As society evolves, so do our relationships and family dynamics. The shifting sands of relationships present unique challenges for families, requiring guidance and support to navigate through legal complexities. This column is dedicated to providing information to aid families in this navigation.
In today’s society, people marry later in life, meaning that many will have children from previous relationships when a new marriage begins. Florida law has recognized this phenomenon and provides for the continuation of existing family law relationships from a prior marriage to a subsequent marriage. The rules surrounding legal recognition of these prior relationships are found in Florida Statute 741, also known as the “Rooker-Feldman Doctrine,” and can be confusing to unravel. This column will provide an overview of some common scenarios involving multiple families and their legal ramifications.
Divorce and Custody Battles:
One of the most common legal challenges faced by families in Florida is divorce and the subsequent custody battles. According to the Florida Department of Health, in 2020 alone, there were over 58,000 divorces across the state. Divorce can be a highly emotional and contentious process, especially when children are involved. Often, the primary concern in these cases is determining the best interests of the child. Florida follows the principle of shared parental responsibility, meaning that both parents are expected to actively participate in raising their child. However, determining the specifics of custody arrangements can be challenging, leading to prolonged legal battles and emotional distress.
Multiple Types of Orders:
Courts in Florida are very familiar with this situation and provide for it by allowing multiple types of orders, which can be utilized as a safety net to shift or adjust based on the needs of the family and child. The three primary orders that courts issue in custody matters are parenting plans, temporary orders, and permanent plans. Parenting plans set the framework for custody arrangements between a parent and child’s other parent. These plans can outline who will have custody, when custody will occur, and how custody will be shared. A temporary order is one that is specific to a particular time frame, typically in the case of a custody dispute. A permanent plan sets out the terms and conditions for custody arrangements for the rest of the child’s life.
Adoption and Surrogacy:
Another legal challenge that families in Florida face is the process of adoption and surrogacy. Adoption provides an avenue for individuals and couples to expand their families and provide a loving home for a child in need. In 2020, there were around 3,200 adoptions finalized in Florida. Surrogacy, on the other hand, enables individuals or couples who cannot conceive naturally to have a child with the help of a surrogate mother. While surrogacy is not explicitly regulated in Florida, certain legal considerations need to be made to ensure the rights and responsibilities of all parties involved.
As society evolves, so does the way that family dynamics are perceived and defined. In 2010, there were over 74,000 same sex couples in Florida with children under eighteen living in their homes. While same-sex marriage is not currently legal in Florida, the State Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on a case challenging the ban on March 5th. Regardless of the outcome of this case, families with parents who are not legally married have unique considerations due to the absence of certain legal protections and rights. In these cases, alternative legal avenues can be explored, such as co-parenting agreements and powers of attorney.
Domestic Violence and Restraining Orders:
Unfortunately, some families also face the grave challenge of domestic violence. The Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence reported that in 2020, over 103,000 incidents of domestic violence were reported. Domestic violence can have long-lasting physical and psychological effects on its victims. To protect individuals and families from abuse, Florida law provides the option of obtaining restraining orders. These legal measures aim to ensure the safety and well-being of victims. However, it is important to approach these cases sensitively, considering the diverse perspectives and underlying causes of domestic violence.
Remarriage is another family dynamic that can be affected by the shifting sands of relationships. Under Florida law, it is possible for a person to remarry without first terminating a prior existing marriage. Some implications of this situation are legal in nature, such as the rights and responsibilities involved with new marital assets and debts. Additionally, if both spouses cosigned for a loan or mortgage, there can be complicated legal ramifications if one or both spouses want to refinance or buy out their co-signer. This situation is further complicated because Florida allows for a husband to remain the sole party on the bank, bank statement, or credit card statement to show his name. These are just a few of the many legal challenges that families in Florida face today and will likely face in the future.
Family law is a dynamic and ever-changing field. Florida has recognized this fact and built its legal framework around the principle of recognizing and providing for families, such as multiple families. While many challenges are difficult, it is possible to navigate these situations with the help of an experienced family law attorney. A family law attorney can help an individual or family navigate their unique circumstance, advocating on their behalf throughout the legal process and resolution.