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Parental Alienation

New Research Study Supports Shared Custody for Divorced Couples

new study supports shared custody for divorcing parents

On behalf of Sparkman Law Firm posted in Child Custody on Thursday, September 7th, 2017.

With the important exceptions for children who need protection from a negligent or an abusive parent, a new study out of Wake Forest University, indicates that shared parenting may benefit various families in the position of attempting to determine a custody arrangement. Knowing your rights and the various child custody outcomes in your case before you start is very important. 

 

Child custody is often one of the most hotly contested aspects of any divorce and it comes as no surprise that any parent who is engaging in this process that determining how much time children will spend with each parent after the divorce concludes is a vital component that can lead to significant arguments. A primary reason for inequity in time sharing, is a long-held belief by judges that divorcing parents and their appropriate conflict will cause too much stress for children.

 

This makes it difficult to establish shared parenting arrangements because it will put children in the middle of arguments and may even force them to side into one parent against another. However, a study that looked at 44 recently published studies on divorce, explored the question about to what extent cooperative co-parenting relationships benefited the children and what would happen to the children if they spend at least 35% of their time with each parent in a shared parenting scenario. It turns out that there is a lack of support for the belief that poor co-parenting and high conflict automatically leads to poor outcomes for children. The study was recently published in Psychology, Public Policy and Law. The research study manager believes that the focus going forward should be developing policies and programs that help to strengthen children’s relationship with each parent and to minimize their exposure to conflict.

It turns out that there is a lack of support for the belief that poor co-parenting and high conflict automatically leads to poor outcomes for children. The study was recently published in Psychology, Public Policy and Law. The research study manager believes that the focus going forward should be developing policies and programs that help to strengthen children’s relationship with each parent and to minimize their exposure to conflict.

 

Bad decisions can have serious repercussions for parents

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Every parent makes mistakes when it comes to raising children. However, some mistakes are more serious than others and warrant closer inspection of a parent-child relationship. If, for instance, a parent does something abusive or neglectful toward a child, it can be seen less as a mistake and more as an indication that a parent may not be fit to care for a child.

This can be especially disconcerting if you are in the public eye. Under these circumstances, every mistake or questionable decision you might make as a parent could be put under a microscope or splashed across news headlines.

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For instance, readers of this blog may have recently heard about politician Anthony Weiner’s sexting scandal and his wife’s announcement that they were separating. According to various news outlets, Weiner was caught sending illicit pictures of himself to another woman.

This has happened before in 2011, but this time there was a new element, which may have led to the separation. In this case, Weiner’s 4-year-old son was in the background of the pictures, meaning Weiner was with his child at the time he engaged in the illicit behavior.

People have raised concerns and questions over the child’s well-being and Weiner’s decision-making skills as a parent. In situations where a parent is neglecting a child in favor of engaging in an extramarital affair and exchanging sexually explicit photos in the same room as a child, there could certainly be an argument made that the child’s welfare could be in danger.

If it is determined that a child’s needs are not being met by one or both parents, it is possible that parental rights and custody plans will need to be adjusted to project the child.

While this story made national news due to the high profiles of Weiner and his wife, who is a top aide to Hillary Clinton, not all cases like this reach the spotlight. If you are involved in a similar situation, you should take it seriously, regardless of the media attention it may or may not receive. Working with an attorney can help you assess your options and navigate the legal system should your parental rights or your ex’s parental rights be called into question.

Can I keep my ex from moving away with our child? Pt. 2

In a recent post we began discussing the sensitive matter of relocation and child custody in Florida. As grownups, sometimes it becomes necessary or at least desirable to relocate. But as grownups, we often have to address more than our own needs when such life options develop.

When two people have a child together, they will more often than not always need to communicate about the child’s well-being. Communicating about relocation is a must when a custodial parent wants to take the child a relatively far distance away from the other parent. Courts can require this communication — it is that important.

But why is it so crucial, and what is the legal process like in terms of addressing parental rights within the scope of relocating a child away from a parent?

If a family is fortunate, both parents and any other potential parties who have rights to sharing time with the child will all agree and consent to the proposed relocation. Still, an agreement should be legally confirmed through a written agreement that sets forth detailed terms of the arrangement.

Terms of the arrangement will include specifics of visitation in order to protect the noncustodial parent’s rights to time-sharing. Of course, if the child lives a significant distance away from that parent, the necessity of travel creates another arrangement that must be agreed upon. How will the parent and/or child travel for visits, and how will such travel be paid for if necessary?

Having these matters laid out clearly in a relocation consent agreement could prevent consistent debates about the travel matters and time sharing in the future. Fewer debates tend to mean less stress, for both the parents as well as the child.

Sometimes, however, even the parents with good intentions will disagree. Agreeing to relocation and/or the arrangements associated with it could create significant, emotional debate. An upcoming post will discuss the matter of petitioning the relocation of a child and strategy tied to the sensitive family law situation.

Custody won’t be shared, so what should I know about visitation?

While more family courts are trying to apply shared custody laws to divorce cases in Florida, there are those cases involving children in which shared custody is not a healthy option. Maybe one parent is completely unfit to be a parent; maybe one parent doesn’t want custody of the kids.

Even if a parent doesn’t have any legal kind of custody of the children, they very often will be owed some amount of visitation. Visitation rights can be a parent’s only time to connect with their kids. Those rights can be important to protect. It is equally important for the custodial parent to respect one’s visitation rights as it is for the non-custodial parent to follow the visitation rules.

The visitation rules for one family may differ greatly compared to another family’s custody and visitation arrangement. Differences will largely depend on the parents’ level of cooperation with each other and the non-custodial parent’s behavior or background.

A “reasonable visitation” arrangement implies that parents get along relatively well. The level of trust and communication is such that a court trusts visitation schedules will be healthily arranged and respected by both parents.

If you don’t believe this is a realistic option for you and your ex, there is another visitation setup.

A “fixed visitation” arrangement is for those families with poorer communication and perhaps a more volatile relationship. Specific rules would be stipulated such as which days, times of the week/month and where the non-custodial parent could visit the children. These rules aren’t suggestions; they are legal limits set in order to be followed. This is most important for the custodial parent to remember due to what can be a common temptation to keep the kids from seeing a parent that they don’t get along with or trust completely.

There would be extreme cases in which a court would agree that one or even both parents should not have rights to their children, including visitation rights. All family law courts handling cases involving children prioritize the well-being of the kids. You need to be candid with your trusted divorce lawyer about what you know is best for your kids and work for the future you and they deserve.

CAN I KEEP MY EX FROM MOVING AWAY WITH OUR CHILD? PT. 1

Divorce is a process. It really isn’t a life-long activity that families continue to go through day in and day out. Still, there are aspects of a divorce that can pop up every now and again. One such issue that can recreate child custody drama is the issue of relocation.

Just when you might think that the dust has settled after a divorce is finalized, life can present a surprise. You might not be the custodial parent of your child, but you have a routine. You get to see him every other weekend. And it brings you comfort knowing he is just a brief drive away.

Now, your ex tells you they are moving. That brief drive between you and your child could become an expensive 3-hour flight. Do you have a say in this matter?

Thorough legislation is in place within Florida’s family laws that outline the specifics of relocation guidelines. Simply put, if you are the non-custodial parent of a child who might be moving away, you do have rights in terms of the relocation. What do you need to know regarding the often sensitive family law issue?

First, while you do have rights worth protecting in a relocation case, you must first distinguish whether yours is truly a relocation case according to Florida statutes. The state’s family law says that if a parent wants to move your child 50 or more miles away, the non-custodial parent can challenge the change, as the move could seriously impact the well-being of the child and his relationship with the non-custodial parent. The move must also last at least 60 days to qualify as a legal child relocation matter.

If you establish that the above details apply to your situation and you are worried, you have rights you can fight for in court. We will continue this discussion in a future post and delve into the specifics of the family law process that could protect your relationship with your child.

DIVORCE STUDY SUGGESTS WHAT LEADS TO BEST PARENT/CHILD BOND

“How are we going to make sure the kids are okay?” This is a common and admirable question that many parents going through a divorce ask desperately. The decision to get a divorce at its base level is to end a marriage. For those with kids, it is also a decision to change their lives.

Changing the kids’ lives is unavoidable in a divorce. The long-term, emotional impact of the family change can depend on the living arrangement among parents and their kids after divorce. A new study claims to see a trend in terms of what fosters the healthiest parent/child relationships.

The study is likely most valuable for divorcing parents of young children. Why? Because according to the research of now college-age students whose parents separated or divorced when they were younger, those who had equal overnight time with both mom and dad as toddlers were most likely to have the healthiest relationships with both parents currently.

Specifically, the study found an important age to be 2. Even if the mom and dad aren’t necessarily friendly, a 2-year-old having overnights with both parents equally is good for that child and his or her bond with both parents.

This study and others like it that argue for equal parenting arrangements have most impacted consideration regarding fathers’ time with their kids after divorce. Tradition has resulted in moms having primary physical custody of the kids. Recent studies into children and family relationships suggest that tradition may not have been in the best interests of kids in a world where we know how important a father-child relationship is.

Studies like this provide general conclusions. Experienced family law attorneys understand that every case and family are different. What is good for one child in one family’s divorce might be harmful to the next child in another family’s case. You should talk honestly with your trusted lawyer about what will be best for your family.

Amid divorce, don’t forget possible medical impact on kids

We understand it is the last thing you want to believe is possible, that your child would be negatively impacted by divorce. The reality is that ending a marriage can be an emotional and stressful experience on the adults involved. Therefore, it is no shock that the kids would experience some hardship as a result of the family change.

A recent report gets more specific than merely suggesting that parents try to help their kids through a divorce. In certain situations, parents are the source of stress and they are not equipped with the knowledge that might be needed to address their kids’ hardships.

Some couples divorce while maintaining a friendly and healthy relationship. In these often uncontested and amicable divorces, kids might not endure as much stress due to their parents’ behaviors. When there is a significant level of hostility and disagreements between parents, however, kids are at-risk of experiencing medical or mental health setbacks.

According to the study published in Pediatrics, divorce can lead to some of the following medical issues among children:

  • Potty training setbacks among younger children
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Stress-induced illnesses (stomach ache, headache, etc.)

If you are getting divorced and have kids, we have no doubt that they are your priority. While your divorce lawyer will fight for the future you want for you and your kids, this report suggests it may also be important for you to rely on the help of a trusted pediatrician.

Your health care provider can better assess a situation by knowing what’s happening with the family and by also knowing both parents. They can give advice regarding your child’s possible response to the divorce and refer you to more specialized help if necessary, such as a psychologist.

Choosing divorce is choosing a life change that will most definitely impact more than just you and your ex. While this can change your kids, with the adequate focus and support, your kids can be more than okay in the long-term lens of life.

Why parenting schedules are so complex for professional athletes

Ask most professional athletes what they find most challenging about their job and they will likely say it’s the time away from their families. It’s not difficult to see why, either. Professional teams like the Rays, Buccaneers and Lightning here in Tampa often have rigorous game schedules that may keep them home for a few days then have them away for a week or more at a time. It’s understandable that this time away can put a strain on one’s family.

But daunting travel schedules aren’t just a challenge for happily married professional athletes. Travel schedules can also create major problems for divorced athletes who have children from a previous marriage or relationship. For these athletes, missing their children is only part of the equation. Balancing work and a parenting plan is the other major piece.

Understanding parenting-time schedules

Florida law, like so many other states, requires separating parents to enter into a time-sharing agreement that designates everything from how each parent will share responsibility of daily tasks for the child, how much time the child will have with each parent, when such times will take place and who will be responsible for decisions concerning health care, schooling and other matters.

Because most divorcing parents have relatively predictable schedules, drafting a parenting plan may not be a difficult process for most. Unfortunately for professional athletes, the same is not true.

A professional athlete’s complex work schedule, demanding training time and ever-changing travel schedule necessitates the need for a flexible parenting plan. In order to achieve such a customized plan, athletes often need to turn to someone more knowledgeable in the law, such as a family law attorney, who is better able to resolve matters amicably and in the best interests of all parties involved.

When back to school could mean back to court

It’s that time of year that many parents anticipate with a bit of relief. Children are already back to school or are heading there shortly, depending on your district. Of course, that means many changes for the family’s schedules.

Parents might have a little more quiet time during the day, and children get busier with school friends and activities. This also means that your children’s schedules become less predictable and sometimes harder to work around when it comes to sharing custody.

A warning about verbal modifications

Once school is back in session, sticking to a parenting plan can be difficult for the most organized parent. Add in possible residual bad feelings towards your ex-spouse, and things can go downhill very quickly even with the best intentions. Often times, when things become hectic, one of the parents responsible for the children will attempt to make verbal modifications to the terms of the parenting plan.

While this may seem like common sense on the surface, you need to take care. Even if, at first, you both agree to verbal changes, if your ex-spouse changes his or her mind, you can find yourself facing contempt of court charges for failing to follow the parenting plan.

Florida Statute 61.13(4)(d) spells this out clearly and states, “A person who violates this subsection may be punished by contempt of court or other remedies as the court deems appropriate.” So, if you have been making verbal changes to your parenting plan, you may want to think again.

Recourse is available to you when the other spouse does not comply

On the other hand, if your spouse is the one making verbal or unannounced and unanticipated changes, then you need to know what remedies are available to you.

Florida Statute 61.13(4)(c) provides legal support for the parent who did not receive scheduled visitation and recourse for the parent that attempted to change the terms of the parental plan verbally.

If you were denied time with your children, the court may order additional time with your children to make up for the missed scheduled time. In addition, the parent that changed the schedule may have to pay any court costs or attorney fees you incurred.

In more extreme cases, it is possible that the court could order the offending parent to perform community service. The offending parent could also be required to go to a parenting course approved by the court, and the non-offending parent would have an opportunity to modify the parenting plan as long as the modification is deemed in the best interests of the child. Finally, the offending parent can face contempt of court charges for the verbal changes to the schedule.

Don’t rely on verbal changes; rely on your lawyer’s help

While it may seem harmless to make a verbal change in your parenting plan, it can have serious outcomes if the other parent is quick to go to court or if your relationship with your ex is less than friendly. If in doubt as to what you can and cannot change or if you should go to court over a change that has been made to the schedule, it’s best to contact a professional.

Yes, you can you make FaceTime part of your parenting plan

Ending a relationship is always hard, but when children are involved things can become even more complicated. Parents who are required to travel a significant amount of time for work may find it difficult to schedule enough quality time with their children, particularly once the marriage or relationship has dissolved.

Fortunately, modern technology has made it easier than ever to communicate electronically through Skype, FaceTime and other applications. Did you know that the right to maintain electronic communication can be written into your parenting plan in Florida, ensuring communication between yourself and your children when you travel?

ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATION INTENDED TO SUPPLEMENT FACE-TO-FACE CONTACT

As the court reviews each case involving minor children, the general premise that maintaining frequent contact with both parents is in the best interest of the children is assumed, provided no danger exists for anyone involved and/or there are no other circumstances that the court deems as reason to restrict contact.

That being said, the court will encourage face-to-face contact between children and both parents as much as possible. Electronic communication, either via telephone and/or through a computer, is intended to supplement physical time together, particularly for parents that are away for work a significant portion of the time or live a considerable distance from the children.

A JUDGE CAN ORDER ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATION

In situations where parents disagree or cannot work together, a judge may decide to set aside specific time for electronic communication between the children and one or both parents. Either parent may also specifically request that time for electronic communication be included in the parenting plan in order to protect their right to share in parenting a child.

For parents that are required to travel for work or other purposes and must be away a significant amount of time, the legal right to electronic communication can become an important aspect of maintaining the parent/child bond so important to the healthy development of children.

COSTS OF ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATION AND EFFECTS ON CHILD SUPPORT

In cases where there is an additional cost to maintain electronic communication between a parent and children, the court will evaluate the financial circumstances of each parent and may distribute the costs appropriately.

Regardless of how much electronic communication time the court approves for the final custodial arrangement, this time is not considered when calculating the total time spent with each parent for the purposes of determining child support payments.

PROFESSIONAL ASSISTANCE PROTECTS YOUR RIGHTS

Creating a fair and healthy parenting plan that provides your children access to both parents can be challenging while in the heat of a divorce settlement or a separation. Working with a professional who understands family law will help ensure you are receiving an equitable arrangement and minimize stress during these challenging times.

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313 South Bungalow Park Avenue
Tampa,FL33609
Phone
813-374-2000
Fax
813-374-2031