Month: January 2024

Speaking on Interstate and International Custody

Honored to be speaking on interstate and international child custody issues at the prestigious Marital & Family Law Review Course in Orlando from January 26th to January 27th. I will be discussing federal and state statutes relating to child custody and family support, in addition to the Hague Convention on international child abductions. The event is co-sponsored by the Florida Bar Family Law Section and the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.

Speaking International Child Custody

Interstate Custody

Parents move from state to state for various reasons. It is a subject matter I have written and spoken about many times. Whether children are moved by parents wrongfully or not, moving your children creates interstate custody and support and problems.

The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, and The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, can be critical laws to know in those cases.

International Child Abductions

What happens if your children are wrongfully abducted or retained overseas? If that happens, you must become familiar with the Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, also known as The Hague Convention. This international treaty exists to protect children from international abductions by requiring the prompt return to their habitual residence.

The Hague Convention applies only in jurisdictions that have signed the convention, and its reach is limited to children ages 16 and under. Essentially, The Hague Convention helps families more quickly revert back to the “status quo” child custody arrangement before an unlawful child abduction.

If your children are wrongfully taken out of the country or wrongfully retained after the time for returning them passed, the Hague Convention can help you get them back.

Interstate Family Support

The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act is one of the uniform acts drafted by the Uniform Law Commission. First developed in 1992, the UIFSA resolves interstate jurisdictional disputes about which states can properly establish and modify child support and spousal support orders.

The UIFSA also controls the issue of enforcement of family support obligations within the United States. In 1996, Congress passed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, which required all U.S. states adopt UIFSA, or face loss of federal funding for child support enforcement. Every U.S. state has adopted some version of UIFSA to resolve interstate disputes about support.

Certification Review Course

It is a privilege to be invited to speak on interstate custody and international child abductions at the annual Family Law Board Certification Review Seminar again. The annual seminar is the largest and most prestigious advanced family law course in the state. Last year’s audience included over 1,600 attorneys and judges from around the state.

The review course is co-presented by the Family Law Section of The Florida Bar, and the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.

Registration information is available here.

Your OnlyFans Account Could Cost You Child Custody

Family lawyers are concerned with our clients’ online activities. That’s because it is not only your fans looking at your social media and other accounts. If your Ex discovers you are selling sexually explicit material of yourself on OnlyFans it could cost you child custody as one woman in Philadelphia found out.

Onlyfans child custody

City of Brotherly Love?

The Father and Mother were married for less than two years and had separated before their Child was born.  Since 2014 the couple shared legal custody. The Mother had a majority of the time, and Father had alternated two or four nights per week.

In 2020, Mother filed a petition to modify custody, alleging their Child was involved in two car crashes while being driven by Father’s new wife.

At the hearing, the Father defended by complaining to the court the Mother was posting sexually explicit photographs of herself on her OnlyFans website. The Father also made a ChildLine report about the Mother’s behavior.

The trial court immediately terminated the Mother’s contact with Child and ordered a forensic interview with Child. The court held that if the forensic interview revealed the Child was not aware of Mother’s OnlyFans activity, she would be granted supervised telephone calls – but no in-person contact pending a future court order!

However, if Child was aware of the Mother’s online activities, then Mother would be denied all contact with Child. The order also required the Mother to delete her OnlyFans  account and submit to a psychological evaluation.

The Mother filed a petition for emergency hearing after Children and Youth Services showed no sign of child abuse or that Child was aware of the Mother’s OnlyFans activity. The Mother’s petition was denied, but she was given back partial physical custody of Child every other weekend from Friday to Sunday evening, with Father retaining sole legal custody.

In 2020, Mother asked to modify the order asking the court for both shared legal and physical custody. In 2023, the family court awarded shared legal and physical custody of Child. At the hearing, the judge found there was no evidence that OnlyFans activity caused Child any harm, and ruled that the court was not permitted to “judge a parent’s private adult behavior outside the presence of the child”.

The Father appealed.

Florida Child Custody and OnlyFans

I’ve written about child custody issues before. In Florida, “custody” is a concept called parental responsibility, which can be either shared between parents, or one parent  can be given sole responsibility.

In child custody cases generally, shared parental responsibility is a relationship ordered by a court in which both parents retain their full parental rights and responsibilities. Under shared parental responsibility, parents are required to confer with each other and jointly make major decisions affecting the welfare of their child.

In Florida, shared parental responsibility is the preferred relationship between parents when a marriage or a relationship ends. This year, Florida enacted a law making a rebuttable presumption that equal time-sharing of a child is in the best interests. To rebut this presumption, a party must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that equal time-sharing is not in the best interests of the child.

Determining the best interests of a child is not entirely subjective. Instead, the decision is based on an evaluation of certain factors affecting the welfare and interests of the child and the circumstances of the child’s family. Some of those factors concern the moral fitness, and the mental and physical health of the parents.

Not Only Fans

On appeal, the Father argued the family judge did not appropriately consider Mother’s “poor life choices” when granting Mother shared legal and physical custody of Child based upon her prior OnlyFans site.

The appellate court noted the OnlyFans account was deleted in 2020, she has never posted adult content on any other site, her interactions with her patrons on the site were entirely virtual and solely through her pseudonymous username, and she never created content in her home when the  Child was present.

Additionally, the child investigation revealed that Father’s child abuse report was “unfounded.” In reviewing the best interests of the child factors in Pennsylvania, the trial court found that “none of the custody factors include the morality of a parent’s judgment or values.”

The trial court then determined that Mother’s OnlyFans activities were irrelevant to the court’s custody analysis because Father failed to establish the Mother’s activities on OnlyFans caused Child any harm. The record showed the Child was not aware of Mother’s activities. The Father presented no evidence to prove otherwise, and did not present evidence showing Mother’s OnlyFans activities raised any safety concerns because the Mother participated anonymously with her location shielded.

The appellate court agreed that a parent’s morality is not an enumerated custody factor in Pennsylvania, and the Court correctly rejected consideration of a parent’s morality or sexual lifestyle when determining custody where there was no finding of an adverse impact on the child.

The opinion is here.

January is Divorce Month

Men’s Journal magazine is currently reporting that – while there may be no “good” time to divorce – many people have started to call January the “divorce month.” Why? Because January is when there is a big increase in couples filing for divorce and child custody, or just scheduling appointments to speak with divorce and family lawyers.

January Divorce Month

Happy New Year

The timing is certainly no coincidence. January follows a busy holiday season. During this time, many people make New Year’s resolutions, which may cause you to want to hit the “reset button.”

“The pressure of the Christmas period where people are being exposed to their families and in-laws, often is the catalyst for people making the decision to end their marriages.”

Beyond dealing with extended family, there are a lot of financial pressures which can also be a “huge stressor” for families around this time of year. Add in inflation and the current cost-of-living, the holiday season can be difficult.

Many people also use January as a period of reflection because they are on holiday from work, and have the time to think about what is going on in life and what they might like to change.

The cold and holidays also forces many couples in close proximity with extended family. Many people are pushed toward a ‘new year, new me’ mindset because they are spending more time with their significant others, spouses, and family than any other period throughout the year.

Florida No-Fault Divorce

The official term for divorce in Florida is “dissolution of marriage”, and you don’t need fault as a ground for divorce. Florida abolished fault as a ground for divorce.

I’ve written about no fault divorce and statistics about divorce – such as the January divorce month phenomenon – before. The no-fault concept in Florida means you no longer have to prove a reason for the divorce, like your husband’s alleged infidelity with a congresswoman. Instead, you just need to state under oath that your marriage is “irretrievably broken.”

Before the no-fault divorce era, people who wanted to get divorce either had to reach agreement in advance with the other spouse that the marriage was over, or throw mud at each other and prove wrongdoing like adultery or abuse.

No-fault laws were 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.

New Year, New You

In a University of Washington study, researchers analyzed filings in Washington state and found that divorces consistently peaked in March and August.

Associate sociology professor Julie Brines, who co-authored the study, says that winter and summer holidays are typically seen as “culturally sacred times for families,” and that filing for divorce can be seen as inappropriate, or even taboo, during these times.

Many couples ostensibly might think that spending Christmas together or taking the family on a summer vacation might help smooth over any marital troubles.

People tend to face the holidays with rising expectations, despite what disappointments they might have had in years past. They represent periods in the year when there’s the anticipation or the opportunity for a new beginning, a new start, something different, a transition into a new period of life. It’s like an optimism cycle, in a sense.

In any case, January is here. Happy new year.

The Men’s Journal article is here.