Tag: Equal Timesharing

Pet Custody in China

Pet custody is sweeping the world. In the People’s Republic of China, a recent divorce settlement was stalled after the divorcing couple was unable to agree on who was entitled to custody of the pet corgi.

Pet Custody

The New Kids in Divorce?

The couple, surnamed Xu and Li, from Quzhou city in Zhejiang, one of the more wealthy provinces in eastern China, agreed to get divorced in April this year. The parties reached agreement on the distribution of their joint assets and debts after their seven-year marriage, with one furry exception.

The couple have no children, but both are enthusiastic animal lovers. Accordingly, custody of a pet corgi dog they had raised together became a central focus of their divorce.

The family court helped the couple divide up joint assets, including property and vehicles quickly, as neither party had any objections. However, when it came to their pet dog, the court was surprised that both demanded full custody of the pet corgi.

Florida Pet Custody

I’ve written on the development of pet custody cases and statutes around the world before. Pet custody cases are becoming more and more prevalent internationally. That’s because lawmakers and advocacy groups are promoting the notion that the legal system should act in the best interests of animals as pet ownership increases.

Pets are becoming a recognized part of the family, some would argue they’re a modern couple’s new kids. About 15 years ago, states began to allow people to leave their estates to care for their pets. Recently, courts have gone so far as to award shared custody, visitation and even alimony payments to pet owners.

Florida doesn’t have pet custody or visitation laws. Florida courts are already overwhelmed with the supervision of custody, visitation, and support matters related to the protection of children.

Not all states have ruled out a visitation schedule for dogs like Florida. For instance, while Texas also views dogs as personal property, in one case a Texas court authorized visitation. A new California law changed the way pet custody is handled in divorce cases. The law gives judges the power to consider the care and the best interest of the pet when making decisions.

According to a recent survey of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, about 30% of attorneys have seen a decrease over the past three years in pet custody cases in front of a judge.

Over the last decade, the question of pet custody has become more prevalent, particularly when it involves a two-income couple with no children who shared responsibility for, and are both attached to, the pet.

Quzhou’s Corgi Custody Case

The woman, Xu, told the court that she deserved ownership of the corgi. She testified that not only did she buy the dog, but that she raised the corgi by herself. The corgi has become a part of her family and has been by her side ever since, she claimed.

In undermining the Husband’s custody request, she added that her ex-husband Li didn’t take responsibility for looking after the corgi. She described him as a workaholic, who in his spare time played video games.

Although Li acknowledged that he did not feed the animal as often as his ex-wife, or clean up after it, he said he often walked the dog and considered it to be his child.

The court accepted that the corgi was a joint asset in the marriage, but one which couldn’t be divided easily. Eventually, the couple reached an agreement that the corgi would live with the woman, while every month Li should pay alimony to her for taking care of the dog. If the animal became ill, they must share the dog’s medical expenses. Li was given legal visitation rights to the corgi.

After the story was reported, it caused widespread online conversation about the fate of pets in a divorce. One person commented: “A pet is a part of the family, it’s understandable the divorcing couple wanted to fight for it.” Another said: “Now that more couples give up on having children, keeping pets as kids will probably rise.”

Data showed that in 2021 the number of pet owners in China had reached 68.44 million. In the U.S. roughly 70 percent of households own a pet, with dogs being the most numerous pet and salt water fish coming in last.

The South China Morning Post article is here.

 

Florida Grandparent Visitation Bill

Good news for Florida grandparents. The Florida House recently passed a visitation bill with profound meaning for Florida grandparents who have become estranged from their grandchildren after a tragedy. A companion bill, SB 1408, is awaiting a final vote on the Senate calendar.

Grandparent Visitation

Markel Act in the House

Currently in Florida, a grandparent can only be awarded visitation rights with their grandchildren under extremely limited circumstances, such as when a child’s parents are both deceased, missing, or in a permanent vegetative state.

However, when only one parent is deceased, missing, or in a permanent vegetative state, the other parent must have been convicted of a felony or a violent offense in order for a grandparent to be able to petition for visitation.

Additionally, a court would have to find that the grandparent has established a prima facie case that the surviving parent is unfit or poses a danger of significant harm to the child to be entitled to visitation. If that burden is not met, the court must dismiss the grandparent’s petition.

HB 1119 dramatically changes the law of grandparent visitation in Florida. It expands the ability for a grandparent to petition for visitation rights of his or her grandchild in certain narrow circumstances.
The bill does this by changing Florida Statutes to create a rebuttable presumption for granting reasonable visitation with the petitioning grandparent or step-grandparent under certain circumstances.

If a court finds that one parent of a child has been held criminally or civilly liable for the death of the other parent of the child, 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 effort behind the bill, informally referred to as “The Markel Act” was inspired in part by the 2014 murder of FSU law professor Dan Markel, who was hunted down and shot in the head by a hitman shortly after dropping Dan dropped his two sons off at preschool.

Prosecutors have publicly identified Markel’s ex-wife, Wendi Adelson, as an alleged “co-conspirator” to the murder, along with her mother and brother. Law enforcement says Adelson’s motive was to relocate to South Florida amid custody battles with Markel. While Adelson family members have not been arrested yet, three others have — the hitman, who was found guilty and sentenced to life; his accomplice, who pleaded guilty and confessed who had hired them; and their intermediary, who faces a retrial in May.

The bill passed the House with a vote of 112-3.

Florida Grandparent Visitation

I have written extensively on grandparent visitation in Florida. In early common law, there was never a right to visitation by non-parents, and Florida has clung to that tradition. That is ironic, as a lot of elderly voters reside in Florida, and politicians have been trying to create visitation rights to grandparent voters here.

Beginning in 1978, the Florida legislature started making changes to the Florida Statutes that granted enforceable rights to visit their grandchildren.

The Florida Supreme Court built a massive wall blocking Florida grandparent visitation rights, explaining that parenting is protected by the right to privacy, a fundamental right, and any intrusion upon that right must be justified by a compelling state interest. In Florida, that compelling state interest was harm to the child:

“[W]e hold that the [s]tate may not intrude upon the parents’ fundamental right to raise their children except in cases where the child is threatened with harm.”

Not too long ago, the Florida Supreme Court held that under the federal Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act any custody determination or visitation determination – including grandparent rights – are protected and enforceable under the PKPA. And, to the extent that the PKPA conflicts with Florida law, the PKPA controls under the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution because it is a federal law.

Senate Grandparent Visitation

The Senate companion bill unanimously cleared its committees and heads next to the Senate Floor. Both bills have bipartisan support. Specifically, the Senate Bill creates a presumption that a court may award a grandparent reasonable visitation with a grandchild in cases where the court has found that one parent has been held criminally or civilly liable for the death of the other parent of the grandchild unless not in the child’s best interest.

For five years, while the wheels of justice turned, Markel’s parents, Ruth and Phil, were kept from contact with their grandsons. As Ruth commented:

“We have profound gratitude for the Florida House, in particular Speaker Chris Sprowls, Rep. Jackie Toledo, and the other co-sponsors, for their vision and leadership. There’s nothing more important to us than leaving a record of how deeply we’ve tried to reconnect with our grandsons. Out of our tragedy, we hope to create something meaningful for other families to visit their grandchildren. Today marks a powerful day in this journey.”

Toledo tried to downplay the impact on parent rights by commenting that the Senate was not looking at ways to dismantle the rights of parents but to correct the problem in law when one parent retains custody even when implicated in the death of their co-parent.

Justice for Dan, a grassroots group of friends and allies, praises Speaker Sprowls, the bill sponsors, and members for their action for what it deems a clear message: murder can’t be a solution to custody battles.

The Florida Politics article is here.

Equal Timesharing Bill Blowing through Tallahassee

The winds of change are blowing as the latest equal timesharing bill, CS/HB 1395, moves through Tallahassee. Many parents, lawyers, psychologists and other experts wonder whether Florida will start requiring equal timesharing in all child custody cases.

Equal Timesharing

Typhoon Timesharing

It seems as if each new Florida legislative season has turned into a new hurricane season, dropping invasive lobbyists into Tallahassee to change our native, home-grown child custody and alimony laws.

Not surprisingly, once again the equal timesharing bill is hidden inside an alimony reform bill. Regarding alimony, Florida currently recognizes five main types of alimony: temporary, bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, durational, and permanent.

In determining the type, amount, duration, and later modification or termination of an alimony award, the court has broad discretion but may only award alimony after initially determining that one spouse needs alimony and the other spouse is able to pay alimony.

For alimony purposes, this year’s House Bill increases presumptions relating to the length of a marriage, changes the types of alimony available, prohibits an award of alimony if the payor has met certain requirements for retirement before filing for divorce and prohibits an award of permanent alimony.

But few people – other than the experts and lawyers studying the bill – know that the alimony reform bill also creates a presumption that equal timesharing is in the best interest of a minor child. If passed, House Bill 1395, would codify into law a presumption of 50/50 timesharing between divorced parents. While this sounds fair, it poses a real risk to children.

Florida Timesharing

I’ve written on the legislative efforts to change to an equal timesharing state before. Historically, Florida courts have consistently ruled that a parent’s desire and right to the companionship, care, custody, and management of his or her children is an important interest that warrants deference and, absent a powerful countervailing interest, protection.

Florida law provides broad guidelines to assist courts in determining parenting and time-sharing of children based on the best interests of the child standard. It has been the public policy of Florida that each child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents after separation or divorce, and to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities, and joys, of childrearing.

To meet that state policy, there has not been a presumption for or against the father or mother of the child or for or against any specific timesharing schedule when creating or modifying the parenting plan of the child, and no presumption in favor of a specific time-sharing schedule when the parties are unable to agree.

Just as each divorce is unique, and is treated in a unique way, each timesharing schedule for a family is treated in a unique way for that family. By taking each case individually, you have a better chance of creating a parenting plan that best fits the children involved.

Winds of Change?

But now Florida is facing a Category 5 change. House Bill 1395 amends Florida law to create a presumption that equal time-sharing (commonly referred to as “50/50 time-sharing”) is in the best interests of a minor child common to both parties unless otherwise agreed to by the parties. This would be for every case, instead of the case-by-case basis looking into the details of what is best for kids.

This year’s legislative session started on January 11, 2022 and is scheduled to wrap up on March 11, 2022. The bill provides an effective date of July 1, 2022.

The Tallahassee Democrat article is here.

Florida Alimony Reform 2021

Florida Alimony Reform 2021 is back in the news as the Legislature once again takes up how alimony and child sharing are handled in family law courtrooms. This year’s bills in the House and Senate have many changes, including the elimination of permanent alimony and an equal timesharing presumption.

The Sausage Factory

As  WLRN reports:

“I was married for 17 years to a man who quit working the minute we were married. I supported about seven different businesses that he ran into the ground. He abused drugs and alcohol. And he was abusive to me and our two children.”

Shultz says she was ordered by the court to pay her ex-husband $5,250 per month for the rest of her life. I cannot retire because I have alimony payments to pay every 30 days,” Shultz says. House Bill 1559 would also allow payments to end when the person providing the alimony reaches full retirement age as determined by the U.S. Social Security Administration—with exceptions.

Under existing case law, someone paying alimony can apply to have their alimony adjusted or terminated upon reaching the normal retirement age for their job or profession.

Florida Alimony

I’ve written about subject of alimony in Florida before. In every Florida dissolution of marriage case, the court can grant alimony to either party – husband or wife.

Not many people realize there are several types of alimony in Florida: temporary, bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, durational, and permanent. In determining the type, amount, duration, and later modification or termination of an alimony award, the court has broad discretion but may only award alimony after initially determining that one spouse needs alimony and the other spouse is able to pay alimony.

If a court awards or denies an alimony request, it must consider enumerated factors and may consider the adultery of either spouse or any other factor it finds necessary to achieve equity and justice between the parties. An alimony award may be modified or terminated when the circumstances or financial ability of either party changes, including changes due to a receiving spouse’s supportive relationship or a paying spouse’s retirement.

Florida courts can also award a combination of alimony types in a divorce. Alimony awards are normally paid in periodic payments, but sometimes the payments can be in a lump sum or both lump sum and periodic payments.

In determining whether to award alimony or not, the court has to first make a determination as to whether a wife or a husband, has an actual need for alimony, and whether the other party has the ability to pay alimony.

Typically, courts consider any type of earned income or compensation — that is, income resulting from employment or other efforts — along with recurring passive income, such as dividends on your investments, in establishing the amount of support you will be responsible to pay.

In Florida, once a court determines there is a need and the income available to pay alimony – sometimes referred to as the ability to pay alimony – it has to decide the proper type and amount of alimony. In doing so, the court considers several factors, some of which can include:

  • The standard of living established during the marriage.
  • The duration of the marriage.
  • The age and the physical and emotional condition of each party.
  • The financial resources of each party, including the nonmarital and the marital assets and liabilities distributed to each.

Other factors, such as the earning capacities, educational levels, vocational skills, and employability of the parties and, when applicable, the time necessary for either party to acquire sufficient education or training to enable such party to find appropriate are also considered.

No Time Like Equal Time?

A very strange component of the Florida alimony bills is that the bills deal with parenting time with children. The proposed bills would create a presumption that 50/50 time-sharing of children would be in the child’s best interest — meaning both parents would have equal time with their child.

Right now, timesharing is analyzed in detail. The existing law requires judges to evaluate several different factors in determining an appropriate parenting plan for a child. Rep. Emily Slosberg (D-Delray Beach) questioned the change during a meeting on the bill:

“So, under your bill, if there is hypothetically one parent who is drug-addicted and another parent who has really been caring for the child—under your bill, this would create a presumption that 50/50 is in the best interest in the child.”

“Absolutely not,” bill sponsor Miami Republican Rep. Anthony Rodriguez (R-Miami) said in response. “I mean, you walk into the courtroom, and there is a presumption of 50/50 time-sharing, but, in that scenario, specifically in the scenario representative, it is obvious that the judge would not grant 50/50 time-sharing to a drug-addicted parent.”

“There is a clear nexus between alimony and time-sharing, and we believe that when you walk into the courtroom, the focus of the divorce should be the children. And there should be an equal time-sharing of such, and if for whatever reason that should not be the case, then the judge can decide that,” Rodriguez says. Rodriguez says his bill allows for the presumption of 50/50 time-sharing to be rebutted by a judge.

Obvious? Philip Schipani is a family law attorney who represents clients who have special needs children. He says judges don’t always have a full understanding of a family’s situation. He worries the presumption created under Rodriguez’s bill will put an extra burden on his clients.

“And right now, I have a pending case—a child with special needs—this presumption if they put a 50/50—the father hasn’t seen the child for four years. Not only [does] the child [have] severe special needs, the husband’s a recovering drug addict who hasn’t seen the child in years. So, then you slap this presumption on, and then I have an extra burden to overcome. Not only do I have to explain the child’s condition, explain the drug addiction, I have to overcome this presumption as well,” Schipani says.

The WLRN article is here.

 

Free Speech and Child Custody in Massachusetts

Free speech and child custody are in the news as people discover they can’t say a lot of things after their child custody battle ends. A recent Massachusetts appeals court just decided whether some typical child custody order restrictions violated free speech laws.

custody free speech

Chilling Speech

In a Massachusetts court, a Father filed a complaint for custody, support and parenting time, seeking custody of the parties’ child. The Mother counterclaimed and a temporary custody order was entered.

A few months later, the family judge entered its own temporary order relating to exchanges of the child, telephone calls and exchanging addresses. After the final hearing, the court ordered joint legal custody and nearly equal timesharing for both parents.

The order also contained numerous restrictions on both parents’ speech. Although the court’s order appears to have the best interest of the child at heart, prior restraints on speech are very serious constitutional violations.

The order restrained the parents from making any disparaging or negative comments of any type of nature whatsoever to one another by telephone, text or email or to any other third person, to include the child and/or disparaging comments relative to one another electronic social media. The order also prohibited the parents from discussing legal proceedings with the child.

Florida Child Custody and Speech Restrictions

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 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.

Stirring the Constitutional Speech Beanpot

The appellate court in Massachusetts reversed the speech restrictions because a number of – fairly typical speech provisions for a child custody order – placed an impermissible restraint on the mother’s speech and interfered in her child rearing.

The court found the family judge failed to provide specific findings to justify a compelling State interest in placing restrictions on the mother, or to explain why the limitations were necessary to protect the compelling interest.

Prior restraints are “extraordinary remedies,” and are “permissible only where the harm expected from the unrestrained speech is grave, the likelihood of the harm occurring without the prior restraint in place is all but certain, and there are no alternative, less restrictive means to mitigate the harm.”

A prior restraint will not be upheld unless it is “justified by a compelling State interest to protect against a serious threat of harm,” and the limitation on speech is “no greater than is necessary to protect the compelling interest that is asserted as a justification for the restraint.”

Although the judge clearly was attempting to reduce future conflict between the parties in fashioning the judgment as he did, he failed to provide specific findings justifying the State’s interests in the restraints imposed; instead he simply stated that the orders were made in “the best interest of the … child,” which alone is not enough to justify a prior restraint on speech.

The Massachusetts appellate opinion is here.

 

Swinging into Child Custody Co-parenting

Four years after Spiderman star Tobey Maguire separated from his estranged Wife Jennifer Meyer, the couple is swinging into a new life of child custody and co-parenting in a way many divorcing couples should stick to.

Spiderman coparenting

Spiderman Meets Divorce Court

The two are officially ending their marriage. Four years after splitting, Meyer filed for divorce from the actor. Jennifer Meyer announced their separation, but the issues that led to the end of their nine-year marriage are not new.

“They’ve been living separate lives for a while. They have completely different interests and haven’t seemed to be connecting.”

Part of the problem seems to be a personality clash. “He’s extremely private and prefers to stay home, and she’s very social and has tons of girlfriends,” the source explains.

“They haven’t been happy together for a long time. But they are great parents, and they love their children.” A family friend echoed the couple’s devotion to their children. “It’s a marriage that’s ending, but a bond and a family as strong as any I know. They’re remarkable people. And very supportive of each other.”

Florida Co-Parenting

The question about an award of custody of children frequently comes up and is a matter I’ve written about before. Many people are surprised to learn that the term “custody” is 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” in the hopes of making child custody issues less controversial, and encourage parents to co-parent more effectively.

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.

Florida’s parenting plan concept has changed sole custody into “sole parental responsibility.” The term means that only one parent makes decisions regarding the minor child, as opposed to the shared parental responsibility terms, where both parents make decisions jointly.

Spidey Sense

Maguire, 41, and Meyer, 39 met in early 2003 and were married four years later in an intimate wedding ceremony in Hawaii, witnessed by a small group of family and friends.

At the time Meyer, a jewelry designer, shared her feelings about the big moment, telling USA Today, “Let’s just say this is truly the best time of my life. I’m walking on air. I’m getting married, starting a family and have an amazing company.”

The actor, who has spoken out about having a rocky childhood, revealed that settling down was a big priority in his life.

“Growing up the way I did, I had a very serious ambition to make some money, to have some security and comfort in my life,” he told Parade magazine in 2007.

Maguire has been keeping a low profile in Hollywood since wrapping up Spider-Man 3 — his final outing with the franchise — in 2007, appearing only in a handful of carefully selected projects including 2013’s The Great Gatsby and 2015’s Pawn Sacrifice, his last film to date.

The actor has also been seen hanging with pal Leonardo DiCaprio and girlfriend Nina Agdal, mostly recently on a yacht in Ibiza.

Maguire and Meyer also attended Jennifer Aniston and Justin Theroux’s secret wedding last year (Meyer designed Aniston’s wedding ring), and eventually joined Aniston and Theroux on a group honeymoon trip to Bora Bora that included a slew of other friends.

“They have completely different interests and haven’t seemed to be connecting,” the insider said at the time. “He’s extremely private and prefers to stay home, and she’s very social and has tons of girlfriends.”

“They haven’t been happy together for a long time,” the source continued, “but they are great parents, and they love their children.”

Despite their separation, the duo seems to have remained on friendly terms. The Spider-Man star has shown up to support Meyer in the years since their split. In 2018, Maguire attended the opening of his ex’s jewelry store in Los Angeles and posed for photos with Meyer.

In June, Meyer wished Maguire a happy Father’s Day on Instagram, calling the actor her “best friend.”

“To the best baby daddy. All is can say is no matter what happens in life, to relationships etc…. choose a dad for your kids that you can count on forever. This one right here is my best friend and the greatest dad to our babies. I’m sorry Tobey, I know you hate Instagram, but every once in a while I like to brag to everyone about how special you are ❤️ Happy Father’s Day.”

The People article is here.

 

Unorthodox: Religion, Divorce and More Good Coronavirus Info

Religion and courts don’t mix. However, judges are sometimes asked to order a parent to enforce religious issues when timesharing. That just happened in Brooklyn, and the case involves ordering an atheist father to follow religious laws. There’s also some good coronavirus information out there.

Divorce Religion

Brooklyn 2020

During any relationship, a parent is free to choose how strictly to enforce the other parent’s religion. Sure, feeding your Jewish child Cuban croquetas may lead to a divorce, but your spouse can’t report you to the police for not eating kosher.

But how about after a couple files for divorce? When the parents have divorced and entered into a settlement agreement about religious matters, for example, some religious restrictions may be enforceable in court despite the separation between church and state.

Recently in Brooklyn, a couple practiced Satmar Hasidic Judaism, the same sect in the Netflix series “Unorthodox.” In the Brooklyn case, the Father went “unorthodox”, but continued to dress as a Hasidic Jew. After the divorce, a family court awarded the mother sole custody with the father getting parental access.

The father was ordered to give the children kosher food and make “all reasonable efforts to ensure that the children’s appearance and conduct comply with the Hasidic’ religious requirements of the mother and of the children’s schools as they were raised while the children were in his custody.

Florida Religion and Divorce

I’ve written about the intersection of religion and divorce – especially as it relates to vaccinations. Religion, religious beliefs, and religious practices are not statutory factors Florida courts consider when determining parental responsibility.

Nor is religion an area in which a parent may be granted ultimate responsibility over a child. Instead, the weight religion plays in custody disputes grew over time in various cases.

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.

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 trial 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.

Following that, and other decisions, Florida courts will not stop a parent from practicing their religion or from influencing the religious training of their child inconsistent with that of the other parent.

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.

Do the Right Thing

The Brooklyn case went back to the family court, and after a hearing was held, the mother conceded that the father was not really preventing the children from practicing their Judaism during his timesharing.

Instead, the mother’s complaint was that the father himself was not complying with Hasidic religious requirements in the presence of the children while he was timesharing with them, and that didn’t comply with the religious clause.

After the hearing, the family court attempted to enforce the religious upbringing provision of the judgment by ordering the father – during his timesharing – to “conduct himself in accordance with the cultural norms” of Hasidic Judaism established by the parents during the marriage.

The court then directed that the father’s behavior and conduct when in the presence of the children “must and should be consistent with the cultural norm . . . established by the parents.”

The father appealed from that part of the order directing him to comply with the cultural norms of Hasidic Judaism during his timesharing. The appellate court reversed.

By directing him to comply with the “cultural norms” of Hasidic Judaism during his timesharing, the family court ran afoul of constitution by compelling the father to himself practice a religion, rather than merely directing him to provide the children with a religious upbringing.

While the court referred to the “cultural norms” by which the children were raised, the testimony at the hearing made clear that the “cultural norms” were really the religious requirements of Hasidic Judaism, which was unconstitutional.

Good Coronavirus Information

Green spaces, parks, and boardwalks are too crowded — making it impossible to maintain the minimum 6 feet of social distancing recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention without exposing yourself or your family to the coronavirus.

Tech can help avoid those areas and crowds if you absolutely must leave your shelter. Here are some tools that can help:

  • Strava, the activity-tracking app, can help you find alternative routes for running, walking and riding.
  • AllTrails identifies lightly treaded trails nearby.
  • Before your next grocery run, consult Google’s popular times to see if it’s crowded. A pink “Live” indicator is a good representation of how many people are there right now.
  • If you aren’t sure what 6 feet looks like, bust out the Measure app on your iPhone or Android device.

The Reason article is here.

 

Make Your Holiday a Happy Holiday

The family law offices of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. will close at 12 PM on Tuesday, December 24 for the Christmas holiday and will have limited office hours until January 2, 2020. We wish you and your family a Happy Chanukah, a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year! Below are some tips to help make your family holiday a happy holiday this year.

Happy Holiday2

Before the arrival of the holidays is the time to resolve child custody and timesharing problems so you can enjoy your family on the holidays with minimum stress. Here are suggestions to make your holiday timesharing issues a little easier:

  • Alternate. Some families alternate the holiday every other year. If you get the kids this year, next year will be the other parent’s turn. Having a regular plan to fall back on can eliminate the potential for what is fair.
  • Be flexible. An easy holiday schedule for everyone may require some changes from the normal visitation schedule.
  • Be respectful. You may not want to be friends anymore, but you need to figure out how to communicate with your ex without all the emotional baggage.
  • Don’t mix issues. Do not bring up unrelated issues which could make a problem free Christmas dinner impossible. Set aside your differences until after the holiday season.
  • Pick your battles. Christmas may even be more important to you than Easter is to your ex-spouse. Don’t fight just for the sake of fighting.
  • Protect the children. Your children’s memories of Christmas morning should be about family, food and fun. They should not be forced to witness you and another parent arguing.
  • Plan. Start talking about the holiday visitation schedule sooner rather than later, the longer you wait the harder it can be.

Going through separation, divorce and family law issues during the holidays is always stressful. But, the weather has cooled and the kids are on vacation. Try to make the holidays the best time of year.

 

Merry Christmas

The divorce and family law offices of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. will close at 2 PM on Monday, December 24 for the Christmas holiday. We will re-open at 9AM on Wednesday December 26. We wish you and your family a Merry Christmas.

divorce holidays

Before the arrival of Christmas is the time to resolve child custody and timesharing problems so you can enjoy your family on the holidays with minimum stress.

Below are suggestions to make your holiday timesharing issues a little easier:

  • Alternate. Some families alternate the holiday every other year. If you get the kids this year, next year will be the other parent’s turn. Having a regular plan to fall back on can eliminate the potential for what is fair.
  • Be flexible. An easy holiday schedule for everyone may require some changes from the normal visitation schedule.
  • Be respectful. You may not want to be friends anymore, but you need to figure out how to communicate with your ex without all the emotional baggage.
  • Don’t mix issues. Do not bring up unrelated issues which could make a problem free Christmas dinner impossible. Set aside your differences until after the holiday season.
  • Pick your battles. Christmas may even be more important to you than Easter is to your ex-spouse. Don’t fight just for the sake of fighting.
  • Protect the children. Your children’s memories of Christmas morning should be about family, food and fun. They should not be forced to witness you and another parent arguing.
  • Plan. Start talking about the holiday visitation schedule sooner rather than later, the longer you wait the harder it can be.

Going through a divorce during the holidays is always stressful. But the weather has cooled and the kids are on vacation. Try to make the holidays the best time of year.

 

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.