Child Custody

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divorce child custodyCHILD CUSTODY / TIME-SHARING

Read the latest article about a proposed new law on Child Time-Sharing

In October 2008, there were significant changes in Florida law which led to a new child custody statute. As part of the new law, the state largely did away with such terms as “child custody,” “primary parent,” and “visitation.” Instead of using the term child custody, the other changes is that the parents are now simply referred to as the mother and the father of the child. Courts now presume that both parents will share parental responsibilities and that each has an equal interest in raising their children, absent a finding that shared parenting would be detrimental to the child.

Divorcing parents are required to develop a parenting plan that describes how parents will share responsibility for their children’s upbringing and specifies the time that each parent will have with the children for child custody. The plan should include the following information:

  • Where the children will live
  • How parents will share child-rearing responsibilities
  • Time-sharing arrangements including division of holidays and school breaks
  • Which parent will make decisions regarding the child’s health care, schooling and extracurricular activities
  • How the parents will communicate with each other and the child
  • Who will be responsible for transporting the child and how the costs of same will be paid
  • Which parent’s address will be used for school zone purposes

If the parties can agree on a parenting plan, then the court will review it to ensure that it is in the best interests of the child. Should the parents be unable to agree on the terms of a parenting plan, then a trial is conducted by the court to establish such a plan for the parties.

All of the new flowery language and euphemisms aside, a trial over a parenting plan is still a good old-fashioned child custody fight with all the attendant vitriol and acrimony. Witnesses such as relatives, family friends, neighbors, teachers, childcare workers and, if necessary, psychotherapists are called to testify at trial by one or both of the parents. Evidence such as the medical records, report cards, photographs of the home and criminal records are introduced to persuade the court that the child should live with one or the other parent a majority of the time.

Parenting plans are a new way of addressing child custody issues, and it is important to seek the advice of a family law attorney who is knowledgeable and experienced in these cases and the changing statutory law. Our attorneys will answer your time-sharing questions and will work diligently to help you formulate a parenting plan that addresses all pertinent custody issues. Although settlement and compromise is by all means the best way to resolve children’s issues, our attorneys are experienced at custody litigation and trial should it be necessary to protect your children.

Contact Tassone & Dreicer online now, or call us at 904-396-3344

CHILD SUPPORT

Both parents are responsible for the support of their children after a divorce or paternity action. In many cases, the parent with whom the child lives most of the time will receive child support from the other parent. Child support is payment made by one parent to another for support of their children after divorce or separation. In most cases, child support will terminate when the child reaches the age of 18 or graduates high school. Florida does not require a parent to support his or her child after they reach the age of majority nor to pay for the child’s college education. In cases where the child is incapacitated during his or her minority, then the courts can declare him or her a dependent child and require the parents to support the child throughout adulthood.

Child support payments in Florida are largely determined by statutory guidelines that use a formula to determine the proper payment amount. The guideline formula used by the court will look at and weigh several factors to determine the payment amount, including the net income of each parent, the number of children, the cost of health insurance for the children, the cost of child care, the special needs, if any, of the children and the amount of time the children spend with each parent. The court can depart from the guideline amount by up to 5 percent, up or down, after considering all relevant factors. A departure of more than 5 percent requires the court to make specific written findings to justify the deviation. Also, if the paying parent has the children for more than 20% of the overnights, then that parent has substantial shared parenting which will require the court to use a different formula for calculating child support and will likely reduce the amount of child support ordered.

Because it’s the child’s right to receive support, parents do not have the right to waive child support. If a parent does waive support in a divorce or paternity agreement, that waiver can later be set aside as it is a violation of public policy.

For federal income taxation purposes, child support is unlike alimony in that it is not considered as income for the receiving parent or child, nor is it tax deductible for the paying parent. Additionally, which parent gets to claim the child or children as dependents for federal income tax purposes is an issue which is either agreed to by the parties or decided by the court. Because of issues like these, it is imperative to carefully consider the terms of a marital settlement agreement, given the tax consequences.

The attorneys at Tassone&Dreicer have extensive experience in child support issues. Contact them to discuss your legal options and ensure that your child’s needs are met.

Contact Tassone & Dreicer online now, or call us at 904-396-3344

child neglectCHILD ABUSE / NEGLECT

Nothing in our society is worthy of more protection and shielding from harm than our children. In instances where there is legitimate abuse, it should be stopped and the guilty party punished. Unfortunately, it is quite common that an innocent person is accused of this crime and left to their devices to defend the allegation. Legitimate or not, when an allegation is made that a child has been abused or neglected, not only with the Department of Children and Family Services get involved but so too with the police and State Attorney’s Office.

These allegations can range from a nosy neighbor calling the police to report bruises on a child to charges in extreme and heinous circumstances where a child is found locked in a closet or a cage. As with any other violent criminal allegation, and in some instances more often, pointing a finger and alleging that this crime has occurred does not necessarily mean that the allegation is well founded. Bruises and dirt on children today can lead to an overbearing individual making a police report whereas for the children of yesteryear the idea of not having a bruise somewhere meant you weren’t outside roughhousing enough. Times have changed and so too has the alertness on behalf of children.

HOW DOES FLORIDA DEFINE CHILD ABUSE? Child abuse in Florida is categorized as aggravated child abuse, simple child abuse, and child abuse through neglect. Punishment will depend on categorization and the amount of bodily harm inflicted upon the child.

Aggravated Child Abuse occurs when a person:

  • Commits aggravated battery on a child;
  • Willfully tortures, maliciously punishes, or willfully and unlawfully cages a child; or
  • Knowingly or willfully abuses a child and in so doing causes great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement to the child.

Simple Child Abuse occurs when a person:

  • Intentionally inflicts mental or physical injury upon a child;
  • An intentional act that could reasonably be expected to result in physical or mental injury to a child;
  • Active encouragement of a person to commit to commit an act that could reasonably be expected to result in physical or mental injury to a child.

Neglect of a Child means:

  • A caregiver’s failure or omission to provide a child with the care, supervision, and services necessary to maintain the child’s physical and mental health, including, but not limited to, food, nutrition, clothing, shelter, supervision, medicine, and medical services that a prudent person would consider essential for the well-being of the child; or
  • A caregiver’s failure to make a reasonable effort to protect a child from abuse, neglect, or exploitation by another person.

How Can We Help?

Unfortunately, often these cases are precipitated by an individual with a bad ulterior motive. Your spouse in a divorce, disapproving Grandparents, or a scorned ex-lover are all capable of pointing a finger out of revenge or in an effort to earn custody of a child. An individual not sharing your beliefs or lifestyle may also have an interest in rocking you to your core.

We understand how to handle unfounded allegations. Our policy of early diligence in our cases has often led to charges not being filed against our clients or the discovery of evidence to leverage the State into dropping the charge or offer a great deal during the pendency of your case.

Contact Tassone & Dreicer online now, or call us at 904-396-3344

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