Tag: child custody and special needs

Trapped in a Quarantine Means a Baby Boom or Divorce Boom, and There’s More Good News about the Coronavirus

If you’re feeling trapped, you’re not alone. The forced quarantines and shelter-in-place orders mean couples are spending a lot of time together . . . +maybe too much. That could mean another baby boom, or if China is an example, divorce boom. Plus, there is more good news about the Coronavirus.

Coronavirus Divorce Baby Boom

Birth of the “Coronials”

As reported in the Chicago Tribune, Sarah Bradburn’s coronavirus shopping list consists of two very important items: condoms and toilet paper.

“We are all emotional and clinging to our spouses. But when we’re stressed, we just become closer.”

During the first few surreal days of the coronavirus scare, there were predictions far and wide of a huge number of corona babies that would be born in nine months. Maybe they’ll be described as “coronials?”

In fact, Lori Sapio, a Chicago photographer, plans to post a CV19 newborn special in April similar to her Cubs newborn special that she announced after the team won the World Series. But is it really coming? Or will the social distancing and forced time together cause more divorces than babies?

In China — where the coronavirus hit long before it arrived here — the divorce rates rose, and couples formed a line outside a divorce registration office as soon as they were out of quarantine.

The Coronavirus and Divorce

I’ve written about the coronavirus and divorce before. Forced together due to a shelter-in-place order may be the reason for your divorce, but legally you don’t need one. That’s because Florida is a no-fault divorce state.

Florida abolished fault as grounds for filing a divorce. Gone are the days when you had to prove adultery, desertion or annoying behavior in a government enforced quarantine.

The only ground you need to file for divorce in Florida is to prove your marriage is “irretrievably broken.” Additionally, the mental incapacity of one of the parties, where the party was adjudged incapacitated for the prior three year, is another avenue.

What do you do if you are trapped in quarantine with someone you want to separate from?

To avoid problems during a quarantine, you may have to force yourself to work together – however difficult that may be.

Couples who are separating or separated already, and are parents, are being forced to work as a team and talk through problems that are making forced quarantine impossible. Reassure each other that you will make it through and work together.

The key if you’re living together is to strike the right balance between having quality intimate time together, or if you’re at the brink of your relationship, giving each other some space.

Good Coronavirus News

Some good news for all of us. The U.S. Senate passed the largest economic relief bill in American history Wednesday night. By a vote of 96-0, the bill gives help to big and small businesses, health care facilities, and folks who lost their jobs due to the coronavirus.

Some key provisions:

Stimulus to the Economy: The bill will pump some $2 trillion into the economy.

Direct payout to Americans: The bill would give one-time direct payments to Americans — $1,200 per adult making up to $75,000 a year, and $2,400 to a married couple making up to $150,000, with $500 payments per child.

There is a phase-out for individuals who made more than $75,000, or married couples who filed jointly who made $150,000.

The checks will be directly deposited into bank accounts if you included direct deposit information on your tax form. If you did not, your check will be mailed to you.

Unemployment insurance help: Additional unemployment insurance benefits will be bolstered for four months by increasing the maximum unemployment benefit that a state gives to a person by $600 per week.

Funds for hospitals, equipment: The bill will provide $150 billion for hospitals treating coronavirus patients. Of the $150 billion, $100 billion will go to hospitals and $1 billion will go to the Indian Health Service. The other $49 billion will be used to increase medical equipment capacity.

Aid to state and local governments: Around $150 billion will be allocated for state and local governments to pay for the cost of fighting the virus and providing services to those who have the virus.

The Chicago Tribune article is here.

 

Child Custody and Timesharing Problems, and Good News on Coronavirus

The need to quarantine has not stopped child custody and timesharing problems from surfacing. In fact, it aggravates these problems as parents grapple with sharing custody and protecting themselves and their children. The Supreme Court of Texas recently resolved one issue, and there is even more good news about the coronavirus.

Child Custody Problems

Solving Child Custody Problems is Big in Texas

The coronavirus outbreak has caused urgent disputes among divorced and separated parents over exchanging the children during school closures. This forces attorneys to file emergency motions.

Many parents following their agreements about exchanging their children during and after spring break discovered a problem: this year school never re-started after spring break, so when do you return the children?

I have been working remotely during the coronavirus crisis, and resolving these problems daily. I have also been fielding a lot of calls from clients and potential clients asking about whether they were going to get their children back from the other parent, and whether they should exchange the children as agreed and ordered.

Many states handle things differently. Recently, the Texas Supreme Court weighed in. The Texas Supreme Court settled the issue of when to exchange when there is no start to school after spring break in an emergency order of the pandemic, ruling:

“For purposes of determining a person’s right to possession of and access to a child under a court-ordered possession schedule, the original published school schedule shall control in all instances. Possession and access shall not be affected by the school’s closure that arises from an epidemic or pandemic, including what is commonly referred to as the COVID19 pandemic.”

Justice Debra Lehrmann said the court agreed on the solution during a teleconference to relieve a source of stress during the outbreak.

Florida Child Custody Problems

I’ve been involved in resolving and have written about child custody problems in Florida before. Here are a few tips for parents to lower or prevent your divorce or separation from ruining your holidays or draining your bank account:

Look at the timesharing schedule in your agreement or final judgment. Become familiar with exchanging children on specific holidays, dates and the times the kids are supposed to be with you, or the other parent.

Make your plans in advance and send a nicely worded confirmation email of the exchange schedule to the other parent to avoid disagreements early on.

Be flexible. Fighting during a time of great stress will only make matters worse, while fostering relationships with extended family is considered in the children’s best interest.

A little pre-planning and communication can save you a lot of emotional and financial expense. This is a national emergency and our children are exposed to the stress from those around them. Don’t make things worse. With that said, there is also . . .

Good News on Coronavirus

There is always good news, even during a pandemic.

  • The IRS has announced that the April 15, 2020 deadline for filing and payment of your individual income taxes has been extended to July 15, 2020.
  • Strangely, your second quarter estimated income tax payments are still due on June 15, 2020.
  • The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) passed. The last Senate version of the bill I read had a small business loan program allowing maximum loan amounts calculated as the lesser of the product of average total monthly payments by the applicant for payroll, mortgage payments, rent payments, and payments on any other debt obligations incurred during the 1 year period before the date on which the loan is made, or $10,000,000.
  • SCIENCE Magazine released an article it published on May 30, 1919 after the Spanish Flu pandemic about lessons learned. Very interesting reading throughout.
  • A potential universal flu vaccine has passed an important set of clinical trials.
  • A patient has been declared ‘cured’ of HIV – and it’s not even the first time, with no trace of infection in his blood 30 months after undergoing a specialized type of stem cell therapy.

The Supreme Court of Texas order is here.

 

Covid-19, Child Custody, and Good News on Coronavirus

Parenting is tough enough when you’re in quarantine. But for parents who are divorced and shuttle their kids between two households as part of a child custody arrangement, deciding how to proceed with quarantines related to the coronavirus can be even more challenging.

Child custody covid-19

A Virus Among Us

“Today” recently profiled parents in Florida about how they are coping. Rachelle Dunlevy, a mom of two from Indialantic, Florida, says since her ex-husband lives nearby, they have agreed to stick with their current custody schedule, for now. Megan O’Connor, whose daughter is about to turn three, has been divorced for almost a year, and says she and her ex-husband are doing the same.

“My ex is a public health professional, so he is aware of social distancing, but also of the importance of our daughter having access to both of her parents during such a fragile time. Currently, we are both in town so we are maintaining our current schedule. We’ve decided to do that because we view ourselves as a family unit — though we are no longer together romantically, our daughter is intrinsically a part of each parent.”

But what do parents do when there’s conflict over whether or not to pause a custody arrangement during the pandemic? When it comes to making decisions about coronavirus and custody, communication is key.

The first and foremost concern should be the health of your family. It is important to communicate respectfully and be cooperative with any schedule changes, even if it results in less parenting time for you and more parenting time for the other parent.

Understand that you and your co-parent may have different views about how to approach this pandemic and neither of you may be wrong or right, so it’s important to be calm. Your child is also navigating a pandemic and a change in their everyday routine and you do not want to add to their stress and anxiety — a united front between the parents is best.

The number one priority should always be the well-being of the children and the coronavirus doesn’t care about courts and agreement.

Florida Child Custody

I’ve written about child custody issues before. In Florida, the prevailing standard for determining “custody” is a concept call shared parental responsibility, or sole parental responsibility.

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. In fact, courts are instructed to order parents to share parental responsibility of a child unless it would be detrimental to the child.

At the trial, the test applied is the best interests of the child. Determining the best interests of a child is no longer 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.

Good News About Coronavirus

As new cases of SARS CoV-2 (aka Covid-19) Coronavirus are confirmed throughout the world and millions of people are being put into quarantine, there is some good news too.

Most people with COVID-19 recover. Estimates now suggest that 99% of people infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 will recover and some people have no symptoms at all.

Children seem to be infected less often and have milder disease. According to the CDC, the vast majority of infections so far have afflicted adults. And when kids are infected, they tend to have milder disease.

The number of new cases is falling where the outbreak began. During his speech declaring the new coronavirus outbreak a pandemic, the director-general of the WHO pointed out that “China and the Republic of Korea have significantly declining epidemics.” That’s a good thing and suggests that efforts to contain the spread of this infection can be successful.

We have the internet! We can practice social distancing and preserve our professional and social connections.

This a good test run for much more serious and deadly outbreaks such as the Spanish Flu and the Ebola virus. Our response to future pandemics should improve because of what we are doing now.

The coronavirus epidemic is a global problem for those infected and those trying to avoid it. But amid all the doom and gloom, there are some positive stories, positive messages and reasons to remain hopeful.

The Today article is here.

 

Child Custody and a New College Cheating Scandal

Want to lose custody of your child? You might think a post on how to lose custody may be irrelevant. You would be wrong. As it turns out, some parents are trying to lose custody of their children on purpose, as part of the new child custody and college cheating scandal.

custody college scandal

Really Desperate Housewives

Felicity Huffman, who played Lynette Scavo on Desperate Housewives, pled guilty to fraud charges in the college exam cheating scandal, for paying $15,000 to an organization that helped her daughter cheat on the SATs.

Not unlike the Felicity Huffman fraud, this new scheme involves families giving up custody of their children to relatives or friends. Their children are then filing for financial independence, opening the door to financial aid they couldn’t get while in their parents’ custody.

The University of Illinois started investigating after high school counselors from “fairly wealthy neighborhoods” had called to inquire about low-income orientation programs they were unfamiliar.

The university dug deeper and found a pattern of students entering into a legal guardianship, though they were still supported by their parents.

The scheme bears similarity to tactics adopted by Rick Singer, the mastermind behind the nation’s largest college admissions scandal. In Singer’s scheme, rich families secured advantages normally dedicated to students in need.

For instance, Singer would instruct clients to have their children diagnosed with disabilities. As a result, they got more time to take the ACT and SAT, college admissions tests, which could translate to higher scores.

Florida Child Custody and College

It is easy to see why a parent could be tempted into giving up child custody for free college tuition. College is expensive, and is getting more expensive. The main reasons for tuition inflation include a surge in demand, a lack of state funding, a need for more faculty members and money to pay them, and ballooning student services. Some states require parents to support their children while in college.

I have written about parents having to support their children into adulthood before. In Florida, the duty to provide support for a child is based upon the child’s incapacity and the child’s need of protection and care.

A parent’s legal duty to support his child usually ends at the age of majority – 18. But a parent will still owe a duty of support to an adult child in extraordinary circumstances, such as when the child suffers severe physical or mental incapacitation.

Recently, Florida’s child support statute was changed to require all judgments awarding child support to include a provision stating that child support will terminate on the child’s 18th birthday unless the court finds otherwise, or it is otherwise agreed to.

To extend support beyond age 18, there must be a child who is dependent due to mental or physical incapacity that began prior to age 18; or the child has reached 18, is still living at home, attending high school, and reasonably expects to graduate high school before age 19.

Florida law does not follow other states in finding that college is a “necessary education” requiring child support. In Florida, a parent’s duty to pay an adult child’s college expenses is moral rather than legal.

When parents in a divorce agree to educate their child after the child reaches 18, the agreement may be enforced. However, the obligation is not viewed as child support in Florida, but a contractual duty arising from the marital settlement agreement.

Not a Full House

Facing a maximum of 40 years in prison, actress Lori Loughlin of Full House, is accused of paying $500,000 to have her daughters billed as recruits for the University of Southern California crew team, even though neither of them participates in the sport.

Since the Loughlin fraud was exposed, more people are taking notice. Recently, the University of Illinois identified three students who had used guardianship to gain extra financial aid and potentially 11 students in the coming academic year.

It’s still unclear how widespread the pattern might be, and ProPublica reported it had found more than 40 similar cases where students may have benefited from the model.

While the practice might be legal, it will likely be seen by many as rich families taking advantage of resources clearly aimed at the less well-off. It also comes at a time when college costs continue to rise and more students take out loans, both private and public, to finance their education.

It’s also unclear how much money these students might have been able to secure. The maximum yearly amount for a federal Pell Grant is roughly $6,200, which students need not pay back.

There is no shortage of targets. The University of Illinois offers a program that promises free tuition for four years to in-state families earning $61,000 or less. There is also the Illinois Promise, which covers tuition, fees, room and board, and other costs.

The Pro Publica article is here.

 

An Erie Child Custody and Free Speech Case

A Pennsylvania family court gave a mother sole custody of her 14 and 11-year old daughters, but prohibited her from discussing their Father’s inappropriate statements which he made to the mother’s 17-year old stepdaughter. This post examines if a court in a child custody case can prohibit free speech.

free speech custody

Talking Parents

A Mother and Father were married but separated. The parties lived together with the children from their marriage and with Mother’s daughter from a previous relationship. In January 2017, the Father made statements of a sexual nature to the 17-year old daughter.

The exact substance of Father’s statements are unknown, but the Mother testified that he told her he “had a crush on her,” that he “wanted to date her,” and that he and Mother “hadn’t had sex for so many months.” The father’s statements caused the parties’ separation.

The Mother testified that she told her daughter “some . . . but not all” of Father’s statements to her eldest daughter because the daughter was becoming agitated and withdrawn and “was really needing some answers.”

The Mother requested that the daughter not have any further contact with Father unless it occurs in a “controlled environment. Conversely, she testified the younger daughter remains oblivious to Father’s statements and wants to continue spending time with him.

The Father testified that he had made an effort to cooperate with Mother’s requests and convince her that he does not pose a threat to the Children. He reported that he attended counseling with his pastor for the last fifteen months, but that he would be willing to seek treatment from a new counselor as well.

Florida Free Speech and Child Custody

I’ve written about free speech in family cases before. Family courts have a lot of power to protect children in custody cases. Florida courts have to balance a parent’s right of free expression against the state’s parens patriae interest in assuring the well-being of minor children.

In Florida, a judge prohibited a parent from speaking Spanish to a child in one case. A mother went from primary caregiver to only supervised visits – under the nose of a time-sharing supervisor. The trial judge also allowed her daily telephone calls with her daughter, supervised by the Father.

The Mother was Venezuelan, and because the Father did not speak Spanish, the court ordered: “Under no circumstances shall the Mother speak Spanish to the child.”

The judge was concerned about the Mother’s comments, after the Mother “whisked” the child away from the time-sharing supervisor in an earlier incident and had a “private” conversation with her in a public bathroom. She was also bipolar and convicted of two crimes.

An appellate court reversed the restriction. Ordering a parent not to speak Spanish violates the freedom of speech and right to privacy. Florida law tries to balance the burden placed on the right of free expression essential to the furtherance of the state’s interests in promoting the best interests of children.

In other words, in that balancing act, the best interests of children can be a compelling state interest justifying a restraint of a parent’s right of free speech.

An Erie Case

On October 25, 2018, the family judge in Erie, Pennsylvania ordered that Father would exercise unsupervised partial physical custody of the youngest daughter and that Mother:

“shall not relay, or cause to have relayed, any information to the daughter regarding the facts and circumstances of Father’s inappropriate communications with her half-sister absent Father’s consent or further order of court.”

The Mother argued that the provision in the court’s order prohibiting her from informing her daughter of Father’s statements was improper, because it violated her first Amendment rights, prevented her from protecting the child from abuse, and made her responsible should the sister inform the daughter of Father’s statements.

The Mother asserts that a court may restrict a parent’s speech only when it is causing or will cause harm to a child’s welfare. She maintains that informing her daughter of Father’s statements may actually protect her from future abuse.

The appellate court ruled that the trial court’s determination that it would be in the child’s best interest to prohibit Mother from informing her of Father’s statements was not supported in the record.

While the court found that learning of Father’s statements would be harmful to the child, the court based this conclusion solely on the fact that the older sister does not want to see Father and attends counseling.

The court heard no testimony from the child’s counselor, or from any other individual qualified to give an opinion on if, when, or how, the child should learn of these statements, or what harm she might experience as a result. Therefore, the court’s conclusion in this regard was speculative.

The appellate opinion is here.

 

Child Custody and Technology

As the Wall Street Journal reports, divorce brings out the worst in parents already bickering with each other. Even an argument about where a kid is dropped off can end up in court. New high-tech tools to ease this stress is where child custody and technology meet.

child custody and technology

There’s an App for that!

Created by divorced parents, divorce and family law attorneys and judges who saw a need to create a better way for families to communicate, these new apps link child custody and technology, and allow parents to document their compliance with the parenting plan.

Some have a check-in feature so parents can prove that they picked up or dropped off their children when and where they were supposed to. Others use artificial intelligence to flag messages written in an aggressive tone, reminding parents to keep their communications civil.

Most have calendars that help both parents keep track of their children’s activities and appointments—no matter whose day it is.

Florida Child Custody

I’ve written on Florida’s child custody issues before. In Florida, a Parenting Plan is required in all cases involving time-sharing with minor children, even when timesharing is not in dispute.

A “Parenting plan” is a document created by Florida statute to govern the relationship between parents relating to all of the decisions that need to be made about their children.

Parenting plans must contain a time-sharing schedule for the parents and kids. But there are more issues concerning minor children besides who they spend time with. For example, issue about a child’s education, health care, and physical, social, and emotional well-being are also included in the plan.

If the parties cannot agree to a Parenting Plan, a plan will be established by the court. If the plan is approved by the court, it must, at a minimum, describe in adequate detail the methods and technologies to communicate with the child.

Because of Florida’s express embrace of technology in parenting plans, it is no surprise these child custody and technology apps for parents are increasingly included. So, what are they?

Talking Parents

Candis Lewis, a mother of three who lives on a military said the Talking Parents app she was ordered to use eliminated the stress of arguing over whether a text message or email was received. All messages in the app are time-stamped and show exactly when the other parent read them.

Cozi

When they were married, Amy and Jason Cooper began using a family-management app called Cozi, which features a calendar and shopping lists. They stuck with it after they began divorce proceedings, finding it aided their ability to manage their two children.

coParenter

Yaquiline Zarate has been using the coParenter app to improve communication with the father of her son. The app allows them to seek real-time professional mediation when parenting conflicts arise.

The app, co-created by a retired judge, allows parents to text family-law professionals to mediate conflicts, rather than go to court. Earlier this year, when it was her ex-boyfriend’s night to take their son out for a visit, she urged him to let the boy stay home with her because he was sick and it was cold. The father didn’t agree, she said, so he tapped the “get help” button in the app. A mediator convinced him that it was in the boy’s best interest to stay put that night.

High Tech Problems & Solutions

Some parents like the fact that they can silo all communications with their ex. It’s better than having a message pop up in their regular inbox when they’re unprepared to deal with it.

When you get an email from the other side, you want to throw up. Whenever I get an email from my ex I assume the worst and this way I can leave it in the app and look at it when I’m ready. If it comes to my inbox, it can ruin my day.

The apps aren’t a panacea. Stephen admits he doesn’t always respond to the messages his ex sends him in the app. “The court order says we have to use OurFamilyWizard to communicate, but it doesn’t say we have to communicate.”

Whatever the drawbacks, there’s evidence that these apps connecting child custody and technology help the people who need it most: the children themselves.

The Wall Street Journal article is here.

 

Hollaback Girls Mediate Custody

Singer, Gwen Stefani and her ex-husband, Bush lead singer Gavin Rossdale, are trying to reduce the ‘misery’ of ‘people at war’ and mediate their child custody problems years after finalizing their divorce. But, how does a court resolve child custody disputes like this?

custody

The Chemicals Between Us

A source tells E! News the pair are “going to mediation” because of disagreements regarding their three son’s upbringing. They don’t agree on custody and the time the kids are spending with each of them.

Since Gavin recently finished his tour with Bush and will be home more often, he wants more time with their three sons. However, the source says, “Gwen believes that she provides a consistent living environment and that the kids should be with her the majority of the time.”

“They are older now and taking their school work and activities seriously. She thinks Gavin still very much lives a rock star lifestyle and it’s in the kid’s best interest to be with her.”

More importantly, the source says, “She wants to raise the kids a certain way and it’s very challenging because Gavin has different priorities.”

The Little Things of Florida Custody

I’ve written about child custody issues before. In 2008, Florida modified its custody laws to get rid of outdated and negative terminology about divorcing parents and their children to reduce animosity.

The law did that by creating new legal concepts such as “shared parental responsibility, “parenting plan”, and “time-sharing schedule.

Shared parental responsibility, is similar to joint physical and legal custody, and is a relationship 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 children.

In Florida, shared parental responsibility is the preferred relationship between parents when a marriage or a relationship ends. In fact, courts are instructed to order parents to share parental responsibility of a child unless it would be detrimental to the child. Issues relating to children’s timesharing are major decisions affecting the welfare of children. When parents cannot agree, the dispute is resolved in court.

At the trial, the test applied is the best interests of the child. Determining the best interests of a child is no longer 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.

For these parents, courts will want to know how long the children have lived in a stable, satisfactory environment, and the desirability of maintaining that continuity. Where the parents live is also very important, especially with school-age children.

Also, what are the home, school, and community records of the children, and which parent provides a consistent routine for the children, such as discipline, and daily schedules for homework, meals, and bedtime.

Everything Zen

Following their split in 2015, the boys have spent a majority of their time with Gwen in Los Angeles while Gavin has toured with Bush and completed a brief stint as a judge on The Voice U.K.. Gavin touched on this when he talked to The Sun’s Fabulousmagazine.

“It was weird because I had to go and make a home from scratch that could compare to the great one they already have. That was the challenge for me as a dad.”

Gwen has since found love with country singer Blake Shelton, who gets on very well with the boys. The couple has even taken vacations with the children together.

The E! News article is here.

 

Child Custody: Do Criminal Minds Nest?

Thomas Gibson, former “Criminal Minds” star, can celebrate Valentine’s Day with a new love interest. He and his former wife seem to be very involved parents though, because they have agreed to share child custody in an amazing way called “nesting.”

According to legal documents obtained by TMZ, actor Thomas Gibson, and his ex-wife Cristina Parker, reached an agreement in their divorce after a 21-year marriage. They are involved parents:

Being a dad is the greatest experience of my life.

According to TMZ, Thomas is paying $3,000 per month in child support for their three children, in addition to paying for their private school and extracurricular activities.

Interestingly, the couple agreed that Thomas to stays in the family’s San Antonio home every other weekend when he has the kids, and when he is not timesharing with them, Thomas stay’s in the guest house.

Nesting

The actor appears to have agreed to a ‘Bird’s Nest’ custody agreement. Nesting is a child custody arrangement where the children live in one house, and the parents take turns living in that house with the children – but never at the same time.

I’ve written about child custody issues before. Nesting is not common to agree to, and is not mandated by a family court.  Generally, both parents have to agree to nesting.

Simply put, nesting is when the mother leaves when the father comes home, and the father leaves when it’s the mother’s turn to come home.  The children remain in the house.

Florida Child Custody

Many people are surprised to learn that the term “custody” (whether joint or sole) are concepts no longer recognized in Florida. Florida replaced the “custody” term for the “parenting plan” concept in order to avoid labeling parents as “visiting parent” or “primary parent”. The ‘new hope’ of the change in law was to try and make child custody issues less controversial.

Under Florida’s parenting plan concept, both parents enjoy shared parental responsibility and a time-sharing schedule.

“Shared parental responsibility” means both parents retain full parental rights and responsibilities, and have to confer with each other so that major decisions affecting their child are made jointly.

A time-sharing schedule, as the name suggests, is simply a timetable that is included in the parenting plan that specifies the times, including overnights and holidays, that your child spends with each parent. However, “nesting” is not specifically defined in the statute.

The benefits of nesting are that the Gibson children don’t have to move from one home to another during custody exchanges because the parents will take turns living in the home where the children live full-time. The children have a much more stability.

Detractors argue that nesting is expensive because the parents need other places to live. This could mean that three homes are needed: one for mom, one for dad, and the children’s nest which is shared.

The TMZ article is here.

 

Rape and Child Custody

As the Hollywood sex abuse scandal widens, another issue comes to mind: can someone convicted of criminal sexual misconduct get child custody of the offspring he fathers? It may seem like an unbelievable question, but a Michigan mother just found out it is very real.

In Sandusky, Michigan, a district court judge just stayed his order which granted an alleged rapist joint custody and parenting time as father of an 8-year-old boy after the judge learned details of the case.

According to USA Today, a standardized form was used in the original case the lawyer for the boy’s mother said. The boy’s mother had requested welfare benefits. To qualify for payments, she had to file a paternity complaint.

This young woman … completed and signed a paternity questionnaire in which she disclosed the alleged father’s name and address. She further signed an agreement to cooperate with pursuing paternity and signed a statement authorizing the disclosure of her address.

Federal law requires state departments of health and human services to establish paternity and pursue a child-support order from a court, Bob Wheaton, the Michigan department’s spokesman, wrote in email.

The department would need to be notified by the custodial parent of any reason to determine good cause not to pursue a child support order.

Rape Survivor Child Custody Act

This is actually a national problem.

Each year, there are approximately 32,000 pregnancies resulting from rape, according to a 1996 study by the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

This used to happen so much, I’ve actually written about this nationwide phenomenon of a rapist getting custody before.

Originally, in Pennsylvania, State Senator Randy Vulakovich and Representative Joe Hackett introduced the Rape Survivor Child Custody and Support Act in the Senate and House, respectively.

Congress also got involved. President Obama signed the Rape Survivor Child Custody Act into law as part of the bipartisan Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act.

The Rape Survivor Child Custody Act boosts funding for states that allow women to petition for the termination of parental rights based on clear and convincing evidence that a child was conceived through rape.

Back in Michigan

The standard form that the boy’s mother was asked to fill out doesn’t have anywhere to state her concerns. The county is now reviewing its handling of paternity complaints.

The judge, Gregory Ross, scheduled a hearing after halting his September order. That order also had required the father to pay $346 a month in child support and maintain health-care coverage.

Christopher Mirasolo, now 27, of Brown City, Mich., pleaded guilty to attempted third-degree criminal sexual conduct in the Sept. 6, 2008, assault of the woman, who was 12 years old when he was 19.

Sanilac County released the alleged rapist after 6½ months in jail. He also later pleaded no contest to third- and fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct in a March 29, 2010, incident involving a 15-year-old girl, serving four years in state prison for that crime, and is a registered sex offender.

The USA Today article is here.

 

Can Low Intelligence Cost You Custody?

Amy Fabbrini and Eric Ziegler are fighting to prove to the state of Oregon that they can raise their children. Oregon removed their boys, saying the parents are too mentally limited to parent. Can your intelligence be a factor in determining child custody?

Fabbrini, 31, and Ziegler, 38, lost custody of their older son, Christopher, shortly after he was born. Five months ago, the state took their second child, newborn Hunter, directly from the hospital. Both are now in foster care.

“I love kids, I was raised around kids, my mom was a preschool teacher for 20-plus years, and so I’ve always been around kids,” Fabbrini said. “That’s my passion. I love to do things with kids, and that’s what I want to do in the future, something that has to do with kids.”

No abuse or neglect has been found, but each parent has a degree of limited cognitive abilities. Rather than build a network of support around them, the state child welfare agency has moved to terminate the couple’s parental rights and make the boys available for adoption.

The case lays bare fundamental questions about what makes a good parent and who, ultimately, gets to decide when someone’s not good enough. And it strikes at the heart of the stark choices child welfare workers face daily: should a child be removed or is there some middle ground?

Florida Child Custody

The Oregon case involves child protective services operating through dependency court. A child is generally found to be dependent if the child is found to be abandoned, abused, or neglected by the child’s parent or parents or legal custodians.

In Florida family court cases, as opposed to dependency court cases, shared parental responsibility is the preferred relationship between parents when a marriage or a relationship ends. In fact, courts are instructed to order parents to share parental responsibility of a child unless it would be detrimental to the child.

I’ve written about child custody cases before. Generally, when parents cannot agree, the dispute is resolved in court. At the trial, the test applied is the best interests of the child.

Determining the best interests of a child is no longer entirely subjective. Instead, the decision is based on an evaluation of 20 statutory factors, and one equitable catch-all factor, affecting the welfare and interests of the child and the circumstances of the child’s family.

Although the parent’s intelligence or IQ score is not specifically mentioned in our custody statute, the statute requires courts to consider the mental and physical health of the parents.

The Oregon Case

Back in Oregon, the parents are struggling against a system that feels impersonal, unyielding and inscrutable.

“They are saying they are intellectually incapable without any guidelines to go by,” said Sherrene Hagenbach, a former volunteer with the state agency who oversaw visits with the couple and Christopher from last June through August.

According to documents provided by the couple, psychological evaluations tested Fabbrini’s IQ at about 72, placing her in the “extremely low to borderline range of intelligence,” and Ziegler’s about 66, placing him in the mild range of intellectual disability.” The average IQ is between 90 and 110.

“I have a learning disability, but it’s very, very mild,” Ziegler said. He understands that he learns more slowly than some, but says “everybody learns at their pace.”

Neither currently works, but they have steady housing: a three-bedroom, 1,200-square-foot home owned by Ziegler’s parents, who live out of state. Ziegler has a driver’s license. Both have standard high school diplomas.

Across the country, a national study estimates that somewhere between 40 percent and 80 percent of parents with intellectual disabilities lose their parental rights.

The Oregon Live article is here.