Divorced parents arguing over parenting plan.

What Should a Parenting Plan Include?

During divorce proceedings, a parenting plan must be submitted and approved by the court. The parenting plan sets forth how you and your former spouse and co-parent will raise your shared children. Essentially, it sets the terms for post-divorce parenting. The court generally prefers that the parents reach an agreement on the terms of the parenting plans for themselves, but, in the event that the parents cannot reach an agreement, the court will step in.

What to Include in a Parenting Plan.

Courts tend to have a preference for comprehensive parenting plans that include details surrounding things such as visitation schedules and arrangements as well as how disagreements between the co-parents should be resolved. When approaching the development of your parenting plan, it is a good idea to first be aware of the types of things that should be addressed. Address each issue with as much detail as you can. Being clear on the rights and responsibilities of both parents will be important to a successful co-parenting relationship after divorce.

A parenting plan should include provisions for:

  • Legal custody issues: This includes fundamental decisions impacting how the child will be raised.
  • The education plans for each child: Depending on the age of the child, this may include whether the child will attend day care or be watched by a family member or some other type of arrangement. For older children, this may address whether the child will attend public or private school.
  • Routine parenting time: Outline when and how your child will go between your two households. This can and should include things such as when pick-up and drop-off will occur, where pick-up and drop-off will occur, as well as the means of transportation and how the parents will communicate details of the logistics involved.
  • Holiday parenting time: Go through a list of annual holidays and decide who will get to spend what holiday with the child. If you want to split time on a holiday, specify so. Detail whether holiday parenting time will take priority over routine parenting time. Outline when exactly holiday parenting time will start and stop.
  • Covering college expenses: Address who will be responsible for what part in saving for the child’s college education. Determine the responsibility of each parent as far as how much should be contributed to a savings plan and how regularly this should occur.

Other provisions for the parenting plan should include:

  • Extracurriculars of the children
  • Dispute resolution methods
  • Relocation of one parent
  • Domestic and international travel restrictions
  • Communication methods between co-parents and the child

A court will approve a plan that creates a safe, stable, and supportive environment for a child. 

Florida Family Law Attorneys

In a parenting plan, a court will look to see how you will divide parenting responsibilities and duties so that the physical, mental, and emotional needs of your child will be met in post-divorce life. For help developing a parenting plan that is best for you and your family, talk to the trusted family law attorneys at Orlando Family Team. Contact us today.

Mother and child walking through a park.

How Do I Change My Child’s Last Name?

At some point, you may want to change your child’s last name. It might be simply due to some type of change in preference or family circumstances. In some cases, a parent may seek to have a minor’s name change after a divorce. Whatever the reason, in order to change your minor child’s name in the state of Florida, you will need to receive judicial approval through the court system.

Changing Your Child’s Last Name

To change your minor child’s last name, you must file a petition for a name change (minor child) with the court. Before you can have or request a hearing on your petition, however, you must be fingerprinted for purposes of submitting to a state and federal criminal background check. This background check is required in every child name change case, unless you are seeking restoration of a child’s former last name. Your fingerprint card must be attached to your name change petition. Once you have submitted your fingerprints to the Department of Law enforcement, and the clerk of court has received the background check results, then you may be scheduled for a hearing.

In some cases, both of a child’s parents will consent to the name change and live in the county where the name change is being sought. If this is the case, then both of you may file the required paperwork and then a hearing will be set. In other cases, both parents may consent to the name change, but only one parent lives in the county where the name change is being sought or only one parent will file the petition for name change. In these cases, the other parent must be notified of the name change and you must obtain the other parent’s written consent to the name change. The completed Consent for Change of Name (Minor Child) must be submitted to the court.

As you can see, when both parents agree to a name change for their minor child, the process is relatively easy. When one parent opposes a name change for the minor child, however, things become much more complicated. You are still within your rights to go ahead and file a name change petition with the court. The other parents must be notified regarding your petition via formal service of process and the hearing once it is scheduled. Should the whereabouts of the other parent be unknown to you, then you will need to go through the process of constructive service which involves publishing notice in a local paper in the area of last known residence.

In the event of a contested name change, if the parent contesting the name change fails to appear at the hearing, then the court may grant a default judgment granting the name change. If both parents appear at the hearing, the judge will need to weight the arguments for and against the name change. Should the judge grant the name change, you will want to get several certified copies of the order. You will need these copies in order to make the name change official on various identification documents.

Florida Family Law Attorneys

The matters involved in family law are often sensitive and complicated. At Orlando Family Team, our experienced attorneys have a thorough understanding of family law issues as well as the many nuances that can end up having significant impacts on the outcome of a case. For help with any of your family law needs, contact us today.

Mother and son on a train

What Happens If My Former Spouse Will Not Agree to My Relocation?

Co-parenting after divorce can be filled with challenges. It can seem like a constant struggle of trying to coordinate schedules, communicate and meet the needs of the child, and to maintain an amicable relationship with your former spouse amidst all of this and more. Sometimes, you and your former spouse will reach an impasse on a matter. For instance, what happens if you want to relocate with your child, but your former spouse will not agree? The relocation might be for a new job, or to move closer to family, or just because you need a change of scenery.  Regardless of the reason, you should learn more about your options should your former spouse refuse to agree to a relocation.

If My Former Spouse Does Not Agree to My Relocation, What Should I Do?

Under Florida law, a relocation is defined as a parent moving at least 50 miles from his or her current residence for at least 60 days. If you are seeking to relocate, your former spouse and co-parent may agree to the move. Should this be the case, you and your co-parent can sign a written agreement that outlines the terms of the move as well as new custody agreements. It should be clear in the agreement that both of you agree to the relocation. It should also be clear on the time-sharing schedule for the parent who is not relocating. Additionally, the agreement should include how both of you plan on handling transportation for visitation schedules.

A relocation can obviously have a dramatic impact on a visitation schedule. When one parent moves far away, it often becomes impractical to have the same visitation schedule as when they were closer by. It makes sense, although it can be extremely frustrating, when a co-parent objects to such a move. If you and your co-parent cannot reach an agreement about the relocation, you may file a petition to relocate with the court. The petition must be served on the other parent and must include:

  • The address and phone number of the location where you wish to relocate
  • The date of relocation
  • The reason(s) for relocation
  • The proposed post-relocation visitation schedule
  • Proposed post-relocation transportation plans for visitation

The non-relocating parent has 20 days from receiving notice of the petition to file a response. If no response is filed, the court is within its authority to grant the relocation petition without even having a hearing. If the other parent does file a response, it usually includes reasons why the relocation should not be permitted, including how active the non-relocating parent is in the life of the child.

The court will rule on the petition after weighing a number of different factors. The court’s goal is to render a decision that is in the child’s best interests. Factors to be considered may include:

  • The child’s relationship with both parents
  • The age and needs of the child
  • The non-relocating parent’s ability to maintain the relationship with the child post-relocation
  • The preference of the child
  • The reason for the relocation
  • The reasons against the relocation 
  • Any factor relevant to the best interests of the child

Florida Family Law Attorneys

If you or a co-parent are looking to relocate, the trusted family law attorneys at Orlando Family Team are here to help you navigate this often difficult and complicated matter. Contact us today.

Mother dropping off son at father's house.

How to Foster a Positive Co-Parenting Relationship

When you have children with a former spouse, divorce is not the end of the relationship. Building a solid co-parenting relationship after divorce is important, mainly for your kids. While easier said than done, establishing a positive co-parenting relationship with your former spouse can foster a sense of security and continuity for your children. Knowing that both parents will play a positive and active role in their lives can be of immeasurable help to your children and their continued mental and emotional well-being. Here are some tips on how to make that positive co-parenting relationship happen.

Fostering Positive Co-Parenting Relationships

It may feel impossible to have a positive co-parenting relationship with a former spouse. You may have doubts about a co-parent’s abilities to actually parent. You may feel resentful and distrustful. There can be substantial amounts of baggage carried over from the divorce and years prior. In establishing and maintaining a positive co-parenting relationship with your former spouse, keep in mind the one simple truth that what you are doing is in the best interests of your children. Whatever resentment or anger you feel toward your former spouse, your children can still reap the benefits of seeing you two form a solid co-parenting relationship.

These tips on how to foster a positive co-parenting relationship are often way easier said than done. They are simply a starting point for the road ahead. A good place to start is finding a way to set aside your feelings of hurt and resentment for your former spouse. If it helps, try to focus on them only as the other parent of your children. Pack up the baggage of your marriage and put them away. Take those feelings out elsewhere. This can mean accessing a support system made up of people you trust, such as your friends, family, or a therapist. Put your ill-feelings about your former spouse away and work to keep them away from your co-parenting relationship.

Improving communication with your co-parent is also critically important to the success of this relationship. Do not make your children the go-betweens. Work to communicate in a peaceful and purposeful way with your co-parent. It can really help to limit communications strictly to child-related issues. Maintaining a business-type demeanor in communication style can be a good standard to work toward and maintain.

Co-parenting can and should involve some level of teamwork. You will want your former spouse to communicate about issues relating to the children and work with you on these things. Afford them the same courtesy. This has benefits for all parties involved. Your children will see that you work together to resolve important matters. Consistency in parenting perspectives and boundaries will fall more in line. The children will benefit from more constants in their lives. 

Florida Family Law Attorneys

Divorce issues do not end after divorce. At Orlando Family Team, we are not only here to help protect you and your family through the divorce process, but we are here to set you up for a successful post-divorce future. Our clients lean on us during divorce and afterward. Contact us today.

Daughter and father hugging.

Can a Child in Florida Choose Which Parent to Live With?

During divorce proceedings, there are some big decisions that will be made. This is especially true when there are children involved. One of the most significant, and often most contentious, issues is child custody. If a couple cannot come to an agreement on their own, the court will decide custody by considering a number of factors and keeping in line with the best interest of the child standard. The court will consider things such as the moral fitness of each parent as well as their mental and physical health. Additionally, the court will evaluate how parental responsibilities are likely to be divided in the future and the child’s home and community history. In some cases, the child will also have a say in which parent he or she will live with.

Can Children Choose Who to Live With?

While a child cannot legally choose which parent to live with, he or she may have the preference considered when the court is weighing all factors relevant to the child custody decision. Whether a child’s preference will be taken into account in this determination will depend on whether the court, as stated in Florida Statute 61.13, “deems the child to be of sufficient intelligence, understanding, and experience to express a preference.” There is no exact age established by law that provides for a child to decide which parent to live with.

When determining whether a child meets the statutory requirements associated with being able to voice a preference of which parent to live with, the court will evaluate the child to see if he or she has the level of intelligence needed to know about the costs and benefits of living with either parent. The child must understand the weight of the decision being made and the kind of consequences associated with the decision. Finally, the child must have enough experience spending time with each parent to properly assess which parent would be the preferred one to live with. Generally speaking, children about the age of 12 years or older have their preference considered in custody decisions, but this fluctuates depending on the intelligence, understanding, and experience of each specific child. The court will also take great care to ensure the preference expressed by a child is not the result of any coercion exerted by either parent.

In some cases, there will be multiple children involved. The court will render a custody decision for each child separately. The custody situation for siblings will be a factor considered by the court in rendering a custody decision, but, again, this decision is based on a number of other factors as well. Each child is evaluated based on individual needs and what would be in the best interest of that particular child. It should also be noted that a child will not be forced to testify as to what parent he or she prefers to live with.

Florida Family Law Attorneys

At Orlando Family Team, we understand the importance of any decision that relates to children. We are here to help you through all issues incident to child custody. Our team of family law attorneys is committed to always representing and pursuing the best interests of our clients. Contact us today.

Daughter holding paper shapes of family.

What Is Considered to Be an Unfit Parent in Florida?

Florida law makes it clear that children are a priority. The well-being of children and the best interest of children is the guiding standard in all family law decisions where children are involved. The rights of parents are also an important part of Florida family law. A parent’s rights to raise and care for his or her child is fiercely protected. In some cases, however, a parent acts in such a way that it is clear they are unfit for the role of parent in the life of their child. Determining a parent to be unfit is not a decision Florida courts take lightly, but it is all too often one that needs to be made in order to protect a child from harm.

What Is Deemed As an Unfit Parent 

Pursuant to Florida Statute 751.05, a parent may be found unfit if he or she abused, abandoned, or neglected the child. Abuse includes intentionally inflicting mental or physical harm against a child. It may also include intentional acts reasonably expected to cause mental or physical injury. Additionally, a parent may be deemed abusive if he or she actively encouraged someone else to commit an abusive act against the child.

In the alternative, a parent may be found unfit due to child neglect. Neglect occurs when a parent fails to provide the care and supervision needed to support the mental and physical health of the child. A parent or caregiver may also be found neglectful if he or she failed to take reasonable steps to protect a child from abuse, neglect, or exploitation by someone else.

Abandonment is also grounds for deeming a parent unfit in Florida. Abandonment of a child means that, despite being able to, a parent made no provision for the child’s support. Furthermore, abandonment of a child means a parent failed to either establish or maintain a substantial, positive relationship with the child. An official charge of child abandonment in Florida is officially known as “unlawful desertion of a child.” This occurs when a caregiver leaves a child in a situation where he or she knew or should have known that leaving would expose the child to risk of harm.

Not mutually exclusive to the above-listed factors, but worth highlighting, is the fact that a Florida court may also deem a parent to be unfit if they have an established history of drug abuse or mental illness. A history of either does not mean that a person lacks the ability to be a good parent. Evidence of either, however, will merit further evaluation by the court. Courts will be hesitant to place a child in a situation where they are in the care of someone who has a history of erratic, dangerous behaviors.

Florida Family Law Attorneys

Being found as an unfit parent in Florida can have serious repercussions. A person can be denied custody and visitation privileges. An unfit parent determination may lead to termination of parental rights. There can also be criminal charges associated with the determination. At the end of the day, we all want what is best for the children. At Orlando Family Team, we are here to represent you as we work to preserve the best interests of your child. Contact us today.

Mother comforting her daughter as family deals with child custody issues.

How to Handle Problems with an Uncooperative Co-Parent

Co-parenting after divorce can be a challenge, to say the least. Lingering feelings of hurt, resentment, and disappointment can hamper the development of a positive co-parenting relationship. If you are dealing with a particularly uncooperative co-parent, you may be at your wits end. The frustration this kind of situation can produce is severe. Here we are going to talk about some tips for you to help handle an uncooperative co-parenting situation.

How to Handle Problems with an Uncooperative Co-Parent

The first thing you need to do when working on your relationship with an uncooperative co-parent is to accept what you cannot change. Try as you might, there are things about your former spouse that you cannot change. Accepting this will help ground you and become more proactive about focusing on the things that you can actually improve. You can control your perspective on things. You can control how you deal with your former spouse. You can try and see things from their point of view despite them possibly not granting you the same benefit.

As with so many things in life, communication is key. The way you communicate with your former spouse has a huge impact on the tone of your relationship. If you are dealing with an uncooperative co-parent, be sure to keep communication straightforward and as simple as possible. Stick to a single, relevant topic and do not deviate. It is too easy to take a sudden turn into emotionally charged, unproductive topics. Focus on the present and resist the urge from bringing up the past. If you find it impossible to talk to them in person, try alternative forms of communication. Would talking on the phone help? Should you stick to emailing or texting? Find what works best for you and minimizes confrontation.

Setting reasonable boundaries in your communication style can help develop a productive co-parenting relationship. Setting reasonable boundaries in your overall interactions with your former spouse can also help. Keeping your co-parent at arm’s length can really help relieve the pressure of the situation. Limit your interactions to those necessary to effectively co-parent. Do not talk about your own personal life. Stick to issues involving your shared children. This can really help avoid conflict and negative interactions with your former spouse.

Always, always resist the urge to involve your child. It is far too common for divorced co-parents to try and weaponize their child in order to hurt their former spouse. Even if your former spouse engages in this kind of destructive behavior, avoid stooping to this level. No one wins when children are put in the middle of co-parenting conflict.

In some cases, where a co-parent who proves to be persistent in being unreasonable and uncooperative, you may be able to get your custody and visitation agreement amended. This will only be available in more extreme cases, however. A parenting plan and custody agreement are more likely to be changed if there is the suspicion that the co-parenting is attempting to manipulate the child or is being not just volatile to you, the co-parent, but also to the child. 

Florida Family Law Attorneys

At Orlando Family Team, we provide legal support for our clients before, during, and after divorce. Each stage provides unique issues that can often feel overwhelming. We are here to help. Contact us today.

Man who was laid off, seeking to change his child support agreement.

I Was Laid Off Due to Coronavirus. How Do I Change My Child Support Agreement?

If you have lost your job due to the coronavirus, you are part of a tremendous group. According to the Washington Post, over 22 million Americans have lost their jobs during the past few months and more may follow suit. A high percentage of laid-off workers are eligible for unemployment benefits; over 17 million have already applied. Although the federal government has increased unemployment benefits, a large proportion of Americans are fighting to put food on their tables and, in this country where divorce is very common, many of them are also struggling to make child support payments. 

If you feel overwhelmed and frightened by your responsibilities as a divorced parent and don’t know where to turn for advice, Orlando Family Team is a good place to start. We not only have in-depth knowledge of family law in Florida and throughout the nation, we are also well-versed in all of the cutting-edge legislation being enacted in response to the present medical crisis. Be aware that simply stopping your child support payments without consulting with a trustworthy attorney may have long-term negative legal consequences.

In the midst of the pandemic, divorced parents who are providing child support for their children are trying to figure out how to modify their divorce agreements until they get back on their feet. In some cases, the custodial parent may be able to work remotely and therefore may continue to have a stable income. If your ex-spouse is in this category, she/he may be willing to negotiate a temporary moratorium to give you a bit of breathing space. Speaking of breathing — if you have been infected with the coronavirus your ex is even more likely to be flexible.

Of course, if your ex is also out of work, it will be more difficult to negotiate a compromise since both of you are in dire straits. It is possible that you may be able to agree to a lesser amount of child support during this period, rather than a temporary hiatus in payment. 

Because, in a fair number of cases, your child may be quarantined in one parent’s home, and therefore that parent is paying more toward meeting the child’s needs for food, clothing, supplies for remote schooling, etc., and the parent being kept at a distance may be willing to pay more support to reimburse higher costs. Conversely, the custodial parent may, if possible, be willing to forego child support temporarily in response to the devastation the other parent is experiencing due to separation from the child.

Clearly, every situation has its own unique features, and people also may behave differently during a crisis than they do ordinarily. These differences may make for easier or more strained relations between the divorced couple, depending on how each responds to emergencies. Some individuals may react to increased stress with hostility; others may respond to extreme circumstances by becoming more reasonable than usual. Whatever your particular situation, checking in with your family law attorney is essential both because he or she is experienced in these matters and will be able to advise you objectively, and because you don’t want to be left holding the bag by making a verbal agreement that doesn’t stick.

It is always much easier to obtain a child support modification if you can get your ex to agree. Our child support attorneys are efficient as well as caring. We will explain your options and strategize with you how best to approach your ex in this specific situation. Compromise may be appropriate, though you must be careful to keep a record of any informally articulated agreement to avoid misinterpretation or enforcement issues later on. This is where having dependable legal counsel is critical. 

Legal Modifications to Child Support Agreements When Courts Are Closed

It is important to remember that, under Florida law, child support can always be modified as long as the change involves at least a $50 or 15 percent alteration — whichever is greater. You can always file for modification at any time there is a “substantial change in circumstances.” This substantial change may consist of either a change of income for either parent or a change in the overnight parenting arrangement. The latter means that if a parent ends up taking care of the child for 275 nights during the year instead of the 150 stipulated in the initial divorce decree, a modification of child support may be requested.

Although a great many courts in Florida are open with only limited access, and the Florida Supreme Court is closed at present, legal matters can still be handled in the state. Most lawyers continue to practice while taking necessary precautions. Fortunately for all of us, the internet provides a variety of means of communicating and legal processing that does not require face-to-face contact. There are virtual alternative dispute resolution methods available for legally binding compromise.

Other Ways To Solve the Problem, at Least Temporarily

In addition to several types of government outreach during the coronavirus outbreak, you may find individuals, or even large entities more cooperative and understanding during these dark days. Already, evictions and foreclosures have been postponed in Florida, and you may find your landlord or mortgage company willing to work out a flexible payment schedule. If you are able to defer your rent or mortgage payments for 3 months, for example, it may enable you to continue with your child support payments. It is also possible that you have the skills to find a new job at which you can work remotely.

Right Now You Need Insightful Legal Counsel

Before you panic, get in touch with Orlando Family Team. In an emergency, we will help you file a Supplemental Petition to Modify Child Support and serve the petition on the other spouse. Though a typical modification of child support takes at least 6 months, we may be able to cut that time in half, or even to have your request processed within 30 days. Depending on the financial data we provide, the court may offer you temporary financial or medical hardship relief, especially if you are ill with the coronavirus.

Little girl being comforted by her mother amid child custody issues.

Can I Prevent My Child from Seeing My Ex-Spouse During Quarantine?

No matter whether your divorce was divisive or amicable, COVID-19 is likely to change the rules you and your ex have gotten used to. Though family courts have been stating that existing custody orders should be followed during the pandemic, in many (or even most) cases, that’s easier said than done. There may be a number of variables from one household to another that make a living situation safer for the child. 

The answer to the title question is that you certainly can’t prevent your child from seeing your ex-spouse for frivolous or vindictive reasons, but you may be able to alter parenting time through informal agreement or, if really necessary, by emergency court order if the child will otherwise be at grave risk.

This is a good time to consult with an experienced, insightful family law attorney like the ones at Orlando Family Team where we are taking every possible precaution to keep you and your family safe. During this difficult time, we are available to connect with you by telephone or video conferencing.

Base Hard Choices on the Data You Have

As a divorced parent, custodial or not, you should be asking yourself the following questions before you consult your child custody attorney:

  • Are you and your ex both able to work remotely, or does one have to put him or herself in harm’s way during the work day by using public transportation or by being unable to maintain social distancing?
  • Are either of you exposed to COVID-19 on a regular basis through occupation, e.g. by working in a hospital or nursing home?
  • Do either of you live in a multi-family dwelling with common areas such as lobbies, elevators, laundry rooms, or mailrooms that cannot be avoided by the child?
  • Are either of you under quarantine due to exposure or to having the illness?
  • Do either of you have an intimate partner, roommate, or relative living with you who may be exposed to COVID-19 on a regular basis because of that individual’s occupation or habits?
  • Are you both equally able to supply food and sanitation supplies for the duration of the restrictions imposed by the pandemic?

Presumably, both of you love your child and are equally invested in keeping your child healthy. Nonetheless, it is difficult for one parent to be kept away from his or her child for long periods, especially when the child is disoriented by being out of school, not having play dates, unable to visit playgrounds or engage in sports, and dealing with unavoidable anxiety by hearing and seeing constant references to a deadly disease.

Custody Arrangements 

Although social distancing and shelter-in-place regulations don’t directly affect custody orders, and you may be subject to future penalties if you defy current custody arrangements, you have to use your own best judgment to keep your child from getting sick. This is a wise time to consult with a skilled and trusted family law attorney who will be able to help you stay on the right path.

Although no one knows for certain how long we will be living under the cloud of the pandemic, for the moment it may be best to make an informal arrangement with your ex rather than to try to legally alter your custody agreement, especially with so many courts closed. If your ex won’t cooperate, however, your attorney will help you to take the proper steps so that you avoid disobeying court orders by keeping your child away from her/his other parent. Unless you follow your attorney’s directions, refusing to allow your ex access to the child may result in your being found in contempt of court and result in sanctions, such as attorneys’ fees.

If you feel that your ex is putting, or will put, your child in imminent danger, your attorney may be able to obtain an emergency temporary child custody order from your local family court. If your ex has been directly exposed to COVID-19, but is refusing to self-quarantine, for example, a judge may decide that it is in your child’s best interest for parenting visits to be postponed for a certain length of time. If this happens, you should expect that your ex will be entitled to more or longer visits with your child once the designated period of separation is over.

Orlando Family Team Can Provide a Voice of Reason at this Difficult Time

As knowledgeable child custody attorneys, we will advise you on how best to approach your ex to resolve this predicament with the least turmoil. In many cases, taking a friendly, proactive approach in such a troubling situation may make future negotiations between the two of you easier in the future.

Here are some suggestions that may enable both of you to spend time with your child without increasing risk factors:

  • Make the transportation between your two homes safer by driving the child back and forth and avoiding public transportation, even, if need be, by renting a car that has been sanitized for the trip
  • Decide that, for the safety of the child, parenting time will be spent outdoors with proper social distancing, for example, walking through the park, sitting at separate picnic tables, or bicycling at a safe distance from one another
  • Agree that the more at-risk parent use Facetime or Zoom for safe parenting time or play games with the child over the internet, sending frequent text messages and pictures to one another
  • Agree to adhere to the same standards in both homes relative to handwashing, sanitizing surfaces, etc. so that both parents feel their child continues to be protected wherever she/he is
  • Agree that the child will make up lost time with the other parent once it is safe to do so and commit to arranging for this

Is all this distance necessary when children are less affected by COVID-19 than adults?

Some people question whether we are being overly cautious since most children do not, even when they are infected, get very ill. The fact is, though, that no one knows why one child infected with COVID-19 runs a slight fever while another has to be intubated. We are aware that special precautions have to be taken where children with compromised immune systems or pre-existing conditions are concerned, but do not know enough about this illness to predict which healthy children are most at risk.

Don’t Make Waves When the World Is Already Off Balance

Now is the time for all of us to come together to fight COVID-19 and this applies to divorced couples as much as to everyone else. Consult with Orlando Family Team for legal information and support. Negotiate as politely as possible with your ex-spouse. Remember: keeping your priorities straight will help keep your child healthy. 

Family meeting with an attorney who is a Guardian ad Litem.

What Is a Guardian ad Litem?

Sometimes, divorce and child custody cases get extremely contentious. When these types of high-conflict situations arise, a Florida court may choose to appoint a Guardian ad Litem. This is to help ensure that, amidst everything else going on, the best interests of the child are always protected.

Understanding a Guardian ad Litem

A Guardian ad Litem is appointed on behalf of a minor child (meaning, under the age of 18). A Guardian ad Litem may be appointed upon a motion of attorneys involved in a case or upon motion of a pro se litigant. The court may also opt to have a Guardian ad Litem appointed when there may be issues in a case relating to child safety or other circumstances warrant further investigation. While the Guardian ad Litem works to protect and advocate on behalf of the child and the child’s best interests, he or she is not actually acting as the child’s attorney. The Guardian ad Litem is a kind of fact-finder tasked with investigating the child’s situation and making recommendations to the court based on the information gathered. Guardian ad Litems are appointed where there is a substantial amount of conflict between parties with issues relating to children or there is reasonable concern regarding the safety and well-being of the child.

Specifically, a Guardian ad Litem is tasked with investigating things such as potential child neglect, child endangerment, or the child’s potential exposure to health and safety risks. The Guardian ad Litem will gather information through things such as home visits and interviews with family members, friends, and other witnesses who have observed the child’s living situation. The Guardian ad Litem may also gain access to things such as the child’s medical records or school records. He or she will then report back to the judge and make recommendations based on the findings. The Guardian ad Litem may request the court order things such as evaluations of the child or the child’s parents. He or she may also help in finding the necessary experts for these examinations.

In Dependency cases, a Guardian ad Litem is a volunteer. In family court cases, such as divorce cases or paternity cases, the Guardian ad Limited is paid for by the parties. Sometimes, however, the parents in these cases may have limited income and the Guardian ad Litem will agree to waive the fee or work at a reduced fee rate.

Florida Family Law Attorneys

While the Guardian ad Litem is not actually the attorney for the child, it is often advantageous to have a family law attorney act as Guardian ad Litem. With knowledge of the family law system and experience working in and investigating family law issues, the trusted attorneys at Orlando Family Team can provide well-informed recommendations to the court in order to protect the best interests of a child involved in a particularly contentious family law case. Contact us today.