Mediation in Family Law Cases

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Anytime there is a dispute within a family, whether it has to do with a divorce or child custody issues, emotions can be high, and it can be difficult to come to an agreement that works for each party. Many times, this is when the courts get involved. Family members may have to present to a judge, and in some cases, may be subject to the decision of a judge or jury.

However, there is one way that disputes can be resolved that gives more decision-making power back to the people who are having the conflict. If conflicting parties are ordered to or choose to go to mediation, it is possible to settle a family dispute outside of the courtroom.

What is Mediation?

Mediation is a way for people to discuss their dispute in the presence of an impartial party. In certain cases mediation is court-ordered while in other cases the two parties can choose to go to mediation. The neutral mediator is often chosen by the courts in issues of family law. He or she must be certified by the Florida Supreme Court, but is not allowed to give legal advice, or provide therapy or counseling. The mediator may help the discussion along by providing ideas of ways that the disputing parties can come to an agreement.

Whenever there are issues involving the family, it may be difficult for opposite parties to operate without being emotional, and it can often be hard for each person to see the issue any other way. A mediator’s job is to spark ideas that may lead to an ultimate agreement, or simply the agreement that a mutually satisfying resolution cannot be made.

Once there is an agreement in mediation, both parties will be asked to sign a document that explains the details of the agreement, which becomes a contract. At this point, the terms of the contract are legally binding and must be followed by all parties involved. If an agreement cannot be made, then the issue may be sent back to the courts for a judge or jury to ultimately decide.

Benefits of Mediation

Mediation is a way to keep a dispute out of the courts, and may save time and money. It is an opportunity to resolve conflict with an impartial person who can offer up suggestions that may not have been considered by either party. Additionally, the mediator can help overcome communication obstacles or emotional barriers that have stalled the issue from being resolved or moving forward. He or she can assist with listening and help each party stay focused on the real issues that need to be discussed

Perhaps the biggest benefit to mediation is that it keeps the decision-making power with the parties involved in the dispute as opposed to a judge or jury. An agreement established in mediation is one that is created by the people who will be affected the most by any terms, and therefore, it may be appealing to some to have the power to make that ultimate decision.

Mediations are also private and confidential, which is different than public hearings that wind up on the record. There are no judges or juries involved in the mediation process, and attorneys are not required, but advised.

Tips for a Successful Mediation

Any time that you will be going to mediation, you should absolutely consult the advice of a family law attorney. Your attorney will be able to help you understand what terms would be most beneficial to you.

Make sure you are prepared and arrive on time. If you are ill prepared for the mediation, you may end up agreeing to something that does not work in your favor.

It’s important to also arrange for childcare if needed. Children are often not allowed in the mediation room.

Mediation in family law cases may last an hour or several days, depending on the time it takes both parties to agree on terms to a resolution. In the event that you are going to mediation or feel that you may need to in order to resolve a legal conflict, contact an experienced family law attorney who can properly advise you through the mediation process. The Spatz Law Firm can be reached at (305) 442-0200.

References

Mediation in Florida. (n.d.). Retrieved December 6, 2018, from https://www.flcourts.org/Resources-Services/Alternative-Dispute-Resolution/Mediation-in-Florida

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Tips for Co-Parenting During the Holidays

After a divorce, co-parenting your children can still create many challenges throughout the year, but these may be significantly magnified as the holidays approach. Between events and gatherings with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends, you and your former spouse may be competing for precious time with your little ones.

It’s important to always follow the parenting plan established over the course of your divorce in order to avoid any major issues that could further damage the family, but in addition to that, here are a few more tips for co-parenting during the holidays.

Prioritize Your Kids

Never forget whose wellbeing is most important to consider, despite what happened with your former spouse. Make sure you are considering your children with each decision you make year-round, but especially during the holidays, which are supposed to be a fun and enchanting time.

You may feel the need to pull your kids in many different directions to visit family in the limited amount of time that you have together, but this may not serve your children well. Kids may become exhausted and not enjoy quality time if you are not taking their needs into consideration. Remember, this is a time for making memories, not for running your children into the ground and creating resentment for holiday functions. If your kids need a break, think about how you can incorporate that into the festivities.

Coordinate Gifts

If you and your spouse coordinate how you will handle gifts, you can limit the need to one-up each other each year. Decide on a budget, and make sure you aren’t getting the same gifts on your kids’ lists. Your children will be happier in the long run if both parents share the gift-giving duties equally as opposed to one outdoing the other.

Make Plans, But Be Patient

As stated earlier, it’s important to always follow the parenting plan set by the court when it comes to holiday time with your kids, but even more than that, make sure you have a plan for the time spent together. If there are extra activities or events that you would like for your child to attend, make arrangements with your ex to ensure that each parent is getting equal time.

Additionally, be patient. The holidays can be busy and stressful, especially if there is a lot of back-and-forth. Try to let the small things go, and remember that the most important thing is the experience of your child.

Never Argue in Front of the Kids

Though there may be disagreements from time to time, keep your arguing to a minimum and out of range of the children. Divorce is hard enough on kids, but repeated arguments between parents can be internalized by your children and cause them much distress throughout their lives. Consider settling disagreements after the kids go to bed or over email when decisions can be placed in writing in order to deter future arguments or misunderstandings.

Don’t Give Up on Self-Care

If you can’t take care of yourself, it’s very difficult to take care of others. Therefore, it’s important that you take some time to enjoy the holiday season as well. When the kids are with your ex, take time to relax, spend time with friends and family, and ensure that you are both physically and emotionally healthy. This will create a more positive atmosphere for the whole family and keep tensions to a minimum when the children are around.

In the event of a separation or divorce, it’s important to contact an experienced family attorney. Your attorney will help you through the process of creating a parenting plan and custody schedule that is beneficial for the whole family.

 

References:

Conklin-Danao, D. (2017, November 23). Co-Parenting During the Holidays: 5 Tips to Follow. Retrieved from https://www.divorcemag.com/blog/co-parenting-during-the-holidays-tips-to-follow/

 

Equitable Distribution at the Dissolution of Marriage in Florida

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Divorce is always a hard topic. Even if there are not children involved in the marriage, spouses must divide their belongings and assets earned during the marriage as they part ways.

In the state of Florida, we have what is called an “Equitable Distribution” of assets and liabilities acquired during the marriage. This basically means that any marital property will be equally distributed after a divorce. These include assets acquired jointly by the spouses during the marriage; enhancements of non-marital property due to the efforts of a spouse; jointly titled property, even if it was acquired as non-marital property; gifts from one spouse to another during the marriage; and joint bank accounts.

Just as assets are divided, so must liabilities.  A marriage between two people can have many benefits and successes, but also comes with risk and sometimes failures. Equitable Distribution covers both sides.

The Process of Dividing Through Divorce

During the divorce process, the first consideration is always the dependent children, if there are any. The court will handle issues of custody and child support prior to the equitable distribution of property. After the children are taken care of, the court will award each party their non-marital property, or items that were acquired before the spouses were legally married. However, it’s important to note that non-marital property can become marital property, as in the example of a spouse’s name being added to the title of a property owned by the other spouse before the marriage.

An example of non-marital property could be a personal bank account that is only in one spouse’s name that was opened prior to the marriage and not used for marital expenses.

The equitable distribution of properties acquired during the marriage will follow the non-marital assets. After the equitable distribution of property, the court will determine alimony, if any is awarded.

What Does the Court Consider?

According to Chapter 61 of Florida Statutes, which discusses equitable distribution. The following items are considered by the court when dividing the marital assets and liabilities. Some items may be awarded in a larger percentage to one spouse over another depending on “competent and substantial evidence” of the lawyer of that spouse.

(a)       The contribution to the marriage by each spouse, including contributions to the care and education of the children and services as homemaker.

(b)      The economic circumstances of the parties.

(c)       The duration of the marriage.

(d)      Any interruption of personal careers or educational opportunities of either party.

(e)       The contribution of one spouse to the personal career or educational opportunity of the other spouse.

(f)       The desirability of retaining any asset, including an interest in a business, corporation, or professional practice, intact and free from any claim or interference by the other party.

(g)       The contribution of each spouse to the acquisition, enhancement, and production of income or the improvement of, or the incurring of liabilities to, both the marital assets and the nonmarital assets of the parties.

(h)      The desirability of retaining the marital home as a residence for any dependent child of the marriage, or any other party, when it would be equitable to do so, it is in the best interest of the child or that party, and it is financially feasible for the parties to maintain the residence until the child is emancipated or until exclusive possession is otherwise terminated by a court of competent jurisdiction. In making this determination, the court shall first determine if it would be in the best interest of the dependent child to remain in the marital home; and, if not, whether other equities would be served by giving any other party exclusive use and possession of the marital home.

(i)        The intentional dissipation, waste, depletion, or destruction of marital assets after the filing of the petition or within two years prior to the filing of the petition.

(j)        Any other factors necessary to do equity and justice between the parties.

In an amicable divorce, both parties will sign a “Marriage Settlement Agreement” (MSA), which will lay out exactly how everything will be divided after the dissolution of the marriage. However, in many cases, this process will be handled in mediation or by a judge.

Courts will be as equal as possible when dividing assets and liabilities at the end of a marriage, but a competent family attorney may be able to help a spouse recover exactly what he or she is owed. If you are facing a divorce, contact a family attorney as soon as possible in order to assist you through the distribution of property earned over the course of your marriage. The Spatz Law Firm is here to answer your questions. Please give us a call at 305-442-0200.

References:

A Seven-Step Analysis of Equitable Distribution in Florida Part 2: Distributing Marital Property. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.floridabar.org/news/tfb-journal/?durl=/DIVCOM/JN/jnjournal01.nsf/Articles/8323D0F2AB6652FB85256ADB005D627A

Equitable Distribution in Florida Dissolution of Marriage – Florida Divorce Source. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.divorcesource.com/ds/florida/equitable-distribution-in-florida-dissolution-of-marriage-3703.shtml

 

The Role of Foster Parents in Florida

Foster parents in Florida

In an unfortunate event that happened in southwest Miami-Dade this year, a foster mother was shot in her home by the biological parents of the children in her care. The biological mother then took the children to her own home, where she was later arrested. The foster mother was shot because she refused to give the children back to their biological mother when the mother demanded them, presumably in order to protect the children. Due to the arrest record of the biological mother, who had spent time in prison for child abuse and was charged again with child neglect, the children had been put into the custody of the Department of Children and Families for their own safety and well-being.

Situations like these often leave people wondering, what rights do foster parents have?

Basics of Foster Care

Children who grow up in foster care often have tough childhoods where they have moved around between their own home and the home of foster parents, and sometimes they are placed with several different foster parents. However, the idea behind foster homes is to provide the child with a more stable and nurturing environment than what the biological parents can provide.

  1. Foster care is meant to be temporary.  It often comes to an end when the child is either adopted, reunited with his or her biological parents, or turns 18. Foster parents may initiate a termination of parental rights against the biological parents, but this is a rare situation. Usually the foster parent keeps the child until the state deems that the biological parent is fit for custody of the child.
  2. Foster parents must be emotionally and financially committed. In order to be a foster parent, a person must be completely committed to the loving care of a child that is not their own. Fostering a child is not a paid position, and all though foster parents are given a small stipend to help with food and clothing for the child, the parent must be able to financially support their own family and needs
  3. .Foster parents have to meet certain criteria. All foster parents consent to a criminal and child abuse registry check, as well as health and home inspections. They are responsible for regular communication with the caseworker assigned to the child and may be required to work with the state on the reunification visits with biological parents.
  4. Foster parents have the same responsibilities as any other parent. Foster parents do everything that biological parents do, including enroll the child in school, take the child to medical and dental appointments, and attend any meetings related to the child’s well-being or foster status. In essence, anyone who commits to being a foster parent is taking over the role of the parent of the child with all its responsibilities.

Deciding to foster a child is a big decision that should not be taken lightly. Anyone who chooses to take in a foster child should be prepared to be fully committed to the well-being of the child in his or her care. Some foster parents may choose to apply for adoption of the child in their care if that becomes an option, though it is not required, and it is not a guarantee.

If you are involved in a situation that may require children to be placed in foster care, you should contact a reliable family law attorney. There are rights and obligations on the side of the parents as well as the state, and an attorney can assist you through the process.

 

References:

Batchelor, A., Burke, P., & Anwer, S. (2018, August 31). Foster mother shot, 2 children taken from home in southwest Miami-Dade. Retrieved from https://www.local10.com/news/crime/foster-mother-shot-2-children-taken-from-home-in-southwest-miami-dade

Trudeau, J. (2010, April 08). Foster Parent Rights in Florida. Retrieved from https://www.avvo.com/legal-guides/ugc/foster-parent-rights-in-florida

 

Who Can Become A Foster Parent? (1970, September 21). Retrieved from http://www.myflfamilies.com/service-programs/foster-care/who-can-become

 

FAQ. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.familiesfirstfl.com/about-us/faq/

 

 

Legal Guardianship for Adults

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Most adults are responsible for themselves when it comes to legal matters. Once you are a legal adult, you can make decisions based on the law in cases of money or property without someone else making those decisions for you. However, if an adult in the state of Florida becomes incapacitated due to injury or illness, there are measures set in place to ensure that someone will become responsible for the legal rights of the incapacitated person. In Florida, a guardianship is a legal proceeding where someone is appointed to make decisions and handle the legal matters of a person who becomes incapacitated, otherwise known as a “ward.”

How & Why is a Guardian Appointed?

If an adult becomes incapacitated, that means that he or she has been judicially determined to lack the capacity to manage their property, legal matters, and issues related to health and safety. A court can determine that someone is entirely or partially incapacitated depending on the findings of an expert committee.

Anyone can file a petition to the court stating that the incapacitation of another deems him or her eligible for a legal guardian, but it is up to the court to decide and enforce guardianship. Once a petition has been filed, a committee of three expert members is formed to review the case of the potential ward, which includes a physical, mental, and functional assessment. This committee is usually made up of two physicians and another expert in the condition of the person in question. The committee will submit a report to the court with these findings related to the capacity of the individual.

After the report is presented to the court, a judge will decide if a person is wholly or partially incapacitated, if at all, based on the factual evidence discovered by the committee. If someone is deemed to be in full capacity of him or herself, then the judge will throw out the petition for guardianship.

Who Can Be a Guardian?

Any adult resident in the state of Florida and some family members outside of the state may be appointed guardian of a ward as long as they have not been convicted of a felony, and are fully capable of handling the duties of being a guardian. A nonprofit entity may be granted guardianship in certain situations, and a bank trust can be appointed guardian of an individual’s property.

What Does a Guardian Do?

Ultimately, the court will decide what the ward is incapable of doing and assign the rights and responsibilities to the guardian. A guardian will be required to report regularly on the property and health of the ward. He or she will also be responsible for the medical, mental, and personal care of the ward, as well as determining the best place for the ward to live depending on the requirements of the court.

A guardianship does not have to be a permanent arrangement, as some wards may recover and become capable of exercising their own rights after some time. In this case, the court would conduct another assessment to determine whether the ward has recovered from their incapacitation and release them from the guardianship if there is a full recovery.

If a guardianship is petitioned or necessary, it’s important to hire an attorney who is experienced in the area of family law and guardianships. The guardian is also required to have representation by an attorney throughout the process. In legal documentation, the person who becomes the ward can also designate their preferred guardian before an incapacitating event.

References:

Consumer Pamphlet: What Is Guardianship? – The Florida Bar. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.floridabar.org/public/consumer/pamphlet030/#WHAT IS A GUARDIANSHIP?

A Recent Case Questions Whether Florida Children Can Have Three Parents

Florida paternity family law

We all know how important the presence of a father is in a child’s life, especially during critical development years. Unfortunately, with the rate of divorce in this country, many children grow up without a steady father figure in the home.

In a compelling case in Florida, one girl is caught in a battle between two men who are vying to be her legal father. One man is the biological father, and the other is the man married to her mother. Now, the case is highlighting a law that says a child can only have two legal parents. However, what if there are three who claim her?

Can there be three legal parents?

Florida law says that a child born into a marriage legally belongs to the husband and wife as the child’s father and mother. However, this doesn’t necessarily take into account the fact that the child may have a separate biological father.

In a recent case, one biological father is fighting in court for the right to have shared custody and parenting rights for his biological daughter who legally belongs to another man.

Legal parents are the ones who have the right to make decisions for the child, and in this case, the biological father is not considered the child’s legal father.

Two lower courts have issued entirely different rulings, in this case, one saying that the biological dad should have some rights, and the other upholding the legal father’s rights. Several people involved with the case have expressed the need for the Florida legislature to modernize the laws surrounding legal parents and paternity. Now, the case heads to the Florida Supreme Court.

Florida Paternity Law

In the state of Florida, if a woman is not married when she gives birth, paternity must be established either voluntarily or by court order. If the mother and father agree on paternity, they may sign a “Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity” form, which becomes final 60 days after it is signed, at which time, neither parent can revoke it.  The only way this document can be revoked is if either parent can prove in court that it was fraudulently signed, or that extreme force was used to coerce one of the parents to sign.

The following individuals can start the court process to establish paternity: the child’s mother, the “alleged” father, the child through a legal representative, or the Florida Department of Child Services.

Establishing paternity is important not only because every child should have a father in his or her life if possible, but acknowledging a legal father places responsibility on the parents to ensure that the child is taken care of as he or she grows. With paternity established, a judge may make orders for items such as child support and health insurance for the child, how parents should establish parenting time and decision-making authority over the child.

In any situation where paternity is in question or is a matter for the courts, it can be difficult for any family, but especially for the child involved. If you are involved in issues of paternity, it’s essential to contact a qualified family law attorney who can guide you through the court system.

References:

Vasilinda, M. (n.d.). Should Florida children be allowed to have three legal parents? Retrieved from http://www.wjhg.com/content/news/Should-Florida-children-be-allowed-to-have-three-legal-prents-482133051.html

 

Nolo. (2014, August 14). Paternity in Florida. Retrieved from https://www.divorcenet.com/resources/paternity-florida.html

 

 

Enforcing Child Support in Florida

A separation between parents can be heartbreaking on an emotional level, but it will also create other hardships in the life of a family. Financially, it can be difficult to lose an income when raising a child, especially if one parent will be responsible for most of the care of the child. Therefore, we have measures in place to ensure that children who are involved in a divorce or parental separation are eligible to receive financial resources.

In the state of Florida, all children under the age of 18 have the right to receive ongoing financial support from both parents. Many times this is in the form of child support from one parent to the parent who has primary custody of the child. It’s important to note that you don’t have to be married to be required to pay child support to the other parent. If paternity is established, child support can be required.

Enforcement of Child Support

Child support is determined based on the income of both parents in the state of Florida. If the parent who is required to pay child support fails to pay, there can be severe consequences. In the state of Florida, you can be considered in contempt of court for failing to pay court-mandated child support.

In order for one parent to report a failure to pay, he or she should contact the local child support office through the Department of Revenue and report the failure to pay by the other parent. A case for hearing will be filed, and a hearing officer will hear the case. The hearing officer is not a judge but can offer recommendations to a judge based on the evidence in the case. If the hearing officer deems that the neglectful parent has the means to pay the child support but willfully failed to pay, the Department of Revenue can file a “motion for contempt.”

Moving Out of State

A parent who moves out of the original state where the child support was ordered is still obligated to pay, and it is still possible to enforce the child support order in the new state. There is a Federal law called the “Uniform Interstate Family Support Act” that has been adopted in all 50 states to protect the child support orders of other states. If a parent moves to another state, that state cannot change the child support order of the previous state if the other parent or child still resides in the original state.

Penalties of Failure to Pay Child Support

If you are found in contempt of court for failing to pay child support, these are some of the penalties you may receive.

  • Suspension of Driver’s License or vehicle registration
  • Suspension of business
  • Fine
  • Bank accounts may be seized
  • Income tax return may be seized
  • Passport denial
  • Jail or prison time

Any time there are issues arising with child support, you should contact a qualified family law attorney who has specialized knowledge and experience related to child support cases. The well-being and financial resources of your children should always be most important, and a family law attorney can help you determine the best course of action.

References:

Child Support Enforcement in Florida. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://statelaws.findlaw.com/florida-law/child-support-enforcement-in-florida.html

 

Child Support. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.miamisao.com/services/child-support/

 

Wolf, J. (n.d.). Here’s How to File for Child Support in Florida. Retrieved from https://www.thebalance.com/how-to-file-for-child-support-in-florida-2998005

 

Vohwinkle, J. (n.d.). What Single Parents Should Know About Child Support. Retrieved from https://www.thebalance.com/how-to-collect-child-support-1289811

 

 

What is a Bird’s Nest Living Arrangement?

What is a Bird's Nest Living Arrangement?

Anytime there is a separation or divorce in a family, lives will inevitably be disrupted, and everyone will go through changes as a new family arrangement is formed. Divorce is hardly ever easy, especially if there are kids involved in a family unit. Most parents hope for a smooth transition and have the best intentions to act respectfully with each other, though it’s often more difficult than first expected.

Parents going through a divorce have many options available to them when it comes to parenting and living arrangements. Every family is different, but the most important thing for all families should be to ensure the long-term stability and security of the children. When developing a legal parenting plan, some former partners may decide to share equal responsibilities when it comes to parenting in an arrangement called shared parenting, or co-parenting. Others may even take it a step further and decide to live in a “bird’s nest” arrangement. Here I’ll explain each concept in a bit more detail.

Co-Parenting

Any couple with children going through a divorce needs to file a Florida parenting plan with their decisions on how they will raise the children. If parents decide to enter into a co-parenting plan, they may also choose to create a separate informal plan with more ways that they will equally split parenting duties. This type of parenting style requires both former spouses to work respectfully with each other and share equal duties when it comes to raising the children. Neither parent is the primary caregiver, nor the visiting parent, but both agree to share in the parenting roles through the duration of the plan.

A co-parenting arrangement is designed to provide minimal disruption in a child’s life, but there has to be a definitive plan. This plan should include items about which parent is responsible for issues related to healthcare, finances, schooling, religion, activities, etc… that the children will be affected by until they are adults. Some examples of questions that should be discussed include:

  • Who makes decisions related to medical visits?
  • Education choices?
  • College saving plans?
  • Pets?
    Religious activities?
  • Which parent is responsible for pick-up from school?

Bird’s Nest Living Arrangement

In a co-parenting situation, parents decide to have separate but loving homes while consulting with each other on the most important issues. However, some parents decide to keep themselves separated by rotating in and out of the family home while allowing their children to continue to stay in the same house. Parents may maintain a separate residence outside the home for the parent that is not living with the child in the family home at the time, or they may opt for separate residences altogether.  The goal of this type of child-centered living arrangement is to provide the least amount of disruption in the child’s life, as they will not have to be shuttled back and forth to different residences. A bird’s nest arrangement really works best if parents are able to maintain a cooperative and amicable relationship at all times, as they both will still be sharing space at different times when in the family home.

Some things to consider in a situation where parents are sharing a home space on a rotating basis, such as with a bird’s nest co-parenting arrangement:

Expenses

Will the parents each maintain a separate house outside of the main family home, or will they share a space as well? Can the family afford three residences? Who will be responsible for repairs to the home?

Privacy

How will former spouses maintain privacy if they are sharing a family home? Will this affect the second residence as well?

Childcare Duties

Similarly to any parenting plan, which parent will make the major decisions? Will it be the parent who is in the family home at the time, or will all decisions be made jointly?

In any divorce situation where there are children involved, both parents should work toward shielding the children from any major conflicts. Former spouses should make it a priority to communicate clearly and peacefully, especially when children are around. Disruption of some kind will always be a part of a divorce, but when parents have mutual respect and a shared goal of providing for the stability of the child first, an appropriate parenting plan can be established.

With any divorce situation, it’s important to contact an experienced family law attorney. Your attorney can help you develop a legal parenting plan that works for your family.

References:

Chapter 4: Cooperative Parenting Strategies. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.floridacoparenting.com/course_sample.html?p=4

“Bird’s Nest” Co-Parenting Arrangements. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/co-parenting-after-divorce/201307/birds-nest-co-parenting-arrangements

 

Adverse Childhood Experiences Linked to Adult Health Conditions

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New studies released by Kaiser Permanente and the CDC have confirmed that those who suffered from Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are more susceptible to both physical and emotional health issues later in life.

It’s no surprise that there is a link between early childhood trauma and adult health conditions. When children experience stressors at a young age, their bodies are being hardwired to respond differently to stress for the rest of their lives. “Toxic stress,” or abuse or adversity experienced by children at a young age can heighten levels of stress in their developing bodies, and prime their system to be hyper-sensitive to stress as they age.

There are ways that families and communities can work together to prevent and intervene if a child is experiencing ACEs, and potentially lower the risk of developing dangerous health conditions that he or she may have much later in life.

What are ACEs?

ACEs are fairly common. About 60% of the general population has reported experiencing one or more before the age of 18, and eight percent of the population has experienced four or more.

  • These experiences can include:
  • Family Substance Abuse—such as an alcoholic or drug-dependent parent
  • Parental Separation or Divorce
  • Mental Illness in the household
  • Physical Abuse Against the Mother
  • Criminal Behavior—such as a parent becoming incarcerated
  • Psychological, physical, or sexual abuse

Unfortunately, the more incidences of these traumas experienced by children under 18, the higher the risk of developing an adverse health condition later in life.

Link Between ACE and Disease

The studies done by Kaiser and the CDC show that as ACEs go up, so did the onset of conditions such as diabetes, obesity, cancer, heart disease, COPD, and liver disease.  Those with higher ACEs also have a higher risk of mental illnesses such as depression or are more likely to attempt suicide. In fact, those with four or more ACEs were 12 times more likely to commit suicide than those without any.

There is also an unfortunate correlation between ACEs and opioid addiction. 80% of those seeking treatment for opioid addiction had at least one form of childhood trauma. Additionally, as the number of traumatic childhood events increased, so did a person’s likelihood to abuse prescription drugs.

Why the link?

When someone experiences a trauma early in life, they are essentially rewiring their system to receive stress differently. It is the Central Nervous System that controls stress in our bodies, and it closely interacts with our immune, hormone, metabolic, and clotting systems. The traumatic experiences become embedded in the bodies of children, altering their physiology across all of these systems, which changes cellular and systemic function as they age. Fundamentally, ACEs are changing the way that the body processes stress, causing it to function differently than a body that has not experienced an ACE.

Resilience can Combat Stress

The best way to ensure that children do not experience ACEs is to provide a safe and nurturing home environment. Families can also triumph over these experiences by understanding how children can be impacted by these events and considering counseling if there have been traumatic events in the child’s life.

Additionally, seeking out community support and resources for parenting and abuse are crucial for families who want to rebuild after traumatic events.

Make sure that your children do not grow up with a higher risk of adult diseases by being a consistent support to your family.  If emotional or physical abuse has already occurred or has been a part of the home environment, make sure that your children have support from extended family, friends, teachers, and mentors. By building a culture that is compassionate toward each other, we can do a lot to combat the negative effects of ACEs.

If you, or someone you know, is going through a family matter such as a separation or divorce, it’s essential to seek the advice of an experienced family attorney. Your attorney can help guide you through the legal process and point you toward resources for your family.

 

 

References:

 

Study shows childhood trauma related to chronic health conditions. (2018, April 04). Retrieved April 05, 2018, from https://www.nrtoday.com/news/health/study-shows-childhood-trauma-related-to-chronic-health-conditions/article_667a7b06-0653-5961-8eac-68fb4f0f2b7a.html

Got Your ACE Score? (2017, June 02). Retrieved April 05, 2018, from https://acestoohigh.com/got-your-ace-score/

 

Madigan, S. (2018, April 05). How compassion can triumph over toxic childhood trauma. Retrieved April 05, 2018, from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2018-04-compassion-triumph-toxic-childhood-trauma.html

 

Paull, S. (2016, October 25). HOMEBLOGACES-INFORMED INTERVENTIONS THAT WORK IN EARLY CHILDHOOD ACEs-informed Interventions that work in early childhood. Retrieved April 5, 2018, from http://www.acesconnection.com/blog/aces-informed-interventions-that-work-in-early-childhood

 

Tips for Vacation Travel with the Kids For Separated Families

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There are many hardships involved in separation or a divorce in a family. Kids and parents will have less time with each other on a regular basis, and many times there is conflict over the times that each parent can have with the children. Coming to an agreement on a custody schedule and parenting plan can be difficult for some families, but it’s an important part of ensuring that children have an appropriate amount of time with each parent.

One of the issues that parents must agree on is a vacation schedule, where each parent has time during the year to spend with the child either traveling or relaxing during one of the school breaks such as spring break or summer vacation. Family law courts ultimately decide parenting time, but if parents can both agree on a schedule, the court will usually accept the parenting plan.

If you are going through a divorce, and you have children, it’s important to determine a vacation schedule with your former spouse before any traveling takes place. Here are some tips to guide you through the process.

Does Vacation Time Have Priority?

One of the things to consider is if vacation time or regularly scheduled visitation time will have priority. Making this determination and having it in writing will help with future conflicts. For example, if one parent is supposed to have the child for a regularly scheduled visitation the same week that spring break occurs, and the other parent is scheduled to have the child for spring break, which one of these situations supersedes the other? Make sure to include instructions for these conflicts in your parenting plan.

Include Specific Language in Agreement

You may think that you and your former spouse agree to something, but it’s best to have every detail of the plan spelled out specifically. If you want to include travel restrictions such as no overseas travel, make sure that your wishes are spelled out and accepted by the court. Set clear rules for travel and include those in your plan. You can never be too specific when it comes to outlining how you agree to parent your children. The last thing you want is confusion later on when the child is ready to leave for a trip.

Always Sign and Notarize Travel Consent Forms

It’s important that both parents are aware when travel is happening, and it’s also important that both parents sign travel consent forms. If one parent is questioned about travel with the child, it’s best to have documentation that both parents have agreed to the travel, especially if there is international travel involved. Always better to err on the side of caution and protect yourself by having in writing that both parents have agreed to the travel plans.

Require/Provide Detailed Travel Information

If you are the parent taking the child on a trip, be sure to provide the other parent with detailed contact and travel documentation. This can include hotel and flight information, as well as the contact information of each adult on the trip. Likewise, if you are not the parent traveling, you should require that the other parent provide this information prior to the trip. It’s always best to be transparent with any plans that involve your children in order to avoid any unnecessary court battles in the future.

Divorce can create issues in many areas of your child’s life, which is why it’s important to have an appropriate parenting plan in place before the divorce is final in order to provide as smooth a transition as possible. Your child’s needs such be a priority throughout this process, especially when planning a vacation schedule, which can oftentimes provide relaxation and relief during a tough transition time.

If you are in the process of going through a divorce, it’s a good idea to consult with an experienced family law attorney who can help guide you through the process of establishing a parenting plan.

References:

Brandt, J. (2016, May 12). Traveling with kids: 5 tips for divorced co-parents. Retrieved March 07, 2018, from http://stories.avvo.com/relationships/divorce/traveling-with-kids-5-tips-for-divorced-co-parents.html

Spengler, T., & Group, L. (n.d.). Family Law & Restrictions Regarding Vacation. Retrieved March 07, 2018, from http://traveltips.usatoday.com/family-law-restrictions-regarding-vacation-52321.html