Tag: child custody extracurriculars

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.

 

Banning Sex While Separated

Are you looking to dive back into the dating pool while you are going through a divorce or child custody battle? If so, did you know there are bills which would ban sex while separated and even from having sex at home until all legal proceedings are finalized? This post considers the hot topic of dating during the divorce and child custody process.

Banning Sex While Separated

Prudish Pilgrims

One measure, first proposed in Massachusetts, would make it illegal for parents in going through a divorce to engage in a dating or sexual relationship with anyone within the marital home. The Massachusetts measure, which was first proposed a few years ago and has not passed yet, seems highly improbable of ever passing.

The Bill provides:

“In divorce, separation, or 209A proceedings involving children and a marital home, the party remaining in the home shall not conduct a dating or sexual relationship within the home until a divorce is final and all financial and custody issues are resolved, unless the express permission is granted by the courts.”

It is a big question whether a bill like the Massachusetts proposal could ever pass a state legislature.

Florida & Sex While Separated

I’ve written about child custody issues before, including how spanking can impact custody. First, Florida does not use the term “custody” anymore, we have the parenting plan concept. For purposes of establishing a parenting plan, the best interest of the child is the primary consideration.

The best interests of the child are determined by evaluating all of the factors affecting the welfare and interests of the particular minor child and the circumstances of that family, including evidence of the demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to upon the needs of the child as opposed to the needs or desires of the parent.

Additionally, courts are supposed to consider the length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity and the moral fitness of the parents.

Banning Sex for Sox Fans

While some couples use separation as an opportunity to decide whether or not they can salvage their marriage, others are left simply waiting until they can finalize their divorce.  Separated couples want a defined set of rules regarding dating and sex after separation. The Massachusetts bill, were it to pass, could have implications many have not thought of.

Many people would be surprised to know that adultery is a crime in Florida. Whoever lives in an open state of adultery may be guilty of a crime in Florida. Where either of the parties living in an open state of adultery is married, both parties shall be deemed to be guilty of the offense provided for in this section. A criminal record of adultery could be problematic.

Having sex during the separation does not automatically prohibit you from receiving support or alimony, however, evidence of it may be a factor a court looks to in modifying or terminating alimony based on the existence of a supportive relationship.

Sexual relations during separation may affect custody when and if it impacts the children.  A family court judge has to consider what is in the children’s best interests when determining custody.  Whether or not this affects the children’s best interest depends on the surrounding circumstances. Divorce and child custody proceedings are an emotional process. Moving on with someone new too quickly may make it harder to resolve the case.

The Massachusetts bill is here.

 

Custody and Vegans Don’t Pair Well

Child custody and religion often conflict. But can a family court judge ban a parent from feeding their child “fish, meat, or poultry” without the other parent’s consent? What if it is in the child’s best interest to eat vegetarian? A New York court had to answer that question, and the decision may leave a bad taste in your mouth.

Custody and Vegetarians

Nobu, Katz’s Deli & Carbone? Fuhgeddaboudit

In a New York custody case, the parents, who were represented by counsel, agreed to jointly determine all major matters with respect to their child, including “religious choices.”

The parenting coordinator on the case recommended that each parent be free to feed their child as he or she chooses during his or her parenting time, and that neither party shall feed or permit any other person to feed fish, meat or poultry to the child without the other party’s consent.

In their parenting agreement, however, the 24-page agreement did not otherwise mention the child’s religious upbringing and makes no reference at all to dietary requirements.

Although the parenting coordinator found that the child’s diet was a day-to-day choice within the discretion of each party, the trial court explicitly determined that the child’s diet was a religious choice, and dictated the child’s diet by effectively prohibiting the parties from feeding her meat, poultry or fish.

Florida Custody and Vegetarians

I’ve written about child custody issues before, in fact, I have an article on the intersection of religion and custody, especially when that intersection relates to harm to the child.

Knowing whether the dietary impasse between the parents is about the child’s health or religion is an important distinction. The New York dietary ban sounds very much like a religious dispute between the two parents. New York, like Florida, is a melting pot of religions and ethnic backgrounds where kosher, halal and a number of other religious dietary restrictions are common.

Of course, New York is facing another issue involving children and religion: vaccinations. With the recent outbreak of vaccine preventable diseases, such as the New York measles outbreak, lawmakers in New York voted last week to end religious exemptions for immunizations.

Usually, religion is used by the objecting parent as a defense to vaccinating children. In the New York case, the dispute was what to feed the child. Whenever a court decides custody, or issues relating to the child’s upbringing, the sine qua non is the best interests of the child. But, deciding the religious upbringing of a child puts the court in a tough position.

There is nothing in our custody statute allowing a court to consider religion as a factor in custody, and a court’s choosing one parent’s religious beliefs over another’s, probably violates the Constitution. So, unless there is actual harm being done to the child by the religious upbringing, it would seem that deciding the child’s faith is out of bounds for a judge.

Ironically, that may not be the rule all over Florida. Different appellate courts in Florida have slightly different takes on the issue, and the question of whether a trial court can consider a parent’s religious beliefs as a factor in determining custody has been allowed.

Custody and the Big Apple

The New York appellate court found the family judge abused its discretion with the ban on feeding certain foods. To the extent mother promised the father, in contemplation of marriage, that she would raise any children they had as vegetarians, the promise is not binding.

The court felt this was particularly in view of the parenting agreement, which omits any such understanding. Nor was there any support in the trial record for a finding that a vegetarian diet is in the child’s best interests.

Recall that in Florida, whenever a family judge has to decide custody, or issues relating to the child’s upbringing, the sine qua non is the best interests of the child. The Mother’s argument that she should have been granted final decision-making authority with respect to the child was improperly raised for the first time in her reply brief.

In any event, the appellate court found that the record does not support her contention that the totality of the circumstance warrants modification in the child’s best interests.

The New York Court of Appeals declined to hear the case. The opinion is here.

 

Custody Parenting Plans Go Global

A bill winding through the Italian legislature will make any couple seeking divorce with minor children go through mandatory mediation to create a child custody parenting plan to decide all custody and time-sharing issues – from the child’s residence to schooling.

Child Custody

That’s Not Amore

The bill also would require that any parenting plan must stick to prescriptive shared custody measures that require children to spend at least 12 days a month with each parent and class them as resident at both parents’ addresses, rather than one as is currently the case.

“Shared custody already exists,” Assunta Confente, a lawyer and representative of the Camera Minorile children’s rights group, told the protest in Turin. If the law passes, she added, “children will be forced to live two lives.”

The bill would also take away monthly child support and replace it with directly paid maintenance, whereby parents pay for children’s needs as and when they arise instead of handing over a fixed sum in advance.

Florida Parenting Plans

I’ve written on Florida’s attempts to legislate the parenting plan concept before, including equal timesharing and other issues.

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 to govern the relationship between the parents relating to decisions that must be made regarding the minor child and must contain a time-sharing schedule for the parents and the child.

The issues concerning the minor child include the child’s education, health care, and physical, social, and emotional well-being. In creating the plan, all circumstances between the parents, including their historic relationship, domestic violence, and other factors are taken into consideration.

The Parenting Plan must be developed and agreed to by the parents and approved by the court. If the parties cannot agree to a Parenting Plan or if the parents agreed to a plan that is not approved by the court, a Parenting Plan will be established by the court with or without the use of parenting plan recommendations.

‘Avere un diavolo per capello!’

Women from Milan to Naples, women’s associations, trade unions and more joined together to request that the bill be withdrawn amidst fears that it risks turning the clock back 50 years for women, children and survivors of domestic abuse

The bill has attracted criticism from the United Nations. Last month its special rapporteurs on violence and discrimination against women wrote to the Italian government to express concerns that the bill was one of several signs in Italy of a “backlash against the rights of women and attempts to reinstate a social order based on gender stereotypes and unequal power relations”.

The imposed mediation process would be “very damaging if applied in cases of domestic abuse”, they wrote. If the bill becomes law, “the child, even if they are a victim of violence, will be obliged to meet the violent parent”.

As well as scrapping child support, the bill redefines allocation of the family home. Where the house is in both names, the parent who remains in it will be required to pay a fee to the one who moves out. The bill also reverses the current right of the child and primary caregiver (usually the mother) to continue living in the family home unless they own or rent it.

The Local it 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.

 

Joint Physical Custody

Former NFL wide receiver, Hank Baskett, answered his former Playboy model wife’s divorce petition last week, and is asking for joint physical custody of their two children. What is joint physical custody, and is it something you should ask for in Florida?

Penalty Flags

Baskett is a former wide receiver who played in the NFL for the Vikings, the Eagles and the Colts. While at the University of New Mexico, he was a leading wide receiver and earned all-academic honors.

Baskett married Playboy model Kendra Wilkinson in 2009. Wilkinson and Baskett were co-stars on Kendra, a reality TV series following Wilkinson’s life. They have co-starred on another show, Kendra on Top, since June 2012.

His wife announced her intention to divorce on Instagram. A few years ago, she received bad press when she criticized people who had a problem with a photo she posted to her Instagram account of her daughter, stating:

“Wow by my last post I just exposed all you sick f**ks… [m]an, this world is more f**ked up than I thought, I’ll go ahead and go back to my vacation while we run around naked n free.”

According to People, in the former NFL player’s filing submitted Friday, Baskett cited irreconcilable differences as the reason for the divorce after 9 years of marriage according to court documents obtained by The Blast.

Mirroring his wife’s filing, Baskett listed their date of separation as Jan. 1, 2018, and requested joint legal and physical custody of their two children.

Many people are surprised to learn when they file for divorce or custody in Florida that joint legal and physical custody is not available in Florida.

Florida Shared Parental Responsibility

I’ve written about child custody issues before. In 1979, the first joint custody statute was enacted in California. The joint legal custody law promoted more paternal involvement after divorce.

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 deleting the definitions of the terms “custodial parent” or “primary residential parent” and “noncustodial parent” and creating a definition for the terms “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 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.

Florida’s public policy comes from the literature proving the importance of a father’s contributions to a child’s development and a child’s attachment to a father, gender roles within families are shifting, and the documented loss and alienation experienced by noncustodial parents and children.

Custody Touchdown

The former Playboy model’s filing came hours after she confirmed in an Instagram post that the couple had chosen to split.

“Today is the last day of my marriage to this beautiful man. I will forever love Hank and be open but for now we have chosen to go our own ways.”

The People article is here.

 

Extracurriculars and Child Custody

A contentious issue in child custody cases is a child’s extracurricular activity. The decision may be easy when the sport is badminton, but litigation is not out of bounds when the activity involves football – especially in a big football state like Florida.

Tackling Extracurricular Decision Making

As the New York Times reports, there are always questions regarding whether the child will participate in extracurricular activities. The typical questions involve which activities, who pays the costs, and scheduling the activity so it doesn’t infringe on the other parents’ timesharing are easy enough to punt.

In shared parental responsibility cases, the issue of extracurricular activities can be very divisive – especially when choosing an injury-prone sport like skateboarding and football.

How do courts tackle the issue?

Extracurricular activities are closely related to decisions about education and schooling, and the parent with sole, or ultimate decision-making authority over education, makes the final decision concerning extracurricular activities as well.

But in a shared parental responsibility case, the decision can be easily fumbled.

Florida Shared Parental Responsibility

I’ve written about parental responsibility choices before. 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.

Issues relating to a child’s extracurricular activities, including the decision to participate in dangerous sports, are major decisions affecting the welfare of a child.

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.

A Custody Touchdown?

In the decade since scientists began to link football to long-term brain damage, the debate over the future of the sport has moved from research laboratories to the halls of Congress, to locker rooms and parents’ kitchen tables.

The growing number of disputes over the long-term consequences of football has put family court judges in the awkward position of having to pick sides on a hotly debated issue.

In most states, such as Florida, family court judges are charged with ruling in the best interests of a child’s health. In the case of sports like hang gliding or rock climbing, the dangers may be self-evident.

But the science around the long-term cognitive and neurological damage caused by football is still emerging.

Judges who side with parents trying to prevent their sons from playing tackle football end up endorsing the view that the sport is too risky, a stance that might be unpopular with voters who elect them.

Judges who side with parents who want their son to play, on the other hand, risk being accused of not being prudent enough if the boy is injured.

The New York Times article is here.