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.

What Is an Alimony Waiver and Am I Eligible to Get One?

On behalf of The Law Office of Wickersham and Bowers posted in Family Law on Monday March 8, 2021.

Alimony is a form of spousal support once you are divorced. You will usually receive it as a monthly payment as agreed by a Court or in a settlement. However, an alimony waiver is when you agree that you and/or your spouse will not be awarded any support. If you decide to waive alimony during your divorce, you will also be waiving any claim for future support.

The Purpose of Alimony

Alimony is there to help prevent any unfair financial effects as a result of a divorce. For example, if you have been a stay-at-home parent for many years and find yourself in need of an income after a divorce. In this case, you could benefit from alimony to help support you.

Why You May Waive Alimony

There are many reasons why you may decide to waive alimony, however, here are some of the most common reasons:

  • You have never relied on your spouse for financial support
  • You are the main earner in your household
  • You have not been married for very long
  • You and your spouse earn similar wages
  • You are confident you will be able to support yourself

It is important to note that an alimony waiver does not have to be mutual. Alimony can be waived by you but not necessarily by your spouse.

What Happens When You Waive Alimony?

When you decide to waive alimony, it is a permanent agreement that you cannot modify in the future. So, what happens when you feel confident in being able to support yourself at the time of the divorce but do not want to waive your rights to alimony in the future? In this case, you may want to consider entering an agreement for your spouse to pay you “one dollar a year” in support. As a result of this, it will leave room for you to ask for a rise in alimony in the future if you feel that you need it.

Receiving an award of “one dollar a year” may be appropriate for you if:

  • Your future employment is uncertain
  • You have health concerns that are preventing you from knowing if you will be able to support yourself in the future
  • You and your spouse are of old age
  • There is a chance that your spouses’ income will significantly increase in the future

The Law Office of Wickersham and Bowers provides top-notch legal representation to clients in Daytona and southern Florida. Our areas of legal practice include family lawpersonal injuryeminent domain, and estate planning and probate. Our firm has over 60 years of addressing our clients’ legal issues. Please feel free to contact us by filling out our online form or calling us at (386) 252-3000.

How Having the Right Attorney Can Make Your Adoption Go Smoother

On behalf of The Law Office of Wickersham and Bowers posted in Family Law on Friday February 5, 2021

The process of adopting a child is a long and complicated one. The combination of federal laws, state laws, the ambiguity of current laws, and the many factors that can complicate, impede, or stop the adoption process can make the adoption process seem impossible. Family law lawyers with experience and intense focus can help adoptive parents and birth parents navigate through the legal process and dramatically reduce the time and cost associated with the legal process.

Anticipating Problems Before They Arise

Many factors regarding the adoption can delay or prevent the adoption process if they are not adequately addressed. Experienced family law lawyers can help potential parents mitigate the impact of factors including one biological parent challenging the adoption, the adoptive parents’ financial histories, and any criminal records that the adoptive parents may have. 

Selecting the Best Option for the Adoptive Parents and the Birth Parents

There are multiple types of legal adoptions, including foster adoptions through the state, private agencies and matches arranged by attorneys. Family law lawyers can inform the parties involved about each option’s advantages and issues, guiding the parties involved towards the adoption type best suited for their circumstances.

Maintaining Progress and Clearing Blocking Issues

Adoptions require multiple parts and actions, and any delays or non-compliance can increase the time and cost involved with the adoption process. Family law lawyers can keep current with the adoption process, providing the parties involved with timely updates and collecting necessary information and resources to keep the adoption process moving.

Preparation for the Home Study

Potential adoptive parents must prove that their residence is fit for raising a child by completing a home study. Family law lawyers can coach potential adoptive parents on how to set up and modify their home to pass the home study.

The Law Office of Wickersham and Bowers provides top-notch legal representation to clients in southern Florida. Our areas of legal practice include family lawpersonal injuryeminent domain, and estate planning and probate. Our firm has over 60 years of addressing our clients’ legal issues. Please feel free to contact us by filling out our online form or calling us at (386) 252-3000.

Tips to Make the New Year Easier on Your Newly Divorced Family

On behalf of The Law Office of Wickersham and Bowers posted in Family Law on Tuesday January 5, 2021.

The current pandemic has made it very difficult on couples. The financial strain coupled with enforced quarantine that throws couples together without an outlet has led to a large increase in divorces across the country. If you have recently been through a divorce, you may be looking forward to a new year without your spouse. When you and your former spouse have children together, it is difficult to negotiate your way through the divorce landscape. Here are some ways to make the New Year easier on your family. 

Keep Traditions in Place

As much as possible, when you have children, you will want to keep your traditions for the holiday season. If you and your spouse celebrate New Year’s Eve with your children, with party favors and hats, you need to continue to do that if possible. If you have traditions for other holidays, why not keep those family traditions as well?

Create New Memories

What if you aren’t able to keep your traditions the same during the New Year? Why not start new traditions, then? For example, if you won’t be celebrating New Year’s with your children this year on the day, why not have a mini New Year’s party when you do have them? You might also want to try cooking with your family, decorating cakes and cookies, or even creating art pieces. 

Make It Fun and Talk It Out

Whatever holiday you are celebrating, you need to keep the atmosphere fun and light. You don’t want your family to bear the brunt of you and your spouse’s issues. If possible, you might want to have a conversation with your ex-spouse ahead of time. How do they want the holiday to go? Do they have concerns about celebrating the day? If you have a chance, you’ll want to air out issues when the kids aren’t around. 

Whether you particularly like your former spouse or not isn’t important anymore. If you have children, your spouse will be in your life at least until your children are grown. You will want to cooperate with him or her for the sake of your family. It can be difficult, but in the long run it will be worth it. 

Are There Limitations to What You Can Use Child Support For?

On behalf of The Law Office of Wickersham and Bowers posted in Family Law on Sunday December 11, 2020.

If you are receiving child support, it’s important that you understand the rules that govern how you can and cannot use this money. Child support isn’t extra money you can use however you wish. There are rules that require you to use it to cover your child’s basic needs. There is a good amount of leeway in how these needs are defined, but if you misuse this money, the consequences can be severe.

What Can You Use Child Support For?

The category of “basic needs” is quite broad, but in general, child support can be broken down into a few different areas. Food, housing, and clothing are all obvious basic needs. This means you are allowed to use child support to pay your rent and your utility bills in addition to buying groceries and other necessities. Medical care is also allowed. Child support can be used to buy anything related to your child’s education, the cost of daycare or sitters, and the cost of transportation. This latter category includes car maintenance, gas, insurance, and even your car payments in addition to the cost of bus fair and other tickets. 

You may also use child support for extracurricular activities and even for entertainment. This includes after-school sports programs, summer camps, club, and other activities that enrich your child’s life. You can even use child support for entertainment, including television and video-on-demand services, movie tickets, internet fees, camping, trips to amusement parks, and more. These activities do need to be age-appropriate, however.

What You Cannot Use Child Support For

While the above list does cover many things, there are still a number of things that are considered misuse of funds. For example, anything you purchase for yourself or other family members that your child cannot or will not need. You can’t use your child support money to buy yourself clothing, jewelry, or electronics that you child won’t use. Paying for services that only affect you, such as haircuts or a gym membership, is also not allowed. If you take a trip without your child, you may not use child support money to pay for it. In short, anything that your child will use or that they need is fine, but anything they are not a part of is a misuse of child support money.

Is Splitting Holidays Required for Custody Agreements

On behalf of The Law Office of Wickersham and Bowers posted in Family Law on Sunday November 1, 2020.

Holidays are meant to be a time of celebration and spending time with our loved ones.  Parents dealing with divorce often face challenges when it comes to enjoying these special times together with their children.  Knowing your legal rights in Florida as a parent of a minor can give you peace of mind when it comes to splitting holidays for custody agreements. At the Law Office of Wickersham & Bowers in Daytona Beach, we have you and your child’s best interest at heart. 

Negotiating a Parenting Plan for Holiday Custody Agreements

Our Florida law office is devoted to helping you and your family experience the comfort and joys the holiday season can bring. That is why we are here to provide you with the best counsel when it comes to determining holiday custody agreements. 

The first step to stress-free holiday custody terms is to establish a parenting plan.  Florida law requires a parenting plan that distributes equal custody time-sharing. This means each parent receives a 50-50 share of time spent with the child (or children) in a joint custody situation. Therefore, equally splitting holidays is required for custody agreements.  

It is important to establish a clear parenting plan regarding holiday custody to avoid misunderstandings.  The Florida Supreme Court provides a checklist that includes traditional holidays as well as other special days off during the school year.  Establishing this parenting plan is crucial to identifying what is considered a holiday and which parent should receive the child or children in any particular occasion. 

Once finalized, this time-share plan will eliminate doubt and confusion regarding your custody agreement.  With our legal counsel, we can help you negotiate clear terms as to defining fair holiday custody with satisfaction and equanimity.

Getting the Answers You Need About Splitting Holiday Custody Agreements

You can have a healthy, happy holiday season with your family, even after divorce or separation.  Our team of caring legal experts can guide you through the process of splitting holiday custody agreements so you can enjoy your holidays to their fullest. Contact the Law Office of Wickersham & Bowers by email or at 386-252-3000 today so you can consult with one of our family law attorneys. We are happy to provide you the counsel you and your family deserve.

What You Need for a Florida Parenting Agreement

On behalf of The Law Office of Wickersham and Bowers posted in Family Law on Thursday October 01, 2020.

Sometimes called a custody agreement, a parenting agreement outlines how parents will share the rights and responsibilities of raising their children. This agreement also establishes a time-sharing schedule, a schedule of days and times for both parents to spend an equal amount of time with their children. In a trial for child support and/or custody, each parent submits a proposed plan and a judge reviews the proposal and creates the final agreement based on what is best for the child.  There are different types of agreements and choosing the right plan depends on the needs to be met for the child. 

Types of Agreements

It’s important to know what type of parenting agreement you need for your child. There are four different types of parenting agreements:

  • Basic Agreements are ideal for co-parents cooperating willingly with one another.
  • Long Distance Agreements are recommended for cooperating co-parents who live more than 50 miles from each other.
  • Highly Structured Agreements are for co-parents prone to frequent disagreements that require mediator or lawyer interventions, or mandated parenting cooperation.
  • Safety Focused Agreements allow a parent-child relationship, but are for cases where the children or parents are at risk for violence, abuse (to include substance abuse), or criminal activities; time sharing is strictly monitored or sometimes denied and this type of agreement also sets guidelines on physical discipline, firearms, parents’ substance use, and other persons allowed around the child.    

Creating Your Parenting Plan

You want a detailed parenting plan that contains all the required information. The more detailed your plan the more effective the final agreement will be. Your proposed parenting plan must address the following:

  • How parental rights, responsibilities, and child care tasks will be shared. 
  • How decisions relating to education, medical (to include dental care), and childcare will be divided.
  • How time-sharing will be divided. 
  • How transportation and child exchanges will work.
  • How parents will communicate with each other.
  • How children will communicate with the other parent during time-sharing.
  • How changes to the plan and schedules will be handled.
  • How conflicts related to the parenting plan and parenting time will be resolved.

How the schedule will develop through time and as the child ages. 

What Types of Information Can Be Used in a Family Law Courtroom?

On behalf of The Law Office of Wickersham and Bowers posted in Family Law on Monday August, 31, 2020.

With the country’s constantly-changing laws – combined with a swarm of misinformation – determining what information can be presented in legal matters can be a daunting task. Generally speaking, all presented evidence must be both legally obtained and pertaining to the issue being litigated.

Information That Can Be Used in a Family Law Courtroom

Admissible evidence and testimony include the following categories:

  • “Writings”: Any legally-obtained document that is pertinent to the matter under litigation can be presented as evidence. Whether the document is text-based, imagery, or a combination of both is not relevant. The form of the writing – whether it be physical or electronic – is immaterial as long as the writing is complete.
  • Witnesses: Any person with direct information or relevant expertise can provide testimony for either the plaintiff or the defendant. Witnesses are generally divided into three categories:
    • Witness of Material Fact: A witness of material fact has observed or heard incidents that pertain to the legal proceedings.
    • Expert Witness: An expert witness is an accomplished individual whose area of expertise overlaps with the issue being litigated.
    • Character Witness: A character witness is someone who knows one of the litigants and is summoned to testify regarding the litigant’s moral code and behavior.
  • Social Media: Any social media that can be printed in its entirety is considered admissible. We’ve previously discussed the implications of displays of indulgence or excessive displays of childrens’ development. It’s advisable to be wary of what to share online, as seemingly-innocuous posts can be detrimental in a court of law.

Information That Cannot Be Used in a Family Law Courtroom

Any evidence that can be proven as illegally-obtained or unrelated can be dismissed. These include:

  • Illegally-obtained recordings: Wiretaps obtained without warrants, illegal recordings, and any media that can be considered an unauthorized breach of privacy are not valid evidence in family law.
  • Irrelevant evidence: Any evidence that is not relevant to the matter under litigation can be excluded after a successful objection. Also, evidence that can be considered prejudicial can be blocked from the legal proceedings.
  • Unauthenticated writings: Documents that cannot be validated are subject to exclusion.
  • Testimony that a witness cannot corroborate: Remarks that are hearsay – unverified testimony about what a third party said – or demonstrate a lack of personal knowledge can be removed from the court record.

It’s important to know what evidence can be admitted and when to object to the opposing counsel’s evidence. Call the attorneys at Wickersham and Bowers today for a consultation!

Serving Daytona Beach and surrounding areas.

Social Media Implications Relating to Family Law

On behalf of The Law Office of Wickersham and Bowers posted in Family Law on Thursday, July 16th, 2020

Today social media has become part and parcel of our daily lives. So much so that it can be used in a court of law to prove certain facts. As in other parts of the law, social media has changed family law quite a bit. Here are some of the corresponding implications. 

Social Media Content Is Now Admissible In Court

Since social media has become an integral part of our lives, digital content can be presented to support or demolish certain facts and narratives of a particular case. When the content has been legally obtained, the judge will allow the content into evidence and if it contradicts formally made statements such as affidavits, it can raise some very serious credibility issues. These may build or damn your case altogether. 

Content That Can Impact a Family Law Dispute

It’s always important that people take extra care when posting content online. These photos, videos and posts can be used against you in a court of law and end up costing you the case. During a family law dispute, sharing certain type of data can be detrimental to your case. This includes sharing private information concerning your children, spouse or the court case. You can also get in trouble by posting content that depicts dangerous, antisocial behavior. In custody cases, this content can be used as evidence of showing that someone is an unfit parent or that they don’t deserve to have custody of the child. 

Child and Spousal Maintenance

In cases where one party is looking for parental support for a minor or even spousal support altogether, social media posts can be used to make a case. Often the court will order one party to pay a certain amount of money every month. From this order, a party may claim hardship which means that they cannot fulfill this obligation. To show that the other party is being untruthful, social media content such as photos of someone living lavishly can be used to support their claim. This can include digital content depicting holidays, new asset acquisitions, eating out can be very compelling evidence for your side. 

It’s important to keep track of what you post on various social media platforms. Always think twice before you post as a single post can do a lot of damage in a family law court. Call us today if you need help with your family law case!