Month: February 2017

Divorce and Privacy

How private is your information after filing for divorce? Divorce and privacy come to mind after former Florida governor Charlie Crist announced his divorce from his wife Carole.

After nine years of marriage, U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist has filed for divorce. For a career politician like Crist, divorce and privacy are important for career survival.

The former governor has taken the right tone: “I think the world of Carole. She’s an amazing person. It just didn’t work out for us,” the former governor told the Tampa Bay Times. “I wish all the best for her.”

Crist, 60, said the divorce should have no impact on his service. He and Carole, 47, own a condo in downtown St. Petersburg, and details about whether he will continue to live there have yet to be worked out.

Divorce exacts a heavy financial and emotional toll. For many people, including businessmen, politicians, celebrities and others, this means preserving your good name and legacy for future generations.

New York and several other states try to protect the privacy of litigants by granting document access only to litigants and counsel. This might create a false sense of confidence for clients though, because sometimes the other party leaks information purposefully.

I have written about the topic of divorce privacy before. It is very important to protect the privacy of parties to a divorce, and prevent identity theft, especially when Florida court rules make disclosure of sensitive financial information mandatory.

Some initial steps you can take to protect your divorce privacy include changing the passwords to your computer log-in screen, email accounts, social media sites, such as Linkedin and Facebook, and even your voicemail at work and at home. Change these passwords will help to keep your information private.

Florida recently adopted a confidentiality rule to better protect social security and bank account numbers for instance. But Florida court filings are not private. Privacy – and confidentiality of court filings – are easily overlooked issues when filing for divorce, and something you should be aware of in deciding to file.

The Miami Herald article is here.

Cheating and No-Fault Divorces

Not every state has no-fault divorce. That means you have to prove grounds, such as infidelity, and your divorce could take a decade or more. Why? Because you can waive grounds for divorce.

Mississippi is one of only two states without a true “no-fault divorce” law. If one spouse doesn’t want a divorce, he or she can often stave one off for a long time. In one reported case, it was more than a decade.

As WTSP in Tampa Bay reports, there’s an effort in the Mississippi Legislature to make some reforms to their divorce laws. But such efforts have failed in the past. A measure to create a “no-fault” divorce based on length of separation has already been watered down early in the legislative process this session.

Getting a divorce in Mississippi is difficult and expensive. Lawmakers and the religious lobby in this Bible Belt state have been reluctant to make it any easier or cheaper, mainly in efforts to uphold the institution and sanctity of marriage.

Yet, Mississippi still ranks continually near the top of states in its divorce rate — seventh highest in one recent study.

Experts say Mississippi’s antiquated divorce laws, little changed over a century, put low-income people at a disadvantage — particularly homemakers who don’t have resources to fight a lengthy court battle. They likely hurt the state’s overall economy, clog the courts and cost taxpayers.

In Mississippi, you still have to prove grounds for divorce, so a spouse who condones, or forgives marital fault can’t get a divorce unless the conduct happens again.

In a case of infidelity then, the non-cheating spouse who reconciles with the cheating spouse, may be found to have condoned the infidelity; and may have lost the grounds for divorce until it  happens again.

No-fault laws are the result of trying to change the way divorces played out in court. No fault laws have reduced the number of feuding couples who felt the need to resort to distorted facts, lies, and the need to focus the trial on who did what to whom.

I’ve written about no-fault divorce before. Florida abolished fault as grounds for filing a divorce. The only reason you need to file for divorce in Florida is that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.” But as the case of Mississippi shows, in other states, that is not always the case.

The WTSP article is here.

Yes, Grandparent Visitation Rights in Florida

It’s been about 16 years since the U.S. Supreme Court decided its big grandparent visitation rights case. On this anniversary, there’s something new to celebrate in Florida.

I’ve written about grandparent rights to visitation several times. The U.S. Supreme Court, in Troxel v. Granville, held that the Due Process Clause protects the fundamental right of parents to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of their children.

So, as long as a parent is adequately caring for his or her child, there will normally be no reason for the state to inject itself into the private realm of the family. The basic presumption in Troxel is that fit parents act in the best interests of their children.

However, the Troxel court did not hold that the Due Process Clause requires a showing of harm or potential harm to the child as a condition to granting visitation. That is a Florida law.

Instead, the U.S. Supreme Court left those decisions for the states to decide on a case-by-case basis.

It surprises many Floridians – because of the large percentage of grandparents here – but grandparent don’t have visitation rights here.

Grandparent custody and time-sharing rights do not exist in Florida without showing harm to the child; otherwise, it is deemed to violate parents’ privacy.

I spoke about a case the Florida Supreme Court was considering at my presentation at the Florida Bar/AAML’s certification review course.

In the recent case, a Mother argued a Colorado order granting the paternal grandmother visitation rights was unconstitutional because granting grandparent visitation violates Florida Public Policy.

Last week the Florida Supreme Court enforced the limited grandparent visitation rights granted in the Colorado order. Why? Because Florida courts have to enforce any custody or visitation determination by a court of another State. The concept is called Full Faith and Credit.

Last week, the Florida Supreme Court held that Full Faith and Credit applies to grandparent visitation orders from another state. So, when a grandparent claims a right to visitation of a child, based on an order from another state, the order must be enforced.

To the extent that the federal, Full Faith and Credit concept conflicts with Florida public policy, federal law controls because of the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution.

The Florida Supreme Court opinion is here.

The Frye Test: Florida’s Newest Old Law

Few people know that Florida passed a new law about expert witnesses which impacts family law. I published an article giving a little history about the new Florida statute, along with a warning that it may be unconstitutional.

I have also blogged about this problem before. The possible Constitutional problems dealt with the way the law was passed. Generally, legislation which encroaches on the Supreme Court’s power to regulate courtroom practice and procedure is unconstitutional, but the Legislature can enact substantive law.

When one branch of government encroaches on another branch, Florida traditionally applies a “strict separation of powers doctrine.” Given that the Evidence Code contains both substantive and procedural provisions, there is a question whether the Legislature violated the separation of powers doctrine.

The Florida Bar Board of Governors voted to reject the new rule, and keep the old rule announced in Frye. The Board voted 33-9 to reject Daubert, the new rule, accepting the recommendation of the Bar’s Code and Rules of Evidence Committee.

Yesterday the Florida Supreme Court weighed in on the Amendment, and declined to adopt it. While the Court did not address the constitutionality of the statute or proposed rule, it ruled that “the fact that there may be “grave concerns about the constitutionality of the amendment” has been a basis previously for the Court not adopting an amendment to the Evidence Code to the extent it is procedural.”

“Accordingly, having heard oral argument and carefully considered the Committee’s recommendation and the numerous comments both submitted to the Committee and filed with the Court, we decline to adopt the Daubert Amendment to the extent that it is procedural, due to the constitutional concerns raised, which must be left for a proper case or controversy”

The Supreme Court opinion is available here.

Shaming Your Child on Facebook

Should you use Facebook to publicly shame your child in a child custody dispute? Seems like an obvious question, but one a Louisiana appellate court recently answered.

According to the opinion of the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal, a mother complained when a trial judge failed to stop the father and his new wife from posting embarrassing photos about the minor child on social media.

The Mother sought the injunction based on an incident wherein Jason Tinsley, as a means of punishment, forced the minor child to post a picture of herself on her Instagram account holding a sign that said:


In addition, Jason Tinsley and his wife posted the same photo on their Instagram and Facebook pages, with Jason Tinsley making this photo his profile picture on his Facebook page.

The mother contended that this form of discipline was inappropriate, humiliating, and demeaning, and they should be prohibited from posting such pictures on social media accounts.

The trial court denied her request for the injunction. The appeals court affirmed the trial judge’s decision. The court found that there was no irreparable injury, loss, or damage that could result to Nicole Tinsley or the minor child.

I’ve written about child custody issues before. In Florida, all matters relating to parenting and time-sharing of each minor child of the parties is made in accordance with the best interests of the child.

While the Louisiana appellate court affirmed, it did find that the father’s use of social media – particularly his forced takeover of and publishing of content on a minor child’s social media account – was clearly improper and inappropriate.

Jason Tinsley staged an intentionally embarrassing picture of the minor child, he then posted the embarrassing picture of the minor child on his social media accounts, and he forced the minor child to post (or publish) the embarrassing picture of herself on her own social media account, all of which was for the sole purpose of punishing the child by notifying the child’s family and friends (and Jason Tinsley’s family and friends) of the child’s transgression – an apparent lie about a boy being at a public park while the child was at the same park with a friend.

The court held:

It is hard to imagine a more improper or inappropriate use of social media by a parent than to use it punitively to publicly humiliate a minor child by requiring a child to publish a photograph of herself wearing the modem day equivalent of a scarlet letter to thereby notify the public of her wrong.

A discussion and link to the decision is available here.