Category: Timesharing/Visitation

2021 Alimony Reform and Equal Timesharing

Two new bills which reform alimony and create an equal timesharing presumption were introduced into the Florida House and Senate after the Legislature opened this week. This is big news for all parents and spouses as the proposals make sweeping changes.

Alimony Reform

New Senate Alimony Bill

Sen. Joe Gruters and Rep. Anthony Rodriguez filed wide-ranging bills (SB 1922 and HB 1559) on Monday that would include eliminating the award of what is known as “permanent” alimony. Lawmakers have repeatedly considered alimony overhauls in recent years, with proposals dying during the 2020 session.

Former Gov. Rick Scott, who is now a U.S. senator, twice vetoed alimony proposals. In his second veto in 2016, Scott blamed an even more-contentious child custody component included in that year’s version of the bill. In 2013, Scott vetoed a different version, objecting that alimony changes could have applied retroactively.

Florida Alimony

In Florida, alimony is awarded to a spouse when there is a need for it, and the other spouse has the ability to pay for alimony.

Currently, Permanent Alimony is awarded to provide for your needs and necessities of life a they were established during your marriage, if you lack the financial ability to meet your needs and necessities of life following a divorce

As I have written before, alimony and equal timesharing reform bill have been filed for many years. Alimony can take various forms. Alimony can be awarded to “bridge the gap” between married and single life. This is usually a short-term form of alimony, and in fact, can’t exceed two years.

Alimony can be rehabilitative – to help a party in establishing the capacity for self-support by developing skills or credentials; or acquiring education, training, or work experience.

Durational Alimony is awarded when permanent periodic alimony is inappropriate. The purpose of durational alimony is to provide you with economic assistance for a time after a short or moderate term marriage, or even long marriages, if there is no ongoing need for support on a permanent basis.

Florida Time-Sharing

Florida has a public policy that each child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents separate or divorce and tries to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities, and joys, of childrearing.

However, there is no presumption for or against the father or mother of the child or for or against any specific time-sharing schedule when creating or modifying a parenting plan of the child.

Instead, Florida law considers the best interest of the child, taking into account several factors such as the capacity and disposition of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship, to honor the time-sharing schedule, and to be reasonable when changes are required. Other factors look to the geographic viability of any parenting plan, the moral fitness and mental and physical health of the parents.

Other factors focus on the child, such as the home, school, and community record of the child, or the reasonable preference of the child, if the child is of sufficient intelligence, understanding, and experience to express a preference, and the developmental stages and needs of the child.

New Senate Timesharing Bill

The new Senate bill would dramatically alter the law. Although the bill purports to make the best interest of the child the test for determining all matters relating to parenting and time-sharing, the proposed bill would make it Florida law to presume that equal time-sharing with a minor child by both parents is in the best interest of the child.

Unless otherwise agreed to by the parties, there is a presumption that equal time-sharing is in the best interests of a minor child common to both parties. This subparagraph applies to all actions filed on or after July 1, 2021.

The Senate Bill is here.

 

Happy Thanksgiving

The divorce and family law offices of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. will close at 1PM on Wednesday, November 21 for the Thanksgiving holiday. We will re-open at 9AM on Monday, November 26. We wish you and your family a safe and happy Thanksgiving holiday.

Thanksgiving timesharing

Before Thanksgiving’s arrival is the time to resolve child custody and timesharing problems so you can enjoy your turkey dinner with minimum stress for you and your children.

Below are suggestions to make your Thanksgiving visitation issues a little easier:

Alternate. Some families alternate Thanksgiving every other year. If you get the kids for Thanksgiving this year, next year will be the other parent’s turn. Having a regular plan to fall back on can eliminate the potential for what is fair.

Be flexible. An easy Thanksgiving schedule for everyone may require some changes from the normal visitation schedule.

Be respectful. You may not want to be friends anymore, but you need to figure out how to communicate with your ex without all the emotional baggage.

Don’t mix issues. Do not bring up unrelated issues which could make a problem free Thanksgiving dinner impossible. Set aside your differences until after the holiday season.

Pick your battles. Thanksgiving may be more important to you than Easter is to your ex-spouse. Don’t fight just for the sake of fighting.

Protect the children. Your children’s memories of Thanksgiving should be about great food and family fun. They should not be forced to witness you and another parent arguing.

Plan. Start talking about the holiday visitation schedule sooner rather than later, the longer you wait the harder it can be.

Thanksgiving can be stressful. But the weather has cooled and the kids are on vacation. Try to make the holidays the best time of year.

 

Thanksgiving Timesharing Tips

E-Online is reporting about Brand & Angelina’s Thanksgiving timesharing/visitation issues. With the holiday a few days away, now is the time to resolve timesharing problems so you can enjoy your turkey with minimum stress for you and your children.

I’ve written about problems and solutions to holiday timesharing/visitation issues before. Here are some good suggestions to make your Thanksgiving visitation battles a little easier:

Alternate. Some families alternate Thanksgiving every other year. If you get the kids for Thanksgiving this year, next year will be the other parent’s turn. Having a regular plan to fall back on can eliminate the potential for what is fair.

Be flexible. An easy Thanksgiving schedule for everyone may require some changes from the normal visitation schedule.

Be respectful. You may not want to be friends anymore, but you need to figure out how to communicate with your ex without all the emotional baggage.

Don’t mix issues. Do not bring up unrelated issues which could make a problem free Thanksgiving dinner impossible. Set aside your differences until after the holiday season.

Pick your battles. Thanksgiving may be more important to you than Easter is to your ex spouse. Don’t fight just for the sake of fighting.

Protect the children. Your children’s memories of Thanksgiving should be about great food and family fun. They should not be forced to witness you and another parent arguing.

Plan. Start talking about the holiday visitation schedule sooner rather than later, the longer you wait the harder it can be.

Thanksgiving can be stressful. But the weather has cooled, kids are on vacation, and work may have slowed too. Try to make it the best time of year.

The E-Online article is here.

Timesharing Thrills: Kids on a Plane

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Timesharing/Visitation on Monday, June 27, 2016.

When parents live in different states, summer timesharing can mean airplane flights to see mom or dad. Are there any concerns about putting your kids on a plane?

The Washington Post recently reported on the arrests this month of two men on charges of groping young girls on planes. This always raises questions about timesharing long distance for the summer and other holidays.

I’ve written about timesharing issues before. Experts say that before putting children on a plane alone, parents should teach them to immediately get help if in trouble, but flight attendants aren’t babysitters.

There are no federal regulations about putting children on planes. Airlines set their own rules for minors flying alone. Most limit the youngest kids to nonstop flights to avoid the added confusion and risk of connecting to another plane. Some limit the number of solo children on any one flight.

Most U.S. airlines offer to take unaccompanied children as young as 5 for an extra fee of up to $300 per round trip. The carriers promise to help kids get on and off the plane.

Flight attendants know when there is an unaccompanied minor on board, but airlines don’t add an extra attendant to watch children.

Last week, 26-year-old Chad Cameron Camp of Oregon was arrested and charged with abusive sexual contact after an American Airlines flight from Dallas to Portland.

According to an FBI agent’s statement, Camp sat next to a 13-year-old girl even though there were empty seats nearby including the aisle seat in the same row. He declined a flight attendant’s offer to move.

When a flight attendant returned later to serve snacks to passengers, she saw Camp’s hand on the girl’s crotch, according to the arrest complaint. The girl was crying.

Last summer, an 11-year-old boy was lost at the airport in Newark, New Jersey, for about 30 minutes until his grandfather found him. United said that a flight attendant had asked the boy to stay on the plane after it landed and didn’t notice when he left with other passengers.

Experts offer tips for parents who book children for solo travel:

– Children should sit in the aisle seat near the front of the plane to be more visible.

– Talk to your kids about what to do when somebody does anything that makes them uncomfortable.

– Book a nonstop if available.

– Pick flights early in the day to reduce the risk of being stranded overnight.

– When you take your child to the gate, ask who will accompany them on and off the plane and whether another passenger will sit next to them.

Florida Alimony & Timesharing Reform Update

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Timesharing/Visitation on Thursday, March 31, 2016.

It’s a nail biter. The Legislature’s alimony and timesharing reform bill has not been sent to the Governor yet. Once the Governor receives it, he will have 15 days to veto it.

I’ve been following Florida’s alimony and timesharing reform movement for a while. The Florida Bar Family Law Section has been lobbying the Governor and his staff, and trying to get as much press as possible, highlighting the problems with a premise of a 50/50 timesharing.

As USA Today reports, the legislation could have major impacts positive and negative on alimony, child-support payments and time-sharing of children.

The proposal sets out a formula for judges to use when deciding alimony payments, and is without a retroactivity provision. The retroactivity provision in the last bill moved the governor to veto the alimony reform bill in 2013.

The bill, which would take effect October 1st, would set guidelines for judges to set alimony based on the duration of marriages and the incomes of the parties. If a judge deviates from the guidelines they would have to explain why in writing.

The bill replaces permanent alimony with new formulas based on the length of the marriage and the spouses’ incomes. Those formulas help set the amount and duration of the payments.

It also advises judges to implement equal time-sharing of children between parents. The new provision to timesharing states:

In establishing a parenting plan and time-sharing schedule, the court shall begin with the premise that a minor child should spend approximately equal amounts of time with each parent. Using this premise as a starting point, the court shall formulate a parenting plan and time-sharing schedule taking into account the best interest of the child after considering all of the relevant factors in subsection (3). It is the public policy of this state that each minor child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents separate or the marriage of the parties is dissolved and to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities, and joys, of childrearing. There is no presumption for or against the father or mother of the child or for or against any specific time-sharing schedule when creating or modifying the parenting plan of the child.

The USA Today article is here.

Can You Force a Parent to Timeshare?

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Timesharing/Visitation on Monday, March 7, 2016.

It may seem like an off-topic post when there’s a timesharing bill to make equal timesharing law. But what about the other extreme, the parent who refuses to visit at all, can you force it?

Briefly, no. However, Florida Statutes do incentivize, motivate and encourage timesharing. For example, when a parent fails to regularly exercise time-sharing, the amount of child support can be adjusted as if it was a substantial change of circumstances.

Additionally, the modification of child pursuant is retroactive to the date the non-timesharing parent stopped regularly exercising the time-sharing schedule.

Another incentive for timesharing is to craft the agreement in such a way that if a timesharing parent misses their scheduled visit, they pay for the costs associated with having to cover timesharing. For instance, if you have to hire a babysitter for that time, that should be covered in your agreement.

I’ve discussed timesharing recently. Florida has been debating several bills in the legislature that would make equal timesharing the premise for all timesharing plans.

In fact, the Florida alimony reform bill just passed the Senate late last Friday, in a 24-14 vote. The bill is joined by a sister bill in the House, which was added to Special Order Calendar for today.

The bills, which would take effect October 1, 2016 would not only set calculation guidelines for judges to set alimony, but would make equal timesharing the start of court-ordered parenting plans.

Lost in these debates over equal timesharing is the very real problem of parents who do not timesharing with their children at all. We sometimes forget in the battle for equal timesharing that timesharing has to be forced in many instances.

However, forcing a parent to timeshare is a difficult topic. As a policy, we want both parents to timesharing with children. Timesharing is good for the kids, and allows the other parent a breather.

Equal Timesharing Law Update

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Timesharing/Visitation on Thursday, March 3, 2016.

Eight more days left in this legislative session, and the new alimony/equal timesharing bill is scheduled for a 3rd reading. But, some last minute changes to the language have been added.

I’ve been following the updates to Florida’s alimony and timesharing laws weekly while the legislature is in session. The alimony and timesharing bill has opposition in the House, which is why the Senate is trying to soften the language.

The amended version states:

In establishing a parenting plan and time-sharing schedule, the court shall begin with the premise that a minor child should spend approximately equal amounts of time with each parent. Using this premise as a starting point, the court shall formulate a parenting plan and time-sharing schedule taking into account the best interest of the child after considering all of the relevant factors in subsection (3)

The former version of the new bill stated:

Absent good cause, it is the public policy of this state that the best interest of each minor child is served by a time-sharing schedule that provides for substantially equal time-sharing with both parents.

A lot of people are opposing the legislation. They insist the proposed changes will hurt women and children and that the legislation could reopen already settled divorce cases, dragging people back into court.

The Family Law Section of the Florida Bar supports the alimony changes, arguing that it will bring consistency to cases where awards can vary widely from judge-to-judge. But the Section has argued in favor of dealing with custody issues separately.

The last go-around, Governor Rick Scott vetoed a 2013 bill that would have applied to divorces already granted. That retroactivity was later removed, but alimony legislation died in the acrimonious 2015 session.

After this past Tuesday’s vote, the bill is ready for a full Senate vote. Meanwhile, the House alimony legislation (HB 455) steers clear of child custody issues but matches the Senate on a range of other changes.

For example, the House alimony proposal gives judges guidelines and a formula for determining the amount and duration of alimony, along with conditions where modifying an award can be made.

It eliminates many of types of alimony that are familiar to couples. Bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative and durational would be scrapped, along with permanent alimony. The bill also allows alimony payers to seek payment modifications if their divorced spouses get 10% increases in income.

It is an interesting time for family law in Florida. This is the eighth week of 2016 Legislative Session, and there are only 8 Days until the End of Session.

The Palm Beach Post article is here.

Florida Equal Timesharing Law: An Update

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Timesharing/Visitation on Thursday, February 25, 2016.

A new Senate Bill revises the law on parental timesharing with minor children by making equal timesharing a presumption. This week it cleared the Senate in a 23-15 vote.

Opening day of 2016 Florida legislative session.
Opening day of 2016 Florida legislative session.

I’ve written about Florida’s attempts to make equal timesharing of children mandatory in the past. The new bill creates a rebuttable presumption that approximately equal timesharing with a minor child by both parents is in the best interest of the child.

Under the bill, you may overcome the presumption by providing evidence based on factors that affect the welfare and interests of the child, and the circumstance of the family.

Current Florida law provides a list of factors for the court to consider in establishing or modifying a time-sharing schedule, based on the best interests of the child.

In addition to the factors presently provided in law, SB 250 adds the following:

– The amount of timesharing requested by each parent; and

– The frequency that a parent would likely leave the child in the care of a nonrelative on evenings and weekends when the other parent would be available and willing to provide care.

But the bill may be headed into trouble in the Florida House of Representatives. House leaders are pushing an alimony-reform bill that does not have the same equal time-sharing provision.

House Rules Chairman Ritch Workman, R-Melbourne, said the House is prepared to pass an alimony bill, but is not considering other issues that have “weighed down” past reform efforts.

“We are concentrating on alimony reform,” Workman said. “Anything to do with not alimony is not germane in the House.”

The bill’s sponsor has said the 50-50 child-sharing presumption would create “greater predictability and reliability” in custody cases, replacing the current and vaguer policy of children having “frequent and continuing contact with both parents.”

However, no state has required that courts order equal time-sharing or joint custody of minor children. The presumption creates a uniform rule where the flexibility of ‘the best interest of the child’ may be needed. It requires courts to focus on the quantity of time instead of quality of time, and changes the focus to what is best for the parents instead of what’s in the child’s best interest.

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune article is here.

Thanksgiving Timesharing Tips

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Timesharing/Visitation on Wednesday, November 25, 2015.

Thanksgiving is a few days away. Before Thanksgiving arrives is the time to resolve timesharing/visitation problems so you can enjoy your turkey dinner with minimum stress for you and your children.

I’ve written about problems and solutions to holiday timesharing before. Here are some good suggestions to make your Thanksgiving visitation battles a little easier:

Alternate. Some families alternate Thanksgiving every other year. If you get the kids for Thanksgiving this year, next year will be the other parent’s turn. Having a regular plan to fall back on can eliminate the potential for what is fair.

Be flexible. An easy Thanksgiving schedule for everyone may require some changes from the normal visitation schedule.

Be respectful. You may not want to be friends anymore, but you need to figure out how to communicate with your ex without all the emotional baggage.

Don’t mix issues. Do not bring up unrelated issues which could make a problem free Thanksgiving dinner impossible. Set aside your differences until after the holiday season.

Pick your battles. Thanksgiving may be more important to you than Easter is to your ex spouse. Don’t fight just for the sake of fighting.

Protect the children. Your children’s memories of Thanksgiving should be about great food and family fun. They should not be forced to witness you and another parent arguing.

Plan. Start talking about the holiday visitation schedule sooner rather than later, the longer you wait the harder it can be.

Thanksgiving can be stressful. But the weather has cooled, kids are on vacation, and work may have slowed too. Try to make it the best time of year.

Denying Visitation: Is Jailing Kids the Answer?

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Timesharing/Visitation on Sunday, November 15, 2015.

Three children, estranged from their father, refused a court order to timeshare with him. The judge sent them to juvenile detention for the summer. Did it work?

As the Detroit Free Press reports, the judge was abrupt:

You both are going to live in Children’s Village. Your mother is not allowed to visit, no one on your mom’s side is allowed to visit. Only your father and therapist . . .

When you are ready to have lunch with your dad, to have dinner with your dad, to be normal human beings, I will review this when your dad tells me you are ready. Otherwise, you are living in Children’s Village til you graduate from high school.

That’s the order of the court.

Good bye.

The children had refused to speak to their father, they did not show up for planned visitations, would bow their heads and refuse to look at him during supervised visits. Their mother failed to bring them for visitation.

Judge Gorcyca, who blamed the mother for poisoning the children’s attitude toward their father, ordered the children be sent to juvenile detention for defying her court orders – while in court – that they go to lunch with their father.

I’ve written before about parental alienation. Parental alienation involves one parent “programming” a child to denigrate the other parent to undermine and interfere with the child’s relationship with the targeted parent.

In the Detroit case, the children – ranging in age from 9 to 15 – were held in contempt of court for disobeying the judge’s order to “have a healthy relationship with your father.”

These are not unsophisticated parents. The father is an internationally prominent traffic safety researcher and GM engineer. The mother is a pediatric eye doctor, glaucoma researcher, and an assistant professor of ophthalmology at the University of Michigan.

In sentencing the children to jail for refusing to follow her orders to have a relationship with their father, the court took severe action.

But did it work?

According to Detroit area newspapers, the three children went to juvenile detention, and a court-ordered, five day intensive therapy treatment designed to treat parental alienation. They are now residing with their father, his second wife, and their young half-brother.

The Father is asking the judge to prohibit the children’s mother from contacting them, or appearing at their schools, for the next 90 days, part of the protocol in reuniting children with an estranged parent.

The Detroit Free Press article is here.