Tag: Custody & Education

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.

 

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.

 

Religious School and Custody

When two parents with equal custody disagree about sending their kids to religious school, how does a court decide? A couple from Nevada just found out if courts must choose the religious school over the secular one.

Religious or Secular School?

A Nevada couple agreed to joint custody of their two children, to send their children to private school, and equally split the cost of private school tuition and costs for the minor children. But, they disagreed about which school.

The Father wanted his daughter to attend a religious private school, Faith Lutheran. He said it was in her best interest because she was used to private schooling, she wanted to enroll there, and it had a high college placement rate.

The Mother objected to her child receiving a religious education at Faith Lutheran. She argued that she should attend the local public school, Bob Miller Middle School, which was highly ranked for academics and closer to the daughter’s primary residence.

The trial court concluded that both schools were good, and didn’t make any findings that one was better, but chose the public school “because it was ‘taking into consideration the Mother’s religious objection.”

The mother appealed, saying her religious objection should categorically trump because courts can’t indoctrinate a child with their religious views, particularly over the objection of a parent.

Private School Tuition

I’ve written about the intersection of private school and child custody before. Very often the issue is should a parent have to pay for private school (religious or not).

Pursuant to Florida Statutes, a trial court cannot order a parent to contribute to private school expenses unless it first finds that:

(1) the parties have the ability to pay such expenses
(2) the expenses are in accordance with the customary standard of living of the parties, and
(3) attendance at private school is in the child’s best interest.

If parents are unable to reach an agreement with respect to the payment of tuition, a judge will review the evidence you present and make a decision.

If this becomes necessary, the judge will review all of the financial aspects of the case, including each parent’s income, the history of paying certain expenses and the schools themselves.

The Constitution and Religious Schools

Sometimes tuition cost is not the problem though, religion itself is. The Nevada Supreme Court rejected the mother’s argument:

“The First Amendment mandates governmental neutrality between religion and religion, and between religion and nonreligion.” Neutrality means that the court “may not be hostile to any religion or to the advocacy of no-religion.”

The court can violate this principle of neutrality when it treats one parent’s religious objection as dispositive when deciding between a religious school and a nonreligious school.

In the Nevada case, the family court disfavored religion rather than acting neutrally toward it. In ordering that the daughter attend a nonreligious school, the only explanation the court provided was that it had taken into consideration religious objection.

However, there were no findings regarding the child’s best interest and appears to have treated the Mother’s religious objection as dispositive in an attempt to avoid constitutional issues related to religion.

In trying to steer clear of constitutional issues, however, the district court collided head-on with the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause by disfavoring religion.

Neutrality, under the Constitution means that the father doesn’t have a right to demand that his child go to a religious school and the mother have a right to demand that the child go to a secular school. Courts have to decide issues like this on a basis other than the school’s religiosity.

The article from Reason is here.

 

Madonna, Custody & Education

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Child Custody on Monday, February 8, 2016.

Madonna and her ex-husband are locked in a child custody battle over their son. Surprisingly, the child’s education is the big issue being fought over. How does a court resolve education disputes?

Madonna and Guy were divorced in 2008. They have a son together. A Manhattan Civil Supreme Court judge ordered the son to return to Madonna in New York. The 15-year-old has been living with his father at his London home.

The child is rumored to want to live with his father. Madonna thinks the father is turning her son against her:

“He’s telling Rocco he should stay with him. It seems like he’s trying to brainwash the kid.”

The fight is centered around parenting-styles: how much pressure about education should be placed on their son. He is set to take the Regents, the high school qualification exams in New York.

The Father has publicly stated he is “anti-school,” and “anti-people putting so much pressure on kids and robbing their childhood by giving them so much homework. I think if kids want to arse around, then they should.”

Conversely, Madonna pays attention to education and discipline (like taking away cellphone use). Her discipline may be influencing her son, who now wants to be with his more lenient father. Madonna’s daughter attends the University of Michigan.

I’ve written about custody issues before. In Florida, shared parental responsibility is the preferred relationship between parents. 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 education 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 based on an evaluation of statutory factors, and one equitable catch-all factor, affecting the welfare and interests of the child and the circumstances of the child’s family.

The statute authorizes one parent to have ultimate responsibility for certain decisions. For example, education is an area of ultimate responsibility a court can award. When a decision on education goes to trial, the court grants one parent ultimate responsibility to make that decision.

Madonna and Guy are due in New York Supreme Court on March 2 to sort out these custody decisions.

The Us Magazine article is here.