, it can be difficult to make the case that will grant you the relationship with your child that you desire.
Read on to find out everything you need to know about how child custody and visitation schedules are determined in Florida.
The 2019 Florida Statues regarding child custody can be confusing for those who do not have a background in law. For this reason, it is in your best interest to hire an attorney that specializes in child custody law.
To help you understand what to expect of this process, we’ve broken down the basics regarding the establishment of child custody.
Legal and Physical Custody
Child custody determines who is in charge of care, decision-making, and maintenance of a child under the age of 18. The state of Florida breaks custody down into legal custody and physical custody.
A parent with legal custody has the right to make educational, medical, religious, and disciplinary decisions for the child. A parent with physical custody is responsible for providing basic necessities. They live with the child and must ensure day-to-day wellness.
Typically, the parent who has physical custody will also have legal custody. However, the Florida court can establish forms of custody in which these responsibilities are divided up between two parents.
Sole Custody and Joint Custody
Sole custody grants both legal and physical custody to one parent. Joint custody, which Florida refers to as shared parental responsibility, entails that both parents share legal and physical custody.
If you and your former spouse are granted joint custody, there is still the question of who will be named the primary joint custodian. It is expected that both parents will reach agreements relating to legal custody. However, the child will live with their primary joint custodian for the majority of the year.
The Florida court system prefers to establish shared parental responsibility as frequently as possible. However, whether or not they can do so depends on a number of factors that we will discuss below.
Factors That Affect Custody
Initially, you, your former spouse, and your child have a say in the most suitable custodial arrangement. However, if you cannot come to an agreement with the help of mediation, the decision will go to the court.
The court will take into consideration the following:
- The moral, mental, and physical status of each parent
- The parents’ ability to provide financial and emotional support
- The willingness of both parents to honor the time-sharing schedule
- The parents’ ability to meet the child’s developmental needs
- The involvement of each parent with the child including, but not limited to, attendance of parent-teacher conferences, special events, and doctors’ appointments
- The necessity of third-party care such as a nanny
- The permanence of the proposed primary home and the continuity of the child’s current situation
- The child’s history at home and at school
- Existing ties and love and affection between the child and parents
- Any history of domestic violence, sexual abuse, or neglect
The court is looking to see if the child has a better relationship with a certain parent. They’re also ensuring that the parent can provide stability and security for the child. Sole custody is usually only rewarded if there is a history of domestic violence with one of the parents or if one of the parents was never involved in the child’s life.
Gathering the necessary information can be overwhelming. You will need to have documents that reveal your own income and involvement in the child’s life, amongst other things. Fortunately, there are plenty of online resources that will help you through this process.
In nearly every case, visitation is required. Even if one parent has sole custody, they can only deny the other parent visitation rights if the court has deemed this the best option for the child. We will discuss child visitation guidelines below.
Establishing a Child Visitation Schedule
According to Florida State Law, a parenting plan is required even when the parents are not disputing a time-sharing schedule. This parenting plan should be agreed upon by both parents. Once the parents have come to an agreement, the court must approve it.
If the parents cannot come to an agreement, the court will settle upon a parenting plan that is still legally binding. If one or both parents refuse to cooperate with the parenting plan, they will face legal consequences.
The Types of Parenting Plans
There are three main types of parenting plans that may be used in settling visitation rights.
A typical time-sharing plan is used when both parents are deemed fit to care for the child. It is used when the parents receive joint custody.
A supervised and safety-focused parenting plan is necessary only when one parent requires supervised visitations. It is used when one parent has sole custody but the other parent is not barred from seeing the child altogether.
A relocation or long-distance parenting plan is necessary when one parent is relocating to an area that is not considered local to the other parent. Even if one parent moves for their job or other valid reasons, they still have the right to see their child a reasonable number of times a year. Note that the primary joint custodian may also relocate as long as it is not deemed harmful to the child.
What Goes Into a Parenting Plan
A parenting plan establishes the responsibilities divided between two parents of a child. It also determines the visitation schedule they must follow. When you’re settling on a visitation schedule, there are certain things you will need to discuss.
First, establish a residential schedule. This relates to the day-to-day care and outlines what days of the week or weekends of the month that the child is staying with each parent.
Second, discuss a holiday schedule. This can be a sensitive topic because oftentimes, both parents want to spend major holidays or birthdays with their child.
You may have to make concessions that hurt in the present. Remember that you are doing what’s best for the child by allowing them to spend quality time with your former spouse.
Finally, establish a summer vacation schedule. Summer is often a time that the non-primary joint custodian can spend more time with their child because the child is no longer location-bound to their school district. Many parents divide summer vacation time-sharing evenly but this up to you and your former partner.
Remember that you have to discuss not only the time shared with each parent but also the modes of transportation the child can rely on. Will one of you pick the child up from the other’s home? Will you involve a third party or establish a neutral meeting ground?
These may seem like things that you can establish on a day-to-day basis but the court will want answers upfront. Once again, it is in the child’s best interest that you hammer out all of these details with a mediator or in court. Otherwise, you run the risk of personal feelings getting in the way of the child’s ability to see both parents.
How Is a Child Visitation Schedule Settled?
In the process of determining a workable visitation schedule, the court will once again revisit the questions they asked in deciding upon custody. Some of the main concerns will revolve around each parent’s ability to take the child to school. In other words, if one parent lives far from the child’s school, they will likely not receive weekday overnight visitation.
Once a visitation schedule is agreed upon, modification is not ideal. It will only happen if material, substantial, and unanticipated changes occur.
For example, the visitation schedule may be altered if one parent loses their job and is no longer financially able to provide for the child. It also may be altered if one parent has a drug or alcohol relapse, experiences mental illness issues, or runs into problems with the law.
Overall, the ultimate goal of the court is to ensure stability for the child in spite of the change in relationship status between the two parents.
Find a Child Custody and Visitation Attorney in Orlando, Florida
If you are seeking legal counsel to settle issues of child custody and child visitation in Orlando, Florida, you’ve come to the right place.
Contact us so that we can discuss your case as well as any financial concerns and scheduling concerns you may have.
If you and your spouse have made the decision to part ways, find out just how long does it take for a divorce to finalize in Florida.
Getting married can be a fantastic journey. Sometimes, however, that journey must come to an end to open doors for new adventures.
In the United States, somewhere between 40 and 50 percent of marriages end in divorce.
During and after a divorce, it’s not uncommon to go back and forth between feelings of giddiness and devastation. Plus, it’s reasonable to want the process to be over with as soon as possible.
If you and your partner have reached a point where you know divorce is the answer, you’re probably wondering, “How long does it take for a divorce?”
This guide will tell you all about ending your marriage in Florida and how long it takes to finalize a divorce.
How Long Does It Take for a Divorce to Finalize?
There’s no specific answer for how long finalizing a divorce takes. It depends significantly on the type of divorce and the route you opt to take.
It also depends on your state. Some states have laws that require a 6-month waiting period from the time you file your paperwork. In Florida, however, it can take anywhere from a few months to years.
Incompatibility, infidelity, and money issues are 3 of the main reasons why people split.
How long a divorce takes depends on the reasons behind the divorce, and on factors like whether or not the divorce is contested.
Let’s take a look at what those different circumstances entail so you can better determine where you and your partner’s divorce can be categorized.
A Simplified Divorce
A simplified divorce is the fastest divorce process. It doesn’t work for everyone, but it is the quickest route to end your union.
It only works if you have no children under 18, no dependents and if neither spouse seeks alimony. The wife can’t be pregnant, and at least one partner must have lived in the state of Florida for the previous 6 months.
Plus, you both have to agree to the divorce in the first place. For it to work, you must agree on the division of your properties. Once you both submit a petition with financial affidavits, the court will set a hearing about 20 days later.
At that hearing, the divorce will be finalized, as long as everything you submitted was correct.
In Florida, the process is called a “Simplified Dissolution of Marriage.” The process eliminates any rights to a trial or appeals and takes about 30 days from beginning to end.
An Uncontested Divorce Case
An uncontested divorce case is similar to a simplified divorce in that both spouses are in complete agreement on every detail. There must be no disputes or discrepancies.
Both partners must agree on any child support or alimony to be paid, child custody, division of liabilities, division of assets, who gets tax exemptions, and any other details addressed. For a divorce to be uncontested, there can’t be any arguing, any unresolved issues, or any competitions.
Both spouses have to cooperate, work together to fix any paperwork, and sign everything in a timely and efficient manner. Uncontested divorces are quick, just like simplified ones. They can be even faster with the help of an attorney because attorneys have the power to control the scheduling.
Filing is instant, but it can take a few weeks to prepare the paperwork. A final hearing typically occurs 3 months after the paperwork is filed, so the divorce process takes approximately 4 months to complete.
An Initially Contested Divorce
Initially contested divorce cases are the most common types of Florida divorces. They’re prepared in the traditional manner, where paperwork is filed with the court, and then the other spouse gets served.
That means a private process server will personally deliver those documents to the other spouse. They may or may not be prepared for that moment.
In this type of divorce, the circumstances can be quite different from one couple to the next. The commonality, however, is that something’s contested. It doesn’t matter how many issues are contested or if both spouses agree they want a divorce.
If there’s even just one single issue that’s disagreed upon, the case is contested. A common reason for this has to do with finances. More often than not, both parties are in agreement on the divorce but aren’t in agreement as to how the money will get broken up.
Luckily, most cases that are initially contested settle at a “halfway point” during the divorce process. The halfway point usually involves mediation, where both spouses come to an agreement over their disputes. Once those issues are settled, the case then becomes an “uncontested case.”
How Long Does It Take to Finalize a Divorce That Goes From Contested to Uncontested?
A divorce that’s initially contested can take more time if the receiving party hides from the process server. Believe it or not, many spouses who aren’t ready to accept their spouse’s desire for divorce will dodge getting hit with the paperwork.
This process can extend the divorce process by a month. Process servers are fast and resourceful, though, so a spouse has to be quite tricky in their methods to keep dodging the server.
Once the other party receives the Summons and Petition, they have 20 days to file their answer. Next comes the discovery process, including financial disclosure, which takes approximately 3 months. Both sides must send the other party a set of financial documents, such as pay stubs, bank statements, tax returns, and retirement account statements.
Cases that are fully contested have more time-consuming requirements, so the process can take longer.
If there are children involved, the state of Florida requires a 4-hour parenting course for both parties before they can finalize a divorce.
If mediation is required, it’ll usually occur 4 to 5 months after filing. Most contested cases come to a conclusion at this point.
Florida requires mediation in all contested divorce cases, and it can be done through a private mediator or the courthouse. Opting to go with a private mediator can save some time in the divorce process.
The final hearing in an initially contested case usually occurs 4 to 6 months after the beginning of the case. It’s the last state of the divorce process, so technically, your divorce could be over in less than 6 months.
What Can Slow Down or Speed up the Process?
Here are some things which can speed up or slow down the process:
- The accuracy of documents
- Coming to an agreement in mediation
- Failure to follow the procedures (either party or both)
- Availability of the judge
Attorneys have an in with judges in that it’s much easier for them to call and grab a date. If neither spouse has an attorney, the flow and timing could be a little more up in the air.
Contested Divorces Take the Longest
Contested divorces are the long, drawn-out battles you hear about from friends or watch on TV dramas.
Some of these cases go to trial, but either way, the process is usually long and unpredictable.
Finalizing a divorce that’s contested can take anywhere from 9 months to 3 years. Once in a while, a contested divorce in Florida will take 5 or 6 years, but that’s rare.
The First Half of a Contested Divorce Case
The first half of a contested divorce case takes about 3 to 9 months. It looks similar to that of an initially contested case in that the case has to be prepared, filed, and then served.
Financial disclosure can take months, and the court always orders mediation in the state of Florida.
Because things are contested, the process is more extensive, detailed, and can go back and forth for quite some time. One or both sides could refuse disclosure requests and end up going back and forth to court. Sometimes, a delay is even used as a strategic weapon.
Depositions and Trials
If either side conducts a deposition, it usually means there’s significant conflict. During depositions, both attorneys ask questions, a court reporter types everything, and the process can take a lot of money and time.
The final trial of a contested case can take anywhere from 4 hours to 2 weeks. Usually, they last about a day. The preparation, however, can take up to a year. Typically though, it’s more like 5 months.
As you can see, there’s a lot of variation in Florida divorce case lengths, especially concerning contested cases.
How Long Does It Take for a Divorce to Finalize in Florida?
How long does it take for a divorce to finalize in Florida? The average length is about 6 months. But as you can see from the many different types of cases and circumstances that arise, the divorce process can take 4 months or 4 years.
If you’re anxious to finalize your divorce, the best thing both parties can do is, be honest in their disclosures and willing to negotiate.
Are you ready to get started and want to know how we can help? Even if both parties are in agreement, divorce can be emotionally and physically draining.
Contact us with any questions or concerns. We are here to make your divorce process as easy for you as we can.
How does divorce mediation work? What should you expect during the mediation process? We explain it all so you can be prepared.
Going through a divorce is never easy, and there are a lot of different things you need to know as you navigate the process.
Divorce mediation offers a way to make the entire procedure more streamlined, but you should still be aware of the mediation process and how it works.
Read on to learn more about this important step so you can be prepared for whatever comes next.
What is Divorce Mediation and How Can it Help?
In some cases, a divorce can be handled outside of the courtroom. The mediation process involves both parties, their respective lawyers, and a professional third-party mediator.
This option is usually much faster than a traditional divorce, and it’s also a lot less expensive than the usual court trial or dealing with several hearings. In fact, mediation works for many couples who are separating and don’t have a lot of assets or issues with custody to contend with.
One great benefit to divorce mediation is that it can usually settle all of your issues in one session. This eliminates the need for several court dates and tons of arguing back and forth. Another perk is that mediation is completely confidential and there is no public record kept of what goes on during the private sessions.
When you participate in mediation, you have more opportunity to express what you expect from the divorce and what you consider to be fair. In a courtroom, you won’t have much choice since the process is much more rigid and impersonal for your unique situation.
Choosing to use mediation doesn’t mean that you cannot use a lawyer. In fact, many people still enlist the help of an attorney as they go through the mediation process. For many, mediation allows for better communication and less stress which can help to reduce or even eliminate any conflict in the future.
When to Skip the Mediation Process
Opting to use mediation is certainly something that is worth trying for many couples, however it’s not for everyone. There are some cases where you will need the help of the court system to complete your divorce.
Spouses who are victims of domestic violence should consider going to court instead of mediation. This will ensure that the law is enforced and that the victim’s rights are protected as per a judge’s ruling. There could also be potential for violence if you choose to participate in a mediation setting rather than a courtroom.
Another example where mediation may not be best is if you’re in the middle of a serious custody battle. A mediator may not have the ability or the authority to determine a final ruling on custody situations.
If you’re ever in doubt about the terms of your divorce, talk to a professional divorce attorney. They can help you decide whether or not the mediation process will work or if you should take your case directly to court instead. You can still use mediation later if there are still any unresolved issues in the divorce.
For those couples who don’t predict many issues throughout the divorce proceedings, mediation has many benefits. However, if you’re concerned about your safety, the custody of your children, or the splitting of assets, consider a court trial instead.
How Mediation Works
If both sides agree to mediation, you should receive a phone call from a professional mediator. This is the first step in the process. The mediator will ask you for more details and background information regarding your marriage, your family, and any issues you are having.
Most mediators will start by asking for basic information, while other mediators could decide to gather as much detailed information as possible before the mediation date. Don’t hold anything back and always give them your honest, detailed answers whenever possible.
After the phone call, the first meeting will be scheduled. These meetings are usually held in an office or conference room setting at the mediator’s place of business.
The mediator will go over the entire process with you and what you can expect. Sometimes everyone will be in the same room the whole time, while at other times you could be separated at different points so you can speak in private.
You will probably be asked to sign an agreement that states you will keep everything confidential. The mediator cannot disclose what happens during mediation if you decide to take your divorce to court at a later date. A good mediator will do his or her best to ensure that both parties are calm and comfortable throughout the process.
A lawyer is not required to participate in mediation. However, if you are concerned that you will have difficulty speaking or making your point clearly, they can be an excellent asset who can speak on your behalf.
Navigating the Agreement
Once the mediator has gone over everything with you, you’ll be able to make a statement about your situation. Your spouse will also do the same thing. Remember to try and keep your statement short and to the point.
Next, the mediator will ask some questions if they need clarification or some more information. They may also read the statements back to you just to ensure that you’ve both said what you wanted to and that you understand the talking points.
After the statements, the mediator will determine which points you both agree on, and which are areas of contention. Once you have an idea of what you want to achieve, you will all work toward a path that determines how to accomplish your goals.
If there are custody or property issues, the mediator will probably need more information from both of you. You may need to state the current value of your home or talk about any pending issues with your children that could come up in the mediation later.
Remember to be clear and concise and state what your ultimate goals are for the divorce negotiations. If important information cannot be provided at the first session, you might need to return for another one. Try to have everything you need with you the first time to avoid a second or third mediation.
The Negotiation Process
After statements have been made and all information has been gathered, the mediator will likely start with the simplest issues first. These easy questions and problems will help to build trust and make everyone feel more comfortable when difficult conversations begin.
When you start the negotiations, remember that this is a process and that nothing is final just yet. Stay on top of the facts and don’t get discouraged until the entire process is over and a verdict has been decided.
Negotiation can be a tricky skill to master, so don’t worry if you feel like you are not getting the results you want right away. It’s the mediator’s job to find out exactly what both of you want and how you can agree on a path to getting it. They should help you both brainstorm a few options that you might not have thought of before.
Do your best to express your opinion without getting too personal or name-calling. Make your position clear and talk about why your position and your desired outcome is so important to you and your well-being.
Onew ay to assure success is to be open to compromise. It’s highly unlikely that both of you will get exactly what you want unless the other person completely concedes. Always listen and try your best to understand your spouse’s point of view without talking over them.
When you both enter the mediation process with a spirit of openness and understanding, the odds are that you’ll walk away with a satisfactory resolution. Compromising means that both of your best interests are being taken into account. Never argue during the mediation and simply express your concerns if you are unhappy with the proposed terms.
Taking the Pain Out of Divorce
While there is never a guarantee that this method will be completely successful, the mediation process can make divorce much easier for both of you. Consider mediation if you want a quicker divorce, less cost, and a peaceful method that doesn’t involve the court system.
If you need some help or you’re concerned about making your presentation, consider a divorce attorney who can attend the mediation with you and speak on your behalf. This process should give you the outcome you want with less stress.
For all your family’s legal needs, be sure to visit our website and contact us today for more information.
If you’re going through a child custody battle, you may have heard about third party custody. We explain what it is and what parents need to know about it.
There are times when a parent or both parents can’t take care of their child anymore. It can happen for a variety of different reasons, which range from tragic when the cause is due to neglect or abuse to sad when a single parent is no longer able to take care of their child. This may be due to a single parent becoming incarcerated.
It can also happen when a parent has mental health or physical reasons they can no longer take care of their child. That’s when a third-party custody arrangement is often sought. Most people don’t know about third party custody unless they one day need it and by then, it’s like trying to catch up with a moving train to take it all in through digestible legal learning chunks.
Read on if you’re involved in a third-party child custody battle or you think one may be happening soon. The informational guide below will explain what third party custody is and how it works, who it affects and how it impacts your life.
What is Third Party Custody?
Florida family law states a non-parent can be given custody of a child through a number of legal channels. There are legal standards and criteria that must be met for all non-parent custody petitions in Florida. A few examples when third party custody can be filed are:
- A third party can be given custody if a biological parent provides voluntary consent by signing a document terminating their parental rights. The document enables the court to turn the child over to another family member. Most of the time, if a biological parent is giving another family member custody of their child, a legal advocate will help them go through the legal process.
- There are times when a child’s well-being is at risk when they are in the care of their biological parent or parents. A concerned family member can file a third-party petition for concurrent or temporary custody. The third-party petition is filed in the Unified Family Court.
- If the biological parents don’t consent to this custody arrangement, the family member seeking custody must meet a high standard of proof in court to show the parents to be unfit to care for the child.
In summary, Florida family law allows for a third party relative to petition the court for custody under special circumstances if it’s in the best interest of the child. There are special circumstances and times when the court awards permanent custody of the child to a third party like a child’s grandparents.
The Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act
Florida law states that the courts decide child custody based on the best interests of the child. The best interest of the child has criteria listed under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). The UCCJEA is a national set of laws that governs child custody throughout the country.
Child custody is defined as having legal and physical custody, and as such parents with custody are allowed to make decisions about their child’s education, religion, medical care, where they live and discipline. If parents are unable to agree on these decisions, the court can intervene but third-party custody is a much tougher legal bar to reach to get successfully adjudicated in court. Third-party custody can be filed for when a child’s well-being is at risk when they are in the care of their biological parent or parents.
Florida Courts Define Child Custody Terms
If you live in Florida, its the judges who get to decide who gets legal custody, physical custody, joint custody, or third party custody. Judges also determine parental responsibilities and this is when third-party custody comes into play if it’s needed. Third-party custody always takes into consideration several factors.
Of course, the primary and most important consideration a judge considers is what’s in the best interest of the child. It can be helpful if the child is older and can relay their wishes or if the biological parent petitions the court for a third-party custodian for their child. The judge will also take into consideration the best interests of the child based on the relationship the child has with the third party.
Third-Party Custody Rights
If you don’t have the consent of the parents, you must factually represent what has happened to the child who has been abandoned, abused, or neglected by the parent or parents. The definition of abandoned, abused and neglected are found in Florida Statutes Section 39.01. The State of Florida will always defer to the custodial relationship with the parents in a custody situation if its healthy, safe, and if the parent or parents want it.
If you are awarded third party custody rights as a non-parental relative, you’ve already presented a compelling case regarding why you should be awarded custody. But even if you were granted child custody as a non-parental relative those custody rights are granted in temporary form only most of the time. The Supreme Court determined temporary custody for non-parental relatives in Florida through the 2012 Florida case of Slover v. Meyer.
Florida Case of Slover v. Meyer
The Florida custody dispute of Slover v. Meyer originated between a father’s natural father and the child’s maternal grandparents. The child’s mother was deceased and the child’s maternal grandparents were seeking custody over the father because they felt he was unfit to care for the child due to his history of drug abuse. Evidence was given to the court that proved the father did have a drug abuse problem however the father testified he was seeking drug treatment to help him with his addiction.
The court took the father’s willingness to seek drug abuse treatment into consideration but still awarded temporary custody of the child to the grandparents. But the court also gave the father supervised visitation rights for the next year. If the father could keep up his abstinence from drugs and continue treatment, the father would be allowed unsupervised access to his child.
Over the next year, the father proved to the court he had conquered his addiction and was able to care for his child. At that time, the court modified the custody arrangement and the father’s custody rights were restored. Third-party custody with a non-parental relative is usually temporary in Florida unless there is a compelling, legal reason to give it permanent standing in the court.
Typical Third Party Custody Family Law Form 12.970 (a)
The typical third party custody agreement application starts with you filing the Florida Supreme Court Approved Family Law Form 12.970 (a) Petition for Temporary Custody by Extended Family. The third-party custody agreement form is what’s needed when you wish to obtain temporary custody of a child or children pursuant to Chapter 751, Florida Statutes. You are considered an extended family member if you are:
- A relative of a minor child within the third degree to the parent by blood or marriage
- The stepparent of a minor child if the stepparent is currently married to the parent of the child and isn’t a party to any pending dissolution, separate maintenance, domestic violence, or any other civil or criminal court proceeding. This civil or criminal court proceeding cannot be of a competent jurisdiction involving one or both of the child’s parents as an adverse party.
- You can file for temporary custody if you have a signed and notarized consent of the child’s legal parent or parents.
You can also file if you’re an extended family member who is caring full time for the child in the role of substitute parent with whom the child has been living for some time and where the child is currently living. If the parent or parents don’t give you consent, you’re going to need a family law attorney to help you fill out the agreement and file the forms in the appropriate court.
You can find more information about Florida’s third-party guardianship in Chapter 744, Florida Statutes. The court rules that the relationships between the court, the minor, the guardian, and others have statutes and rules that describe the specific duties and obligations as guardians. These statutes and rules are in place to help protect the best interest of the minor.
The guardian serves as a surrogate decision-maker that’s appointed by the court to make either personal or financial decisions for the minor or even for an adult if they have mental or physical disabilities. After the court adjudicates the case, the guardianship is termed a ‘ward.’
Your Next Step
Your next step may be your most important one if you are seeking third party custody. There’s nothing easy about this court process and you need to be prepared for everything while hoping for the best. Child custody is emotionally stressful no matter the circumstances but if you’re involved in third party custody issues, need the best counsel a family law attorney can give you.
Reach out to The Law Office of Erin Morse so the child that needs you doesn’t lose one more day to uncertainty and fear. No child should ever be left in an unsafe or unknown home. With the help of the Law Office of Erin Morse, you’ll come to know this law office serves as one of the child’s most fierce child advocates and they won’t stop until the child is safe and in a healthy environment.
Divorce can be a stressful experience, especially when children are involved. Learn how to create a solid parenting plan that works for both parties.
Divorce rates are on the decline, but 39% of marriages will still end in divorce.
If you’re facing a divorce, you’re no doubt entering one of the most stressful events of your life. If you have children, your worries are compounded.
Who will get custody of the kids? How can you create structure in their lives while your own life is unraveling? Most importantly, how can you ensure your kids receive the love and attention they need?
Many kids experience difficulties after a divorce, including behavioral problems and poor academic performance. But that doesn’t have to be the case with your children. The key lies in creating (and executing) a successful parenting plan.
What is a parenting plan? Why is it so important? And how can you create one that works for your family’s unique circumstances?
In this post, we’ll discuss those questions and more. Read on to learn how to write a parenting plan for court and your own personal use.
What Is a Parenting Plan?
A parenting plan is a legal document that outlines how you and your ex will care for your children after the divorce. It is generally required by the family court as part of the divorce process.
The plan should include every major aspect of your kids’ lives, including custody, visitation, and communication methods. (We’ll discuss this in more detail later).
If possible, you and your ex should be the ones to create the parenting plan, since you know your kids and your circumstances best. If you aren’t able to reach an agreement, the court may take steps to create a plan for you or suggest the services of a family law attorney.
What Should I Know Before Creating a Parenting Plan?
Although a parenting plan is a legal document, it doesn’t need to include technical or legal jargon. What it should include is plenty of details outlining how you and your ex will handle your responsibilities.
The court wants to see that your plan will provide a safe, stable, and loving environment for your kids. They want the assurance that your children’s physical and emotional needs will continue to be met.
Of course, your circumstances are different than any other couple in the midst of a divorce. A parenting plan template is a great place to start, but you need to customize it to fit the unique needs of your family.
Remember: The parenting plan is for the benefit of your kids, not yourself. You need to be willing to make compromises and be accommodating to whatever is in your kids’ best interests.
The most common mistake couples make is writing a plan that’s too vague. Include every detail and scenario you can think of, such as who will pay for medical expenses and what happens if one or both parents decide to relocate. You’ll also want to explain how you’ll resolve disagreements and if your kids are allowed to travel out-of-state or abroad.
When reviewing your plan, the court will evaluate:
- Each parent’s health and ability to provide for their kids
- Your children’s age and maturity level
- Proximity to the extended family
- Proximity to established schools or religious organizations
- Any plans for one or both parents to relocate
- Everyone’s preferences on custody arrangements (each parent and each child)
- Any past or present legal misconduct
If possible, it’s best to work on this plan together. If you can’t reach an agreement, each parent may submit their own plan to the court for consideration and approval.
Parenting Plan Template: What to Include
Now that you’ve got an overview of the plan, let’s discuss specific items you should include.
1. Living Arrangements & Scheduling
This is the basis for your plan, as it outlines how each parent will physically provide for the children.
Will your kids live primarily in one residence or divide their time evenly between both of you? Who is responsible for pickup and drop-off? Will you bring your children’s belongings back and forth, or will your kids have two sets of most items?
What about daycare or babysitting arrangements? How will each parent communicate with their children when they’re visiting the other? When and where will the children spend time with their friends, and who will transport them to events such as parties or after-school activities?
You should also discuss how you’ll handle any changes or disruptions to the normal schedule. What if it’s necessary to make a change due to illness, special occasions, or an unforeseen event? How much notice will you give, and will there be make-up time for missed visitation?
2. Holidays, Vacations, & Events
Will your kids spend certain holidays with the same parent each year? Or will you alternate between households?
Create a plan for:
- Religious holidays
- Secular holidays
- School breaks
- Summer vacation
- Mother’s Day
- Father’s Day
- Weddings and funerals
Again, include as many details as possible, including transportation, length of stay, or any plans to “split” the time over certain holidays.
3. Health Matters
Who will provide medical and dental insurance (if any) for the children? How will you make decisions about routine or emergency treatments?
What about arrangements for routine checkups or dentist visits? Who will take the kids to these appointments? Who will take time off work and stay home if one of the children gets sick?
Will each of you have access to your children’s medical records? What about arranging for any special needs like eyeglasses, speech therapy, or orthodontia? How will you make decisions that are in your child’s best interest?
4. School & Extra-Curriculars
Where will your children attend school? Will they enroll in a special program or require tutoring after hours?
What about parent-teacher conferences or other school events? Who will attend? Who will pay for school trips, lunches, or other related expenses?
What if your child must be absent for any reason? Can either parent take the child out of school for the day? What circumstances are allowable (or not) for the child to miss school?
If your child plays sports or belongs to an after-school club, who will handle transportation arrangements and associated costs? Will both of you attend games or competitions?
5. Religion & Culture
Will your household include any religious instruction or activities? Will your kids accompany you to church or other religious services? How will you make these decisions?
What about relevant cultural events and activities? If you live in a bilingual household, what will be the primary language spoken at home? Will your children be instructed in a second or third language?
Consider the extended family too, such as grandparents. How often and when will they visit, and who will be there during the visits? How can the extended family communicate with your children?
What about everyday lifestyle and discipline? What rules will be in place for bedtime, allowance, homework, dating, and other expectations?
6. Communication Between Parents
How will you and your ex communicate after the divorce is finalized? Over the phone, by email, in person?
How will you keep track of your children’s schedules? Will there be a written or virtual calendar available where you can access and add relevant events?
How much notice will you give in the event of travel plans, schedule changes, or other disruptions? How often will you communicate about your children? What about emergencies—how will you get in contact with each other?
Other Factors to Consider
Your divorce may be contentious, but try to take a step back and be reasonable when it comes to your kids. You may no longer love your ex, but your kids likely still do.
Focus on creating a plan that will help them maintain a strong relationship with each of you. If they’re old enough, consider their preferences about who they’ll live with and how they’ll spend time with each of you.
If you have legitimate concerns about your ex’s ability to care for the children, put it in writing. You may not agree with certain aspects of their parenting style, but this is different than concerns over binge drinking or drug use.
Most of all, avoid putting your kids in the middle of your divorce. Assure them of your continued love and support during and after the process. Respect their needs by enjoying the time they’re with you and avoid criticizing what your ex chooses to do.
Do You Need Help With Your Parenting Plan?
Some couples are able to sit down and create an effective parenting plan on their own.
But what if the relationship is strained and civil communication is difficult (or impossible)? This is where a lawyer experienced in family law and child custody can help.
Your divorce is undoubtedly stressful, but making a parenting plan doesn’t have to be. It just takes time and consideration to decide what will work for you and your ex—and what is ultimately best for your children.
Are you going through a divorce in the Orlando area? Don’t go it alone.
We can help with all aspects of the divorce process, including assistance with your parenting plan. Contact our law office today with any questions or concerns.
While your divorce decree is a court order you and your spouse must act in accordance with, violations can occur that will require steps to enforce.
Have you or someone you know recently been through a divorce? If so, you know that things can get ugly – quick.
Even for couples with the best intentions, legal separations are both emotionally and financially draining.
But when the dust settles and all the matrimonial baggage is decided, you’re left with what’s known as a divorce decree.
A divorce decree is the court’s final ruling that officially and legally terminates the marriage. The decree summarizes what both parties have agreed to and what they’re entitled to.
You can finally breathe a sigh of relief. Or can you?
What happens when your ex refuses to abide by the judgments listed in the divorce decree? What are your legal rights and what action can you take?
Keep reading to learn how to enforce a divorce decree when your ex-partner won’t comply.
A Divorce Decree is a Legal Document
Not adhering to the guidelines of a divorce decree is a crime. Whether or not you wanted to agree to it, you did. And you’re now legally bound to uphold whatever ruling’s it states.
The same goes for your ex. If he/she chooses not to comply with the divorce decree arrangements, you can take legal action. The decree is enforceable in court, which means your ex will be held liable for noncompliance.
The problem is, getting justice can be a lengthy, expensive process.
The Steps You Need to Take
Before you call your ex in a rage or show up at their front door, take a deep breath. If you want to stay in the good graces of the judge and courts, it’s best you take the right legal pathway to justice.
That means following the below steps, in order.
Contact the Court System
The first order of business when enforcing a divorce decree is to contact the justice system. Be sure to notify the courthouse in the county where you received the divorce decree.
The best point of contact is the judge’s clerk since you can’t speak directly to the judge. If the judge’s clerk is unavailable, the next best person to speak with is the court clerk or an office member.
Be specific about which part of the decree your spouse is violating. The type of divorce decree violation will determine your next legal recourse.
Common violations include refusal to pay a debt, child support or alimony, and refusal to sell marital property, including real estate.
File a Motion of Contempt
You’ve probably heard the term “contempt of court” before but do you know what it means?
The most basic definition is failing to satisfy a court order. Since a divorce decree is a court order, your ex’s refusal to comply places them in contempt of court.
It’s now your job to file a motion of contempt. This is also known as a motion for enforcement. The court officer you speak to will guide you on which avenue to take. They might also provide you with the necessary forms.
Be sure to include all pertinent information on the documents including a copy of the divorce decree and a docket or case number. This will help expedite the process.
Show Up to Court on the Scheduled Day and Time
The quickest way to lose a case is not showing up for court on your scheduled day and time. Once you receive your scheduled court date, make sure you’re present and prepared for the court proceedings. This is your chance to present your case to the judge.
One thing to keep in mind on your court date is that you may not get exactly what you’re asking for. Don’t get your hopes up.
In most cases, the judge will issue a warning to your ex-spouse – giving them the opportunity to make right on their end of the agreement. The judge will also set a deadline that your spouse needs to meet. He/She is required to perform what the decree orders them to do by a specific date.
Start the Process All Over Again
In a perfect world, a warning from the judge and extended timeframe is enough to convince your ex-partner to do the right thing. But that’s not always the case.
If your ex still refuses to comply with the divorce decree – even after being ordered by the judge – you’ll be forced to start the process all over again by filing another motion.
You already know the right steps to take. After filling out the motion paperwork, be sure to attach not only a copy of the divorce decree but also the most recent court order that your spouse has violated.
If you end up back in court, chances are the judge will now rule in your favor and show your noncompliant ex much less sympathy. The judge may even order sanctions, requiring your ex to pay your court costs. In more serious cases, your ex might even face jail time for contempt of court.
Depending on the violations, the judge can use several different methods to help make you whole again. If your ex owes you money, the judge can issue a lien against their property or force them to use their tax refunds to pay their debts.
If children and visitation are involved, visitation may be restricted or granted based on who’s in contempt.
Reasons to Contact the Courts
Before you get the court system involved, make sure that your ex is actually committing a crime. Carefully look over the divorce decree to determine the rules and guidelines your ex is bound to.
Here are a few common ways that people violate divorce decrees.
Refusal to Pay Debts
Money, money, money. In most cases, divorce decree violations are connected to money and one party refusing to pay the agreed-upon debt.
Some judges show special leniency to those who recently lost their jobs. As long as the individual shows an effort to find employment, the judge will rarely enforce jail time.
But that doesn’t help you if your ex’s inability to pay debt puts you in your own financial pickle.
There are a few techniques in place to protect your rights and ensure that your ex makes good on their financial obligations. Some especially stubborn and vindictive individuals would rather face jail time than pay their ex a single dime.
In these cases, the judge may decide to seize your ex’s property as collateral. This is a slightly more complicated legal battle and might require an experienced attorney.
This process involves a writ of attachment issued by the court. This permits that any property owned by the noncompliant party can be seized and used to pay off outstanding debts.
Property can be anything from personal items to physical property like a home or piece of land. In this situation, the court will appoint a third-party recipient and that person will take custody of the land. They’re responsible for selling it and then paying you the owed amount.
Selling the family home is another point of contention in many divorces. If both you and your ex are listed on the title and/or mortgage, you both need to agree to list the home for sale.
In some cases, one party is too emotionally attached to comply with this part of the decree. But if both parties are financially dependent on the sale of the house, it must be done.
Similar to paying off debt, the judge will issue an agent or receiver to handle the sale of the home and divvy up the money accordingly.
These proceedings don’t happen without a little leg-work on your end. You’re responsible for proving that you tried, on numerous occasions, to convince your ex to pay their debts or sell the home prior to filing a motion of contempt. This could include proof of communication in the form of letters, emails, or text messages.
The court wants to see that you made an effort to resolve the issue on your own before asking them to intervene.
Failure to Properly Divide Retirement Accounts
Another common item listed in many divorce decrees is retirement accounts belonging to both parties.
Retirement accounts, including 401k plans, are often divided in the divorce decree. If your ex-spouse fails to give you half of the retirement funds, you can take legal action.
One reason why a traditional motion of contempt might not be the best approach is that if your ex spends all the money before you get a court date, they’re no longer obligated to pay. After all, half of zero is zero.
When dealing with retirement and other savings accounts, you need to prepare a QDRO or Qualified Domestic Relations Order. This will protect your rights to the money and prevent your ex from spending it. The QDRO informs the plan administrator how the retirement fund should be divided as outlined in the divorce decree.
What to Do When Your Ex Won’t Play Nice
Divorces rarely proceed without any complications or hurdles. Even after the divorce decree is drafted, trouble can still lurk.
If your ex-partner decides not to follow the rules and judgments of the court, you can enforce a motion of contempt and have your case heard. Just be sure to make a valid attempt to solve the issue directly with your ex before involving the courts.
Document any exchanges between you and your ex as proof of your efforts.
Divorce can be ugly – but it doesn’t have to be when you have a qualified attorney on your side.
Contact one of our professionals today and let us help your legal case run smoothly.
About The Law Office Of Erin Morse
Erin E. Morse, Esquire is a highly knowledgeable, aggressive Orlando Divorce & Family Law Attorney that is passionate about helping families move forward through their most difficult time. Her natural talent of providing creative legal strategies, innate business acumen and prowess as a litigator combine to offer unparalleled legal protection to her clients.