In some circumstances, divorce also means a temporary severance between a child and one parent. The reasons for separation are many, including isolation due to a physical or mental condition, substance abuse, maltreatment, relocation, or other breakdown in the parental relationship. Unfortunately, along with a divorce, the affected parent will be restricted from time-sharing or visitation with the child. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding the divorce, and the reasons for separation from the child, it is important to ensure a path to reunification as part of your divorce case, and the terms of your final decree of dissolution. In Niekamp v. Niekamp, No. 2D14-728, Fla. 2nd DCA 2015, Mr. Niekamp challenged several issues related to the final judgement in his divorce case, including how the divorce court handled the potential for reunification with his children.
Facts of the Case: Being Separated from Your Children
The Niekamps were married for 22 years and had two children within the marriage. In the 10 years preceding their separation, Mr. Niekamp worked in the home and assumed child care responsibilities while Ms. Niekamp operated a business. Based on the facts provided by the appellate court, Mr. Niekamp suffered from mental health issues, which, among other facts, provided an obstacle to shared parental responsibility. Ms. Niekamp was awarded sole parental responsibility after the court determined that shared responsibility and timesharing would be detrimental to the children. Like many individuals facing these circumstances, Mr. Niekamp was prohibited from contact with his children and, as the appellate court noted, was even denied the opportunity to speak to his children over the telephone. Although Mr. Niekamp was to be separated from his children for the time being, the court did grant Mr. Niekamp’s request for therapeutic reunification with his children.
Reunification: Protecting Your Rights as a Parent During Separation
The judge in Mr. Niekamp’s case designated a therapist to oversee the reunification process, which is designed to re-establish a supportive parent-child relationship. The problem with the court’s initial judgment, and one of the reasons for Mr. Niekamp’s appeal, was that the court neglected to provide any insight as to how Mr. Niekamp could advance the reunification with his children, other than participate in the therapy as dictated by the therapist. The appellate court agreed with Mr. Niekamp, and affirmed the fact that as part of any judgment that suspends a parent’s right to see their child subject to reunification, the court must specifically identify the steps the separated parent can take to re-establish timesharing of the children. If you are facing the suspension of your rights and separation from your children as part of your divorce, you need to ensure that the court provides specific expectations and steps you can take to regain contact with your children beyond the general requirement that you participate in therapeutic reunification.
The divorce attorneys at All Family Law Group, P.A. have the experience necessary to protect your interest during your divorce. If you need help or have questions about your divorce, contact the Tampa family and divorce lawyers at All Family Law Group, P.A. in Tampa Bay at 813-816-2232 for a consultation at no charge or email us.
By Lynette Silon-Laguna Google+