How Should Parents Go About Picking a Guardian for Their Children?

On behalf of The Law Office of Wickersham and Bowers posted in Estate Planning on Monday April 12, 2021.

Have you written a will? If so, have you thought about your wishes for your children? Planning your estate is important, but your children’s long-term welfare should be your top priority. For this reason, your will should include the names of legal guardians you feel could best care for your children if you became incapacitated, passed away, or were otherwise unable to provide for them. Before you decide on guardians, the following are some key points to consider.

1. Think about the Big Picture

If one of the guardians you choose passes away before you update your will, and the other is unable to assume the role on their own, you’ll be in a dilemma. So, creating a backup plan that considers all of the “what-ifs” makes good sense, and gives you control of your children’s well-being even if you’re incapacitated or deceased.

2. Provide Detailed Instructions on How Your Children Should be Raised

Is there a certain school you want your children to attend? What about their nutritional needs and religion? As their biological parent, your wishes should be respected. While you can’t certify that your child will study ballet or learn how to play soccer, you can at least make clear your desires about how and where they’re raised.

3. Select Multiple Guardians

Choosing three or four different guardians safeguards your children’s future, particularly if your first or second choice fails to work out. Carefully selecting a number of backup guardians ensures that your children will be taken care of, no matter what happens.

4. Consider Parenting Skills, Beliefs, Finances, Age, and Living Situation

It might be beneficial if the named guardian is a parent, so they already know how to raise children. Also, their religious or moral beliefs, financial situation, age, and living situation are all key factors to consider when thinking about your children’s future life and well-being. If the prospective guardian meets all of your criteria except the element of financial security, you might consider establishing a trust for your children so their guardian can raise them in comfort. 

Ultimately, you are the only one who can determine the ideal custodian for your children if you’re unable to care for them yourself. To learn about how our experienced Florida family law attorneys can help you choose the right guardian and guide you through the guardianship process, call us toll free at 386-252-3000 or fill out the contact form on our website. 

Do I Need an Attorney to Adopt a Stepchild?

On behalf of The Law Office of Wickersham and Bowers posted in Family Law on Monday April 12, 2021.

Although most newborn and Department of Children and Families adoptions in Florida need to be carried out by attorneys or adoption agencies, those involving stepparents do not, although help from an attorney can greatly expedite the process. Under Florida law, a stepparent adoption gives a married person the same parental rights and responsibilities over his or her stepchild as those of the birth parent. The legal consequence of such an adoption is granted by a court order known as a Final Judgment of Step Parent Adoption, by which the adopting parent becomes a parent on an equal basis with his or her spouse. The birth certificate is changed to reflect the names of both the stepparent and the natural parent. A stepparent adoption simply legalizes the parental relationship that already exists, making it official and legally valid and solidifying the bond between the child and the adopting parent.

The Legal Process for Completing a Stepparent Adoption

In Florida, the first phase of a stepparent adoption involves determining if the stepparent is qualified to adopt. Providing that the person can offer effective parenting and is married to a legal parent of the child, the person should be allowed to legally adopt.

The court case starts by filing a petition for adoption. The petitioner is the stepparent–the person adopting the child, who is then joined by the spouse. To file a stepparent adoption in Florida, the petition must include the following information:

  • The child’s date and place of birth
  • The surname the child will be given if it is being changed
  • A statement regarding how long the stepparent has lived with the child
  • Reasons for which the stepparent desires to adopt the child.

Filing the petition starts the process then the absent parent has a chance to oppose the adoption. If the absent parent avoids contesting the adoption or consents, the court will finalize the adoption, giving the child a new birth certificate showing his or her new surname and parents.

If you and want to learn about how our experienced Florida family law attorneys can help you with expediting your stepparent adoption or wish to schedule a consultation, please call us toll free at 386-252-3000 or fill out the contact form on our website. We have helped countless couples in southern Florida with stepparent adoptions, and can easily take care of the entire process for you.