A member of the Florida State Bar Association since 1991, attorney Joe Gufford has served on the boards of directors for the Florida Equal Justice Center and Florida Rural Legal Services. A partner at the Gufford and Brandt firm in Stuart, Florida, Joe Gufford has been honored by the Martin County Bar Association multiple times with its Outstanding Pro Bono Service Award.
Providing pro bono legal services is an integral part of an attorney’s moral and ethical responsibilities to the community. Put simply, pro bono legal services are provided voluntarily at little or no charge and include all kinds of law, from criminal defense to liability cases.
In the case of Florida Rural Legal Services and the Florida Equal Justice Center, lawyers provide civil legal advice and representation for a nominal fee to low-income families, immigrants, people with disabilities, and the elderly. Both nonprofit organizations have considerable experience serving non-English speakers.
After working with several top lawyers in Florida throughout his career, Joseph Gufford practices family and civil law at his firm in Stuart, Florida. Joe Gufford has also served as a member of the Board of Directors of Florida Rural Legal Services (FRLS), a firm dedicated to pro bono work. He has also served as a member of the Board of Directors for the Florida Equal Justice Center. Mr. Gufford and his staff are dedicated to assisting the poor and disenfranchised so that they can receive the justice they deserve, regardless of their ability to pay.
Attorney Joe Gufford believes that it is essential to the administration of justice that all people have access to the Courts and effective representation. Unfortunately, that is not the case in today’s day and age. The practice of law is time consuming, expensive and fraught with complexities. Because resources are limited, Mr. Gufford limits his pro-bono work to cases that are referred to him through FRLS. Mr. Gufford’s pro-bono cases have involved a wide range of family law matters including custody matters, adoptions and guardianships.
Attorney Joseph Gufford is a partner in the Gufford and Brandt firm, which is located in Stuart, Florida, and serves the state’s Treasure Coast region. Joe Gufford specializes in the practice of family law and is the former chairman of the Martin County Bar Association’s Family Law Committee. Joe Gufford has given professional lectures in the rea of family law and frequently updates himself on the subject through continuing legal education.
Many people think of divorce when it comes to family law, but there is so much more to this law discipline. While lawyers who work in family law focus heavily on divorce and related issues such as child custody and visitation, child and spousal financial support, and the division of property, they also handle legal concerns in the following areas:
-Elder care, such as power-of-attorney for caretakers
-Alternative families, and
In order to be a good family law attorney, one must have a good knowledge of the general law in almost every other category of law becuase family law touches so many other areas. A good family law attorney must have knowledge of the law of contracts, real property, business law, bankruptcy, etc. Family law attorneys are also often experts in the areas of wills, probate, estates, and trusts. Almost all family law cases are document-intensive and require a lawyer with an eye for detail and strong negotiation skills.
Lastly, a family law atorney must also have kowledge of other disciplines outside of the practice of law including child and adult psychology, forensic accounting and business valuation.
Parties going through a divorce in Florida should know about the state’s child custody laws. The term “custody” is a word that is used in the common vernacular but is really not used in the Courtroom because almost all references to it have been eliminated in the Florida Statutes. Florida prefers to award “shared parenting”, meaning that both parents must confer with each other when making major decisions affecting the welfare of their child. Then, the Court develops a Parenting Plan that preferably allows the children to spend quality time with both parents. Generally, the Parenting Plan is developed considering the overall best interests of the child. When the parents cannot agree on a parenting plan, the court will make the decision for them after considering the totality of the circumstances, with the overriding consideration being the child’s best interests.
To make that determination, the court considers the following factors:
1.The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship, to honor the time-sharing schedule, and to be reasonable when changes are required;
2.The anticipated division of parental responsibilities after the litigation, including the extent to which parental responsibilities will be delegated to third parties;
3.The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to determine, consider, and act upon the needs of the child as opposed to the needs or desires of the parent.
4.The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment.and the desirability of maintaining continuity.
5.The geographic viability of the parenting plan, with special attention paid to the needs of school-age children and the amount of time to be spent traveling to effectuate the parenting plan. This factor does not create a presumption for or against relocation of either parent with a child.
6.The moral fitness of the parents.
7.The mental and physical health of the parents.
8.The home, school, and community record of the child.
9.The reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient intelligence, understanding, and experience to express a preference.
10.The demonstrated knowledge, capacity, and disposition of each parent to be informed of the circumstances of the minor child, including, but not limited to, the child’s friends, teachers, medical care providers, daily activities, and favorite things.
11.The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to provide a consistent routine for the child, such as discipline, and daily schedules for homework, meals, and bedtime.
12.The demonstrated capacity of each parent to communicate with and keep the other parent informed of issues and activities regarding the minor child, and the willingness of each parent to adopt a unified front on all major issues when dealing with the child.
13.Evidence of domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect, regardless of whether a prior or pending action relating to those issues has been brought
14.Evidence that either parent has knowingly provided false information to the court regarding any prior or pending action regarding domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect.
15.The particular parenting tasks customarily performed by each parent and the division of parental responsibilities before the institution of litigation and during the pending litigation, including the extent to which parenting responsibilities were undertaken by third parties.
16.The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to participate and be involved in the child’s school and extracurricular activities.
17.The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to maintain an environment for the child which is free from substance abuse
18.The capacity and disposition of each parent to protect the child from the ongoing litigation as demonstrated by not discussing the litigation with the child, not sharing documents or electronic media related to the litigation with the child, and refraining from disparaging comments about the other parent to the child.
19.The developmental stages and needs of the child and the demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to meet the child’s developmental needs.
20. Any other factor that is relevant to the determination of a specific parenting plan, including the time-sharing schedule.
The Florida court will also approve a parent and child relocation if both parents sign an agreement that expresses consent and details how the child will continue to have a relationship with both parents. Child relocation can also be court ordered pursuant to the factors set forth in Fla. Stat. 61.13001. Child custody is generally not modified unless there has been a substantial change in circumstances and the modification is in the overall best interests of the child.
Individuals who have more questions about child custody laws should consult a lawyer.
About the Author
Joseph Gufford serves as a lawyer with and as President of Gufford & Brandt, a divorce, family, and criminal defense firm in Stuart, Florida.
Child custody cases can be messy and difficult. At such moments, taking care of trivial and routine tasks can be overwhelming. We asked Joseph Gufford, a lawyer experienced in such cases, to provide us with helpful tips regarding custody cases. Joseph Gufford III, based in Florida, came up with the following two critical pieces of information that can help make things easier for you and your attorney.
1. Know the types of custody: Broadly speaking, there are two types of custody in Florida. “Sole Parental Responsibility” places a single parent in charge of important decisions in a child’s life. On the other hand, “Shared Parental Responsibility” means that both parents are equally accountable for the child’s welfare and must confer on all major decisions. In Florida, most people have shared parental responsibility. This is somewhat akin to what other states refer to as “Joint Custody”. However, regardless of which type of custody the court orders, there will also be a Parenting Plan that will determine the timing of “timehsharing”, i.e “visitation” with the child.
In order to get sole parental responsibility, you must meet the heavy burden of showing that “shared parental responsibility” would be detrimental to the best interests of the child.
2. Know the information required: It is important to disclose all aspects of the case to your lawyer to avoid unpleasant surprises during the trial. In addition to the child’s details, it is important to provide your lawyer with other, important information such as your partner’s details and additional cases involving the child.