Family Law and Divorce Attorney serving Tavares, Leesburg, Eustis, Mt. Dora, The Villages® community and surrounding areas

(352) 343-0091 500 W. Caroline St., Tavares, FL 32778

Tuesday
February 6
2018

I want to adopt my stepchild, what do I do?

stepchild adoption floridaYou are considered a stepparent when you are married to the biological parent of a child but are not the child’s other biological parent. A lot of people assume that a stepparent obtains immediate parental rights simply by marrying a child’s parents, but this is not the case. 

There are several complexities that arise in stepparent adoption proceedings. A stepparent must first find out if he or she meets the Florida law requirements for adopting the child. Florida law allows stepparents to adopt in one of two situations. The first is, of course, consent of both biological parents. The second is termination of the non-custodial parent’s parental rights.

When one parent’s rights are terminated, that parent is usually no longer responsible for child support payments, but will also no longer have the protection of the courts for his or her relationship with the adopted child. 

If everyone can agree, the next step in stepchild adoption is to file a petition. The petition must include information regarding the length of time the stepparent has resided with the child or children, the stepparent’s reasons for seeking the adoption, and the stepparent’s relationship to the biological parent. The petition must also include judgments terminating parental rights.

The hiring of a skilled and dedicated attorney is crucial to the success of stepparent adoption and can save you and your family a lot of time and money in the long run by getting it right the first time.

Tuesday
January 2
2018

The ins and outs of restraining orders

restraining order tavaresInjunctions for Protection (also known as Restraining Orders) are designed to prevent an individual from harming or coming into contact with another individual.

In Florida, there are four types of restraining orders intended to protect victims. These restraining orders are divided into types based on the relationship between the Petitioner (victim) and the Respondent. The four restraining order types are domestic violence, sexual violence, dating violence and repeat violence.

Domestic Violence restraining orders are obtained when both parties have lived together at some point, or they have a child in common.

Dating Violence restraining orders are for parties with no children in common but where a romantic relationship existed within six months of the filing of the injunction for protection.

Sexual Violence injunctions are for victims of sexual abuse and do not require filing criminal charges or successful prosecution  to be obtained.

Repeat Violence injunctions work as a “catchall” for any other relationship, such as an acquaintance or neighbor, and require two incidents of violence, like stalking, to have occurred within six months of the filing of the petition. 

To file a restraining order, a petition must be prepared and filed with the court. The petition will ask for all personal information of the petitioner and respondent including physical address, place of work, physical description, and most importantly, the allegations. It is best to provide exact details and location information where violence took place  for your petition to be successful.

Usually, once the petition is filed, a judge will immediately review it, and if the allegations of violence meet the Florida law requirements, the judge will grant you a temporary restraining order the same day that is valid for 15 days.

A final court hearing is scheduled on or near the 15-day mark after filing the restraining order. During this time, the petitioner should gather phone records, witnesses or other evidence helpful to the case. Non-authenticated documents will not be considered unless they meet the standard for Florida rules of evidence. For this reason alone, it is vital to hire an experienced attorney so that every step is properly carried out and that the judge  caton hear and see all evidence for your protection.

Tuesday
November 28
2017

Do’s and Don’ts for new step parents

step parentsEven in the most seemingly ideal situations, the successful blending of families is often a daunting task. As a new step-parent, it’s natural to want to instantly bond with your step children and create a new family, but what approach is in the actual best interest of the children? Here are a few Do’s and Don’ts to keep in mind as a new step parent:

  • Don’t expect a magic flip to be switched on the instant you marry. Adapting to a new situation takes time for anyone, especially children who may still be reeling from their biological parents’ divorce.
  • Do take things slow and allow the dynamic to develop naturally. Remember, this is their world of security and familiarity, and you are new. Expect some rough patches and know that love will develop over time.
  • Don’t discuss disagreements with your spouse within earshot of the children. Children are curious and likely to blame themselves for most issues.
  • Do set aside time to discuss troublesome issues privately with your spouse. If it is an issue that involves the children, choose a time to calmly discuss the issue as a family. This prevents children from playing one parent or step parent against the other and shows a united front. Discuss expectations and rules about each member of the family’s responsibilities in a respectful, cooperative manner.
  • Don’t attempt to replace a parent. No matter what your feelings toward the former spouse may be, trying to replace them leads to strong feelings of resentment.
  • Do be a role model, source of support, encourager and mentor. Children deserve a listening and caring ear. It is never okay to disparage or bad-mouth a biological parent. When children hear one of their parents is  “bad," they believe “part of me is bad.” Keep it positive!

Tuesday
November 14
2017

Can we change the original terms of our divorce?

divorce term changeWhen you’ve received your Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage in Florida, you’ve seemingly reached the end result. This doesn’t mean, however, that your divorce terms are final forever. In Florida, if you are dissatisfied with your divorce outcome, there are several avenues to explore in appealing or modifying the final divorce decree.

Deciding on the proper course of action for your specific situation requires a close examination of the facts and, ideally, assistance from a qualified attorney. 

Appealing your Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage in Florida must be done within a specific time frame and must meet specific requirements. Namely, it must be proven that the trial court made an error and refused to correct it. You have a strict filing deadline of 30 days from the final judgment to file an appeal. Typically, the appellate court will only review arguments that were already presented to the trial court. Only the most serious claims - fundamental error or error of law - will be considered for the first time appeal. This means you must show that the lower court made an error in its interpretation of the facts or made an error of law (such as Child Support Award Amount or Determination of Marital Assets Subject to Division). 

Modification of Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage can occur any time after the final judgment and may be made when there is a dramatic change in life circumstances. If your income is drastically reduced, for example, or you are moving out of state, asking for adjustments in things like visitation, alimony or child custody is often necessary. If children are involved in your divorce, custody decisions are made in the best interest of your child. Requests for modification that involve children must show that the changes you’re asking for are beneficial to your children.

There are someof factors that will increase your chances of having your modification request granted, and there are those that will just as easily cause you additional problems in court. It is imperative that you seek the counsel of an attorney who specializes in these matters before presenting your modification or appeal in court.

Wednesday
September 20
2017

Step Parent Rights

A divorce is never an easy situation to be in, and one thing that makes it even harder is having children in the mix of things. With biological parents, they typically share equal rights to custody of the child(s) in question unless determined otherwise by a court of law. What if there is only one biological parent and the other a step parent? What kind of rights do step parents have during a divorce? That’s one of the more difficult questions a step parent will have to find out in case of divorce proceedings. The following will provide more information on staying in a step child’s life after divorce.

Unfortunately, in Florida, a step parent does not hold anyof legal right to have custody of a child. Once the biological parent decides to severe ties with their partner (the non-biological parent), they can no longer see that child at all. Even in extreme cases, such as the death of the biological parent, the step parent does not have the rights to continue raising said child. The other biological parent or a family member would ultimately have to look after the child until he/she is of age.

But don’t fret! This doesn’t mean all hope is lost for step parents during a divorce, but it does mean that they need to plan accordingly. If a step parent wants to retain a permanence in the child’s life, the best (and albeit only) option out there is to adopt the child. That in itself may cause some difficulty because the step parent has to get the permission of the other biological parent in question to adopt the child. Without the consent of the other parent, the step parent must be able to prove that the other parent is non-existent in the child’s life and cannot be reached andor found to obtain consent from. As soon as the adoption is finalized, the step parent now holds parental rights and custody of the child.

Ultimately, the best way to protect the relationship between a step parent and step child is to go through the adoption process with a lawyer and obtain their rights. It can be a long, drawn out process but in the end, the payoff is much greater than the payout. Don’t let a divorce stop you from being in the life of the child you love and care for. 

Source

Take the first step.

You don’t have to do this alone.

If you need help getting through the divorce, custody or support process, then contact the offices of Benjamin J. Cox and we will be glad to help.

Or, you can call our office at (352) 343-0091.

Or, you can stop by our office in downtown Tavares, just steps from the Lake County Courthouse.

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Latest Blog Posts

I want to adopt my stepchild, what do I do?

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

You are considered a stepparent when you are married to the biological parent of a child but are not the child’s other biological parent. A lot of people assume that a stepparent obtains immediate parental rights simply by marrying a child’s parents, but this is not the case. 

Read more...

The ins and outs of restraining orders

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Injunctions for Protection (also known as Restraining Orders) are designed to prevent an individual from harming or coming into contact with another individual.

Read more...

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Benjamin J. Cox, Attorney at Law
500 W. Caroline St.
Tavares, FL 32778

(352) 343-0091 (phone)
Monday-Friday 9am to 5pm
Saturday 9am to 12pm
Special appointment times by request

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