Marrying someone with a child can be a blessing, as well as a large responsibility. Sometimes step parents are willing to go the extra mile and want to take on the huge task of becoming a legal parent to their spouse’s child. This isn’t a simple process, but with some determination and a bit of guidance it can be done.
How To Adopt Your Spouse’s Child
In order to adopt your stepchild, a petition must first be filed with the court. Once this petition is accepted, it then most be proven that you are eligible to adopt the child and that both your spouse and the child (if the child is 14 years old or older in the state of Florida) consent to the adoption. Of course, the second parent must be taken into consideration. If they are in the picture, then they also much consent as well as sign away their own parental rights. If the second parent isn’t around due to unestablished paternity, being an unfit parent, being a danger to the child, or has been in prison for a significant amount of time – then their consent may not be needed.
What Happens When You Adopt Your Step Child?
Once the adoption is finalized, you’re no longer a step parent, but a true legal guardian to the child. This means you accept all legal and financial responsibility. If there are any child support orders in place from a biological parent, these orders will end. Alternatively, if there is a future divorce, the adoptive parent may be held responsible for future child support payments. It’s a big step to take, but creating a new blended family can be a wonderful thing.
Adopting a stepchild can take roughly three months, but with the help an of experience family law attorney like Russell Spatz, the entire process can be made seamless and easy to understand. Those who are willing to take on the legal and financial responsibility of a child who is not biologically theirs are very special people and Russell Spatz takes great pride in working with them to help make their family complete.
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.
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.
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/
The typical stress that accompanies the holidays can be magnified for families that are either going through a separation, or who are experiencing this time of year for the first time since a divorce or separation. There are certain things that parents can do to mitigate this stress on children and the rest of the family, but it really should be a collaboration between the separated adults. The biggest priority should be ensuring that children have the opportunity to enjoy the season as much as possible without additional negative impacts from the divorce.
Here are five tips for separated or divorced parents to consider in order to make the crazy holiday season a little easier for children of separation.
1. Make New Holiday Traditions
It may be difficult for your kids to come to terms with the fact that the family will not be all together for certain activities, but take this as an opportunity to branch out and try new experiences without the pain of family memories. Explain to your kids that each parent will have the chance to begin a new tradition with them, and that means fun new activities and special time with each parent.
2. Enlist the Village
It’s ok to ask for help this time of year. Friends and family who understand the position you are in are valuable sources of support. Make sure you are taking care of yourself and the needs of your family, but don’t be afraid to ask others if they can pitch in to assist with the kids if the stress becomes overwhelming.
3. Be Flexible
Try not to be too rigid with regards to the timing of certain events and holiday celebrations. Just because a holiday falls on a certain day of the week, does not mean that it has to be celebrated on that exact day. Being flexible means that you can decide to celebrate a holiday before or after the actual date, and if there are events surrounding the holiday that you want to share with you kids, be flexible about picking and choosing the ones that are most important for you, and ensuring that your former spouse also has time to share with the kids.
4. Discuss the Importance of Family Over Things
Because finances are usually tight following a divorce, this may be a good time to talk to your kids about the importance of spending time as a family and having experiences over exchanging many gifts. Use this as a teaching moment to have a dialogue with your children about how you and your spouse love them regardless of the separation.
5. Be Realistic and Honest
Keep a realistic mindset about how the holidays will go following a divorce. It will be different, and there will likely be a broad spectrum of emotions displayed by yourself and your children. Manage expectations with friends and family by being honest about your situation, capabilities, and commitments.
Divorce is never easy on a family, especially during the holidays, but there are ways that you can make it a little more bearable for everyone involved. Always keep in mind that despite how well your kids seem to be taking to the new arrangement, their well-being should always be at the center of any decisions made that may affect them.
(2013, November 11). 21 Tips To Survive Divorce And The Holidays. Retrieved November 14, 2017, from https://drkarenfinn.com/divorce-blog/life-after-divorce/180-21-tips-to-survive-divorce-and-the-holidays
It was recently reported that a man was kicked out and banned from the Palm Beach Zoo, not because he was causing problems with the animals, but simply for taking photos. The issue is that he was photographing a young girl as she played in the splash pad on zoo property, without the consent of the girl or her parents. The man claimed that he just wanted to record a happy moment, but the parents were not convinced. Because the parents felt uncomfortable and the zoo administration agreed that the act of taking photos of the young girl was inappropriate, the man was asked to leave.
With the easy access and availability of video recording devices and cameras on every smartphone these days, it gets harder and harder to maintain any sort of privacy for yourself or your children. Child predators have the ability to photograph your kids every time you step out of the house and take them to a public place, and that’s a scary thought.
Photography as a Right
According to the law, taking photos in a public place is protected under the constitutional right to freedom of expression. Unfortunately, your desire for a certain level of privacy does not supersede the right of a photographer, professional or amateur, to express himself. However, there are certain restrictions to this, and the right does not extend to all locations. For example, owners of private property can restrict this right as they see fit, which is what happened in the case of the Palm Beach zoo, which is private property. Whenever you leave the house, it’s important to be aware of who is around when out in public, such as at parks and on playgrounds, as there may be some people who are taking advantage of the right to photograph in public places.
Abuse of Public Photography of Kids
There have been certain cases where a child predator has been arrested while photographing kids in public places. In Broward County, a man was arrested as he took photos of a girl at a public splash pad. He was being investigated for child pornography charges, and was caught while he was at the park. Even though the charges were unrelated to the photos he had on his phone, this example still demonstrates that you never know the motives of an individual who chooses to take photos of your children.
Be Aware of Who is Around
Just as you teach your kids to be aware of strangers who may cause them harm, it’s important to also teach your kids to be aware of individuals in a public place who may make them uncomfortable, including adults taking photos of them. Some public parks have tried to mitigate adult interaction with children by requiring a child to accompany any adult who accesses the public playgrounds in a park. The City of Hollywood is a good example of this, where it is a law that any adult in a playground area must be accompanied by a child 12 years or younger.
Even with certain rules and laws in place, it’s still up to parents and kids to report any suspicious activity that makes them feel uneasy. Though it is not a crime to take photos in public, if someone does have the intention to cause harm to a child or use the photographs in an inappropriate way, it’s better to be safe and risk a misunderstanding than to put your child in danger of being exploited by a predator.
Your child’s safety is always a top priority. In matters of family law, it’s most important to protect the children in cases where they may be at risk for harm. If you are going through a divorce, separation, or a case regarding child custody or paternity, it’s vitally important to contact an experienced family law attorney. Your attorney can guide you through your case and help ensure that your children are provided with the best care and safety.
Chokey, A. (2017, June 22). Are your kids safe from snoops with cameras at South Florida attractions? Retrieved July 14, 2017, from http://www.sun-sentinel.com/local/palm-beach/fl-reg-child-photography-cases-20170621-story.html
Recording in Public Places and Your First Amendment Rights. (n.d.). Retrieved July 14, 2017, from https://www.videomaker.com/article/15619-recording-in-public-places-and-your-first-amendment-rights
In child support matters, discrepancies often occur between the parents, but not many of them make their way to the Florida Supreme Court. The Fourth District Court of Appeal, however, recently asked the state’s Supreme Court to hear a matter in which a woman is attempting to sue her ex-husband’s employer for covering up his real income. The appeals court is asking for the case to be heard by the Florida Supreme Court because it is refusing to amend Florida law that would create “a sweeping change.”
The appellate process began when a woman in Palm Beach County alleged that her ex-husband and his employer conspired to cover up his real income. She claims that the two came up with the plan in order to keep her from receiving court-mandated child support payments.
In an article that appeared on Florida Record, Professor Timothy Arcaro of Nova Southeastern University, commented that there would be cause to pursue a violation of the court mandated child support order if the employer knowingly reported a reduced income. The violation would most likely be sought against the employer, which could be held responsible for breaking the law by the Florida Supreme Court.
Child support matters are complicated. Although the State of Florida has specific parameters set up for calculating child support, a variety of factors go into the final amount to be paid. In addition, child support is never written in stone. Whether you need to set up child support for the first time, amend your child support due to financial changes, or collect unpaid child support, a family law attorney can ensure that your rights are protected.
JACOBSON, K. (2016, November 23). Florida appeals court asks state supreme court to take up child support case. Retrieved November 30, 2016, from http://flarecord.com/stories/511048156-florida-appeals-court-asks-state-supreme-court-to-take-up-child-support-case
Sociologists at the University of Washington have performed new research finding that divorce may actually be seasonal. The data collected is said to be the first ever quantitative evidence proving that there are biannual filings for divorces. The study was performed between the years of 2001 and 2015 and noted that the majority of divorce cases peaked during the months following winter and summer holiday seasons.
Peak Times for Divorce Revolve Around Holidays and Kids
According to statistics, many couples see holiday seasons as a time to hold to traditional family values. Splitting up is the last thing they want to do so in an effort to make it work they attempt family trips or outings. The usual presumption is that things will get better, but as time passes it becomes more apparent that it’s probably best to make the split.
Generally, couples filing for divorce will take some of the strain off of themselves by agreeing to separate close to when the children are going back to school. In their opinion this has a lower impact on the family dynamic, which accounts for the spike that occurs just after summer holidays.
However, the researchers involved were still trying to discover what causes the post winter divorce spike. Experts claim that the longer days of winter months drive people’s motivations to act; the conclusion was reached after taking notice that suicides also increase during this same time.
Is Seasonal Divorce a Common Phenomenon Nationwide?
Birnes, one of the active scientists in the study, claims that the end goal wasn’t necessarily to find a pattern in divorce. The study’s aim was to investigate the effect of the recession on marital stability. Their results, however, turned up with seasonal filings for divorce cases.
Since happening upon this phenomenon (which was restricted to 39 counties in Washington), Birnes wanted to know if this trend also took shape in other states around the country. They decided to examine Arizona, Minnesota, Ohio, and Florida. Each of the states showed a similar trend in comparison to the state of Washington.
If you’re considering filing for a divorce in, consult an experienced family lawyer. Spatz Law Firm specializes in family law and can aid in the multidimensional aspects of divorce. Don’t hesitate to contact us for a consultation in your family law case in Miami.
Is divorce seasonal? UW research shows biannual spike in divorce filings. (n.d.). Retrieved August 31, 2016, from http://www.washington.edu/news/2016/08/21/is-divorce-seasonal-uw-research-shows-biannual-spike-in-divorce-filings/
Most states view debts, as well as assets, acquired during a marriage as shared property, and they are divided similarly. If possible, you and your ex-spouse may be better served by dividing the debts up, with each different debt assigned to a single person. If you can’t agree, a judge will do so.
While the responsibility of debts between divorcing parties is clearly defined by the courts, creditors don’t see it the same way. Your credit can be damaged if it is still tied to your ex-spouse’s. These steps can help you protect your credit after a divorce:
- Alert all creditors that any debts belonging to you be put in your name only
- Close all shared accounts, including credit cards
- Refinance shared loans, including auto and home loans, to a single creditor
- Monitor your credit report closely
- Make all loan payments on time, and minimize new credit attempts
Failure to fully separate your debts from an ex-spouse can have far-reaching impact on your credit report. If they fail to pay off credit cards or default on a loan, you can be impacted if you haven’t fully extricated yourself from them financially.
If it does occur that your ex-spouse’s failure to pay their share of debts has impacted your financial standing, you can file a dispute with the credit bureau. The court can also compel them to pay. If they are found in contempt, you can also request compensation for attorney’s fees.
Financial matters related to divorce are complicated and can have far-reaching impacts. Make certain you have a family law attorney to protect your best interests. In Florida, assets you and your spouse own will be divided equitably, but not necessarily in a 50-50 split. Attorney Russell Spatz gives clients comprehensive guidance about how to approach the division of their assets. He will listen to your concerns and provide honest advice about the best options available to you. You can rest assured knowing he will never keep you in the dark about the progress of your case.
Niemeyer, Brooke. “Why Your Ex Is Still on Your Credit Report.” USA Today. Gannett, 29 May 2016. Web. 31 May 2016.
For the second time in three years, Florida Governor Rick Scott vetoed an alimony reform bill passed by the House and Senate. The reason for the veto was due mainly to a controversial child custody component in the bill.
Alimony overhaul on pause
The bill would have altered the alimony system by establishing a formula for alimony payments which would weigh the length of the marriage and the combined income of both spouses. It also would have eliminated permanent alimony, and limited the duration of alimony to a percentage of the length of the marriage.
Scott says equal time for parents isn’t best for kids
The bill failed to pass due to a proposed child-sharing amendment. The change to the law would have established the premise that children should spend equal amounts of time with each parent, instead of one parent having primary custody.
Scott vetoed the bill on the grounds that the child sharing concept put the desires of parents over the needs of children. Marie Gonzalez, Family Law Section Chairwoman and supporter of the veto, said that if the amendment were to have become law it would have caused more litigation. She praised the veto saying, “So when mom and dad come in front of the judge the best thing they can have is a clean slate and have a judge consider the uniqueness of the family, and also the needs of the particular family and come up and craft a good parenting plan, a good time-sharing schedule that works best for that family.”
Child custody issues to be removed from next version of the bill
Advocates for alimony reform are disappointed, and some say they will attempt to keep any child custody issue out of the next version of an alimony reform bill. In an interview with the Palm Beach Post, Family Law Reform founder Alan Frishner said, “We still believe, as an organization, child sharing is important. We just don’t want it to hurt our chances for alimony reform, which is what happened this session.”
Family law issues stemming from divorce such as child custody and alimony are complex questions. An experienced attorney can help you reach a resolution that is best for you and your loved ones.
Scott vetoes overhaul of Florida alimony, child custody laws. (2016, April 15). Retrieved April 26, 2016, from http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/news/state-regional-govt-politics/scott-scuttles-florida-alimony-overhaul-citing-chi/nq6Mh/
Dunkelberger, L. (2016, April 15). Scott vetoes alimony overhaul, again. Retrieved April 26, 2016, from http://politics.heraldtribune.com/2016/04/15/scott-vetoes-alimony-overhaul-again/
Divorce is difficult for all parties, but particularly on children. In Florida, the legal system is structured with the intent to look out for the best interests of the child in divorce and custody agreements. Upon that basis, decisions are made about where a child lives, who makes decisions for the child’s welfare, who pays for their needs, and so forth. A few of the main concepts of Florida divorce law are explained below.
Determining what’s in the best interest of the child
In Florida law, it is assumed that it is in the best interest of the child to have contact with both parents, with both parties involved in parental decisions. When determining best interest, the courts take into consideration issues of health and safety, emotional development, and environment. Of course evidence of violence, abandonment, or neglect can prevent a parent of being granted custody, but the court also considers the ability of each parent to provide for their child’s emotional, developmental and material needs.
Understanding the types of custody
Legal custody refers to parental right to make decisions for the minor – such as schooling, medical care, and religious teaching. Physical custody refers to the residence of the child. It is considered in the best interest of the child if both parents make legal decisions on their behalf, though that isn’t always possible. Sole custody is when the child lives with one parent, and in joint custody, a child lives with both parents. The division of time between the two homes varies widely, depending on such factors as the child’s school and the parents work and travel commitments.
Child support is determined by the courts based on the parents’ joint income as well as the needs of the child. If one parent has a significant change of income or the child’s living expenses suddenly rise (such as for a health issue or a change in education expenses) child support may be adjusted. A multitude of factors are taking into consideration for child support. The state of Florida has a calculator that helps to determine what the child support share should be, but there are many variables in this formula.
Regardless of your situation, the services of a family law attorney well-versed in Florida child custody and divorce law is essential. A family lawyer can make sure you understand your legal rights and responsibilities as a parent so that you can make the best decision for your child(ren).
The Basics of Florida Child Custody Law. (n.d.). Retrieved March 28, 2016, from http://www.attorneys.com/child-custody/florida/florida-child-custody-law-basics/
Bishop, S. (n.d.). Child Custody in Florida: Best Interests of the Child | DivorceNet.com. Retrieved March 28, 2016, from http://www.divorcenet.com/resources/child-custody/child-custody-florida-best-interests-child.htm#b
Filing for divorce is a difficult process for most. Knowing what to expect, and having the trusted guidance of an attorney throughout the proceedings can make it a little less painful. Here are a few key things you should know before filing for divorce in Florida:
- Where to file: Each local circuit court has a Family Department. One spouse can file a “Petition for the Dissolution of a Marriage.” The other spouse will be served papers and then they may respond.
- Average length of process – Depending on the type of proceeding, a divorce can take anywhere from four months to years. An uncontested divorce—where the parties involved have no dependents and agree to the divorce and division of their assets—can be completed in four months. Initially contested cases, in which one party disputes either the divorce or its terms, are generally resolved in mediation prior to a final hearing. These take about six months, sometimes more. Contested cases take the longest, as they typically end up in court. In these cases, a year or more is not uncommon.
- Alimony – A court may order alimony depending on how long a couple was married, what their standard of living was, and the age and health of each spouse. Alimony can be short or long term, and may be awarded to allow one spouse an adjustment period, such as in the instance where education or retraining expenses which may be required by a spouse who did not work outside the home during the marriage. Durational or permanent alimony can be awarded, particularly for longer marriages.
- Assets – Assets and debts acquired over the length of the marriage are to be divided fairly between the divorcing parties. These are “marital assets.” “Non-marital assets” include whatever the couple entered into the marriage with. Each party is entitled to keep their non-marital assets, as long as they were not used to acquire marital assets (such as shared property).It is important to have all documentation – tax returns, bank statements, mortgage information, and any other significant financial information when filing
- Custody and Child Support – In Florida, the term “custody” is no longer used in courts. Instead, the concept is referred to as “timesharing.” When it comes to timesharing, if you and your ex-spouse cannot come to an agreement, the court will make a ruling based on what it determines the “best interest” of the child or children. Unless there is a reason one party is incapable of caring for the children, timesharing is generally divided up as a shared responsibility. Factors taken into account are each individual’s fitness as parents, preferences of the child, and ability to provide for the child. As for child support, it is determined upon a variety of factors. Florida’s standard needs table assesses child support amounts based on the child’s age, health, and child care costs. Judges use those guidelines to determine how much each parent is obligated to pay.
In a perfect world, divorce would be swift and painless. In reality, it can be a trying time. An well-versed family law attorney can provide practical levity at a time when their clients may be inclined to emotional decision-making.
How Long Does a Divorce Take in Florida?, myfloridalaw.com