Tag: Child custody

New Grandparent Visitation Law

After Governor DeSantis signed House Bill 1119, a new grandparent visitation law becomes effective this month. Often denied any rights to custody and visitation, the new ‘Markel Act’ is a significant step towards increasing Florida grandparent visitation rights in some very narrow, and tragic, situations.

Grandparent Visitation

Dan Markel Tragedy

The Markel Act was inspired in part by the 2014 murder-for-hire of Florida State law professor Dan Markel. Professor Markel was killed by hitmen in his driveway after he dropped his two sons off at preschool.

At the trial for Katherine Magbanua and Sigfredo Garcia in 2019, prosecutors claimed that Charlie Adelson – Markel’s ex-brother-in-law, arranged to pay $100,000 for the murder so that Markel’s ex-wife, Wendi Adelson, could get full custody of their two sons and relocate to South Florida.

Garcia was found guilty of first-degree murder and conspiracy but the jury was unable to reach a verdict on Magbanua. She was recently retried and found guilty of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder and solicitation to commit murder.

In April 2022, Charlie Adelson was arrested and charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and solicitation to commit murder. Markel’s ex-wife Wendi and ex-mother-in—law Donna Adelson were also named as co-conspirators.

During the intervening years, Dan’s parents, the paternal grandparents of the two boys, have been denied any contact with their grandchildren.

Grandparent Visitation

I have written about how Florida courts have consistently held as unconstitutional statutes that have attempted to compel visitation or custody with a grandparent based solely on the best interest of the child standard.

The courts’ rulings are premised on the fact that the fundamental right to parent without intrusion by the government is a long-standing liberty interest recognized by both the United States and Florida constitutions.

However, a grandparent may be awarded visitation rights under very limited circumstances, such as when a child’s parents are deceased, missing, or in a permanent vegetative state.

New Grandparent Visitation law

The Markel Act amends Florida law to create a rebuttable presumption for granting reasonable visitation with a petitioning grandparent or step-grandparent under certain circumstances.

Under the bill, if the court finds that one parent of a child has been held criminally liable for the death of the other parent, or civilly liable for an intentional tort causing the death of the other parent, a rebuttable presumption arises that the grandparent who is the parent of the child’s deceased parent is entitled to reasonable visitation with the grandchild.

The presumption may be overcome only if the court finds that visitation is not in the child’s best interests. The bill does not distinguish between biological grandparents and step-grandparents.

Specifically, the bill says that grandparents can petition courts for visitation with their grandchildren where the living parent was found culpable by a criminal or civil court for the other parent’s death.

“The tragedy of Dan’s murder was compounded by this cruel, unnecessary separation — but until now, Florida law gave his parents no recourse toward reuniting with their grandchildren.”

The new law became effective on July 1st. A copy is available here.

Family Court and Religious School

In a race between schools for your child, when can a family court judge choose the religious school over a secular one? For one Kentucky family’s child custody dispute, the court of appeals decides which school enters the Winner’s Circle.

Custody and School

Starting Gate

In the Kentucky case, a Mother and Father shared joint custody of their daughter, who has been at the center of a protracted legal dispute since the parties’ separation in 2016. The parties could not reach an agreement as to where the child should attend kindergarten, and asked the court to resolve the issue.

The Father, who is Catholic, liked that Seton was a Catholic school but noted that the curriculum also emphasized general Christian principles, as well as secular subjects such as Darwinism and evolution (ed. wow)

Father said that he was willing to pay Seton tuition costs. Father expressed concern about child attending Berea Independent due to Mother’s pending criminal charges in Berea for second-degree animal cruelty. Because Berea is a small community, Father worried child could be stigmatized, even if Mother was acquitted.

Mother, who is Baptist, was not comfortable with child attending a Catholic school and preferred that child attend a secular school. Mother testified that Berea Independent was her primary choice because it was less than a mile from her work, was in a small town, and was where she went to school as a child. She also liked that it provided a K-12 grade education in one place and liked the open classroom layout of the school.

Following the hearing, the family court judge entered an order with detailed findings of fact, concluding that it was in child’s best interest to attend Catholic school.

The Mother appealed.

Florida Divorce and Religion

I have written about the intersection of religion and custody before, especially when that intersection relates to harm to the child. For example in one area there is a frequent religious controversy: whether to give a child their mandatory vaccinations.  Usually, religion is used by the objecting parent as a defense to vaccinating children.

Whenever a court decides custody, 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 the Florida 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. One of the earliest Florida case in which religion was a factor in deciding parental responsibility restricted one parent from exposing the children to that parent’s religion.

In one Florida case, the Mother was a member of The Way International, and the Father introduced evidence that The Way made the Mother an unfit parent. He alleged The Way psychologically brainwashed her, that she had become obsessed, and was neglecting the children. The Florida judge awarded custody to the Mother provided that she sever all connections, meetings, tapes, visits, communications, or financial support with The Way, and not subject the children to any of its dogmas.

The Mother appealed the restrictions as a violation of her free exercise of religion. The appellate court agreed, and held the restrictions were unconstitutionally overbroad and expressly restricted the Mother’s free exercise of her religious beliefs and practices.

When the matter involves the religious training and beliefs of the child, the court generally does not make a decision in favor of a specific religion over the objection of the other parent. The court should also avoid interference with the right of a parent to practice their own religion and avoid imposing an obligation to enforce the religious beliefs of the other parent.

The Home Stretch

Mother argued on appeal that the family court’s order compels her to send her child to a Catholic school she is conscientiously opposed to in violation of her constitutional rights.

The appellate court found that when parties to a joint custody agreement are unable to agree on a major issue concerning their child’s upbringing, the trial court must evaluate the circumstances and resolve the issue according to the child’s best interest.

The appellate court found substantial evidence to support the family court’s decision that sending child to Catholic school was in child’s best interest. The court specifically mentioned the school’s proximity to the interstate, its later start time, its teacher-to-student ratio, its on-site aftercare program, and the fact that child would know other students attending.

Perhaps most importantly, the family court felt it was not in child’s best interest to attend the secular, Berea Independent because of the possibility that child might experience negative social stigma due to Mother’s pending animal cruelty case in Berea.

Further, the trial court specifically noted its decision was not based upon religious interests. Mother “bear[s] the burden of proving that the decision of the trial court was based upon religious interests and such impropriety [will] not be presumed merely because the school selected had a religious connotation in addition to its academic offerings.”

The Kentucky Court of Appeals opinion can be found here.

Free Speech, Child Custody, and Insults

Free speech can be an issue in any child custody case when parents hurl insults at each other in front of their children. Because it is not in the children’s best interest, family judges can order parents not to disparage the other parent in front of the children. One Indianapolis court recently had to consider whether an anti-disparagement order went too far.

Free Speech Custody

Start Your Engines

After several years of marriage, Yaima Israel, filed for divorce from her husband Jamie Israel. After the trial, the family court judge decided that joint legal custody was an “unworkable” option based on the parents’ inability to agree about their child’s health, education and welfare. As a result, Yaima was awarded sole legal custody.

The family court’s decree also contained a non-disparagement clause. Family courts sometimes enjoin speech that expressly or implicitly criticizes the other parent.

In another case for example, a mother was stripped of custody partly because she truthfully told her 12-year-old that her ex-husband, who had raised the daughter from birth, wasn’t in fact the girl’s biological father.

In the recent Indianapolis case, the order prohibited either parent from “making disparaging comments about the other in writing or conversation to or in the presence of child.

However, the order also prohibited insulting the other parent in front of friends, family members, doctors, teachers, associated parties, co-workers, employers, the parenting coordinator, media, the press, or anyone else. All kinds of speech was banned, including “negative statements, criticisms, critiques, insults[,] or other defamatory comments.”

The Husband challenged the judge’s non-disparagement clause that restrained them from ever making disparaging remarks about one another, regardless of whether the child was present.

Florida Child Custody and Free Speech

I’ve written about free speech in family cases before. Family courts have a lot of power to protect children. The “best interests of the child” test — the standard applied in all Florida child custody disputes between parents — gives family court judges a lot of discretion to ban speech which can harm children. Accordingly, Florida courts have to balance a parent’s right of free expression against the state’s interest in assuring the well-being of minor children.

In Florida, parents have had their rights to free speech limited or denied for various reasons. In one case, a mother went from primary caregiver to 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. The Mother was also bipolar and convicted of two crimes. The Florida appeals 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.

But some have argued that if parents in intact families have the right to speak to their children without the government restricting their speech, why don’t parents in broken families have the same rights?

The Constitutional Brickyard

The Indianapolis appellate court ruled that the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, made applicable to the States through the Fourteenth Amendment, provides that “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech.

Restraining orders and injunctions that forbid future speech activities, such as non-disparagement orders, are classic examples of prior restraints. Non-disparagement orders are, by definition, a prior restraint on speech. Prior restraints on speech are the most serious and the least tolerable infringement on free speech rights.

While a prior restraint is not per se unconstitutional, it does come to a court bearing a heavy presumption against its constitutional validity.

To determine whether a prior restraint is constitutional under the First Amendment, the court considers: (a) ‘the nature and extent’ of the speech in question, (b) ‘whether other measures would be likely to mitigate the effects of unrestrained’ speech, and (c) ‘how effectively a restraining order would operate to prevent the threatened danger.’”

There is a compelling government interest in protecting children from being exposed to disparagement between their parents. To the extent the non-disparagement clause prohibits both parents from disparaging the other in Child’s presence, the order furthers the compelling State interest in protecting the best interests of Child and does not violate the First Amendment.

But the non-disparagement clause in this case went far beyond furthering that compelling interest because it prohibited the parents from making disparaging comments about the other in the presence of anyone – even when the child was not present.

In the final lap, the court of appeals reversed the portion of the non-disparagement clause including “…friends, family members, doctors, teachers, associated parties, co-workers, employers, the parenting coordinator, media, the press, or anyone” as an unconstitutional prior restraint.

The Indiana court of appeals decision is here.

 

Divorce More Likely for Stay At Home Moms

Is divorce more likely for stay at home moms? One divorce lawyer who received 1.7 million views talked about the top professions women should avoid when marrying a man. Now she is back advising people on the top jobs men should avoid when marrying a woman.

Stay at Home Mon Divorce

Again with Supply Chain?

More scientifically, in a Forbes article a while ago, the career site Zippia had reviewed Census Bureau data to figure out which jobs and industries showed the highest divorce rates for those 30 and younger.

Military jobs put the biggest strain on marriages, topping the list with a 30% divorce rate. Surprisingly, or not, rounding out the top jobs predicting divorce – all of which hovered in the 14% to 18% range – were:

  1. Supply Chain Logisticians
  2. Automotive service technicians and mechanics; and
  3. Chemical technicians

But this recent video by a divorce lawyer about stay at home moms has been getting way more attention – with over 4.1 million views of people wanting to know what profession a man should avoid in their spouse.

“The most common profession that I see in the female parties in my divorces, and this is over 13 years of cases,” she says, before nervously revealing the answer, is a stay-at-home mom.”

Being a stay-at-home parent is not easy, and many people argue that it actually should be treated as a profession where people should be paid for raising and taking care of society’s future.

Florida No Fault Divorce

I’ve written about the causes of divorce before. The official term for divorce in Florida is “dissolution of marriage”, and you don’t need fault as a ground for divorce. Florida abolished fault as a ground for divorce. So, whether your Wife is working in an office, or worse, staying at home raising the children, you don’t need to allege that as grounds for divorce.

The no-fault concept in Florida means you no longer have to prove a reason for the divorce, like your spouse’s diaper changing and cooking. Instead, you just need to state under oath that your marriage is “irretrievably broken.”

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

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

What if you work remotely?

According to this, thoroughly unscientific study by one divorce lawyer with millions of views, there are many reasons why a stay-at-home mom might have one of the highest divorce rates.

“Number one: when you’re divorcing a stay-at-home mom, they are paralyzed with fear, and rightfully so, because their whole life is going to change.”

The second reason, she reveals, is simply an observation she’s made in the past and her own opinion, but relates to the first reason and that is that it’s easier for the pair to grow apart.

“The husband starts feeling like an ATM, and the wife becomes completely focused on the children.”

However, when looking at actual data by industry, there are some surprising findings. For one, the often stated claim that half of marriages end in divorce does not really pan out.

When looking broadly by industry, military marriages hovered at around a 15% divorce rate, and the other 24 industries with reported divorce rates were less than 10%. The legal, science and entertainment fields were among those at the bottom of the list, with divorce rates of about 4% or less.

In other studies, people have looked at the causes. One Kansas State University study, for example, found that arguments about money were the top predictor of divorce among both men and women — even higher than arguments about children, and staying at home.

That is why it is important that money conversations remain a priority. Schedule talks like you schedule doctors’ checkups, several times a year. And start by making sure you’re both on the same page.

The Your Tango article is here.

False Abuse Allegations in Child Custody Cases

False allegations of abuse can be a form of alienation, and can occur during any divorce and child custody proceeding. Identifying warning signs, and knowing how the courts and laws protect against false abuse allegations, are ways to protect yourself.

False Abuse

False Abuse Claims

If a parent makes a false allegation against another parent to get the upper hand in court, they can badly undermine the parent-child relationship and use the court as a weapon to make the damage last longer.

How often do false claims happen? Accurate statistics are not known, but some have given estimates ranging from 2% to 35%. The wide range in the statistics can depend on several factors, including whether the child is reporting or a parent, and the audience.

Whatever the percentage of false claims, attorneys, judges, and mental health experts all know firsthand that it is a big problem in family court. Nothing can disrupt, sidetrack, or impede a case more than an allegation of abuse that eventually proves to be false.

Detecting a false allegation is critical because judges can be influenced by the accusation, even if it is not substantiated by the evidence. Sadly, a child custody decision could result in favor of the falsely accusing parent. Uncovering and exposing a false allegation is vital in making sure the offending parent is not rewarded for destructive behavior.

False allegations of abuse are often made during contentious child custody cases. One parent believes that he or she will gain leverage in the case by lodging an allegation of abuse against the other parent. More often than not, the allegation of abuse is a tactic used to alienate the child from the targeted parent. In other words, it is part of parental alienation. A number of steps can be taken by the targeted parent to beat the false allegation of abuse.

Florida False Abuse Claims

I have written on fraud in divorce and child custody cases before. False allegations of abuse can become the nuclear bomb of divorce and child custody cases, as Florida requires mandatory reporting of child abuse by judges and others.

There are protections and penalties for creating false abuse claims. For example, anyone who knowingly and willfully makes a false report, or counsels another to make a false report can be guilty of a felony.

In addition to criminal penalties, a false allegation can harm your child custody case too. When a court creates, or modifies a parenting plan, including a time-sharing schedule, the court must make the best interest of the child the primary consideration.

Determining the best interests of the child requires a judge to evaluate all of the factors affecting the welfare and interests of a child, including, but not limited to evidence that a parent has knowingly provided false information to the court regarding domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect.

Self-Protection

As in all matters, protecting yourself requires some work. Try to collect as much documentation as possible to disprove the allegation. Typically these include emails, texts, photos and more.

Research hiring mental health experts who can address false allegations, parental alienation, and the particular facts in a case. Forensic experts are an invaluable resource to help you in court.

False allegations of abuse are considered parental alienation. The intent of the alienating parent is to disrupt a child’s relationship with the targeted parent. Alienation is at the heart of false claims.

The Psychiatric Times article is here.

Free Speech and Child Custody Disputes

Free speech, and the rights of people going through child custody disputes, are in the news again. Recently, a family law judge in Pennsylvania gagged – not the parents – but the Father’s new wife from online posting. The family judge ordered the child’s stepmother from posting anything on Facebook about the child, the Mother, or the case.

Free Speech Child Custody

Gagging Stepmothers

In the Pennsylvania case, a Father appealed from the trial court’s order that restricted the speech of his new wife, a non-party to the custody case, the child’s Stepmother. The Father argued that the family court’s order improperly restricted the non-party Stepmother’s speech on Facebook.

The Mother sought to enforce the court’s modified custody order, remove the Child from Stepmother’s home, and place the Child with Children and Youth Services (CYS). The trial court held a telephone hearing, and at that hearing, Mother told the court for the first time about a post that Stepmother had made on Facebook.

Specifically, Mother’s counsel argued the Stepmother was engaging in “pure alienation” through Facebook posts:

OK…. I’m going to lay everything out for ppl to know. My husband [Father] is currently in BCP on indirect civil contempt pertaining to child custody. The judge won’t release [Father] until our minor child attends four days of this out of state program with Linda Gottlieb. Our minor child is afraid of her Mother (she lives out of state) and has been fighting not to go to this out-of-state program with her Mother to fix their relationship. . . Our minor child is still with me as she fought not to go. How much emotionally [sic] and mental abuse can a child go through. . . I have 2 great attorneys, but no matter what we do the judge sides with the other side. They are claiming parental alienation. There is no legal record of parental alienation. Now anyone that knows me or my husband knows we aren’t those ppl. We have encouraged, positive affirmations etc.. [sic] this doesn’t matter to our minor child because the child is in fear. . . We have been accused of interfering with our child going to this program. We aren’t interfering. Our child is fighting it.

The trial court issued an order that granted Mother’s petition and stated, Father and Stepmother shall not use online or web-based communications to discuss this matter.

The trial court also order the Father and Stepmother to remove the Facebook post which contains information related to the child and not post any discussion or information regarding child’s custody or other information regarding the child.

Father raised only one issue on appeal, can the judge censor the speech of the Stepmother on Facebook even though she was not actually a party in the child custody case?

Florida Child Custody and Free Speech

I’ve written about free speech in family cases before. Family courts have a lot of power to protect children. 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, there have been cases in which a judge prohibited a parent from speaking Spanish to a child. 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. The Mother was also bipolar and convicted of two crimes.

The Florida appeals 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.

You’ve Got a Friend in Pennsylvania

Back in the Pennsylvania case, the appellate court quickly noted that the Stepmother was simply not a party to the lawsuit between Father and Mother, she was not served with process, and she had no notice or opportunity to challenge the communications restriction order.

Because the non-party Stepmother did not have notice nor an opportunity to challenge the order, and the parties did not address the trial court’s exercise of personal jurisdiction over her the appellate court held that the family judge had no authority to impose a gag order on the Stepmother and vacated the order.

The opinion is here.

How the Covid Pandemic Impacting Divorce and Custody

Anyone interested in how the Covid pandemic is impacting relationships, divorce, and custody cases, read Holly Ellyatt’s feature article “Arguing with your partner over Covid? You’re not alone, with the pandemic straining many relationships” in CNBC.

Covid Custody

I am quoted in the story, which examines how disagreements over Covid restrictions, child vaccination and even the very existence of the virus have seen some relationships pushed to breaking point, according to family law experts and psychologists:

Ron Kauffman, a Board-certified marital and family attorney based in Miami, told CNBC he has also seen “a sharp increase in disputes between parents arguing during the pandemic.”

The disputes often fall into three categories, Kauffman said: “Appropriate quarantine, following mask mandates, and vaccinations.” And they manifest in arguments about timesharing or visitation; i.e. the amount of time each parent spends with their child or children, he added. “When parents are separating or already separated, Covid has become a nuclear bomb to frustrate someone’s timesharing.”

Child Custody and Vaccines

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 physical health and medical treatment, including the decision to vaccinate, 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.

In Florida, a court can carve out an exception to shared parental responsibility, giving one parent “ultimate authority” to make decisions, such as the responsibility for deciding on vaccinations.

Ellyatt also discusses the well-known fact that the divorce rate has increased during the pandemic, how children can become a particular source of conflict and anguish in a break-up and the argument for vaccinating children being more complex than for adults, and the issue of Covid vaccines for children becoming another area of conflict for some parents.

The CNBC article is here.

Child Support and the 8,000 Year Travel Ban

Family laws are ancient and modern. Over the years, wise judges have learned to maintain the status quo by preventing parents from leaving the country during a case. But one Australian father, who allegedly owes millions in child support, just received an 8,000-year travel ban. This travel ban prevents him from leaving the holy land until the year 9999 in his ongoing international divorce.

Israel Travel Ban 2

Thou Shall Not Leave the Jurisdiction

Noam Huppert, a 44-year-old citizen of Australia was married to an Israeli woman and they have two young children together. The family court in Israel issued a “stay-of-exit” order against Noam, sometimes referred to in Israel as a “Tsav.” He apparently cannot lift the travel ban order – and leave the country – until he pays his outstanding child support payments.

“The total in the year 2013 was roughly 7.5 million shekels (roughly $3.34 million)”

Israel’s laws regarding child support may be ancient, but why 8,000 years? It has been reported that placing the travel ban’s expiration date of 9999  in the court order was probably because it was the highest possible date that fit in the field and he owed a lot of child support.

The US State Department regularly includes a warning about travel. The civil and religious courts in Israel actively exercise their authority to bar certain individuals, including non-residents, from leaving the country until they pay their debts or other legal claims against them are resolved.

The US State Department also warns travelers that the US Embassy is unable to cancel the debt of a US citizen or guarantee their departure from Israel when they face a travel ban from leaving the country until debts are resolved.

Mr. Huppert, who works as an analytical chemist for a pharmaceutical company, told the Australian news service NewsAU that Israeli courts had ruled he owed 5,000 shekels per month for each child until they turned 18.

Florida International Divorce

I’ve written about international divorce issues before. International divorce frequently involves understanding various issues in foreign laws, and especially, jurisdiction. Jurisdiction involves questions about who sues whom, where do you sue, how do you sue for international divorce, and what country’s laws apply.

Which country’s laws apply can be tricky, and even well represented clients can end up owing big. Recently a British court ordered the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, to pay his ex-wife Princess Haya bint al-Hussein more than $728 million in one of the largest divorce settlements ever handed down by a British court.

Rules against wrongfully abducting or retaining children in a foreign country, or leaving the jurisdiction, is a problem in every divorce – especially in international cases. One of the ways courts in Florida prevent child abductions and secure the payment of child support is travel bans.

So, in any proceeding in which there is a parenting plan involved, if there is a risk that a parent may remove a child from the state or country, or simply conceal the whereabouts of a child, courts have a lot of options at their disposal.

The powers of Florida courts to prevent the wrongful removal of a child can be as simple as ordering parents not to remove the child without the notarized written permission of both parents and a court order, limiting travel to Hague Convention countries.

In addition, Florida courts can require parents to surrender the child’s passport, place the child’s name in the Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program of the United States Department of State and/or post a bond or other security as a financial deterrent to abduction.

But parents can also lose their travel privileges in the United States for owing unpaid child support. For instance, the U.S. Department of State issues passports to U.S. citizens for foreign travel. If a parent owes more than $2,500 in past-due support, the Department of State automatically denies any application for a U.S. passport until the past-due child support is paid. This includes requests to renew, replace or add pages to an existing passport.

Woe to the shepherd who abandons the flock

In Israel, the family court in a divorce case can issue a ban on the children or a parent leaving the country when one of the parents requests it. The reason a ban can be issued by a court in Israel is because of the fear that one of the parents will take the children abroad and never return. This is especially true in a country such as Israel, with many immigrants.

Israeli courts can also issue the travel ban when a husband refuses to give his wife the “Get”, or as in the case of the Australian father, when a father refuses to pay, or is late on, the monthly children’s support.
It is possible to leave by legal means if a travel ban is in place. Similar to other jurisdictions, a father would have to provide guaranties and guarantors in order to leave the country.

Israel’s government allows you to check if you have a travel ban on their website to avoid a court ordered travel ban from interfering with your travel.

The Australia News Corp article is here.

New York Judge Orders Child Vaccinated Over Parent’s Objection

More news on child custody and vaccines as a family judge in New York orders an 11-year-old child to get vaccinated against COVID over a parent’s objection. It is a surprising child custody dispute over vaccination between a child’s lawyer/mother and scientist/father.

Child Custody Vaccination

Start Spreading the News

Donald and Jeannie Figer were divorced in 2012. Their divorce did not end the controversy. The mother, Jeannie Figer, is a lawyer in Rochester and her ex-husband, Donald Figer, is reported to be a scientist and professor at Rochester Institute of Technology. Their dispute? Must their child be vaccinated against COVID-19.

The recent decision comes out as the highly transmissible Omicron variant is quickly taking over. New York is becoming known as a state with some of the strongest vaccine mandates. While New York only encourages children to get vaccinates, New York City just expanded its COVID-19 mandates, setting vaccine requirements for children as young as 5 years old, and for workers at all private companies.

The father, who has himself been vaccinated, didn’t want them to rush the shot for his daughter as there were not any studies conducted on long-term side effects of the vaccine on kids, court papers say.

But Monroe County Supreme Court Judge Richard Dollinger ruled that time is of the essence in getting the 11-year-old vaccinated against the virus, and sided with Jeannie, who works as an attorney.

‘”Waiting — to be ‘sure,’ as the father asks — is simply untenable, when the specter of a killing or incapacitating disease is swirling in the environment surrounding this young girl. Scientists may never catch up to this ever-evolving and elusive virus and variants.”

The judge ordered the mother to get her daughter a vaccination appointment as soon as possible. It is unclear if the girl has since had the shot.

Florida Child Vaccinations

I’ve written about the injection of vaccines into Florida child custody cases 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.

Issues relating to a child’s physical health and medical treatment, including the decision to vaccinate against COVID-19, 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.

In Florida, a court can carve out an exception to shared parental responsibility, giving one parent “ultimate authority” to make decisions, such as the responsibility for deciding on vaccinations.

The decision to vaccinate raises interesting family law issues. It is important to know what your rights and responsibilities are in Florida and other states.

New York State of Mind

Judge Dollinger noted that Monroe County – where the child lives – has the second-highest rolling seven-day average of new cases per day since November 22nd. Many speculate the judge also worried about the rising Omicron variant of the virus, and an uptick of cases locally in upstate New York.

Judge Dollinger himself noted that he was confused about to why:

“an accomplished scientist and professor would oppose a child vaccine authorized by the CDC and universally encouraged by state and local physicians and other health officials.”

Jeannie Figer pointed out that both she, Donald, and their 19 and 17-year-old daughters have already been vaccinated and wanted the 11-year-old to join them. The ruling adds that the girl’s doctor has also recommended the vaccination.

Judge Dollinger also found that the risks of side effects from the vaccine are lesser than what would happen if she tested positive for virus, including spreading it to others.

‘”This court is unwilling to kick this can down the road,. ‘It could be years before any researchers have exacting accounts of either the short or long term consequences of the administration of this vaccine on 11-year-old girls with this child’s physiological makeup.'”

The Centers for Disease Control’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices in November unanimously voted 14-0 to recommend the Pfizer-BioNTech’s Covid pediatric vaccine dose for five to 11-year-olds. Over 700 children in the U.S. have died of COVID, but many American parents have cited the relatively low risk COVID poses to children as reason to hold off on vaccinating younger children.

The MSN article is here.

Court Orders Covid Vaccination of Children

In a child custody case in Kentucky, a family court orders the COVID vaccination of two small children. Last week a Kentucky appellate court decided the important issue of whether the family court judge was legally entitled to require the COVID vaccinations for the children over one parent’s objection.

Kentyck covid

The COVID Vaccine Derby

Recently Canada resolved the issue over whether an unvaccinated parent can actually lose their child custody rights for refusing to vaccinate their child. This week’s issue is slightly different, can the court require a vaccination over another parent’s strongly held religious views and objection.

In the Kentucky case, the parties had divorced in 2018. They shared joint custody and equal timesharing of their two children, aged eight and six. Throughout their marriage, and divorce, the parents always declined the required immunizations for their children on religious grounds.

In fact, there was proof that they had signed affidavits in New York and Georgia declining vaccinations for their children on religious grounds and when they divorced, they signed Kentucky’s form for declining immunizations on religious grounds.

However, two years later, the father had a change of heart. On June 30, 2020, he filed a motion for an order to allow him to vaccinate the children. The Mother objected, and a hearing was held in Family Court to resolve the question.

The Father testified that he originally agreed not to vaccinate the children because he was leaving for deployment with the military and was unable to meet with the pediatrician. He thought there was an understanding the parties would just delay the vaccines.

But, after he finished his military service, he began discussions with Mother regarding vaccinations for the children. Father stated that when he signed the vaccination declination affidavit he had doubts about the development of certain vaccines by use of aborted fetal cells.

Now he believes the use of aborted fetal cells is so far removed from the process of developing vaccines that his concerns no longer exist. He believes it is appropriate to vaccinate the children. He wants to follow the advice of the children’s pediatrician to vaccinate.

The Mother vehemently objected saying that doing so violates her firmly held religious convictions opposing the use of aborted fetal cells in the manufacture and design of the vaccines. Rather, she prefers using medication and antibiotics to treat her children. She argues there was an understanding between her and Father that the children should not be vaccinated and produced multiple documents the parties signed to that effect.

Florida Child Vaccinations

I’ve written about the injection of vaccines into Florida child custody cases 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.

Issues relating to a child’s physical health and medical treatment, including the decision to vaccinate, 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.

In Florida, a court can carve out an exception to shared parental responsibility, giving one parent “ultimate authority” to make decisions, such as the responsibility for deciding on vaccinations.

The decision to vaccinate raises interesting family law issues. It is important to know what your rights and responsibilities are in Florida and other states.

Kentucky Fried Covid

The family court trial judge ruled it was in the children’s best interest to be vaccinated. The judge reasoned that, on balance, the children’s health and welfare outweighed the religious beliefs of one parent.

The court ordered that the parties consult with the pediatrician to craft a “catch-up” schedule bringing the children current on vaccinations and other immunizations, or, if the parties were able, to agree to alternative vaccines that could potentially be utilized that do not use aborted fetal cells in their development and design.

In affirming the trial judge’s ruling on appeal, the appellate court noted the overriding principle that the best interest of each child must be served by the family court’s decision.

The mother’s argument did not articulate any detriment or risk of harm to her children by not vaccinating them. The father simply argued her religious views should not take precedence over his.

The court ruled that when there is an impasse between a Mother and Father a family court properly can ‘break the tie’. Equal decision-making power is not required for joint custody, and parties or trial courts are free to vest greater authority in one parent even under a joint custody arrangement.

The family court heard from both the Mother and Father, and found that it would be in the children’s best interest to be vaccinated in accordance with their pediatrician’s recommendations and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.

The Kentucky appellate opinion is here.