Tag: child

Child Custody and Punishment

Years of research has shown that spanking children is ineffective and may be harmful. The American Academy of Pediatrics just announced a new policy that parents not spank, hit or slap their children. With all the new research out there, people are discovery that there is a connection between child custody and punishment.

custody and punishment

New Corporal Punishment Policy

The new AAP policy against spanking reflects decades of critical new research on the effects of corporal punishment and because parents and educators put enormous trust in pediatricians for discipline advice.

When your pediatrician says not to spank, there is a very good chance that parents will listen. The other good news is that it is becoming unacceptable to use corporal punishment.

Some hospitals have a “no hit zone” policy that do not allow hitting of any kind, including parents spanking children. City leaders in Stoughton, Wisconsin made their whole cities into “no hit zones” – similar to no smoking zones.

Florida Custody and Punishment

I’ve written about child custody and punishment before. 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 domestic violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect.

Historically, parents have always had a right to discipline their child in a ‘reasonable manner.’ So, our laws recognize that corporal discipline of a child by a parent for disciplinary purposes does not in itself constitute abuse when it does not result in harm to the child.

Harm, by the way, does not mean just bruises or welts for instance. Harm also means that the discipline is likely to result in physical injury, mental injury, or emotional injury. Even if you don’t physically harm a child, your actions could be criminal.

Florida’s parental privilege to use corporal discipline does not give absolute immunity either. Your run-of-the-mill spanking may be protected from charges of child abuse, but punching your child, pushing him onto the floor and kicking him is not.

Keep in mind that lawyers, guardians and judges are watching you, and you don’t want your punishment methods to become an issue in your custody case. While there are some limited privileges for discipline, there are major risks to your custody case, and most importantly, to your children.

Spanking Doesn’t Work

There are practical reasons to stop spanking besides custody. The main one is that it does not work. Numerous studies show that spanking does not make children better behaved in the long run, and in fact makes their behavior worse.

Spanking also teaches children that it is acceptable to use physical force to get what you want. It is thus no surprise that the more children are spanked, the more aggressive or to engage in delinquent behaviors like stealing they may be.

Millions of parents have raised well-adjusted children without spanking. Nothing is perfect, but telling children clearly what you expect from them and then praising them when they do it is the best approach to discipline.

The CNN article is here.


Child Custody and Choosing Religion

The mother was Christian and the father a Muslim, but she converted to Islam when they married. After they separated, the mother reverted to Christianity. When parents share or have joint child custody, who decides the child’s religion? A New York appellate court just gave the answer.

Choosing My Religion

A Brooklyn couple divorced in 2009 with one child. Their settlement agreement gave them joint legal custody, and the mother had primary physical custody.

The agreement made them consult with each other about the child’s religion, but did not specify which religion the child would be raised. The mother taught the child Christian values and practices.

The child complained the father was pressuring her to adopt Muslim practices and threatened to abcond with her to his native Morocco if she failed to follow Muslim practices and customs.

The child asked the mother to call the police and school personnel. The mother filed for sole legal custody, and the father petitioned to enforce visitation and to enforce a purported oral agreement that the child would be raised as a Muslim.

Florida Custody and Religion

I have published an article on 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 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.

The Brooklyn, New York case involved the modification of an existing joint custody order.

In Florida, the person seeking modification of custody must show both that the circumstances have substantially, materially changed since the original custody order, and that the child’s best interests justify changing custody. Additionally, the substantial change must be one that was not reasonably contemplated at the time of the original judgment.

Losing My Religion

Back in Brooklyn, the Family Court granted the mother’s to modify joint custody, and give her sole legal custody but granted the father liberal visitation, including on all major Muslim holidays.

The parties’ inability to agree on the child’s religion, the change in the child’s relationship with the father, her fear of his displeasure for not being a “true Muslim,” and her belief that he’d kidnap her to Morocco, constituted changes in circumstances.

The appellate court held that awarding the Mother sole decision-making authority with respect to religion was in the child’s best interests because the father’s actual or perceived insistence that the child follow Islam and threats to abscond to Morocco had a serious adverse effect on the child’s relationship.

The opinion in Baala v. Baala 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.


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.


Vaccinations and Custody

In Michigan, a judge reduced a mother’s child custody rights after she refused to vaccinate her son. What is the relationship between custody and vaccinations?

Michigan’s Vaccination Case

In Michigan, Oakland County Judge Karen McDonald ruled Wednesday that Rebecca Bredow will no longer have primary custody of the boy but will have joint custody with her ex-husband, James Horne.

Horne wanted to vaccinate the boy, and Bredow agreed to do so last November. But she didn’t. She says vaccinations go against her religious beliefs.

Custody and Vaccinations

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.

Florida Vaccinations

I’ve written about the decision to vaccinate and custody in Florida before.

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.

There are at least two cases in Florida dealing with the decision to vaccinate and custody, and they conflict!

In one case, a Florida court heard the conflicting positions on immunization and decided that it would be in the child’s best interest to allow the anti-vaccination Mother to make the ultimate decision regarding the child’s immunization.

Ten years later, a different Florida court heard conflicting testimony, and decided it was in the child’s best interest to award the pro-vaccination Father ultimate responsibility to make decisions regarding the minor child’s vaccinations.

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

Vaccination and Jail

Back in Michigan, Judge McDonald found Bredow in contempt of court last week and ordered her jailed. She also granted temporary custody to Horne and ordered the boy to be vaccinated. He received four immunizations on Monday.

Bredow told reporters Wednesday she was “in shock” by the court’s decision. Her attorney plans to appeal.