Month: December 2012

Timesharing in the Digital Age: The Good and Bad

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Timesharing/Visitation on Thursday, December 20, 2012.

Child custody timesharing and visitation problems can be very stressful . . . even when parents get along well. No matter how well ex-spouses and parents cooperate with each other, there’s a good chance of angry phone calls, tearful exchanges, and even knock down drag out shouting matches. That’s because the strong emotions are still there. Often these arguments are played out in front of the children.

Technology can be a great way to shield children from parents fighting, ease the pressure of face-to-face communication between parents, and also to have more meaningful timesharing when your child is with the other parent. After all, we live in a world where we have video telephones, and wouldn’t you rather see your children when they are away rather than just hear them?

The New York Times recently reported on the growing trend of relying on text, email, Skype, Facetime and other online and digital tools to help facilitate timesharing. These digital means of communicating have replaced the face-to-face confrontations of the past, and have helped – I think – to avoid many of the heated exchanges in front of the children which typically take place during divorces and even afterwards.

MOST divorced couples would probably prefer not to see each other. Ever again. But when you share custody of your children, you have to assume a certain amount of face-to-face time amid the endless back-and-forthing.

Think of the clashing summer vacation plans, the who-goes-to-Lucy’s-birthday-party, the “Max forgot his homework again” at Dad’s. And those devilish contretemps that can arise if Mom, for example, decides to keep her house kosher while Dad serves the children pork chops. Or if her new boyfriend is suddenly sleeping over on “her” nights to host the children.

But just as new technologies have helped to facilitate communication between ex-spouses and divorcing parents, the technology can be abused as well. As the New York Post reports, technology can also be a means for snooping on the other parent. Consider the one case up in New York:

Fordham law Professor Annemarie McAvoy was ordered to take away the boy’s iPhone because she was using the Apple device to pry into the father’s home – spending long stretches talking with their son via the smartphone’s FaceTime video-chat feature. The judge noted:

“I believe the mother has entered the father’s home and has taken up residence to a certain extent,” Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Jeffrey Sunshine said.

Technology can be a double-edged sword. Not enough, and parents are forced into facing each other. And, face-to-face confrontations can be stressful and lead to arguments. Too much technology, and parents can use electronic devices to spy on the other parent or the child or worse.

A Custody Case Goes to the U.S. Supreme Court

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Child Custody on Friday, December 14, 2012.

Many international child child custody cases are governed by the Hague Convention of 25 October 1980 on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. The Hague Convention is a treaty signed by the United States and 88 other members. It protects children from abduction across international lines by providing a procedure to quickly return them. But after the child has been returned, how does a parent appeal if they think the trial court got it wrong?

Most people don’t know this, but it is extremely rare to have your case heard by the United States Supreme Court. In family law cases, it is even rarer. However, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a case this term: the appeal of U.S. Army Sergeant Jeff Chafin, whose wife, Lynn, left the U.S. for Scotland with the couple’s daughter after a U.S. district court allowed it.

In Chafin, the question is whether the case is moot after the child has been returned to their country of habitual residence. Mrs. Chafin returned to Scotland with the child after a federal trial judge allowed it. The trial court determined Scotland was the child’s habitual residence. Sgt. Chafin appealed the order, claiming the U.S. was the habitual residence. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta dismissed his appeal as moot. The 11th Circuit happens to be the federal appeals court governing Florida.

But appellate courts are split on whether to keep jurisdiction or dismiss them as moot. For example, the 4th Circuit in Virginia has ruled that removal of the child did not make the case moot. During oral argument before the U.S. Supreme Court, Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. I think correctly observed:

It seems to me, and I may be taking the opposite position from one of my colleagues, but the — the best thing is to hold things up briefly, so that the child doesn’t go overseas and then have to be brought back, particularly if you have situations where there can be an expeditious appeal.

Avoiding Holiday Visitation Emergencies

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Timesharing/Visitation on Sunday, December 9, 2012.

For people going through child custody, or who are very recently divorced, the holidays are not always happy times. In my experience, the holiday season is a stressful one, and this year is shaping up to be no different than other years. The ringing you hear in family law firms is not sleigh bells, but telephone calls from upset clients fighting over holiday visits, winter vacation plans and gift giving. As the Washington Times reported recently:

Believe it or not, most attorneys would rather enjoy the holidays with our own families than rush into court to file emergency legal documents for stressed out clients during the season. Due to the recent court cutbacks, emergency filings are an even greater strain on everyone. This is the time to think ahead, anticipate and solve problems so you can enjoy your holiday season with minimum stress for you and your children.

Here are a few tips for parents to lower or prevent your divorce ruining your holidays or bank account:

  • Look at the timesharing schedule in your agreement or final judgment. Become familiar with specific holidays, dates and the times the kids are supposed to be with you, or the other parent.
  • Send a nicely worded confirmation email of the holiday schedule to the other parent to avoid disagreements early on.
  • Be flexible. Relatives can make special visits during the holidays, and it might be the only time of year seeing the children is possible. Fostering relationships with extended family is considered in the children’s best interest.
  • If your divorce is ongoing, spending the holidays with your soon to be ex and his or her family is way too much stress right now. After the wounds heal, think about taking the high road and sharing a holiday instead of splitting or alternating one.

A little pre-planning and communication can save you a lot of emotional and financial expense. This is a special time of the year for children. The weather has cooled, kids are on vacation, and work may have slowed for you. Try to make it the best time of year.

The End of the Starter Marriage

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Divorce on Monday, December 3, 2012.

A “starter marriage” is a marriage that ended in divorce before age 30, had no children and few assets or debts. Hollywood (California) tends to have a lot of starter marriages. The divorce rate leveled off in the 1990s – from about 50% of new marriages to about 43% currently. However, USA Today reports that a 2001 survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 20% of divorces in first marriages now occur within five years.

Some of the risk factors for having a starter marriage:

The divorces of parents.” Parents didn’t serve as role models for staying together.

Lack of guidance from parents. Aware that they themselves had divorced, parents backed off talking about what makes marriage work.

Immaturity. Rushing to the altar.

Pressure to marry We may have a “marriage culture” that promotes “matrimania.”

Fortunately, the divorce of a Starter Marriage is much simpler and less expensive. Florida has a procedure for a simplified dissolution of marriage which people in starter marriages may be able to use. This simplified procedure may be used when:

The marriage cannot be saved;

There are no minor or dependent children, and the wife is not pregnant;

You have agreed to divide the things that you both own and owe;

No one is seeking alimony;

You have filed, or waived filing, financial affidavits;

You are willing to give up your right to trial and appeal;

You and your spouse are willing to jointly sign a divorce petition;

You and your spouse are both willing to go to the final divorce hearing;

If you do not meet these criteria, you have to file a regular petition for divorce. If you have any doubts or questions, ask a Florida board certified specialist in family and marital law.